Monday, 30 May 2016

Book Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney


That's what they call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood at Ironbridge High School. A horrific fey attack that killed her father when she was just a child left Donna branded with iron tattoos that cover her hands and arms - and magically enhanced strength, that she now does all she can to hide.

Now, after ten years of wishing for a normal life, Donna finally accepts her role in the centuries-old war against the darkest outcasts of Faerie - the dark elves. Aided by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout, Donna must save her best friend's life - and that means betraying one of the world's greatest secrets and confronting the very thing that destroyed her family.

My Review:
Donna is different from other teenagers. After being attacked by wood elves, her arms are repaired by an alchemist using metal which gives her great strength and a hint of magic. Expelled from school for using her strength against a school bully, her only friend is nerdy Navin who she keeps all her secrets from until the wood elves start to appear again. Now Donna has to put her faith in Xan, a young man with his own secrets who also wants to defeat the wood elves.

I first read this years ago and liked it and I wanted to go back and read it again before deciding whether or not to continue with the series. My tastes have changed quite a lot in the last three years and I am staying away from young adult books for the most part now so it was going to be interesting to see if my opinion of the book changed. In fact, my opinion didn't change that much from my first experience.

I liked Donna. She has been through a lot of trauma, losing her father and watching her mother go mad, raised by her strict aunt who wants her to join the alchemists, which she doesn't want to do. She has to hide her magical scars and strange talents from everyone, which marks her out as a freak, leaving her bullied and miserable. Her only friend is Navin, who is such a lovely guy, the kind of person you would want as your friend. I liked him and a part of me thought that he and Donna would have made a good couple if she had opened her eyes to the prospect, instead of her obsession with Xan. I didn't dislike Xan but he wasn't as interesting as Navin was. I know that this sounds like horrible love triangle territory but it doesn't really feel like it when you're reading it, compared to other YA books. It is vital in a book for me to like my MC and I certainly liked Donna and felt sympathy for what she has gone through.

The plot was interesting. I'm not a huge fan of the fae in books but I did find the evil wood elves interesting, and it didn't go overboard with the fairy court stuff that I generally get tired of! There was enough for the story to work and that was ok with me. I think the book had a good balance of action and information, to give you what you needed to know and to provide the entertainment. The book had good cohesion and the story flowed nicely. I also liked that there wasn't a heavy overdose of romance as that is part of what is putting me off YA paranormal these days.

I still enjoyed reading this book second time round. I do feel that I have moved beyond the YA zone with my reading and went on to more action based books in the apocalypse genre. However I can still appreciate this as one of the best examples of its genre and I would recommend it to the fans of YA paranormal.
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Book Review: Concealed by RJ Crayton (Virus #1)

They said it was extremely hard to get.
They said it wasn’t airborne.
They said there was nothing to fear.
They were wrong.

Seventeen-year-old Elaan Woodson was supposed to be one of the lucky ones. She got one of the few spots in the subterranean protection unit designed to keep select scientists, military officials and their families safe from the deadly virus ravaging the world above.

But, how lucky are you really when the people in charge and those you love keep secrets from you? While Elaan has heard that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, she’s beginning to think otherwise. And she should…

My Review:
*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Before I go any further, I need to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with this book, despite my 2 star rating above. I agreed to review this for the author despite it being YA, which was a concern to me. I used to read a ton of YA but as time has went on, I find that it isn't much to my taste now so I don't really read it. I based my decision to read this on two main things-the virus plot, which I read a lot of in zombie and apocalypse books, and the fact that I enjoy the way this author puts a story together, based on her Life First series. I decide whether or not a book is suited to my tastes based on blurb and reviews, so with no review details and a vague blurb, I had nothing to work with. I don't need spoilers in my blurb but I do prefer to know if the book features action or romance or whatever so I can make a more informed choice about what to read.

There is plenty to compliment in this book so lets start with the good. The main characters are interesting and well written. Elaan is a nice, normal girl, stuck in a scientific compound while her father and other scientists look for a cure for the deadly virus killing people above ground. It makes a change not to have whiny brat YA MC's so hats off to the author for that. I liked the main three well enough. The virus took Elaan's mother and threatens the life of her brother Elijah should he be exposed to it, though she is immune, along with her friend Josh. The plot ideas are decent and there are a few twists introduced as the story moves along. The author knows exactly how to tell the story and it has cohesion, a good flow and is nicely written. I liked one of the side characters but we don't really get a chance to see much of her. The reason for this becomes obvious later in the book as the plot develops.

Why two stars? Basically 2 stars is too low for this book so if I could I would give it 2.5 stars. This is based on the fact that I gave the other series by the author, which I liked more, 3 stars and above, and I can't give 3 stars to something I didn't really take to. It is certainly not a 2 star book but on Goodreads I have no half star options which would have been helpful! So I better explain the minor points that led me to this rating.

Based on the blurb, I was expecting a fast paced virus story set in the compound, maybe with a sudden outbreak or psycho releasing a strain or something similar. I guess I read so many apocalypse viral novels which contain this storyline that I expect something similar each time. This is not how the story panned out however. The main focus on the first fifty pages or so was introducing the dynamic between Elaan, Josh and Elijah, which would be vital to the story later. Everyone seems to disaprove of Elaan and Josh having a relationship but nobody is prepared to explain why to her. The emphasis on this was not my favourite plot device. To be totally honest, I wasn't greatly interested in the teen relationship of Elaan and Josh. I'm just not a fan of romance overall. But that is just a personal thing. There is not a heavy emphasis on the romance in what I read but I would have liked a more action based virus story.

By the time it looked as if things were developing with the virus plot, I'd already decided that the story wasn't really for me. I imagine that I would maybe like the second half better, based on where I stopped reading, but I had already decided not to read on as it was proving to be 'not my thing'. This does not mean that the story was dead slow or boring, because it wasn't in any way. It's purely that the book went a different way from my personal tastes, which is hardly the fault of the author. It just happens with some books and it's a pity that it wasn't for me.

As I said, this is not a bad book in any way! Those who like YA dystopian and don't mind a slightly slower start to introduce the characters, and the focus on mild romance will probably really enjoy it. It just wasn't my kind of read, sadly. Don't let my review put you off reading this or other books by this author as she is a very good storyteller.

2.5 stars. 

Reading With Chuckles

I have renamed my TBR Reading Challenge and changed it back to Reading with Chuckles as it sounds better, especially at times when I have no specific challenge running. So this is where I'll share what I read and abandoned each week, and I'll give the odd update on the state of my poor TBR! It does suffer at times...! The link under the book takes you to the Goodreads page for that book so you can decide whether to read it, and see my reviews when they are posted.

This was another lacklustre reading week full of books that failed to inspire me. I didn't finish a single book but at least they are off the tbr so that is a silver lining. It was just a pretty disappointing reading week but that happens sometimes. Hopefully this coming week will be better. The good news is that I did settle back into my reading after a couple of weeks where I got little done. I'm hoping that the mini slump has passed! 



Steven Konkoly-The Jakarta Pandemic 

RJ Crayton-Concealed 

Glen Tate-The Preperation 

Phillip Tomasso-Vaccination 

Regan Wolfrom-Coyote 

Richard Stephenson-Collapse 

Joe Nobody-The Ebola Wall 

Joe Nobody-Holding Their Own 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Stacking the Shelves #135

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! Click on the link under the book to find its page on Goodreads or Smashwords. 

Please note that I always leave a message on your STS/SP if you visit me, but if you use DISQUS or a similar third party I will not be able to leave a comment on your page. I don't allow any company access to my social media accounts and I certainly don't allow them to edit and take over my accounts the way DISQUS does. So if you use DISQUS, I can't leave comments on your page so I can't really follow you back, sorry! I'm noticing that some blogs set with Google Plus are trying to force you to open a Google Plus account before you can leave a comment. Well, I have no interest in rejoining Google Plus so if your blog uses this set up, I won't be following it or commenting! And sometimes, I have problems leaving messages on blogs hosted by Wordpress-they try to block me so there might not be a message from me some weeks or you might get a double message sometimes! Blame them, not me!
It's been a reasonably productive week. Those following my Gardening With Chuckles posts will see the latest work on the garden. We need to sit down and plan the next stage before we get stuck in, and order some bark, weed prevention fabric and coloured gravel for upcoming tasks. But I feel as if we're getting somewhere now which is good. We hope to be finished totally by the autumn to leave the new planting for next spring which should be good. Things are certainly on track. I'm trying not to think about what needs done inside the house as well...
On the book side of things, I've found it hard to concentrate on reading again so I'm finding it a bit of a struggle. I'm just tired all the time and don't feel like doing anything much. It's annoying as the tbr is on the upward move again. I hope I do better in the coming weeks. I did grab a few books of course so hopefully there will be something great there to get me motivated again!



Thursday, 26 May 2016

Book Review: Reduced by Robin Tidwell

A devastating biological agent is about to be released, to be tested in remote areas. Rumor has it, though, that there is more to this than meets the eye. One group makes plans to hide out, and survive, in case that rumor proves to be truth. Meeting at an abandoned summer camp near St. Louis, Missouri, a dozen old friends gather after the alarm is raised.

Life becomes more precious, more tenuous, as time passes. Government controls tighten, people are herded into the city…or killed. Towns are obliterated. And soon, the enemy agenda becomes obvious.

Abby, like the rest, has special skills – each member of the group was chosen not only because of past ties, but also for their unique training and abilities. She will come face-to-face with death, bear the responsibility for a young girl, and endure the severing of childhood relationships in the most terrible way imaginable.

From mere concealment to reconnaissance to aiding a rebellion, where will it end? Will the entire region be decimated, and who will be left alive to know?

My Review: 
I really wasn't impressed with this story at all. I'm obviously not seeing what other reviewers saw in this and I was very disappointed with what I read.

We jump into the plot where some kind of virus is infecting and killing people and our hero MC Abby is running from it, trying to get to a safe place where she will be meeting a collection of friends. It's not exactly clear what the virus is, how it spreads, what it does to the people who are infected, how it fact, in the opening part of the book we get no information about it at all. So I started the book feeling a bit lost at to what was actually happening.

Abby stops at a shop for supplies and has a run in with three 'evil teens', who she ends up killing. This was confusing as I'm not really sure WHY they are evil. Are they infected with this mystery virus? It sounds like it but why is it such a threat to Abby? How contagious is it? Are they fully human? Are they about to go zombie or psycho or something? Why were they such a threat that they had to be killed? I'm not really sure to be honest. I don't feel that things are being explained by the author. Either the author thinks they have been clear enough and don't need to say more, or it is a deliberate plot choice to keep the reader in the dark. Whichever it is, I didn't like it much.

Even when we get to their safe compound, the fog of confusio remains. It's safe to assume that they are some kind of preppers who have met previously and discussed disaster plans. They are organising their camp to keep everyone safe, and various jobs are assigned to people based on their skills. But what I don't like is that the compound leaders seem to be very vague about what was happening, keeping information from the other characters, meaning yet again the reader is wondering what we have not been told. It is all way too vague.

For me, I like to begin a book knowing at least something about it, especially when it is some kind of virus. I don't need to know everything about it but at the start, it seems important to have a background of what the virus is, how it starts and how it spreads. It's vital to know how it spreads so you can see the danger in situations for the characters. If I don't know how it spreads or what it is, how can I feel the tension and excitement in each scenario that the characters face? It just doesn't work.

The book also seems to be drifting into government conspiracy and a new evil political party storyline. Yeah ok, it's not my favourite plot but I wouldn't mind this if the basics were covered. I don't want to know about the complex conspiracy when I don't know anything about the virus yet. It was all mixed up and unorganised for me. It was vague, lacked any kind of cohesion or flow, and I wasn't impressed by the way the plot was set out. The characters also lacked depth and interest and I felt the plot sort of floated around without any direction.

Overall it was a massive disappointment and I wasn't inspired to finish it.
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Book Review: The Jakarta Pandemic by Steven Konkoly (The Perseid Collapse #0.5)

The People's Republic of China announces strict travel restrictions... Indonesia goes dark...Cases of an uncategorized influenza virus appear in major cities around the globe... Department of Health and Human Services officials claim that measures have been taken to safeguard the American public...

Most ignore the warnings...

Alex Fletcher, Iraq War veteran, has read the signs for years. A seasoned sales representative for Biosphere Pharmaceuticals, he understands the unique dangers of a pandemic flu and has taken the necessary steps to prepare. With his family and home mobilized to endure an extended period of seclusion, Alex thinks he's ready for the pandemic. He's not even close.

The lethal H16N1 virus rapidly spreads across the nation, stretching the fragile bonds of society to the breaking point. Schools close, grocery stores empty, fuel deliveries stop, hospitals start turning away the sick...riots engulf the cities.
As hostility and mistrust engulfs his idyllic Maine neighborhood, Alex quickly realizes that the H16N1 virus will be the least of his problems. 

My Review:
Alex is a drug rep who has been prepping for an upcoming pandemic. As one starts moving through Indonesia and China, Alex tries to prepare his family, warn his neighbours, keep an eye on the news and deal with his dreadful boss. As word about the scale of the pandemic slowly reaches the media, Alex gets ready to put his family into quarantine.

As an MC, I wasn't sure what to make of Alex. At times he is smugly superior about how prepared he is while others are going to struggle. I get that some preppers have little sympathy for those who don't follow their example, as they feel that the information about potential disasters coming is available for everyone to read and do something about. So Alex can be annoyingly smug at times. However, he does try to persuade his family to come and stay with them, and he does try to warn the neighbours he likes about getting ready. He offers advice, bordering on lecturing. We don't see much of his kids as they seem to spend all their time asleep. I'm not too sure what the point of that was if we aren't getting to know our main characters. I would have liked to see a bit more of the neighbours that Alex was offering help and advice to so we can get to know them before disaster strikes.

I actually like books where we follow each stage of a prepper getting ready for a disaster, as I find that really interesting. The book certainly does cover that but it gets overshadowed by the side story of Alex and his battles with boss Ted, which I really disliked. Alex was planning to quit his job anyway so page after page of his battles with Ted were a bit pointless, a bit silly and added nothing to the plot of the book. The whole scene with Ted and his armed thugs forcing their way in to search the house felt unrealistic and I started losing a bit of interest from this point on. Sadly I didn't actually make it to the pandemic hitting them.

It does take a long time to get into the main part of the story. The pandemic has not come near their area after 100 pages of the story. It is still focused on the Ted story at this stage and I just wanted the story to move on to the actual outbreak and what comes after. It was just taking way too long to forget about Alex's job and get on with it. I also found it strangely long for a prequel. Prequels are usually novellas to introduce the characters but this one was 400 pages which seems a bit long! However, at least the author is not producing the story like a serial novel where you pay for tiny segments-you are getting your money's worth from it. I would have wanted to cut the Ted nonsense, edit out what wasn't necessary and focus on the pandemic and the characters. If that had been done, I think this had the potential to be a really good story.

Despite the low rating, this is not a bad book. It is actually well written, it has cohesion and flows quite nicely and it is a decent plot. It just had too much focus on elements that detracted from the plot and was just a bit too slow for my tastes. It wouldn't stop me from reading other things by the author at a later date.

2.5 star review.

Gardening With Chuckles

Yes it's that time of year when we reluctantly cast our eyes towards the garden, when the hedge is growing, the grass is full of dandelions and the weeds are doing a conga up the garden path! I've never had green fingers and a mixture of ill health, bad weather and family issues means my dad and I have neglected the garden over the last five years and now we have a ton of work to do! You can follow our 'adventures' through the summer!

The weather went back to sunny on Sunday and the forecast for the week was good, so while I got the cleaning done inside the house, events in the back garden went on without me. On Tuesday, a ton of sand (literally) was taken around the building in multiple wheelbarrow runs, then it was a case of getting it level and looking nice. The ladders are there as a guide for the height of sand  needed to have everything square and level. That took most of the day but it looked pretty good, other than the cat paw prints and nasty deposit that the bugger left overnight. If I catch it, I'll make it into a pair of hand warming muffs! 

Then Wednesday morning, my dad put down the cement and got it level and smooth so he could start moving the stones down into place. It's pretty exciting to see it all coming together nicely. The square area with the sand is obviously where the stones will go, and we plan to put gravel around the four sides of it as a path around it for easy access to cut hedges and water plants etc. My dad worked hard all day to get the paving down and here is the result!

Big improvement when you look back to that dead grass with plastic lying all over the place! We're really pleased with the latest stage of our garden adventure!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Book Review: Disconnect by Jacob Wolfe

When an EMP hits a rural Colorado town, four friends band together for survival, adventure, and a trip west to a plot of land where solace and sustainability await them. With a hospital employee, two "preppers", and a wounded friend in their midst, the group begins fending for their own in the rough terrain of the Western Slope. But with paranoia and panic ramping up each day, can the small family of friends survive the dangers awaiting them on the road west?

My Review:
I didn't have a great time with this book. I liked the idea of the book, the prepper aspect of it and the way it was written. I don't have an issue with the author or his writing and perhaps the book turned out really good.

The sole issue for me was the MC. I really didn't like him at all. His flatmate is a prepper which seems to let him act all smug and superior about being ready for disaster, even though he has done nothing himself. Pat finds the idea that all the unprepared people will suffer somewhat amusing which makes him a complete ass. He sneers to himself about all the fat women in the hospital being unfit and unable to stop him stealing the medical supplies. He pulls a knife on a teenager who makes the mistake of being friendly and asking if this might be an EMP, assuming he is a junkie threat with no evidence. He gets pissed at a woman he stops to help, just because she doesn't know why the power is out. Then he bitches about the rich neighbour with her priviliged life who dares to ask him for help, wanting to stay with him until her husband is able to get home. He takes great pleasure in being rude and nasty to her until she cries. Nice.

There is not a shred of decency in Pat and I despise him in every way. I have no time for books where the 'hero' is so nasty and I wasn't going to read on. It's a personal thing for me that I can't connect with books I hate the MC in, and not a reflection on the actual author or his writing.
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

What's On Chuckle TV

I spent the week having a Masterchef Australia season 7 binge each morning and a few extras in the evening which was GREAT! Getting through the series so quickly was nice but now I need to wait until season 8 finishes before I get the chance to binge on it again! This is my favourite of all the different series of Masterchef from around the world. I love the judges, the intensity of the challenges, the drama of the eliminations and team challenges. 

I was even happier as we went into the series because firstly, the gorgeous Shannon Bennett (left) was mentoring the immunity challenges and a few of the other challenges so we got to see lots of him which was a bonus! Yea! LOVED watching him run the pass in the semi final-made it even more fun to watch! Seeing him dressed in black with that intense look on his face is very appealing! *grins* The good news is that he is going to be back again for season 8 so I can get to see more of him...

AND we had the excitement of TWO full weeks of Marco Pierre White! *screams* I LOVE Marco weeks especially when he does a service challenge. He is so intimidating. I swear if I bumped into him, I would have no clue what to say to him...

But enough about the male distractions on the show. One of my favourite challenges is always the team relay challenge and this one was the most exciting one ever, with things going downhill rapidly for a couple of teams. I also love those three round team eliminations and the pressure tests. In fact, the only thing I don't like is this determination to bring back an eliminated contestant. I preferred the way it happened this time but I still hate the concept. As for the pressure test in the final, oh wow, it was the toughest thing I've ever seen but I so wanted to eat it! 

Best season ever I think, and I hope there are many more to come!

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Review: 
Rachel's life is a disaster-lodging in a poky room, overweight, sleep deprived alcoholic, jobless and lonely. She is stalking her ex Tom and upsetting his new partner Anna, and taking a train into the city each day which passes the house she shared with him. We also get the story of Megan, who babysits for Anna.

This was a very boring book, with two female MCs who do nothing but moan about their lives and how crap life treats them. It really got on my nerves listening to these whining females. To make it worse, both women talked with the same voice and I felt that there was little effort to distinguish between the two women. You really had to rely on the author telling you who was speaking. It was slow, depressing, boring and I wondered if anything was ever going to happen in it. It was page after page of misery and wallowing in self pity and it really drags your mood down reading it.

Rachel is not a nice person and everything has to be about her and what she wants. Tom doesn't want her in his life but she can't accept it and drinks all the time then plagues Tom with calls to get him to take her back when it is clear that he doesn't want her. She abuses the hospitality of the poor woman who offered her a room by leaving blood and vomit all over the place after her benders...I would've kicked her ass out long ago. Rachel is actually quite pathetic and I didn't like her at all. Megan was just somewhat pointless and bland. I found myself not actually caring about either of them.

Gah. Far too slow and dull, moaning faced idiot MCs, no real interest in plot or the writing...I just didn't like anything about it at all. Nothing of interest was happening and I got tired of hearing about Rachel's latest bender and her body fluids! I wouldn't read anything else by the author based on this. It was actually a relief to abandon this book and find something else to read.
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Book Review: UK Dark-Am I a Prepper? by Chris Harris

“What would happen if…?”

Many people ask themselves the question, but how many do something about it? Tom lives in Birmingham, England with his family. After asking himself the question and researching what could happen, he decided it wouldn’t do any harm to be a little bit prepared and store some food and equipment. Just in case.

Years later he discovers the world is going to be hit by a massive Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun which will turn the whole planet dark. No Power, No Cars, No Electronics. Everything will stop working. He only has a few days to get all his family will need to survive on for years. Has he enough time? Who else can he help?

Follow Tom, his family and neighbours and friends as they struggle to survive and form a community that will protect them when everything around them is being destroyed. People want what they have, are they prepared to kill to protect it?

My Review:
Tom is a fan of zombie and apocalypse books which leads him to wonder what he would do to protect his family if disaster came. He and wife Becky decide to start prepping, so when Tom sees some disturbing things on the news, he knows he has less than a week before a huge solar flare changes their lives forever. The question is, who do you share the information with and will they believe you?

I liked Tom because he is a normal guy, living in the UK, who loves to read my favourite kinds of books and I could relate to him completely. When you read these prepper, EMP, solar flare and zombie books, you can't help putting yourself in those situations and wondering what you would do different. That is part of the fun and excitement of reading those genres. Tom starts to seriously think how he would protect his family if a disaster hit, especially when the UK does not allow homeowners to have guns.

One thing I love about prepper disaster books is following the person in their disaster preperations as they plan their food stockpile, home defence, weapons, strategy, power etc. They discuss the merits of staying at home or going to their caravan in Wales. They make lists and start to buy in the supplies they think they need. However, things soon turn manic when Tom finds out about a solar flare that will hit in under a week, and he and Becky rush to get as much as they can in the time they have left. Tom sees a man doing the same kind of mad shopping and realises that he and Jerry are both preppers. Jerry has information that they only have three days and with a day to go, Tom tries to tell his friends and family what is about to happen. It leaves you with the question of when to confide in your loved ones, whether they will believe you, and which of your neighbours to help. If you tell too many, everyone who didn't believe you will come begging for help later. If you tell nobody, are you condemning them to their fate?

When the disaster starts to unfold, Tom quickly tells his neighbours to stockpile what they can from nearby shops before things get too dangerous to go out, and the street becomes a community determined to work together for defence and supplies, aided by Jerry and Allan, a local policeman. The neighbours get organised based on their skills, share food, collect supplies and plan how to defend their street from unfriendly thieves. However, not everyone in the street prove to be team players, leading to a few surprising developments.

There is also the issue of the armed and dangerous raiders who are killing and raping their way through the neighbourhood, and pose a threat to our team's survival. It leads to the moral question of whether to just defend themselves or go on the offensive to stop the danger. There is also the question of whether to help those who come to ask for food at their barricades or whether to assist those on the street who aren't pulling their weight or who want to leave. It was interesting to see how the people all reacted to each new challenge.

So why only three stars? I'm not really sure. I liked it as a decent apocalypse read and it was great to see a book set in the UK. There aren't enough good books in the genre with UK characters and scenarios. It makes a nice change to see people who can't just buy a shed load of guns to solve all their defence issues. Gun use in this book is certainly limited and I liked seeing changes to the usual plot. For me, there was just something missing to take it from a decent read to something great but I'm not sure what! Nothing wrong with the book or writing so I probably would try more books by the author.
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Book Review: Friends of the Family by Joel Baker

The collapse of society forces the Colter family to kill or be killed. To escape, they decide to return to Jesse's childhood home of Haven. On the perilous journey they encounter a deserted genetics lab. That evening the results of a genetic experiment, five massive dogs working as a team, walk into their camp. The dogs finally disappear back into the dark. On a second visit, the dogs become friends of the family. 

As they near Haven, a sheriffs warning about a brutal gang, triggers a buried childhood memory for Jesse and the gangs involvement in the death of his parents. The gang decides to visit Haven... 

My Review:
I suggest that people interested in this book do NOT read the second half of the blurb above as it tells you all the main events in the plot, which is disappointing. I read the whole blurb after I finished the book so the plot was not spoiled for me.

Jesse and his family have survived the apocalypse, a disaster that turned life back before the industrial age, and a fatal cholera outbreak. Now they are trying to survive, protect their town at all costs and do whatever needs to be done to stop stangers taking what is there. When the raiders start to target the town, even Jesse can't stop them and he plans to relocate the family to his old home called Haven. On the dangerous journey, they have a strange encounter with genetically modified dogs which could prove to be a blessing for them.

This was a hard book to review. I'm not really sure how to rate it because I had a fixed idea in my head as to what the book would be like and when I read it, it was nothing like I expected it to be. I was expecting a tale of extreme violence and horror for some reason, and it wasn't like that at all, so I think it will suit a lot of different types of readers. It is set in a grim dystopian world where people were unprepared for a loss of power and the gadgets that made life so easy and enjoyable. Now people try to steal from others to survive and you must be prepared to kill to defend what you have. It is a dark story with bits of violence but not what I'd describe as extreme. It reminds me of the plot of a western where the good guys are taking on the bad guys spreading terror in town, especially the big showdown-except it is set in a dystopian world.

I liked the characters. Jesse is an ordinary man who has done things he is not proud of to protect his family. He is slowly teaching his sons Mark and Paul how to survive and defend the family. His wife Sarah is pregnant, which adds an element of danger to their travel plans. Also there is daughter Lily, and Mark's friend Cole. Cole is a damaged boy who is not fully stable and lives alone, but Jesse views him as part of the family and capable with a gun. I found Cole very interesting as he has suffered greatly in his life but is healing gradually because Jesse believes in him, treating him as a son. There are also the characters of Franklin and Hattie, who raised Jesse after his parents died, and are looking after Haven. I love Franklin...he is like the grampa you've always wanted, kind and full of wisdom. He was my favourite character.

The best thing about this book are the dogs, which feature heavily in the plot. The dogs find the family and decide to adopt the humans, coming along on the journey to Haven. Boss, the leader of the dogs, is just so very cool! I loved the relationship between Lily and the pregnant dog she calls Daisy. It was very sweet!

The book is definitely about the dynamics of two families-the human family, the dog family, and the relationships within and between them. Cole is trying to shed his loner image to fit in. Paul wants more responsibility so he can prove to his father that he is not a child anymore. Sarah fears for her unborn child in this dangerous new world. Jesse battles with the ghosts of his past as he faces the bullies who ruined his childhood. It made the book interesting and brought the characters to life, and you cared about the good guys. It also explores the disturbing aspects within the bad guys family, which I found interesting.

The one thing that slightly disappointed me is that we don't get to follow all of these great characters through the rest of the series. Instead, each book seems to follow a particular generation of the Colter family, with new characters each time. It's not really what I was wanting as I had expected to see the family and the dogs throughout the series. Had I read the blurb for book one, I would've known this but as I explained, I have a fear of blurb spoilers!

Will I read the next book? Probably not, as I think the rest of the series would be a rerun of this book with different cast and none of my favourites. It was still a decent dystopian read though. 
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Book Review: The End of the World by Amy Gregersen

A bomb has gone off, leaving Samantha Higgins and her friends trapped in an old shelter. The chaos filled government has assumed no survivors, no one is coming to rescue them. It's up to them to get out. They have only each other and Mike, the grumpy old veteran who pushed them into the shelter.

My Review:
This book had a very confused writing style which made it frustrating to read. In one line we were with Sam as the storyteller using 'I said' and two lines later, it was 'Sam said'. Then it was back to 'I said'. I can't tell you how annoying and irritating this was! If the author can't decide on what way to tell the story, then the reader is going to find it pretty strange to read. I just wasn't sure what she was trying to achieve.

As for characters, let me put it this way-if I was stuck in a nuclear bunker with Mia, I would either kill her or myself. I hated her! She is a spoiled bitch who is used to stamping her foot and getting her own way, and she obviously has no social skills. She moans that a nine year old traumatized kid isn't doing her share of guard duty, and complaining that the nuclear bomb is getting in the way of her going shopping. WTF is wrong with her? A nuclear bomb has went off and she doesn't seem to grasp that the world as she knows it is gone! When you add in her bitching and rude remarks, the fact that she yells all the time AND all her political rants, she drove me mental. I just could not continue reading with a character in it who was so bad. I hoped that she would go outside and get radiated but it didn't look like happening, so I gave up.

I found this book disappointing.
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Book Review: Remnants by Daniel Powell

The blight fell across the face of the world like a shroud. It mutated so quickly that the virologists never really had a chance.

America sealed its borders, but it was too late. By the time the first North American cannibalism clusters surfaced in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, the blight was already incubating in many northern cities.

A dozen weeks later, everything was gone.

And yet, survivors have persisted. This is the story of the Keanes—an ordinary American family from what used to be Portland, Oregon—and their not-so-ordinary story of survival in the face of unthinkable human depravity.

My Review:
I usually, but not always, like to see the apocalypse unfold from the beginning. I don't generally like joining the survivors weeks, months or years later when a lot of interesting stuff has already happened. But in saying that, joining the apocalypse late is never a deal-breaker for me. A good author in the genre can make it interesting either way.

This book for me did not really deliver. 13 year old Allie, older brother Billy and her father are trying to survive the blight while the kid's mother is missing and assumed infected. I'm not totally sure what the blight was-the impression given is that infected people become cannibals intent on infecting others and feeding, but retaining intelligence, tactics and human behaviour. The focus is on Allie's thoughts so I didn't get a clear picture in my head of what the enemy looked like or what they were doing. We don't really see much of them so it lacked the real tension and excitement that I expect from this type of book.

Allie is totally unbelievable as a 13 year old narrator. How many 13 year olds start talking about the conscientious infected specter of devolving??? Seriously, what is she talking about? I'm in my forties and I didn't have a clue what this girl was on about. And bear in mind that due to the blight, school is out forever, so where she got all the fancy talk is beyond me. All of her language and expressions are much older than her years but I didn't really get what she was talking about at times. It was quite confused.

The overall structure of the plot was also confused. Allie was rambling about all kinds of things with no cohesion and it was frustrating to try and follow what was happening. There was no structured timeline, and it was a bit all over the place. It was also all tell and no show. We were getting a brief description of events that had taken place with no drama or excitement. I like to be there in the story as events unfold, scared as to what is going to happen next-but it just isn't there in this book.

I didn't get drawn into the story or feel any great emotion reading the book. For me, the lack of show really spoiled any chance of getting into the story. A bit disappointing!
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Monday, 23 May 2016

New Release: Concealed by RJ Crayton (Virus #1)

They said it was extremely hard to get.
They said it wasn’t airborne.
They said there was nothing to fear.
They were wrong.

Seventeen-year-old Elaan Woodson was supposed to be one of the lucky ones. She got one of the few spots in the subterranean protection unit designed to keep select scientists, military officials and their families safe from the deadly virus ravaging the world above.

But, how lucky are you really when the people in charge and those you love keep secrets from you? While Elaan has heard that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, she’s beginning to think otherwise. And she should…

Published: May 23rd 2016.

R.J. Crayton grew up in Illinois and now lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. She is the author of the Life First series of novels, which includes Life First and Second Life. Prior to writing fiction, Crayton was a journalist, writing for newspapers, including the Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star. Crayton also worked for several trade publications, including Solid Waste Report, Education Technology News, and Campus Crime. Her first novels were published in 2013.

RJ's website:

Other books by the author include:

Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world's population, life is valued above all else. The government of "Life First" requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.

Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Reading With Chuckles

I have renamed my TBR Reading Challenge and changed it back to Reading with Chuckles as it sounds better, especially at times when I have no specific challenge running. So this is where I'll share what I read and abandoned each week, and I'll give the odd update on the state of my poor TBR! It does suffer at times...! The link under the book takes you to the Goodreads page for that book so you can decide whether to read it, and see my reviews when they are posted.

With my computer being out of action last weekend, I was sooo stressed and just didn't feel like reading at all, which was disappointing! I ended up watching TV until about Thursday so I never really got started on the books until the end of the week. I did look at a few but most were abandoned, sadly. I hope for better things this week. The Iron Witch was a reread to see if I wanted to finish the series, as I no longer bother reading YA. I was disappointed with Deep Thaw. I loved the first book in the series but the next two have been disappointing. I hate that!


Donna Mahoney-The Iron Witch


Algor X Dennison-Deep Thaw

Mark Leney-Extinction

Adam Millard-Dead Cells

Robin Tidwell-Reduced