Category Archives: Thriller/Suspense

Lost in Wonderland by Nicky Peacock

This is not your typical Wonderland. You have been warned.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Lost in WonderlandTitle: Lost in Wonderland
Author: Nicky Peacock
Series: The Twisted and the Brave #1
Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery
Source: Provided by author

Publisher’s DescriptionMonsters, serial killers, and imaginary friends—being a Wonderlander can be murder…

Once upon a time, Kayla was lost. Then she found Wonderland, but not the one you know. Run by ex-government agents and funded by an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire, this Wonderland is the name of a collective of highly trained vigilantes who hunt serial killers. Now Kayla, aka Mouse, works tirelessly alongside her fellow Wonderlanders, Rabbit and Cheshire, baiting dangerous murderers. But even her extensive training hasn’t prepared her for the return of her older brother…

Shilo has spent most of his life in an insane asylum, convinced his mother was abducted by a sinister Alaskan monster who lures the lost away to feast upon their flesh. And now he’s certain that his sister is in the same monster’s crosshairs. But if Shilo is going to save what’s left of his family, he’ll have to convince his sister that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little mad.

 


Luna Lovebooks says…Luna_Lovebooks_100

“You used to be much more…muchier. You’ve neglected your muchness, Mouse.”

I must admit even after reading the synopsis I was expecting something more akin to the fantastical Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Other Stories. While it was a little shock to discover this isn’t the case, this tale delivers the fantastical and humorous as well as being dark and thrilling!

This is undoubtedly one clever book. In its own right the book is dark. It is chock full of murder and intrigue. I mean a secret vigilantly group that hunts and kills serial killers? That would be awesome by itself!  But the little bits of Carrol’s Alice makes things a little lighter. Quotes and references litter the pages adding to the characters and the tale over all. And made this reviewer love the tale all that much more.

The characters all have their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes them seem more realistic – even the killer/monster, the Kustaka.  This also adds to the narration as badge4v5the story is told from Kayla and Shilo’s point of view, as well as that of the Kustaka.

The ending to the story felt a bit rushed and I found my self wishing that the chase was drawn out just a bit longer. But over all this is a powerful start to a series and I can’t wait to read the next installments. 4 teacups all around!

 

Other recommendations…

If you love Wonderland tales, you might try the following re-tellings: Splintered by A.G. Howard, Death of the Mad Hatter by Sarah J Pepper, Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Chasm by L.K. Kuhl

What do you do when your children are missing and your world crashes?

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Chasm
Author: L.K. Kuhl
Series: Stand-alone.
Publish Date: May 5, 2016
Genre: Romantic thriller
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Source: Provided by the author.

Publisher’s Description:

What happens when you’re in love with your children’s abductor?

Taylor Vine thinks she can fight off the demons of her past when she moves back home to Estill Springs, Tennessee, but it doesn’t take long to see that things aren’t quite that easy. The bumps she hears in the night soon escalate, keeping her up at nights, and it isn’t long before her most precious possessions, her children, get abducted. She finds herself in a race against time to try to find them before it’s too late. One wrong move and the outcome could be disastrous.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: One of the qualities of a good book is the setting. Kuhl hit the success button with this novel. The symbolic desperation and gloom that fill many of the characters’ lives is also symbolically represented by the setting. I did like the characters. Their emotions were described with gut-wrenching detail and seemed very honest and very real to me.

Dislikes: The plot and sub plots were not brought to satisfying conclusions to me. It almost seemed like the author knew where she wanted the story to go but it fell short and seemed like there was still something left to be settled. While I did like the characters, they seemed to make the wrong decisions even after talking themselves out of making it in the first place. There were spaces in the story that were oddly verbose and overly descriptive.

There was so much going on it this one that I was both intrigued and deterred by everything that was going on. For this reason I give the book 3 rocking horses. 

Other recommendations…

Check out these other romantic thrillers: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb, Don’t Tell by Karen Rose, Lone Wolf Rising by Jami Brumfield.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Though The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom might be a great book for young adults new to the spy/espionage genre, it wasn’t unique enough to capture the interest of our spy-loving adult reviewers.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
SeriesThe Cruelty, Book 01
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Fiewel & Friends
Genre: YA Thriller
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s Description: When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

The best line in the book The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is in the very first chapter when the main character, Gwendolyn, pulls a book out of her backpack and tells us, the reader,

“It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they are all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. Paper worlds where heroes are real.”

This is echoed two hundred some odd pages later when Gwen, now called Sophia, who is in real danger from the Czech mafia, says “Damn my luck, having to go off to war when all I want to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love.”

That about sums up what’s wrong with this book: it pretends not to be formulaic but follows the same pattern as all spy/espionage novels. This could have been written by James Patterson, Lee Child or Robert Ludlum and I really wouldn’t have noticed the difference. The author simply puts a 17-year-old girl in the role of the main character and, unfortunately, this doesn’t lend itself to believability. The only training this teenager gets is about a month from an Israeli spy, and she totally eludes and ultimately defeats criminals in several European countries included the “dreaded” Czech mafia and kills several of their number through a variety of methods?

I also really didn’t think that The “Cruelty” itself, which the author tries to describe as an internal “thing” rising up in Gwendolyn and taking over her more sane (regular) self, was well defined. He mentions it a few times as “wanting to get out” or “taking over” but I don’t think he spent enough time on her internal struggle. It felt really ho-hum when Gwen had to make difficult choices, like murdering someone in cold blood!

I give this book a 3 for being too much like other books I’ve read in this genre and not having enough of what the title featured.

Percy Procrastinator says…

For me, as a forty-four-year-old long interested in thriller/spy/espionage novels, this was a tough read. I didn’t read it all, either. At about the halfway point, I realized that I had read this story before by some other author. It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t good enough to pull me in. I don’t know if it was because it’s geared toward young adults or if I have just read and seen too much of this kind of story.

The setup is quite good. It was easy for me to believe that Gwendolyn could become a spy. She knows languages and had gymnastics, so had some of the rudimentary skills needed. It wasn’t luck that had her know several ex-spies, people who could set her on the path to find her father. I was happy that she got a month of training and even a test so she knew if she could do it.

Reading about her training was interesting to me to see which way the author would have Gwendolyn go. And once she made her choice, I knew how the rest of the story would go, again from decades of reading these kinds of novels. I just wasn’t interested enough in reading this particular story. I skimmed through several chapters of her meeting people, going up the chain and following the leads. I can easily see how this would be a great introduction for someone to these kinds of novels. It’s just not for me.

Finally, I will say that the ending left me a bit disappointed. I read the final ten percent of the book and I don’t think I got the payoff I wanted. The twist didn’t surprise me and the ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

I give the book a three. It might deserve a four because it handles the subject matter well, but I can’t be the one to give it that rating.

Other recommendations…

Advanced teen readers could probably jump right into the Alex Cross, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher thrillers, or go with the classics and give the original James Bond novels a try. Unfortunately, those all have male protagonists. For female protagonists, here is a list of 9 Best Thrillers with Strong Female Protagonists.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach

Last week, I reviewed The Altar Girl, the prequel to the Nadia Tesla series by Orest Stelmach. Today I continue reviewing the series.

boy-from-reactor-4TitleThe Boy from Reactor 4
AuthorOrest Stelmach
SeriesNadia Tesla, Book 01
Publish Date: March 19, 2013
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Nadia’s memories of her father are not happy ones. An angry, secretive man, he died when she was thirteen, leaving his past shrouded in mystery. When a stranger claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe, she agrees to meet—only to watch the man shot dead on a city sidewalk.

With his last breath, he whispers a cryptic clue, one that will propel Nadia on a high-stakes treasure hunt from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. There she meets an unlikely ally: Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl. Physically and emotionally scarred by radiation syndrome, Adam possesses a secret that could change the world—if she can keep him alive long enough to do it.

A twisting tale of greed, secrets, and lies, The Boy from Reactor 4 will keep readers guessing until the final heart-stopping page.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

The first in the Nadia Tesla series, The Boy from Reactor 4 once again teaches me much about Ukraine, Russia and the aftermath of Chernobyl.

The author, Orest Stelmach, has done a good job of creating a believable and tough female protagonist. I accidentally read the prequel before reading this book so I was more familiar with the main character than if I had started with this book. Stelmach has written 4 total books in the series so far and his writing has definitely improved. This first in the series has so many characters, many of which with unfamiliar names, that I had a hard time keeping track of them but he kept the story moving along and Nadia stayed one step ahead of the bad guys throughout.

badge4v5I was particularly fascinated by the events that took place in the Bering Straights. I know nothing about the area, but the idea of walking between Russian and Alaska is not something I would ever want to face.

I give this book a 4. Simply because I know the author can do better as evidenced by his work in The Altar Girl.

Our reviews in this series…

Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs

The adventure continues, reluctantly, for Elena and Adam as they go back to the future—several futures, in fact—to save their friends and themselves.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

future-threatTitleFuture Threat
Author: Elizabeth Briggs
SeriesFuture Shock, Book 02
Publish Date: March 1, 2017 by Albert Whitman & Co.
Genre: YA Sci-Fi (time travel suspense)
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Cover: Paul Stinson
SourceNetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionSix months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information–but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena’s dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she’s done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether’s not done with her–or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether’s latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost–or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything–including their relationship–to save their friends.

The second book in the New York Times bestselling Future Shock trilogy.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Future Threat is intense, and I love it. More than any other time travel I’ve read, Future Threat demonstrates the potential danger of both knowing your future and changing the future. It gave me quite a lot to think about.

Elena, Adam, and Chris—collectively called Team Delta—get pulled back to Aether’s time-travel scheme to save the latest team to go rogue, Team Echo. While there, they try to save the life of one of the Echo team members and end up losing one of their own. So they go back again, and again, to try and fix the past. Each time they go back, the future is different. The effects of the team’s actions create a worse and worse future each time they visit. Adam and Elana have to figure out why the future is getting worse and fix it before all is lost.

Adam and Elana go to the same future several times. So two or three of them are in the future at the same time. Oddly enough, though I’m not a math person, I kept thinking about the rules for parentheses in Excel formulas as I read this book. Weird, right? But Adam and Elana go back to the future three times. Each time, their trip is shorter. It’s like they have to go and return before the last time they went and returned, like nesting parenthesis. I don’t know if that’s true, but the thought kept popping into my head. 😉

In the one future where Chris, Elena, and Adam are happy and successful, Future-Elena is terrified that Now-Elena is going to mess things up. I can understand that. When you’re happy, you don’t want anything to change.  But at the same time, someone somewhere is NOT happy. If they change things to suit themselves, how will that change your future? This is one of the questions posed in Future Threat.

Another is how knowledge of the future would affect the decisions you made to get there. So, if you knew you were already destined to be an awesome piano player, for example, would you be compelled to practice as much? And if you didn’t practice as much, would that future come about? Not new questions in time travel fiction, but certainly good ones.

I was chatting with Kat recently about what made this a young adult book rather than a straight sci-fi book. Ah, the nature of genres, right? 15 years ago, this same book would have been listed as sci-fi, no question. The protagonists being college freshman age wouldn’t have made a difference. Today, however, YA as a category is popular and lucrative, especially in print as opposed to ebook form; so, it makes sense to market this as YA now. Honestly, I think that is the only difference I can think of. What do you think, readers? Chime in and tell me what sets a YA apart from adult novels, and specifically this one, if you’ve read it.

badge5v5I haven’t listened to this book yet, but I know Erin Spencer did an awesome job as always. I’ll be downloading it and listening soon. This book is just as awesome as the first, so another five stars!

Oh, and although Future Threat really felt like the end of the series, I see there is another one due out in 2018. Its title, Future Lost, make me really apprehensive!!! I want Chris and Elena to have their happy ending.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out these books for some more time travel romance or suspense: A Girl In Time by John Birmingham, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.