No Turning Back was an incredibly emotional and heart-pounding journey. I stayed up late and put everything else aside because I just had to finish it and see what happened.
To start things off, Livvy is already dealing with some serious trauma that is affecting her ability to perform. We get a feel for what happened, but don't really find out the full details of the situation until later. To try and get her mojo back by singing in front of a smaller audience, she joins a church outreach group as part of the choir. But their outreach isn't what she expected. It's in San Quentin prison, and while she does decide to go (or we wouldn't have a story), it's reluctantly.
You can feel the tension building this whole time, and we know what's going to happen. But when it does, and the riot breaks out, it still floored me. The reactions, the danger, the help coming from surprising places. Livvy finds herself running with the help of an inmate that is trying to protect her. But she has caught the eye of a very bad man - like one of the worst I've read about, and he is determined to hunt her down. Not only that, but Livvy is separated from her group and in a sea of men that are mostly out for whatever they can get their hands on.
One of the things I loved the most about this book was the characters' faith. It wasn't perfect, but it was incredibly real. When things hit the fan, there was doubt, there was prayer, there was bargaining with God to do something - anything - to save their friends. And faith also brought help from some pretty surprising places. It was incredibly powerful.
The prison itself was detailed beautifully and without this living, breathing backdrop, the story wouldn't have worked. The place seemed to have a life of its own and lived by rules that seemed foreign to me. The culture is different, the politics are different, the people (guards and prisoners) are different. Katie Vorreiter brought the place and the people to life for me.
This book is one that will sit with me for a while in all the best ways. I keep revisiting passages and thinking about everything that happened. It has been the highlight of the year so far.
**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**
The Land was my first foray into LitRPG, and I have discovered something that I absolutely love! I think listening to the story in audio format made the experience even better. As we walk through the adventure with Richter - we experience his "dings" as he levels, as well as a few other sound effects that are NOT part of the general narration - just a few select areas that PC or console games will recognize and smile. However, if you are not a gamer of some sort, then many of the fun aspects of this book may not be as enjoyable to you.
I couldn't pinpoint any one specific game all the elements pulled from, but there were bits and pieces from several I have played over the years - from console, to PC, to tabletop. The story follows Richter - a human Chaos Seed - into a realm where the game has become real. From here we dive into an amazing fantasy story that could stand on its own (although quite a bit shorter) without the gaming references. We meet a fun variety of creatures, both friendly and otherwise, all with some very unique personalities and goals. The world itself is built slowly as Richter discovers it, but there are a few hints that it is incredibly vast and many adventures could be found.
Founding tells the story of the beginning of Richter's journey as he discovers The Land and its people. I feel like this would have been the equivalent of the first book in a campaign box set, and it wraps up rather nicely at the end with many strings closed, but leaves a few hanging out there to be pulled apart in the next book - which I am definitely getting as soon as my Audible credits are here.
The end of the third book in the Charlie Davidson series was emotionally draining and somewhat traumatic. Betrayal all around, and I wondered how Charlie was going to come out of this one.
Well, she doesn't exactly. Which was a stroke of brilliance by author Darynda Jones to make her seem more human and real. She is no longer the Grim Reaper and PI Extrodiarre, she is also Charlie - the woman who was hurt, betrayed, and tortured - trying to come to terms with what she's going to do next and looking for comfort in her credit card and home shopping channels.
It takes a new case to start to bring her back to herself. And this case was pretty interesting. I loved the look at the psychology behind our memories and what trauma can do to them. There were some pretty nice twists in it as well, and while I sort of had things figured out, there was one really big surprise that I didn't see coming at all. I understand that Charlie's cases need to be action-packed and exciting, but I'd like to see her come of out one without a near-death experience.
Reyes is back and not in Charlie's good graces. But he has a few things up his sleeve still to try and make things right with her. I'm incredibly curious to see where their storyline goes as we find out more and more about Charlie's unknown abilities and Reyes' background and motives.
I think the narrator for this audiobook is one of my favorites. She tells the story so well and is very easy to listen to.
I feel like this book is the real beginning of the world known as Shannara. The Legends of Shannara series starts after "our" world has ended and a small enclave of various races and creatures have taken shelter within a magical foggy shield. The world has been kept at bay as it crumbles under countless disasters, but this small group has lived in peace behind their magical walls, forming the beginnings of the kingdoms and regions I've grown to love over the vast Shannara series.
But the walls begin to crumble, and the outside world comes calling in a rather vicious and bloodthirsty way. Having been protected for so long, the people of Shannara are not prepared and don't even really believe the scouts who spotted the intruders - and the invaders. The outside world has been struggling to survive, and the formerly sheltered valley looks like a place they want to call home as well.
I found a lot of those traditional fantasy elements that I love so much. A handful of people slowly becoming a small part of 5 or 6. Different races and regions coming together, trying to save a world that doesn't even know (or want to admit) that it needs saving. Enemies and dangers hiding in plain sight and betrayal always a possibility with each new turn. By the end of the book, the lines have been drawn and many of the sides have been determined, but I haven't even gotten to the big fight yet. Things are still being prepared, and you never know what could happen next.
First of all, a warning. There is a rape scene in the book - mostly off page and handled as tastefully as one can handle that kind of trauma, but it's there, and some people won't be able to read it.
On to the review! Sam and Nick - DC's favorite couple. As they prepare to get married, Sam finds herself investigating yet another high profile murder case. When it comes to light that a Senator has been sleeping with a member of the cleaning crew - and she winds up dead - Sam knows there's more to the story than what first appears. Her gut rarely steers her wrong, and it's absolutely correct in this one. She finds herself investigating several political figures - some in very high places.
But the murderer is convinced he's untouchable and begins to make threats against Sam. Meanwhile, Nick is trying to plan their wedding and keep Sam safe. To top it all off, Sam's ex-husband is back in the story causing problems again. Sam and Nick's relationship really seems kind of settled in this one, so Marie has introduced a new romance that is so incredibly sweet.
Detective Gonzalez (Gonzo) has just found some incredibly exciting and scary news. He's afraid that it will tear his new relationship with Christine apart. But they are both amazing people and you just know they are meant to be together. It was a lot of fun to have this couple finding true love - even though their story wasn't the main event - it was prominent enough that it really stands out.
I really enjoyed the way the bear clan drama played out in Alpha's Queen. With both sides of an arranged marriage not that interested in getting married, a clan on the brink of civil war, and a power struggle within the Alpha's family, there is a lot going on. Lila Felix does a great job of tying it all together and using the political tension to show the hidden and overlooked strengths in Harrison and Atlas.
Harrison isn't all that interested in becoming the Alpha of the Black Bears. He was a fun character once I got past his disinterest in all things clan related and his desire to forgo his responsibilities. I kind of get why he felt that way once I saw more of his family.
Atlas was a bit of a sacrificial lamb. A member of the lower castes that were threatening revolution because of poor treatment by the royals, she was supposed to mend fences with a marriage. But we all know that doesn't usually work out. At first, she is torn between duty and following her heart. But meeting Harrison quickly changes her mind, and she finds herself neck-deep in the twisted politics and family drama that comes along with him.
There weren't any really surprising twists or turns in this one. It was just a well-told story of two fated mates saving their clan while finding love.
Two sisters fighting for the throne and kingdom go from family to enemies. Lu, the fighter and fiercely independent one, and be readying herself to become the first female leader of the kingdom. But her hopes are shattered when her father makes the unexpected decision to give the throne to her younger sister's, Min, fiance. A fiance that has ulterior motives and plans to rule with an iron fist.
Lu is a very strong, but unfortunately stubborn, character. She has a picture in her mind of how things should be and struggles to accept it when that picture is shattered by events unfolding around her. Forced to make allies in unusual places, we are introduced to Nokhai, a man from a culture and magical background thought to have vanished. But they will both find out that he is far more than what he seems, and his race is far from disappeared.
While Lu is a strong and likable character, I felt drawn to the story of Min. The younger daughter that grew up in the shadow of her sister. When she discovers she could be so much more, the power calls to her and she finds herself in the hands of a skilled manipulator that would do anything to keep her under his heel and under his control. He sees her ancient magic as a tool to recreate the world under his rule and wipe everyone who opposes him off the face of existence. She struggles to find out who she is and what her place in the world will be.
This is the first book in the Girl King series, and while it sets the stage for an epic fantasy battle, it is an amazing story on its own as well. There is much more to come in the world, and I feel several surprise revelations on the horizon as the sisters battle each other for the title of King.
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book**
Elissa of Tyr is the first heart-bearer to have her own book, and I really really liked being able to just follow one of them for a little bit and see the adventure through their eyes.
Traveling with her dragon and her djinn - the conversations between these three were so great - they infiltrate the Emperor's magical shields on the land. This was a very quick read, but it still had a good dose of adventure, and I was able to meet some characters that I'm pretty sure will have some major actions to play in series as we move forward.
The magic of the land and the emperor's control over it were also detailed a little more, and his plans and schemes are starting to be revealed to the reader. There are some very interesting ideas here, but I can't say much more without giving some big things away.
This is definitely a series of books that need to be read in order! I hope it continues to show as the adventures of each heart-bearer as they make their way back into the world to fight the emperor and his evil plan. I am thoroughly enjoying this unique land and the creatures within it.
The first book in this new serial-style series from Lia Davis quickly introduces us to the worlds of the werewolves and the vampires. Distrustful of each other for what seems to have been forever, an unknown force is now trying to bring hostilities into an all*out war. I don't see too much of the person stirring up trouble and killing tons of werewolves and vampires, and Davis does a good job of showing just enough that of them that I really want to know who it is
Kane is the vampire prince, but in order to take his place on the throne, his mother expects him to have a mate first, Problem is, he's pretty sure his mother won't approve of his true mate - his heart and soul cry out for the werewolf princess.
The book sets us up for a bit of adventure, an interesting mix of a menage, and several conflicts to stand in their way. And let's not forget about the potential war brewing in the background, present enough that I never forgot about it, but never fully overshadowing the romance aspects.
**I voluntarily read a complimentary copy of this book**
I loved the story of The Lighthouse Keeper. It was fun, and just the right amount of light-hearted to suspenseful for a summer read. Dawn's character was an interesting one. An odd mix of old-fashioned and modern-day. Her search for a place to call home was always present, but not so much that I felt like I was getting hit over the head with it.
Her treasure-hunter parents were quite hilarious. I loved their conversations, and you could tell they were two people that were completely comfortable with themselves and around each other. But I wondered throughout the book why they hadn't put more effort into finding the missing silver pieces. Dawn's father feeds her information every now and then throughout her search, and I had to ask myself, why didn't he follow up on that? Why wait until now?
The mystery of the missing silver was a really good one. And it did keep me guessing up until near the end, but the author was also very careful not to give away any clues ahead of time.
However, I highly recommend you read this instead of listen to it. The narrator sounded a little too much like the computerized voice you hear on automated systems for me. There wasn't a whole lot of emotion or inflection (until she had to do a man's voice, and that was just overdone). I might continue on in the series. I have no idea what the next book might be about, but I'll definitely read it instead of listen this time.