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Where Silence GathersFrom Goodreads: In this companion novel to the critically acclaimed Some Quiet Place, Alex must choose between Revenge and Forgiveness.

For as long as she can remember, Alexandra Tate has been able to see personified Emotions, and she’s found a best friend in Revenge. He’s her constant companion as she waits outside Nate Foster’s house, clutching a gun. Every night since Nate’s release from prison, Alex has tried to work up the courage to exact her own justice on him for the drunk driving accident that killed her family.

But there’s one problem: Forgiveness. When he appears, Alex is faced with a choice—moving on or getting even. It’s impossible to decide with Forgiveness whispering in one ear . . . and Revenge whispering in the other.

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This novel is a companion to Some Quiet Place; a standalone that is set in the same world, but with different characters. Whereas Some Quiet Place focuses on Elizabeth, a young woman unable to feel emotion, and her relationship with Fear, Where Silence Gathers brings us new characters and emotions in that of Alex, Revenge, and Forgiveness.

Alex is a fairly complex character and I enjoyed getting to know her. I can’t imagine how I would react should my family be decimated by a drunk driver, and I certainly don’t know how I’d react should said drunk driver be released from prison, only to come back to town as a constant reminder of what I lost. Alex struggles, and I found her struggle to be an extremely real one. While I’d like to say that I wouldn’t act like her, that I wouldn’t allow my family’s death to consume my life, I feel like that’s a lie, and I’d most likely be in the same boat as Alex.

With Revenge as a constant companion, Alex has many choices to make—and some of them are quite horrible, but as she grows throughout the novel, I liked how she began to connect with Forgiveness and begins to come back into herself—the girl she was before the death of her family.

I wasn’t expecting the final truth about Revenge and Forgiveness—I was surprised, but in retrospect, I don’t think I should have been; it only makes perfect sense. There is an added element of mystery to this novel as well as Alex learns about information she found on her father’s flash drive, and I enjoyed this aspect of the story as well, though I preferred that of the emotions and their constant companionship of Alex. I just find it so cool to think that emotions are invisible entities that constantly appear and interact with us, without our knowing.

Overall, this series is a unique, interesting read. If you’re looking for something different, I highly suggest picking it up. Four stars.

4 stars

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Monument 14 Sky on FireFrom Goodreads: Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected…

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I absolutely adored the first novel in this series, and while this second novel is very well written, it just didn’t grab me like the first. While part of this has to do with needing to rekindle my relationships with the characters, and thankfully Laybourne gives readers all the reminders they need to get back on track, the main issue for me was the font. Normally, I don’t discuss layout or font when critiquing a novel, especially since it generally has no barring on the story itself—the author doesn’t control font in a big publishing house—but I just can’t get over it. The novel is split between two characters, Dean and Alex, as they branch off from one another and tell their stories as the days unfold. Dean and just a few young survivors are staying behind at the Greenway Superstore due to blood toxin issues, and so events unfolding there are told through his eyes, in a normal, every day font. On the other hand, Alex, Dean’s brother, and the rest of the young survivors have taken the bus and are driving 60+ miles to the airport in attempts to bring people to help rescue Dean and the other survivors who can’t weather the toxins in the air. And here is where the story lost me—I had trouble reading Alex’s point of view because the font changed, and it wasn’t a normal easy font for me to read. It was lighter than normal font, with the letters elongated and spaced out, and it really impacted my reading. One can’t enjoy something they struggle to read, and while I get the idea behind different fonts, I think it was a not so great move on the part of the publishers. I just couldn’t get into Alex’s story because I struggled so much to follow it.

This novel is actually rather short in the realm of things, sitting at 213 pages, and truthfully, not a whole lot happened. There were a few issues that arose, but our heroes and heroines were able to smooth things over quite quickly, which is good, but doesn’t leave much in terms of excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the story, and I’m excited to see what happens next for the characters, but I hope there is just a little more substance and, of course, a normal font throughout. Three stars.

3 stars

I purchased this novel from Barnes and Noble.

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SunriseFrom Goodreads: The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever — and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.
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This is the third and final installment in the Ashfall series, and while I do really like it, part of me is left wanting. Years pass by in this novel, and while it’s great to be back together with Alex and Darla—I do love them—I almost feel like not much happens in this final installment.

Yes, there are deaths. Within the first few pages, one character I really cared for died, but s/he was more so a minor character, so in the realm of things, my heart wasn’t broken for too long. In the greater spectrum of things, I feel like there was more of a rollercoaster effect in books one and two, and I was holding my breath a lot as I read those novels, but that didn’t happen as much in this third installment. Everything just tends to work out in the favor of the main characters from beginning to end, and while there is one scene that made me really cringe, again, Alex and Darla ultimately come out of it stronger than before.

This novel read more as a nice litter wrap-up, complete with bow on top, instead of an intense battle for survival, and I just felt like it all went too quickly and without too many hitches. At one point, Darla and Alex do the same thing four times, and each time they get away scott-free. Of course, the next time, they aren’t as lucky, but by that point, the build-up and let down had happened so many times that I didn’t really connect anymore.

I feel like this sort of sounds like I wanted the main characters to suffer more; that’s not the case at all–I’m glad life is finally working out for them, but with all the risks they’re taking (and not taking), it just felt like more should be happening. Instead, Mullin spends much time explaining the complicated green house and heating system that they’ve created, and that didn’t really pique my interest.

Of course, I hold some intense animosity for characters like Red, Petty, and Alex’s mom, but in the end, it’s all resolved very neatly… and yet, there really is no end. But in truth, could there really be an end? I don’t know that I’d be satisfied if everything was suddenly okay—if the ash had suddenly disappeared and life began to go back to normal, I don’t think I would have been satisfied, either. But the way Mullin leaves it opens everything to speculation more than anything else, and those endings aren’t really my favorite.

All in all, this series is really good; books one and two, Ashfall and Ashen Winter, captivated me and I fell in love with them from the get go, but this final installment left me wanting. Three and a half stars.

3.5 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Tanglewood Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its official release on April 15, 2014.

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Darla's StoryFrom Goodreads: Darla Edmunds has faced a lot of challenges in her seventeen years: Her dad died in a farming accident when she was fourteen. Her mother retreated into hyper-religiosity, leaving Darla to run the family farm almost single-handedly. But those struggles pale in comparison to the one she faces after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plummeting the world–and Darla’s small corner of Iowa–into a cataclysmic natural disaster.

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Fans of the Ashfall series will be happy to note that Mullin has indeed written a novella that focuses on the life and times of Darla and her mother prior to the volcano and their meeting of Alex.  However, as it is a novella, it is extremely short and, in my opinion, a bit redundant for readers who have already picked up the series.  For those who have read Ashfall, we already have a good knowledge base of Darla’s story as she’s told it before; all this novella does is give a birds-eye view as it all unfolds.

Truth be told, I wasn’t as impressed with this novella as I had hoped to be.  As I said before, it was a bit redundant for me as I’ve already read the other books in the series (this novella having just recently released as a prequel), and while I was interested in the novella, I didn’t feel like I learned anything knew.  Perhaps it would be a good jump off point for those interested in starting the series, but I certainly wouldn’t want readers to base their impression of the whole series on this novella, because the full books themselves have much more going on and leave readers on the edge of their seat in anticipation.  This novella, however, falls a bit flat, and Darla comes across as a somewhat boring person with a real chip on her shoulder—and while she is smarter than all the adults around her, the novella is too short to really show her true colors, and she puts a bad taste in the readers’ mouth.  Because I read Ashfall and learned to really like her, I had no issues with Darla in this novella, but I can foresee her attitude being a turn off for potential readers of the series… so I honestly don’t suggest reading this prequel prior to the first novel in the series, Ashfall.  Two and a half stars. 

2.5 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

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