09.15.17

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Posted in Review at 11:27 pm by Amber

Title: Hot and Badgered
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Publisher: Kensington Books
Source: Publisher via Netgalley – First Chapter Only

Hot And Badgered Book Cover

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . .

When I requested the book I didn’t realize it was a sneak peek of the first chapter. That was my fault as I only read the book description and the release date when I requested it. My book club’s September host didn’t pick a book for the month. Instead we’re meeting to talk about what we’ve been reading since we last met. I thought this would be a great book to talk about with them since half read romances and half read sci fi or fantasy. Why not a book which combines it all?

The first chapter had me hooked. With Netgalley you can send the file to your Kindle or download a protected .pdf file. I reached the end of the file on my Kindle and had so many questions. I then downloaded the protected .pdf file in case the file on my Kindle was corrupted. Aren’t I silly?!

The first chapter introduces the reader to the two main characters, Berg and Charlie, and a few supporting ones. Some questions include, “Who is trying to kill Charlie?” and “Does Berg get his concert t-shirt back?” There’s no wasting  time with the meet cute and I predict this will be a quick read. The publisher’s description has more spoilers than this review of the first chapter.

08.26.17

Wide-Open World by John Marshall

Posted in Review at 10:44 pm by Amber

Title: Wide-Open World
Author: John Marshall
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Source: Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

For readers of Three Cups of Tea; Eat, Pray, Love; and Wild comes the inspiring story of an ordinary American family that embarks on an extraordinary journey. Wide-Open World follows the Marshall family as they volunteer their way around the globe, living in a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, teaching English in rural Thailand, and caring for orphans in India. There’s a name for this kind of endeavor  – voluntourism – and it might just be the future of travel.

Oppressive heat, grueling bus rides, backbreaking work, and one vicious spider monkey . . . Best family vacation ever!

John Marshall needed a change. His twenty-year marriage was falling apart, his seventeen-year-old son was about to leave home, and his fourteen-year-old daughter was lost in cyberspace. Desperate to get out of a rut and reconnect with his family, John dreamed of a trip around the world, a chance to leave behind, if only just for a while, routines and responsibilities. He didn’t have the money for resorts or luxury tours, but he did have an idea that would make traveling the globe more affordable and more meaningful than he’d ever imagined: The family would volunteer their time and energy to others in far-flung locales.

Wide-Open World is the inspiring true story of the six months that changed the Marshall family forever. Once they’d made the pivotal decision to go, John and his wife, Traca, quit their jobs, pulled their kids out of school, and embarked on a journey that would take them far off the beaten path, and far out of their comfort zones.

Here is the totally engaging, bluntly honest chronicle of the Marshall’s life-altering adventure from Central America to East Asia. It was no fairy tale. The trip offered little rest, even less relaxation, and virtually no certainty of what was to come. But it did give the Marshalls something far more valuable: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conquer personal fears, strengthen family bonds, and find their true selves by helping those in need. In the end, as John discovered, he and his family did not change the world. It was the world that changed them.

Parents getting to ready to face an empty nest, self-involved teens (aren’t they all?) and trying to find the spark in a marriage… a long family vacation doing good for others seems like a great idea. There are two storylines that run throughout the memoir.

The first is how the trip comes together (which isn’t easy) and the different experiences they have at each destination. Some of the stops include labor and others include working directly with people to share language or culture. The second is about the changes in the family. We’re so connected all the time to everyone that if you don’t respond via text, im or email within 5 minutes that some people actually get upset about it. Each member learns to be more present. When finding an internet connection is close to impossible, they’re forced to notice their surroundings and spend time with each other.

07.01.17

Summer Book Giveaway

Posted in Giveaway at 11:02 am by Amber

Harper Collins has a summer book giveaway for you! It’s an entire package of beach reads.

The books are: The Badass Life by Christmas Abbott; Beach House: Coming Home by Georgia Bockoven; The Cafe by the Seaby Jenny Colgan; My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood; Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank; Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson; The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan; The Light in Summer by Mary McNear; The Beach at Painter’s Cove by Shelley Noble; The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry; It Happens in the Hamptons by Holly Peterson; Map of the Heartby Susan Wiggs; Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams; and The Force by Don Winslow.

06.23.17

Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel

Posted in Review at 10:25 pm by Amber

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Random House
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

 

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

What a lovely novel. It’s no wonder it’s been a New York Times Bestseller and was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist. Some of the choices are poetic.

The novel focuses on several characters who have a connection to Arthur Leander. It flips back in time to decades prior to the pandemic and forward to present day which is 20 years after the world changed.

In 2015 I did an All Hallow’s Read with my book club and when I saw this at Half Price Books I got a copy for one lucky person to go home with. Since then it’s been passed around for other readers to enjoy.

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).

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