Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: "Before I Let Go" by Marieke Nijkamp

Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return. Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town's lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she's a stranger. Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter... 

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for the free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
I'm going to be blunt here and just come out and say it - I did not like this book, and I'm hugely disappointed. I read the synopsis, and immediately knew I wanted to read "Before I Let Go". It sounds like it would have everything I love in a book - suspense and mystery, a strong female friendship, a fast-paced plot, and an incredible setting.  Obviously, I set the bar way too high, as this book did not deliver in any of these areas, and I feel like I wasted my time.

I'm wracking my brain, attempting to come up with something I liked about this book, but I'm coming up short, and that is really not good.  I lived in the Yukon for nearly two years, and I loved it, despite the cold, long winters.  I was hoping that by reading a story set in Alaska, I might be taken back, through the author's written words, to a place similar to the one I loved so much. Alas, my hopes were not realized. I think the author intended for the town of Lost to feel atmospheric and creepy, but I did not ever get a clear picture of this town at all. I know it was small, the main industry was mining, and there was a lake (or was it a river?) where Kyra drowned beneath the ice, but that was about it. Oh yeah, there was an abandoned spa adjacent to some hot springs where Kyra and Corey hung out, and where Kyra lived for a while before she died. I think this building was supposed to feel atmospheric and creepy, too, but again, any descriptions that were there were not memorable at all - the author could have been writing about a small town in Idaho or Saskatchewan for all it made me feel. Take it from someone who has lived there, the author definitely did not adequately represent the beauty of the north, in my opinion!

As for the characters, that was another big problem. Even though the book was written from Corey's point of view, I still didn't get a good handle on her. Her dad abandoned the rest of her family, she wanted to become an astronomer, and she was afraid of the dark. I think she played a sport at her new private school, but it was only mentioned once so I forget what sport it was. And she may or may not be gay, but again, it was only mentioned once, so I guess that wasn't too important, either.

Kyra could have been a more interesting character than Corey, but because she was so poorly developed, I didn't get to really enjoy her at all.  (Plus, she's dead, so not too much point getting attached.) We're told over and over again about how the town didn't accept her after her diagnosis, and we hear in flashbacks her complaints that she didn't ever fit in, so it was really strange to me that once Corey moved away, within a matter of months, the entire town of Lost changed their tune and praised Kyra for bringing them all together through her painting. And how, exactly, did Kyra's paintings bring the town together? I have no flipping idea. Really, I'm shaking my head in bafflement, because I truly don't understand how this all came about. I think the restaurant/pub in town had a few of Kyra's paintings on the wall, and somehow this translated into Kyra saving the town. If you are in any way confused by this, trust me, reading the book will not help in the least. Same thing with Kyra's bipolar disorder. I wanted to know more about Kyra's mental illness, and feel what she was feeling, but because we only get snippets from Corey's point of view, I really felt like an outsider looking in, trying my best to guess at what Kyra was dealing with. I wasn't made to feel anything, truth be told.

Which leads me to another thing I didn't like in this book: the plot. The plot was so slow, and not much happened. Actually, that's not true. Some potentially exciting things happened, but because they were written in such a bizarre fashion, I had a hard time deciding if Corey was dreaming or hallucinating or what! The only reason I continued reading was because I wanted to find out exactly what happened to Kyra, and when the final twist was revealed, I had to roll my eyes in frustration. I can't believe I read through the entire book for that!  It was ridiculous. Honestly, I give up. I can't bring myself to say any more, and I can't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone. 

My rating: 1.5 stars

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kristen Ashley's "Rough Ride" - Release Day Excerpt and Trailer!


From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Ashley comes a new story in her Chaos series…



Rosalie Holloway put it all on the line for the Chaos Motorcycle Club.

Informing to Chaos on their rival club—her man’s club, Bounty—Rosalie knows the stakes. And she pays them when her man, who she was hoping to scare straight, finds out she’s betrayed him and he delivers her to his brothers to mete out their form of justice.

But really, Rosie has long been denying that, as she drifted away from her Bounty, she’s been falling in love with Everett “Snapper” Kavanagh, a Chaos brother. Snap is the biker-boy-next door with the snowy blue eyes, quiet confidence and sweet disposition who was supposed to keep her safe…and fell down on that job.

For Snapper, it’s always been Rosalie, from the first time he saw her at the Chaos Compound. He’s just been waiting for a clear shot. But he didn’t want to get it after his Rosie was left bleeding, beat down and broken by Bounty on a cement warehouse floor.

With Rosalie a casualty of an ongoing war, Snapper has to guide her to trust him, take a shot with him, build a them…

And fold his woman firmly in the family that is Chaos.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you'll enjoy each one as much as we do.**

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon Canada


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My dad had been a biker. He was a nomad when it came to that kind of thing (or, really, any kind of thing). He accepted being tied down by his woman and his daughter only, not anything else. Not a job. Not a mortgage. Not a membership to a club. He hung with a lot of them, including Chaos (in fact, Hammer, sadly now deceased, but one of the founding members of Chaos, had been my father’s best friend). 

But he’d never hung with Bounty. 

“Don’t like the feel of them,” I’d heard him mutter years ago. “If you’re an outlaw, own the outlaw. If you’re not, own that. You can’t wanna be a Gypsy Joker. You either are or you aren’t. They wanna be. But they aren’t. That shit just ain’t right and it could get dangerous.” 

He’d been right. It got dangerous. I should have known. I should have followed my dad. Mom and me had done it all our lives, job to job, house to house, city to city. Why I stopped… Damn. I knew why I’d stopped. I’d wanted Shy; Shy, who reminded me of Dad. And when I couldn’t have him, I’d gone looking. I’d wanted what my mom had. I’d wanted that sweetness. That love. That devotion. I’d wanted the stability that just seeped down deep into your bones from all that no matter the job changing, the scenery changing, the amount of times you boxed up a house. Stability had nothing to do with income and locale. Stability was all in the heart.

  About Kristen Ashley: Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA and nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorize and she hadn't taken her first breath!). Her mother said they took Kristen away, put her Mom back in her room, her mother looked out the window, and Gary was on fire (Dr. King had been assassinated four days before). Kristen's Mom remembered thinking it was the end of the world. Quite the dramatic beginning. Nothing's changed. Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana and has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus, she's blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her family was (is) loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. They all lived together on a very small farm in a small farm town in the heartland. She grew up with Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched). Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing, it keeps getting better.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: "A List of Cages" by Robin Roe

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

Many thanks to Disney-Hyperion via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
This is a rather interesting book for me to review because my thoughts are so conflicting! While I was reading, I was fully absorbed, feeling all the feels, crying actual tears, loving all the characters, not wanting to put the book down. Then I finished, and my thoughts changed completely. I started to look at the book with a more critical eye, and certain elements just did not sit right with me. Let me see if I can more eloquently explain.

Adam was fabulous! He seemed like the most amazing human being to ever walk this earth. Giving and generous, genuinely caring and empathetic, he is the guy that everyone wants to be around, guys and girls alike. His ADHD only makes him more endearing, because he struggles with it and yet he's so open about it with his friends. He's a tiny bit clueless with picking up signals from girls, but again, it only serves to make us love him more. And yet...maybe he's a bit too much? Like, too perfect. He makes one pretty big mistake throughout the course of the book, and I blame his girlfriend for it more than I blame him. So yeah, a bit too perfect to be real.

Then there's Julian. I'm not sure what to think about Julian to be honest. I felt sorry for him on just about every page. To me, he was like a beaten dog - he kept getting more and more abused, and I didn't see a way out of that for him.  Like Adam was almost too perfect, Julian was almost too pitiful.  With all the crap and abuse this kid goes through, how can he ever live a normal life? He can't!!! He's going to be messed up forever! And no backyard barbecue birthday party is ever going to make up for that trauma.

The other thing, and probably the most important thing, that I wasn't able to buy into, was the villain. He was sooooooo bad, but we are never given a reason why. Did he have a traumatic childhood?  Did he have an untreated mental illness? Did he ever abuse other people? What was his motivation in treating Julian the way he did?  I ended up learning a couple of things at the very end of the book, but it was too little, too late - it was almost like somebody said, "Hey, your antagonist is really evil, but now we need some motivation - what can you stick in there?" and the author stuck in a couple of sentences to (barely) fill in the blanks. If an author is going to have this awful human doing awful things to another human in their book, that author's job is to make me believe that there is a reason for this.

These things, combined with a rushed, slightly ridiculous ending, forced me to drop a couple of stars. I enjoyed my time reading this book (when I wasn't cringing at Julian's suffering!) but I didn't love it as much as I was hoping.

My rating: 3 stars