Authority

By Jeff VanderMeer

After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X–a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization–has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.

In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.

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In many ways, I liked Authority better than Annihilation. One of the major reasons is that Authority is nowhere near as creepy as Annihilation. Rather than take place in the mysterious Area X, Authority deals with the Southern Reach, the government body in charge of Area X.

Van De Meer loves to give his main characters thought-provoking names. Ghost Bird in Annihilation. Control in Authority. I read the word “Control” so much it actually started to sound like a decent name. And of course there was a delightful little riff with CTRL and Control.

Authority goes a long way towards putting some explanation to Annihilation and the secrets of Area X. But of course, not everything is resolved and we get new questions with no answers. Some people found this book to be slow or even boring. While it’s true I didn’t gobble this book down in one sitting, my pulse wasn’t at an all-time high, either.

Oh and the ending of this one is a doozy. Be sure to have Acceptance standing by so you can start reading.

Annihilation

By Jeff VanderMeer

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

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Annihilation takes the cake as one of the creepiest books I’ve read recently. I was thoroughly creeped out from the opening pages and nothing had happened yet, just description of landscape. Now that’s good writing!

As intrigued as I was, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book. I didn’t think I could handle it. But then, when I wasn’t home alone, I finished the rest of the book in one sitting.

If you’ve seen other reviews for this book, you know it opens a Pandora’s box of questions without bothering to solve much of anything at all. Good thing I got copies of the next two books, Authority and Acceptance, right away. I believe all three books originally came out within a few months of each other. Which was a good move on the publisher’s part. These books need to be binge-read together.

If you’re considering reading Annihilation, do yourself a favor and buy all three books.

Willowgrove

By Kathleen Peacock

Ever since Mac’s best friend, Amy, was murdered, Hemlock has been a dangerous place. But now that Mac, her boyfriend, Kyle, and Amy’s ex, Jason, have investigated a mass breakout from Thornhill, a werewolf “rehabilitation” camp, the danger has only grown. Fear of the infection spreading is now at an all-time high, and anyone with a scar is suspected of being a wolf.

What makes Mac even more afraid, though, are the dark experiments that the warden of Thornhill was performing on wolves in a secret asylum called Willowgrove. Uncovering the truth about what happened may be the only way for Mac to save everyone she loves and end her nightmares for good.

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I mentioned in my review of Thornhill that I had no idea how Peacock meant to wrap up her series in just one more book and give the reader a satisfying conclusion.

Um. Somehow she managed to do just that. Willowgrove was easily my favorite of the series.

I didn’t know understand the connection with Mac’s dreams, Amy’s ghost, and what Willowgrove had to do with it all. This book masterfully tied up all the loose ends and was a great end to the series.

Too many series let the reader down on the third book. This one didn’t. If you’re reading the series, go and read this book already!

Endless

By Kate Brian

Rory Miller didn’t just fall in love with Tristan Parrish. She fell in love with the idea of forever. He was the one who told her the truth about her existence in Juniper Landing: that her mortal life is over, and she will now spend eternity on the island, helping others in limbo move on.

But like Juniper Landing, a bright island with dark secrets, Tristan is too good to be true. The mysterious, heartbreakingly beautiful boy Rory thought she knew is responsible for unthinkable evil-sending good souls to the Shadowlands in order to get himself a second chance at life on Earth. He has already claimed Rory’s friend Aaron and her own father, but when SPOILER Tristan sends her sister, Darcy, to the Shadowlands, too, Rory decides to take matters into her own hands. She will do anything to save her family, even if it means going to hell and back.

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A lackluster ending to an overall lackluster series. This series was no Private or Privilege.

I had a hard caring about most of the characters. Even Rory, the main character, failed to make me really care much about her situation. I had a hard time remembering who all her friends on Juniper Landing were. The structure of the world Brian created probably doesn’t help though. Souls are constantly arriving on the island to be ushered, resulting in a lot of extraneous characters who do little for the story itself.

Still, I will definitely be reading whatever Brian writes next! I loved her Private and Privilege series and Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys.

 

 

Thornhill

By Kathleen Peacock

Mac can’t lose another friend. Even if he doesn’t want to be found.

The ripple effect caused by Mac’s best friend Amy’s murder has driven Mac’s new love, Kyle, to leave Hemlock and disappear from her life forever. But Mac knows that Kyle plans to enroll in a rehabilitation camp, where he can live with other werewolves. She refuses to accept his decision, especially since the camps are rumored to be tortuous. So she sets out in search of Kyle with a barely sober Jason—and Amy’s all-seeing ghost—in tow.

Clues lead Mac to find Kyle in a werewolf den in Colorado—but their reunion is cut short by a Tracker raid. Now Mac and Kyle are trapped inside the electric fences of Thornhill, a camp for young werewolves. As she devises an escape plan, Mac uncovers dangerous secrets buried within the walls of Thornhill—and realizes that the risk to the people she loves is greater than ever before.

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After reading Hemlock, I was pretty excited to read this book as well. Overall, my main complaint with this book was that I feel like so many things were skimmed over.

In Hemlock, the entire story is set in the town of Hemlock, so it makes it easy to contain the story in the setting. In Thornhill, Jason and Mac go to Denver looking for Kyle, before Mac, Kyle, and Serena end up inside the Thornhill werewolf camp.

First, being from Denver, I’d like to see more of how the world has changed following the werewolf outbreak. Second, Thornhill has so much awesome potential. It’s kind of awful, but it could have been so much more. Since the obviously allusion is to some sort of concentration camp scenario, I would have liked to have seen the story dig deep a little more.

They live in dorms, go to rehabilitation classes, and are never allowed to leave the camp, yet it feels like the time they spent in the camp only scratched the surface.

I am also kinda confused why Amy’s ghost is still hanging around. I thought that she was only there because of all the guilt Mac felt about her death and now that her murder was solved and her murdered brought to justice, I thought we wouldn’t see Amy anymore.

Still, another interesting entry in this series, with some new complications emerging at the end of the book which will have quite the ramifications.

I feel like this series is supposed to be a trilogy, but I can’t imagine it being wrapped up in only one more book. Might be another case of it originally being intended as a trilogy and then the story taking on a life of its own.

Eight Minutes

By Lori Reisenbichler

On the night that Shelly Buckner finally became a mother, she very nearly became a widow. Her husband, Eric, seriously injured in a car accident on the way to the hospital, was dead for a full eight minutes before being revived all while Shelly was in labor. Those eight minutes changed everything Shelly thought was possible.

Three years later, their son, Toby, brings home an imaginary friend. But he s no ordinary playmate John Robberson is a fighter pilot and Vietnam vet. As Toby provides unlikely details about John s life and Toby s tantrums increase Shelly becomes convinced that John was real and now wants something from Toby. But her husband has his doubts, and as Shelly becomes involved, even obsessed, with finding out the truth, their marriage begins to disintegrate. Torn between protecting her child and keeping the peace with her husband, Shelly desperately searches for a way to finally put John Robberson out of their lives.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I received this and Under Dark Skies around the same time. I was more hesitant about this book, not positive it would be my thing. As a rule, I’m not super interested in chick lit and the way the dissection of a relationship becomes the subject of the book. But I gave it a try anyway. There was that pressing question: who is John Robberson?

It’s safe to say I gobbled this book up. I probably set a new speed reading record reading this one.

Right away, we’re dropped into the mystery of the eight minutes and John Robberson. And the pace never slows down. Shelley’s quest to solve the mystery is unfolded page after page, without any lulls or dead time.

The book really is focused on only four central characters, a feat it pulls off beautifully. We never grow bored with Shelley, Eric, Toby, or John and breathlessly take this trip with them.

Which is also remarkable considering our POV character, Shelley, is a stay at home mom. So the setting is rather stationary. This book also made me think that there’s not many books who tell a story from the prospective of a stay at home parent.

This was a great read and I highly recommend it.

Under Dark Skies

By A.J. Scudiere

In NightShade nothing is as it seems . . .

Eleri Eames didn’t think she’d ever be allowed to work for the FBI again, so the special FBI division of NightShade seems like an amazing opportunity. But all too soon, her chance to start over starts to disturb her.

When the FBI offers Donovan a chance to leave his job as a medical examiner and try his hand at something new, he takes a chance on the NightShade division. Somehow, he has to try to escape from his shadows, but can he trust Eleri with the truth?

Thrown together on their first case, Eleri and Donovan must deal with a charismatic cult leader and his true-believers. The cult is mixed up with several decade-old kidnapping cases and the missing daughter of a prominent FBI Agent. As Eleri and Donovan dig deeper, they discover that NightShade’s mysteries aren’t coincidence.

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*I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is one of those series where I think I will enjoy reading the subsequent books more than the first one. The introduction of the two characters felt a bit strained at times, especially in the beginning. But by the end of the book, I was all in for Eleri and Donovan and ready to read more about them and NightShade. I still don’t think I particularly like Eleri, but I love Donovan. Eleri kind of rubs me the wrong way, but half the book is narrated by Donovan, so I can deal.

Going in, we are immediately provided with the information that both Eleri and Donovan have secrets and that perhaps those secrets are exactly why they’re been recruited to NightShade. So once we get all of that information out on the table, this becomes a really good book.

The plot was certainly interesting. Eleri and Donovan are on the trail of a secret cult whose believers keeps turning up sick, injured, or dead. While they work quickly to solve the case, the energy and the pacing definitely kept me turning the pages.

This book seems to get compared to the X-Files (haven’t read/watched). I would also suggest if you were a fan of the tv show, Fringe, you would like this book. I will definitely be looking out for the next books in the series!