Thursday, June 7, 2018

REVIEW: OUT OF CONTROL ~ SARAH ALDERSON


 
After watching her friend and bodyguard die at the hands of men who intended to harm her, Liva shuts down all her feelings.  She goes through life with her emotions switch turned off; but Liva finds solace in the adrenaline coursing through her veins when she climbs structures she’s not supposed to.  With her father out of town shortly after she moves in with him in New York, she spends a few nights with his friends, her father not comfortable leaving her alone in a new city.  When she can’t sleep one night she opens her bedroom window and silently climbs on top of the roof.  Looking for peace, Liva finds unexpected safety instead when she hears her hosts being murdered.  Liva reports the crime and is taken to the police station in protective custody to give her official statement.  At the desk next to her is Jay, who is not a witness but a criminal.  Being cuffed to the desk kind of gives that away.  When a gunman in a cop’s uniform starts shooting up the police station, Liva and Jay must depend on each other to escape the massacre.  When Liva contacts her father for help, the team he sends to retrieve her are intercepted and Liva is caught between two rival groups; one who wants to take her, willing or not, and one who wants her dead.  It soon becomes clear that Liva is somehow at the center of the chaos; but why? Who wants to kidnap her, who wants her dead, and how do the two groups connect?  On the run, Liva and Jay must stay one step ahead of the shooter, the mysterious agents, the police (Jay is a fugitive, after all) and a local gang while fitting together pieces known and unknown – and fighting the intense connection neither can’t deny.  A poor car thief and a wealthy dancer, on the surface they have nothing in common; but for the first time Liva has met someone who makes her feel as alive as she does when she’s standing on top of a high-rise.  The timing is horrendous, the circumstances far from ideal, but can Liva resist the young man who brings her to life?
 
 
Out of Control by Sarah Alderson is an action-packed adventure that doesn’t give you time to catch your breath.  The action starts almost immediately and doesn’t let up until the end.  Authors seldom succeed in making me truly fear for the safety of the protagonists, but Alderson managed to get me to tense up several times.  She does a great job of keeping the reader on their toes, keeping the mystery alive while dropping clues, making the reader work with Liva and Jay to find answers.  The ultimate truth of why Liva is targeted is a shocking turn of events Alderson masterfully weaved into the story.  The chemistry between Liva and Jay jumps off the page and the progression of their relationship is very believable under the circumstances.  The sexual content of the book is very mature but stops short of being adult level. 
 
Out of Control is an exciting, satisfying read that takes the reader on an electrifying adventure with the perfect blend of action, mystery and romantic suspense.
 

 
 
Product Information:
Title: Out of Control
Series: Standalone
Author: Sarah Alderson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Year: 2014
Pages: 321
ISBN-10: 1481427172
ISBN-13: 978-1481427173
ASIN: B00EB9Z8XU

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Friday, May 25, 2018

REVIEW: DIVERGENT SERIES 3 - ALLEGIANT ~ VERONICA ROTH

It’s been quite a while since I finished Allegiant by Veronica Roth, but truthfully I was so completely underwhelmed and disappointed that I could not be bothered to write a review.  Allegiant commences where Insurgent left off.  Tris and co, not satisfied with the new status quo, joins the rebellion and sets off to discover what lies beyond the boundaries.  They discover that their city is embroiled in an experiment conducted by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.  Following the Purity war which resulted from attempts to genetically remove negative behaviors from societies, the Bureau was founded to use selective breeding to repair the genetic damage they caused, over several generations by forcibly isolating several populations, including Tris’ home.  These populations were organised into factions to better monitor certain behavioural traits.  The divergents turn out to be genetically pure individuals whose DNA shows none of the genetic damage caused by previous genetic tampering.  The divergent’s importance was however vastly overstated in the video made by Edith Prior (an indication that Roth had no idea how she wanted to end the series at the time she wrote Insurgent).  Tris, Tobias and friends ultimately discover more secrecy and manipulation by the Bureau and take it upon themselves to right to wrongs of past and present.
 
Sadly, this was a very disappointing conclusion to the Divergent trilogy.  It felt like completely different authors had written Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant.  The author just didn’t have the same voice.  It felt like the Roth had no idea how she wanted to end the series and ultimately just grabbed at straws and rushed to release the final product. 
Tris dying felt absolutely unnecessary – and I don’t say this simply because her death disappointed me.  I truly don’t see why she had to die.  It makes no sense and in no way enhances the story.  It felt… superfluous.  It felt like Roth threw it in there for shock value.  She wanted Tris to sacrifice herself for the greater good (I suppose this was meant to be ironic since Tris had finally decided that she didn’t want to die), but then she needed a much better crafted storyline to justify it; because it fell flat.  When a character death falls flat, it’s a massive disservice to that character and the audience.  Tris deserved a better ending, or at least a better death - something vital.  Uriah’s death upset me more than Tris’ death did because (he was a favourite of mine, yes, but more than that) it was relevant and believable and necessary for the plot. Tris death was none of those things. 
Movie poster
I was curious as to how the movie would portray the events and watched it the very evening I finished the book.  If 10% of the movie is based on the book, it’s a lot.  They made massive, massive changes; the largest of which is having Tris survive.  Granted, at the time they were planning another sequel (which is also evident by the ending), but while the movie is in no way a masterpiece, it is a vast improvement from the book.  Either way I’m sad to say that while Divergent was thrilling and Insurgent was entertaining, completing the Divergent trilogy now feels like a complete waste of my time (too much time and energy I’ll never get back) and the utter disappointment that is Allegiant will prevent me from recommending this series to those who have not yet experienced it. 
 
Product Information:

 
Title: Allegiant
Series: Divergent (not standalone)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Year: 2013
Pages: 545

ISBN-10: 0062420097ISBN-13: 978-0062420091
ASIN: B00BKZUVGM
 

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

REVIEW: DIVERGENT SERIES 2 - INSURGENT ~ VERONICA ROTH


Veronica Roth’s Insurgent is the second book in the Divergent series and picks up where it’s predecessor, Divergent, left off; Tris, Tobias, Caleb, Marcus and Peter fleeing the aftermath of the Abnegation attack, on the train, out of the city.  Along their journey they attempt to rejoin the remaining loyal Dauntless and seek safe haven with other factions, but with Erudite and the rebel Dauntless out for blood, allies are few and far between. 
 
 
Tris’ guilt over her parents’ deaths and killing Will is pulling her into a darkness she has not known before and Tris finds herself having a bit of a death wish, placing extreme pressure on her relationship with Tobias.  
 
Shailene Woodley nails this heartbreaking scene in the film
 
With major secrets and tension between them, and Tris and Tobias find their still fragile relationship on very shaky ground.  While navigating troubles of their own, they must unravel the more important mystery of why Abnegation was attacked in the first place and why Jeanine Mason is dead-set on identifying all the divergents.  Danger and mystery abound, friend and foe is indistinguishable.  A surprise return, a shocking betrayal and an unexpected ally are just some of the things keeping the reader off balance, and the unpredictable journey Tris takes the reader on makes Insurgent a very satisfying continuation of the series. 



Shortly after finishing Divergent, I innocently and accidentally came across a major Allegiant spoiler on Pinterest, which unfortunately doused my interest in continuing the series.  My delay in continuing the series therefore had nothing to do with my enjoyment thereof, or the quality of Roth’s work.  Time and distance has reawakened my curiosity and I am finally ready to see how Tris’ journey reaches its inevitable conclusion.  I very much enjoyed the action and adventure Insurgent provides, and I think the series is playing out very cleverly.  While in Divergent I admired Tris’ bravery, I found myself frustrated with her in Insurgent.  I had a hard time understanding why she made some of the decisions she did.  I absolutely respect the fact that she has lost both her parents and that the uncertainty of her current situation must be overwhelming, yet I found Tris making (in my opinion) very stupid choices in this book. 
 
Tris cuts her hair in mourning
 
I believe Roth wanted to illustrate Tris’ death wish, in which she succeeded, but the problem is that Tris’ rash behaviour placed not only herself in danger, but those around her as well, and this disregard for the safety of others is very unlike Tris.  Lying, keeping secrets and breaking promises also come much too easy.  More than once I also felt that Tris had zero regard for her relationship with Tobias, and she continued to make choices she knew would hurt both Tobias and their relationship, without attempting to have a mature conversation with him first. 
 
 
The thing I liked least about Insurgent is that I struggled to identify with Tris this time around.  It was easy in Divergent, but I did not connect with Tris all that well in Insurgent.   I do, however, commend Roth for her bravery in taking Tris on this emotional rollercoaster and not shying away from the darkness inside of Tris; it makes Tris’ ultimate epiphany that much more tangible and satisfying. 
 
Tobias with the Factionless
 
We do discover why Abnegation was targeted, what Tris’ parents were willing to die for (besides Tris and Caleb), and a whole new world is opened to us, ready to be discovered in Allegiant.  All in all Insurgent makes for a very satisfying read.
 
 
Product Information:
Title: Insurgent
Series: Divergent (not standalone)
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Year: 2012
Pages: 545
ISBN-10: 0062024051
ISBN-13: 978-0062024053
ASIN: B0070R41G0

 
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Monday, January 1, 2018

REVIEW: CHESAPEAKE VALOR 2: STILL LIFE ~ DANI PETTREY

Still Life by Dani Pettrey is the second book in the Chesapeake Valor series.  Each book in the series will be loosely connected to the others in that it will feature the same group of characters and an independent, but will function well as standalone stories in that each book will have different main characters.  While it is not necessary to read all of the books or to read them in order, enjoyment of the series will obviously be enhanced by reading all of the books in order.
 


Still Life takes place a few months after the conclusion of Cold Shot.  Parker Mitchell’s assistant, Avery Tate, has resigned her position with him as she has accepted both the fact that she loves him, and that he still loves Jenna, his deceased first love, and she finds being close to him every day, bearing the burden of her supposed unrequited love too difficult to bear.  When Avery’s childhood friend, Skylar, goes missing and Avery suspects foul play, she however has no option but to turn to the best crime scene analyst she knows and Avery and Parker’s paths cross again.  With Avery back in his daily life and the void she had left behind once again filled, Parker can no longer deny his feelings for her; but where does that leave his devotion to Jenna?  Can he still honour her memory if he allows himself to love another?

To Avery’s horror her hunch soon proves correct and Skylar turns up dead.  In order to find answers, Avery must navigate the life she had left behind, exposing her dreaded past to the man she most wants to impress.  Facing the ugly truths and painful memories of her past forces Avery to confront her demons once and for all, and she must expose her deepest hurts and greatest regrets to Parker if she hopes to have a future with him.  As the team begins to investigate Skylar’s murder, Avery and Parker’s mutual attraction becomes the least of their worries when it seems Skylar’s killer has set his sights on Avery.
 
 
My review of Cold Shot made it clear that I found Parker and Avery to be a much more interesting pair than Griffin and Finley, and Still Life did not disappoint.  Where Cold Shot made Finley a sidekick, Avery is very much an integral part of the investigative team.  As opposed to Finley and Griffin in the first book, Avery and Parker spend the majority of the book together as they face all obstacles as a team. 

With the murder investigation on the forefront, the book also takes the time to delve into Avery’s insecurities stemming from a past she is struggling to make peace with, as well as Parker’s struggle to move on from loving and losing Jenna.  Both issues are beautifully explored and the character development for both Avery and Parker is realistic and satisfying.   

As with Cold Shot, the religious elements in Still Life add to the story without being overwhelming, sure to satisfy believers, yet not exasperate non-believers. 

I very much enjoyed Still Life, and will certainly continue the series with both Blind Spot (Declan and Tanner’s story), and Dead Drift (Luke and Kate’s story).  Declan and Tanner uncovered a terrorist plot in Still Life, and I believe this story will develop even further in Blind Spot, and perhaps even in Dead Drift as the long lost Luke finally proves to be alive as Kate has always believed, and comes home to face the ones he left behind.  When Kate learns he disappeared and left her behind voluntarily to become a secret operative, will she finally let him go, or will he give her a reason to hold on? 



Product Information:

Title: Still Life

Series: Chesapeake Valor (Standalone)

Author: Dani Pettrey

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Year: 2017

Pages: 352

ISBN-10: 0764212958

ISBN-13: 978-0764212956

ASIN: B01M6W47W7

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

REVIEW: CHESAPEAKE VALOR 1: COLD SHOT ~ DANI PETTREY

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey is the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series.  Each book in the series will be loosely connected to the others and feature many of the same characters, but will function well as standalone stories.  While it is not necessary to read all of the books or to read them in order, enjoyment of the series will obviously be enhanced by reading all of the books in order.
 

 
Cold Shot follows the story of former sniper turned park ranger Griffin McCray who uncovers a fresh grave during a routine patrol.  What initially seems to be a relatively routine investigation turns deadly when forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper.  With Finley refusing to back down from investigating the case, Griffin has no choice but to work with the interesting woman whom he has studiously worked to avoid for several months, along with his childhood friends, FBI agent Declan Grey and crime scene analyst, Parker Mitchell. 

 
 
When their persistent digging places Finley in the crosshairs of the deadly sniper, Griffin must finally admit his attraction to her and the fact that he has avoided her because he doesn't believe  himself ready for the kind of relationship a woman like Finley deserves.  Along with everything else on Griffin's plate, the tension between him and Parker places the entire team on edge.  Finley learns that the trio, who were once inseparable, drifted apart following the disappearance of their friend, and a mysterious traumatic event in their past which Griffin and Parker refuse to discuss.  The reason for this rift is another mystery the reader must work to solve. 

Along with finding the killer, Griffin must face his past, confront his demons and come to terms with a few hard truths to not only protect the woman he can no longer deny he loves, but to feel worthy of her.  Unbeknownst to Griffin, the "perfect" Finley is fighting demons of her own when their case places her life in danger, reminiscent of a previous case that left her with scars she desperately tries to hide from her new friends.  What exactly happened to Finley also remains a mystery through a large part of the story, adding to the list of mysteries which must be solved.  

It may not be fair to compare an author's newest works to its predecessors, but let's be honest; we all do it.  While the quality of Dani Pettrey's work remains top notch, I found that I did not enjoy Cold Shot nearly as much as I did the Alaskan Courage series, each book having had me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Those were well-researched, had great suspense, character depth and growth and tangible chemistry.  This was not the case with Cold Shot. I just did not connect with Griffin and Finley, or their story, to the extent that I was invested in the outcome, or ever feared for their safety at any one point.  I was way more invested in the few moments we got to share with Parker and Avery (who feature as the main characters in the second Chesapeake Valor book, Still Life; review to follow in due course).  Both Griffin and Finley are likable, intriguing characters, but for me they just did not have the chemistry I have come to expect from Pettrey and I found it hard to get emotionally invested in their story.  While Finley is opened interested in Griffin from the get-go, the bigger part of the story sees Griffin fighting his attraction to Finley and shooting her down.  At times I also found myself thinking that Finley does not have enough scenes and that she does not feel like a main character.  Instead of utilizing the potential a smart and brave female character such as Finley presented, her skills were ultimately not essential to the investigation, and she became a sidekick to Griffin's hero, sadly only serving as a damsel in distress for him to protect. I would say Cold Shot is about 80% mystery, 20% romance, and I personally prefer my mystery-to-romance-ratio way more balanced. 

I do love the way Pettrey portrayed both Griffin and Finley as devout Christians who each have a deep, meaningful relationship with God.  The religion aspect of the book was perfectly balanced, very much present but not too overbearing to be off-putting to readers who might be non-believers.  I loved all of the prayers both Griffin and Finley prayed; those were beautifully written.

All in all Cold Shot is by no means a disappointing read, but I cannot deny that it fell short of my expectations.  I am, however, very much looking forward to reading Parker and Avery's story and I will be picking up Still Life shortly.

 
 Product Information:
Title: Cold Shot
Series: Chesapeake Valor (Standalone)
Author: Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Year: 2016
Pages: 338
ISBN-10: 0764211978
ISBN-13: 978-0764211973
ASIN: B012H0ZYAQ

 
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