The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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Kristin Hannah has done it again! Her newest novel, The Great Alone, which releases in February 2018, is absolutely stunning.

The story begins in 1974 when Lenora Allbright (Leni) is 13 years old and once again the new kid at school, having changed schools multiple times mainly because of her father’s wrath and inability to keep a job. Leni’s father, Ernt, was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War, and since he has been back, his own family household has become the front line of battle with his white hot anger and temper. Leni’s mother, Cora, tries to tiptoe around Ernt in order to keep their glass house from shattering, but she rarely escapes the wrath of Ernt, which Leni witnesses it all the time. Just when Leni hopes they might finally settle down in one place so her father can be happy, Ernt loses yet another job, and the family is uprooted again. This time, however, her parents pack up the VW van and the family of three heads to a remote island in the Alaskan wilderness. One of Ernt’s war comrades who passed away in Vietnam, Bo Harlan, left Ernt his ramshackle homestead in Kaneq, on the Kenai Peninsula. Ernt feels this is a sign, and a big break for the family that they must not pass up. What they don’t realize then is that Alaska will change the course of Leni’s future forever. All of their futures, actually.

Other than a few neighbors down the road a ways, the Allbright’s rustic cabin is in an untamed area of Alaska, where the winters are unforgiving and severe and the wildlife extremely dangerous. Leni and her mother get to know some strong Alaskan women, learning all they can from them regarding planting, fishing, and preparing food and adequate shelter for winter. Large Marge, a former lawyer who runs the small general store in town, takes them under her wing and provides Leni a security she has never felt before. Ernt gets close to Bo’s father, Mad Earl Harlan and his clan, and together Ernt and Earl, both paranoid quick to rage, arrange all-out crazy plans for surviving when “TSHTF” with the government.

Meanwhile, Leni starts school with the very few other school-age inhabitants of Kaneq, including the only other student her age, Matthew Walker. Matthew’s family has been very successful in Alaska for many generations, starting with his grandparents who started the town of Kaneq. Matthew’s father, Tom, plans to use some of his wealth to modernize and improve Kaneq, opening up the island for tourism. This, and the fact that Tom seems to have a keen eye for his wife, Cora, only enrages Ernt Allbright more. Ernt directs his hatred and anger toward the Walkers and anything to do with their family, including Matthew, of course. Though her father forbids Leni from seeing Matthew, Leni grows closer and closer with him, finding in him a first best friend and first love all at the same time.

For Leni, the dangers outside of the cabin and in the wilderness are much less than those she faces in her own home. As the years pass and Leni grows up, she and her mother are both terrified to stay, and terrified to leave, knowing that Ernt will track them down no matter what. Now, at the age of 18 and graduating from high school, Leni dreams of going to college with Matthew and studying photography. However, her father forbids her from leaving Kaneq, in his mad fury to control each and every move she and her mother make. He even goes as far as to build a wall, locking the family on their property and locking everyone else out. A horrific tragedy strikes as Leni is finally able to make an escape, and what happens after will keep readers on the edge of their seats through a roller-coaster of fear, guilt, regret, love, and longing.

Hannah’s description of the land and stark beauty of Alaska are breathtaking. The author’s notes explain that Hannah’s own father ended up in Alaska in search of great adventure, and they have all “fallen in love with the Last Frontier.” Her experience with Alaska is evident in the atmospheric scenes throughout the novel. The writing is raw and real. Readers will feel the naked fear and loneliness of Leni and Cora as they struggle to survive in the great alone of Alaska, trapped in a family crisis with no easy way out. I couldn’t put this book down, much like my experience with all of Hannah’s novels. The fact that the setting for this novel was very personal for Hannah made it even more enjoyable for me as the reader. I would highly recommend The Great Alone to anyone who enjoys adventure, suspense, romance, and coming-of-age novels, because this one has it all.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the review copy of this title.

 

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The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

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The release date for The Seventh Plague, the newest installment in James Rollins’s Sigma Force series, is December 13, 2016. This happens to be my birthday, which is a pretty awesome birthday gift from my absolute favorite author! (Thanks, James!)

Though the novels do not have to be read in order for maximum enjoyment, I understand the need for starting at the beginning of a series. I am a stickler for that, myself. For a list of the Sigma Force series novels in order, click here.

As with all of Rollins’ Sigma Force series novels, The Seventh Plague is full of pulse-pounding action & suspense from the very first page. This is one of the (many) reasons I love his novels so very much. Another big reason is the thorough amount of historical & scientific research he completes and weaves into the stories. The notes section at the back of his novels are sometimes just as exciting as the story itself! It’s fascinating to find out what parts of the story are fact and which are fiction.

A British archaeologist, Harold McCabe, who has been missing for over two years is found in the Egyptian desert. Unfortunately, he dies before he is able to give any information that could lead to the whereabouts of the rest of the research team, including his son. A startling discovery occurs during the autopsy – his body had started to mummify while he was still alive. To make matters worse, those who had worked on McCabe’s body for autopsy become extremely ill with an unknown, but highly contagious disease that quickly spreads through Cairo and beyond, threatening to become a global crisis. An old love interest of Director Painter Crowe, Safia al-Maaz, happens to be McCabe’s colleague, and she reaches out to Crowe (and Sigma) for urgent help.

Commander Gray Pierce and his team (with some of the usual Sigma characters: Seichan, Monk, and Kowalski) set out, risking their lives as they discover a threat linked back to ancient history and biblical passages. Along for the adventures are McCabe’s daughter, Jane, and the old archaeologist’s prodigy and friend, Derek Rankin. As they try to piece together the puzzle from McCabe’s research, others are tracking them, trying to find answers as well. They are forced on the run by a cold-hearted, extremely skilled female assassin on par with the likes of Seichan. Gray and his team unearth clues in an ancient tomb beneath the desert sands, while Painter’s group must travel to a remote Arctic landscape in an attempt to stop the release of another set of plagues upon mankind. The novel is rich with historical details, involving famous figures Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, and Henry Morgan Stanley.

The Seventh Plague moves forward at breakneck speed (in trademark Rollins style), switching back and forth between the action in the desert and that in the Arctic. Readers won’t be able to put the book down until the final page. Will all the Sigma team members make it out of this story alive? You’ll have to read it and find out for yourself. You won’t be sorry you did!

Fans of Steve Berry, Ken Follett, and  David Baldacci will surely enjoy any and all works by James Rollins. He is a master of blending historical mysteries and scientific discoveries into a terrific story, each and every time.

The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins

The Bone Labyrinth will be published on December 15, 2015 by William Morrow.

I consider James Rollins to be the King of adventure suspense novels. He has been my absolute favorite author for a long time. The Bone Labyrinth is the newest installment in the Sigma Force series, featuring an amazing cast of characters including Gray, Seichan, Kat, Monk, Kowalski, and Director Painter Crowe. I’m normally not a fan of long running series, because I find myself being bored with the characters after two or three novels. However, I have read every single one of James Rollins’ books and loved each and every page of every book. He does a great job of focusing on different characters more intensely with different books, so as not to bore the reader with too much backstory or day to day kind of happenings. Like all of his Sigma series novels, The Bone Labyrinth started off with a bang and continued with breakneck speed through different countries with high stakes adventure and thrills. James researches the material for his novels with great intensity and includes a sort of fact or fiction section at the end of each novel. This is one of the things I love so much about his work – he shows the readers where his amazing ideas originated and also gives credit where credit is due.

In this particular story, Gray and Seichan are sent to assist in finding and protecting Dr. Lena Crandall, a young geneticist who is trapped in an underground cavern in Croatia, after a research assignment turns deadly & dangerous. After rescuing Lena and a young priest, they begin to follow clues that will take them through ancient tunnels in Ecuador and to the lost city of Atlantis. Meanwhile, Monk and Kowalski are sent to an Atlanta primate research center to talk to the other Dr. Crandall, Lena’s twin Maria, also a geneticist who is working with Baako, an intelligent gorilla she has trained and researched since birth. When Lena, Baako, and Kowalski are kidnapped and taken to China, the story becomes a rollercoaster ride as they begin a race for their lives. The story spans over 50,000 years of human history from the earliest Neanderthals to present day genetic engineering & modification. I won’t give much more of the plot, because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. It’s more fun to read and find out all the surprises as you go. Buckle up, readers…this is a wild read!

If you have never read a James Rollins book, I would encourage you to give one a try. They are absolutely amazing, and are hard to put down once started. I would start with the beginning of the Sigma series, which is Sandstorm, or read a stand alone novel (Deep Fathom, Ice Hunt, Amazonia, or Subterranean). I can’t wait for his next book!

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

 

 

Ashfall is the first in a 3, and planning to be 4 book series by Mike Mullin. Mike Mullin is an Indianapolis based author, whom I met at an ALA conference last year. He is well spoken, super smart, and the most down to earth guy. After reading his first book, I have even more respect for him and his awesome talent. The book was published in October, 2012. However, I finally got around to reading it after hearing my students rave about how amazing it is. The book is written for the YA crowd, but there are certainly many adult themed scenes. I enjoyed the book very much, for the suspense, and the non-stop action which kept the story propelled forward as if the reader was actually there with Alex and Darla making their way through the ashfall. The story supposes that the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupts with no warning and ash covers the earth for thousands of miles around the eruption site, including Alex’s hometown while he is home alone for the weekend. Alex is determined to get to where his parents are and reunite with his family. The readers can assume it will not be easy if only for the ash covered landscape and extreme weather fluctuations, but there are so many other obstacles Alex must face which make for a nail-biting read. This is one of my all time favorite YA books so far. I couldn’t put it down. Well done, Mike. I look forward to reading Ashen Winter, Sunrise, and the upcoming 4th installment.

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

 

zoo chinaI absolutely loved this fast-paced action thriller. I had never read anything by Matthew Reilly prior to this, but now I think I will go check out some of his other novels. It reminded me quite a bit of my favorite author, James Rollins’, books. The story line is incredibly creative and interesting. It certainly does have some far fetched elements, but that is what makes fiction so much fun! From start to finish, this is a roller-coaster of non-stop action. It is a bit gory in parts, so I wouldn’t advise reading it if you are squeamish with talk of blood. I would recommend it with flying colors, otherwise. Awesome!!!

 

The 6th Extinction by James Rollins


A fabulous fast-paced action/adventure. James Rollins never disappoints, as his novels always keep you reading furiously until the final pages. He does extensive research into all of the topics covered and provides author’s notes at the end of the novel. This is really informative and helps the reader to decipher what is or isn’t true in the story. This book hooks the reader from the very beginning and provides thrills the whole way through. I LOVE IT!

Don’t Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz


This book was excellent. The reader will find everything they hope for in a suspense novel. I was biting my nails until the finish. Great job, Gregg Hurwitz!! No wonder my absolutely favorite author James Rollins gave you a shout out and recommended this book. It’s wonderful!