The 5th Wave has received much praise since its release, and after finishing the book, I can say that praise is well-deserved. This is one of the best young adult novels I’ve read, blending elements of post-apocalyptic, dystopia, and science fiction into one adventurous, provocative, and suspensefully gripping reading experience.
When the story begins, aliens or “Others” have already invaded Earth, and their attacks have come in Waves. When the novel opens, readers learn four Waves have occurred thus far. The 1st Wave was similar to an EMP taking out the power; the 2nd Wave brought an influx of natural disasters; the 3rd Wave was in the form of a deadly airborne virus; and the 4th Wave created dissension and distrust among those who’ve survived so far.
I think it’s sickeningly effective that the aliens use multiple means of assault, each Wave more terrifying than the last, to keep humans confused and off balance. It also leaves readers wondering about the aliens’ ultimate objective. Do they want to annihilate all humans? Enslave them? This is just one of several mysteries Yancey builds into the plot that kept me turning the pages.
Yancey has done an excellent job in creating a cast of well-rounded, dynamic main characters who are presented with daunting moral dilemmas that will test their humanity over and over again. When readers are introduced to the protagonist, Cassie Sullivan, she’s all alone, hiding from the Others and searching for her younger brother, Sammy, who was taken into “protective custody” along with other youth by the military. Her motto is to trust no one and stay alone: “In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. But you can trust that your gun is still your gun.”
Cassie is on my list of favorite YA heroines. Before the aliens arrived, she was an average teenage girl whose life was filled with the typical angst most adolescents experience, trying to fit in with her peers and get the attention of a popular boy she’s had a crush on for years. Now, after everything that has happened, Cassie has become cynical and hardened. I knew I was going to like her in the first paragraph when she describes how naïve everyone was about the aliens when they first attacked:
“Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm. That’s about as far from the truth as their dying planet was from our living one.
The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.”
I like Cassie’s realistic perspective and wry attitude. For the most part, she’s logical and practical. Her cautiousness and distrust of others is easily understandable after all that she has experienced. Cassie’s POV reveals her introspective and intuitive nature. Her internal monologues are effective in helping me, the reader, understand her struggles to hold on to her humanity and her sanity in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
What I most admire about Cassie is her ability to harness her fears and keep moving forward in her quest to find Sammy. It’s in the midst of these extraordinary events that have taken everything she loves from her that Cassie realizes how strong and courageous she can be:
“I might be – no, I probably am-doomed.
But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way.
I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running, not staying, but facing.
Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity.
And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”
Cassie’s POV is not the only one readers are given as the plot unfolds. Ben Parrish aka “Zombie” narrates the events that occur at “Camp Heaven,” an ironic name for this sinister military camp where teens and youngsters have been rounded up and are being trained to fight the enemy. In addition, I also appreciated getting the perspective of one of the alien “Silencers,” an assassin hunting humans and the moral struggles he faces since infiltration onto Earth required him to become “human” first. These multiple perspectives, though limited in their scope of understanding of the big picture, do give readers greater insight into the frightening post-apocalyptic world Yancey has created.
What makes this book such an outstanding read is that Yancey cleverly flips everything these main characters think they know to reveal an even darker more cunning assault: the 5th Wave. Ben effectively sums up the shock of this discovery:
“I feel myself falling into a completely different kind of wonderland, where up is down and true is false and the enemy has two faces, my face and his, the one who save me from drowning, who took my heart and made it a battlefield.”
Just like the onslaught of Waves the aliens have inflicted upon humans, readers slowly become awash in a wave of surprising and horrifying truths.
My only quibble with the book is the romantic angle in Cassie and Evan’s relationship. What I see as merely a crush gets elevated to a more significant status too quickly. However, this is minor in comparison to all the other aspects that make this book so fantastic. It’s a novel that delves into themes of endurance, self-preservation and sacrifice, and the fight to hold on to one’s humanity as it’s slowly being stripped away.
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One way I can become immersed in the beauty of autumn is through books, vicariously experiencing the season through the story’s setting and characters. One of those novels that does exactly this is Rita Mae Brown’s The Litter of the Law. The series is set in a small rural farming community called Crozet, Virginia, which is also a real town. The Litter of the Law takes place in October and centers on the protagonist, Mary Minor Haristeen or “Harry” who finds herself caught up in solving a series of bizarre murders as Halloween approaches. However, Harry isn’t the only one doing some sleuthing. Her loyal, loving four-legged feline companions, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with Tee Tucker the corgi are right there beside her, helping to find clues and providing backup in case it’s needed. This little band of quirky sidekicks provides an additional layer of amusement as readers can’t help but get caught up in their non-human, often entertaining, bickering and teasing.
This is the first book I’ve read in the series, and although it can stand alone, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had started the series from the beginning. The author has created an entire detailed fictional community with lots of characters, townspeople, who have ongoing roles in each installment. Brown does provide a list of the “Cast of Characters” at the beginning of the book to explain each character’s connection to Harry and her family and/or their relevance to the plot. However, trying to remember who‘s who overwhelmed me at times and became a distraction from my enjoying the crux of the book: Harry’s search to discover why people are being murdered in her quiet, little close-knit community.
If I followed the series, I may have been more interested in the chit chat that occurs about various characters in the book even though they aren’t involved in this particular plot. This slowed the pacing of the story and I was bored by some of these non-relevant conversations. However, when I wasn’t distracted by these aspects of the book, I did enjoy trying to connect the clues Harry and the others discover in the scenes leading up to my favorite part of the book: the annual Halloween Hayride. The climax was suspenseful and I wasn’t completely sure who the guilty party was until an elaborate scheme is exposed. Of course, Harry and her entourage prove themselves as worthy heroes by the book’s conclusion.
Another aspect of the plot I really enjoyed is the author’s inclusion of the plight of the Monocan people, Native Americans of Virginia who had been stripped of their rights when the state of Virginia refused to officially recognize this indigenous tribe. The author incorporates their struggles into the plot smoothly and effectively, adding an additional layer of interest to the story.
If you like reading cozy mysteries, then I would recommend checking out this series because, as Brown says, “It takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery.”
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher to provide an honest review.
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One of the reasons I chose to read this book is because of its setting and time period. The story takes place in the late 1800's in the Pacific Northwest, and Hart paints a vivid verbal picture of the harsh conditions the characters in a mill town called "The Harbor" face daily in their efforts to earn a living and make a home for themselves. In the first chapter, readers are warned about and welcomed into this callous fictionalized by one of the main characters, Jacob Ellstrom: “A body is a mob, a convulsion, an orgasm of destitute rabble. List to it breathe. Feed it. Keep it appeased, always. It’s written on the wall: The Harbor Welcomes You."
Hart does a great job of immersing readers into the hustle and bustle of a community where men toil long hours in the sawmills, sailors cause a ruckus, and criminal activity abounds. Part of what makes the world-building so effective is that the story is narrated by multiple characters giving readers a wider lens to peer into this gritty, cold, and brutal world and the lives that crumble under its weight. The pages are filled with betrayal, murder, heart-break, and remorse.
The two different types of POVs used to tell the story are another aspect of the book that I found interesting. Each chapter of the story is narrated from a particular character’s perspective, and Hart uses a first person POV to give Jacob, his wife Nell, and their child, Duncan a voice. By using a first-person POV, Hart invites readers to connect on a deeper emotional level with this family. However, when the story’s viewpoint shifts to other characters in the community, the author uses a third-person limited omniscient POV creating some distance between the reader and the character. Why the switch? Perhaps to emphasize that the members of the Ellstrom family are the central characters that drive the story.
Hart has created a cast of flawed characters from a range of socio-economic classes whose lives intersect in indelible ways that are often spurred by weakness, desperation, and violence. I didn’t care for many of these characters although I was interested in their backstories and what lay in store for them as the plot progressed. It’s hard to connect with self-centered characters whose greed and brutality overshadow any redeeming traits they might have. However, I don’t see this as a weakness in Hart’s character development. I think his intention is to show how hardened and indifferent people can become living in this environment.
Since the novel’s focus is on Jacob Ellstrom’s family, I really tried to like to empathize with their characters and their quest to start a new life together in The Harbor. While I was saddened to see their family fall apart, I didn’t feel much sympathy for Jacob or his wife, Nell. Jacob is a charlatan, posing as medical doctor building his practice and his place in the community from a foundation of lies. He is a weak man willing to abandon his wife and baby to save himself instead of taking a stand and protecting his family. Although Nell is a victim in many ways, she also makes poor choices that cause me to lose any sympathy I might have had for her. Their young son Duncan is the one who pays the price for his parents’ cowardice. He grows to be a rebellious, angry young man, quick to lash out at others, even those few who try to offer support. However, no matter how difficult his childhood was, it doesn’t excuse his misdeeds. All in all, I didn’t respect any of these characters. Loyalty, even within families, is scarce or non-existent.
Hart delves into the conflicts and failures of father-son relationships not only with Jacob and Duncan, but also with Matius and Jonas, and Mr. Boyerton and his son, Oliver. The author explores the depth of each son’s deep-seated anger and the triggers that bring it to light. Duncan’s hatred of his father and the inner turmoil he experiences because of it is the most apparent in the book and is examined with brutal honesty.
Hart also explores themes of forgiveness and redemption that make this a thought-provoking read. The story has a nebulous resolution, leaving the reader to speculate about what happens to some of the central characters and what their future might hold for them. Usually, I like clear, tidy endings, but in this case, I think it’s appropriate for each individual reader to decide what happens to the characters at the end. I’m sure readers will have mixed and varied opinions about what type of resolution these characters deserve.
Overall, reading the book was a slow but engaging experience for me. At times, I wondered about the inclusion of some scenes and their relevance to the overall plot. In some places, the author uses flashbacks to help the reader understand a character’s motivations, but the transitions to the past events aren’t always smooth. Some of the more emotionally explosive and dangerous scenes lacked the suspense and intensity I anticipated and were somewhat anticlimactic for me. Despite these shortcomings, I would recommend the book to those who enjoy historical fiction and aren’t put off by the story’s dark atmosphere.
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
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The Angel of Losses is a creative mix of fantasy, Jewish folklore, and history blended together and secretly embedded into the ancestry of one modern-day family. The plot explores the significance of family bonds, love, sacrifice, and the need for redemption. Feldman packs a lot of subject matter into this book, so it is not a light, easy read.
In a nutshell, it’s a multi-layered novel that begins in the present with Marjorie’s quest to uncover the truth about her grandfather Eli’s past and the mystery behind their family’s legacy. Nestled within this overarching plot are four inter-related folktales about a fictitious White Rebbe (a Jewish Rabbi/guru) and the Angel of Losses who shadows him through life. The folktales are based on the various myths about the Wandering Jew found throughout history. Other aspects of Jewish folklore are woven into the novel as well, such as mysticism and the lost tribes of Israel. Overall, Feldman does a good job in alternating between Marjorie’s story and the folktales about the White Rebbe. There were some places where I wasn’t clear about the shift in time from present to past events, and this occurred primarily when Marjorie reminisces about the close relationship she once had with Holly and their grandfather.
I really had to concentrate when I read this book, and sometimes I even had to back track and re-read scenes to try to understand the relevance of Eli’s secret folktales and their impact on Marjorie and Holly’s family. In the latter part of the book, the connections become clearer to me, but I’m still left with some questions and fuzziness about the long-term effects of Marjorie’s and Nathan’s decisions in their efforts to save the baby. The author gives just enough background about the myths and legends to motivate me to continue reading, but I always felt I was just on the edge of understanding, always wondering if I missed a clue or overlooked an important detail.
Once I finished the book, I did do some research into various interpretations of the Wandering Jew and was surprised by how many stories, poems, and ballads have been written about this legendary figure. I think I could read this book multiple times and continue to find new aspects to consider. The novel would make for a great discussion because of its ambiguity in some areas, but it may not be a book that would appeal to everyone.
What I enjoyed most about the book are the White Rebbie folktales in and of themselves. They are lively, engrossing, and, at times, heartbreaking. Feldman’s gift for storytelling is at its strongest in these supernatural tales about a young Solomon trying to outrun his destiny to become a White Rebbe and the toll it takes on his mind body, and family. Through these tales, Feldman raises an important question: Can we ever fully escape our past?
A second aspect that made the book so enjoyable is the struggle Marjorie and Holly have to try and regain the emotional distance that now separates them. It’s hard to accept that people grow and change no matter how hard we may want them to stay just as they are, and I can empathize with the frustration Marjorie feels whenever she tries to have a conversation with Holly. Feldman does a very good job in depicting their struggles to accept and forgive each other.
If you like adult fantasy and want a story full of magic and mystery, consider reading this imaginative retelling of the Wandering Jew.
Source: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
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I was drawn to this book because it centered on the DEA and local law enforcement banding together to take down a lawless motorcycle club and, in the midst of this joint effort, an unlikely friendship between undercover DEA agent Katrina Killian and Deputy Cade Evigan blossoms into a romance. Overall, I enjoyed the romantic aspect of the book but was disappointed in some respects by the level of action and suspense.
One of the most surprising parts of the book for me is the reversal in roles between the hero and heroine. In creating Cade’s character, Tenorio breaks from the traditional heroic stereotype of a take-charge dominant alpha male who becomes uber-protective over the heroine he is charged to protect. Cade suffers from PTSD and is only in town because he couldn’t say no to former marine teammate Rick’s request to help maintain law and order in a community under the stronghold of the Wheels of Pain MC. Cade is extremely quiet, private, distant, and brooding, all characteristics I would expect from a man who feels emotionally broken. What’s unusual is that he’s not the hero who comes charging in to save the day and who actively pursues the heroine.
Instead, Katrina is the one aggressively pursuing Cade. She isn’t shy nor does she worry about getting too close to the handsome Cade, who quietly exudes a power and control that draws her to him. In fact, she’s downright brazen about her interest in him. Her straightforward, sometimes jaw-dropping assertions startle Cade and initially caught me off guard as well. Although some readers may not like such a bold heroine, and I’m not sure I do either, I do believe her behavior is exactly what is needed to break down the emotional barriers Cade has erected to protect himself. No matter how hard Cade tries to push her away, Katrina refuses to be deterred. Slowly, she inches her way into Cade’s life and their love story progresses over a period of months. This span in time was integral in helping me believe their romance is genuine. Cade has been emotionally shut down for so long that it would be hard for me to accept a romance developing too quickly.
By narrating the story from both the Cade’s and Katrina’s POVs, the author makes the characters’ inner struggles just as prominent as the main external conflicts involving the MC club. Both characters have arcs that reflect their growth over the course of the story, but Cade’s arc is much more dramatic. Cade doesn’t know that Katrina is working undercover to bring down the MC run by a brutal, violent and unscrupulous leader, and he is conflicted about getting involved with someone who seemingly doesn’t mind living and working along with this gang of criminals. Similarly, although Katrina is genuinely interested in getting to know Cade, she feels guilty that she’s deceiving him and that, when he learns the truth, he may resent her and put both their lives in jeopardy. Yet, no matter how strong her feelings for Cade become, I admire her willingness to sacrifice her personal happiness to keep her cover and put a stop to the MC’s illegal activities. Katrina grew up in this MC, which is why she is so easily accepted by the club. Furthermore, she’s seen firsthand all the people who have been hurt and terrorized by this club that has no loyalty or sense of brotherhood. They are merely a band of felons and drug traffickers united by their greed.
One aspect of the book that I found especially striking is how effective Tenorio is in describing and picking apart Cade’s feelings about his own state of mind and his emerging feelings for the feisty Katrina. Although she awakens emotions in him that have long been dormant, Cade doesn’t think he has anything to offer. I feel the depth of Cade’s despair when he wishes “he had something more to offer her than the body of a ghost who didn’t know how to die.”
Another one of Cade’s reflections that I found to be especially poignant and powerful:
“From the start, she’d made him wish he could be different. That he was still the guy who wanted to change the world and save lives. The one who laughed easily and trusted the world to be black and white. That guy had died with so many others, thousands of miles from here, under a killing sun that never seemed to set, in sands that never satisfied its thirst for blood.”
Tenorio gives this couple a HEA that is realistic and consistent with their backstories and the events that occur in the book, and you can expect some steamy love scenes along the way.
When I read a romantic suspense, I like to see equal weight given to the romance and the suspenseful. In Convicted, the romance overshadows the major external battle between the law and the MC. The suspense was strongest at the beginning and in the scenes closest to the climax. While I was aware throughout the book that the major characters were in perilous situations, especially Katrina, I just didn’t experience the nail-biting adventures I like to read. One minor aspect that disrupted my read was the abrupt announcements that signaled progression in the story’s timeline. Transitions should move the story forward seamlessly, and, if done skillfully, when reading along, I will hardly notice the shifts. This wasn’t the case with this novel.
To sum up, I’m glad I read the book and especially enjoyed the romance between two people who appear to be on different sides of the law finding their way to each other.
Source: I received an ARC ebook from the publisher to provide an honest review.
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Personal Assistance appealed to me because of its volatile Middle East setting: an Arab nation on the brink of civil war and the book description’s promise of action, danger and romance. The author does not disappoint in regards to the book’s vivid descriptions of this place, its customs, and the barrage of dangers Hannah and Tom face in their endeavors to escape Prince Hakeem’s clutches. Because Hannah has inadvertently discovered secret intelligence that may prove vital in swaying the outcome of this war, she and Tom must work together to relay this Intel and get back to the safety of Britain. Time is of the essence and, overall, the author keeps the story moving at an effective pace so my interest never waned.
The relationship between Tom and Hannah is tenuous at best when they meet. Both are desperate and united by their mutual need for each other’s help. Tom is a member of SAS, Britain’s elite Special Forces, and he has the training and expertise to keep Hannah safe and get her out of the country. Moreover, Tom has a vested interest in helping Hannah because she’s his ticket back into his commander’s good graces and his means of proving his competence in the field. After Tom’s last mission went awry, he was pulled from active duty, but if he can deliver the information Hannah has back to his CO, his actions may go a long way in restoring his reputation. In the beginning, Tom and Hannah are wary of each other’s motives, and the elements of trust and fear of betrayal are primary themes that consistently arise as the story progresses.
However, there are some aspects of the book that proved problematic for me. First of all the intensity of this couple’s romance is too much, too soon, and their HEA is too fast for me to truly believe. Are they infatuated with each other? Definitely. But true love? No.
Second, the resolution of the climax seems rushed. Throughout the book, the author is descriptive and detailed until the end, when her narration shifts into a “telling” rather than “showing” mode.
Furthermore, although I expected the villains in the book to be flat two-dimensional characters, I had hoped the hero and heroine would be more dynamic and well-rounded than they are actually depicted. Readers get enough of both Tom’s and Hannah’s backstories to help understand how both ended up in the Middle East, but, for me, their circumstances seemed somewhat contrived. I just didn’t feel a strong connection to either of them, as if they were real people I might meet. I do, however, appreciate the dominant traits that define Hannah as spirited and determined while the quiet, reserved Tom is a man of courage and honor.
Source: I received an ARC ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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A Good Teaser to Whet Your Appetite for Night Sky
When I started Dangerous Destiny, I thought I would be reading a novella; instead, I consider it to be a compendium of writings to familiarize readers with this series. The prequel begins with a short story that introduces readers to high school junior, Skylar Reid and describes how her friendship with Calvin is forged after they face down a gun-toting fellow student who appears to be delusional, thinking the only way to save Skylar is to kill her. I connected right away with Skylar, especially her struggle to adjust to a new school and the intense scrutiny of her peers:
“I felt like a rat tossed into a tropical snake tank-completely out of my element, confused, and trapped. But unlike most rats, I was well aware that I was in danger of being devoured, my bones spit out and left to bleach in the relentless southern sun, by any one of this school’s well-established cliques.”
The story is narrated in first person from Skyler’s POV, and, so far, I like her attitude, her dry sense of humor, and her insightfulness as she maneuvers her way through all the teenage drama and angst headed her way. I initially wondered whether Skylar would be a timid, passive teen whose character slowly becomes stronger as she learns to use her special powers; however, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Skylar is no pushover, and she seems to be able to handle whatever life throws at her. The authors have done a great job in creating characters that think, speak, and behave like the teenagers they are. For example, Skylar worries that she’s in the “loser” category because she has to ride the bus, and she’s annoyed by her mom’s over-protectiveness.
Following the resolution of this short story, readers can preview Night Sky by reading the first five chapters of the book. Just like in the prequel, the authors pulled me quickly into a scene where Skylar and her friend Calvin get caught up in a bizarre crisis that continues to evolve and escalate as the story unfolds. I can already tell the book is going to be full of adventure, mystery, and suspense. From what I’ve read, I think this is a book teens and adult lovers of YA literature can really enjoy.
The final section of the prequel is a Q&A with both Suzanne and Melanie about the series. I really enjoyed getting greater insight into how mother and daughter were able to work together to create the plot and the engaging characters I’ve met so far.
After reading the prequel, I’m definitely interested in reading Night Sky. The series is described as “being set in a darkly futuristic paranormal world” (Q&A with authors), but I really didn’t see many “dark” and “futuristic” elements. Perhaps these aspects will become more prominent as the book progresses.
From what I read so far, I am impressed with the cohesiveness of the story, especially since it was born from the collaborative labors of more than one author. It can be a challenge to co-author a book because it involves both writers being able to mesh their differences in writing style into one consistent written product. However, the mother-daughter Brockmann team is successful in this endeavor.
I’m glad I read the prequel, and I did so because it was available for free; otherwise, I wouldn’t have purchased it. Although the content was interesting to read, and it amped up my motivation to read Night Sky, I don’t see it as a prerequisite for jumping into the book.
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If you read the third book in this series, If Only You Knew, like me, you probably have been looking forward to Nate and Alex’s story because they don’t seem to get off on the right footing when they meet in the latter part of the book, and the sparks between them have already started to fly! Now, in this fourth installment that extends the plot from book three, Whatever It Takes features the continuation of Nate and Alex’s relationship. And I’ll go ahead and say right now Brown does not disappoint. Whatever it Takes has all the excitement, thrills and an amorous romance that I’ve come to expect in this series.
The book picks up the plot several months later in the story’s timeline. A five-year-old boy, Marco, was kidnapped in the last book and used as leverage by a rogue FBI agent to manipulate the boy’s mother into cooperating with him in his illicit schemes. Now, after months of searching, Joe’s team has a strong lead on the human trafficker who has him, and time is of the essence in getting the boy out of the hands of Diego Vasquez. As the team prepares a plan to get Marco back to his mother, Alex is sent to locate undercover detective, Nate Sanders to assist in the rescue mission.
When Alex does find Nate, their encounter is anything but typical, and it is one of the best scenes in the book because of its intense action and suspense. In the follow-up scene it’s evident their overt antagonism toward each other is really just a façade to mask the sexual tension brimming between them. Nate has been warned about Alex’s instability, “…she was lethal, unpredictable, and apt to respond with violent intent at the first sign of perceived danger.” Yet, even knowing this about her and finally seeing her in action, Nate’s attraction only increases. He is drawn to the fiery, tough-as-nails, smart-mouthed beauty, and although Alex is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, ironically Nate has a need to protect her. Even though he doesn’t know her very well, he can immediately sense the scared, vulnerable woman hidden behind the hardened mercenary who is exceptional and impressive in her knife wielding skills.
Alex has had a traumatic past and her emotional growth has been stunted by the abuse she has suffered. She’s aloof and distrustful of others, except for Joe and her teammates. Alex is still haunted by her captivity and Nate has to work hard for every step he takes to get close to her. The title of the book, Whatever It Takes is fitting for the progression of their relationship. Their constant verbal sparring which eventually leads to a tender but sensual romance is well-worth the read.
The title also connects to Alex and her unwavering attempt to save Marco from the ugly future that awaits him if the team fails to rescue him. Because of what happened to her, she is personally invested in seeing this boy freed, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get him back, even knowing her role in the rescue places her in imminent danger and has the potential to take her right back to the torment she vowed never to suffer again. Brown does a really good job in getting into the mindset of someone who has suffered severe emotional damage, and I’m impressed with how well she helps us understand what it’s like to carry this baggage around with her every single day.
Although the rescue mission is well-planned, the events that follow are unpredictable and suspenseful, and just when you thing the worst is over, the stakes for this couple’s survival become even higher.
I’ll admit at times, I became frustrated with Alex’s behavior. Nate tries to prove over and over to her that he cares about her and he’s in for the duration, even though Alex pushes him away every time they begin to make progress. Nate’s character is wonderful and even though Alex tells him to stay away because she’s crazy and fears that she’ll hurt him, Nate believes and trusts her. His feelings are always transparent:
“If you’re going to spend more time around me, and I hope you will, you should be prepared because I look for the good in people and I’m likely to say something nice at any moment. I’m a complete sap,and I get all emotional at the drop of a hat. I want you to know how I feel.”
Nate is irresistible, and his openness is refreshing. I just wish it didn’t take so long for Alex to realize he is willing to accept her just as she is. When she tells him she wishes she were normal, I love his reply that “normal is overrated.”
Now I’m ready for Jimmy’s story. He’s one of Alex’s teammates and one of the few she connects with because both suffer from PTSD. In the next mission, Jimmy will be taking the lead and most likely working solo since as a former SEAL, he’s a deadly weapon, without or without a gun. The plot continues as Jimmy sets out to find Marco’s mother, who has mysteriously disappeared.
Although Whatever it Takes can be read as a stand-alone since Brown provides enough detail to explain how Marco and his mother came to be separated, I recommend reading the third installment first. While others may be fine with reading a summary of past events connected to the ongoing plot, I prefer to experience the entirety of a story rather than relying on a re-cap of the what happened before. All in all, Whatever It Takes is a very good romantic suspense.
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher to provide an honest review. Note: The quotes used in this review were taken from a pre-released version of the book and may have changed or been omitted in the final released edition.
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A Conversational Review of Not Quite Dead
When I write a review of a book, I try to think about what readers would really want to know, and then I incorporate my reactions into a more formal, organized essay-like response. However, today, I’ve decided to stray from this format, and do a Q&A -style review where I’ve compiled a list of questions I would most likely ask someone who has read the book, so I could determine whether or not I would choose to read it. Since in this case, I have read Not Quite Dead, I will be the one providing the answers, and hopefully, by the end of the conversation, you will have greater insight into what to expect from today’s book selection.
So, Barbara Ann, what led you to decide to read Not Quite Dead?
When I discovered the plot of the book involved the ghost of the infamous female pirate, Anne Bonny, I knew I wanted to read the book. I’m a fan of pirate history and enjoy reading about the men and the few women, such as Anne Bonny, who lived their lives as buccaneers upon the high seas. Many of these individuals were drawn into the lifestyle by promises of adventure and fortune, and for them, the risk involved still outweighed the drudgery of life on land and the limited freedoms many of them would have otherwise had if they had remained within the confines of society and the law.
Anne Bonny is one of, if not the, most notorious female pirate in history. However, after she and her crew were finally caught and arrested, only she and Mary Read, another woman on their ship were able to avoid execution, and only because both women were pregnant. There’s lots of speculation about what became of Anne afterward, but there’s no documented proof.
I’ve always been fascinated by Anne Bonny because she refused to be bound by the societal constraints placed upon women during her lifetime, and she chose a form of freedom that allowed her to true to herself, even though she caused quite a scandal and was a major embarrassment to her plantation-owner father in the 1700s. I even have my own Anne Bonny figurine that I picked up several years ago during one of the numerous pirate festivals I attended.
Does the book focus more on Anne Bonny’s story or on Graciela Harper who has returned to the lowcountry, where she encounters Bonny’s ghost who has supposedly been haunting the area for a long time?
What makes this book such an interesting read is that the author has created two parallel story lines:
-Graciela has experienced some major setbacks in her life and has returned to the only place she has ever considered home to care for her ailing grandfather. Although her grandfather welcomes her with open arms, Graciela still struggles to reconnect with her estranged family and friends.
-Whether the real Anne Bonny ever returned to S.C. remains to be seen, but in this book, her ghost still lingers in the area and refuses to let go of this world until Graciela helps her find the peace she seeks. In creating Anne Bonny’s ghost, the author provides her own version of what may have happened to Anne Bonny centuries ago.
The story begins by describing Graciela’s return home and her struggles with depression and alcohol. When Anne’s ghost begins relentlessly haunting Graciela, the focus shifts to Graciela’s desire to know why Anne has chosen her for help and as the plot progresses, readers discover how and why both stories are entwined.
What’s the ghost of Anne Bonny like? Is she friendly or scary?
Anne’s ghost sure isn’t the beauty I envisioned, even with her red hair and green eyes. Graciela always knows when Anne is about to make an appearance because of the awful briny smell that precedes her. For some reason, only Graciela can see her, and Anne is a scary ghost you don’t want to cross. If you’ve read the rumors about Anne, she was known to have a temper and didn’t hesitate to inflict violence, and her ghost also has those same attributes. Over time, though Graciela and Anne become accustomed to each other and form a tenuous partnership to find answers about Anne’s legacy.
Why does Anne’s ghost think Graciela can help her when Graciela’s own life is spiraling out of control when she comes home? What exactly is the connection between them?
Anne has a very good reason for choosing Graciela to help her, but I can’t tell you about their connection because it would spoil the book for you. However, I can guarantee that by the end of the book, you will know why Anne’s spirit is in a state of unrest and why she specifically needs Graciela’s help.
Let me also add that Graciela is similar to Anne in more ways than you might expect. Yes, Graciela is a mess when she comes back to S.C. because, like Anne, she’s struggling to find her own identity. Although it seems likely that when a depressed woman who drinks heavily begins seeing a ghost, she would just go right over the edge, this isn’t the case for Graciela. Ironically, Anne’s ghost gives Graciela a reason to get her act together, to have a purpose, and to grow stronger. Both Graciela and Anne have similar struggles in their efforts to stand up for themselves and not be boxed into roles someone else has defined for them. Just like Anne once did, Graciela gains more self-confidence and begins to transform into the independent woman she has always longed to become.
What’s the romance like between Graciela and Beauregard?
Well, Graciela and Beauregard don’t exactly get off to the best start when they first meet. Although the chemistry between them is there, their relationship is more of a friendship at this point with just a touch of romance. Gabriella just isn’t ready to be in a romantic relationship at this point in her life. Even knowing about her past and the gossip her neighbor loves to spread about her, Beau still wants to get close to Gabriella. He also scores some huge bonus points with Graciela (and me as well) because he really does believe her when she finally gets the nerve to tell him she sees Anne Bonny’s ghost.
Would you recommend this book to others?
Yes, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy a spooky ghost story that blends a bit of history, local legend, and the paranormal into an engaging and suspenseful read. The resolution of the story occurs in the epilogue, which wraps up the plot of this story very well, but does leave some of the story threads that are introduced still hanging. I expect the author will continue to develop these unresolved aspects in the next installment. The author also foreshadows the plot of the next book in the series, and it seems Graciela may just wind up having a career as ghost whisperer.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Link to Blog Post
If you like fictional novels about Pirates and their lives on the high seas, but aren’t looking for a romance, I can recommend The Devil’s Fire: A Pirate Adventure Novel, by Matt Tomerlin, the first book in his Devil Fires Trilogy:
Tomerlin takes readers into the raw and gritty world of piracy, and one woman’s struggle after she and her ship captain husband are kidnapped after their merchant ship is overtaken by a treacherous band of pirates whose brutality and violence are not for those who are easily unnerved by violence. The protagonist, Katherine, is forced to reluctantly accept that she is included in the “treasure” plundered from her husband’s ship, and through her experiences as a captive, she is transformed into a hardened woman obsessed with revenge, who reaches the brink of her humanity. It’s a gripping story narrated from multiple characters’ perspectives, and these characters are richly developed and deeply flawed. There are no admirable heroes to be found, none who will rescue and save Katherine. She must unflinchingly stand on her own if she is to have any hope of outmaneuvering those who have taken her freedom.
Link to Blog Post:
Target for Terror is has all of the elements that make for a good book: mystery, action, suspense, and romance all bundled together for one sexy, engaging read. Iding is definitely off to a good start with her new series centered on the work of Sloan and Jordan who have partnered together to create Security Specialists, Inc. The history behind the startup of the company and the backstories of these two heroes are smoothly incorporated throughout the book without readers having too much exposition dumped on them all at once in the beginning of the story.
Watching the burgeoning relationship between Sloan and Natalia grow over the course of the book is what I enjoyed the most during my read. Natalia is distrustful of Sloan, as she should be; her life is in danger, and she’s all alone, unsure of who can be trusted. Sloan tries to keep her safe, but for the first half of the book, Natalia fights him every step of the way. Early on, she’s antagonistic, sarcastic, and feisty…which surprisingly is a turn-on for Sloan, and he’s a sucker for her Russian accent when she insults him:
“Her husky tone sent fissions of heat flickering through his veins. There was something genetically wrong with him if he could be attracted to a woman who’d called him a pig.”
I found a lot of the conversational sparring between them to be quite amusing, and the touch of wry humor Iding sprinkles throughout the book gives readers a much needed respite from the otherwise serious and violent plot.
Target for Terror is not a light, easy read…at least it wasn’t for me. The plot is complex and involves many characters who may or may not be involved in a terrorist plot against the U.S, and in this book, the Cold War is still very much in effect as the tension between Russia and the U.S. escalates, especially after the Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister is shot while delivering a speech in Washington, D.C. I really had to pay attention to understand all the major players involved and their possible motivations for all the murders that take place. What’s so interesting is that Natalia, a regular everyday person and nurse, seems to be somehow connected to all of villains and their plans for power. When the truth finally is revealed, I have to say, it was a shock! As Sloan and Natalia make their way through one crisis after another, they find lots of little surprises as they begin to figure out how everyone is connected. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in this book.
The chemistry between Sloan and Natalia feels genuine, and the intimate scenes between them are hot but not so steamy, they make you blush. However, I do question the timing of these scenes. The couple gives into their passion, hoping the “mind-numbing pleasure” will help them escape momentary from the worry, grief, and desperation they are feeling at the time. While some may completely understand their actions, if I were in their situation, sexual intimacy would not be at the top of my list…figuring out what to do next to survive would. Like most readers of romance, I look forward to the “happily ever after” that I hope I’ll find in the resolution, and that HEA can come in many forms. Sloan and Natalia’s HEA was a bit too soon and too sappy for me. However, others may their resolution to be spot on after everything this couple has been through together.
Following the conclusion to the book, Iding gives readers a preview of what’s next in the sequel which features Jordan, and it’s clear this book will also be full of surprises that will catch both the characters and readers off guard. I’m already sucked in…so I’ll be keeping my eye out for the book’s release.
Source: I received a copy of the book from the author to provide an honest review.
Link to Review + Author Interview & Giveaway:
“Everything is not always as it appears.” –Ernesto Vega, Personal Target
I found this quote spoken by one of the main antagonists to be quite accurate in encapsulating the plot of Personal Target. Thomas takes the hero, Nick Donovan and Jennifer Grayson, the woman he’s determined to protect down a thrilling, dangerous path that is filled with suspenseful action and a bit of mystery as they face down Mexican cartels, human traffickers, and a barrage of violence launched their way at every twist and turn. Needless to say, these characters don’t get much of a reprieve throughout the entirety of the book. When they aren’t dealing with these external conflicts, each is battling an inner struggle with the unresolved feelings still lingering for the other after ten years apart. Just when Nick and Jennifer think they are beginning to understand the broad scope of what’s going on, secrets are revealed that have them reconsidering everything they thought was true.
Nick is one of the AEGIS agents who was part of the action in the first book, Hard Target, and at that time, I was intrigued by his character and the mystery of his backstory, so I was excited when I learned he would be featured in this second installment of the series. At the end of the first book, Nick was in a precarious situation and readers were left wondering what would happen to him. Personal Target picks up right after the resolution of book one, and takes readers into Nick’s private life and his worries and concerns over his family’s safety, since Tomas Rivera and Ernesto Vega, leaders of two major Mexican cartels are out for revenge after AEGIS invaded their corrupt world to rescue a woman and her son. In the aftermath of the violence and destruction from this last mission, the cartels have formed a tenuous alliance to seek justice, and Nick has become a target for their vengeance. Although I think you could follow the story on its own, I highly recommend starting at the beginning of the series. Both books are well-written, sexy page turners with just the right blend of romance, mystery, and action.
Nick is a former SEAL and CIA agent who joined AEGIS, a private security firm after he noticed that his working environment had contributed to the emotional numbness that now defines him, and he fears he may never be able to be come back from it and feel normal again. Thomas has created a great hero in Nick’s character, one who’s honorable, cool under fire, a quick thinker under pressure, and very persuasive in the most dubious of circumstances. He’s also fiercely protective of the ones he loves, and once he discovers his family has been personally targeted, he’s determined to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe. One of his greatest fears is that his loved ones will suffer because of the work he does, and that fear is realized when his former love is kidnapped and sent to a Mexican brothel because of a case of mistaken identity. No matter his conflicting feelings for the woman who disappeared from his life and married another man years ago, his loyalty to her is unwavering. Nick will do whatever it takes to get her back, with or without AEGIS’s assistance.
Jennifer just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a quick grab and snatch places her in right smack in the prostitution capital of Mexico. Held captive and forced to work in the brothel where she’s held, she realizes Nick, the man who walked away from her long ago, may be the only one who can save her now. Nick’s spur of the moment rescue attempt brings her right back into his arms, and she’s not so sure she’s comfortable with that anymore. Her reluctance to let him back into her life and desire to escape his offer of protection led me to believe she’s has secrets she doesn’t want Nick to know about. Besides the great action scenes, the mystery of what caused the abrupt end to Nick and Jennifer’s romance captured my interest and wouldn’t let go until I learned the truth.
In the interim, their reunion arouses all those dormant feelings they had thought long forgotten. When Nick and Jennifer are together, it’s obvious their attraction for each other hasn’t faded the least bit, and this scares both of them. While it would be so easy for them to just go their separate ways, rather than deal with the emotional turmoil of being around each other, Nick is honor bound to keep Jennifer safe when it becomes obvious someone is targeting her as well for some reason that has yet to be disclosed. Unfortunately, Jennifer doesn’t make it easy for Nick to protect her. However, when she’s not trying to run away from him, their passion slowly rekindles, and the intimate scenes between them are sensual but not overly graphic in description. I also like the fact that Thomas carefully places the few love scenes between this couple in places where they have a brief respite from the looming danger, and it is actually believable that they can lower their guard for just a little while to reconnect physically.
As I read the story, I had mixed feelings about Jennifer. She’s stubborn and naively believes that after her kidnapping she can just pick up and resume her life as if nothing has happened. She lets her emotions rule over logic. Her connection to Nick and now the cartels have placed her life in danger, and even though she keeps getting attacked, she refuses to believe anyone would have any interest in her. She naively thinks if she can just keep her distance from Nick, then she’ll be left alone. At times, her actions frustrated me and I just wanted to yell at her to get her head out of the sand and accept her new reality. Furthermore, when Jennifer does finally get the nerve to tell Nick the truth about the secrets she’s been keeping from him, I had a hard time empathizing with her situation, and I could completely understand why Nick feels so betrayed and his reluctance to forgive her. On the other hand, even though Nick is devastated by Jennifer’s revelations, ironically, her truth begins to poke a hole in the numbness that surrounds Nick’s heart. I think Jennifer’s character and her present and past actions would make for a great book discussion. Needless to say, she’s not one of my favorite heroines, but that’s okay because she’s a complex flawed character who can’t easily have a label affixed to her.
Through Nick and Jennifer’s journey, Thomas takes us from Texas to Mexico, and then to a remote region of Africa, and she uses great description to help give readers a sense of each setting. She also brings awareness to the ongoing and increasing worldwide problem of human trafficking. She explores themes of trust and betrayal and the power of love to overcome the bleakest of situations.
Although Thomas provides a satisfying resolution to Nick and Jennifer’s story, the larger plot has gotten much more complicated and left me wondering about the stability of AEGIS and exactly who else may also be involved in attempting to sabotage the firm. Is there a traitor in the mix? Although the larger plot is still evolving and I’m still not sure of what the end game is, Thomas has given me plenty of incentive to want to continue the series.
Link to Review & Giveaway
Romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres, and Kay Thomas’ Hard Target has all of the elements of this genre that appeal to me and make the Elite Ops series one I plan to follow.
Thomas has created a compelling plot with mystery, suspense, and romance that increasingly builds in complexity and tension and is chockfull of action, which made this a fast and engaging reading experience. I had a difficult time finding a stopping place because I was so eager to see what twists and turns were waiting for Leland and Anna in their endeavors to rescue Anna’s son, Zach.
DEA agent LeLand Hollis is a swoon-worthy hero, a born protector who is unable to walk away from a “damsel in distress” when he inadvertently gets in the middle of Anna’s crisis with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Max Mercado. Leland has just resigned from the DEA and is still reeling from a disastrous failed bust that has left him physically injured, emotionally scarred, and uncertain about his future. He now questions his ability to intervene and keep others safe when necessary. Although Leland struggles with how involved he should become in Anna’s predicament, his honor and sense of responsibility won’t allow him to just walk away from Anna until her son is found. Furthermore, Leland has suspicions that some of his personal enemies may somehow be involved in the kidnapping of Anna’s son.
Anna Mercado is a wonderful, devoted mother to her gravely ill son, Zach and is willing to do whatever is necessary to find him and get him the medical attention he needs. I was even surprised by the lengths she’s willing to go to so her son can live longer. Her unconditional love is just one reason Leland becomes attracted to her since he didn’t have that same kind of love growing up.
Although Anna is aware that her husband wants her dead, both she and Leland aren’t certain that Max is behind Zach’s kidnapping after Anna gets a ransom note. Leland turns to Gavin, his former DEA partner who has just started his own personal security business for help. One of the best aspects of the book is following Leland and Anna as they journey deep into Mexican cartel country to find Zach and discover who is behind his abduction. Although Thomas subtly foreshadows the abductor’s motivations, the truth is still almost too shocking to fathom.
In the midst of all this danger, Leland and Anna turn to each other for physical and emotional comfort. Although neither one plans for any serious attachments, their attraction and need for each other continue to grow as the story progresses. There are a few steamy love scenes that show two desperate people clinging to each other for hope when they feel their world is crumbling all around them.
Thomas introduces readers to other characters who are part of Gavin’s security company and who will play key roles as the series develops. In addition, she sets up the next storyline before the resolution ofHard Target that has piqued my curiosity, and I’m anxiously waiting for Nick’s story, which is next – and based on the excerpt I read, it looks good!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Link to Review & Author Interview
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