Book Review:  At the End of Everything, by Marieke Nijkamp

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   At the End of Everything
Author:   Marieke Nijkamp
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

 Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.

I enjoyed this kind of dark, kind of hopeful read. Some of the teenagers have done some truly awful things, some have just done thing the adults don’t understand, but they’re all there in need of rehabilitation. When the plague starts, they’re abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

The story is told in three main viewpoints, which gives a much more well-rounded perspective than a single main character would have done. There were moments of fear, panic, and pain mixed with the hope and determination, and this was a solid, entertaining read.

Marieke Nijkamp is a bestselling author. At the End of Everything is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Love at First Spite, by Anna E. Collins 

Image belongs to Harlequin Trade Publishing/Graydon House.

Title:   Love at First Spite
Author:   Anna E. Collins
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

 That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

This was a breezy, fun read. I liked Wyatt way more than I liked Dani. She was way too focused on revenge and being petty and spiteful for me to truly like her—and she was very oblivious to all her faults and how hurtful she was to those around her. I’ve never cared for people who try to justify their own bad behavior.

Wyatt was a great character, though, and his struggles with his health issues made him very relatable. I enjoyed the secondary characters, too, and found the setting to add charm to the story (loved the gnomes and the dogs!). This was a quick, fun read.

Anna E. Collins is from the Seattle area. Love at First Spite is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Trade Publishing/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Kindred, by Alechia Dow

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Kindred
Author:   Alechia Dow
Genre:   Sci-Fi, YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

 Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

 Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

 Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

That was just a fun read! I liked Joy, and even Felix grew on me, although he was a bit self-absorbed at first. This felt kind of like a spoofy sci-fi movie, but not totally cheesy. I enjoyed the read, especially after Joy and Felix crash-landed on Earth. Realistic and believable, no, but fun and relatable, yes, so I’d recommend this if you’re looking for a light way to spend a few hours.

Alechia Dow was born is Massachusetts but now lives in Germany. The Kindred is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in December (2021)

Books Read in December: 27

Books Read for the Year:  244/250 Dang it! Missed it by 6.

Year-Long Reads:

Whatever Is Lovely

Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Volume I, by Rick Renner.

The Holy Bible, NLV.

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Book of Signs, by David Jeremiah (spiritual).

7 Myths About Singleness, by Sam Allberry (spiritual).

Crazy Faith: It’s Only Crazy Until It Happens, by Michael Todd (spiritual).

Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin (spiritual).

Hybrids, Super Soldiers, & the Coming Genetic Apocalypse. by Billy Crone (spiritual).

For Review:

Snowbound with Her Mountain Cowboy, by Patricia Johns. This was a sweet, clean second-chance romance that I enjoyed.

The Ballerinas, by Rachel Kapelke-Dale. I love books about the ballet, but this one…Honestly, the three main characters were horrible people. Selfish, self-righteous, and completely oblivious to right and wrong. Every male character in this book is portrayed as awful, which was ironic, considering one of the main characters literally killed a man—and decided she was in the right. Do not recommend.

The Last Dance of the Debutante, by Julia Kelly. This was a wonderful historical fiction with some great female characters. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Nursing Her Amish Neighbor, by Marta Perry. This was a sweet inspirational romance read.

The Witching Tree, by Alice Blanchard. I like diversity and inclusion in my books, but when the author portrays every member of a group as one way, well, that’s just not believable to me. In this case, it’s Wiccans, who are all portrayed as good/generous/benevolent. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. I like the MC and the mystery, but it wasn’t solved by the end of the novel, which stopped but didn’t resolve anything.

His Road to Redemption, by Lisa Jordan. Unresolved family issues added layers to this quick romantic read.

Broken, Lost, and Found, by Imogen Keeper. I enjoyed these three short dystopian reads, and am looking forward to reading the fourth one, too.

The Girl in the Ground, by Stacy Green. This was a decent thriller read, but I didn’t really care for the main character, so it wasn’t great (to me).

Girls Before Earls, by Anna Bennett. I liked this light romance read. Hazel was a good character, and I enjoyed her character development.

Bad Girls Never Say Die, by Jennifer Mathieu.This was an interesting read: a gender-flipped The Outsiders. I enjoyed it, although I see quite a few negative reviews.

Safecracker, by Ryan Wick. This was just a “meh” read for me.

Heart of the Impaler, by Alexander Delacroix. It would have been nice to see some character growth/change here. Vlad Dracula was a spoiled, whiny, selfish twit, and I didn’t find his character in the least bit compelling.

The Kindred, by Alechia Dow (review forthcoming). This was just a fun read! A YA alien romance that felt like The Fifth Element a bit.

Love at First Spite, by Anna E. Collins (review forthcoming). While I enjoyed the read, the MC’s determination to get revenge on her ex no matter the cost was more than a bit petty. I did, however, like her love interest a lot.

At the End of Everything, by Marieke Nijkamp (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this “dystopian” read about a global pandemic killing almost everyone—and the teenagers abandoned in a detention center when it hits.

Reckless Girls, by Rachel Hawkins (review forthcoming). This was…about terrible people, frankly. Only, you don’t realize they’re terrible until the end. The rest of the book, there’s just a low-lying sense of something not being right.

Just Because:

The Case for Christmas, by Lee Strobel. That was an interesting read.

Did Not Finish:

The Women of Pearl Island, by Polly Crosby. I read about 25% of this but just couldn’t connect with any of the characters, so I had to stop reading. The writing is good, it just wasn’t a good fit for me right now.

The Hanged Man’s Tale, by Gerald Jay. This book just wasn’t for me. It felt very distant and…pompous for my taste.

Cry Wolf, by Hans Rosenfeldt. I read almost 20% of this, but the POV was too distant for me and the whole thing just felt kind of bleak. Just not a good fit for me.

Book Review:  Heart of the Impaler, by Alexander Delacroix

Image belongs to Macmillan.

Title:   Heart of the Impaler
Author:   Alexander Delacroix
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Vlad Dracula has long lived in the shadows cast by his bloodthirsty father, the voivode, and his older brother, Mircea. Despite their cruelty, Vlad has yearned to prove himself worthy of the throne his whole life. In the cold halls of the voivode’s palace, Vlad can only rely on his cousin and closest friend, Andrei Musat.

 When Vlad and Andrei meet Ilona Csáki, the daughter of an influential boyar, they each find themselves inextricably drawn to her. But then Ilona is betrothed to Mircea as part of a political alliance, and Vlad’s resentfulness of his brother begins to seethe into something far darker.

 Ilona has no desire to marry the voivode’s eldest son, but love and marriage are the least of her worries. The royal family’s enemies have already tried to put an arrow through her back—and if anyone discovers her blossoming feelings for Andrei and Vlad, she may just wish they’d succeeded.

 Beneath the shadow of impending war, the only battle that will be deadlier than the one for Ilona’s life will be the one for her heart.

 It’s not like I expected Vlad Dracula to be good…but I did expect him to be something more than a whiny, selfish brat. I mean, he was unlikable throughout the entire book, so I really had no idea why Ilona was attracted to him at all. I wish Ilona had been a bit more fully realized, too, as she felt very one-dimensional. I did like Andrei, though, and I cheered for him the whole time—especially hoping he’d realize the truth about his best friend and put some distance between them before it got him killed.

The Heart of the Impaler is Alexander Delacroix’s debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Cry Wolf, by Hans Rosenfeldt

Image belongs to Harlequin Trade Publishing.

Title:   Cry Wolf
Author:   Hans Rosenfeldt
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  DNF

Hannah Wester, a policewoman in the remote northern town of Haparanda, Sweden, finds herself on the precipice of chaos. 

When human remains are found in the stomach of a dead wolf, Hannah knows that this summer won’t be like any other. The remains are linked to a bloody drug deal across the border in Finland. But how did the victim end up in the woods outside of Haparanda? And where have the drugs and money gone?

 Hannah and her colleagues leave no stone unturned. But time is scarce and they aren’t the only ones looking. When the secretive and deadly Katja arrives, unexpected and brutal events start to pile up. In just a few days, life in Haparanda is turned upside down. Not least for Hannah, who is finally forced to confront her own past.

I read almost 20% of this, but the POV was too distant for me and the whole thing just felt kind of bleak. Just not a good fit me. The writing was solid and the plot wasn’t lacking, I just didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters, so it didn’t hold my attention.

Hans Rosenfeldt was born in Sweden. Cry Wolf is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Trade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Safecracker, by Ryan Wick

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title Safecracker
Author:   Ryan Wick
Genre:   Mystery/ Thriller
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Safecracker Michael Maven’s latest job should be simple: steal a rare coin from a New York apartment. Then the coin’s owner comes home with a beautiful woman. So he hides. Then she murders him. So he hides a bit better. Then she tries to take the coin herself, which is the last straw. While Maven narrowly escapes being killed himself, he’s then coerced by her boss, a sadistic drug lord, into a far more complicated, far more dangerous job.

If Maven fails to crack the safe of a rival cartel boss in Miami, his friends and family will die. If he succeeds, they still might. Which means he not only has to somehow pull off an impossible heist, but also outwit two crime bosses as well as the woman, his reluctant new partner.

This wasn’t a bad read at all, although I was pretty neutral about the MC. There’s a lot of blood and violence, and I was never that invested in the stakes of the story, but I did finish it fairly quickly (another point in its favor). I think it reached for Ocean’s Eleven, but fell short.

Ryan Wick is an author, director, and screenwriter. Safecracker is his debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review:  Bad Girls Never Say Die, by Jennifer Mathieu

Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Roaring Book Press.

TitleBad Girls Never Say Die
Author Jennifer Mathieu
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

  1. Houston, Texas.

 Evie Barnes is a bad girl. So are all her friends. They’re the sort who wear bold makeup, laugh too loud, and run around with boys. Most of all, they protect their own against the world. So when Evie is saved from a sinister encounter by a good girl from the “right” side of the tracks, every rule she’s always lived by is called into question. Now she must redefine what it means to be a bad girl and rethink everything she knew about loyalty.

I loved The Outsiders, so I was excited to read this. I found it to be a solid read, even if not on the level of The Outsiders (of course). I loved how all the girls had their idea of the “other” girls totally flipped as they realized their similarities. It’s always difficult to read things set in the past when women had fewer options, but I liked how Evie comes to realize she does have choices, she’s not forced to live with society’s expectations.

Jennifer Mathieu lives in Texas. Bad Girls Never Say Die is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review.)