Writings: March Reading List & Reviews by Beth Bowser

Novels by Rebecca Zanetti, Nora Roberts, Ann Leckie, and Karen Harper March Reading & Reviews Click here for a printer friendly version of this page

My first novel for March was Mercury Striking, the first book in the Scorpius Syndrome series, by Rebecca Zanetti. It was a suggested read, but the reader who told me of it, likely disavows that it was a suggestion! :) It follows Lynn Harmony, our protagonist, a brilliant scientist on the run from the government cause she's done being a guinea pig! She worked for CDC and is kinda patient 0 as a survivor for this deadly Scorpius bacteria. This dystopian novel is touching down on what the US would look like after a deadly bacteria ravages the population. You can survive infection, but you'll be different. One of three things happen to the "survivors." One - they become bascially zombies and will eat you if they get a chance. Of course, in this version if you get bit, you've been infected, like all zombie books/movies. Two - they become completely unemotional shells of what they used to be, but with highly advanced intelligence and they tend to become serial killers or 'rippers'. Three - you are recovered with no lasting effects and you have advanced brain function. I'm sure it doesn't come as a surprise that Lynn and Jax, her co-protagonist and love interest, both survived the bacteria with enhanced brain function. It's an interesting novel! I must say I am not a reader of many dystopian novels so I do not know if this novel is unique, but I liked how it started at the beginning of the bad times, where people some people are still looking for cures, treatments, etc, rather than all walking dead style of the book primarily about killing zombies and other human groups. If you like romance books, this book has all the normal parts except for one glaring difference... Jax uses more force against Lynn than I care to read. A decent read, but my trigger warning to potential readers is to AVOID if you would hate reading of the protagonist being beaten with a belt.

The second selection was Year One, the first in the series of Chronicles of The One, by Nora Roberts, following the theme of dystopian novels. Year One begins before the pandemic hits and we start with family who brings destruction on the human race. I hate to spoil so let me just say this book was great at the beginning and petered out to an awful slog at the middle. To start we read about the Doom and how deadly is it and how scary the world is for everyone! Even those that get abilities like magic or find they are part fairy or whatever, they get blamed and hunted by the humans that got no abilities but were somehow immune to the Doom. I hated the middle. For multiple reasons. First all the action was all human vs human, no more human vs virus/bacteria/magic and the 'bad' humans were so much better at what they did (death & destruction) compared to the 'good' humans. Second, the story was boring, groups of people, or one person, farming, building, creating community, creating a paper, setting up a clinic, etc. Third, and both worst, put both of them together! Build up community, bad humans destroy it, build up new community and... you got it! bad humans destroy it again! Frustrating to say the least and not enjoyable. I cannot suggest anyone read it unless you go into it knowing the 1st half is interesting and good and fine with shelving it once you reach halfway.

My third selection was The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. I was a very surprised to find this novel because it's written in using 2nd person narration and was actually good despite that! The author pulled it off by having the protagonist be a god who is following primarily one human character, using "You thought, you said, etc." There are two timelines in this novel and present time, following Eolo, is very interesting and fast to read, but the past timeline, explaining the pantheon of gods and the history of the narrator Rock god is slow. It's quite a bit of an info dump every time the author switches to that timeline, but it is necessary to understand the story better. I loved the setting and I was sad to see that this novel is standalone as I would love to read another story from the author's world as Ann certainly did enough world building to open it up to more novels about more gods! The biggest annoyance I had reading this was not the writing or content, it was the epub. I don't have many physical books, the vast majority of the books I read are downloaded to my phone or nook (hate Amazon, sorry kindle, you are a good product but I cannot support Amazon) and this book had the weirdest chapter breaks ever. I had no idea how long it would be to the end of the chapter as my epub had marked sections of 200+ pages marked as chapters and what I believe were the real chapters were marked by various images of a raven. I did really like this novel and suggest, if you like fantasy, especially with lots of gods, that you read it, but please keep those weird chapters in mind.

The final novel for the month was Chasing Shadows, book 1 in the South Shores series, by Karen Harper. Claire Britten is a forensic psychologist and we are introduced to her as she's leaving court after her side wins a case. She's not a detective, but seems to do the detective work as she reconstructs investigations by the way the alleged person on trial acts. She also does this for victims so she got called into a case with a victim whom the lawyer is trying to prove wasn't murdered by her daughter, his client, nor committed suicide. Claire agrees to take the case, even though it's far from home because her business is new and as a single mother, she can use the infusion of cash! I love cosy mysteries so I thought to try this novel as it's a different kind of mystery. It's definitely NOT a cosy mystery as there's quite a lot of death and suspense, but the mystery is good! There is a whole slew of possible perpetrators and Claire's sleuthing is made difficult by her medical issues - narcolepsy and cataplexy. I honestly loved the way the author wrote about Claire's medicals problems as know I feel I know so much more about the disorders myself! She also describes Indigo farming in an interesting way! I really liked this novel and suggest you pick up if you like mysteries, but if you dislike cliffhangers, don't read this as it ends on a terrible cliffhanger with Claire's daughter being kidnapped!