Tuesday, June 28, 2016

And I Darken ~ Kiersten White (earc) review [@DelacortePress @kierstenwhite]

And I Darken (The Conquerers Saga #1)
Delacorte Press
June 28, 2016
496 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Previously, the Ottoman Empire, Wallachia, Constantinople, and all of the other areas of that time were just something I learned a little bit about back in World History Class. Kiersten White's And I Darken does a fantastic job actually bringing them to life.

You understand more of the politics of the time, who was beholden to whom, which regions were under the other's control and/or protection, who might invade,w ho might be invaded. As well as the battle between Christianity and Islam in the region, at the time. It really made a time and location I was only barely aware of really real.

The idea that this book posed the question, 'What if Vlad the Impaler had been a girl?' did, I think, have me expecting something a bit different. This is very much about Lada (and Radu and Mehmed) growing up, as they move towards being adults. There was less action, maybe, than I anticipated but now, after finishing the story I see how crucial it was that this part be told. (I liken it to how I love the latter seasons of Buffy much more than the early ones, but those early ones absolutely had to happen for what came later. I do not know that this will be my favorite of the Conquerers Saga books, but it's absolutely vital to the characters, knowing how they are, how they got that way and to understanding their world.)

This book does a great job making Lada a girl at a time when women had very limited options and opportunities, making her strong and willful - not to mention, at least, a touch mean and violent - without it being truly incongruous. Through her interactions and observations of other characters, we see more of who and what women were truly like, what they did to find advantages and where they had power.

I really enjoyed the unconventional relationships and personalities in this book. The way Lada and Radu were with each other and how it might have been different than you'd expect, but they stayed true to it though the years; Mehmed's character and the role he played; who Radu was in the beginning and who he became.

This book, with where and how it ended, absolutely has me looking forward to Book 2 and seeing what happens in these characters' lives. Kiersten White has done a great job with this historical retelling with Vlad the Impaler as a girl.

received, for review, from publisher via NetGalley

Monday, June 27, 2016

All the Missing Girls ~ Megan Miranda (earc) review [@MeganLMiranda @simonschuster]

All the Missing Girls
Simon & Schuster
June 28, 2016
384 pages
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Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

Now I want to read All the Missing Girls backwards . . . or would it be forwards? In standard chronological order, however that should be described.

Megan Miranda really did a superb job with the nontraditional way that this story is told, giving us the beginning, then working backwards from nearly the end back up to just after that beginning. The idea had me a bit skeptical, at first. I didn't wan tot be in on it all from the beginning, part of what I really love about mysteries and thrillers is how they all come together, how, at last, everything adds up and you figure things out. I didn't want to miss out on that.

And I didn't. Somehow - and I am still working on exactly how it worked - the time goes backwards but the mystery and the clues still unravel in a way that keeps you guessing, keeps you from knowing the end. A character would find something, hear something, say or do something, and then later in the book (but a day or two earlier in the character's life) you would discover some of the significance. It was the usual way mysteries work, but also not at all because the chronology was reversed. (It's tricky to explain but so good to read.)

I also appreciated that the story was not just told backwards with no other mention of time or order in the book. There are several mentions of time, what it is, what it means, and how we view it. There are mentions of distances seen as time, the amount of time Nic's been away, how long she's been back, how long she'll stay, etc. Along with the quotes accompanying the different Parts, it really ties in well to how the story is told.

"Tick-tock, Nic." (pg 31, etc.)
The ending had me questioning things I thought I knew about the characters, some of the events and what they really meant. I wanted to reread scenes to see how differently I viewed their reactions and statements in light of, now, having the full story. I love how this book seems to let you know what happens next before what happens first while all the while keeping you guessing and having a startling resolution.

One last note: this is an adult novel but fans of the author's YA noels should enjoy it as well. With the characters' ages (late 20s), the glimpses into their time in high school, and more, it had almost a NA feel, at times.

Other Books You May Also Enjoy: No One Knows by JT Ellison and Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth

Monday, June 20, 2016

Field of Graves ~ J.T. Ellison (earc) review [@thrillerchick @harlequinbooks @miraeditors]

Field of Graves (Taylor Jackson #8/Prequel)
June 14, 2016
368 pages
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All of Nashville is on edge with a serial killer on the loose. A madman is trying to create his own end-of-days apocalypse and the cops trying to catch him are almost as damaged as the killer. Field of Graves reveals the origins of some of J.T. Ellison's most famous creations: the haunted Lieutenant Taylor Jackson; her blunt, exceptional best friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens; and troubled FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. Together, they race the clock and their own demons to find the killer before he claims yet another victim. This dark, thrilling and utterly compelling novel will have readers on the edge of their seats, and Ellison's fans will be delighted with the revelations about their favorite characters.

I think I like that Field of Graves is listed as both number eight in the Taylor Jackson series and as the prequel to the series. In a lot of ways, it really is both.

If, like me, you have already read the Taylor Jackson series, then Field of Graves gives you a look at how those characters you already know all came together. Since I finished reading the seven previous book in this series in 2012, I can't remember for sure how much of the beginnings of their stories we already knew, but this book let's you see it happen. I know we learned more about Baldwin in this book than, probably, in the other seven books combined. I liked his character before but always felt like he was on the periphery, how I feel more like I know him. (Which makes me like his character and what he's done in the other books - and in Sam's series - even more.)

If you have not already read the Taylor Jackson series books one through seven, or any at all, Filed of Graves will introduce you to the main characters, give you some of their background - like how long Sam and Taylor have been friends, what happened to Taylor's father, etc - all while having them solve a case. You can go into the other books already knowing who the characters are, their relationships with each other and some of what they've experienced.

I do not think that the case they're working to solve in this book or how they find clues, discover facts and piece it all together, was my favorite of the series (or the two if counting the Dr Samantha Owens books). That was very much balanced out, though, by the insight into the characters and getting more a look at their personal lives than it seemed like we did in other books. It is a great case for the story where Baldwin has as much involvement as he does.

I really loved learning more about the characters I already loved in the first seven books and getting a chance to revisit them with a new (of sorts) story. It was great seeing their beginnings, getting to know Baldwin better and seeing some more of that friendship between Sam and Taylor. (Plus, I realised reading it that I missed this Sam, from before. I do love her now, but I liked the reminder, too.)

I do still wish there would be more Taylor and Baldwin in Sam's series of books but this sort of flashback was great. It is a book you can read after reading the other Taylor Jackson books or one you can read to introduce yourself to the series. (And I love the series, so you really should read it.)

The only way it may not be the best book to read right now, is if you're trying to (or recently) quit smoking - there seemed to be a lot of characters who were quit, but then went back on it a bit.

. . . See my reviews of the Taylor Jackson series #1-#7 and the Dr Samantha Owens series #1-#4 . . .

received, for review, form publisher via NetGalley

Book Blitz: Ghost Hope ~ Ripley Patton [@rippatton @XpressoTours]]

Ghost Hope (The PSS Chronicles #4)

Ripley Patton
June 15th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Thriller, Young Adult

Olivia Black does not feel safe. Nightmares plague her sleep and haunt her days. If she has to endure one more minute stuck in a safe house in rainy Portland, she’s going to lose it. When Mike Palmer sneaks off to find her sister Kaylee without her, it’s the last straw. She has to do something.
Then Palmer’s hackers find the Dome on a satellite feed: dark, abandoned and smack in the middle of the Oregon desert three hundred miles from where it started. If they can reach it before anyone else, they can crack the computer systems and access every piece of information on PSS the CAMFers and The Hold have ever collected.
But in order to do that, Olivia must return to the origin of her fears in a race against all the forces that have ever pitted themselves against her. She must unravel decades of deceit to reveal the true origins of Psyche Sans Soma to the world at last.

Previous books in the series:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00040]
**Grab Ghost Hand (book 1) for FREE! Plus, book 2 & 3 are on sale for 99cents – until the end of June only!**

“Olivia!” My mother’s voice jolted me awake.
I sat up in the rental van’s passenger seat, wiping drool from my cheek. Chase and T-dog’s Westfalia had stopped in front of us at a massive gate rising out of the darkness, topped with barbed wire and sporting severalDanger: High Voltage and No Trespassing on Federal Land signs.

We had arrived at Umatilla, and I’d fallen asleep, like I always did in a moving vehicle, before I’d explained to my mother that I’d lied about our destination. We were not on a scenic over-nighter up the Columbia River Gorge. That had just been a cover story.
“Olivia Anne Black,” she said, pointing at the gate. “What is that?”
“Um—I don’t know,” I stammered. “We must have taken a wrong turn.”
“Is this the motel?” Grant asked groggily from the back. It sounded like I wasn’t the only one who’d taken a nap.
“No, it’s not,” my mother answered testily. “What the hell is he doing?”

She was referring to T-Dog, who had gotten out of their van carrying something bulky under his arm. When he set it down and started fiddling with a controller in his hands, I realized it was one of those personal drones. Suddenly, the little thing lit up and went whirling into the air, kicking up dust and flying over the gate. On the other side, it dipped down and stopped, a green light flashing on its undercarriage as it hovered over some kind of control panel. As I watched, a green light began flashing on the panel too, like they were communicating with one another. Because they were. T-dog was hacking into Umatilla. He was breaking into a federally-owned chemical depot.
I could feel my mother turning toward me, a question in her eyes, her lips parting to ask it.
Headlights, high and wide, flashed in the rearview mirror, blinding me. They were barreling down on us, but I only heard the rev of the engine just before the crunch of impact.
The whole van jerked forward, shoving us toward the back of the Westfalia and stopping only inches from its rear bumper.
“What the—?” Grant yelled, and I heard cries of alarm from Passion and Samantha.
My seatbelt dug into my waist and my shoulder, but the airbags hadn’t deployed, so that was good.
In front of us, T-Dog scrambled back into their van and slammed his door. The gate started to open, the drone hovering on the other side, still blinking green.
There was another crunching sound and a slight tug backwards. Then, more revving.
“Hold on. They’re coming again,” my mother said, jamming the van into drive and laying on the horn like a mad woman. We couldn’t go anywhere. The Westfalia was right in front of us and some lunatic was behind us, gearing up to rear-end us a second time.
“We have to go through,” I told my mom, gesturing at the gate.
“I know,” she said, glaring out at the windshield and revving our engine now. “Get out of my way, you two. What are you waiting for?” she mumbled under her breath, laying on the horn again and not letting up.
The vehicle behind was almost upon us. I could hear it coming.
Up ahead, T-dog glanced at me in his side view mirror, but it was too dark to read his expression. Had he and Chase set us up? Was this their doing?
The gate was open wider now, maybe wide enough for the Westfalia, but would it be enough for our bigger van?
“Hold on,” my mom said, glancing in the rearview mirror and slamming her foot on the gas.
I braced myself, this time for impact from the back and front, but it didn’t come.
We surged forward, gently kissing the back bumper of the Westfalia, both of us racing through the still opening gate. I heard a horrible sound, metal screeching against metal, and sparks flew in a shower away from us as the huge closures of the gate scraped down both sides of our van.
As soon as we were free and clear, Chase veered off to the right and pulled to a stop. As we drove past, I could see T-Dog holding the drone remote out his window, working it frantically, trying to close the gate before our attackers made it in. But he wasn’t fast enough. The pick-up truck that had rear-ended us roared forward, squeezing through just like we had. For a moment, I thought it had a really weird hood ornament, but then I realized it was the drone, flying low and toward us in front of the truck.
“Get higher,” I murmured to the little thing. As if hearing me, it did, rising above the front of the truck only to plummet a second later just as the vehicle overtook it.
And then it was gone, sucked under the huge wheel of the big truck with a soft crunch and a shower of shrapnel spraying from its undercarriage.
“Stop the van,” I told my mother, but she’d already turned and was pulling up alongside the guys.
“Who is that?” I shouted out my window at Chase, pointing at the truck as it pulled up, headlights blinding us all, the gate clanging shut behind it.
“I have no idea,” he shouted back. “But I think we’re about to find out.”
A truck door slammed.
A dark form moved, crossing the dusty swathe of its high beams, and a man emerged, tall, wrinkled, and tan, a long rifle dangling from his right hand.

Author Bio:
Ripley Patton lives in Portland, Oregon with one cat, two teenagers, and a man who wants to live on a boat. She doesn't smoke, or drink, or cuss as much as her characters. Her only real vices are writing, eating M&Ms, and watching reality television.
Ripley is an award-winning short story writer and author of The PSS Chronicles, a young adult paranormal thriller series. The first book in the series, GHOST HAND, was a semi-finalist for The Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Awards and a Cybil Award Nominee.
The second book in the series, GHOST HOLD, was released in September 2013.
The third book in the series, GHOST HEART, was released in October 2014.
And GHOST HOPE, the final book of the series will be released in the Spring 2016.
You can find out more about Ripley and her fiction on her website at ripleypatton.com.

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