Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Murder Tightly Knit by Vanetta Chapman

Murder Tightly Knit 

By Vanetta Chapman

Blurb: In a town where Amish and Englisch mingle every day, a grisly murder leads to mutual suspicion. Can Amber and Hannah find the killer before fear unravels the community . . . or he strikes again?

Even before she heard of Owen Esch’s death, Hannah Troyer knew something was amiss at The Cat’s Meow yarn shop. The store has been closing at odd times, the ever-dependable Mary isn’t always at her post . . . and an Englisch man has been seen loitering around back.

Now, as leaves of brown, gold, and orange blanket Middlebury, Indiana, Owen lies dead on the Pumpkinvine Trail. The only clues to the murderer’s identity point in two very different directions—one of them leading right to The Cat’s Meow.

The police call in a federal investigator, but Hannah and Village manager Amber Bowman are in no mood to wait for them to figure out what they already know—that no one from the Amish Village could have killed Owen Esch.

Amber and Hannah will need to work quickly to solve the murder mystery and bring harmony back to the Amish community.

Genres: Christian, Mystery, Realistic Fiction 

Publication Date: December 6, 2014

Pages: 352

Series: Amish Village Mystery (book 2)

My Rating: 1.5 stars

 This was my first 'real' Amish fiction book. Aside from a few YA Amish titles, (I liked one, detested the other) I have never really thought that they would be my thing, but Amish + murder mystery seemed to be a bit more interesting than most Amish fiction. However, that didn't end up being the case. I rounded up my rating because I don't know if perhaps it's just that this genre isn't my thing and I don't want to be unfair in this review.

I'm afraid that this book was quite boring. Now, I didn't expect this book to be a chilling thriller. I's Amish fiction. But for a mystery, it wasn't even mysterious, and that was my problem.

First off, the characters. Wow, they were borrrrring. There was no personality with any of these people! Amber, Hannah, Jesse...they were very two dimensional and not very colorful as characters. They were the opposite of colorful. They were the bleakest, slush-coloured grey characters I have encountered in a long time.

The mystery...not a mystery at all, more like. First off, we get a few chapters from the murderer's POV, so there's no question that it is not one of the main or secondary characters. Second, there are no plot twists. Zip. Zilch. It's a very straightforward plot and you can see where it's going. Not fun. The end was very anti-climactic and nothing new was revealed.

And do Amish people only use Pennsylvania Dutch words that are cognates for the English translation? (I'm being sarcastic, of course, they don't.) No, so why are those the only kind that show up in this book? And why have a dictionary for them? I mean, I didn't even look at the dictionary, and I could definitely figure out that nein was no and bruder was brother. In fact, all the random sprinkling of Amish phrases actually annoyed me a bit.

Murder Tightly Knit has a bit of an ironic title since the whole murder unraveled pretty easily. I don't think I'll be trying Amish fiction for a very long time unless I have ran out of all other reading material.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: The Hit by Allen Zadoff

Boy Nobody 

By Allen Zadoff

The explosive new thriller for fans of Jason Bourne, Robert Muchamore and Michael Grant, previously published under the title Boy Nobody.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die -- of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target.

When Boy Nobody was just eleven, he discovered his own parents had died of not-so-natural causes. He soon found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's next mission.

Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Action, Thriller, Mystery

Publication Date: September 4, 2014

Pages: 319

Series: The Unknown Assassin (book 1)

My Rating: 4.5 stars

 The Hit was a fantastic read. It goes beyond typical Ya Thriller I at first judged it to be. It is emotional, action packed, full of puzzles, and...did I mention emotional?

We never learn the main character's actual name. For purposes of this review, I will refer to him as Ben, the name he went by for his assignment during this book. Ben is a complicated character. He at first glance appears to be a mindless drone, taken at a young age and conditioned to kill without remorse. But he's so much more than that. Ben never does get too emotional throughout the book; there's always seemingly a bit of disconnect with him, which gives this story a unique flair. However, he is not the robot that his "Mother and Father" would want him to be. Sam brings this out in him more than he would like.

Sam broke through the tropes that are usually assigned to female love interests. She's smart, she has her own personality, she can see through Ben's facade (to a point) and she is by no means the innocent Mary Sue. She has a past that, though it at first glance seems like it doesn't matter much, actually plays a major part in the book, which I loved. She wasn't just put in the book to give Ben a girlfriend; she is an integral piece of the puzzle.

I loved this plotline. First off, it's not a black-and-white these are good guys and these are bad guys story. There aren't really bad and good guys here, really; the characters are kind of a shade of gray. This made the story so much more engrossing. It doesn't follow the usual formula that I am used to.

The ending, though, is definitely what made me realize just what a true gem this story was. It is so unexpected. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time it is necessary and I just could not respect the story as much if it had not ended this way. I sat in shock as I read the last few pages, and then some sorrow as the story went on. This is definitely one of those books where you should ABOVE ALL try not to get the ending ruined, because it totally makes the story.

This book went from being a fun thriller to being an emotionally scarring but strangely beautiful story in my eyes. I am so impressed with this book; I will definitely be reading the next one as soon as I can find it.

P.S. On a less serious note, what in Tom Hiddleston's name is with all the different titles?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: Coral and Bone by Tiffany Duane

Coral and Bone

By Tiffany Duane

Blurb: Halen knows the sparks igniting under her fingertips are dangerous. She has spent her entire life trying to quell the tingly feelings that make her destroy things, but now that she is back in Rockaway Beach, where she watched her father drown, the flames have become impossible to tame.

Halen is trying to hold on, but when she is thrust into a mysterious new world, the underwater realm of Elosia, she unravels the secrets of her past and can't help but ignite. As she explores Elosia, she realizes her life has been a lie. And when those who have deceived her come to her for help, Halen must choose—walk away or unleash the magick that could destroy them all.

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy

Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Pages: 290

Series: N/A (at this point, it is highly likely there will be a sequel to this)

My Rating: 3 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I went in to this book having heard that it was an original mermaid story. For those of you who have not read a lot of mermaid tales, let me tell you that this is hard to come by. It's almost as if a committee of authors came together and decided that all mermaid stories shall follow the same basic plot, no matter what. I'm only slightly exaggerating here. So, there was much excitement to start this book.

I can definitely say that this was pretty original. There are traces of the basic mermaid plot herel--girl who thinks she's normal finds out she's actually a mermaid and must get used to her new power--but the author goes beyond having Halen just explore the ocean with her new dolphin friends and crap like that, and makes it a lot more dark and suspenseful. (spoiler, highlight to see)
Plus, there's a long lost twin thrown in for extra measure. And the antagonist, Asair, is really fleshed out. There's a lot more of him near the end, and I really enjoyed that part of the plot in particular.

Halen starts out as a bit of a Mary Sue. She gets more kick-butt as the story goes on, but I still never felt like I got to know her that well, which is disappointing. (Slight spoiler, highlight to see)

And I couldn't help but feel like her sister Natalie sounded more interesting than her.
The real problem that I had with this book though, the thing that kept me from giving it above three stars, is that I didn't like the writing style that much. It was very straightforward and plain, for lack of a better word. It didn't get me excited for scenes that should have been exciting. It made the story a bit more boring than it should have been given the storyline.

This book isn't bad, but it is not as dazzling as I expected it to be. Maybe my hopes were too high? Anyway, if you are really into mermaid stories, this is among the better of the bunch. (Though it has not unseated the Emily Windsnap series as 'best mermaid story' in my mind.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Blog Tour Review: Ruination by Amanda Thome

Ruination (Worlds Apart #1)
by Amanda Thome

Summary from Goodreads:
What if everything came down to a single test? If your life was defined at seventeen, could you handle it? Could you accept your fate leaving the ones you love, or would you risk it all and stay?

One test stands between Vanessa and Central. One chance to make the leap across the walls to a better life. At seventeen, Central considers Vanessa an adult. Her labor role, marriage, and housing divisions will be dictated by her performance on the leap.

Dedication and unfaltering friendship has bonded Vanessa to Garrett as they fight for their chance to leap into Central. But what happens when love overtakes reason? When defiance in the name of love creates an unintentional fracture in their nation.

Without warning Vanessa is at the mercy of the nation that’s supposed to protect her. Exiled and abandoned she must fight but she find’s she’s not alone. With her heart divided she seeks her revenge, but will her stand be enough?

Ruination is the next YA dystopian trilogy that will hook you from the start! If you liked Veronica Roth's Divergent series or Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series then be prepared to get addicted to Ruination.

Buy Links:

Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

Pages: 338

Series: Worlds Apart (book 1)

My Rating: 3 stars

Ruination was a entertaining dystopian read; however, some of its elements reminded me of other popular books in this genre like Divergent and Hunger Games, especially in the beginning of the story. 

I did not particularly like the main character, Nessa. She did not think before doing and as a result some of her decisions were questionable. Like, why would you even think about giving your crush the equivalent of death berries just for a more thrilling scavenger hunt? Garrett was equally foolish for accepting the dare, but geez. 

However, I did like Tyler. He was the voice of reason a couple times, which is good. And, while the romance between him and Nessa happened quickly, it was explained well, so it never felt like insta-love. Plus, he didn't act like a lovesick puppy about it; it's clear that he loves Nessa, but he isn't annoying about it. 

Garrett I think I would have liked if we had seen more of him. It seems like he will be a main character in the rest of the series, but not necessarily in this book. (Kind of like Gale Hawthorne was in Hunger Games, if that makes it any clearer) Though at times he seemed like a bit of a cliche, I still thought that he and Nessa were cute together at the beginning. I honestly haven't picked a team in this love triangle because they both seem like good guys.

The plot, near the beginning, bares some resemblance to Divergent, and there are some Hunger Games elements to it as well. For example, they have to take a test that kind of resembles what Tris had to go through in Divergent. Hunger Games wise, there's a corrupt capitol with a bit of an eerie resemblance to Panem, churn berries that are basically death berries, and Nessa's weapon of choice seems to be the bow. Plus, the Leap was reminiscent of the Reaping. So I was a bit wary that this would be a bit too similar to those stories at first. However, it ended up branching off from those nearer to the end. Still a bit formulaic for Dystopian--girl is different/free thinking in her bleak community, realizes that the government sucks, tries to take it down, love triangle--but it never entered ripoff territory, and really, who am I to complain about Dystopian being formulaic? I love it even when it is. Dystopian is my bookish chocolate. 

The science fiction aspect of the book was certainly a unique concept; I liked that it didn't completely overtake the storyline, either, but still played a pretty important role in the story. I prefer action to paranormal-y stuff, so that's probably why.

There were a lot of run-on sentences in this book. I have been getting a lot better at tuning those out lately, but they still bothered me. Some readers will be bothered by this, and some won't. It really depends on how strict you are about grammar, I suppose.

The ending was a nice resolution with a little cliff hanger. I think I would have been more excited about the cliffhanger if, well, it wasn't so apparent that there would be a cliffhanger, and what it would be. You can just kind of tell by the direction the book ended up taking with the romance. Still, not a bad ending.

I might go forward with this series because I do want to know where the story goes from here. I think it has the potential to be quite good; Ruination is, in my opinion, more of a warmup for the rest of the series, but I still enjoyed it.

About the Author
Amanda Thome is the Author of Ruination, book one in the Worlds Apart dystopian trilogy. Amanda grew up in Maine and later moved to Pennsylvania where she obtained her bachelor’s degree from Ursinus College. She later received her doctorate degree in Physical Therapy from Co
lumbia University. Amanda currently resides in San Antonio, TX with her husband Clint.

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