Novel Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

I picked up Ashfall by Mike Mullin from NetGalley. Yes. I’m addicted to NetGalley. I can’t recall ever reading a novel with a male teen protagonist. I have to say, ever since I copped out of writing I Loved You First from the male perspective, I’ve been quite curious. This was my opportunity to read what goes on in the male mind and written by a male author! Plus! Plus! Plus! So the blurb from Mr. Mullin’s website:

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the earth forever.

Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when Yellowstone erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter.  When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.

Before I started this book, I skimmed over the Goodreads blurb, which is a bit different from the one above. Apparently, I skipped over a few too many words, because I didn’t realize this was a search and rescue type mission. Right off the back, I have to say, I’m not fond of those kind of books. HOWEVER, Ashfall reeled me in. 🙂

I loved the author’s voice. Let’s start with Alex. I immediately connected with him because he reminded me so much of my daughter, Alex. Same name, same hobbies, if you can call World of Warcraft a hobby, and same moody attitude. It didn’t take long for Alex to reevaluate his life and realize what was really important. And I can guarantee it wasn’t making it to level 85 on his Death Knight. 🙂

Throughout the story, Alex had just the right amount of childishness about him to make him seem real. Not his attitude so much, but rather the way he went about his everyday life. Though he talked about conservation and how long his supplies needed to last him, he never seemed to change his consumption rate. For him, it was feast or famine.

Darla was the wildcard. Okay… the whole book was a wildcard, but Darla was full of her own surprises. She was the ultimate tinkerer. If I could give her a motto it would be: Just give me moving parts, and I’ll do the rest. I loved Darla’s inventiveness. She could get out of just about any situation. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite fond of her over all attitude. Honestly, I hope I never meet an individual like her. She was unreasonable rude way most of the time. Other times she overly verbal with her every-(wo)man-for-(her)himself mentality. For someone her age, one would think she’d learn how to curb her tongue a little and be a bit more subtle. With her out of her comfort zone, it’ll be interesting if she changes her talk in the sequel.

Despite the search and rescue theme, I quite enjoyed the storyline. There were enough close calls to keep me wondering who’d survive the ordeal (besides Alex, that is). Overall, this was a great read. It had a definitely conclusion, but provided a new opening for the next book, which I’m definitely looking forward to reading.

Notes for parents: Safe sex was addressed in Ashfall. However, the benefits were totally squashed with the idea of reusing condoms. I’m also not sure why the teens were such eager bunnies.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

Sunday Showcase #14

I checked out my list of NetGalley requests and see I made a decent dent in it. I decided it’d be okay to request a few more works, so I did. These aren’t set to release for over a month, so it’ll give me time to work on other books before having to tackle these.

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don’t know it’s there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

Why I Picked It up: This one I debated requesting. It sounded a little dystopia, which I’m totally into these days, but not quite. I really wasn’t sure what to make of the genre. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least read the first few pages and see if it’s for me or not. NegGalley Copy.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

Identity Crisis.As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues—mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina’s existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day.Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother’s escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way?

Why I Picked It up: Another NetGalley request. My children are bi-racial, and I always wonder how they fit in with society. I wouldn’t mind seeing the perspective from another view point.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night’s experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?

Patrick Carman’s Dark Eden is a provocative exploration of fear, betrayal, memory, and— ultimately—immortality.

Why I Picked It up: I just finished reading Ultraviolet (review here) and quite enjoyed it. The blurb reminded me of Ultraviolet even though the story line seems completely different. NegGalley Copy.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust…and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

Why I Picked It up: Did I mention I’m into dystopia? This world seems really messed up. I’m really excited about it. NegGalley Copy.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

The going out of business sales continue at Borders (my Walden bookstore), and I’m having a hard time keeping money in my pocket. So I stopped by again. I stuck with the bargain books this time.

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Why I Picked It up: I’ve seen this book on other blogs, but never bothered to read anything about it. I figured it was a contemporary YA novel about some ugly kid in school who didn’t fit in. My daughter, who’s read the entire series, straightened me out. I rather like the concept, so I picked it up.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong.

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.

Why I Picked It up: Couldn’t resist buying the sequel which was also on the bargain shelf.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

“Special Circumstances”:

The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now she’s been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

Why I Picked It up: See above.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open — but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability — and it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d feared….

Why I Picked It up: I debated pretty hard about this one, since it’s a sequel. I think it was only $2.99 though. My daughter said it was a decent book, so I picked up it, thinking I’d find the first one in time.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.

She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.

Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out. . . .

Why I Picked It up: See above.

Available at: The Book Depository and Barnes & Nobles

Self-taught tinkerer Kali McAlister is determined to build an airship and escape the frigid Yukon forever. Unfortunately, she’s the heir to the secrets of flash gold, an alchemical energy source that tends to make her a popular target for bandits, gangsters, and pirates.

With the help of her bounty-hunting business partner, Cedar, Kali has outwitted and eluded attackers before, and she thinks she’s prepared for anything. Then her ex-fiancé strolls into her workshop.

As if fooling her once wasn’t enough, he aims to embroil her in a fresh scheme. Meanwhile, a new nemesis is stalking her, a shrouded figure with an arsenal of deadly machines that make Kali’s inventions seem like toys. This time, it’ll take more than her ingenuity and Cedar’s combat skills to survive.

Hunted is a 27,000-word steampunk novella.

Printed page count equivalent: 120

Why I Picked It up: I really enjoyed Flash Gold (review here). When Lindsay Buroker said she’d released the sequel, I couldn’t help but pick it up.

Available at: Smashwords  and Barnes & Nobles

Seems like I’ve picked up enough books this month to last the rest of the year and beyond. Have you all able to pace yourself? Or are you going crazy too with all the available books on the market?