Book Review: Echoes by Alice Reeds

“I already hated everything about this plan,

even if it was the only one that made sense.”

Fiona. Chapter Eleven, page 102

I rarely do this, but I’m going to begin this post with the book’s blurb from the author’s website, which you can access here: www.alicereeds.com.

Blurb:

They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to.

Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most startling discovery: something else is on the island with them. Something that won’t let them leave alive.

Echoes by Alice Reeds had a lot of elements I really liked, including the alternating chapters that went back and forth between two “realities”: the island and Berlin.

Echoes

As a fan of shows like “Lost” I was excited to read a story about two teens stranded on a mysterious island. While there wasn’t a smoke monster, there were ample life-threatening situations for Fiona and Miles. Personally, I preferred their story on the island versus the city-setting of Berlin. I had a few issues with city chapters, and I may have actually yelled at them to just go to the American Embassy. But, I did keep turning pages and although I felt the ending was a bit rushed (lots crammed in), I mostly was satisfied.

Character-wise, I did struggle to connect with Fiona, and at times, Miles seemed cliche, but I ended up liking him. However, overall there was enough action and questions (important with this type of story) to keep me engaged.

Book Review: Until the End by Christopher Pike

Until the End by Christopher Pike is his original trilogy titled Final Friends. Until the End contains the three books: The Party, The Dance, and The Graduation.

The Party and The Dance were both originally released in 1988 and The Graduation came out in 1989. I wish they would have kept the original Final Friends title, because it’s an actual line in the book and I think it ties the trilogy together a bit better.

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When I found Until the End at a bookstore during some travel, I squealed. No lie. Squealed loudly and most likely frightened the couple browsing in the next aisle over. The squeal came from stumbling upon the “Pike” name on the book’s spine. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I bought and devoured every Christopher Pike book available. I was obsessed. When I picked up Until the End and discovered that it was the entire Final Friends trilogy in one, super-thick book—I knew it was coming home with me. It took all I had not to plop down in the aisle and begin reading right there.

The Final Friends trilogy or Until the End is a YA mystery/thriller that’s contemporary. Because it was written in the late 1980’s, the pop culture references reflect that time, ie: mention of the “big TV movie The Day After” and of course, no cell phones plus what now would be considered archaic computer technology. Set in California, the story follows a group of friends and acquaintances attending the same high school. Most of the story is told from the perspective of Jessica Hart and Michael Olson.

Book One: The Party introduces the main characters and sets the stage for the tragedy that will bring them all together and tear many of them apart. Like many good mysteries, The Party ends with a dead body and a lot of questions.

Book Two: The Dance is the aftermath of that tragic party. Author Pike takes readers on a ride exploring the various reactions/coping mechanisms each character employs while also attempting to deal with daily teenage life. There’s ample witty dialogue, teen crushes, and general high school drama woven in as well, but the main thread continues to be the mystery. The Dance concludes with Homecoming and another tragedy.

Book Three: The Graduation picks up on the last day of high school for this band of seniors. They’ve all experienced many ups and down during their last year of high school. Their all-night senior party aboard a cruise ship to Catalina is to be a great celebration, but someone has other plans. Everyone who had been present during the party when a life was lost, will be on that boat. More than one person has an agenda, and everyone is shocked by the revelations.

All three books of the trilogy are fast-paced and offer enough clues that an observant reader can begin to put together a theory or two on the who, what, and why. The characters, although a bit cliche at times, are overall likable and Pike does give them growth, as well as redemption for those in need of it.

Even after 30 years, the Final Friends trilogy by Christopher Pike still delights and entertains me. My inner teenage was transported back in time and that was just plain fun!

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Want to know what drew me to One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus?OOUIL front cover

This:

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

This blurb called to me. Not quietly. It SHOUTED.

How the hell did I miss this when it released?

So anyway…

Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars. Um, yeah. I’m reading it. And I did. And I couldn’t put the book down. Mysteries have always been and always will be my favorite stories. And when they’re YA, it just doesn’t get any better for me.

For a quick breakdown, One of Us Is Lying gives readers the brain, beauty/princess, criminal, athlete, and the outcast. These five find themselves stuck in detention on a Monday afternoon. One of them dies. They all have something to hide and they’re all lying.OOUIL page

Author Karen M. McManus gives readers a fast-paced, contemporary mystery filled with red herrings, teen drama, and relatable characters. The dialogue is witty and believable, the integration of technology contemporizes the themes from the classic Breakfast Club movie and Pretty Little Liars books/tv show. As a huge fan of the latter, it was fun to read all the twists and turns in One of Us Is Lying, and of course I was totally suspicious of every character.

I gave the book a 5-star rating on GoodReads and I do highly recommend it. She has another YA mystery coming out January 8, 2019: Two Can Keep a Secret. I’m very much looking forward to reading that.

Please stop by Karen M. McManus’ website and check out more information about her and her books. And don’t forget to add One of Us Is Lying to your TBR List!

Book Review: The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe

“A new circle of evolution, of prey and predator and adaptation, is already beginning . . . and I’m here near the start of it all, walking in its footsteps. Literally.”

Claire Dearing. Chapter 11, page 145

 

The original Jurassic Park movie from 1993 ranks as one of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Movies. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve see the film. The second and third movies in the franchise I like, but don’t rank that high. The fourth, Jurassic World from 2015 brought back a lot of the original fun for me. In particular I was taken with the character of Claire Dearing played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Claire was obviously intelligent, driven, and brave.

When I heard a young adult novel was releasing that focused on Claire’s story pre-Jurassic World, I was intrigued. Okay, more than intrigued. I may have have squealed a bit scaring the cat.

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The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe takes readers to 2004 as Claire Dearing has just finished her first year of college and is about to embark on the summer internship of a lifetime—interning at Jurassic World theme park the year before it even opens to the public. This Claire, 19-year old Claire, is not the woman we know from 2015’s Jurassic World, the movie. She’s young and idealistic, and at this stage of her life would never call a dinosaur an “asset.”

I like animal-loving Claire, who feels deeply and wants to make a difference by going into politics so she can create real change for animals, advocating for their rights.

“All it takes is one person, determined to rise, to get enough power to a voice to the voiceless.” (page 8).

She’s fiercely determined to follow this path and the opportunity to spend the summer interning at the Jurassic World theme park and impressing the well-connected and wealthy Mr. Masrani is too good to pass up. The interns each have a different focus from Ronnie who’s security to Eric the filmmaker and his twin sister Tanya, the botanist. There’s also Justin, Art, and the know-it-all Wyatt.

Claire has her hands full as an intern, from helping Dr. Wu in the lab to helping a young, wounded triceratops and figuring out how to keep a playful brachiosaurus from playing ball with the park’s gyrospheres. As the summer progresses, Claire makes friends and even becomes interested in another intern, but things start to go awry. She uncovers a journal left behind from the mysterious intern group that was on the island prior to her group—the interns no one talks about. What happened with that group? Who was Iz and what had she discovered?

“With discovery come secrets,” Bertie says. “As well as the threat of them getting exposed to the wrong people. People who might want to exploit or harm our dinosaurs.”

Bertie (Head Trainer)  Chapter 21, page 269

Overall, I enjoyed The Evolution of Claire. It kept me turning pages and it was interesting to watch Claire’s character develop. There were ample fun “Jurassic Park” style moments as well. I think the trigger for Claire’s evolution makes sense and I’m curious to see where the franchise will take her young character if we get another book, and I hope we get another book.

Book Review: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

“The Diviners must stand, or all shall fall.”

(page 16)

“The people are afraid now.

Too much history rises from the graves.”

(page 314)

 

The Diviners series is a quartet of young adult books by Libba Bray. Before the Devil Breaks You is book three, an outstanding continuation of the story about evil, racism, ghosts, flappers, love, and the fight for what is right in a country when too many want to turn away from the ugliness.

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Before the Devil Breaks You brings back all of our original Diviners characters: Evie, Sam, Memphis, Theta, Henry, Mabel, and Jericho as well as Ling, Isaiah, Will, Sister Walker, Blind Bill, and Jake Marlowe. It’s a story filled with action, intriguing imagery, great Roarin’ 20’s slang, and characters that you both love and hate.

The little group of Diviners, those with special powers like Evie, Sam, Memphis, and Theta, have their hands full. While they may have helped the murderous ghost from book two find peace, the supernatural still runs amok. Ghost sightings have increased around NYC and other places. Equally disturbing, and definitely scarier than the ghosts are the eugenics fanatics who are determined to create a pure race and take America back. Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s between the World Wars and many American-born citizens are in danger facing deportation and worse, the loss of their lives. The Civil Rights Movement is decades away, with laws in most states making it illegal for marriage or even a relationship for a couple like Memphis and Theta. And if you’re gay? Forget it. While you may be able to dance with your partner at some of the speakeasies, there’s no way you can go out in public together and show any type of affection for each other.

In the midst of all this, there’s the ghosts being controlled by the King of Crows. The Diviners figure out a way to pool their special talents and obliterate the ghosts, but can they take down the King of Crows? And what about Jake Marlowe; he’s just as bad.

There’s a lot going on this book, but the pace is good and there’s a nice balance. It was interesting to watch Mabel really grow in this book, a non-Diviner, but equally passionate about her cause. I liked learning more about Ling and in particular more of Sam’s background. Author Libba Bray satisfied my romantic notions as well, allowing more than one couple to evolve their relationship to the next level. Sweet, but sexy.

Always great, quotable moments as well. In addition to the two I shared at the top, I found something that Will said stuck with me. In the chapter titled: Mistakes, I found one of my favorite quotes. Spoken by Will in response to Evie wanting to know why can’t anyone just tell the truth. Will says, “Because it’s so hard to know what the truth is. It shifts, depending on who’s telling it and when.” I find this interesting, because Will says ‘when’ not why. And how accurate is that? Totally—because the when directly affects the why, every time.

If you’re not reading this series, I highly recommend it. It’s a good read for anyone who enjoys paranormal, romance, thrillers, ghost stories, and well-crafted narratives that expertly weave in essential bits of actual history. Although set in the 1920’s, Before the Devil Breaks You is timely, tackling issues we’re still dealing with as a nation today. It’s a must-read.

The first book of the series is The Diviners, my Good Reads review is here.

The second book of the series is Lair of Dreams and you can read my review here on the blog.

For more information about these books and about author Libba Bray, please visit her website here: https://libbabray.com/.

Book Review: Vector Prime by R. A. Salvatore

My summer of re-reads continues with Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore, the first book in Star Wars saga, The New Jedi Order. There are 19 books total in this series and you can find the complete list here.

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Vector Prime released fall 1999 and it gives readers of the Expanded Universe their introduction to the Yuuzhan Vong, a race that’s quickly to become the biggest threat the New Republic has ever faced.

The story takes place 25 years after Star Wars: A New Hope, according to the official timeline. Main players include our original trio: Luke, Han, and Leia as well as Luke’s wife Mara Jade Skywalker, the three Solo children, Lando, a few Jedi, a brave scientist, and the indomitable Yuuzhan Vong.

The action is plentiful as is the political intrigue throughout Vector Prime. Leia is back in the thick of things as a diplomat, Luke is busy leading the Jedi, and Han—well, Han is Han, until the unthinkable happens. The Solo kids are right in the center of it all, and it’s young Anakin Solo that has the heaviest burden to carry by the end of the book.

…And no, I won’t post spoilers even though this book is almost 20 years old, that’s not my style. If  you want to know why this may be one of the hardest books for any die-hard Star Wars fan to read, then you need to read it and be prepared for a devastating loss. I will tell you that the first time I read Vector Prime, I threw the book across the room at the end of chapter 17. And I cried. Yep. True. Cried again, reading it this time through. Still gets me.

I love the Expanded Universe books and The New Jedi Order series remains one of my favorites. I think the Yuuzhan Vong are an interesting enemy and terrifying in their alien-ness as well as their devotion to the battle. It’s disturbing. It also can be hard to watch characters you love suffer and make mistakes, but the series overall is engaging and one I highly recommend.

Book Review: Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts has the ability to suck me into her stories, smack my emotions around, and then leave me at the end always wanting more. Her newest book, Shelter in Place does it all. It’s gritty, disturbing, terrifying, and yet it’s also hopeful. I read it in two days, consumed, because I had to know how it would all play out.

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Shelter in Place opens in 2005, the first four chapters focused on a horrific shooting at the DownEast Mall and its immediate aftermath. Roberts digs deep and her story quickly shifts from intro into dark and violent. We’re introduced to the main players, including high school student Simone Knox—the first 911 caller during the massacre, and Reed Quartermaine—a young college kid who saves a child from the shooters. We also meet Essie, a first-responding police officer, and Simone’s friends Mi and Tish.

There’s a time jump to three years later and Roberts begins to take us on her survivors’ journeys, expertly weaving together the lives of multiple characters including the sister of one of the shooters. The story spans 14 years, and tracks the path of the psychotic serial killer, hell bent on finishing what the DownEast Mall shooters began. The killer is systematically stalking and murdering survivors. Reed, inspired by Essie to become a cop, is determined to stop the killer.

Shelter in Place held my attention at every twist, every page. I had to know what was going to happen next. I was fascinated with the design of the killer that author Roberts created. The evil was disturbing but I had to keep reading. This book is definitely more a thriller/suspense/mystery than romance, but there is a romantic thread that’s explored in the last third (or so) of the book. It ties nicely into the overall story and doesn’t slow down the action.

I loved the characters, especially Simone’s artist grandmother. My other favorite is Essie, she’s smart, strong, and her sisterly/motherly influence with Reed was believable.

Nora Roberts doesn’t shy away from writing scenes that horrify and they drip with some of humanity’s darkest evil. That said, I do recommend this book because of the characters’ journeys. I liked seeing the ups and downs, sacrifices, missteps, and triumphs. And hope.

If you’re a fan of Nora Roberts books like Angels Fall and The Collector, then Shelter in Place is for you.

Book Review: Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

“But she has learned something about fear: you must always listen to it, but you need not give in to it.”

Rainy Schulterman, Purple Hearts, chapter 3, page 41

You can’t read Purple Hearts by Michael Grant and not feel anything. You can’t finish this book and not feel something. Likely you’ll run the gauntlet of feelings—horror, revulsion, admiration, anger, and yes, even joy. Because despite the heavy subject matter, at heart, it’s a story of three young women and Grant did a masterful job weaving it all together.

NewPurpleHeartsThis is the third book in Grant’s Front Lines series featuring Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. They are soldier girls of World War II in this unique series that combines actual history with a ‘what if?’—what if women were allowed to enlist and were drafted to serve on the front lines during the second World War.

What if these young women kicked ass alongside the men regardless of race, gender, and religion? A female, koummya-carrying platoon sergeant, why not? A female black medic, why not? A female Jewish intelligence agent, why not?

As Purple Hearts opens with D-Day, our three soldier girls most definitely are no longer the young recruits originally introduced in book one. They are war veterans. Soldiers.

They’ve seen the unimaginable, done the unthinkable, and are still standing despite injuries, imprisonment, and the nightmares of war that can never be forgotten. This book takes the reader from D-Day through the end of World War II (and beyond) including their first-hand experiences at the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Like the other two books in the Front Lines series, Purple Hearts is not for the squeamish. It’s brutal, graphic, and immersive. It’s also imaginative, hopeful, and filled with moments that I enjoyed.

Damn, I like these Soldier Girls and I am a bit sorry their story concluded.

The ending of Purple Hearts made me smile, chuckle, and yes, there were some tears. I thought it was a beautiful tribute to these amazing characters we’ve grown to love over the course of three books. Rio, Frangie, and Rainy—I love them for different reasons, but each found a place in my heart and I’ll happily add these young women to my list of favorite fictional characters I’d like to have a drink with.

For more about the author Michael Grant, check out his page at HarperCollins.

 

FrontLines trio

My Silver Stars review (book 2).

My Front Lines review (book 1).

Book Review: Hawking’s Hallway, Book 3 of the Accelerati Trilogy by Neil Shusterman and Eric Elfman

“People have souls; organizations do not. But organizations have more power than any one person does. The best we can hope to do is apply our individual humanity to the wielding of an organization’s power.”

Edison. Hawking’s Hallway, Chapter 14, page 83

Hawking’s Hallway is the third book in The Accelerati Trilogy by Neil Shusterman and Eric Elfman. It’s faced-paced, funny, and a delightful blend of science and action-adventure. If you want to read my reviews of the first two books in the series please check them out: here.

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The third and final installment of The Accelerati Trilogy places 14-year old Nick Slate at the secret science organization’s headquarters. Nick has agreed to work with their uniquely old and obsessed leader to help the Accelerati assemble Tesla’s F.R.E.E. device. Nick intuitively knows where each of the objects that make up the device fit, but they’re still missing three.

Everyone is back, Caitlin, Mitch, undead Vince, Petula, and of course Nick’s dad and brother—except the Accelerati have wiped the memories of Nick’s family and they no longer remember him.

There’s a lot going on in this book. It’s more than just a group of young teens that need to save the world, again. Nick’s story is an interesting look at technology, historic inventors, and the impact that had/have on our modern world. And it’s funny, often laugh-out-loud funny.

I enjoyed Hawking’s Hallway a lot. It’s skillfully written and just as engaging as the first two books. The ending did not disappoint either. For readers who have enjoyed books like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, this trilogy hits the spot.

Book Review: Tesla’s Attic, Book One of the Accelerati Trilogy by Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman

“In theory, they had moved here to start a fresh, shining new life. But even the most promising theories can be impossible to prove.”

Tesla’s Attic: Chapter 1, page 3

I love that this book is completely accessible for kids but a totally fun and intelligent read for adults as well. Tesla’s Attic is Book One in the Accelerati Trilogy written by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. It effortlessly combines comedy, adventure, magic, and science to create a unique story that centers around fourteen-year-old Nick and several random household items he finds in the attic of his family’s new home—items enhanced by the inventor Nikola Tesla.

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Nick along with his younger brother and dad move to Colorado from Florida after a tragic fire. When Nick opens the door to his attic room in the old home his dad has moved them to, he’s hit in the head with a toaster. This is just the start to Nick’s problems. The room has a lot of junk so the logical thing for Nick to do is have a garage sale. It’s a great idea, until he realizes that the junk actually does extraordinary things.

From the camera that takes pictures of the future to a baseball glove that can pull objects from the sky, these seemingly mundane items are quite the opposite.

Nick, along with his new friends Mitch, Vince, and Caitlyn, will begin to piece together the significance of these items and come together to help stop the end of the world. They’ll also discover the secret society of physicists known as the Accelerati who are very interested in the Tesla items.

Tesla’s Attic is fast-paced and kept me entertained from start to finish. Plenty of witty dialogue, quirky characters, and science-y moments to delight my inner geek.

I checked this book out from my local library on a whim and I’m so glad I did. I’ll admit it was the title that drew me to the book—I have an interest in Tesla. I also checked out Book 2 at the same time and have also finished reading that one as well. If you’d like to see what I have to say about Edison’s Alley, please check out my short review on Good Reads.