Badlands by Melissa Lenhardt – Sawbones #3

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

This was a long time coming. I remember reading the second novel in this series and wanting to get started on this one right away … but life (and other books on my TBR list) got in the way. However, I’ve finally done it and I’m ready to review:

Just when Laura thought things were going to get better, her worst fears have been realized: she is separated from Kindle and is once again on the run. She can’t go back to New York without risking death, and it is almost certain that Kindle will be tried and hanged. The only person Laura has as an ally is a woman that she cannot trust. Will Laura be able to survive? Or is it finally time for her to face her past?

This was a really good conclusion to an interesting series. In this concluding novel, the story was focused almost entirely on Laura, which I really enjoyed. Kindle, while always present, took a backseat in this story and it actually worked for the better. This novel had 2 female protagonists (including Laura) and I really liked reading about how they fought and worked with each other throughout the course of the story. Again, the author did a great job maintaining the historical setting of the novel. All of the open ends were tied up really nice with this book. After all the negative things that occur in this novel, it still ended on a positive note, which I was happy about. This was definitely a successful Western historical fiction series and I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of this genre!

Happy reading ~

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 ~

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 ~

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron

The first book I read about anthropology and archaeology was Lucy’s Child. It was a fascinating novel that made me rethink my future goals. After discovering my interest in this field, my school librarian suggested I read Clan of the Cave Bears by Jean M. Auel. To this day, it is my favorite book. So it should come as no surprise that when I heard about this book and its subject matter, I knew I had to read it. Here is my review:

40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. It has been a hard winter, and with numbers low, the family knows it is imperative that they travel to the annual meeting place; Girl, the oldest daughter, and Him, the oldest son, must each find a mate. But there is danger everywhere, and Girl finds herself left alone to care for Runt, a foundling that her family adopted. As they face the coming winter, Girl realizes that there is only one way for her to save her people.

In the modern day, Dr. Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy on her archaeological dig, racing to excavate the newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her due date. Linked through the shared experience of motherhood, both Girl and Rose reveal the taboo corners of women’s lives through their narratives.

Let me just make it clear: there is no real suspense in this novel. That isn’t to say this novel isn’t engrossing – it is. But the blurb for this novel basically gives away 50% of what happens in the story. However, this doesn’t in any way diminish the story’s compelling voice. My favorite narrative was that of Girl, for obvious reasons. Neanderthals have long been thought to be primitive and less developed compared to us, and having this author (and Gale) show us otherwise was just fascinating. I think the true magic in this story is how real the Neanderthal narrative was; you could feel the emotions, and their experiences came alive on the page. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so connected to Neanderthals – and they’re part of our genetic makeup. No, but with all seriousness, the author did a fantastic job in her portrayal of the Neanderthal family and Girl’s struggles to survive. My problem was with the modern day portrayal. I didn’t really care for Dr. Gale; I found her petty and weird and just … not that personable. Her narrative didn’t really do anything for me and it really didn’t do much for the story, either. Since Gale’s narrative makes up half of the story, it made me only like part of the story, which is why I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

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

What made me want to request this novel was that another author, M.R. Carey had positive words for it. M.R. Carey wrote the book The Girl With All the Gifts, which I absolutely adored. So if an author who wrote one of my favorite books has a good thing to say about another novel, you can bet that I’m going to read it!

Lalla has been fortunate enough to have grown up sheltered from the chaos that rules over London. But things are getting more dangerous. People are killing each other for bare essentials, and the police are getting rid of anyone without an identification card. When Lalla turns 16, her father decides that the time has come for them to escape – and escape comes in the form of a ship he has built to save a mere 500 people. But the utopia that her father has created isn’t all that it seems. There’s more food than anyone can imagine, but nothing grows; more clothes than anyone can wear but no way to fix them or make new ones … and no one knows where they are going.

I so desperately wanted to like this novel that I felt disappointed in myself for not enjoying this book. It had such an interesting concept but it was just not written in a style that worked for me. The main character, Lalla, is by far the most annoying character I have ever met. She is spoilt, and naive, and just seems to miss the point. Every single person on the ship is trying to explain everything to her but she chooses to ignore their words constantly. While I think she raises valid points, she just doesn’t get them across in the right way, and ended up frustrating me (and the actual passengers on the ship) to no end. There was this really awkwardly created love story put in, and while I understand why the author chose to put it in, it didn’t really work for me, either. The author’s writing style was also terribly convoluted and confusing, making me wonder what was the point of half of the words used. It’s like the author was trying to take a concept and present it in a very impressive way. But by overdoing it, she lost the message. In the end, this novel just did not work for me.

Happy reading ~

The Undying by Ethan Reid

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

What drew me to this novel was the comparison that was made between this story and The Passage. Although I haven’t written a blog post about it yet, The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of my favorite books of all time. So, it makes sense that with a claim like this, I kind of HAVE to read this book and see if it lives up to my expectations.

Jeanie and Ben are just looking for a fun time when they arrive in Paris to celebrate the coming of the New Year with their friends. Everything is festive and fun – until all the lights go out at midnight. By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. There are fireballs raining down from the sky, buildings destroyed, people running around screaming. Whatever has happened in Paris, no one has any idea how far its effects have spread. As Jeanie, Ben, and their friends try to flee the burning city, they are worried of what is yet to come. So far, only Jeanie has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to have a strong hold on her whenever she sees them. These cunning beings soon become known as les moribund – the undying – and their numbers increase drastically. When fate puts a newborn baby in Jeanie’s care, she will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris – even if it means leaving everyone else behind.

I’m struggling as to where I should begin. I did not enjoy this book. I really did not. It did not live up to the expectations I had and it in no way is comparable to The Passage. So what made it fail?

For one thing, the characters. They were so stereotypical. You need your whiner/pessimist, your comedic relief character, and the determined, courageous, selfless lead. The author didn’t really do anything to make them unique as they acted just like these descriptions I gave you. I sort-of liked Jeanie because she had guts and was a go-getter, but I had no emotional connection to her. The way the characters spoke and interacted was stilted and emotionless, making it really hard to visualize. The whole baby idea sounded interesting in the premise but it was poorly executed; Jeanie is just handed this baby and within 2 seconds, she is all gaga about this child and having flashbacks and talking about how therapeutic holding a baby is. Seriously? There is a disaster going on, so you need to hustle and maybe you should be having some doubts about taking on this baby instead of just smiling and cooing at it. While that bothered me, what annoyed me even more was that as the story progressed, the baby became more of an object than an important part of the story. I mean, this story could have still worked without this infant thrown into it.

I did not like the writing style employed here. The prologue that was in the beginning was confusing, and turned out to be linked to the ending of the book. When I was reading the novel, I was unaware of this, so the prologue just made me confused, not intrigued. I also hated that the story kept flitting back between French and English; while I understand French (thank you to my french teachers all through high school!), it was frustrating to switch back and forth in the book and also to have Jeanie feel confused about what was being said as she translated things in her head. There were also too many pointless flashbacks. Literally every paragraph was followed by some mini-flashback to a tragic event in Jeanie’s life. I get it, it is a sad thing, boohoo, now let’s move on to the action! There are zombies and mutinies going on outside, and I really don’t want to be spending my time reading about how sad Jeanie is that her father passed away. There were also short chapters that were flashbacks thrown right in at random points that did nothing to add to the plot and were a complete waste of time to read.

I really don’t want to continue to bash this book. I know that the author must have put a lot of effort into writing this story, and I do acknowledge that. Suffice to say, it did not work for me on many different levels. It is part of a series, however based on my experience with this novel, I have no plans on continuing to read on.

Happy reading ~

Ashfall by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #1

I received an ARC for the third book in this series, not realizing that it was a part of one. After reading the premise of the third book, I realized that in order to give a fair review, I needed to read the previous 2 books in the series. And that’s exactly what I am doing now:

Alex is looking forward to being alone for the weekend. With his family gone to visit his uncle, Alex has unlimited free time to hang out with his friends and play computer games. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, and Alex’s hometown is plunged into darkness, ash, and violence. Alex has to find a way to reach his family, and so he makes the harrowing trek across the country with Darla, a travel partner he picks up along the way. Together, they must find a way to survive this epic disaster.

One of the things I really liked about this novel was its unique apocalyptic situation. I mean, we’ve read about zombies and crazy viruses that kill a great deal of the population, and all that but I’ve never really read anything about supervolcanoes. In fact, before this novel, I didn’t really know much ON supervolcanoes. It is now one more thing to add to my list of things that utterly terrify me! I really liked the way the author wrote this story. He knew what to emphasize and where to ratchet up and where to take it slow. I have no qualms about the writing whatsoever. My one problem with this novel – and it might be because of the sheer number of post-apocalyptic novels that I’ve read – was that it was all just so tame. In the beginning of the novel, we see a lot of action and we get glimpses of violence and the way society can break down in times of distress. And this is a prevailing theme throughout the novel. But even during scenes where something terribly violent occurs, it seems tamped down or muted. For a teenager to go through such a harrowing experience, but to have it relegated to only a few sentences and then brushed aside just created this weird disconnect. I would get all ramped up by the action and the direction in which the story was going, only to feel disappointed when I reached the climactic moment. While the storytelling and the plot and the characters themselves were great, I wish the author had spent more time developing some of the harsher scenes so as to give the story more depth. Overall, I think this is a good start to an interesting dystopian series. I’m curious to see how the author proceeds forward in the next book.

Happy reading ~

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

​There are only a handful of books that I have read that are zombie themed. Some I’ve hated, and some I’ve loved. This book definitely falls in the latter category.

For 25 years, humans have been hiding away from the dead in isolated enclaves, trying to sustain themselves in this new and undead world. Temple is one of the few that wanders this landscape all on her own. She was born in a world filled with zombies and can’t remember a time before them. But she does have memories of a past, with a kind uncle and a younger brother. As she traverses this dangerous land, Temple will have to battle against the demons within her – as well as those outside. 

This was definitely unlike any zombie story I have read. There is so much more to it than just the dangers of being eaten by zombies; in fact, the zombies really didn’t play much of a role and were only there to set the scene. The real story is about how Temple tries to survive in this world, and how the people living in this world have changed with the times. To me, this story was more about the evolution of humans in a time of apocalyptic crisis, rather than the actual apocalyptic event itself. And that made it a really unusual and interesting read. I liked that the story was told from the perspective of this teenage girl, who is so strong and so broken. The things she just assumes are normal, well….they aren’t normal and it breaks my heart to see how she takes it in her stride. This novel has definitely got a Western feel to it, and this is further accentuated by the slang and lack of quotation marks (seriously, there are no quotation marks) so consider that a warning to anyone who is particular on grammar and punctuation! Overall,a gripping story that masterfully depicts the struggles of a teenage girl in an undead world!

Happy reading ~