Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Was Lost ~ Natalie D Richards (earc) review [@SourcebooksFire @NatDRichards]

One Was Lost
Sourcebooks Fire
October 04, 2016
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it's clear; they're being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

Well, here is one book you really don't want to take on a camping or hiking in the woods trip, that's for sure. The three previous books by Natalie D Richards were brilliant mystery thrillers and this one was, as well. Her novels are full of twists and turns they keep you guessing right up to the end and the premisses themselves are completely original and imaginative.

What still, somehow, surprised me about One Was Lost though (and that I also liked in the other books, hence the 'somehow') was how well the characters were written, how easy it was to relate to them and how much I came to care about them, their relationships and their lives. Even in the midst of this horror-thriller, all of the mystery and the danger, the author lets us get to know the characters.

Even as they are in fear for their lives, trying to piece together what's happened and who could possibly be doing all of this to them, we learn more about Sera and her fellow campers. There are things from their past that the others know about, or at least know of, then there are the secrets they're keeping.  The pieces we learn about them only add to the mystery - and to our desire to see them (or at least some of them) rescued.

One Was Lost is an incredibly compelling mystery with captivating characters full of the unexpected and unpredictable. This is the fourth book I have read by Natalie D Richards and I am absolutely anticipating her fifth (and more)!

review copy received thanks to publisher, via NetGalley 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cloud and Wallfish ~ Anne Nesbet (earc) review [@annenesbet @Candlewick]

Cloud and Wallfish
Candlewick Press
October 04, 2016
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Slip behind the Iron Curtain into a world of smoke, secrets, and lies in this stunning novel where someone is always listening and nothing is as it seems.

Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why — not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening). As Noah—now "Jonah Brown"—and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening — and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.

I don't think I realized how little I knew about the Iron Curtain, East and West Berlin before reading Anne Nesbet's Cloud and Wallfish. I have read a couple of other books set in or around there but I think they focused more on the characters than where or how they lived.  I had not, before, gogten such a full look at, in particular, life in East Berlin.

Cloud and Wallfish is a Middle Grade book but one that absolutely should appeal to older readers, as well. Noah is the ideal main character for this story. The perspective that his age gives him  - along with the facts he is or is not aware of, what he knows of history and how he sees people and the world around him is perfect for the story. He and his character are a great fit not only for MG readers but those of us who aren't full educated on the time or facts. The understandable naivete on some things that his age gives him really lets readers be introduced to new information while also seeing things in an unexpected but realistic way.

Noah's stutter (his Astonishing Stutter) also makes his character any interesting one for the center of this story. From the social trouble it causes him - both in the US and now in East Berlin - to how, in 1989, it is viewed by those there. It brought out several aspects of East German life I don't think would have otherwise been known.

I really loved Noah and Cloud-Claudia, their relationship, the struggles they faced and how the author used it all to show us life in East Berlin in 1989 while still making it very much about Noah and Cloud. There's a fantastic balance between fiction and nonfiction in Cloud and Wallfish. (The inclusion of the Secret Files at the end of the chapters that give you real, historical insight without needing the characters to be aware of those facts is a great addition both for readers' education and for how we view the characters' lives.)

 thank you to the publisher for my review copy, via NetGalley

. . . and I'm Back

It seems I went on a bit of an unannounced (and unplanned) temporary hiatus these last few weeks. Please forgive me; hurricane preparation, the actual hurricane (Matthew, in this case) and then the clean up doesn't leave much time (or sometimes electricity) for blog-y or bookish things.

Everything's good (or getting there) now and I'm back, though. (Hopefully without any other hurricanes to come for a long, long time. If ever.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Sinner ~ Amanda Stevens (earc) review [@AmandaStevensTX @MIRAEditors @HarlequinBooks]

The Sinner (Graveyard Queen #5)
September 27, 2016
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

I am a living ghost, a wanderer in search of my purpose and place…

I'm a cemetery restorer by trade, but my calling has evolved from that of ghost seer to death walker to detective of lost souls. I solve the riddles of the dead so the dead will leave me alone.

I've come to Seven Gates Cemetery nursing a broken heart, but peace is hard to come by…for the ghosts here and for me. When the body of a young woman is discovered in a caged grave, I know that I've been summoned for a reason. Only I can unmask her killer. I want to trust the detective assigned to the case for he is a ghost seer like me. But how can I put my faith in anyone when supernatural forces are manipulating my every thought? When reality is ever-changing? And when the one person I thought I could trust above all others has turned into a diabolical stranger?

At first, I was a little disappointed that there weren't more ghosts in The Sinner. It is, after all, something I've come to expect with the Graveyard Queen books. As the story progressed, though, I not only didn't mind, I liked that this tale was a bit different. There are absolutely still otherworldly, supernatural things that Amelia experiences, sees, hears - it's just a bit different.

It works not only for The Sinner's specific story in Ascension and around Seven Gates Cemetery but also for Amelia's character and her development. She's no longer just the ghost-seer we met in The Restorer. During the series, especially in the book prior to this one The Visitor, both we readers and Amelia herself have learned more about her abilities, some oft he 'why' and about who and what she is - that it's a lot more than she ever expected. This book was a great follow-up to The Visitor with her still figuring some of those things out.

Devlin's absence from this book was noted and (as much as I did miss him), what that meant for and to Amelia during the book and what we learn about some of the, possible, reasoning has me really hoping to see it all explored more in the next book. (And hopefully for him to be back!)

The author did a fantastic job introducing us to new characters, while still involving some of the ones we're familiar with the story in unexpected but really smart ways. Amelia's job as a  cemetery restorer is not only one I want, but it gives her a unique knowledge base that always lets her know things that are really interesting and that you're not likely to hear elsewhere. It also lets her travel to new locations with each book that pull her into a new town, with new lore and secrets -- and characters.

I really enjoyed reading The Sinner, Amelia's summer in Ascension with all of its unexpected occurrences, secrets, supernatural history and even the danger. Her character has undergone some excellent growth and development since the series started and I'm really looking forward to where things end up for her, both personally and with her 'ghostly' abilities.

review copy received thanks to publisher, via NetGalley
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