5 Lesser-Known Books You Must Read while Waiting out the Coronavirus

Coronavirus has shut down multiple schools, sent folks to work at home, and kept us all isolated as much as possible. So what better time to read a good book than when you’re cooped up in your own house? Instead of anxiously watching the news, check out these five titles that I absolute love—and think you will too:

The Sword and Shield by Emma Khoury

This book releases March 26, and I couldn’t be more excited. Emma Khoury is one of the funniest writers I know, and this book is jam-packed with that wit as well as quirky, lovable characters and fast-paced action. I first read this book in manuscript form in 2018 and I have been dying to hold it in my hands ever since:

Ezra Toth is your typical sword for hire. A dark past, a few secrets, a talent for killing, with a sharp sword and sharper wit. Perhaps his several dozen cats are a bit unique but other than that… He returns from an ordinary, arduous job to find representatives of the crown waiting for him at his home – not so typical. They bring him to the Crown Prince who has a problem only Ezra can solve. Crown Prince Christophe’s brother, and possibly even the King himself, are part of a plot to assassinate him. With no idea who in the palace is truly loyal to who, Ezra must navigate a myriad of potential suspects whilst protecting the heir.

One Woman Falling by Melanie Campbell

This one takes a bit of a turn from Khoury’s rollicking wit, but will leave you powerfully moved:

Cassie Peterson lives in an invisible prison of fear, chained by self-doubt and guarded by a relentless warden—her husband. Derrick’s verbal abuse as well as his alcoholism have left Cassie alienated from her family, without friends, and certain she can’t survive on her own.

After an unexpected police visit, Cassie realizes the survival of her four-year-old daughter, Renee, depends on Cassie’s courage to leave. What she doesn’t plan on is Derrick’s vengeful custody fight.

While walking through the treacherous world of divorce, Cassie is encouraged by her spunky new friend, Missy Langdon, to pursue her love of waterfalls. Cassie finds solace in the waterfalls on the agonizing weekends she’s forced to hand Renee over to Derrick. Meanwhile, unexpected help comes in the form of Brian Sutton, an attorney at the firm where Cassie works—but what price will she ultimately pay for his assistance?

As Derrick’s threatening behavior escalates, Cassie questions her choices. How long will her daughter suffer before the custody case is resolved? Why is she drawn to waterfalls during this chaotic time? And who will stand with her when everything comes crashing down?

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

I recently read this award-winning book about post-WWII Japan and was blown away. The setting is fascinating, heartbreaking, and completely underrepresented in literature. If you have even the slightest affection for historical fiction, this one is a must read:

A Prostitute Seeks Her Revenge—In 1942, Miyako Matsuura cradled her little brother as he died on the sidewalk, a victim of the first U.S. bombing raid on Japan. By 1948, the war has reduced her to a street-hardened prostitute consumed by her shame.

A WWII Hero Finds His True Mission—Captured by the Japanese after piloting a B-25 in the Doolittle Raid, Dave Delham survived a harrowing P.O.W. ordeal. In 1948, he returns to Japan as a Christian missionary, determined to showcase Christ’s forgiveness.

Convinced that Delham was responsible for the bomb that snuffed out her brother’s life, Miyako resolves to restore her honor by avenging him—even if it costs her own life. But the huntress soon becomes hunted in Osaka’s treacherous underworld. Miyako must outmaneuver a ruthless brothel owner, outwit gangs with competing plans to profit by her, and overcome betrayal by family and friends—only to confront a decision that will change everything.

The Woods by R. L. Toalson

Unlike the adult fiction above, this one is slated as middle grade—but that doesn’t make me love it any less. Maybe it was because the first time I read it I couldn’t help noticing the parallels between Toalson’s tale and my own book, Wraithwood. Either way, this eerie, heartfelt book is a perfect read for a rainy day:

Twelve-year-old Lenora’s world is turned upside down after an explosion makes her the lone surviving member of her immediate family. She has nowhere to go, until her estranged Uncle Richard shows up and takes her away to live with him in his lonely mansion. Quiet and stern, he spends most of his time in his study conducting research and experimenting. Lenora is able to explore parts of the mansion and its lovely gardens, but Uncle Richard has one rule for her: Stay out of the woods.

Years ago, Lenora’s cousin, Bobby went into Gilgevnah Woods and never came out. Now, Uncle Richard will do anything he can to destroy them. Lenora knows she is meant to stay away, but her grief and loneliness draw her in.

Upon entering the woods, she finds a world full of enchantment and beauty. Lenora befriends Bela the Scorlaman, keeper of Gilgevnah Woods, who shows her the wonder and the mystery of the place, but also promises to reunite her with her family. Is it too good to be true?

Will Lenora find peace in the magic of Gilgevnah Woods, or will she find something darker?

Let the Ghosts Speak by Bryan Davis

This one is a bit of a cheat, since the e-book won’t be available until April 15, but the print version will be available any day now…(I’m not intentionally being cryptic, I just don’t actually know).

However, Let the Ghosts Speak is one of my absolute favorite reads of 2020, so I had to include it. Masquerade parties, Paris catacombs, ghosts, murder mystery—what more could you possibly want?

In 19th century Paris, Justin Trotter, an immigrant from England, is making his way as a book translator while paying for his blind twin sister’s care. One evening, Marc Noël, Justin’s well-to-do friend and fellow thespian, invites him to a masquerade party at an abandoned schoolhouse. Justin hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know Marc’s lovely though sharp-tongued sister, Francine.

At the event, Justin meets four ghostly strangers—two adults and two children—who warn him that the party guests are in danger, and they must leave at once. True to their prediction, a murder takes place, and Justin is the prime suspect. He escapes and becomes a fugitive, hiding in the Paris catacombs.

Mystery and intrigue swirl as the ghost of Joan of Arc and other martyrs guide Justin on a lonely journey to prove his innocence and protect his sister from an abusive caretaker. Who really committed the crime? Marc? Francine? A ghost? And does seeing these ghosts mean he is going insane? Maybe he really is the murderer after all.

There is only one way to find out, to let the ghosts speak as they reveal the mysteries within Justin’s mind.

Have any other titles we all need to read? Drop them in the comments below!

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