At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp #bookreview #YA #thriller #suspense

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place. 

This is the third book I’ve read by this author, and she certainly doesn’t shy away from tough subjects. A deadly infectious disease is unleashed on the world in this novel – sound familiar?

When the teens at Hope Juvenile Treatment Center learn the guards are gone and the doors are unlocked, they’re unsure of what’s going on. After a group of them venture into town, they run into a road block and are informed by soldiers about the spread of a plague. People are sheltering in place, and even after explaining their situation to the soldiers, they’re told to return to the center. They’ve been forgotten about. Discarded. With pleas for outside help ignored, the teens have no one to rely on but themselves.

If you’re thinking this sounds like a difficult, dark read, you’re right. Parts are this novel are incredibly hard to get through. Some of these kids have been rejected and abandoned by their families and friends and have no one. A group of them embark on their own to take their chances in the outside world. Others choose to stay and take care of each other. Not everyone lives. The sections with phone call transcripts between parents and friends and lists of food inventory give more insight to what these teens are dealing with.

The story is told in three POVs – Grace, who is thrust into a leadership role, Logan, who is mute and uses a form a sign language only she and her infected twin understand, and Emerson, a nonbinary newcomer to the facility. Each character is very well-crafted and has tremendous character arcs, especially Grace. Those who choose to stay at the center take on jobs and responsibilities and become a family of sorts. It was heartwarming to see some characters’ self perceptions alter during the course of the story. You’re not trapped in the box others put you in – stars can be changed.

Although bleak and certainly sobering taking the last two years into account, this is also a story full of hope and demonstrates what people can do when they come together to help each other.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BlogTour You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus #YA #mystery #suspense

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.

Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out–he’s been working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up…. again.

So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say…

Until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school–and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse.

It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Now they’re all wondering–could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

I’ve read a couple other mystery/suspense books by this author and couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate in a blog tour for her newest release.

It starts out like a Ferris Bueller kind of day for friends Ivy, Mateo, and Cal when they decide to skip school, but they sure don’t wind up at a baseball game or fancy restaurant for lunch. When they wander into the scene of a very recently committed murder – seriously, the body hadn’t even begun to cool – their day goes off the rails at the speed of light. Panicked and on the run, the teens make one bad decision after another and dig themselves in deeper. I wanted to rip their heads off. Although close friends in middle school, the three of them drifted apart and spend time rehashing the scenario that seemed to cause the divide. Old wounds are reopened, fingers are pointed, and at times the three turn on each other while trying to discover who the murderer is.

All three characters are well-crafted and are dealing with their own problems – besides being possible murder suspects. Mateo works three jobs to help pay for his mother’s medications after she loses the family business. Cal is dumped by another girlfriend who left him with some unfair parting shots, and his list of friends is sadly very short. Overachiever Ivy struggles to prove herself to her parents. After her talented younger brother skips a grade, she feels as if a competition exists between them. She’s undoubtedly an intelligent girl (I adored the random trivia she’d text Cal in the wee hours of the morning), but of the three seems to make the worst decisions. Honestly, I’m surprised Cal and Mateo didn’t just dump her a few times, but she does make up for it.

The plot will keep you guessing, and there are a couple red herrings to throw you off. At the big reveal, the person behind everything is probably someone you’ll never guess, but I won’t say why – no spoilers. I will say I’d hoped for a more jaw-dropping moment.

I think all of this author’s books are standalones, but the ending almost leaves an opening for a sequel. I know I wouldn’t mind seeing what happens next, but I doubt it’s in the cards. This is a quick read that doles out clues along the way – pay attention early in the book – and will keep you guessing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen M. McManus is the #1 New York Times and international bestselling author of young adult thriller/mystery novels, including One of Us Is Lying, One of Us Is Next, Two Can Keep a Secret, and The Cousins. You’ll Be the Death of Me will be her next novel, publishing December 2021. Her work has been translated into more than 40 languages worldwide. Karen lives in Massachusetts and holds a master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, which she mostly uses to draft fake news stories for her novels. For more information, visit http://www.karenmcmanus.com or @writerkmc on Twitter and Instagram.

The Light (Wake-Robin Ridge #4) by Marcia Meara #bookreview #supernatural #mystery

The Magic is Back!

For Robert MacKenzie Cole—or Rabbit, as he’s known to all—the chance to accompany his family to see North Carolina’s infamous Brown Mountain Lights has him nearly dizzy with excitement. And what better night to watch this unexplained phenomenon unfold than Halloween?

But when the entrancing, unpredictable lights show up, Rabbit gets far more than he bargained for. He’s gifted with what folks in the Appalachians call “the Sight,” and it’s this extrasensory perception that enables him to spot the one light different from all the rest.

In his biggest challenge to date, Rabbit—aided by his daddy and his newest friend, Austin Dupree— begins a quest to learn more about the mysterious light. Their investigation unveils a web of cons and corruption none of them expected and exposes a brutal murder along the way.

Throughout all, Rabbit is unfaltering in his commitment to do whatever it takes to understand the truth behind the glowing orb and to determine how he can help it. After all, it followed him home.

Every book in this series has not only warmed my heart, but offered an immersive and compelling supernatural mystery.

I’ll say it again – I’d love to join this fictional family. I’d be quite happy with them at Angel House in the NC mountains. Until reading this book, I wasn’t familiar with the Brown Mountain Lights, but it’s a fascinating, true mystery that goes back hundreds of years. I liked how the author cleverly worked this phenomenon into the plot and turned part of it into a puzzle for Rabbit to solve. Austin is a wonderful addition, and the sibling type relationship that develops between him and Rabbit is one of my favorite parts of this story.

With the “web of cons and corruption”, I was confident I knew the direction the story was headed – but I was quickly proven wrong. I love a good surprise. What might have been more of a predictable, but no less engrossing mystery developed into an unexpected redemption story with a bittersweet outcome and a new friend.

This is a feel good, addictive series that I’m sad to see come to an end, but I’ve heard rumors the author may be considering extending it? I really, really hope? I’ve enjoyed every page and made friends with a little boy who grabbed my heart and didn’t let go.

Brother’s Keeper by Jan Sikes #shortstory #bookreview #suspense #TuesdayBookBlog

Quentin Marks’ mother can only love one son, and from the day Rowdy was born, she makes Quentin, his little brother’s keeper. She demands that Quentin fix every problem for Rowdy and that he also protect him. The truth is, after a deadly snakebite, Quentin owes his very life to his little brother, a debt that will never be paid in full. Only now a man is dead, and once again, their mother calls on Quentin to make the problem go away and save Rowdy from prison. When is enough enough, and how much of his own life will Quentin Marks have to sacrifice?

As the mother of two sons, this short story appealed to me. Also having two sons, I’d never put mine in this position, and I’ve love to strangle Quentin’s and Rowdy’s mother.

As a responsible adult and business owner, Quentin is a productive member of society – in spite of how he was raised. Younger brother Rowdy has been coddled his whole life and is a major screwup. Unfortunately, Quentin has been tasked by his father on his deathbed and his loathsome mother to keep his brother out of trouble and watch over him. Rowdy attracts trouble like a magnet, so Quentin has his work cut out for him. When Rowdy kills a man, Quentin takes the fall for it, believing an innocent man will never be convicted.

This is a quick read and a bleak tale about a dysfunctional family and a man who is never able to fully live his life because of the promises and sacrifices he makes. Trust me when I say you’ll want to throttle his mother. Kudos to the author for writing such a despicable character.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo #bookreview #horror #LGBTQ

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.

I think I first became aware of this book in a weekly horror newsletter from Book Riot and immediately requested it from NetGalley. What a heavy, ominous ride it was – a fabulous debut novel.

Andrew shares a deep connection with his best friend Eddie and refuses to believe he committed suicide. He travels to Nashville for several reasons – to deal with Eddie’s estate and substantial inheritance left to him, prove Eddie was murdered, and attend grad school. Someone knows the truth behind the supposed suicide, and Andrew immerses himself into Eddie’s life to find answers. Soon, he’s drawn into late nights of fast cars, drugs, parties, and alcohol and learns Eddie hid plenty of secrets during their six months apart. Andrew is lost, drowning in his grief, and reaches for a lifeline wherever he can find one.

At its core, this story is about Andrew’s overwhelming grief and devastating loss of his best friend. It quickly becomes evident that their feelings for each other went beyond friendship, but Andrew hasn’t allowed himself to dig deeper and examine the true nature of their relationship. Several summers ago, they became trapped in a cave and went missing for a couple days. They weren’t alone in the darkness – something else was with them. It was a pivotal moment that significantly impacted their lives, but you won’t realize exactly how until late in the story.

Filled with eerie moments, regrets, questions of what if, and a family curse, Summer Sons is a dark, slow burn, Southern gothic horror story. Hauntings aren’t limited to places. This is an author I’m keeping an eye on.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BadMoonRising Cold Dark Night: Legends of Madeira #1 by Joan Hall #thriller #suspense #mystery

Happy Friday! The urban legend tale shared by today’s author may send shivers up your spine and encourage you to pick up the pace when driving past cemeteries – it’s an eerie one. She brings the first book in her Legends of Madeira suspense/thriller series, Cold Dark Night. Welcome Joan Hall!

Which urban legend scares you most?

The Legend of La Llorona doesn’t really scare me, but I’m fascinated by it. This legend varies from state to state, but in Fort Stockton, Texas a “woman in white” was seen as late as the 1960s along a stretch of highway outside of town. She would “attach” herself to cars and ride for about ten miles. As a child, I heard a family story about my grandfather’s brother who died in the early 1900s. Three weeks before his sudden (and unexpected) death, he encountered a woman in white near a cemetery. She “rode” alongside his horse until he passed the cemetery gate.

Have you ever had a tarot card reading?

I haven’t had a tarot reading, but a relative used to read cards using a regular deck. Some things she “saw” actually came true, including the death of a neighbor. She said there would be a lot of controversy surrounding the death and she was right.

If you watch horror movies, are you the person who yells at the characters, covers your eyes, or falls asleep?

I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, but I used to cover my eyes if there was blood in any scene. I once made the mistake of eating dinner while watching the movie Seven. I had to stop the film. The only reason I wanted to see it is because I’m a fan of Morgan Freeman.

What do you do to get inside your characters’ heads?

I picture the scene or situation, then ask myself, “What would I do in this situation?” Sort of like acting out a movie in my mind.

Which book have you read more than once?

Mary Higgins Clark was one of my favorite authors. I’ve read several of her books more than once. Among my favorites are Remember Me and Moonlight Becomes You. A favorite childhood book was The Incredible Journey. I used to read it every year in the fall, even after I became an adult.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a collection of short stories for some time. They’re a mixed bag of ghost fiction, contemporary, suspense, and possibly one military fiction story. I’m also beginning the second book of my Legends of Madeira series.

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s history, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, her husband will be the next to die.

Purchase Link

https://amazon.com/Cold-Dark-Night-Legends-Madeira-ebook/dp/B0968CXZQ9

Bio and Social Links

From the time she was a small child, Joan Hall always enjoyed listening to a good story. The ones that often intrigued her most were those steeped in folklore, and her Scots-Irish relatives had plenty of them to tell.

At the age of ten, Joan decided she wanted to become a writer. Having written in the mystery and suspense genre, her Legends of Madeira series is the first in which she delves into folklore and legends.

When she’s not writing, Joan likes to spend time outdoors, observe the night skies, and explore old cemeteries. She also enjoys ghost walks and hearing the stories behind the “hauntings.” She and her husband share their Texas home with two cats.

You can connect with Joan at the following sites:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Bookbub  |  Goodreads  |  Instagram

#BadMoonRising Rage by Sue Rovens #suspense #thriller #indieauthor

Welcome to the first day of Bad Moon Rising! I hope you’re ready for a month full of fun and laughs, interviews that may send chills up your spine, authors familiar and new, and loads of supernatural, horror, paranormal, and thriller books. A new indie author will be featured daily, so I hope you’ll stop by and meet them. Feel free to click those share buttons below to help spread the word throughout the month – the authors and I would appreciate it. Please join in the comments – there tend to be plenty of them during BMR.

Sue Rovens is here to get us started with her recent release, Rage, and she also offers a yummy recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds!

What’s your favorite season of American Horror Story?

It would have to be Season 2. But, full disclosure, after Season 7 I think, it got a little too tongue-in-cheek for me. The show became something other than what I had anticipated (and hoped for), so I stopped watching it.

Would you rather dunk for apples or carve a Jack o’ lantern?

Pumpkin carving! The seeds are great (and loaded with fiber). Lay the seeds and the goo on a sprayed baking sheet, hit them with some salt, and cook them at 350 degrees until brown and hard. Really good stuff. (some folks add butter)

If you watch horror movies, are you the person who yells at the characters, covers your eyes, or falls asleep?

Yes, depending on the movie. 😊

How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?

Start reading again! When I’m “in the writing process” I stop reading fiction for the most part. I don’t want any other author style to influence me if I can help it. I will read non-fiction during that time, but everything else gets put to the side.

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

Great question! The easy answer is anyone who is willing to give my stories a fair chance. I know that my subject matter in many of my books can be tough for some folks. BUT, having said that, I try to come at things from a realistic point of view. I never glorify the bad/dangerous/questionable aspects of my characters. I present them as real and as defective as they are. I don’t pull punches and I don’t make allowances. People (like my characters) DO exist – faults, baggage, and serious problems.

So, long-winded way to the answer: Who would enjoy reading my work? Anyone who is looking for a real window into some flawed characters who are thrown into some creepy/weird/intense situations. ALL my novels run right around 220 pages, so they’re a quick yet suspenseful read.

What are you working on now?

Well, I JUST put Rage out there (my newest novel), so I’m not writing anything new at the moment. I’m fussing around with stuff on my blog (https://suerovens.com) and trying to drum up reviews and ways to spread the word.

I’d like to work up a couple short stories over the next few months and give some submissions a shot. That’s my “immediate” plan for fall.

Thanks so much, Teri! I love BMR and appreciate the opportunity to spread the word 😊

Weston Cross is a bullied and abused man who wants nothing more than to escape from his agonizing mental anguish and excruciating misery. After a harrowing brush with death, he discovers a better way to twist his depression and self-despair into something different…something sinister.

Lindsay Yager, the therapist assigned to help Weston with his internal battles, is fighting her own demons. On the verge of a nasty divorce, she finds solace at the bottom of a bottle. Her anger and vitriol take no prisoners, even when lives are at stake – including her own.

Depression sets the stage, but RAGE will have the final say.

(Available NOW – Paperback AND Kindle)

Purchase Links

Amazon

Author Bio

Sue Rovens is an indie suspense/horror author who hails from Normal, Illinois. She has written four novels and two books of short horror stories.

Track 9, her second novel, snagged a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly (May 2018), her short story, “Coming Over”, from her book, In a Corner, Darkly (Volume 1) was turned into a screenplay and short student indie film by the theater department of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and another short story, “When the Earth Bled”, won 2nd place in the Support Indie Authors short story contest earlier this year. Her two most recent books (Buried and Rage) are under Plump Toad Press.

Sue owns a blog (suerovens.com) which includes interviews with authors, musicians, podcasters, and artists. She is an Executive Producer for an indie (short) horror film which is currently in production called “Let’s Do Things that Make Us Happy”. Sue is also a co-host and story writer for the new horror podcast, Ye Olde Terror Inn.

She is a member of The Chicago Writers Association and the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi). 

Social Media

Website/Social Media – https://suerovens.com

Email: srovens@yahoo.com

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sue-Rovens/e/B009PCPQUS

The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror #thriller

Sometimes the dead reach back...

Leigh Harker’s quiet suburban home was her sanctuary for more than a decade, until things abruptly changed. Curtains open by themselves. Radios turn off and on. And a dark figure looms in the shadows of her bedroom door at night, watching her, waiting for her to finally let down her guard enough to fall asleep.

Pushed to her limits but unwilling to abandon her home, Leigh struggles to find answers. But each step forces her towards something more terrifying than she ever imagined.

A poisonous shadow seeps from the locked door beneath the stairs. The handle rattles through the night and fingernails scratch at the wood. Her home harbours dangerous secrets, and now that Leigh is trapped within its walls, she fears she may never escape.

Do you think you’re safe?

You’re wrong.

I’ve read a few Darcy Coates novels, but this one is unlike any of those I’m familiar with. It’s creepy, chilling, and guaranteed to have you leaving lights on all over the house – but the premise is something I haven’t come across in other horror novels. Which is why this review will be brief since I don’t do spoilers.

I’m not the first reviewer to say they almost DNFed the book, but most of those reviewers also encouraged readers to stick with it, and everything would soon make sense. The beginning is slow, filled with the monotonous details of Leigh’s everyday life interspersed with some terrifying moments that didn’t seem to make sense. I couldn’t imagine why the author chose to begin the story this way. Trust me when I say you’ll be rewarded with a jaw-dropping reveal later on. Everything will click.

Something else resides in Leigh’s house with her. The doorknob of a locked closet under the stairs rattles at night when whatever is on the other side tries to get out. It watches while she sleeps – if she ever manages to get any. Then there’s the harrowing encounter with sharp tools in a gardening shed when the door mysteriously slams shut and traps her inside. There’s no shortage of gripping scenes that may have you holding your breath while reading. Coates draws the reader in and makes them feel as if they’re right beside Leigh experiencing every terrifying moment with her.

Surprisingly, the story also contains some bittersweet and heartfelt scenes – and I can’t say that about most horror novels I’ve read. Part of the ending shot out of left field for me, but it comes with an explanation. If you’re looking for a different spin on the haunted house tale, give this novel a chance. Just remember to hang with it a few chapters.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and I’ll be waiting in line for her third no matter what it is.

Don’t be deceived by the calming, flower-filled cover. Inside is a chilling, dark fantasy that will make you hesitate before entering the woods ever again. I count the movie The Village directed by M. Night Shyamalan as one of my favorites, and this book shares many similarities with it – a small, tightly knit community, strange activities in the town, deadly creatures in the forest, and a MC who’s determined she and her family will survive. There are also shades of Stephen King’s Needful Things with some of the townfolks’ deepest desires being fulfilled.

The first few chapters introduce readers to a simpler kind of life and allow them to become acquainted with the isolated town, its residents, and their daily activities. Ellerie’s idyllic life of learning beekeeping from her father, cooking with her mother, and playing with her little sister begins sliding away a piece at a time after a supply party goes missing. Visitors, a rare event, show up in town, and one is especially intriguing to her. Whitaker’s motivations were a mystery to me throughout the story, and I wasn’t sure if I should trust him. Soon the town is plagued with deformed animals, strange bouts of weather, and a lack of food before neighbors turn against each other in vengeance and hatred. I’m talking a serious spiraling of events, folks. Some of these scenes aren’t for the faint of heart.

This slow burn dark fantasy pulls you in a page at a time, and before long you’ll notice the book is super glued to your hands. It felt like 350 pages instead of nearly 500 to me. Fans of The Village, Needful Things, and dark fantasy will spend several engrossing hours reading Small Favors and shutting out the world around them. Just be careful when you go into the woods.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Simulated (Calculated #2) by Nova McBee #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

From Young-Adult author Nova McBee comes the second book in the gritty, action-filled Calculated series.

Jo Rivers, safely back in Seattle, asks the same question daily—how does a math genius go from taking down international criminals and saving the world economy to living a normal teenage life? The only answer she can come up with is—she doesn’t.

With an overprotective father on her back and Kai on the other side of the world, Jo accepts an offer from Prodigy Stealth Solutions (PSS), who may have found a way to get her gift back. Using a newly developed technology, PSS tries a simulation process on Jo to restore her abilities, but during the attempt, PSS is hacked and a blacklist file containing some of PSS’s most sensitive secrets is stolen. Meanwhile, a mysterious caller who seems to know more than he should delivers a warning to Jo about Kai, who then goes missing.

Despite her father’s concerns, Jo sets off on a risky trip to Tunisia with a PSS team of teen prodigies to find an urgently needed solution for PSS and locate Kai. All the while, Jo has to trust the mysterious informant who, frighteningly, is like no one she has ever met before.

I just finished the first book in this series, Calculated, in November so I was thrilled to see the sequel available so soon on NetGalley.

The second book starts with a slower pace of life for Jo back in Seattle. In the first book, she relied on her gift, the ability to see numbers everywhere and in everything, to make mathematical-based decisions. While Calculated is intricately plotted and full of action, Simulated has a bit of a different feel. At the end of Calculated Jo had lost her gift and is now like a fish out of water struggling to live without it. With the help of PSS and their simulations, she’s fighting to awaken it, but things aren’t going so well. Without the numbers to back her up, Jo is unsure of herself and her decisions, but then a mysterious hacker appears in her sims and guarantees he can help her regain her gift. I feel like most readers will figure out the identity of this hacker early on. Wickedly intelligent and good-hearted, he brings an addional layer of mystery and intrigue to the story. Jo wants to trust him, but her team and boss aren’t as convinced, and she finds herself at a crossroads in her life.

Jo is soon on a plane headed for a mission in Tunisia, but also with a secret agenda of locating Kai. As with the Shanghai setting in the first book, this novel immerses the reader in the country and culture of Tunisia (I especially enjoyed the food!). There’s no sophomore slump here. This heart-pounding sequel offers just as many dangerous and harrowing moments – especially since Jo can’t rely on the numbers and doesn’t hesitate to take risks. Several new characters are introduced, and I enjoyed meeting the other prods (prodigies) on her team.

I wasn’t sure if this was a duology or trilogy, but upon reaching the end I was thrilled to learn there’s a third book in the works. The epilogue offers a surprise that gives a hint where the next story may be headed. If you enjoy intelligent thrillers with spies, covert missions, and surprising twists (and math that’s faaaar out of your lane), add this series to your TBR.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.