Donna’s favorite reads in 2015

The December column is always my favorite because I get to look back at my favorite reads from the year.

Duke City Desperado2015 saw the third book in the Duke City series by Max Austin released in June. DUKE CITY DESPERADO was a fun frolic through the misadventures of Dylan James and his buddy Doc who tried to rob a bank through the drive-up window.

Yeah, most of us would see the folly in this right from theDuke City Hit start but Doc, well, his perspective was skewed. It comes as no surprse that Doc was immediately captured but Dylan manages to stay about a half-step away from the law through a crazy set of circumstances that only Max Austin can deliver.

517UBdb43dL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Each book in the series stands alone with one common element: Alburburque, New Mexico. If you like crime from a slightly tweeked angle you’ve got to give the Duke City series a go.

 

 

The Jamie Sinclair series by Nichole Christoff is a hit for me. The debut 51U7daFZDcL._AC_UL320_SR242,320_was THE KILL LIST where Jamie and the baggage she calls “ex-husband” try to rescue his three-year-old daughter from kidnappers. In the course of her investigation she meets her love interest Adam Barrett who feeds stray dogs. Ladies, can I get a collective *sigh* on this?

51JHDkkSCwL._AC_UL320_SR240,320_THE KILL SHOT  goes international as Jamie tries to understand what send Adam rogue.

THE KILL BOX dives into Adam’s past when he returns 515VW7PtWhL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_home unexpectedly and Jamie is hired by his grandmother to investigate his bizarre behavior.

Tightly written, with great insight to military life, Christoff delivers a fast-paced series for the romantic suspense crowd. I definitely recommend you grab all three.

41nV2oVnGZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Another series that grabbed me was the urban fantasy series HIDDEN by Colleen Vanderlinden. I stumbled onto the books from a free give-away on FB and didn’t stop reading until the last book.

The first book, LOST GIRL, introduces us to Molly Brooks, a telepathic vigilante with a passion for finding lost girls. 519utj1FxaL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Fast paced, funny and heartwrenching this series delivers a host of fascinating supernatural characters in a highly imaginative world.

From the first page to the last this series is gold. I haven’t delved into Ms. Vanderlinden’s other series but they are certainly on my TBR pile.

 

Up From the GraveUP FROM THE GRAVE was the exit in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. I enjoyed the strong willed vampire killing Kat and her teacher/husband Bones escapades and all the characters from that world, many have found series of their own.

While this wasn’t the best book in the series it is still a must read once you’ve dived into the tale and I do recommend that you enter their world.

 

Bronze FoxThe paranormal adventure BRONZE FOX by Diana Green was a delight. Tobias is a fox-shifter and Etty a street-wise ball of fire are teamed up in an adventure that is part Stargate, part steampunk and all adventure. Author of the Dragon Clan series, Ms. Green has written a wonderful tale. The only complaint I had was that I would have like the romance to take a little longer, I was enjoying the dance. BTW, Ms. Green also designed the gorgeous cover.

51CRFtWro3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This year saw the final installment in the Unknown Assassin series by Allen Zadoff. The first book I AM THE WEAPON introduced us to Boy Nobody. Taken at an early age and transformed into a teenage assassin, Boy Nobody was always the new kid in school, becoming who ever he needed to in order to get the job done. All went well until he started asking questions.

I loved the series and the final book, I AM THE TRAITOR gave a satisfying I am the Traitorending to these fast paced and intriguing books. This award winning series has been translated into over a dozen languages and has been optioned by Sony Pictures. Great for teens and adults.

 

An Untamed StateRoxane Gay delivers the powerful tale of Mireille Duval Jameson in AN UNTAMED STATE. While visiting family in Haiti Mireille was ripped from her fairy tale life and held for ransom. Knowing her father would never pay, this strong-willed woman fought to survive the horrific abuses inflicted on her by her captors.

The true power of this story comes in the second half of the book, after Mireille has been released by the kidnappers. Her journey back from the trauma was something I could not stop reading.

 

51HRGdMz39L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I requested a review copy of this book because Barney Teegarden just seemed like the kind of guy whose company I would enjoy. I was right. COMING BACK by John Inman was a wonderful tale of people who look out for each other with tenderness and humor. I look forward to grabbing the first two books in this series.

 

51sUwrukhPL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This last book in my list of 2015 favorites is THE SOUND OF GLASS by New York bestselling author Karen White.

The generational effects of domestic violence are at the heart of this story. The story opens with a tragic plane crash in 1955 near the home of Edith Heyward in Beauford, South Carolina that deposits a suitcase in Edith’s yard and leaves the reader with a mystery.

Fast forward to 2014, Merritt Heyward loses her firefighter husband but inherits his family home in Beaufort where she meets the brother-in-law she didn’t know she had. Arriving in Beaufort on Merritt’s heel is her too-young stepmother, Loralee, and her half brother, Owen.

White brilliantly guides us through the awkward interactions of four people who seemingly have little in common as they grow to become a family. Rich details, compelling characters and numerous secrets keep you engaged until the last page. I loved this book.

Donna writes the review column The Eclectic Express for the Book Breeze.

Review: I AM THE TRAITOR by Allen Zadoff

I am the TraitorI AM THE TRAITOR: THE UNKNOWN ASSASSIN By Allen Zadoff

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 2015) YA Mystery

The Program has sent Boy Nobody on countless missions, instructed to kill whichever target he was given. But now, after going rogue, he is on his own mission to rescue his friend Howard, who was captured by The Program. Boy Nobody manages to free Howard as well as Tanya, a mysterious girl who was being held with him. Putting their skills to the test, Howard and Tanya help Boy Nobody collect information about his father, eventually revealing a dangerous secret that teaches Boy Nobody a valuable lesson — he can’t trust anyone.

This is the final installment in the excitng Boy Nobody series and I have thoroughly enjoyed every book. Zadoff delivered intrigue and action on every page with strong characters and plenty of surprises. I recommend this entire series to teens and adults alike.

This review was provided by the Eclectic Express for the May 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

YA Review – I AM THE MISSION (Book #2 in Boy Nobody series)

Unknown  I AM THE MISSION

Allen Zadoff

Publisher:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers

June 17, 2014

Genre:  YA Thriller/Mystery

Description: 
He was the perfect assassin. No name. No past. No remorse. Perfect, that is, until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders. Now The Program is worried that their valuable soldier has become a liability.

And so Boy Nobody is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to prove his loyalty.

His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of an extremist military training camp for teenagers. It sounds like a simple task, but a previous operative couldn’t do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Now Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly.

But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, nor the truth.

Zadoff has delivered another great addition to the Boy Nobody series.  The main character can be compared to a teenage Jason Bourne – focused, determined, and unstoppable.  Yet despite all his training he still has this glimmer of humanity that forces him to question why.

I could not stop reading this book.  The complexity of the plot and characters was amazing.  I was delighted to see the return of Howard from the first book and the renewal of the query about what happened to his father but this is something that will hopefully be addressed in the next book.

Well-written, this non-stop action/thriller is a must read.

BTW – The first book, I AM THE WEAPON, has been optioned for a major motion picture from Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment.  (Quoted from Allen Zadoff’s website)

YA Reviews – I AM THE WEAPON and SECOND STAR

I AM THE WEAPON
Allen Zadoff

Publisher:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers / May 13, 2014
Genre:  YA Thriller/Mystery

Description: They needed the perfect assassin. He is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die-of natural causes.” Mission accomplished, then he disappears, moving on to the next target.

Previously published under the title Boy Nobody

I didn’t know what to expect when I began reading.  The story is told in first person with a stinted writing style, which, at first, bugged me until I realized how well it fit with the character.  We have a young man who taken when he was twelve years old, told his parents are dead and trained by The Program as an assassin.  He is continually inserted into new situations with one mission – kill.  Yes, his life has been stinted.

As he moves from assignment to assignment he begins to step away from his programing and question his own actions.  He grows as a person.  This leads him into problems with The Program.

I recommend this book and I look forward to the second book in the series – I Am The Mission.

 

SECOND STAR
By Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group  (May 12, 2014)
Genre: YA

Description:  A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward his nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of J. M. Barrie’s classic tale, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up—and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

What first drew me to this book was the surfing.  I grew up in Southern California surrounded by the beach and surf movies and while the one and only time I ever surfed I broke my nose, I can’t get enough of it.  (And yes, I still watch Big Wednesday at least once a year.)  So when this surf story landed on my desk I jumped on it and I was not disappointed.  It’s a wonderful remake of the classic PETER PAN as this Wendy searches for her ‘lost boys’ brothers.

This story of hope and heartache and making choices is a wonderful summer time read.  I definitely recommend it.

 

Reviewed for The Book Breeze by Donna Keihle