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Familiar Places: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Hi there!

I’m currently typing this post up in our attic/office with the roof windows open on this rare sunny day in Manchester. It really is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea and write a book review!

Recently I finished listening to the audiobook for Kathy Reich’s Virals, the first book in a sci-fi series of the same name. I waited a long time to finally read this one and I’m so glad I read it now, after just moving across the pond from South Carolina, because the story is set in Charleston. Reading about the familiar places was soothing to my heart as I adjust to life in a new place out of my home country! It was comforting!

Overview

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the VIrals by Kathy ReichsBones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends. They’re a pack. They are Virals.

My Thoughts

I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I decided to read Virals, I wasn’t sold. I assumed I wasn’t going to enjoy it and I have no earthly idea why! What I got was a fast paced sci-fi mystery/thriller that hooked me from the start. The first page lands you smack-dab in the middle of a forest where our main character, Tory, is being chased by unknown and armed pursuers. From that moment on the story is full of dead bodies, breaking and entering, fake identities, hunting for evidence, and even more being chased by armed men. As if the mystery plot wasn’t interesting enough Reichs also weaves in this whole science fiction virus plot that just takes the story to a whole new level! I was immediately sold.

Super exciting plot aside, it also helps when your main character is engaging and likable. Tory, is your average teen who is also not-so average -she is incredibly observant, intelligent, courageous, funny, and really interested in science. She feels like an outsider at her posh Charleston private school, but is also building deep friendships with the other kids on Morris Island. She is exactly the type of girl I’d want to be friends with, if you know….I was a character in a sci-fi YA novel… Out of her group of friends, Tory is the “idea person”. She’s the one who has all of these ideas that are really good ideas (mostly) but make the other characters nervous because they usually involve breaking into someplace they shouldn’t be-all for good reasons of course! haha

Virals is set on the numerous islands that dot the coast of South Carolina, just outside of historic Charleston. As I mentioned before having just moved from South Carolina, it was so comforting to read about a location I’m familiar with. I think that when you’ve been to a place it always changes how you read a book set in that same location. The story seems more alive and exciting when you have experience in that particular setting. I loved reading about King Street, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant and Fort Sumter. It felt like I was home!

I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series and if you’re into sci-fi and mysteries you should also give this series a try!

Details

Author: Kathy Reichs
Publisher: Penguin Razorbill (November 2, 2010)
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: Cristin Milioti
Length: 9 hrs and 43 mins
Series: First in the Virals series
YA/MG: MG/YA

 

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Unstoppable: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Hello!

Is there an author who, in your opinion, can do no wrong? That author whose books you always enjoy. Ally Carter is this author for me. Everything she writes is awesome — her Gallagher Girls series is one of my favorites and Heist Society is really fun too. I was really excited to hear about Embassy Row, her newest series, and had high expectations, so I read All Fall Down, the first book in the Embassy Row series and as I mentioned before Ally Carter didn’t let me down! She is unstoppable!

Overview

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:All Fall Down by Ally Carter

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her–so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door who is keeping an eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace–no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her 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 all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

My Thoughts

I had high expectations for All Fall Down, I was also nervous that I’d be disappointed because it wasn’t a Gallagher Girls novel, which are still some of my favorite books ever. As I started listening to the audiobook I was quickly rewarded with an interesting main character, and a plot full of family secrets and political intrigue, which is exactly what I was hoping for!

That interesting main character is Grace, who is carrying some deep wounds and insecurity. Grace knows her mother is dead, feels alone within her own family and is struggling to feel normal. On top of all that she is dealing with the fact that she is alone in her belief that her mother was murdered. Grace is definitely flawed – she makes some majorly questionable choices and hurts a lot of people while trying to prove she is capable and normal. Isn’t that what makes her interesting though?

One of my favorite things about Ally Carter’s novels is that they’re set in a contemporary time, but are located in a special place that makes the story feel more fantastical.Take the Gallagher Girls series, for example, which is set in today’s United States but takes place in a secret boarding school to train young spies (super cool right?). All Fall Down is similar in that the story happens in today’s world, but it is set in a fictional European country and even more specifically in the very unique setting of the Embassy houses. Because the story takes place in the embassies of many different countries, Grace’s story is placed in the middle of political intrigue and high society events, which makes it that much more captivating! I mean seriously mystery abounds…there are secret underground tunnels! For realz!

I am so relieved and happy that All Fall Down turned out to be a great start to what seems like a fun series! Ally Carter…she will not let you down! Book two, See How They Run, is set to release in January 2016 and I’m so excited I can’t wait!!excited

Have you read All Fall Down —What’d you think? Who, in your opinion, is that unstoppable author that can do no wrong? Please leave your comments below, I love reading them!

Details

Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press (January 20, 2015)
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Series: First in a series
YA/MG: YA

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Thrills and Chills: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Hello!

After having a baby it becomes so easy (for the one who is the main caregiver and staying home) to TinaTimehave absolutely no alone time. My husband and I quickly realized that I needed to schedule time with friends for my extrovert sanity, but it took a lot longer for us to realize that this extrovert also needed alone time on the calendar. It’s so easy to just be with baby practically 24/7. For me, however, this is a recipe for disaster. So, today is my first scheduled on my own, all by myself, TinaTime! Yay for coffee shops, lunch, and time to blog about good books!!

Overview

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherdand continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only o discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

My Thoughts

Retold fairy tales are one of my favorite genres, so naturally I was drawn to a novel inspired by another novel.  The Madman’s Daughter is inspired by H.G. Wells’ classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, and although I haven’t actually read the original I still loved this re-telling! I’m also an avid Jane Austen fan and this book reminds me of Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey. Catherine is obsessed with gothic thrillers and The Madman’s Daughter is exactly the type of novel she would have devoured! It is heavily atmospheric and full of romance and mystery.

Juliet Moreau is struggling to make a living in the dark shadow of her crazy father’s legacy by doing what her father didn’t do—fit in. However Juliet is a woman incredibly ahead of her time, she is interested in science and medicine, which is the opposite of anything girls in her society are supposed to enjoy. I feel like most readers can relate to Juliet because she is embarrassed by her “strange” interests and tries very hard to keep them hidden. I mean, who hasn’t strived to keep their seemingly nerdy hobbies secret?! As a main character, I like Juliet. She wants to believe the best about everyone and has an incredibly caring side to her, but she can also “get the difficult job done” when need be and she is always wavering between one and the other.

Juliet chooses to enter the world of her social outcast, mad father and in doing so thrusts herself (although unknowingly) into a world of dark secrets and creepy happenings. Megan Shepherd excels at fashioning this deeply sinister, eerie, and shiver-inducing story from the setting on a beautiful, mysterious and isolated island to the horribly disturbing experiments of a mad scientist. This is the gothic novel at its modern best! I was listening to audiobook and audibly gasped at times because Shepherd’s mood building was so darn well written!

Juliet also has the attention of two romantic interests — yes there is a love triangle! However, the thing I usually don’t like about love triangles is that there is almost always one clearly favored leader and it feels like the third person is forced in there just to make things interesting. With this one I seriously could go either way with who I want Juliet to end up with! There is no clear front-runner, which may bother some people, but makes it that much more exciting to me! And yes, there is some swoon worthy romance!

In the end this thriller captivated me from the beginning so if you’re into darkly atmospheric gothic novels you should definitely check-out The Madman’s Daughter!

Details

Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer+Bray (January 29, 2013)
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: Lucy Rawles
Length: 12 hours and 50 minutes
Series: First in a series
YA/MG: YA