Tag: reading

Book Review: The Last Human, by Zack Jordan

the last human
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Title:  The Last Human
AuthorZack Jordan
Genre:  sci-fi
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Sara is a human—the most terrifying creature in the entire galaxy. She’s the last human—and only her mother—a terrifying alien predator know she’s human. If any of their neighbors on Watchtower Station found out what Sara was, her mother would have to eviscerate them. Again.

Sara has accepted that she’ll never know why humans were considered too dangerous to let live. Then she runs into a bounty hunter, a rebellious spacesuit, and a cute fluffball with an IQ in the thousands, and her life shatters around her. Now Sara finds herself playing a deadly game with two vast intelligences in an effort to find out the truth—and learn if she really is the last human.

I have to give props to the author for making Sara’s adoptive mother—the fearsome Widow with mandibles and bladed appendages—likable and sympathetic. Like Ron Weasley, I am terrified of spiders, so making a giant murderous one likable is an accomplishment.

There was a little bit of the absurd Douglas Adams feel to this at times and the rebellious spacesuit was my favorite character. Sara was a mostly sympathetic character, but I didn’t really care for the others, especially the Network or the Observer. I’m hit or miss on sci-fi, and this one came down almost in the midst, with a more distant feel to it than I prefer. The question that haunted me through the whole book is:  how does Sara—a member of the most feared and supposedly extinct species in the galaxy—hide the fact that she is a human from everyone she encounters, when they all have neural implants and scanners?

Zack Jordan lives in Chicago. The Last Human is his new novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Sea Glass Cottage, by RaeAnne Thayne

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the sea glass cottage
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Sea Glass Cottage
AuthorRaeAnne Thayne
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

I don’t read much in the romance genre—it’s not that I’m against it, I just burned myself out on years ago—but RaeAnne Thayne is one author I’ll definitely pick up without question (along with Nora Roberts sometimes and Debbie Macomber always). And I’m certainly glad I picked this up.The Sea Glass Cottage takes us back to Cape Sanctuary—this is a small town I’d love to visit—with Liv, who moved away years ago to start a life in the city. But city life isn’t all she thought it would be, with her anxiety almost overpowering her. When she heads back home to take care of her life. Everything comes back to her.

Liv’s struggles with the past—the death of her father, memories of her addict sister, her lonely childhood—are relatable and well-drawn, making it easy to put myself into her shoes. I loved how all three women’s struggles are woven together—and how they find their way through. I definitely recommend reading this!

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at http://www.raeannethayne.com.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Tigers Not Daughters, by Samantha Mabry

tigers not daughters
Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title:  Tigers Not Daughters
AuthorSamantha Mabry
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

There are four Torres sisters: the oldest, Ana, is determined to live life her way. Jessica, flouts convention and puts walls around her heart. Iridian clings to words. And Rosa is free spirited and drawn to the wild. The girls live with their father, a widower who relishes his control of every aspect of their lives, but after Anna falls to her death from her bedroom window at the age of eighteen, the family splinters.

Jessica, now the oldest, tries to keep her family together while subsuming as much of Ana as possible into her own life. Iridian withdraws from the world. And Rosa becomes obsessed with an urban myth. But when mysterious things start happening around the Torres house, the girls start to wonder if Ana is haunting them. And if she is, what is she trying to tell them?

Tigers Not Daughters was a little hard for me to get into, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t like all the characters—Jessica in particular seemed particularly selfish and not in the least self-aware—but it was wonderful to see them come into their identities as sisters and family and women who could stand on their own two feet. I’ve seen this touted as a cultural  lodestone, but, honestly, I’ve read much more vibrant novels on the Latin-American culture. It was secondary at best in this novel, with the focus being on the girls themselves.

Samantha Mabry credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and a cat named Mouse. She is the author of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World. Visit her online at samanthamabry.com or on Twitter: @samanthamabry.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sparrow, by Mary Cecilia Jackson

sparrow
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Sparrow
AuthorMary Cecilia Jackson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sparrow—Savannah Darcy Rose—thought she would be safe after her mother died. She thought she could finally stop hiding. She’s a gifted ballerina with a tight-knit circle of friends, she’s starring in a new production, and her future looks bright.

Then she meets Tristan:  handsome, wealthy, the most popular boy in school. Sparrow is in love, but Tristan isn’t quite as perfect as he seems, and soon Sparrow finds herself keeping secrets from everyone. She’s not the kind of girl who tells, but after a brutal assault, she must learn how to open up to those around her.

This wasn’t an easy book to read. You could see the disaster looming…but you were helpless to divert it. Sparrow’s backstory is horrifying, and the emotional scars she bears lead to physical scars in her present. I loved her strength and determination—and the strong friendships made the novel shine.

Mary Cecilia Jackson loves being a Southerner and reading. Sparrow is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, by Patricia Davids

the amish teacher's dilemma
Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Title:  The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma
AuthorPatricia Davids
Genre:  Inspirational fiction, romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Taking a schoolteacher position in another district is just the change Amish spinster Eva Coblentz needs. And with her new neighbor, blacksmith Willis Gingrich, struggling to raise his three orphaned siblings, Eva is determined to help them heal. But when her relatives insist she come home, Eva must choose between the life she left…and the one she’s growing to love.

I haven’t read the first two novels in The North Country Amish series, and that wasn’t a problem at all. I liked Eva from the first paragraph and admired her strength and determination to make a life for herself. Willis’s little sister, Maddie, and her imaginary friend, Bubble, were wonderful, and I enjoyed every scene the little girl was in. She definitely has a way of saying things that should not be said! I felt very sorry for Willis, who has struggled with dyslexia his whole life—and never knew it—and only realizes there’s hope for him when his youngest brother faces the same struggle. This is a lovely, feel-good read that’s both inspiring and uplifting.

Patricia Davids is a bestselling author. The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, the third novel in her The North Country Amish series, is now available.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Love Inspired in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Rome of Fall, by Chad Alan Gibbs

the rome of fall
Image belongs to Borne Back Books.

Title:  The Rome of Fall
AuthorChad Alan Gibbs
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Twenty years ago, Marcus Brinks left Rome, Alabama behind quickly, quietly, and mysteriously. The small town worshiped its football gods—back when Marcus was in high school, that was Deacon Cassburn—and allowed them to get away with anything short of murder, including bullying Marcus and his best friends, Silas and third-string quarterback Jackson. So Marcus and his friends decide to take down Deacon—state championship on the line or not.

Now Marcus is back in Rome to care for his dying mother. Things have changed in Rome…or have they? Marcus is a teacher and former indie rock star and Jackson is the football god/coach, while Deacon and his buddies plot to take him down. Things are ugly in Rome, and Marcus just wants to keep out of the drama and maybe have a bit of romance with his high school crush. But the past has a way of shaping the future, and even in Rome, it will catch up to you.

I’m not a football fan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every page of this. I graduated in ’95, so all the references the author made brought that back to life for me. I’m from Texas, so I get the Friday Night Lights hoopla—even though my high school didn’t have football until just a couple of years ago, the basketball coach back then could have gotten away with murder—and it was so vivid and realistic in The Rome of Fall.

Marcus isn’t entirely likable, but he’s relatable. The whole teen angst storyline in the ‘90s was vivid, angry, and full of pain. The present-day storyline was more nostalgic, but also angry and painful. I loved how everything resolved at the end, bringing Marcus full-circle and the reader hoping he finds happiness along with his dreams.

Chad Alan Gibbs is an award-winning author. The Rome of Fall is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Borne Back Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Immortal Conquistador, by Carrie Vaughn

the immortal conquistador
Image belongs to Tachyon Publications.

Title:  The Immortal Conquistador
AuthorCarrie Vaughn
Genre:  Urban fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

Set in the world of Kitty Norville…

Ricardo de Avila—now called Rick—would have followed Coronado anywhere. Yes, that Coronado, the conquistador. But Coronado never found what he sought—and Rick found immortality as a turned-against-his-will vampire.

Five hundred years later, Rick has spent his life going against the immortal grain. While he at first thought he was the only self-named-demon in existence—so ignorant of the truth he didn’t even know he was called vampire—now he keeps to himself and protects his mortal family. He’s spent his days as a bartender, helped a legendary gunslinger, appointed himself Master of Santa Fe, and now discovered a church hidden under the Vatican.

Immortal life is no piece of cake.

It’s been years since I read any of the Kitty books (Looking back, it seems I stopped reading after book six). I enjoyed them, and I have no idea why I stopped reading, so this was run return to that world. I love how different Rick is from traditional or more-popular vampire tropes. He’s a loner, and he’s fine with that. He didn’t even know what he was, thinking himself a demon, but drama and trouble seem to dog his steps. A quick, fun read.

Carrie Vaughn is a bestselling author. The Immortal Conquistador is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Deep, by Alma Katsu

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Image belongs to Penguin Group/Putnam.

Title:  The Deep
AuthorAlma Katsu
Genre:  Historical, psychological thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Titanic is haunted. Sudden deaths, mysterious disappearances, objects that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and visions…something is plaguing the ship. Annie Hebley serves on the maiden voyage of the celebrated ship, assigned to care for Mark Fletcher and his family. Early in the voyage, Annie realizes something strange is going on with the Fletchers—but then disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having miraculously survived the Titanic’s sinking, finds herself working on its sister ship, The Britannic, a hospital ship during the war. Memories of that other fateful voyage haunt her, then she sees a wounded soldier on the verge of death—Mark Fletcher, whom she thought died years ago in the frigid waters around Titanic. Annie doesn’t know how he survived, and soon comes to believe he didn’t.

Whatever haunted The Titanic is now on board The Britannic. And it wants what it lost.

I found The Deep a little hard to follow, as there was so much disjointedness in both time periods. Annie was an unreliable narrator—but so was everyone else—so knowing what was really going on wasn’t easy. I’ve always been fascinated and saddened by stories of The Titanic, so that was part was wonderful, but some of the secondary characters here—the boxers—seemed…kind of pointless to the storyline.

Alma Katsu lives outside Washington, D.C. The Deep is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group/Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know, by Spencer Hyde

what the other 3 don't know
Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title:  What the Other Three Don’t Know
Author:  Spencer Hyde
Genre:  YA
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

When Indie lost her mom to the river, her world crumbled around her. Now she’s the loner, the quiet one, the one no one else notices—living only for the day she can leave her small town behind and go where no one knows her. She never wants to set foot near the river that took her mom again.

But for her journalism class, that’s exactly what she must do:  take a rafting trip with three almost-strangers from her class. India would rather do anything else, but she has no choice. What she doesn’t realize is the other three have secrets just like she does. And this rafting trip will bring all of them to the surface.

I enjoyed What the Other Three Don’t Know, but it was fairly predictable. And…the “secrets” weren’t exactly earth-shattering. I thought the four teens bonded really quickly, so that felt a little off to me, but their banter alone made the book worth reading.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Lost at Sea, by Erica Boyce

lost at sea
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  Lost at Sea
AuthorErica Boyce
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

When fisherman John Staybrook vanishes one night during a storm, his disappearance raises questions. His daughter, Ella, is convinced he’s still alive and someone in the town is hiding secrets—and the key to his disappearance.

Her friend and former babysitter, Lacey, helps Ella investigate her father’s disappearance. Lacey is struggling with her own demons—her addiction to painkillers after a knee injury, the “beetle” in her brain that makes her question everything around her and that’s only quieted by the pills—and secrets from her own past, but she and the rest of the town also wonder why an experienced fisherman like John was out in that deadly storm.

This novel, like Boyce’s previous novel, The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, has a slow, easy pace that nevertheless keeps the reader intrigued to find out just what’s going on. So many secrets—and so few answers—keep that pace alive. Lacey’s struggle is at the heart of this novel, although Ella’s pain also holds a key place. With secrets from the past spilling over into the present, this novel manages to turn what seem to be random threads into a complex tapestry.

Erica Boyce is a member of the Massachusetts bar and an editor. Lost at Sea is her newest novel.

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