Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: virus

Just Life by Neil Abramson


Veterinarian Samantha Lewis and her team are dedicated to providing a sanctuary for unwanted, abused, and abandoned dogs in New York City. But every day it gets harder to operate her no-kill shelter. Sam is already at her breaking point when she learns of an unidentified, dangerous virus spreading through their neighborhood. The medical community can only determine that animals are the carriers. Amid growing panic and a demand for immediate answers, suspicion abruptly falls on dogs as the source. Soon the governor is calling in the National Guard to enforce a quarantine—no dog may leave the area.

Samantha knows from her own painful history that, despite the lack of real evidence against the dogs, a quarantine may only be the beginning. As questions about the source of the virus mount and clash with the pressure for a politically expedient resolution, Sam is forced to make life-altering choices. She finds allies in a motley crew of New Yorkers — a local priest, a troubled teen, a smart-mouthed former psychologist, and a cop desperate to do the right thing — all looking for sanctuary from their own personal demons. But the person Sam needs the most to unravel the mystery of the virus and save the dogs is the last one she’d ever want to call on—because contacting him will mean confronting the traumatic past she has fought so hard to escape.


Thanks to the author and publisher for providing this review copy.

Imagine a neighborhood in Manhattan in the grips of panic over a virus – one that is killing children and could possibly be spread by dogs. Imagine a shelter vet pushed to her breaking point by lack of money and no lack of politics. Add in a priest who may be losing his faith, an orphaned teen, and a few stray dogs who need homes.

Put yourself in the shoes of the veterinarian, who deeply loves her faltering shelter and all the dogs who call it home. Feel the only emotions that seem to be present in the first half of the book: incredible sadness, defeat, and frustration. Think about the sources of help available to you: none. At least none you can trust.

Welcome to JUST LIFE.

Not a happy, comfortable read, for sure. It is, however, a thought provoking and emotional story about making choices, standing up for what you believe in, letting go of your personal demons, and learning to trust.

Each character is deeply flawed but holds a spark inside them: the priest who throws a rock through his own church window because he is feeling distant from his Savior; the teen who was abused in foster homes and who is determined to save all the dogs at risk, no matter what; the assistant deputy mayor who is practicing good politics by shutting down the shelter.  The sun in their world is Sam, the veterinarian who gives everything she has to the stray dogs, her only family.

As the virus swirls around the neighborhood the tension ratchets up, and Sam is forced to make hard choices to save the dogs. Who will back her up?

My attention was held during the entire reading of this book. The veterinary medicine is correct, and the possibility of a bird flu – like virus (but with deadlier complications) was plausible. Each character’s story is revealed bit by bit, and sometimes they are sympathetic, sometimes not.

The character of Beth Cohen provides much needed comic relief during many dark times. She is a disgraced psychologist forced to either submit to a jail sentence or “volunteer” at the shelter. She asks probing questions, making Sam confront her fears and doubts. As I mentioned, she is also sarcastic and self effacing, adding a lighter touch here and there.

Gabriel, the priest, provides one of the most human touches in JUST LIFE. He is suffering from dementia, and his portrayal is poignant and heartbreaking. His backstory is the platonic love he held for his best friend and confidant Channa, who died recently. He wonders if he will be able to remember her, and the emotions she stirred in him. He questions his God, in a crisis of faith that pervades the entire book until the end. The scene with him in chapter 35 made my heart well up, and brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Mr Abramson.

JUST LIFE is a tightly woven story that will not leave you easily. It is not a story with a bright shiny ending, nor is it a depressing tale of failure. It is a tour de force of the human condition and the bond we share with our animal friends; and the lengths we will go to in order to protect them.

You can get your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1455591041″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].



2022 by Ken Kroes


Using an uncanny ability to harvest information to predict the future, philanthropist Richard foresees a dark future for the human race. This future is exacerbated by the return of cold-war-like tensions, sophisticated terrorist organizations, and new controls on information flow.
He believes he knows what needs to be done to reverse the trend, but can it be achieved in time, even with the resources at his disposal? Should he turn to terrorism to make it work? And if he’s wrong, and his plan backfires, will it mean the end of most, or all, of the human race?

Thanks to the author for gifting me this review copy!

2022 is a fast paced, thought provoking read. Basically, the world is running out of resources and one man thinks he has the solution. His ideas have validity, but is there something more sinister going on under the surface?

The plot is easy to believe; we are experiencing this right now, with all the furor over greenhouse gas, oceans full of plastic, and food shortages. Also very believable is the giant organization that is monitoring and disseminating information–they appear to be benign, but that is also a concern lurking just below the surface.

As I read, I found nothing that would strain my credulity. I even believed that there would be hundreds of people willing to sign up to go live in one of the remote “villages” that was being constructed under the guise of saving the planet. I would liked to have seen more of the inner workings of the villages, but they were in the process of being built. I’d be interested to see how the Elders managed their people and if they would be as fair as they claimed they would be.

There are three strong women, Diane, Sue and Olivia, as main characters. Each of them have their own personality and foibles; I had to laugh about the idea of no makeup or coffee being a deal breaker for village living! There is also a professional killer who is, surprisingly, a woman. This adds an interesting twist to the story, as Hope (the killer) can befriend the other women and not tip her hand. She’s a true chameleon.

Richard, who wants the villages built for his own agenda, is a great characterization of a megalomaniacal genius. There is no problem that money can’t solve for him; but does he really want the planet saved? Or just saved on his terms? The twist at the ending sets up book two perfectly.

The best part about 2022 is how it makes you think. There is the obligatory population killing virus, and double crosses galore (and a few surprises), but I enjoyed reading about how the world is being affected, conveyed through normal plot advancement. The author takes this subject very seriously, and even provides a few appendixes at the end of the book, explaining his thought process.

Overall, the message comes through loud and clear without being too preachy. Anyone reading this will come away with more information that they didn’t even know was lacking in their mind, and hopefully, they will practice some of the suggestions put forth by Kroes. This truly is an issue that affects us all.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00UPUYUFG” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley

pale highway

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for a review!

This book was suggested to me as a combination of science fiction, surreal fantasy, and a literary commentary on aging. I can confidently say it covers all these genres and more.

What struck me first was the author’s adeptness in bringing the reader into the mind of an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Gabriel Schist, the main character, is frustrated with his lack of ability to remember simple things and care for himself. The utter lack of dignity and sense of self is explained beautifully by Conley, with poignant episodes showing Schist how helpless and dependent he is. His painful legs, his incontinence (he tries to hide it out of embarrassment) and photographs with names underneath them (so he can remember who they are) illustrate what an insidious disease Alzheimer’s is. He has flashes of brilliance, followed by blank moments where he wonders where he is and what day it is. Schist calms himself during these episodes by reciting the Fibonacci sequence, something I found oddly endearing and apropos to his backstory as a Nobel Prize winner.

We learn more about the younger Schist through chapters that highlight his days before he got into the nursing home. He is a flawed man with a kind and generous, if not stubborn, nature. He persists in his field, immunology, and eventually discovers a cure for AIDS. Suddenly the residents in his nursing home become ill with a horrific virus and he takes it upon himself to find a cure.

This is where the book turns into science fiction and surreal fantasy. Talking slugs, mysterious new residents in the nursing home, and black vomit with creatures crawling out of it are the norm. Schist isn’t sure if he’s finally gone over the edge  or not, and his kind and persistent personality demands that he try to save those who are suffering.

The old immunologist is a very sympathetic character. More than once he wishes for death to come and relieve his suffering. I couldn’t help but think of all the elderly in nursing homes, having the same thoughts, with no one to care for them or love them. The author has personal experience, having worked in a nursing home, and this is where he shines: showing younger people with healthy minds what it must be like to lose your sense of self and be betrayed by your mind.

As the talking slugs became more central to the story I cringed, hoping they were a hallucination. To me, it was a harsh transition from the familiarity of the nursing home. The final part of the story crashed full on into surrealness and wild action, with Schist willing to sacrifice his life to save the world. No spoilers here, as always –  read the book!

Conley does an excellent job with elements from multiple genres, as I mentioned before. There is something for everyone in PALE HIGHWAY, and it will absolutely leave you with sadness and respect for those abandoned in nursing homes.

Curious about those talking slugs? Want to know why everyone was vomiting black stuff? You can pick up your copy of PALE HIGHWAY [easyazon_link identifier=”1940215536″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Bloodline by Tara Ellis


I received this book from author Tara Ellis in exchange for an honest review.

Sixteen year old Alex and her family is part of a crowd watching the Holocene meteor shower when there is an impact very close to them. Panic ensues, and everyone flees back to their houses. Inexplicably, Alex’s mom starts sneezing that night, and some of her neighbors develop the flu. Alex and her younger brother stay healthy and start noticing odd behavior from those who are ill—including their mom. 80% of the world develops this flu like illness, which is followed by strange behavior. Alex fears for her own life; since she didn’t become sick, she is now a target.

As she struggles to find the reasons for the flu and evade being discovered as still healthy, she encounters a diary left by her father, who was killed while on vacation in Egypt. He apparently knew that this meteor shower was going to have bad consequences, and left clues on how to combat the evil . She must decipher hieroglyphics, protect her brother Jake, and learn who she can trust. Not everything is as it seems.

With the help of her schoolmate Chris, Alex and Jake leave their city and hide away in their family cabin in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Alex must find the anti-virus and save the world. Can she do it?

This book captured my interest right away, since I’m a fan of plague and pestilence. Bloodline is not your typical zombie flu storyline, but rather a poignant story of a teenage girl still mourning her dad, still feeling connected to him through his journal. The sense of isolation and bleakness really shines through here, as author Tara Ellis accurately captures Alex’s thoughts and fears. Even though this is advertised as a YA novel, adults will enjoy this easy yet intriguing read. Portions of the book evoked The DaVinci Code, as the group follows clues and races against time. I also liked that the relationship between Chris and Alex seemed authentic, with a hint of teenage awkwardness and shyness.

Plot twists are not obvious, and I found myself eagerly racing through the book to see what was going to happen next. I just loved how Alex’s mom got sick and how her personality changed—super creepy!

The ending of [easyazon_link asin=”1492169676″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Bloodline[/easyazon_link] answers some questions, but not all, and leaves the story open ended.  [easyazon_link asin=”1494390701″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Heritage[/easyazon_link] is the second book of the Forgotten Origins trilogy, and the final novel, [easyazon_link asin=”1502757214″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]Descent[/easyazon_link], will be published on September 30, 2014. Click the title if you want to get your own copy…highly recommended!

Watch my blog for an EXCLUSIVE Q&A session with author Tara Ellis…coming soon!!


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