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Book Review: The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Lovely and the Lost

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: N/A

Genre: YA Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Kira Bennett’s earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her perfectly. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Along with Cady’s son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world’s most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home. But when Cady’s estranged father, the enigmatic Bales Bennett, tracks his daughter down and asks for her help in locating a missing child—one of several visitors who has disappeared in the Sierra Glades National Park in the past twelve months—the teens find themselves on the frontlines sooner than they could have ever expected. As the search through 750,000 acres of unbridled wilderness intensifies, Kira becomes obsessed with finding the missing child. She knows all too well what it’s like to be lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival, alone. But this case isn’t simple. There is more afoot than a single, missing girl, and Kira’s memories threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. As the danger mounts and long-held family secrets come to light, Kira is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her adopted family, her true nature, and her past. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Lovely and the Lost was a light YA mystery involving trauma recovery, a missing persons case, and search and rescue dogs in action.

Barnes is exceptional at giving her characters depth (especially compared to other YA writers). There’s always a deeper story of trauma affecting the plot, which adds a lot of cool dynamics. Stuff like that can often make a story feel too heavy, but she balances it out with fun characters who are animated and engaging despite their inner demons, and there’s something deeply compelling about that.

I also loved the search and rescue premise of the book – especially the dogs! It added a bit of fun to an otherwise dramatic story. I don’t believe there are any sequels planned, but I liked it enough to continue the series if there was one.

Lament: I waited (impatiently) for like five months to get ahold of a copy of this book from my library, letting it take up precious space in my holds lineup, only to give it half-assed attention because, you know, life. Even so, I absorbed most of it, and it’s a decent read. But I wasn’t as engrossed as I was with her Naturals series… and I don’t think it was all because of my distractions.

There’s an overall mystery to this story, but the focus is on the close relationships between characters and the personal issues they’re working through. I would have preferred a stronger focus on the mystery itself. Something to get the characters more active and mentally engaged with it. I was enjoying the story well enough, but I never felt drawn to it to see what would happen next. That lack of suspense affected my rating a bit. The Naturals was so phenomenal, it may have ruined me for mystery YA forever.

Recommendations: this is a great read if you like highly character-driven YA fiction. The search and rescue dogs made the story fun, and Barnes’ great writing always delivers a solidly composed story (great mysteries). However, if you’re new to this author, I’d say go straight for her Naturals series and come back to this one later… :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Dayfall by Michael David Ares


Title: Dayfall

Author: Michael David Ares

Series: N/A

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

The Overview: In the near future, patches of the northern hemisphere have been shrouded in years of darkness from a nuclear winter, and the water level has risen in the North Atlantic. The island of Manhattan has lost its outer edges to flooding and is now ringed by a large seawall. The darkness and isolation have allowed crime and sin to thrive in the never-ending shadows of the once great city, and when the sun finally begins to reappear, everything gets worse. A serial killer cuts a bloody swath across the city during the initial periods of daylight, and a violent panic sweeps through crowds on the streets. The Manhattan police, riddled with corruption and apathy, are at a loss.

That’s when the Mayor recruits Jon Phillips, a small-town Pennsylvania cop who had just single-handedly stopped a high-profile serial killer in his own area, and flies him into the insanity of this new New York City. The young detective is partnered with a shady older cop and begins to investigate the crimes amidst the vagaries of a twenty-four hour nightlife he has never experienced before. Soon realizing that he was chosen for reasons other than what he was told, Jon is left with no one to trust and forced to go on the run in the dark streets, and below them in the maze of the underground. Against all odds he still hopes that he can save his own life, the woman of his dreams, and maybe even the whole city before the arrival of the mysterious and dreaded event that has come to be known as…. DAYFALL. -Goodreads

The Review:

What initially drew me to Dayfall was the interesting concept: a mystery novel set in a not-to-distant-future post-war world where nuclear bombing has caused semi-permanent blackout cloud-cover. Not only have I been itching for a good mystery novel lately, but I loved the presented concept for Dayfall and couldn’t wait to see some cool ideas on how society adapted to these conditions.

The trouble is, the book didn’t quite deliver to my satisfaction for either the mystery or the world-building.

It did have a couple of cool ideas for how city life had changed since the blackout, but for the most part the book fixated on a brief moment where sunlight would shine through (Dayfall) and how seeing the sun for the first time (in less than half a generation) would drive people to literal instantly… a concept that even in hindsight doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Especially since the entire arc of the mystery depended on average citizens turning into aggressive lunatics at the first sign of sunlight. I didn’t see any details within that could’ve explained this shift in human behavior (any sort of made up sci-fi explanation would’ve worked for me. Like radiation mutation or something). And the concept continued to unravel with very inconsistent drop-in details (such as talking about current everyday things in our world, like the NFL, which felt very out of place under the circumstances the author presented) to the point where even suspended belief became impossible for me to maintain.

What’s more, I also found the character profiles incredibly inconsistent. Every time I was starting to get an idea of who they were, they’d do or say something completely out of character from what had been presented so far. They were very erratic, so it made it difficult to get into their thought processes as they tried to solve a mystery. I also had issue with their general lack of common sense and logical follow-through. My concern with this started with the first scene and unfortunately only got worse from there.

Yikes. Okay, so overall, while I can appreciate some concepts within the story and what I think the author was trying to do with it, it just didn’t work for me.

Recommendations: Dayfall definitely had a cool setting for a mystery novel. However, neither the world-building and overall concept nor the characterization were on par with my expectations. There are a whole host of books I would recommend first.

I’d like to thank the publicists at TOR/Forge and Michael David Ares for the chance to read and review an early copy of Dayfall.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

 

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Book Reviews: Steeplejack & Firebrand by A.J. Hartley [+Giveaway!]

Titles: Steeplejack and Firebrand
Author: A.J. Hartley
Series: Alternate Detective #1&2
Genre: Teen Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars

Steeplejack and Firebrand were two of the most unique books I’ve ever read – the type of stories that continue to resonate long after you finish them!

The books were successful on several accounts. The “whodunit” detective mystery was engaging, made all the more compelling by Anglet’s (the main character) personal stake in solving the crime. Her involvement felt more organic than not, and the passages dedicated to developing her convictions and motives were my favorites of the book. She also had a heartfelt side story going on, which offered a satisfying amount of character depth. Anglet is definitely the best part of this series.

The second best part is the inclusion of diversity of characters and an author who wasn’t afraid to write about unfair class systems and discrimination. He offered a variety of dynamics between races not usually seen in YA, for which I applaud. Anglet is a non-white main character, and in a market clamoring for more diversity in books, she was a breath of fresh air. My only issue is that the cover art makes her race a little ambiguous – I would’ve liked to see her more strongly represented.

The books take place in what feels like a 1920s era city, complete with tall buildings (obviously, based on the need for steeplejacks), a neat alternate light/energy source, and plenty of dirty-dealings and underground crime. Interestingly enough, this urban setting is fringed by hippo-occupied rivers, lion-prowling brush lands, and native tribes people. Needless to say it made for a unique atmosphere. I wasn’t totally convinced of its feasibility, given pollution issues and humanity’s tendency to dominate and destroy any threats around major hubs. Then I discovered A.J. Hartley spent some time in South Africa doing research for this series… and now imagine the story reflects this weird dichotomy fairly accurately. It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around, but I can’t deny that the threat of charging hippos and lurking crocodiles added a lot of spice to the story. Sometimes it’s the most unlikely of real-life situations that are the most unbelievable in fiction. Side note: A.J. Hartley has to be one of the most interesting authors I’ve come across (you can see what I’m talking about on his website).

Both novels were equally compelling. While Firebrand didn’t have quite as much growth for the main character, it made up for it by having her become much more immersed in her new “career.” At one point near the beginning I thought it was flirting with hokey, then the author surprised me with an awesome twist, and I was hooked!

Overall, this series (so far) has been incredibly entertaining, memorable, and thought-provoking. I was especially glad to see a YA/Mystery hybrid that felt like a true merge of those genres (where the mystery felt sophisticated enough to appeal to readers of that market). Overall, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about Steeplejack or Firebrand – both exceeded my expectations with flying colors. I’m eagerly awaiting another Alternate Detective novel.

I want to thank the publicists at TOR/Forge and A.J. Hartley for a chance to read and review an early copy of Firebrand – I enjoyed it thoroughly!


Steeplejack and Firebrand Giveaway!

Open to US and Canada Residents!
Click on the link to enter:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

A winner has been chosen and notified. Thanks for entering! :)

 I wish this went without saying, but please verify your GR friendship/Blog following status before claiming entries (all of your entries will be disqualified if you’re dishonest or mistaken).

This giveaway will run until midnight [MST] on Friday July 21, 2017. Good Luck! :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes