Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: Never Never - Part 1 by Colleen Hoover

Never Never (Never Never, #1)

Goodreads Overviw:

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

Review:

We are first introduced to Charlie, who is a high school senior.  During the middle of class she loses all of memories.  She has no idea who she is or where she is, but she can remember things like how to drive a car, songs, what things are, etc.  She is fumbling her way through the rest of the school day when she discovers another student experiencing the same thing.  Silas Nash was apparently her childhood best friend and has been her boyfriend for the past four years, but neither of them can even remember each other.  

They spend the next two days trying to reconstruct their past in an attempt to regain their memories.  Apparently they were not the most likable individuals in their previous lives, but I loved the Silas in this story.  He was very friendly, kind, funny, and a bit overly confident.  Charlie on the other hand, was very stand offish.  The more she started to reconnect with Silas, the further she pushed him away. 

I knew this was a series when I started reading this book, but I didn't quite realize each book is only part of a single story.  Book one is about 150 pages and provides the background and a jaw dropping twist just before it completely cuts off.  Fortunately, all three parts of the story have already been released.  I can't imagine what readers did back in 2015 and early 2016 when they had to wait 6 months between the release of each book.   I'm currently in the middle of a couple of other books, but I definitely plan on continuing this series very soon.  

If you like young adult and a bit of a mystery, this is a highly entertaining read.  I can't wait to find out how this situation arose and whether or not Silas and Charlie can find a cure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell

The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5)

Goodreads Overview:

The Body Farm - a research institute that tests the decomposition of corpses. Black Mountain, North Carolina: a sleepy little town where the local police deal with one homicide a year, if they're unlucky, and where people are still getting used to the idea of locking their doors at night. But violent death is no respecter of venue, and the discovery of the corpse of an 11-year-old girl sends shock waves through the community. Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief medical Examiner on a similar case in Virginia, is called in to apply her forensic skills to this latest atrocity, but the apparent simplicity of the case proves something of a poisoned chalice - until Scarpetta finds enlightenment through the curious pathologists' playground known as the Body Farm.

Review:

The Body Farm is the fifth book in the Kay Scarpetta murder mystery series.  The murder has a striking resemblance to a case solved in one of the prior books, so Kay and her colleagues from the FBI are called in to investigate.  When an additional body is found in a rather peculiar situation, they aren't so sure their original assumptions are correct.  The more evidence that turns up the more confusing the case becomes.  

In addition, Kay's niece, Lucy, is caught up in an FBI investigation that could ruin her chances of joining the FBI full time upon graduation.  She is exceptionally gifted with computers and is working on a top secret software that could greatly improve information sharing among law enforcement around the world, but someone else must want access to the information for sinister reasons.

This is an older series that I started reading at least 20 years ago.  I would definitely recommend reading the books in order since the personal relationships between the characters develop throughout the series and some of the knowledge gained from the cases are referenced in later books.  There are currently 25 books in the series, but you do not need to read all of them back to back in order to remember what is going on.  I read one every now and then when I am looking for a good mystery and haven't had any trouble remembering the basics needed to fully appreciate each story.  Each case is independent, so the majority of the information acts as a stand alone novel.  

I thought I had this mystery all figured out about 75% of the way through, but as always there was a twist I didn't see coming until closer to 85 %.  By that point, I had it figured out and just needed to see how all of the loose ends would get tied up.  

The series is a bit graphic, so it isn't for everyone.  I am definitely enjoying it and look forward to seeing what is in story for Kay, Lucy, and the rest of the team in the next installment.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bookish Goals Status Update: October 2018



In an effort to help keep myself on track, I am going to post monthly status updates showing where I stand for each of my 2018 Goals.

Anything highlighted in gray is currently in progress, but not yet completed.

  • Read and review at least 36 books 
    1. Crossed by Ally Condie
    2. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
    3. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout
    4. Love Show by Audrey Bell
    5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
    6. The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter
    7. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
    8. Reached by Ally Condie
    9. United by Melissa Landers
    10. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig
    11. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray
    12. A Painted House by John Grisham
    13. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
    14. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
    15. Cress by Marissa Meyer
    16. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    17. The Emperor's Code (39 Clues 8)  by Gordon Korman
    18. Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    19. See How They Run by Ally Carter
    20. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
    21. Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter
    22. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
    23. The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell
    24. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • I am participating in the Try Something New challenge hosted by The Herd Presents.  I'm going to aim for level 2 with 11-20 books. Any book over 80 pages qualifies as long as it is new to you.  New author, new genre, new series, etc.
    1. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin (Shaw Confessions #1) - New Series
    2. Love Show by Audrey Bell - New Author
    3. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray (New Series)
    4. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - New Author
  • Read at least 10 New Adult books (My definition of NA = protagonists are post high school, but under 30)
    1. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
    2. Love Show by Audrey Bell
    3. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
    4. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
    5. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
    6. Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    7. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
    • Read three of the books that had been on my TBR list the longest.  I now have 45 books that were all added on September 7, 2010 that would qualify.  
      1. A Painted House by John Grisham
      2. The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell
    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read. 
      1. Reached by Ally Condie - Book 3 in the Matched Series
      2. United by Melissa Landers - Book 3 in the Alienated Series
      3. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Book 4 in The Naturals Series
      4. Take the Key and Lock Her Up - Book 3 Embassy Row Series
      5. Winter by Marissa Meyer - Lunar Chronicles Series
    • TBR Challenge.  For this challenge I want to read at least 20 books that were on my TBR list AND were published prior to January 1, 2018. 
      1. Crossed by Ally Condie
      2. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
      3. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout
      4. Love Show by Audrey Bell
      5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
      6. The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter
      7. Reached by Ally Condie
      8. United by Melissa Landers
      9. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray
      10. A Painted House by John Grisham
      11. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
      12. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
      13. Cress by Marissa Meyer
      14. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
      15. See How They Run by Ally Carter
      16. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
      17. Take the Key and Lock Her Up By Ally Carter
      18. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
      19. The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell
      20. Winter by Marissa Meyer
    • I joined the New Release Challenge hosted by Unconventional Book Views and Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My! My goal is to reach New Release Newbie level with 12 new releases read/reviewed during 2017.  The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages. 
      1. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade - Released 3/20/18
      2. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig - Released 4/24/18

    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

    Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)

    Goodreads Overview:

    This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

    Review:

    This is such a unique series that I hardly know where to begin.  The story is written around a number of vintage photographs the author has acquired from various sources.  For example, we are introduced to a number of new peculiars in this novel such as the one on the cover of this book.  How else could someone explain a photo of a girl with a hole in her torso that appears to be completely healthy?  She is most definitely "peculiar".  All of the peculiars have unusual abilities that did not meld well into society, so they have been living in "loops" where they live out one day over and over again and never age. 

    There are evil creatures known as hollows and wights who have been raiding the loops and taking their caregivers known as ymbryne, such as Miss. Peregrine.  In order to save their peculiar world they must first rescue their ymbryne.  

    The majority of this novel is spent traveling through WWII bombings in 1940 and escaping the constant chase of hollows and wights.  The children travel from their island off the coast of England to London and beyond in order to help Miss. Peregrine, who was injured during the raid at the end of book 1.  They meet not only peculiar people, but also animals along the way who assist them with their quest.  The cleverness of Ransom Riggs is remarkable as he weaves a tale with unusual abilities around photographs that would otherwise be inexplicable.

    The constant chase was exhausting for the children and it felt like an end was never in sight the majority of the book.  Jacob is beginning to come to the realization that he may have already accomplished what he set out to do and should return to the safety of his home in present day America, when he is thrown an unbelievable twist.  (Of course there had to be a twist...we already know there are two more books in the series.)  Now I can hardly wait to read the next book, Library of Souls, to see what happens next.  I already picked up a copy when I was at BEA in 2016 and spent the better part of two days trying to catch up with Ransom to get it signed, which I was able to accomplish on the final day.

    If you enjoy YA fantasy, I would recommend giving this series a try.  On a side note...I read a physical copy of the first book and an ebook copy of the second.  It is worth getting the hard copy because the pictures are larger and can be viewed in better detail.  I tried increasing the font size on my kindle to see a larger copy of some of the pictures, but it only increased the font size and not the size of the photos.  I will definitely read the physical copies of the remaining books in this series.

    Monday, October 29, 2018

    Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

    Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row, #3)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

    Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

    There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

    If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

    And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her.
     

    Review:

    This is the third and final book in the Embassy Row series.  While it isn't my favorite series by Ally Carter, it is still an entertaining read that kept me interested throughout.  

    Adria is an island country that is centuries old and has been secretly controlled or manipulated by generations of women.  They refer to themselves as The Society.  They took it upon themselves to save the baby princess when the gates of the palace were stormed 200 years ago and the royal family was murdered.  They hid the princess and raised her as one of their own, but records were lost.  Over the years they lost track of who the princess was and where her descendants went.  

    As children, Grace's mom and her two closest friends became obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the lost princess and putting her descendant in her rightful place on the throne.  They thought they had the perfect plan and set the wheels in motion, but they were wrong about one very important fact.  

    The pace of this book was too slow for me and at times I wondered if this could have been consolidated into two books instead of three.  I really enjoyed when Noah, Megan, Rosie, Alexei, and Grace were all together because it combined their unique abilities and really increased the pace of events.  I also enjoyed the addition of the 15 year old Prince of Adria to their team towards the end of the book.  Those were by far the most enjoyable sections of this book and are what propelled the story forward.  The rest of the time, I felt like there was a lot of filler that could have been eliminated.

    I was also annoyed by all of the older women from The Society operating as a dictatorship.  While they thought they were doing what was best for Adria, they certainly weren't taking into account the well being of those impacted by their scheme.  Their actions weren't even rational the majority of the time.  What could have been a very entertaining aspect of this series, with Grace working together with this ancient society her mother was once a part of, turned into a solo mission with these very powerful women constantly working against Grace and her friends.  

    While it felt like it took a long time to reach a conclusion in this series, the ending was very abrupt.  Everything reached a boiling point and then in one chapter it was over.  This is how things will pan out for the characters....done.  Overall, I was happy with the conclusion, but it felt very rushed and incomplete compared to the lengths the characters went through to reach that point.  

    I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but it was probably closer to a 2.5.  

    Friday, October 12, 2018

    Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

    Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

    This is a book that I picked up at a book convention several years ago.  I was actually pretty excited because I had heard great things about it, so I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read it.  It probably has something to do with the 400+ books that are constantly on my TBR list.  Deciding what to read next is always a challenge.

    Pushing the Limits is told from both Echo and Noah's points of view.  Echo was involved in a traumatic event involving her bipolar mother, but she doesn't remember what happened.  The only evidence she has are the scars on her arms and the constant nightmares that have been plaguing her ever since.  Noah is equally as troubled.  His parents were killed in a house fire and he has bounced around the foster care system.  His younger brothers are living with another family and he wants nothing more than to be involved in their daily lives. 

    Noah was once a star basketball player with excellent grades who was on track for a college scholarship.  Since the fire, he hasn't had the resources or the motivation to continue...until the new guidance counselor convinces him that improving his grades and getting into college may be his only shot at eventually being able to take care of his brothers the way he wants to.  The same guidance counselor is working with Echo to help her remember her past and hopefully get her past the nightmares.  Echo needs money, so the counselor suggests she tutor Noah, which is how the two of them connect.  

    While they may appear to be complete opposites based upon their social circles, they actually had far more in common than you could imagine.  Their study sessions quickly turn into plotting sessions to get information about their cases from the counselor and their relationship slowly begins to develop.

    This was a highly engaging story with great characters that you couldn't help but root for.  They have already lost so much in their young lives that you want them to finally come out on top.  They hit a few rough patches along the way, but I really enjoyed the story and how it ended.  I know Katie has several additional books in this series, so I sincerely hope we will get a glimpse into their future post graduation.  I know they aren't the main characters in the additional books, but a cameo would certainly be nice.  If you have read any of the companion novels...please leave a comment to let me know if I can expect to see Echo and Noah again :)

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    Review: See How They Run by Ally Carter

    See How They Run (Embassy Row, #2)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions--from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter. 

    Grace's past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. 

    The twists get twistier and the turns get even more shocking in the second thrilling installment of Embassy Row.

    Review:

    In this installment Grace is already aware of what really happened to her mother, but she doesn't know why.  She discovers there is a secret society of women who have guarded Adria's secrets and has been influencing its history for at least 1000 years.  While the history books show that men have been ruling Adria for centuries, it is their sisters, wives, mothers, and grandmothers who are really in control.

    When violence breaks out on the small island, Grace will do anything to solve the murder and clear the name of her brother's best friend, Alexei.  Grace has always thought of Alexei as another brother, but perhaps there is more to their relationship? When the violence continues to escalate and the targets become her closest friends and family she begins to unravel the truth.  She is not safe in Adria and she must continue running.  When presented with the choice of fight or flight, she always chooses to run, but she may not be able to outrun whoever is after her this time.

    This was another page turner that contained a ton of action and even more secrets to unravel.  The majority of the book took place during a large festival on the island, which added a chaotic atmosphere to an already stressful situation.  Grace and her friends don't know who they can trust and the one man who she perceived as her enemy for the past three years turns out to be the one person she can trust with their lives.

    I simply couldn't wait to see how this series concludes. I downloaded the final book in the series while I was still reading the last few chapters of See How They Run.  I started reading Take the Key and Lock Her Up yesterday and it is off to a great start.  We are a long way from a happily ever after, but hopefully Ally is moving us in that direction.