Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1)Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopia

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

I really liked Not a Drop to Drink. I thought it was different and in a couple of ways that surprised me. The main character is tough because she has to be. She just does what has to be done. I liked that a certain someone got their due and she wasn't afraid to do it. That scene was one of the best in the whole book. There are no foolish lapses of judgment on her part which was refreshing in a YA novel. I enjoyed seeing her grow as a person throughout the book. I liked seeing some of the paranoia that her mother instilled in her abate somewhat. She was a smart, and in the end, caring person. There is one heart wrenching thing that happens near the end of this book that I was just not prepared for. I kept wondering why the author would do such a thing, and in such a horrible way. I will say that it is not the predictable way most YA novels go. I'm crossing my fingers that there will be a sequel to this.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)Obsidio by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Space Opera, Sci-fi
Content: Strong Language, Blacked out curse words, Talk of teens sharing bunks, Mass killings including children.

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

This is the last installment of the Illuminae Files and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first two books, but not quite. It didn't immediately draw me into the story the way the other two books did and I missed the monster aspect that those books had as well. The monsters are of a different sort here. This book was pretty dark at times with a couple of mass killings, children included. Of course there is no detail given, but nevertheless it is dark. But those are real world horrors that really and truly are more monstrous than Zombies and Aliens.

There were a couple of things that I found mildly annoying in the first two books that felt even more annoying in this one. The fact that everyone had practically the same personality and the blacked out curse words are perfect examples. It seemed like there were twice as many of those blacked out curse words this time around. It annoyed me to have to have to read around them. Just leave them out. The only other complaint I have about this book is that everything was wrapped up a little too neatly for me.

I've enjoyed this series with its interesting format and gorgeous pages. It's unlike anything else I've read. I enjoyed revisiting Ezra and Kady, and AIDAN the most. Just like the last book, I thought Hannah and Nik were ok, but not my favorites. Ella was less impressive here, but I still really liked her, and she had her moments in this book. The new characters that were added for this book were good. I think I liked them better than Hannah and Nik.

As usual the authors managed to trick me a couple of times with their plot twists, but not with every one of them. There wasn't really any real aha moment for me like with the first two books, but it was still very enjoyable. Overall this was a fun space opera trilogy.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #2)Grey Sister by Mark  Lawrence

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Content: Strong Language, Brutal Killings

Behind its walls, the Convent of Sweet Mercy has trained young girls to hone their skills for centuries. In Mystic Class, Novice Nona Grey has begun to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the convent, Nona must choose which order to dedicate herself to—and whether her path will lead to a life of prayer and service or one of the blade and the fist.

All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the designs of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a knife, and the vengeance of the empire's richest lord.

Nona Grey is back in this follow up to Red Sister and I loved her yet again in this book. I thought Red Sister was a very enjoyable read, but Grey Sister is even better. Several years have passed between the two stories and Nona is now 16 and must soon decide whether she will become a red sister or a grey sister. Certain plots come to fruition here and others are thwarted, and I must say that I did not see some of that coming. I also need to add that Sister Kettle and the Abbess are both awesome! They both really shone in this book along with Nona, and Zole had a significant role to play here as well. I ended up loving her too. Regol is also back in this, if rather sparingly. I love his character and I really would like more page time for him. And then there is Darla. I really grew to love her as well. The characters are what really make me love this series.

A good portion of this book takes place outside the convent walls and it was a nice change of pace. I am curious about how the problem of the world dying will be solved. Even though we have explanations of how the moon could be turned and all that, by the end of this book there is still nothing really done about it. It seems like a lot will have to happen in the last book, but I think this author will pull it off. I'm looking forward to reading more!

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for giving me a copy of this book for review.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Serenity's Plain Secrets

I've been reading the Serenity's Plain Secrets series for a couple of years. It's pretty similar to the Kate Burkholder series, only not as dark. If you've read my reviews for those books, then you will know that I mentioned reading another Amish mystery series before I started that one. Well, this is that series. I finished reading the fifth book yesterday, so I thought I would post my reviews of the previous books, along with my review for that one. Here are my reviews for books 1-5 of the series:

Lamb to the Slaughter (Serenity's Plain Secrets, #1)Lamb to the Slaughter by Karen Ann Hopkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content: It's been a while so I don't remember, but these books generally have pretty non-descriptive or fade to black sex scenes.

Reviewed on July 24, 2016

The death of a teenage Amish girl in a cornfield looks like an accident, but sheriff Serenity Adams suspects foul play. To solve the murder, she must investigate the nearby Amish community with the help of a man who was shunned years ago.

Lamb to the Slaughter is a story about the intertwining lives of three unlikely people in an Indiana Amish Community and the devastating results when a rebellious teenage girl is found shot to death in a corn field during the harvest.

I'm a sucker for an Amish mystery and Lamb to the Slaughter did not disappoint. The Amish community is a little creepy, but innocent at the same time and that's what I think I like about it. So far I've enjoyed reading about Serenity and Daniel. Serenity is believable as a Sheriff, although sometimes I want to hit her upside the head for being so stubborn and closed off to other people, especially to Daniel.

The only real criticism I have about this book and the others in the series is that it could have used better proofreading. There are several typos that include missing words, wrong words, and missing letters in words. I have been able to overlook those things and still enjoy the books so far. I'm definitely hooked.

Whispers from the Dead (Serenity's Plain Secrets #2)Whispers from the Dead by Karen Ann Hopkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content: It's been a while so I don't remember, but these books generally have pretty non-descriptive or fade to black sex scenes.

Reviewed on July 30, 2016

Sheriff Serenity Adams and Daniel Bachman are once again partnered up in a criminal investigation, when they travel to a northern Amish settlement that has been riddled by arsons for the past two decades. Serenity quickly discovers that there is a lot more going on than just barns being set on fire in the touristy community of Poplar Springs. And this group of Amish has their own secrets to hide. Serenity begins to unravel an extensive criminal underworld that threatens to destroy everything that the simple people of Poplar Springs hold dear, and once again puts her own life in jeopardy.

Sorry just a short review here since I read this while on vacation.

Whispers from the Dead was a good second installment to the series. I'm enjoying the budding relationship between Serenity and Daniel and the Amish and their secrets continue to keep me on the edge of my seat in these books.

This series is a light vacation read for me and I'm completely enjoying it. Still the same issues with the typos, but otherwise no complaints.

Secrets in the Grave (Serenity's Plain Secrets #3)Secrets in the Grave by Karen Ann Hopkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content: It's been a while so I don't remember, but these books generally have pretty non-descriptive or fade to black sex scenes.

Reviewed on August 2, 2016

Just when Sheriff Serenity Adams thinks life is getting back to normal, the death of a young, pregnant Amish woman rocks the community. Is it circumstance…or murder? It’s up to Serenity and her ex-Amish boyfriend, Daniel Bachman, to discover the truth about the new shaman-type medicine man who’s brought his dark secrets to Blood Rock.

But Serenity has secrets of her own, and if she and Daniel don’t work it out, the reappearance of a woman from his past could threaten to ruin their relationship.

I liked Secrets in the Grave a little less than the first two books in the series, mainly because the main character, Serenity has begun to get on my nerves a little bit. Serenity's lack of trust in Daniel and petty jealousy is getting old. Also, we know Daniel is a good looking man, we don't need to be reminded of it at least twice every book. And Serenity is a 35 year old town sheriff; can she stop with the teenage stomach fluttering every time she looks at him? Serenity also made a pretty poor decision in this book and then freaked out at the possible consequences. I'm not going to spoil what it was about here, but this probably bothered me more than the above mentioned things. Be an adult and be responsible for goodness sake, and don't freak out about it if you're not.

Despite those annoyances I still liked the book and I still like the series as a whole. I thought the mystery was pretty good, but easy to figure out. The same problem with typos and words or letters missing in sentences is still an issue in this book, but I'm still willing to overlook it because the books are entertaining. There is one more book that has been written in the series and I will read it, but I'm kind of hoping it is the last one. I'm not sure how much longer this series will hold my interest.

Hidden in Plain Sight (Serenity's Plain Secrets, #4)Hidden in Plain Sight by Karen Ann Hopkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content: It's been a while so I don't remember, but these books generally have pretty non-descriptive or fade to black sex scenes.

Reviewed on August 5, 2016

In the fourth installment of the bestselling Serenity’s Plain Secrets’ series, Serenity must work with US marshals to uncover the truth behind a shockingly brutal fifteen-year-cold murder.

Desperate for answers, Serenity finds herself in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where she unravels secrets that threaten to tear her and Daniel apart. But digging up the past is dangerous, and the quaint Amish settlement isn’t as safe as it seems.

Hidden in Plain Sight is apparently NOT going to be the last book in this series. I was afraid of that. That might sound odd coming from someone, who for the most part, enjoyed the series, but I just feel like I won't be able to keep reading this series without losing interest. The first two books were very compelling and the Amish felt somewhat sinister in the way they dealt with things. I liked that a lot about the first couple of books. Now that Serenity has gotten to know and understand them better they have lost that secretive, sinister feel. Now it just sort of feels like the mystery of the week kind of thing.

In this book Serenity's trust issues have abated somewhat, which I was very happy about. There was also less about how hot Daniel was and next to no stomach fluttering, which was an improvement. There is a point where Daniel hides something from Serenity that pertains to himself and the case she is working on. Serenity kind of freaks out over it, which I thought was silly since she knows Daniel well enough that she should realize there must be an explanation that doesn't involve him helping with the murder. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't have just asked him about it instead of pretending she didn't know. And Daniel surely would have known she was going to find out that he withheld the truth about something, so why do it? It was just manufactured drama that I could have done without.

There were some implausibilities in this book, like federal marshals asking a small town sheriff to accompany them to another state to investigate a cold case. I could see them consulting her about the part of the case that pertained to the Amish in her town, but there would surely be someone in that other state who would know the Amish there well enough to help them.

Mostly this book was dull compared to the other ones in the series. We only got Serenity's point of view in this one. I can understand why we didn't get a point of view from Daniel (the whole mystery about what he was hiding and all), but it just felt like something was missing without it.

I enjoyed reading these. I won't completely rule out reading another book in this series, but for now I feel like I've been there, done that and now I need to move on.

Paper Roses (Serenity's Plain Secrets, #5)Paper Roses by Karen Ann Hopkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content:A couple of pretty non-descriptive sex scenes.

Reviewed on March 30, 2018

When the mutilated corpse of a young Amish woman is discovered in Blood Rock, Sheriff Serenity Adams embarks on her most terrifying case yet, facing a killer unlike anything she’s seen before.

Paper Roses is the fifth book in this series and I feel like the series has gotten weaker as it has progressed. I didn't feel as enthralled with this one and I picked out the killer easily. Also, despite the grisly nature of the killings, I didn't feel like this was Serenity's most terrifying case, even though that's what the synopsis says. The first two books in the series were more terrifying to me, simply because of the unknowns involved with the Amish,and their creepy behavior.

In my past reviews I've mentioned how Serenity seemed like a love struck teen around Daniel and how her focusing in on his looks and how he made her feel got old. Well that is completely absent in this book, which wasn't a bad thing. This time around Serenity is starting to have some reservations about their relationship because she feels like they are so different in some key areas and beliefs, which are actually valid concerns. Mostly though, the romance between them takes a backseat here. Daniel is featured but is mostly in the background.

In this book we get chapters from the point of view of Serenity and her friend C.J. I found myself forgetting whose point of view I was reading at times and confusing the two, but I really liked C.J. The forbidden romance aspect of her story was good, but a little too insta-love for me. This being a short book, I didn't feel like the characters spent enough time with each other before bonds were formed between them, and I don't just mean between C.J. and Joshua, but between C.J. and his kids as well. This resulted in the feelings between them not feeling as genuine as I would have liked.

My biggest complaint however is that this book just like the rest of the series needed more proofreading. There are a lot of typos in the Kindle version; missing words, words added into sentences that didn't belong, the wrong word in a sentence. These are mistakes that could be easily eliminated by proofreading.

Overall this was an ok addition to the series, but not as good as the others. After reading book four, I was feeling a bit weary of this series, but after a long break from the series I'm feeling more interested in it again. I mostly want to see where things go with the relationships so I'll continue reading when the next book is published.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Empress (The Diabolic, #2)The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-fi, Fantasy
Content: A couple of non descriptive sex scenes, talk of sex, steamy kissing scenes, recreational drug use, A very brutal killing.

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—but having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Wow what a follow up to The Diabolic. This did not go at all the way I thought it would. It alternated so many times between heartbreak and hope that I was never sure how things would end up. Quite honestly my stomach was in knots by the end of this! Predictable it was not.

I do need to point out that I don't feel like this series is for young teens at all. There are some gruesome killings in this series and they are a bit shocking for a YA book. I'm not saying they are happening right and left, but the few that are included in the series are brutal. There is also recreational drug use and that bothered me more than the killings. I'm not sure this book is sending a very good message to teens about drug use. Sure this is a messed up society, but when the main character is of the opinion that drugs are the best way for her friend to cope with loss of loved ones that just doesn't set well with me. Nemesis is of course a bit of a flawed character and she is not equipped to handle the grief her friend is experiencing. After all, she only just started dealing with real human emotions herself, but the way the sentence was written bothered me. Here is the sentence as it is written: "Drugs are a most excellent means of coping with grief." I just can't feel comfortable with that.

There is also quite a bit of talk about sex in this book. Nothing in detail, but we are told of some real voyeuristic traditions in this book involving consummating relationships. This is a hedonistic society so it makes sense in the context of the book, and it being a YA book, we get no details at all, but I feel the subject matter is too mature for young teens.

My only complaint about the writing itself would be that sometimes I feel like the author doesn't quite think her scenes out completely. One in particular is where Nemesis and Tyrus have gotten ready for bed. Tyrus has removed his clothing and is seemingly in his underwear. He has placed the all-important scepter that he has to carry around with him on the nightstand. Before going to sleep they talk for a while and then something happens that causes them to suddenly have to leave in a huge hurry (I won't spoil what it is here). The circumstances in which they had to leave did not allow him to get dressed then and there, and you would think he would have been very concerned about the scepter at that point, but it isn't mentioned. Quite a bit happens and we are never told that Tyrus retrieves the scepter or whether he finds clothes to put on at some point. So I'm just picturing him running around doing all of this in his underwear. Also the scepter just reappears later in the book like he has had it all the time.

Despite those things, overall I really enjoyed reading this book. As an adult, I appreciate that this series excludes some of the annoying tropes that are prevalent in YA books. No love triangles and teen angst here. There is more revealed about the religion, and the banning of technology that helps to clarify some things that were fuzzy to me in the first book. I thought this was pretty well done and it made me rethink my criticism of that aspect of the series. I don't want to spoil anything about the plot, but I will say that things don't end up all rosy at the end and we are left in a place that is not good. Because of this I wanted to hate this book, but I also loved it. This book evoked such a jumble of emotions. I'm definitely going to read the next book, but there is no date set yet for when it will be published. It's going to be torture waiting!

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Beautiful PoisonA Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Content: A mostly non-descriptive sex scene, prostitution is alluded to

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

A Beautiful Poison is set during WWI amidst the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918. For a good portion of the book I didn't like the three characters that this novel follows, and at one point I almost quit reading, however I stuck it out and I'm really glad I did. In the end, thanks to some growth on their part, I actually came to like a couple of them quite a bit.

It seems to be a rare thing of late for a mystery to keep me guessing so hats off to the author. She kept me guessing throughout most of the book. There finally came a point where things clicked into place and I wondered why I didn't see it sooner. This along with the character growth are the reasons I decided to give this book 4 stars. It's always a good thing when an author can take unsavory characters and turn them into likeable ones in the end.

There were a couple of things in this book that were revealed near the end that my mind had touched on as possibilities but then dismissed, mainly because the author was pretty clever. One thing I did guess from the beginning and I thought was pretty obvious was what was poisoning the character Birdie. There are quite a few different poisons used in this book and it made me wonder which poison to title referred to, or if it wasn't one of those poisons at all, but the poisoning of a life and a mind instead.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake, #1)Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Content: Strong Language, Some gruesome killings

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—

I think my bad streak with mystery thrillers may be over! I actually liked this one quite a bit. The main character was likeable and so were her kids. I felt a lot of sympathy for them. It wasn't perfect but it was good. What I liked most about Gwen was how much she loved her kids and would do anything to protect them. I liked that she was able to reinvent herself from Gina, an average woman who never had to think twice about the evils in the world, to Gwen, a savvy woman, who despite the fact that she wasn't crazy about using a gun, learned how and became really good at it because she saw that it was necessary. I do feel like she contradicted herself a bit on this subject, but at least she knew that it was the best way to protect her family. And she becomes a fierce protector.

The plot twists were pretty obvious to me, but most of the mystery thrillers I read are that way so it didn't make me like the book any less. Still it would be nice to read something that actually surprised me. What I disliked about the book was the fact that Gwen trusts a couple of people too easily, and also that she defeats the killer way too easily. I felt like there wasn't nearly enough of a struggle there. Other than that, this was a good read that kept me reading right from the opening line. I probably would have preferred if this book had been a stand-alone, but the sequel isn't a bad idea. I do wonder why it ends up being a trilogy though. I guess I'll find out.

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