Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

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.

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.


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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