Dread Nation by Justina Ireland #bookreview #YA #zombies #TuesdayBookBlog

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems. 

I haven’t listened to many audiobooks, but when I had a long drive ahead of me traveling to a writer’s retreat, I downloaded Dread Nation, a book that has been in my TBR for a while.  Now I get why people have favorite narrators, because this one is excellent, in my opinion.  I’d listened to another audiobook not too long before this one, and was unable to finish it due to one of the narrators, who honestly ruined the book for me.

I haven’t read much YA historical fiction (more like alternate historical fiction, because, well, zombies), but I really enjoyed this novel.  The second I heard Jane’s snark, I knew we’d get along just fine.  Watching her enemies-to-friends relationship with Katherine was especially enjoyable, as was the way Jane deals with those who doubt her strength, intelligence, and worth.  Having read several zombie books, the world-building is done well, with its own unique spin.

When the setting changes from Baltimore to the west, I felt the pacing slowed a bit, but picked up again around 75%.

If you’re a zombie/shambler fan, or just enjoy books with strong, sarcastic female heroines and an intense plot, I’d highly recommend Dread Nation.  It’s a series I plan on continuing.

 

Craven Manor by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror

Daniel is desperate for a job. When someone slides a note under his door offering him the groundskeeper’s position at an old estate, it seems too good to be true.

Alarm bells start ringing when he arrives at Craven Manor. The mansion’s front door hangs open, and leaves and cobwebs coat the marble foyer. It’s clear no one has lived there in a long time.

But an envelope waits for him inside the doorway. It contains money, and promises more.

Daniel is desperate. Against his better judgement, he moves into the groundskeeper’s cottage behind the crypt. He’s determined to ignore the strange occurrences that plague the estate.

But when a candle flickers to life in the abandoned tower window, Daniel realises Craven Manor is hiding a terrible secret… one that threatens to bury him with it.

I’ve seen Darcy Coates books all over Amazon and Goodreads, and her eerie covers always catch my eye, but I’d never read any of her work.  After Craven Manor was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the horror category, I knew it was time to change that.

My heart immediately went out to Daniel.  He’s down on his luck, with barely a penny to his name, but is so generous to others.  Maybe he’s a bit naive, but I awarded him bonus points for being an animal lover.  This author definitely knows how to set a tense, haunting scene – the imagery is wonderfully vivid, and the neglected grounds of the manor are easy to visualize.

The final battle, although furious, seems to stretch on for bit, but it leads to a satisfying ending.  I also found the relationship between Daniel and his cousin, Kyle, kind of weird, and never really understood it.

Overall, I enjoyed Craven Manor, and I’m sure it won’t be the last book I read by this author.

Legacy (Project Renova #4) by Terry Tyler #bookreview #postapocalyptic #TuesdayBookBlog

‘Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels back in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him―or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book #4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear … but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future. 

Most of us have read books and, upon reaching the end, wondered what happened to the characters beyond the scope of that novel.  What about the rest of their lives?  Did they live happily ever after?  Have children?  If so, what happened to them?  I was ecstatic to learn that Legacy provides those answers.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but this book gave me the feels in certain parts.  After spending time with many of these characters through three books, they almost feel like family, and I was anxious to learn what happened to them.  Some got their happily ever after, others didn’t, and a few got what they had coming to them, but when you’re living in a post-apocalyptic society, not everything is sunshine and roses.  With new characters, I enjoyed making those connections in the family tree, and learning which branch they came from.

The time jumps allowing the reader to see characters’ fates, connections, and the progress in rebuilding society are done so well, and aren’t at all confusing.  I loved seeing how actions taken by some characters affected the lives of so many 100 years later.

This has been a compelling series with superb characterization, and I was thrilled to read in the author notes that she’s considering spin-offs featuring some characters.  If you’re a fan of gritty, post-apocalyptic stories that don’t pull punches, add this to your TBR.

I received an ARC from the author.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake #bookreview #YA #fantasy

When a stranger gives Analiese Jordan a list of names before he dies, the last thing she expects to see is her own on it. Not. Cool. Her search for answers leads to the man’s grandson, Marek, who has dangerous secrets of his own. Both are determined to unlock the mystery of the list.

But the truth is deadly. Analiese is a descendant of the God of Death, known as a Riser, with the power to raise the dead and control them. Finding out she has hidden powers? Cool. Finding out she turns corpses into killers? No, thank you.

Now the trail plants her and Marek in the middle of a war between gods who apparently want to raise an army of the Risen, and Analiese must figure out how Aongto save the world—from herself. 

The beautiful cover first caught my attention, but the mythology theme clinched it for me – I needed to read this book.

Along with Analiese and Marek, I enjoyed trying to figure out the obscure clues left by Marek’s grandfather, and the beautiful and sometimes dangerous locations where those clues lead.  The pacing is brisk, with little downtime between action scenes.  As a mythology fan, the numerous gods and goddesses thrilled me – but so many of them are mentioned, I quickly lost track.

Analiese is likable, and finds herself in many intense, life-threatening situations, but her internal thoughts about Marek’s smile or how he looks at her during these moments pulled me out of the scene more than once.  Until almost the end of the book, I never got the feeling he considered her more than a friend.  Flying across the world with Marek, someone Analiese has known only a couple of days, then successfully hiding that fact from her mother requires a sizable suspension of disbelief.

If a fast pace, nearly non-stop action, quests, and puzzles are your thing, you may enjoy Analiese Rising, but I’d recommend jotting down the gods and goddesses names to keep them straight.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.  I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

My expectations for this book were high, and it more than surpassed them.  If I could rate it more than 5 stars, I gladly would.

With such unique, magical world-building, and a closely bonded clan of charming characters planning a dangerous heist, The Gilded Wolves has the feel of Six of Crows.  I’ve also seen this book compared to Indiana Jones and National Treasure, and with clues, puzzles, and historical elements, I can see why.

The incredibly well-developed characters made this novel for me.  They’re a family of their own choosing, and along with that comes humorous dynamics – I laughed with them, but also felt their pain.  Each of the six has their own talents and skill set and bring something to the table.  And such wonderful inclusion!  Bisexual, gay, autistic, with different cultures and backgrounds.

At over 400 pages, this is a chunk of a read, but I didn’t want it to end.  An intricate plot, beautiful writing with so many quotable lines, charismatic characters, and masterful world-building – I highly recommend The Gilded Wolves to fantasy, history, and adventure fans.  Easily one of my best reads of 2018, and the next book can’t come soon enough.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

Extra Innings: Can You Go Home Again? by Don Massenzio #bookreview #timetravel #scifi

Joe McLean hates his life. A lonely, divorced, middle-aged man, stuck in a cramped apartment, the only bright spot in Joe’s life is cheering on his hometown baseball team. Now, the local stadium, the place of many childhood and adult memories is being replaced. Joe desperately wants a piece of this iconic venue to preserve his memories and have some memorabilia from his happier past. That’s when unusual things begin to happen, and Joe begins to rethink the direction his life has taken. Can Joe take a different path in life? Can he use the special ability that he has acquired to change the course of his life? Will he realize the truth about old adage, you can never go home again? Follow the twists and turns in this supernatural story, Extra Innings, to find out.

When I first saw the cover for this book, not being a sports fan, I nearly passed on it.  But when I read the blurb and saw it was about time travel, I snatched it right up.

I immediately wanted to root for Joe.  With a failed marriage, a thankless, dead-end job, and not much to go home to at night, the guy deserves some happiness.  Upon realizing the seat he purchased from a baseball stadium that held wonderful memories for him is a time machine, endless possibilities are at his fingertips.  If you could travel back in time, what would you change about your life?  Anything?  Would those changes have unexpected ripple effects?

Joe encounters several surprises along the way, and I laughed out loud at some situations he found himself in.  Extra Innings is a fabulous, enjoyable story with several layers to include family drama, organized crime, and corporate mergers, and I was captivated throughout.  The ending isn’t something I expected, but will leave you thinking about it for days after.

The Similars (The Similars #1) by Rebecca Hanover #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview #scifi

When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.

The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.

Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.

Clones, dark secrets, shocking truths, acts of revenge, and a budding romance – The Similars has it all.  After reading the first three words in the description, I knew this novel was for me.

The first half of this book teased me with hints of dark truths, mysteries, and hidden agendas – I couldn’t put it down.  Emma’s situation is heartbreaking at times, and she has a lot on her plate, but her drive and determination to get to the root of everything is admirable.  The girl gets things done.  Along with the boarding school goings-on is a political angle.  What are clones’ rights?  Should they be treated as human beings and afforded the same privileges?  Are they a threat?  Things to ponder.

The second half seems to veer off the rails just a tad.  While the first half is well-planned and creates a believable world, the second didn’t seem as carefully thought out, and plot developments come from every direction, many of them predictable.  I’m not a fan of love triangles, and by no means is romance the central focus of this story, but there’s a hint of the most unique triangle I’ve come across.  I’ll have to wait for the next book to see if it pans out.

Overall, this is an intriguing book that held my attention from the first page, and I fully intend on continuing with the series.  If you’re a fan of layers upon layers of secrets, sci-fi, thrillers, and mystery, add The Similars to your TBR.

The Similars is scheduled for release January 1st, 2019.  Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.