Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{October 10, 2012}   {ARC Review} Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin (Ashfall #2)

From Goodreads: It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.


Mike Mullen really knows how to spin a terrifying story that wraps the reader into its clutches and doesn’t let go until the final sentence.  I am in absolute awe, once again, with this sequel to Ashfall, and cannot wait for the third installment in this riveting story.

Alex and Darla are back, stronger than ever now that they’ve had time to recuperate on Alex’s uncle’s farm.  While no one would say they’re living in luxury, they have survived the volcanic eruption, figured out how to grow kale to stave of scurvy, and things are about as good as they can get when its constantly below freezing and ash and snow cover the ground, having knocked out technology as we know it.  But the chance encounter with thieves, brandishing the rifle Alex’s father was last seen holding, once again stirs up Alex’s unease and determination to find his parents, and so the trek back into the wilderness begins.

I love Darla.  She has a good head on her shoulders, and while life is anything but easy, her ingenuity and previous life on a farm make her one of the most valuable characters within the novel.  Together, with Alex, they seem to be an unstoppable force, and I absolutely love them as a couple.  Though Alex is lacking in some of the rudimentary skills needed to survive the freezing wilderness, with Darla’s help he is able to preserve, but it isn’t until things go very wrong that we begin to see just how driven Alex really is when it comes to saving those he loves.  Darla is my hero, but when Mullin pulls her from the action for a hefty portion of the novel, Alex easily slides into her place, becoming a favorite for all who read.

It’s impossible not to root for these two lovers, and Mullin keeps his story packed with fast paced action and heart pounding drama, making it a must read, in my opinion.  As it’s a long novel, I wasn’t able to finish it in one sitting, but putting it aside was pure torture.  Alex’s plight and the peril the characters find themselves in is excruciating, and I couldn’t push them from my mind, even when other tasks were before me.  My mind kept replaying the events, trying to figure out how to make things right again, even when I wasn’t reading—that’s how much the book affected me!  It’s a beautiful story and is extremely captivating, and though I screamed aloud at the characters (mainly Alex) throughout the novel, I still love them all, even the newcomers Alex meets along the way.

Mullin introduces his readers to even more terrifying possibilities throughout this second novel—from unfrozen waterfalls and barricaded towns, to cannibalistic leaders set on trading slaves, Alex and Darla must trudge through the wilderness in hopes of surviving long enough to cross paths with Alex’s parents, if they’re still alive.  And I just can’t get enough.  Five stars.5 stars

Tanglewood Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on October 14, 2012.


Denise Z says:

I have been wanting to read Ashfall forever LOL and it has been on my wishlist quite a while. Now that book two is here and sounds to suspenseful and yummy, I will have to urge the budget gods to get on the ball and get started with this series. Thank you for sharing, your review certainly has my fingers itching to get hold of this read :)

Mary Preston says:

I read ASHFALL & loved it. Mike Mullin writes very well.

Currently reading my ARC of this as well and I have to say that I am finding it incredible! And the pacing is breathtaking!! I would have have to say that I am liking this book much better than Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”.

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