Monday, March 31, 2014

House of Glass ~ Sophie LIttlefield (earc) review

House of Glass
Harlequin MIRA
February 25, 2014
304 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon


Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield delivers a riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines story about a family put to the ultimate test when two men take them hostage inside their home.

Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen's control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come.

On an evening that was supposed to be like any other, two men force their way into the Glasses' home, but what begins as a common robbery takes an even more terrifying turn. Held hostage in the basement for more than forty-eight hours, Jen and Ted must put aside their differences if they have any hope of survival. They will stop at nothing to keep their family safe—even if it means risking their own lives. A taut and emotional tale of a family brought together by extraordinary forces, House of Glass is a harrowing exploration of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children, and the power of tragedy to teach us what truly matters.

It's a night that's supposed to be like any other. Jen Glass, her husband Ted, their fifteen-year-old daughter Jen and four year-old son, Teddy, are home and about to start cooking dinner when it happens. Two armed men enter their house, their goal unknown.

It quickly becomes clear that this is not the usual home invasion robbery. While the family is held in the basement for an increasingly extended time, unsure of what the men upstairs want, they drawn closer together.

The mystery of why the men are in the Glass house and what they hope to accomplish, is not the only unknown in House of Glass. Jen is someone who wants everything to be perfect, or to, at least, look perfect from the outside. The life she's made for herself is much different than where she began - somewhere gone but not really forgotten. Despite Jen's attempts, it's clear from the start that her husband, Ted, is keeping something from her. Whether it's what Jen suspects or something else, entirely, is not yet known.

As much as she wants to uncover the truth, taking care of their children: four-year-old Teddy who doesn't speak to strangers and fifteen-year-old Livvy who's become increasingly distant from Jen, takes priority.

With the family's safety constantly in question and each with their own struggles, House of Glass is a page turner that will keep readers guessing.

Much of the story centers around Jen Glass, her concern over appearances and the future of her family. While Jen's past and her current concerns definitely add to the story and the plot's progression, there was something about her I didn't quite like. Given the situation, any of the characters being cool, calm and collected, wouldn't have worked. However, Jen was too dramatic and anxious for me. Her family was always on her mind, but at times she felt almost selfish.

Livvy, Ted and Teddy each have something about them or their lives that adds a layer to the tale. Adding to the mystery of 'why,' 'who' and 'what,' they keep things from being obvious, even when you're sure they're wrong, nothing is ever obvious.

I still really enjoyed House of Glass. With scenes showing the family's bond, secrets revealed and moments of unbelievable tension, you'll find yourself feeling for the family and hoping for the safety.


Rating: 7/10



thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for the egalley for review

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Martian ~ Andy Weir review

The Martian
Crown
February 11, 2014
369 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
The summary of The Martian was immediately appealing to. I really liked both 172 Hours on the Moon and Doctor Who's The Waters of Mars and loved the idea of another, not happy-go-lucky space story. I didn't win it from LibraryThing, but it looked to good to pass up - and it was!

Mark Watney is a bit like a nerdy MacGyver in space.

Not the first human being on Mars, Watney is instead the first to be left behind (not on purpose, of course) on the Red Planet.

The very beginning of the novel:
I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Fucked. [...]
Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.” -page 1
We start, right away, with Watney alone on Mars after an accident. It seems hard to believe he is not already dead - after what happened - but his inventiveness and knowledge quickly comes into play. Not to mention his humor. It is that unique way of dealing with things, having the knowledge of what to do while not fearing what could go wrong, and his positive, if snarky, outlook that continue through The Martian.

While it would seem easy to give up (hey, you're all alone on Mars with no plans of rescue), Watney does not.

For every failure, setback, or problem that arises, he has a plan. It may not always be a safe plan - even going so far as to be possibly deadly - but there's a plan. Using math and science that I could not always fully follow, Watney comes up with ways to keep from dying.  Watney (or, really, author Andy Weir) explains the 'why' of things so well, that there isn't a problem if you don't really follow it. You get it - or enough of it - and can understand the outcome.

Besides a plan, Watney has his sense of humor. Something whose role in preventing his death cannot be downplayed. He doesn't fall into a funk or a depression (all alone on a planet with no communication and no plans of rescue would make that oh so easy). Instead, he finds ways to make light of things, to find the humor. It not only keeps him going, it makes the story so much fun to read.

The Martian and Mars seem to have Mark Watney's demise just around every corner. As soon as it seems he has it all worked out, that he'll be okay, something else happens. A catastrophe, a minor mishap with a ripple effect of consequences. It is a novel - and character - that will keep you guessing with each turn of the page.

If you like space, like math, like science, like science fiction . . . really, even if you don't like all of that but enjoy a fantastic read, pick up The Martian. A great science fiction thriller (with, it deserves mentioning,  a character with some nice insights and questions on vintage entertainment and Aquaman) this is absolutely one to read.

I may not know the one thing I'd take with me to a secluded island, but The Martian would be on my list if a Mars trip were imminent.



Rating: 10/10



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Shadows Fall ~ JT Ellison (earc) review [@thrillerchick @HarlequinBooks @MIRAEditors]

When Shadows Fall (Dr. Samantha Owens #3)
Harlequin MIRA
February 25, 2014
416 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Dear Dr. Owens,

If you are reading this letter, I am dead and I would be most grateful if you could solve my murder…

Forensic pathologist Dr. Samantha Owens thought life was finally returning to normal after she suffered a terrible personal loss. Settling into her new job at Georgetown University, the illusion is shattered when she receives a disturbing letter from a dead man imploring her to solve his murder. There's only one catch. Timothy Savage's death was so obviously the suicide of a demented individual that the case has been closed.

When Sam learns Savage left a will requesting she autopsy his body, she feels compelled to look into the case. Sam's own postmortem discovers clear signs that Savage was indeed murdered. And she finds DNA from a kidnapped child whose remains were recovered years earlier.

The investigation takes Sam into the shadows of a twenty-year-old mystery that must be solved to determine what really happened to Timothy Savage. Nothing about the case makes sense but it is clear someone is unwilling to let anyone, especially Samantha Owens, discover the truth.

When Shadows Fall is the third book in JT Ellison's Dr Samantha Owens series. Sam's new life (after her life in the Taylor Jackson series) in Washington DC has started and she is now, truly, getting a full life established.

It's as she's preparing to start her new job at Georgetown University when a past - a job - she thought she had left behind returns. When she receives the letter, Sam knows, even if she denies it at first, that she'll conduct an autopsy on the man who penned it.

Sam's findings pull her into the case, its investigation and, of course, the danger posed to those involved - Sam, in particular, as each piece of the story comes to light. She says it's so, but has Sam really left cases and investigation behind?

I am really loving Sam's new life. In the beginning of A Deeper Darkness, the first book of the series, I was a little unsure of the new timeline and life that was being introduced for Samantha Owens. I so enjoyed her in the Taylor Jackson series that it was a bit startling for her to have something so different.

As the books have progressed, though, I've really come to love her life in Washington DC. The series' other characters are ones that I love more with each book. Xander, Thor and Fletcher are a great compliment to Sam and each (Thor, too) have a skill set that gives them a unique edge in the investigations. I really enjoyed that Fletcher's character is given some more development in When Shadows Fall. We found out about his past and he became a part of Sam's life in the first two books, now he gets to have some more story of his own.

Once again, Sam's medical knowledge and her strong desire to uncover the truth are essential to solving the case. That  case that the characters get pulled into is a terrific one. We're given some insight into a character who is obviously no good, but whose role in things remains a bit hazy. Even as the 'good guys' are hunting for details, for the unknown, readers get a look into some of it through this character.

Even as the character side of the story is so incredibly strong, as their stories continue to progress, the mystery does not, at all, suffer. Ellison's created a mystery thriller that keeps readers guessing; things are not as they seem. Once it all does come together, things are definitely surprising yet they all make sense. When Shadows Fall is a very strong mystery where the pieces fit together perfectly, with fantastic characters. I'm looking forward to both more mystery in Book 4, as well as watching the characters continue to grow and develop.


Rating: 10/10


Lt Taylor Jackson series (where we meet Dr Owens)
1) All the Pretty Girls (review)
2) 14 (review)
3) Judas Kiss (review)
4) The Cold Room (review)
5) The Immortals (review)
6) So Close the Hand of Death (review)
7) Where All the Dead Lie (review)


Dr Samantha Owens, ME series
1) A Deeper Darkness (review)
2) Edge of Black (review)
3) When Shadows Fall 



 

thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for my egalley for review

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 100 ~ Kass Morgan (earc) review (on TV premiere date) [@lbkids @KassMorgan #The100 @cwthe100]

The 100 (The Hundred #1)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
September 3, 2013
323 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon ($3.99 on Kindle)

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

Kass Morgan's The 100, published in September, has been made into a TV show, premiering in the US tonight on the CW.

A sort of Lord of the Flies meets Lost meets After Earth, The 100 has one hundred teen offenders sent from their home of spaceships to Earth. After The Cataclysm, humans fled to space in order to survive. Now, three centuries later, they believe it may be safe enough to return.

The one hundred young people, from Confinement, are  sent to see if the planet is yet viable.

Told from the points of view of several different characters, The 100 lets us know what it is like both on the ship and on the ground. The characters have their own reasons for being in Confinement and sent to Earth, reasons they don't want to think about and/or keep secret. The closer we get to finding out their 'crime' the more we learn about them, the other characters part of their life before the mission, and about their society and its operation.

The mission itself is a surprise to the hundred, as is everything they encounter there. Yet, the majority of the book seemed to focus on interpersonal relationships and romance. There was arguing, fighting after the landing about how to go forward, about any form of societal structure and rules. I wished for more, though.

They are teens - some tougher, harder than others - who are on Earth after spending their entire lives (as did generations before) aboard a spaceship city. Their adaptation felt too blase and too quick.

Reading of the characters' past interactions did lead to discovering why they were there in the first place and gave some insight into who they were, usually, and how they'd changed. It also made the romance(s) work.  There was just too much focus on the romance, for me. If the science fiction side (from the ships to the Cataclysm to how Earth had changed, etc) were stronger or even if there had been more 'discovery' after the landing, it would have been better.

As it is, The 100 is a fun, fast read with some sci-fi elements that presents an interesting society aboard the ships that I hope to see expanded in the second book.

Several twists and big moments in the story, including one big one, were ones that were either heavily foreshadowed (to the point of being almost obvious) or I simply predicted it/

The television version of The 100 premieres tonight so I don't know yet how it will compare to the book. Based on the synopsis and the characters listed on the show's imdb page, the premise is slightly altered (after 97 years, not 300) and several characters either have different names or are not included.  The 'series preview' on the CW show page also has some immediate differences (saying what would be spoilery for the book!).

I really like the premise of both the book and the show - as well as where the novel ended - so I'll be checking out the show (tonight, 9pm ET/8pm CT) and looking forward to Book 2, Day 21

Rating: 7/10








thank you to LBYR and NetGalley for my egalley to review

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cold Spell ~ Jackson Pearce (earc) review [@lbkids @JacksonPearce]

Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings #4)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
November 5, 2013
323 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon


Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.

But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.

If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?

Cold Spell, the fourth in Jackson Pearce's Fairytale Retellings series, is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen story, with which I was not previously acquainted.  Being more aware of the tales being retold in the previous Fairytale Retellings novels gave me at least some idea as to the progression of the story. (Even if I was more familiar with one's Disney version than the real story.)

I really liked not starting the novel knowing how - even generally - the story would progress.

Kai and Ginny have been close for years, since they met as children. Their ending up together romantically, their happily ever after, is a foregone conclusion to the both of them. Kai has the talent and Ginny has Kai.

Until Mora, the beautiful stranger who appeared out of nowhere, offering help when it was most needed, threatens to end it all.

When Ginny refuses to give up on Kai, she discovers a whole new world. One she had heard of, but always assumed was fiction.

Kai and Ginny were interesting in the beginning of the novel. They had plans to run away together, to escape to a better life. Only, they were pretty one sided plans: Kai would have a life and a plan, Ginny would have him and maybe not much else. Ginny didn't seem to have her own goals, her own drive, or an idea of who she really was.

If anything could change that it would be potentially losing Kai and all that she encountered whilst trying to save him.

Her transformation - from a character that almost annoyed me to who she was at the end - was fantastic. It was gradual and fit with the events of the story. Even better, there was some second guessing from Ginny: Did she really want to push herself?

All of the Fairytale Retellings overlap with each other in some way, known characters appearing in the new story. I was not, at first, sure how that would happen in Cold Spell but when I found out, I loved it. It's a great choice of blending the story we already know (from Sisters Red, Sweetly, and Fathomless) with the new tale.

The characters, especially those six or so most central to the plot, are easily my favorite part of the story. I really enjoyed the way that they blended both their past and the series' past together to create the foundation for some amazing characters. Two, in particular, I really hope end up in some other story, Fairytale Retellngs or no, in the future.

Cold Spell was a fun way to discover the Snow Queen fairy tale and Ginny was a great character to follow through it.


Rating: 8/10



thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy to review

Monday, March 17, 2014

Side Effects May Vary - Julie Murphy tour review + giveaway [@TUABFC @HarperTeen @BalzerandBray @andimJULIE]


Side Effects May Vary
Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray
March 18, 2014
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon
Kindle/B&N/iTunes

Synopsis:


What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Review:

Alice thinks she knows approximately how much life she has left (not much) and has figured out what she wants to do with that limited amount of time. Her to-do list isn't what one would expect: it involves payback and revenge, along with some good deeds. She knows just what she wants - and does not want - to do.

It's when her death sentence is suddenly lifted that Alice's life seems truly to be thrown into a tailspin.

She knows how to have cancer, knows how to be dying, but remission? Not dying? That leaves her floundering.

Now she has to do what she never expected: Live through the repercussions of her actions and choices. Good and bad.

I really enjoyed Side Effects May Vary. It's not simply a girl who has cancer, is dying and then isn't. There's also Harvey and Alice's friendship - and possibly more - in all its ups, downs, complications, and heartache, her family's relationship. We also see all of Alice's character and personality.

Alice isn't perfect. In fact, at some points, she's rather unlikable. She isn't an angel - her portrayal or her actions - when she's dying or after her remission. It is this, along with the the thoughts and feelings we see in the 'Alice' narrated chapters, that make her so real. She thinks she has everything figured, knows how it's all going to go . .. when it doesn't, it's possible she becomes an even better character. Once no longer facing an imminent 'expiration date,' Alice has to come to terms with some things. Including just who she is.

And whether or not it's who she wants to be.

Finding out you're not dying, is not usually something that messes up someone's life, either in fiction or reality, but it does Alice. When she learns she's in remission and things start having consequences beyond the next few days or weeks, when Harvey and her family stop treating her like she'll be gone any moment, it's back to real life.

I love Alice and Harvey's relationship. I really love that it was not perfect or fake and that it had its bumps. One best friend having feelings for the other isn't anything new, what makes their tale - and Side Effects May Vary - unique, is all that they're forced to go through. Individually and together.

Side Effects May Vary is an original story with great characters and insights into both death and life.


Rating: 9/10




About the Author:
Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she's not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie's debut novel.

Find Julie Murphy online: website/Goodreads/Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram/YouTube/Tumblr

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thank you to the publisher for my egalley through Edelweiss for this tour post

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Above ~ Isla Morley (earc) review [@GalleryBooks]

Above
Gallery Books
March 4, 2014
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon


I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

Above turned out to be something quite different than I was expecting . . . and I'm still not sure if that was a good or bad thing.

Blythe is a sixteen-year-old girl (in a time that feels more retro and longer ago than the math works out to later when she is taken. Locked away in an abandoned missile silo just outside of her hometown her only interactions are now with her captor, a man who believes he's saving her from the coming apocalypse.

It's this part of the novel, chronicling Blythe's confinement, her attempts at escape, the growing despair as she's not found and rescued that was the best. The silo and the man become her entire world. As events transpire, each at least as bad as the last, you're left wondering if Blythe ever will escape her prison.

When her child is introduced to the story, you hurt for her and the boy. Yet, her son, his life the questions he asks and the answers he gives, give more insight into Blythe's character, her captor's and the entire situation. The true ramifications of what she's been experiencing, the limitations of her environment become even clearer.

It's the second half of the novel, after a change occurs that things got a little weird. It may have been just because I wasn't expecting it, but it felt, almost, like an entirely different story. The characters stayed true, but the plot was lacking. The new course was very unexpected, but could have worked. There was just too much wondering for me to really engage with it as much as I had beginning.

While it kept me turning the pages, reading to find out what would happen next, a lot of that was due to the questions each development left me with. We were given so much detail about the silo, from what it was designed for to, literally, how Blythe was confined to what it now housed. Compared to all of that information and description, there wasn't enough in the latter section.

I can understand the characters not needing all of the information (and for the disparity between amounts of detail they required), as a reader I definitely wanted more.

Part of me really likes that it was something unexpected that happened, that it was not what I thought would happen. I also really liked where the story took Blythe, the point she had reached at the very end. If there had been just a bit more development in the 'world' of the second half of the novel, it would have worked better for me, been really great.


Above is an enjoyable novel, very much unlike others I have read. It is not 'YA' but should be fine for all but (maybe) the youngest YA readers.


Rating: 7/10

Other books you may also enjoy: The Compound by S.A. Boreen and Pure by Julianna Baggott



thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy to review

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Giveaway: The Book Thief Blu-ray + the Novel

I am very excited about the giveaway I have today: THE BOOK THIEF on blu-ray plus a copy of the Markus Zusak novel!



movie synopsis:
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. Under the stairs in her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.
the film's IMDB page or buy on Amazon

book synopsis:

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

find the book on Goodreads or buy from Amazon


I have not yet read The Book Thief (so I can't tell you how faithful of an adaptation the movie is) but now I very much want to. After all of the good things I have always heard about the novel and the beautiful (both emotionally and in the filming) story that The Book Thief told, I am definitely moving Zusak's novel up my list.

Geoffrey Rush is great in the movie - though he usually is -- as Liesel's adoptive/foster father he is great. I love how well he interacted with Liesel from the very beginning but that we also got to see who he was beyond being her 'Papa.'

Sophie Nélisse who plays Liesel is someone whom I haven't before seen in anything, but would now like to. Her transformation in both age and character is so well done.

Small parts of the dialogue are in German along with a lot of the written word viewers see. It's small enough that you understand everything fine, while present enough that it really increases the feeling of the story being set in Nazi Germany.

The Book Thief is a film I very much enjoyed and will absolutely be watching again (likely before and after I finally read The Book Thief).


Once you've seen the movie - or if you've read the book and know the story - there's a Discussion Guide that will give you some things to think about.


This well acted and incredibly beautiful film is one you'll want to see . . . and you can win a copy (and the book) below:

[US/Can only, full details in 'terms and conditions']
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