The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

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

I love dystopian novels and anything that is really full of creepy crawlies. This novel seemed like the perfect fit for me so I was super excited to read it! Here is my review:

In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line, which is a ring of scorched earth to protect citizens from ticks that carry disease. Those that live within the zone are safe but are controlled by this common fear. Few have any real reason to leave the safe zone … except for the adrenaline junkies who are willing to pay a hefty price in order to enjoy what is left of nature. Among the latest expedition are a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; tech giant, Wes; and Marta, a simple housewife. Once they leave the safe zone, the group are at the mercy of deadly ticks – and in the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors. As alliances and friendships shift, the hostages must decide how far they are willing to go to get back to safety.

I really wanted to like this novel but I found I couldn’t get into it at all, and I had to add it to my DNF pile. While the story seemed interesting in its premise, I just couldn’t get interested enough to pursue this novel. The pacing was quite slow and that made it a bit harder for me to read because I really wanted to get to the good bits as fast as possible. I also didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters; they just didn’t have enough for me to feel that emotional tug. I don’t really want to write too much on this review since I haven’t fully read the novel and others who have finished it would have a better idea on it, but for me, this novel gets a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

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

I don’t know why I keep having this habit of reading books that are part of a series. But sometimes, I just see a synopsis that I can’t resist and I feel this NEED to request it. And then when I get my request approved, I HAVE to read it, and I don’t have the time to read the previous books in the series. But sometimes, I find that when I really like one of the books, I end up wanting to start the series properly. So with that kind of optimism, I began reading this novel… here is my review:

Robin Hessop and David Mallory barely escaped with their lives when dealing with a deadly cult. Now, they continue to try to unlock the truth behind a 700 year old conspiracy – the power behind the Templars. Infiltrating the group’s vast archives, Jessop and Mallory discover something unusual: a sacred mission that is hinted at in an ancient Templar passport. The mission hints at the transportation of a treasure, something that is invaluable. As the pair sifts through centuries of clues, they come face-to-face with a secret that could shake Christendom as we know it – and put their lives in danger.

So the author does a good job of explaining things such that it isn’t 100% necessary to have read the other books in order to understand what is going on. However, I would still say that this novel is best enjoyed as part of the series so that you can really get into the plot and feel a good connection with the characters. It was something that I had difficulty with because I didn’t really understand the interaction between Robin and David. There were also some other characters that were part of this story that kind of confused me; their actions and feelings didn’t make sense to me given their role in this story. However, I chalked it up to the fact that I don’t have the necessary background. It is clear when reading this novel that the author has done a great deal of research and really knows his Templar material! While this information is intriguing, at times it was overwhelming and unnecessary. It’s also not the most action-packed story I have ever read; the first 50+ pages were them simply trying to decode a document and it took a loooong time. While this may be accurate in its portrayal of the process, it makes for slow reading. The story does pick up after a while, and it was pretty interesting, but again, there were so many details thrown at you that it can be hard to keep it all straight. Overall, this was an interesting story but it is best enjoyed if you have read the previous books in the series. It had a bit too much detail and not enough character work for my liking, so for that reason, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

From its description, this novel sounded really interesting and quirky. And I’m all about quirky! I decided just to give it a go, so here is my review:

When grad student Kate Pearson’s handsome French boyfriend dumps her, she goes down in flames. All her confidence and ambition goes away, and all she wants to do is sit and mope and do nothing. Her sister and her friends do everything they can to get her out of bed but it seems like nothing will get Kate back into the real world. Miraculously, a disastrous interview leads to a position in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. Kate is thrust into her job, where she has to interview all types of children for a position at the school. And then she has to deal with the parents who simply refuse to take no for an answer. She soon realizes that there is no room – or time – for self-pity during admissions season. As Kate tries her best to figure out how to make sense of her new job, her sister and friends find themselves going over and beyond in their efforts to keep Kate on her feet. Never mind that Kate seems to be doing perfectly well on her own without any of their interference…

While I’m all about quirkiness, this story was not doing it for me. I don’t think it had to do with the story itself. It was more that I really did not like the main character. Here’s the thing, I don’t mind characters that are a little bit bumbling or caught up in their own world. But Kate is a whole different story. Maybe it’s because I am an older sister and identified more with the character of Angela (Kate’s sister), but I found Kate exasperating. She literally did nothing to help herself, and made everyone else do things for her. I understand that an undergraduate degree does not always lead to the job in the area you want, and doesn’t always give you the skills you need to transition into something else … but you have to have some basic common sense! How do you not know how to dress for an interview or even how TO interview?! I get it, she was despondent and depressed … but it just irked me how she was so confused about everything in life, and literally knows NOTHING about how the world works. Where have you been living for so long, under a rock?! Sorry, I usually don’t get so ramped up but it just got too much, so much so that I couldn’t really enjoy the story, which was actually kind of funny. There are quite a few people who did enjoy this novel so I might be just an anomaly, but this book really did not work for me. I’m going to have to give this one a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~

Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I’ve been putting it off every time in lieu of some other urgent reading task. But I decided to make time for it now, so here is my review:

Ana grew up in a tiny Mennonite colongy in Bolivia. Her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now, as a teenager, Ana and her father have also run away from the community, but Ana doesn’t know why. All she knows is that things were not right for her and her father and they needed to leave in a hurry. Now, they’ve arrived in Toronto and Ana must fend for herself in an alien country, completely disconnected from everything she knew. She has no idea where to begin with fitting in. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the hierarchy that is present and all the unspoken rules and codes that govern teenage life. She goes to the library, the mall, and even parties. And all the while, she is desperate to find her mother who left her so long ago, and understand her father who has always been a stranger to her.

This is definitely a character-driven story, and it is quite well done at that. The story is told from Ana’s perspective, in third perspective when she is in Toronto and in first perspective when she is describing her past in the Mennonite colony. I really liked that the author made that differentiation, as I’ve never seen an author do that before and it added a unique touch to the story. I really liked Ana’s character and the author did a really great job in expressing the emotions she was going through; as a reader, I found it very easy to connect with and understand Ana. I didn’t know much about the Mennonite community before this novel, but it is clear that the author did due diligence in researching and presenting the information about this community in a non-judgemental way. This novel is definitely more of a slow-burner and it’s really just about how Ana adjusts to Toronto after leaving Colony Felicidad so if you are expecting something more fast-paced or with action, then this is not the novel for you. However, it is a well-written YA novel that is all about growing up, fitting in, and finding your identity. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

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

I absolutely adored the premise of this novel. It hinted at Mongolian and Japanese and Chinese influences, so I was really intrigued as to how the author would incorporate that into her story. Plus, fantasy is my all-time favorite and I’m always down for new books in the genre. Let’s begin the review:

The Hokkaran empire has been victorious in defeating all of their enemies and conquering land – but they failed to notice another enemy: the darkness festering within the people. Now, their bordering walls are starting to crumble and demons are on the rampage, killing villagers everywhere. Away on the silver steppes, the nomadic Qorin tribe try to protect themselves, having bartered a treaty with their empire. Now, in the face of evil, two young warriors from across borders must save the world, thus fulfilling their destinies. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

With a premise like that, how could this novel fail, am I right? WRONG. I had to add this ARC to my DNF pile, and we all know how much I hate doing that. But I simply could not get through this novel. I only got through 20% before I had to give up. So what was so wrong with this story? Well, for starters it begins with a letter. Now, I love letters. But this letter was there simply for info-dumping purposes. I mean, it went on and on for about 4 chapters of the story, pretty much laying all of the groundwork. But since that was the only real world-building that was happening, it made the story very clunky and effectively removed any chance of there actually being a plot line. The worst part is that the letter wasn’t even well-written! It had no nuance, it had no flair, it literally just narrated everything in an awkward way, which really didn’t make for a pleasant experience for the reader. I kept waiting for something to happen with the plot but … well, nothing really happened. that was a real bummer for me. There is clearly romance between the two female protagonists, but it wasn’t executed well, either. The author also makes some very racist remarks that really made me feel uncomfortable; others have also mentioned this on Goodreads so I’m not going to get into it any further. Overall, this novel was quite a let-down. It had garnered a lot of hype and it brought my hopes up. But in the end, it didn’t deliver. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

 

The Shadow List by Todd Moss – Judd Ryker #4

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

Once again, I unknowingly requested a book that was part of a series I had not read. And once again, I decided to just hope that I would understand what was going on anyways. What drew me to this novel was that its premise reminded me of a really awesome series that I began (but have yet to finish) – the Sigma Force series. I wanted to see how this novel compares to that series… so here is my review:

We have all gotten those scam emails before, the ones from people telling us they care about us and promising a windfall. And we always wonder how can anyone be so naive as to fall for this kind of swindling. But it’s no laughing matter. It is one of the biggest organized crime rackets in the world – and State Department crisis manager Judd Ryker is right in the middle of it. When a young American disappears in London, Ryker is assigned to this case. However, his investigation soon leads him to the heart of a corruption scandal in Nigeria. At the same time, Judd’s CIA agent wife, Jessica, finds herself chasing a Russian master criminal known as the Bear. Neither of them is aware that they are both tugging on different ends of the same string. Jessica has always warned Judd that the world is messy and dangerous. Now, Judd is going to experience it for himself.

So this novel is really fast-paced. There are a lot of characters and there’s a lot going on, so you really need to stay focused. It was quite easy to follow in spite of my complete lack of background on the series. However, I would recommend that interested readers start from the beginning so that they can have a better understanding of the story and characters. While the story was interesting, I found that it was a little too convoluted. There were too many angles and too many things going on that didn’t tie up as well as I wish they would have. Even though the author chose a really interesting topic to base the story on, I felt my interest wane as too many things were thrown in and not enough was explored at times; it just felt like it was missing some depth. I had no problem with pacing or character development. But if I had to compare this to the Sigma Force series, then I would definitely prefer the Sigma Force series. For me, this novel was just okay and I would give it a 2.5/5 rounded to 3 stars.

Happy reading ~

Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

I’ve got a whole slew of mysteries and thrillers to catch up on, so I thought this novel would be a good place to start. It’s gotten quite a lot of positive reviews, and it has a female protagonist so I thought it would be right up my alley. Here is my review:

Detective Gemma Monroe knows that secrets and lies don’t stay buried forever. One of her first cases involved finding the bones of two teenage boys who had gone missing years ago. To this day, she doesn’t know what happened to them, and this is something that has always haunted her. In a place like Cedar Valley, most cases are easy to close. Like the case 3 years ago where the mayor’s son died in a tragic accident, slipping off of a cliff while hiking with friends. But when a recent murder victim is identified as the mayor’s son, Gemma must question everything she knew. Her investigation takes her from the seedy grounds of a traveling circus to the powerful homes of the Cedar Valley elite. Pregnant, and with no one she can trust, Gemma must track a killer who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets hidden forever. 

This was quite an interesting story that attempted to connect 2 different crimes. I really liked the main character, who had a lot of spunk and had a really good backstory. There were a bunch of other characters that were also introduced, but I wish the author had spent more time in developing relationships between them and Gemma; most of them were pretty well explained but some (like the one with her boyfriend) were really not developed at all, which was a shame. The story itself had a good pacing and I found myself intrigued as to how everything would come together. I also love everything to do with circuses, so having that be a part of the story was a little treat for me! The story itself was going really well but the ending was a bit rushed, and clichéd. As usual, the perp spills the beans on everything, but the explanation wasn’t as well formed as I liked. Overall, this was an interesting story that had good pacing and a strong main character so I give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Select by Marit Weisenberg

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

Sometimes, all I really want is to read some YA fiction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often given my work and my looooong TBR list. Happily, this was one of the novels on that list so I could shoot two birds with one stone! Here is my review:

17-year-old Julia Jaynes comes from a very wealthy family. She is freakishly athletic, intelligent, and beautiful. But everyone in her community is like that. That’s because they all come from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Texas. In order to protect themselves and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father has forced her to suppress her abilities. But when she accidentally demonstrates her powers in public, she is banished to the local public high school. Not only must Julia navigate through the confusion that is high school, she must also pretend to be a normal human being, which is not an easy task. Julia just wants to keep her head down and leave as soon as possible – but then she meets John Ford. And there is an instant connection between the two. She can even read his mind! But as Julia’s newfound powers grow, so do her feelings for Josh. When she discovers her father’s secrets, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Now, she must decide who she truly is – and who she will betray to maintain her new identity.

So what drew me to this book in the first place was the science fiction element. Of course, from the blurb, I knew there was a fair bit of romance. What I wasn’t expecting was that 90% of this novel would be romance and only 10% would be actual science fiction. That part was a big disappointment because I thought there would be more to her powers than what the author had in mind. I think if the author had spent more time developing the science fiction aspect of the story, there would have been more depth to the story. However …. I still really enjoyed the book. I usually don’t like romance novels; they make me cringe with the clichéd phrases. But for some reason, this one worked. Now, I’m not saying that the romance between Josh and Julia was spot-on; there were some definite holes in the way things worked and developed between the two. But it also reminded me of my own high school experiences, the friendships that blossom into something more, and the sweetness of first love. It was cute and sweet and simple and I liked it. I also liked that the author showed how Julia was affected by the actions and thoughts of other characters. While this made the story more of a realistic fiction than science fiction, it was an aspect that was still well done. Now, if you were looking for a good science fiction novel, then this is not the one for you. I mean, it seriously has nothing to offer in terms of that genre. If you like sweet romance mixed with family drama, then you would probably enjoy this story. Because that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Because the science fiction part was misleading but I actually enjoyed the romance part of this story, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Hide and Seek by M. J. Arlidge – Helen Grace #6

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

At first, I wasn’t aware that this book was part of a series. And when I saw that it was the 6th novel, I gave up on the idea of trying to read the previous novels before this one. I just hoped I could follow along! Here is my review:

Helen Grace was one of the best police investigators. Now, she finds herself behind bars with the very killers she caught. Framed for murder, she knows that her only chance to make things right is to survive until her trial and prove her innocence. But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door, Helen realizes that someone is targeting prisoners … and she might be next.

At first, it was a little hard to catch up with the story. This is a book best enjoyed after reading all of the previous novels, as it will just make things easier to understand. However, I was still able to get the gist of things and it was still a really enjoyable read. I liked Helen’s character a lot; even though she was a prison, she showed intelligence and grit at all times. I make note of this because a lot of times I find that authors don’t maintain the personality of the protagonist as the story progresses, which is a pet peeve for me. But that didn’t happen here so YAY! There were a lot of other characters that were integral to the story; at first that worried me because I am terrible at remembering people, but the author made each one unique and made sure to make many connections and reminders so I didn’t have that problem. This novel basically has 2 stories going on: Helen trying to figure out who the killer is in the prison, and Charlie, Helen’s friend, trying to prove that Helen is innocent by arresting the right person. I found myself more drawn to Helen’s story than Charlie’s; it was more organized while Charlie just seemed to run around a lot, grasping at straws. The fact that Charlie managed to sort things out was a little hard for me to believe, but perhaps the detective work for that was set up in a previous novel so I don’t want to pass judgement on that. I also liked that the story was told from different perspectives as it gave the story more depth. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I think I may actually read the rest of the series!

Happy reading ~