Hekla’s Children by James Brogden

I actually began this novel a while back but had to stop because of my workload. The novel stayed in the back of my mind and I’m glad that I finally got the chance to read this book now. So here is my review:

10 years ago, teacher Nathan Brookes was supervising 4 students on a walk … when they all vanished. Only one returned, Olivia, and she was starving, terrified, and unable to recollect where she had been. And Nathan has been haunted by this event ever since. When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where the kids disappeared, it is immediately assumed that it is the body of one of the missing children. However, it is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior. While others may be able to move on from this archaeological curiosity, Nathan finds himself having horrific visions of his students being trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate to put the warrior’s body back into the Earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

This novel was both a hit AND a miss for me. The beginning was intriguing and it really grabbed my attention; that’s why I kept thinking about it even when I stopped reading the novel! The author did a great job setting the scene, and I got really invested in Nathan’s character. I suspected that the author would lean towards the fantasy-horror genre combination, and I was pleased to see that my prediction was true. I liked the introduction of the Bronze Age warrior and really wanted to see where the author was going to go with that. Very quickly, the author switched from having Nathan as a main character, to someone else …. and then it switched again to Nathan … and then went back to someone else. That part was a little baffling because it made me feel like I wasn’t reading a continuous story but rather two different stories happening within the same timeline. It worked in the sense that it added more intrigue to the story but it also failed by making things more confusing and muddled. The story itself grew more complex but it had its flaws. A lot of details were skimmed over and could have used some more buildup, and it lost some of its horror feel near the end. The way certain characters were connected didn’t really work for me, and some of the conclusions that were drawn were a bit too unbelievable for my taste. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had read a really complicated and intriguing novel … but one that lacked a consistent flow. Since there were elements that I still enjoyed about this novel, I’m giving it a 3/5.

Happy reading ~

The River At Night by Erika Ferencik

I’ve been looking for an interesting thriller to read and this one has been on my TBR list for a while. Now that I’m on vacation, I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up and reduce that list as much as I possibly can. So here is my review:

Wini likes to play things safe, but when her friends decide to celebrate their middle-aged life by doing something drastic, she decides to take the plunge. Wini and her friends decide to go to Maine to do some white water rafting, something that none of them have any experience with. A fun trip quickly turns into a horrific nightmare as the women find themselves trapped in the wilderness with no way out.

I recently read another novel that deals with survival, a YA fiction called Feel Me Fall. Compared to that, this one was a softie. This novel had a lot of positive aspects to it: it had a great premise, and an interesting friendship group. But with all of that potential, I felt that the action was lacking. The beginning started off great, and I found myself intrigued with where the story was going. However, as the story continued, I found that there needed to be more action happening. That kind of made the story fall for me a bit. Overall, this was an interesting story but it needed way more action to carry it through until the end.

Happy reading ~

Feel Me Fall by James Morris

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I promise that even though I’ve been super inactive on my blog, I’m still reading books! I’m on vacation right now and I really don’t get good wifi so having the connection necessary to write and post has been quite a challenge. I finally found a stable wifi connection so get ready for a deluge of posts!

After a plane crash that stranded her and her teenage friends in the jungles of the Amazon, these high schoolers must band together to struggle against the elements. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new hierarchy arises, filled with power struggles, betrayals, and revenge. When Emily emerges as the lone survivor, she must explain why she is the only one alive. But can she carry the burden of the past?

There were quite a few things that I enjoyed about this novel. I liked that the author skipped back and forth in time for certain portions of this story. It may have been a bit confusing at first, but it really added to the intrigue and mystery of the story. This novel was really action-packed and it was very easy to get caught up in the story. The one thing I didn’t really like was Emily’s character. She wasn’t a character I felt very interested in and her personality was a little blah for me. The ending was a cliffhanger, which I both liked and didn’t like; it was a unique twist but I generally just like to have a completely finished story. Overall, this was a strong YA novel that was action-packed and gripping, and I think many teens would enjoy reading this book!

Happy reading ~

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

Thank you to Penguin Random House and First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

The premise for this novel seemed so interesting, and I thought it would be the perfect read when flying off to my vacation destination. It was portrayed as a thriller … and we all know how much I love my thrillers!

In the year 2037, 7 people are chosen to participate in a 48-hr competition on the tiny island of Isola. Their prize: a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. Anna Francis didn’t really want to be a part of this. But as a workaholic bureaucrat with a 9-year-old daughter to care for, she didn’t really have a choice. Plus the Union President knows her secret … and if that was ever discovered, it would destroy her. However, Anna isn’t really a candidate for the position; in fact, she is the test. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then observe how the other 6 candidates behave from her hiding place. Everything is set in place… but then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins ….

This is one of those times where the premise is better than the actual story. I thought I was getting into something that would be intensely thrilling and packed with action. Instead, this book was slow paced, with tons of little anecdotes on Anna’s life before this competition. The author switched between different points in time and different characters. While this was interesting and appreciated, it made it super easy to guess what happened and what was going to happen in terms of the competition. That was a bit of a let-down because I was hoping it would be something of a mystery or a twist … and there wasn’t one. The novel may be set in 2037 but there really wasn’t too much that made it different than 2017, so that was a bit useless in my opinion. Overall, this novel just let me down. I was expecting a thriller but instead, I got an okay novel about a competition where I had already guessed the main points of the story.

Happy reading ~

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After reading urban fantasy novels, I’ve been really wanting to find more books in this genre. It’s so different from high fantasy and stories set in alternate worlds … and it’s really addictive once you get into it! I was super excited to receive this ARC so here is my review:

Greta Helsing is a doctor with a very unusual patient pool: she treats the undead. Whether it is a vocal strain a banshee or entropy in mummies, Greta is known for her skill. After all, this is what she has been groomed for since childhood. But when a sect of murderous monks emerge, Greta is overwhelmed by the deaths of the undead AND humans. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must put her unusual skills to work to stop this cult from ruining her life.

I so so so badly wanted to like this book, you really have no idea! It seemed like the perfect book for me, with its cool protagonist and story setting. However, I just couldn’t get into this story. No matter how hard I tried, it all was just too bizarre. The switching of voices between characters was very jarring and it was hard to keep it straight in my head. One minute, the story seemed like it was set in Victorian times and the next minute, it seemed way more modern. It all just threw me off and I couldn’t enjoy myself. There are a lot of positive reviews on GoodReads so maybe this is just one of those times where I am in the minority. If this book’s premise sounds like something you would like, give it a shot!

Happy reading ~

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the moment I read the description of this novel, I knew it was my kind of book. It sounded intense and thrilling and absolutely realistic. I’m really glad that I got approved for this book and now … here is my review:

Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, love going to the zoo near closing time to just relax and play. It’s the perfect way to end the day. But then Joan sees something as she and her son are moving toward the exit gate, something that makes her sprint back into the zoo with her son in her arms. And for the next 3 hours, she keeps running. Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and the zoo itself comes in handy in her time of need … but will it be enough to keep her safe from danger?

Just as I had expected, this novel was gripping from the start. Joan and her son are very believable characters and the situation they find themselves in is also, unfortunately, something I can realistically imagine happening. I had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading because I could feel how dangerous the situation was and how desperate Joan was to keep her son safe. The danger is present for the entire span of the novel, which means that Joan was running for safety for that entire time…. and yet, there really wasn’t a boring moment in the story. It was one of the more enjoyable features of this story. The novel is also told from the perspectives of other people in the zoo: fellow victims and even a perpetrator. I found that interesting but I wished the author had done it more often instead of just randomly including snippets from other perspectives; it would have helped me visualize and connect to the other characters in the same way that I did with Joan. I will admit that there were certain discrepancies in the plot that bothered me. Some I was willing to ignore because I understood that it was necessary for plot development, but there were others that seemed a tad bit ridiculous. The explanations for certain behaviors exhibited in the story also weren’t the best at times. These were really the only flaws for me, and overall, I was quite satisfied with my experience with the novel. The author promised a book that would make your heart pound and she definitely delivered on that account! I would give this novel a 3.5/5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique thriller.

Happy reading ~

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After so many thrillers that focus on the wife, I thought it would be a good change to read one that focuses on the husband and child. That was my motivation for requesting this book … so here is my review:

It’s been 1 year since Billie Flanagan, a beautiful Berkeley mom, went on a solo hike and vanished. Only a hiking boot was ever found. Billie’s husband, Jonathan, and teenage daughter, Olive, do their best to  cope with her death but things have been frayed between them. When Olive starts having waking dreams that her mother is alive, she is convinced these are signs that her mother wants Olive to look for her. Jonathan worries about Olive’s health and mental frame of mind … but then he unearths a secret from Billie’s past that makes him question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Now, Olive and Jonathan have to work together to piece together the woman they loved.

It was definitely unique to read this story with a husband and daughter as the main protagonists. I was hoping that the story would be more of a father-daughter search for the truth, where both characters grow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The father’s character and judgments were reasonable based on the secrets he was discovering about his wife, Billie. However, he didn’t really do much about anything. He discovered things and let despair take him under. In fact, his daughter was much more active in getting to the bottom of things than he was. This ended up turning this book from an adult read to a young adult/teen read, which let me down a tad bit. In the end, this was a thriller that was interesting in terms of where the plot went, but I felt like it failed in its execution and character development.

Happy reading ~

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

And here we are with another thriller with “Girl” in the title. But I decided to ignore that when it came to this book, in an attempt to not be biased in my opinion. This book has been getting a lot of attention and I’ve been recommended it multiple times. So I finally decided to give it a go! Here is my review:

Emma
After a traumatic break-in, Emma is desperate to move into a newer, safer place. But nothing seems perfect – until she comes across One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece with its minimalist design…. but it also comes with many rules. The architect who built this house retains full control of it and only his word goes. The space is meant to transform its occupant completely – and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start – and she finds it at One Folgate Street. But it isn’t just the house she’s fallen for; the seductive creator keeps coming into her mind. Once she moves in, Jane soon learns of the untimely demise of the previous tenant, a woman who resembles Jane. As Jane tries to make sense of the truth, she unwittingly begins to make the same choices and experiences the same terror as the girl before.

I’m surprised by how much I liked this novel. The story was addictive and while I didn’t like everything about it, I can’t deny that it had the thrill and the twists that I was hoping for. The two perspectives were quite interesting and the author did a really great job of making them match up and integrate. Emma’s character gave me a lot of warning signs, and it became more and more clear that she was not what I expected as I kept reading – but that’s what I loved about the book. I love that the main characters didn’t conform to my initial assessment, and I liked to see how they acted in similar situations. This book is all about depraved characters, each who have their own mental issues. They’re very twisted and I like that the author kept them true to that trait throughout the book. I wasn’t very comfortable with some of the ways that the author handled sexual consent and rape … but it worked in the context of this story because the story itself is all about individuals who don’t really conform or believe in those norms. A lot of people are saying that this novel is a bit of a combination between 50 shades of grey and Girl on the train …. I kind of agree with the first part of that. There is a lot of sexual stuff going on in this novel and even though I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, I can see where people can draw the parallels. However, this aspect didn’t make me as uncomfortable as I expected, as I still quite enjoyed the story. Overall, this was a very interesting thriller that had me hooked from the start!

Happy reading ~

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Thank you to Penguin Random House and their First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not a big fan of historical fiction and if you go through my blog, you will see that I haven’t read very many books from this genre. I always feel a bit guilty about not widening my horizons so this time I chose a book that is not only part of the historical fiction genre but also the romance genre (which I also don’t delve into very much).

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. However, when Kristallnacht occurs, Kristoff’s teacher disappears and it is up to Kristoff to deal with the Germans, who want him to engrave stamps for the Fuhrer and his army. With the help of his teacher’s fiery daughter, Elena, the stamps get made …. but for each stamp created for the Fuhrer comes another stamp for the Austrian resistance, along with forged papers to help Jewish Austrians escape. As Kristoff and Elena’s love for each other grows, they must find a way to keep each other safe before they get caught.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is struggling with her life, as she goes through a divorce and deals with her father’s memory loss. As she cleans up her house, she comes across her father’s beloved stamp collection. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter, Katie finds herself intrigued. As she and Benjamin try to get to the bottom of this mystery, they are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

This was a very well-written story and looked at a very different angle of the war than one I’ve previously read about. I’ve heard of Kristallnacht, of course, but this novel took an interesting perspective of it. Even though half of the story takes place during WWII, the emphasis was evenly divided between the relationship of Kristoff and Elena and the resistance effort. I also really liked the other narrative that was happening with Katie and her father’s stamp collection. I learned a lot about stamps and their significance that I was unaware of before this story, and that was a nice surprise. The romance aspect of this novel was really well done; it was believable and simple and touching. I quite enjoyed the read and got a bit emotional at the end, which is always a good sign. This is definitely a strong historical fiction novel with a well written romance angle!

Happy reading ~

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett – The Divine Cities #3

At last! The final novel in this amazing trilogy! What I love about this series is that each novel takes place a few years after the previous one, and it focuses on a different character each time; this means that you can manage to read it as a standalone if you are strapped for time – though I would recommend reading the entire series in order to really understand everything. In the first book, the protagonist was Shara Komayd. In the second, it was Mulagesh. And now, we hear from Sigrud, who was always one of my favorites. Anyways, here I go with my review:

Siigrud je Harkvaldsson is very good at one thing: revenge. So when he learns that his oldest friend, Prime Minister Shara Komad, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what he is going to do. Yet as Sigrud pursues Shara’s killers, he begins to fear that this mission may be unsuccessful. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death means taking part in a secret, decades-long war, facing down an angry young god, and unraveling the mystery of Bulikov, the city of miracles.

It was definitely a good thing that I read the previous books in the series because the magnanimity of the truths revealed in this novel was just … WOW. And you really can’t understand how amazing these are unless you read the previous novels. So while I’m sure you can enjoy and understand what is happening in this novel without reading anything else in the series, I would strongly advise against that; take the time and read the first 2 books before getting into this one, so that you can truly fall in love with this serie like I have!

Sigrud…. I love him. This book did him such justice. His personality is just so …. amazing and one cannot help but appreciate him for his kindness, his loyalty, and his ruthlessness. He comes off as simple but the more you read, the more you see his complexity. The author definitely did an amazing job when creating Sigrud! I also loved all of the other characters that were a part of this story; each one was unique and had so much depth that you felt like you truly knew them!

The story and world-building in this novel are incredible but I expected nothing less from the author of this series. I wasn’t expecting all of the mysteries to be revealed in the way it did, which was a really awesome surprise. I really can’t complain at all about anything in terms of the story, characters, or world-building.

This was a stunning conclusion to an epic series and I strongly urge anyone looking for an awesome fantasy series to read this series. You will not be disappointed!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~