Tuesday 28 May 2024

REVIEW - CHILDLESS MOTHER BY TRACY MAYO

  

Title: Childless Mother
Author:
Tracy Mayo
Publisher:
Vanguard Press
Release Date:
28th March 2024

BLURB from Goodreads
1970, pre-Choice America. After their eighth move in her thirteen short years, the lonely only child of a high-ranking naval officer and a socially ambitious mother, Tracy Mayo longed for a normal adolescence — to have friends, to feel rooted. What she got was a pregnancy at fourteen and exile to a maternity home. There, she bore not only a child but also the weight of the culture's shame. She was required to surrender her baby boy at birth and pretend it never happened. Twenty-two years later, her longing undiminished, Tracy set out to find him — and perhaps, through her search, to reclaim her self. Are we moving back to a world where women have no agency, stripped of control of their bodies and their futures? More than fifty years after one frightened, grief-stricken young mother was ordered to forget, Tracy's story is even more important to remember. 

Goodreads Link

REVIEW
A brutally honest memoir about family, relationships and secrets. It's not just about the event of Tracy becoming pregnant at 14 years old and being shipped off to an unwed mother’s home, then her search, first for herself, then her son and then finally for understanding about her relationship with her own mother. Tracy finds her son and it's not only a joyous reunion but the beginning of a lasting, loving relationship. Sadly, not every adopted child has such a happy reuniting as Tracy reveals some of her son’s older sister (also adopted) story.
Tracy has gone through a lot in her life, she mostly gets along with her parents. Though Tracy's mum June lies about her age and cares a lot about 'keeping up appearances' she's always nagging Tracy to use 'lite & bright' in her hair to make her darker hair the more desired blonde shade. Tracy's father James has an impeccable military career and has worked hard, making his way up the ranks.
Some would say her life was quite privileged her father in the Navy, do reasonably stable financially. However, the military life means moving around a lot, having to keep starting new schools, having to make new friends and face the fact the old ones may keep in touch for a while but will also move on without her.
With her parents busy with the social aspects of the military, attending dinners as well as sometimes hosting them, Tracy is older and has more freedom when they move to Shipyard. She makes a few friends and they give themselves the nickname 'the shipyard gang.' It’s the first time Tracy goes to the base pool that she meets Kenny, one if the pool lifeguards and also an Officers kid. Kenny is a little older than her and soon they're inseparable. Tracy ends up pregnant and her parents solution, on the recommendation of a military Doctor is to send her to Florence Crittenton, home for unwed mothers.

I found the history of the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers fascinating. Florence Crittenton was a 4yr old who died of scarlet fever in 1877. Her grief-stricken parents wanted to leave a legacy in her name & established the Florence Crittenton Mission in 1883 in New York to assist young women in need, prostituted, unwed pregnant women by providing food, lodging & religious support. In 1885 Charles Crittenton joined with Kate Waller Barrett, they founded the National Florence Crittenton Mission establishing homes in many American cities. Except in extreme circumstances Crittenton’s policy opposed the separation of mother & baby for adoption. Motherhood was viewed as a path to reform, the Crittenton homes were training ground for responsible parenting & self-support. Sadly that influence ended and things changed to what Tracy experienced.

There are strict rules at Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers, you are given a new name to use whilst you are the home, it’s to retain privacy, or as I imagine the girls felt to be a constant reminder of the “shame” attached to unwed mothers. The pregnant girls are informed they can
gain no more than half a pound a week. If they do put on diet table with lower calorie, less to eat, less tasty food. Also, the quicker you return to pre pregnancy weight after birth the quicker you go home. The pregnant girls live downstairs and do not associate with the upstairs girls. The girls that have delivered their babies live upstairs, with no food restrictions, just waiting to return home.
If the girls leave the grounds to go to the convenience store you have to wear a wedding ring. The girls borrow one from the wicker basket on the receptionist desk! Each girl is held responsible for keeping room clean. Tracy will have school Monday, Wednesday & Friday 9-12 & have lots of homework to compensate for less actual in person school time. Because of her school time commitment’s & the fact her parents are supporting her stay financially she won’t have to do extra laundry/kitchen chores. Those who are not doing any schooling or parents cannot afford to support them are expected to “work for their keep”

There is never any question of the girls keeping their babies, it is expected that they will give them up for a better life, then return to their own lives and forget about their indiscretion and continue and move on in life. The girls are strongly discouraged from forming any connection with their babies. In fact, Tracy only holds her son briefly and has just one photograph of him that she is allowed to keep.
Tracy never 'forgets & moves on' after her time at Florence Crittenton, though it's never mentioned in her home. Tracy’s relationships with her parents are obviously never the same as “before”, her son is never spoken of. Tracy does 'live her life' but the son she had no choice but to give up is never far from her thoughts. She sticks to 'the plan' she made when she was a pregnant teen & decides to search for her son. Has other relationships with men but Kenny seems to be always hovering in her mind’s eye as if 'unfinished business' Tracy does drugs and learns meditation, she is quite spiritual and has 'feelings' 'dreams' and 'premonitions' about her son over the years. Years later when she learns about her sons life she discovers they eerily line up with actual events in her sons life.

Tracy joins groups of others that have had to give up their babies, meeting with people who try to help her navigate a system designed to keep the mothers and babies apart. Tracy even employs and pays the mysterious “Searcher” who manages to find her son quite quickly. The book goes on with Tracy and what she does with the information she receives from the searcher. The book also covers Tracys relationship with her parents and with Kenny who seems to drift in and out of her life too.

Childless Mother really is a compelling, deeply moving and at times eery story, about a time when abortions were not legal and unwed mothers were frowned upon and considered disgraced. I loved that despite those at Floren Crittenton and her family being determined Tracy should give up her son, she managed to hold a connection to him all through her life.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that it was a brutally honest memoir about family, relationships and secrets.

Summing up I would say that Childless Mother is a thought provoking read. I’d like to think times and attitudes have changed regarding unwed pregnancies and how they are viewed but sadly there seems to have been many steps backwards in this area.





 

Saturday 25 May 2024

REVIEW - THE THEATRE OF GLASS AND SHADOWS BY ANNE CORLETT

  

Title: The Theatre of Glass and Shadow
Author:
Anne Corlett
Publisher:
Black & White Publishing
Genre:
General Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Release Date:
23rd May 2024

BLURB
Sometimes the greatest spectacle hides the darkest secrets . . .

In an alternate London, the city's Theatre District is a walled area south of the river where an immersive production - the Show - has been running for centuries, growing ever bigger, more sprawling and lavish. The Show is open to anyone who can afford a ticket but the District itself is a closed world; even the police have no jurisdiction within its walls.

Juliet's mother died when she was a baby. Brought up by her emotionally distant father and even more distant stepmother, she has never felt wanted. It's only when her father passes away that Juliet - now nineteen - learns her birth was registered in the District. Desperate to belong somewhere at last, she travels to London where she hopes to unearth the truth about her identity, her mother's death and her father's years of silence - and claim her birthright.

But in the District, there is only one central truth: the Show must go on. And in a world where illusions abound, and powerful men control the narrative, Juliet has no idea of just how far some will go to ensure certain stories are never told . . .

Goodreads Link

REVIEW
It was the book title that first drew my attention to the book, and then when I read the blurb it made me think of Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor and Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda J Foody. So, I had high expectations for the book. When the cover was revealed, I wasn’t initially sure whether I loved the book cover or not. I felt that I wanted it to have more colour and then after reading the book I actually wondered if it should have been black and white to represent the darkness and light within the theatre district. Having fully read the book I grew to love the cover as it is. The cover actually fits the book very well, in my mind the blue is perfect for the magical whimsy of the theatre district and the white marionette/paper cut out ballerinas represent the performers the director controls. Then there are the other items that are within the book. The cover would definitely make me want to pick the book up from a book store shelf, so it fits its purpose well.

Juliet has always felt like an outsider even within her own family. Her father didn’t spend a great deal of time with her and it’s clear her step mother Clare does not consider her to be part of her family. In fact, it was her stepmother Clare that ended Juliet’s time at Miss Abbeline’s school where she was able to indulge in her passion for dance. Clare had informed Stephen, Juliet’s father that Juliet needs to learn practical skills that would enable her to get a job rather than concentrating on dance. Despite this coldness from her stepmother, Juliet has always loved and spent time with her step siblings. So, when Stephen Grace dies it soon becomes apparent that Juliet’s stepmother wants her as far away from herself and her two step sisters as possible, coming up with a legal document for Juliet to sign away any future rights to any money in the family estate in exchange for a one-off lump sum of money. Clare is also quick to suggest a temporary job vacancy she has heard about that she considers suitable for Juliet saying it would be ideal until Juliet decides what she wants to do with her life now.

When the chance arises Juliet goes searching in her father’s study for clues to who her mother was & a birth certificate. She finds a black ribboned mask, a necklace a photo, and a key. Later Clare, her stepmother reveals she couldn't get a copy of Juliet’s birth certificate when she needed one for her college application and says all she received was a letter, which says Juliet was born in the theatre district. The theatre district is basically like its own contained town so it keeps its own records and has also its own rules etc. When Clare gives Juliet money to go purchase a suitable black dress for her father’s funeral, Juliet puts her plan to learn about her mother and her past into action and heads to the theatre district.

Juliet desperately wants to 'fit in' to be 'part of a family again' as she believes she once was part of the theatre district and belongs there. From donning a black mask at the theatre district entrance on her first visit Juliet feels drawn to the district and show. Then Juliet meets Eugene, an avid “follower” (A follower is someone who has become enthralled, enchanted and almost addicted to going to visit the district and keep going back to the show).

It’s via Eugene telling Juliet that we the readers learn about the “ballot” where followers take part to win tickets to the show. If you don’t win tickets via the ballot the other option is to purchase them. Eugene wins tickets for the show in the ballot, and exclaims that Juliet has brought him luck and insists she accompanies him, saying it will be his honour to take her to her first show. Not everything as it seems in the theatre district, especially within the show, like the silver ornaments on the tree branches that Juliet touches on her first visit, it has an elderly man smiling man on one side and then on the other side the elderly man transforms into a gnome like thing that has a puckered face. Once Juliet visits the district and sees her first show it’s like she is on a rollercoaster ride that she just can’t get off. Within the show there are numerous subtle lies and tricks woven with elements of truth, all creating an amazing ever-changing illusion. No matter what happens, whatever is going on, even if someone is hurt or injured the show must go on, no one & nothing is more important than the show.

There are so many different characters caught up within the magic, promise of The Theatre District. I immediately adored Juliet and was instantly intrigued by both her story and that of the Moonshine Girl. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history, intricacies and hierarchy at the Theatre District, it was complicated yet totally captivating which made the book difficult to put down.

I really enjoyed learning about the show, and all the different people that were part of it. The residents of the theatre district are split into four main categories: Principals – who have scripted loops to perform in House of Doors, Itinerants – who have scripted loops that are performed on the streets, Nomads – who have no formal scripted activity, Ancillaries – who carry out tasks not related to the show and are all those that are not nomads, itinerants or principals, so bartenders, street performance, fortune tellers & stagehands. I loved the history of the stagehands and kind of wish there had been chance to learn even more.

I was fascinated with the concept of the Wanderers randomly appeared and chose someone to bestow attention on and who gift little charms/tokens (there's 7 to collect but it's rare for someone to be able to get all of them) & show you individual attention & show secret things, and rarity they show you 'a private scene' (hard to describe) They are all over the district. Tend to appear when someone is doing something they shouldn't.

The character of The Shadow Man an is mysterious, seemingly caring yet with a scary dangerous edge to him. The Shadow Man eloquently draws Juliet further and further into the tangled web of the show within the theatre district. He plays on Juliet’s emotional state after the recent death of her father and her blind fascination with her own history and how it entwines with the history of the show itself. It’s only when she has almost cut off her new friends Eugene and Sally, that she realises that she is in perhaps over her head and she has discovered dark secrets that could end her own life, she needs help and fast! I loved the quote about Juliet’s state of mind that it was like a kaleidoscope.

I really loved how the book was played out, there’s the main part which is where Juliet is dealing with the death of her father, her step mother’s simmering hostility and then the letters about the theatre district, and Juliets discovery of her history with the theatre district and the show within it. Then there are the other parts I totally adored were about the theatre district and the actual show. I enjoyed Eugene educating Juliet about the district, and him being a “follower”, explaining how they have their own rooms within the district with their notes on the show. He introduces her to other followers, Macy, Jan, and Esme who immediately dislikes Juliet and later becomes her rival. It’s via Eugene that Juliet meets Sally and Anna who end up renting her a room to live in within the precincts. The precincts are quite run down, on the outskirts of the district so still sought after. The precincts are also dangerous as apparently there is a killer on the loose, murdering young females and dumping them in the nearby river.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading The Theatre of Glass and Shadows had an amazing, intricate plot & characters I quickly adored, and it immediately grabbed me and kept me firmly hooked until the very end. I loved it all, the history, hierarchy and mystical aspects as well as the darkness and betrayal. There really is so much going on in this book. I feel like I could talk forever about this book. It’s difficult not to reveal too much about the book but I really don’t want to spoil the reading experience for anyone else.

Summing up, the book is really well written, the descriptions so detailed that you can visualise them. The plot is intricate and really takes you on a mysterious, magical, whimsical trail. Theres a few red herrings thrown in, the amazing back story and history of the show, the district and its inhabitants, from its almost invisible stagehands to its most sought after performers like the Moonshine Girl and the Girl in the Silve Shoes. Then there are all the politics and rules about which family the Director comes from and the different ways the families rule and run the district and the show.


 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 21 May 2024

REVIEW - BLOOD TORN - THE IMMORTALS BY SHELLEY WILSON

  

Title: Blood Torn
Series:
The Immortals
Author:
Shelley Wilson
Publisher:
BHC Press
Genre:
Horror, Teens & YA
Release Date:
21st May 2024

BLURB
Dying opened up a whole new world for Emma. A world of vampire gifts, cravings, and betrayal. Now a vital member of the team, Emma and her friends are hunting down the vampire responsible for the downfall of the Haven: her sister.

Emma knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the challenges soon become too much. Determined to destroy her sister and end the war between the Immortals and the half-blood rogues, Emma seeks out the imposing Astley brothers, Henry and Charles, hoping to form an alliance with the Immortal family.

As Emma is drawn deeper into the dark world of the Astley’s estate, she begins to question if the brothers are truly her allies or if they have a secret agenda—one that will put everything she loves at risk. 

Goodreads Link

REVIEW
I really like the covers of this book series, the first one, Blood Born is all dark with a light rose, and this one, Blood Torn is the opposite and is light with a dark rose. I love that it fits the book so well, in that Amelia and Emma are opposites.

Blood Torn picks up more or less a year later than where Blood Born left us, New Haven is now inhabited by half bloods with Cara at the helm and Pierce her second and Dustin, literally the only human in the group the keeper and updater of the codex. Emma is still coming to terms with the death of her father Thomas at the hands of her sister Amelia along with the betrayal of James whom she had fallen head over heels in love with. Emma is spending a lot of time in the woods surrounding Hartfield Manor away from her friends. Its whilst she is in the woods that James appears and warns her to be careful who she trusts and hints he may be having second thoughts about Amelia and her cause. Emma discovers she has both light & dark within her and she has to both accept this and quickly learn to use both to overcome the increasing obstacles in her way.

Murders are taking place and though its highly likely that it is Amelia, the evidence is leaving a trail pointing to Astley Manor, so the decision is made for Emma to go meet with the Immortal family. Emma meets head of the Astley family Charles Astley and his younger brother Henry in the hope of forming an alliance to take down Amelia and end the war between the Immortals and half-bloods. Amelia is also attacking New Haven half-bloods at every opportunity, openly taunting Emma when she takes two of Emma’s closest friend’s hostage. Amelia then cryptically demands that Emma choose which one lives and which one dies. There are sad losses in the book making the battles even more realistic and hard hitting. Amelia already knows how to push Emma’s buttons and doesn’t care who dies in the process. Emma has to come to terms with losing a battle or two in order to win the war.

Emma is really up against it in this book. When she separates herself from her friends at New Haven and goes off on a lone mission she is captured and at first thinks she has been totally betrayed but it soon becomes apparent Emma has more allies than she thought. Sadly, Amelia has not finished taking people that Emma holds dear away and once again kills to weaken Emma. Emma has to toughen up and quick if she wants to save her friends old and new. Can she tap into her darkness enough to convince her captor that she has switched sides and is fully on board with his crazy plans for the future. Emma has to be patient, and observant to discover Amelia’s weaknesses or rather her own particular areas of strength that she can use against both her captor and her sister Amelia. Emma has some difficult decisions to make and whilst she wants to keep her friends out of harm’s way, she will need them for the final confrontation and battle. Emma has to face and carry out some nasty tasks, doing things she vowed she never would, but when it comes down to it, she has to look to the greater good and hope she can put things right when the battle is over, presuming she is still alive to do so.

Characters I loved were of course Emma, Kai and Dustin. I enjoyed the “first love” between Emma and James. Then the friendship, turned budding romance between Emma and Kai which even though initially Emma stubbornly resists, Kai continues to be a supportive friend and is patient with her despite feeling hurt. I adored the quick friendship, almost kinship between Emma and Ruby. I really liked the new addition of Marcus to the group and his role he slips into within the New Haven group. I also adored the idea of Henry having a secret true love. Though there is plenty of destruction in this book there is also hope and hints at a future in it too. I guess the way it ends there could be more book set a little further in the future. There is potential with another Immortal family member still out there with a possible mistaken grudge against Emma. I would read them if there were more books, though the way the book finished it could just end there.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that Blood Torn had great characters old & new, and a plot full of suspense with plenty of clues to follow to work out who is on which side and that’s packed with action too!

Summing up, really loved reading this series! I will definitely be looking for more books by Shelley Wilson.


 

 

Thursday 9 May 2024

REVIEW - THE FAMILY EXPERIMENT BY JOHN MARRS

  

Title: The Family Experiment
Author:
John Marrs
Publisher:
Pan Macmillan
Genre:
Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Futuristic,
               Speculative Fiction, Dystopian

Release Date:
9th May 2024 

BLURB
The world's population is soaring, creating overcrowded cities and an economic crisis. And in the UK, breaking point has arrived. A growing number of people can no longer afford to start families let alone raise them.

But for those desperate to experience parenthood, there is an alternative. For a monthly subscription fee, clients can create a virtual child from scratch who they can access via the metaverse and a VR headset. To launch this new initiative, the company behind Virtual Children has created a reality tv show. It will follow ten couples as they raise a Virtual Child from birth to the age of eighteen but in a condensed nine-month time period. The prize: the right to keep their virtual child or risk it all for the chance of a real baby . . . 

Goodreads Link

REVIEW
The Family Experiment is set in the same universe as John Marrs' other novels The One, The Passenger, The Minders and The Marriage Act, so has all the futuristic elements within them in this book too. Such as the driverless cars, the marriage act, the DNA soul mate match as well as “15 Minute Cities” where everyone lives within just a 15 minute walk away from everything residents would need such as shops, workplaces, and healthcare. In this world there are still “pandemic lockdowns” occurring on a fairly regular basis so most people work from home. The virtual reality world and AI have made even more advancements, there is a company called Re:born and they actually have an advert advertising their upcoming service. They are a company where you can order a metaverse baby. It can be a 'new' baby, or a duplicate of your current child at an age of your choosing or more eerily a replacement for a loss.
You can pick & choose age, sex, eye & hair colour, skin tone, body shape, their accent, interests & speed of growth. Re:born advertise that "Designers can create the perfect blend of you & your partner just like mother nature intended"
These children have a digital memory, they have photo realistic faces & bodies that can react to you, the parent by using facial tracking & voice recognition. There is a deposit payable and then a monthly subscription fee of £19.99
Re:born is part of a larger company called Awakening Entertainment who also own the new TV Reality show called The Family Experiment. 11 contestants who have been through a lengthy application and vetting process. These prospective parents will wear a slimline headset which are about the size of normal sunglasses and a special “Haptic suit” which have thousands of tactile sensors which allow its wearer to feel every sensation of whatever they are doing in the MetaVerse. Over the next 9 months the contestants compete with each other, bringing up their child that will grow much rapidly than a normal child. The MetaBabies start out as newborns for the first month and jump quite a few years at a time until the final month when they are 18 years old and grown adults. Viewers can watch these parents with their MetaBabies 24 hours a day! The viewers get to vote which parents have to face the monthly challenge such as croup or chicken pox, despite the fact it has been eradicated in the real world.

Theres In App purchases for the viewers which mean you can spend time in the same room as the contestants and MetaBabies without the contestants knowing and literally watch the action as it unfolds. A monthly lottery is also held that allows the winner to interact & enjoy spending one on one time with the MetaChildren themselves.

As for the contestants they are given £250,000 the amount needed to raise a RealWorld child from birth to eighteen. However, it is up to the parents if/how they use it. It can be spent on education, health care, entertainment, travel & immersive experiences and other in App purchases to be used within the MetaVerse.

The Family Experiment is a very interactive for both contestants and viewers. The viewers’ interaction is encouraged and they become very judgmental using a system of red hearts if they approve of what the parents are doing and black hearts if they don’t. The viewers also get to vote for an ultimate winner after the 9 months is done. It is a very black and white ending as the losers see their MetaChild permanently switched off and also lose any of the £250,000 they still have at that time. The Winners are given a choice, they can keep any of the £250,000 they have left and their MetaChild, Or pull the plug on their MetaChild and receive a quarter of a million pounds to start a family in the real world. The money will be paid on the live birth of their child whether that child is conceived by traditional means, IVF, surrogacy or adoption.

It soon becomes apparent that each contestant has a past, a secret they are desperately trying to hide from the viewers. All the contestants have issues/problems to hide or overcome. They all have their unique reasons as to why they want to take part, to have the MetaChild, or to have a final goal of being able to afford a real world child, and some are taking part to further careers and simply make money. Newspapers report on The Family Experiment, saying that it is the return of the original great social experiments.

The book is very cleverly presented in different types of chapters and sections. There’s the “show” parts that Autumn Taylor presents. There’s adverts for Re;Born, then statistics 'information' on the individual parents such as ages, jobs, and backgrounds. There are also the online chat parts where viewers speak to each other about what is currently happening and what they think. At times the viewers in this chat are more aware in some cases than us the reader. As online chat know who Adam is, when Zoe accidentally calls Lenny, Adam. It is through the chats that more facts are revealed to the reader.

There are also the chapters telling you what is happening with the contestants both in the MetaVerse with their MetaChild and in the real world with their relationships and how they are coping with the virtual and real-world balance.

I really enjoyed the references to the other books such as the driverless car hijacking in The Passengers, the finding your one true soul mate partner in The One, and the family dynamics in The Marriage Contract. There were also some character crossovers too within the book but you don’t have to have read all the other books to be able to read and thoroughly enjoy this one. There is so much packed into this one book with all the different contestants, their reasons for wanting to take part in the reality show, the secrets they are hiding and why they are wishing to hide them. The contestants may all be in the same experiment but they all handle the situation differently. For example, Cadman, uses sponsorship to generate more interest and earn money at every single stage of their MetaChild growing up, from the baby clothes and other outfits as the child grows to the furniture in both their virtual and real world apartments. Slowly but surely the secrets of the contestants are revealed and they are eliminated from the show until there are just two contestants left, and there is one heck of a twist as one contestant divulges some shock revelations about the company behind the show and his treatment at their hands. The ugly truth of how the technology behind The Family Experiment show was made and finessed.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were, Wow.....just wow! A fantastic, well thought out, highly detailed plot with likeable, relatable characters all in a futuristic, yet believable world.....loved it!

Summing up, if you love speculative, futuristic fiction that makes you stop and think wow that’s crazy, but at the same time wow that could actually happen then this is a must read book for you!




 

Wednesday 8 May 2024

REVIEW - WITHSTANDING ANARCHY - DARK NATION BY GRACE HAMILTON

  

Title: Withstanding Anarchy
Series:
Dark Nation
Author:
Grace Hamilton
Genre:
EMP, Post Apocalyptic
Release Date:
8th May 2024

BLURB
In a World Without Power, their True Strength is Family—Blood and Found.

After an EMP left civilization wrecked, survival is a daily struggle—something Deb and her group know all-to-well. Having found her ex-husband and Carol’s two sons, the anticipated happy reunion was anything but. With danger surrounding them, they’re all stuck together hiding from Mike, the abusive tyrant who held them captive in a work gang. Worse he’s the father of Carol’s unborn child and he wants them both back. At any cost.

As tensions in the camp rise and conflicts escalate, the atmosphere in the camp grows increasingly volatile. Minor disagreements escalate into fierce conflicts, supplies dwindle, and trust begins to erode, threatening to tear apart the fragile bonds they’ve formed. Now, they all must put their differences behind them and rally together to stop Mike before more people die.

He’s made it abundantly clear that he’s not leaving without Carol and their child.

And he’ll kill anyone who gets in his way…

Goodreads Link

REVIEW
Once again, I would say that the cover depicts a scene from within the book really well. I think all the covers of the books in this series have a great cohesive look. I bet they look amazing in paperback on a bookshelf!

I love the first line of the blurb “In a World Without Power, their True Strength is Family—Blood and Found” it really fits this whole Dark Nation series really well.

The book picks up more or less where the last one ended. Mike is injured and alone wandering about, probably 'lost' but determined to survive and live on for two main reasons. Firstly, to find Carol who is pregnant with his child and strongarm her into being back with him. Though his main focus is his child, at times he seems to hope Carol will become the woman he wants her to be. Mike then wants to rebuild his workforce, which will be from scratch as he has lost everyone at this stage. Starting over doesn’t seem to faze him at all, he thinks he can build more, build stronger and even bigger, all for his yet unborn child.

His second reason for surviving is to hunt down Deb, Bobbi and Jonah and teach them a lesson for escaping. His main target for torture when he catches her is Deb. Mike seems to think all his problems stem from this one woman. If it weren’t for Deb, he would still have Carol and his unborn child with him, as well as his right-hand woman Marie. He is infuriated about losing Marie, not only as his second in command but as his future female companion who wanted to bring up his child with. He had even begun to fantasise with the idea of having more children, this time with Marie. Mike really does want to build his own empire and have some sort of legacy. Mike had never thought about or wanted children until Carol became pregnant, then the idea of leaving a piece of him behind when he had gone., having a legacy began to appeal to him. He also liked the idea of 'ruling' with a son or daughter by his side. His son/daughter would be totally loyal to him, his blood, someone he could totally trust. Mike pushes himself to go on and comes across the small cabin of an older family, Lemuel, his wife Mary and John, Lemuel’s younger brother. Of course, Mike cannot reveal how he really came to be injured so he spins a tale to suit his needs, hoping to play on the sympathy of Mary. It’s not long until they are cleaning his wound and giving him precious antibiotics to fight the infection that has already taken hold. Mike is happy with the way he is being cared for and is gaining valuable information about Colton, such as the whereabouts of his cabin just half an hour away.

Deb, Bobbi, Jonah and Carol are trying to settle in as best as they can but to say the atmosphere is frosty is an understatement! From the natural suspicion about newcomers, to a little resentment at now having to make supplies stretch and then the muttered and at times blatant verbal jibes directed toward Carol from her eldest son Tommy things are not working well at Colton and Mollys settlement. There is also friction between Colton and Deb, old grievances are still simmering and seeing the happy family dynamic between Colton, Molly and baby Jack is at times too much for Deb to watch. However, when disasters strike one after another the two sides have to work together to defeat Mike once and for all.

I personally loved the dynamic between Laura and Bobbi. They both excluded due to Laura being in a wheelchair and Bobbi still struggling with her arm injury from helping fix the dam and have to stay at camp with little Jack. With Bobbi being a nursery teacher in her life before the EMP she soon befriends Jack and join forces with Laura in doing tasks they can manage together. I had enjoyed the subtle hints around the budding romance for the future for Bobbi.

It was interesting that though Colton and Molly’s group had fought for their survival and settlement they had become quite na├»ve and at times failed to see that they were being led down a certain route by Colton’s ex-Marine colleague Mike. Just when you thought Mike could not stoop any lower, he did. I thought it was great how Molly sort of played go between with her group and Deb’s group and they finally pulled together.

There are more devastating losses for the group to cope with, before the two groups have to regroup, and reunite to attempt to lure Mike in and get rid of him once and for all.

Though Mike may be hallucinating due to pain and infection it doesn’t mean he is going to be easy to take down. Mike’s marine training comes automatic, second nature to him, so he won't go down without a hard fight and being the man he is he fights dirty and tries to take as many people down with him.

There were some fantastic characters in this series, not just the main ones, ones lost along the way and of course I loved the inclusion of Laura’s service dog Argent who warned the group of danger on a few occasions. I also thought it great that Laura though was confined to a wheelchair, the group made adaptations for her wheelchair and she was still an equal voice and member of the survivors group. I liked the hints at the future of the society and the settlement, with both the younger and older characters romances and the possibilities that could lay ahead for them.

I really enjoyed reading this series, and thought it was interesting how the two main groups of characters ended up being related. I have to admit I desperately wanted Carol, Deb, Bobbi and Jonah to find a place they could settle down and call home as well as for Carol to be free of Mike and reunited with her two sons.

Summing up, this book continues to build the momentum with continuing losses to a final battle and a shocking conclusion. Truly loved this series . . . what am I going to read now?