Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles @MrJeffGiles

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles book cover and review
The Edge of Everything is a good mix of adventure, survival, and a bit of the supernatural.

Zoe's life has been tough lately.  Her father was recently killed in a caving accident.  A blizzard is coming, and when her mom leaves her with her very energetic little brother, she lets him go outside with their two dogs.  He gets lost in the blizzard, and Zoe must go find him.  She's near death herself when she finds him and carries him to a neighbor's house that has been empty since their deaths.  But they aren't alone, and when she is attacked by a brutal stranger, a mysterious man saves her and attempts to kill the attacker.

The mysterious man is a bounty hunter from the Lowlands.  He's been sent to kill the man who attacked Zoe, and since Zoe asked him to let the man go, there's going to be "hell" to pay.  You see, the Lowlands is a place where evil people are taken when they die to become bounty hunters and bring other deserving souls to the Lowlands.  But "X," as Zoe names the mysterious man, is different than most souls in the Lowlands. And that's pretty much all I'm going to tell you.

Let's just get this issue out of the way:  The instalove is brutal.  I mean they fall for each other so fast it is mind boggling.  Now, let's move on.  Since X didn't fulfill his assignment, he must go back to the Lowlands, and he's sure to be punished.  He promises Zoe that he will someday come back to her...if he can.

In the meantime, Zoe is determined to make the authorities find her father's body deep inside a very dangerous cave, or else she's going to do it herself.

There is much more to the story and several more interesting characters.  The Edge of Everything really kept me entertained.  The danger mounts (several different times) and there are some big surprises.  I also had an issue with how reckless Zoe is when exploring the cave--she takes risks that I don't think were realistic, but I guess they were necessary to the story.

The big issues are unresolved at the end, but there is some closure for certain elements of the story. The Edge of Everything is an interesting mix of genres that I haven't seen much before, and I'm excited to read the sequel. I think my teens will enjoy it too.

Published by Bloomsbury, January 31, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, January 30, 2017

Audio Book Review: Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley @noahhawley

Before the Fall book cover and review
Noah Hawley is an amazing writer.  Before the Fall, when you really sum it up, doesn't have a huge, intricate plot, but Hawley's writing just pulls you in and puts you there.  Has anyone read any of his other books? I need to read something else by him.

Before the Fall begins with a private plane crashing into the sea.  Scott, our main character, and a little 4-year-old boy survive, only because Scott swims with him (with an injured shoulder) for miles and miles.  It's truly a miracle.

The rest of Before the Fall introduces us to the other people on the plane who perished, as well as a news reporter and an NTSB investigator as we slowly piece together exactly what happened.  Was it an accident? Murder? The families on the plane are extremely wealthy, and one person is about to be indicted.  The media (one reporter in particular) go after anyone connected, and soon are targeting Scott, a struggling artist, as someone who might be responsible.

Each person is meticulously described,  And, while I sometimes feel overly descriptive texts to be annoyingly slow, I just found myself grabbed by the descriptions of characters and settings. You get these people. You understand them.  And I felt so sorry for Scott.  He really is a nice, honest person. And he becomes a target of the media.

As a side note, I love the cover.  I think it's perfect for this book.  And the audio version, narrated by Robert Petkoff, is excellent.

I was worried that I wasn't going to be happy with the ending.  After all the curiosity I had, I wanted to KNOW.  Well, I now know.  It's not that it mattered what happened, I wanted to know what happened and, more importantly, I wanted to know that Scott was going to be okay. I can enthusiastically recommend Before the Fall to adults, as well as teens who would appreciate this atmospheric story.

Published by Grand Central, 2016 (audio by Hachette)
Audiobook obtained from the library
400 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stacking the Shelves - Two Weeks in a Row!

I'm trying to keep up and do this weekly like I used to.  So here are my additions for this week:

For Review:
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles book cover
The Edge of Everything, by Jeff Giles from NetGalley
I'm reading this now, and enjoying it!

The Leavers, by Lisa Ko book cover
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko from NetGalley
My tastes lately have been more towards adult titles, and this one just grabbed me for some reason.  A timely topic....

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova book cover
The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova from NetGalley
Another adult title.  I enjoyed The Historian and The Swan Thieves so I thought I'd give this a try.

Nemesis, by Brendan Reichs book cover
Nemesis, by Brenda Reichs from Edelweiss
Every review and blurb mentions the cliffhanger, so I need to prepare myself...

Those are my choices for this week.  How about you? What did you acquire? Leave me a link!  And don't forget to stop by Team Tynga's Reviews, who are our hosts. Thanks for stopping by.





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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: Always by Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio book cover and review
I have read most of Jio's novels, and after reading Always, I'm not going to change that.

Kailey and Ryan are about to be married.  Ryan's family is rich, and he's the perfect guy. Kailey couldn't be happier.  Then she encounters a homeless man and after looking into his eyes, realizes he is Cade, the man she was hopelessly in love with until he suddenly disappeared without a trace a few years ago.

You can see where this is going, right?  So I don't have to say too much more about the plot.

Now, this is a far-fetched premise.  To think that someone popular, wealthy, and successful would disappear on the streets of Seattle without anyone ever finding him is a stretch.  I mean, people don't become homeless overnight.  It just doesn't add up.  Oh well, just get past that.

Because these characters are lovable.  All of them.  You know that either Cade or Ryan is going to get hurt because Kailey truly loves both of them. She is so caring, and Ryan is so understanding, and what happened to Cade is just so unfair.  It's all very "good."

Another beef is that we don't really ever learn what happened to Cade.  Not entirely.  Especially the part about him leaving the hospital.  That's all I'll say.  I just wish all the loose ends were tied up.  It would have made it more believable if there was more of an explanation.

But Jio's stories are full of warmth and romance and these characters stole my heart.  If you are in the mood for a bit of a sappy love story, try Always. Her books are appropriate for teens who are romance fans, and I'll  be sure to tell them about this one. Jio's books always hit the spot with me, and I look forward to the next one.

Published by Ballentine, February 7, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
288 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Review: Cruel Mercy by David Mark @davidmarkwriter

Cruel Mercy by David Mark, book cover and review
Detective Sargeant McAvoy risks his life again in another twisted mystery called Cruel Mercy.

McAvoy is headed to New York to work with Detective Alto who is investigating the disappearance and murder of some Irish men.  McAvoy's brother-in-law is one of the men who is missing, and two traveler families are about to feud if McAvoy can't find Valentine (the brother-in-law) and convince everyone that he's not the murderer.

As is always the case when McAvoy is involved, there's much more to this story.  And being a visitor instead of an official police officer isn't slowing him down very much.  He's determined to get to the bottom of it, and the bottom is very, very far down.

The Irish men, a boxer and his trainer, came to New York to have a chance at a professional boxing career.  The case involves the Russian and Italian mobs, a priest who has been convinced to help them, and some other really shady characters.

It wouldn't be a McAvoy novel if  Roisin (his wife) and Pharaoh (his boss) weren't a part of it.  And while I enjoyed their contributions, they were only via phone, and I didn't get enough.

That's a small complaint, really, since Cruel Mercy takes the usual twists and turns and has the usual macabre element and a significant amount of gore. I become enthralled in these tales trying to figure out where we are headed (and never being successful), and although Cruel Mercy is not my favorite McAvoy, if you enjoyed any of Mark's other novels, this one is definitely worth it.

And if you are interested in those other books, here are some links:  The Dark Winter, Original Skin, Taking Pity, and Sorrow Bound.

Published by Blue Rider Press, February 7, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and First to Read
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: A Collection from the Last Several Weeks


I haven't been keeping up very well with my new additions, although I haven't received too many books.  So here's the update:

For Review:

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian book cover
The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian from Edelweiss
This one came out last week, so I'm already behind.  His books have been hit or miss with me, but this one is blurbed by Harlan Coben, which is a definite positive.


The Wish Granter, by C. J. Redwine book cover

The Wish Granter, by C. J. Redwine from Edelweiss
This is the companion to The Shadow Queen. I don't think it's a sequel.  Shadow Queen was a favorite cover of mine.  This one, not so much.

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau from Edelweiss
I love this cover! The plot sounds kind of familiar, but I'll give it a chance since I enjoyed The Testing Series.

A Promise of Ruin, by Cuyler Overholt from Edelweiss
I'm excited for this second book.  I really liked Dr. Genevieve Summerford in A Deadly Affection.


That's it for me for now.  Please visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participants.  Thanks for stopping by.  Leave me a link, so I can add to my wish list!




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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney

The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney book cover and review
The Girl Before is a unique and compelling tale that, unfortunately, fizzled at the end.

The Girl Before incorporates a dual perspective of both time and characters. The character from the past is Emma.  From the present, we have Jane. They have a lot in common, and it starts with them renting a house.  The house is very unique.  It is austere, and there is a very long list of rules that you must agree to in order to live there.

Both of the girls end up in a relationship with the architect, Edward.  As we weave through both of their stories, we see that their relationships are very much the same, following the same patterns as Edward asserts his dominance.

Emma has a violent past.  She was attacked in her old apartment where she lived with her boyfriend, Simon.  They move into the new house to help Emma get over it.  She and Simon soon break up.

Jane's past involves a still-born daughter.  She is also trying to heal. Jane finds out that Emma died in this house, and becomes somewhat obsessed with finding out how.

They both find out that Edward's wife and daughter were killed while the house was being built and are forever interred in the foundation.

The Girl Before is a weird story.  This house is very high-tech.  And between that and the rules, it seems to change the personalities of the people who live there.  It's hard to explain without your reading it, and I don't want to spoil too much.

Ultimately, it's a mystery about just what happened to Emma, as well as Edward's family.  But the journey to these answers is very entertaining.

I found the lack of quotation marks annoying.  And even more annoying is at some points Delaney uses them, and then other times not.  It had to do with which character was talking, but it was hard for me to adjust back and forth. I didn't see a need for this technique.  In other books like this, I eventually got used to it, but with The Girl Before, it kept switching back and forth.

While I was suitably surprised by the outcome, I still felt the ending needed some more punch.  I was expecting a weird, exciting twist, and I just didn't get it.  I would still recommend The Girl Before. I found it easy to read and very engaging. I'm not sure I would recommend this to most teens because of the sexual situations; it's definitely an adult book.

Added note:  the Amazon entry for this book says it's soon to be a motion picture directed by Ron Howard.  I'm looking forward to it.

Published by Ballentine, January 24, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry book cover and review.
When my book club chose The Passion of Dolssa for our next selection, and I read the description, I wasn't sure I'd like it.  But...I was captivated by this story.

There are several points-of-view, but the two main ones are Botille and Dolssa.  It is 1241 (a long time ago) and we have just been through the crusades and are entering into the inquisition. Dolssa hears the voice of Jesus, and refers to him as her love.  She has the power to heal (or, Jesus heals through her.) This is very dangerous. She is labeled as a heretic, and she and her mother are to be burned.  Dolssa escapes and is found, almost dead, by Botille.

Botille takes pity on Dolssa and brings her to the tavern that she runs along with her sisters.  They keep Botille hidden and nurse her back to health. Her powers to heal become known in the little town, and as hard as they try to keep a secret, soon the inquisitors who have been searching for her show up.

It becomes a battle for Botille to hide Dolssa and save her, as well as save herself and her sisters, because anyone helping a heretic is also guilty.

The book is exciting, but I would not say it is action-packed--more of a bbuild-up of tension.  I really liked it because of the characterizations.  Each one is distinct and varied.  Botille is a matchmaker; her sister is a fortune teller.  They have a drunken father who seems unimportant but isn't. There are many others that add depth to the story. Romance isn't the focus, but there is a bit.

I would characterize this more of a survival story, rather than historical.  I'm not sure why, but I don't feel like I learned a great deal about the period.  Although, the extensive notes at the end help.  I was worried when I saw a glossary of foreign words at the end of the book, but I found most of the meanings were apparent by the context in which they were used, so I only used the glossary a couple of times. There is also a cast of characters, historical notes, bibliography, place names, and additional reading.  Don't be put off by all of it.  I found the story easy to follow without any of that.

I'm curious to see how my teens like this one.  I'm not sure it's for everyone, but I have some that I will definitely encourage to pick this one up.

Published by Viking BFYR, April 12, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
478 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: Wayfarer, by Alexandra Bracken

Wayfarer is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read when it comes to the time travel aspects, but I wish it would have been a bit shorter. Wayfarer is the sequel to Passenger, and if you check out that review, you will see the first paragraph says almost exactly the same thing.

I think Wayfarer starts shortly after Passenger ends.  But my first issue with the book is that it didn't give me enough reminders about what happened in Passenger.  I read it a year ago, and the details are fuzzy.  I know there's a fine line when it comes to recaps.  I certainly don't what a review of the entire story, but some authors do a better job of just dropping reminders every once in a while.  I was lost at times,  especially trying to remember all the names and relationships.

We switch POVs (and times) between Etta and Nicolas as they try to find each other as well as the astrolabe. They encounter several people who help them and several that are trying to stop them. Almost everyone is lying about something. During the first half of the book, they are mostly jumping from time to time, building relationships and investigating, but they aren't getting any closer to each other or to the astrolabe.  It just goes on and on. The book turned out to be over 500 pages long, so there isn't a need to pad the story.  Once we get to the second half, the pace ramps up a bit and you can feel the tension mounting as we reach the stunning conclusion.

It isn't that the writing is bad.  The descriptions are beautiful.  The setting and characterizations are vivid.  There's just too much setup before we get to the action.

I really enjoyed the end.  It was unexpected and intriguing. It is refreshing to have a two-book series for a change. I will recommend Wayfarer to my time travel fans for sure.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, January 3, 2017
Review copy obtained from the publisher
532 pages

Rating: 3/5





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