11.26.16

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

Posted in Review at 7:24 pm by Amber

Title: The Great Zoo of China
Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: The publisher via NetGalley

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years.

They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.

A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron,  a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…

Naturally there are going to be comparisons to Jurassic Park and the author addresses these head on. I enjoyed the strong female character and the science was interesting. Overall, I kinda liked it. It was a bit of a mindless read in that you know one disaster after another is going to befall the group on the tour but on the other hand you had to figure out how they might be able to survive each disaster.

About Matthew Reilly

Born in Sydney in 1974, Matthew Reilly was not always a big fan of reading.

According to Matthew, ‘I actually disliked reading in my early high school years. I was given very dry old classics in Year 7 and it was only after I read To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies in Year 10 that I realised reading could transport you to another world. Once I figured that out, I went out and found all the action novels I could!’

Following this revelation, Matthew soon began creating stories of his own and set about writing his first novel, Contest, at 19 while still at university studying law.

11.07.16

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

Posted in Review at 8:24 pm by Amber

Book Cover for Scarecrow edited by Rhonda ParrishTitle: Scarecrow
Editor: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Source: My personal library

 

Hay-men, mommets, tattie bogles, kakashi, tao-tao—whether formed of straw or other materials, the tradition of scarecrows is pervasive in farming cultures around the world. The scarecrow serves as decoy, proxy, and effigy—human but not human. We create them in our image and ask them to protect our crops and by extension our very survival, but we refrain from giving them the things a creation might crave—souls, brains, free-will, love. In Scarecrow, fifteen authors of speculative fiction explore what such creatures might do to gain the things they need or, more dangerously, think they want.

Within these pages, ancient enemies join together to destroy a mad mommet, a scarecrow who is a crow protects solar fields and stores long-lost family secrets, a woman falls in love with a scarecrow, and another becomes one. Encounter scarecrows made of straw, imagination, memory, and robotics while being spirited to Oz, mythological Japan, other planets, and a neighbor’s back garden. After experiencing this book, you’ll never look at a hay-man the same.

Featuring all new work by Jane Yolen, Andrew Bud Adams, Laura Blackwood, Amanda Block, Scott Burtness, Amanda C. Davis, Megan Fennell, Kim Goldberg, Katherine Marzinsky, Craig Pay, Sara Puls, Holly Schofield, Virginia Carraway Stark, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Kristina Wojtaszek.

Do you ever read a book and afterwards sit there stunned? A few weeks later I still have one word to describe this book. Damn. Day-um.

Yes, I’m friends with Rhonda. I look forward to reading anything she touches. But this was a surprise. The editor does a lot; comes  up with the concept, reads all the submissions, (maybe) pick the cover art, suggests edits to the authors, and much more I don’t even know about. I’ve seen some of these author names pop up from other projects Rhonda has worked on but playing favorites isn’t her thing; she’ll always pick what she thinks is the best work.

Variety – There’s a good mix within the anthology. Story lengths, settings, time periods, mechanical scarecrows, straw scarecrows… you get the idea.

Pacing – Each piece is well-paced. Every single story felt like it was building to a conclusion of some kind.

I feel like this is one of those very vague reviews. I guess because it is; I’m no pointing to any one story which is better than another. Each person’s experience of this anthology is going to be different. There’s truly enough variety that I’m sure anyone picking this up will find a story that sticks with them.

10.05.16

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Posted in Review at 9:39 pm by Amber

Bite Size Book Review

Why did I read this book?

The cover caught my eye at Half Price Books.

What did I think of this book?

It was interesting. There were a few unexpected things like how the students arrive at the school and the topics the “Evers” and “Nevers” study. The ending was abrupt which wasn’t great. I did like the two main characters.

Who should read this book?

If you’re looking for an amusing way to spend the weekend and like young adult novels you might enjoy this read.

07.28.16

Waste Not: And Other Funny Zombie Stories by Rhonda Parrish

Posted in Review at 8:29 pm by Amber

Title: Waste Not: And Other Funny Zombie Stories
Author: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Poise and Pen Publishing
Source: Author

Book cover of Waste Not: And Other Zombie Stories

Full disclosure: I’ve been online friends with Rhonda for several years and I tend to think anything she does is pretty great.

Waste Not is a very small collection; it contains a total of three stories. You can either drag it out over several days or buckle down and read it all in one sitting.

The first story is a realistic look at the limitations placed upon a farming family when zombies are out and about. It’s about payback with a chuckle.

The second story is a cat’s eye view of what happens when a pet’s owner doesn’t come home. The cat’s observations are wry. How fitting for an aloof cat!

The final story involves a drunk munchkin who thinks the Wicked Witch may not be as dead as everyone thinks. Or is it the alcohol which has his nerves on edge?

I was expecting more stories but sometimes what you want is just a little taste of something different to tide you over until you can jump into something which requires a time commitment. This is going to be one of those short story collections to fit the bill.

07.19.16

Keep Calm by Mike Binder

Posted in Review at 10:27 pm by Amber

Title: Keep Calm
Author: Mike Binder
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Keep Calm

When a bombing at 10 Downing Street wounds the Prime Minister and tests Great Britain’s resolve, American ex-cop Adam Tatum must confront a conspiracy in the highest halls of power

Former Michigan detective Adam Tatum receives an unexpected offer, a golden opportunity that seems almost too good to be true. He travels to 10 Downing Street to participate in a high-stakes conference. Immediately after his visit, a bomb detonates, wounding the prime minister and placing Adam Tatum squarely in the crosshairs of suspicion.

Sensing a setup, Tatum flees with his family, desperately fighting for survival in an unfamiliar country. The lives of his children, the future of his marriage, and the fate of a nation depend on Tatum exposing the conspirators who pegged him for a fall.

Georgia Turnbull, the chancellor of the exchequer, and Davina Steel, the lead investigator, both stand to gain from the successful manhunt of Adam Tatum. But, as motives emerge and desires ignite, each must decide what they’re really after.

Layered plots, crackling dialogue, and propulsive action mark Keep Calm, the riveting debut thriller from award-winning actor, director, and screenwriter Mike Binder.

I had high hopes for this but it just didn’t work for me. There were switches between points of view which took me out of the story.

The plot was well-paced. Some characters fell flat but for many of them their motivations rang true to me. I finished this a few months ago and thought the main motivation for the bombing was spot on.

07.02.16

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam

Posted in Review at 8:28 am by Amber

Title: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home
Author: Laura Vanderkam
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Three powerful mini e-books about high productivity, now together in paperback

Laura Vanderkam has combined her three popular mini e-books into one comprehensive guide, with a new introduction. It will help readers build habits that lead to happier, more productive lives, despite the pressures of their busy schedules. Trough interviews and anecdotes, she reveals . . .

  • What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast—to jump-start the day productively.

  • What the Most Successful People Do On the Weekend—to recharge and prepare for a great week.

  • What the Most Successful People Do at Work—to accomplish more in less time.

I read this so you won’t have to! Just kidding. I was on a big self-help kick towards the end of last year and it petered out. I finally finished this a few weeks ago. Everyone is going to get something different out of this collection. I put post-its on items I wanted to remember.

From What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast… minimize the have-to-dos. The key thing with chores and weekends is not to focus so much on easily seen and measured goals, such as scratching everything off the grocery list, that you divert energy from your highest value projects: nurturing your relationships, nurturing your career, nurturing yourself.

One way to do this is to set aside time for small chores. You feel less guilty about not doing something right then because you know you’ll do it during the small chore time.

Schedule in hours for top work priorities like strategic thinking or creative work. This makes these priorities seem like a commitment. Do the same for leisure activities. If it’s written down it’s more likely to get done.

Schedule something fun or meaningful for Sunday night. It stretches out the weekend and gives you a good way to start off the week. This really hit home because so many people I know hate having something scheduled for Sunday; they want to set aside the entire day to gear up for the next week. To me that’s wasting an entire day being mopey.

From What the Most Successful People Do at Work one of the hardest things for me to do is to increase my capital with others. Your next opportunity can come from an unexpected place. For example, I told one friend I would want to volunteer for events at a mutual friend’s business. The next day I was helping Simon Mujamdar with a cooking demo.

Create a log for a week or so to find out what can be eliminated or cut down. This is one of the first things to do in the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo. It can show a better time to do a task. For example, taking a walk around the block or building every 45 minutes instead of working in 2 hour blocks is great! When powering through I can get restless. But taking a short walking break is refreshing. It clears the mind and lets me get in some steps.

The appendix includes 50 time management tips. A lot of these I can get behind such as: take naps, work from home a day or two a week, lower your housekeeping standards, and if you plan something fun go ahead and do it (even if you’re tired).

04.19.16

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

Posted in Review at 10:23 am by Amber

Bite Size Book Review

Why did I read this book?

It was a book club pick.

What did I think of this book?

I really enjoyed it. It’s a dense book so don’t expect it to be full of fluff. I was worried that I wouldn’t finish it in time.

Who should read this book?

Anyone who is willing to read a dense book which, on the surface, appears to be about women boxers set in 18th Century England.

04.12.16

Release Day for C is for Chimera

Posted in Event at 11:23 pm by Amber

You know what today is, right? It’s the official release day for C is for Chimera. I received an electronic ARC for review but haven’t read it yet. I misplaced my kindle cord and the poor thing has been sitting dormant for over a month. To date, I still haven’t found it so I ordered another one which arrived yesterday. Guess what book I’m looking forward to reading this week? 🙂

Below is the official info about it.

This installment of Rhonda Parrish’s alphabet anthology series asks skilled storytellers to write around the theme of chimera. The resulting tales are part fable, part poem, part dream. But like any chimera, the parts make up a greater whole.

Blend reality with fantasy. Mesh science fiction with mystery. Mix history with what should have been. They are all chimera.

A shadow tells a tale of schoolyard bullies. A long-vanished monster returns from the cold dark. Make-up makes up a life. Alchemy, Atlantis, and apocalypse. These 26 tales bring both chaos and closure to dark and elusively fantastic geographies.

Contributing authors include:

~ Alexandra Seidel ~ KV Taylor ~ Marge Simon ~ Pete Aldin ~ Michael M. Jones ~ Simon Kewin ~ BD Wilson ~ Gabrielle Harbowy ~ Sara Cleto ~ Megan Engelhardt ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Megan Arkenberg ~ Lilah Wild ~ Laura VanArendonk Baugh ~ Milo James Fowler ~ Brittany Warman ~ Michael B. Tager ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Beth Cato ~ C.S. MacCath ~ Sammantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ Steve Bornstein ~ Suzanne van Rooyen ~ Michael Kellar ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Amanda C. Davis ~

11.01.15

Jewish Book Month – November 6th to December 6th

Posted in Event at 7:09 am by Amber

In another week or so is Jewish Book Month. The Jewish Book Council designates this month as a time to celebrate and promote Jewish books. It seems most of the Jewish books anyone ever talks about are tales about the Holocaust but there is so much more. Immigrant tales, short story collections, biographies and cookbooks. Will you be reading anything this month?

09.30.15

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Posted in Review at 9:34 am by Amber

Bite Size Book ReviewWhy did I read this book? I saw the book cover, liked it and noticed the book was written by Holly Black.

What did I think of this book? I really liked it! It has female empowerment and is set in an alternate world where fairies and humans co-exist. Being a hero is sometimes scary and that’s okay. It has action, romance, and is a great example of sibling love.

Who should read this book? I actually told my friend her soon to be thirteen-year-old daughter would like it. It has teens living with the consequences of decisions made years before; while it acknowledges some of the trouble kids can get into I don’t recall anything sexually explicit. Recommended for anyone with an interest in adventures.

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