Review of Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

VRVengeance Road
By: Erin Bowman Release
Date: September 1st 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating:
star

Summary:
When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Red Rose Gang for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate.

The Story:
I loved that Bowman chose to have her story set in the old west. This latest trend (still rather small trend but I hope we see much more) of western stories is very welcome. I find this book to be incredibly enjoyable and refreshing since I’ve not read many western style novels. I will admit that at first the writing was a tiny bit hard to get into. Bowman used grammatical error in dialog which was fitting to the story and characters but reading it took a bit to adjust too. My mind had issues trying to correct the grammar rather than get immersed in the story. I was able to get over this after about a chapter so no biggie. I wanted to put it out there though in case you are like me.

The book was set in Arizona, the descriptions were rich and made it so easy to visualize. I could easily see the scenes playing out like a movie as I read so that was really wonderful. Vengeance Road is a standalone novel so we get a full story with closure all in one book. I could see a ton of potential for companion novels so I’ve got my fingers crossed for those to happen. The pacing starts out lazy just like you’d expect a hot Arizona day but things ramp up as the story progresses.

The last third of the book was incredibly fast paced and I was happy to be surprised by some of the twists and turns. In the author’s note Bowman talks about where the inspiration for the story came as well as how she interwove her story into a legend about the location. I never skip acknowledgements or author notes but if you tend to I’d recommend you read this one.

The Characters:
Bowman did such an excellent job with these characters. Her main character, Kate, was driven by hatred and revenge which made her such an intriguing point of view to read from. I loved watching her come to terms with her grief and since I’ve just lost someone I deeply loved I could relate to her pain. I love that she was in no way a good or bad person. She fully fell in the middle ground and did good things and bad things. You can easily sympathize with her one page and then be shocked by her grit on the next.

The secondary cast was very well done. Kate goes on her journey with two brothers, Will and Jesse who are dealing with their own grief and pain. I think that the author did an exceptional job in showing how difficult life would have been in the old west. I appreciated the vast amount of growing up these teens had to experience in such a short amount of time. And for those curious- this book had no love triangle.

Final Thoughts:
Vengeance Road exceeded my expectations with a realistic depiction of the old west, complex characters and twists I didn’t see coming. This book was exceptionally well done and I highly recommend it and I’m holding out hope for a companion novel.

Vengeance Road goes on sale September 1st but you can pre-order this book now for under $10.

Review of Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken (Taken, #1)Taken
By: Erin Bowman
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen

My Rating:
star

Note: Thank you HarperTeen for giving me the opportunity to read and review Taken prior to it’s release.

 I will try to avoid any spoilers causing my review to be rather vague. Taken relies heavily on an aura of mystery to propel the story; so in my opinion it’s best to read prior to knowing much about the story.

The Summary  (via Goodreads):
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.
They call it the Heist.
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

The Story:
Taken started out incredibly strong; I was sucked into the story and the town of Claysoot immediately. I was eager to learn more about the inhabitants and find out why the Heist was happening to only 18 year old males and what caused it to occur. Sadly, the further I read the less impressed I was with the where Bowman took the story. While reading I suspected a direction the book would take but hoped that I would be wrong. But alas, it was as I was afraid it would be. Once I realized this, it took me a little time (and a break from the book) to regain my initial interest in the outcome. I found Bowman’s approach at separating the book into four sections interesting, though I felt each section was progressively weaker.

The Characters:
My biggest issue with the book were the characters. I found them likable at first but as the story progressed I found less I enjoyed about Gray (the protagonist) or Emma (the love interest). I did like some of the characters later in the story (Harvey, Bree, etc) but wished Bowman had gone into more depth with them. They were just touched upon and lacked details which made it hard for me to really connect with them or their experiences. Gray became very hard to tolerate in his romantic aspirations. There is a love triangle though it is a bit different as it’s between one guy and two girls. I didn’t feel more toward either love interest unfortunately. It’s sexist, but it’s easier for me to read about a girl torn between two men than the other way around; at least it was in how Bowman portrayed it in this book.

Final Thoughts:
Taken had a lot of things going for it with the story, though parts felt done before, but the characters really lacked for me. I will probably check out book two hoping more depth and character growth is explored.

Taken Book Trailer: