05.11.20

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Posted in Review at 11:03 pm by Amber

Bite Size Book Review

Why did I read this book?

I happened to see this pop up in my email as being available. I read the first book in the series, Swipe Right, and liked it. There’s a trend in contemporary romances to build a series by focusing on one of the side characters from the first book. This series follows that trend.

What did I think of this book?

I listened to it on audio which I initially found hilarious. The characters are people of color and the voice used for the security guard/love interest sounded like an overly macho white man. The characters alternate chapters and it was just such a contrast to the woman’s voice that it made me laugh the first few times it happened. But I didn’t let it detract from the story. The event that kicks off the action for the characters to change is directly taken from a social media headline. I kept listening because I wanted to find out how they worked things out.

Who should read this book?

Fans of Alisha Rai, anyone who wants to escape a global pandemic for several hours, or wants sex scenes that don’t gloss over anything.

05.08.20

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Posted in Review at 9:37 pm by Amber

Title: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Cover of Mrs. Everything

NEW YORK TIMES 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2019 SELECTION
ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019
THE WASHINGTON POST’S 50 NOTABLE WORKS OF FICTION IN 2019
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING’S 50 BEST BOOKS OF 2019

An instant New York Times bestseller

“A multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant.” —People
“Simply unputdownable.” —Good Housekeeping
“The perfect book club pick.” —SheReads

Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment WeeklyCosmopolitanWoman’s DayPopSugarHelloGiggles, and Refinery29

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

I received this book for review about a year ago when I was reading a burst of ebooks. During the pandemic I find myself once again turning to my trusty ebook reader for new content. These days I’ve been alternating between ebooks and print books to give my eyes a rest from screen time. Just like I try to alternate between a tv show and a movie.

I’d started this last year and it was easy to fall back into the rhythm of the writing and recall what had happened to the sisters since the beginning of the book.

The novel ends just before the 2016 US Presidential election. Knowing what’s happened since then this book made me wistful about the hope present during that time. I’m younger than Jo and Bethie but I recall the hope that a woman reaching the highest political office would be a tangible achievement that women would be believed when they said something horrible was done to them by a man, that women could finally have true autonomy over our bodies, and be treated with respect by all.

Weiner deftly transitions between the two stories. They orbit each other, like moons on different rotations around the planet known as their childhood, coming together on occasion to have shared experiences. I really enjoyed that each character was fleshed out and had her own story in addition to their shared story.

05.24.18

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

Posted in Review at 9:49 am by Amber

Title: School for Psychics
Author: K.C. Archer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

School For Psychics Book Cover

 

An entrancing new series starring a funny, impulsive, and sometimes self-congratulatory young woman who discovers she has psychic abilities—and then must decide whether she will use her skills for good or…not.

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Set in a world very much like our own, School for Psychics is the first book in a stay-up-all night series.

I recently started reading ebooks again so expect my reviews from NetGalley to pick up for 2018. I requested this because I thought it sounded interesting and it coincidentally would count towards my Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge. This counts for Task 20 – Book with a cover you hate.

Thankfully, the contents are better than the cover. The students at the Whitfield Institute have various reasons for attending the school but they all want to learn some self-control over their powers. Most of the story focuses on Teddy’s first-year experience at the school.

Teddy’s cut herself off from people due to her human lie detector abilities. At the school she gains friends and learns maintaining friendships is hard. A lot of the book is spent on the first semester of school and there’s some fast forward through to the end of the year so the pacing felt a little off.

There are clues along the way on who is involved in the strange events but the author added an unexpected player which probably went over my head as I was focused on the characters we’ve been directly introduced to. Hopefully that’s not a spoiler. If you decide to read it, suspect everyone!

05.22.18

My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris

Posted in Review at 8:43 pm by Amber

Title: My Boyfriend is a Bear
Author: Pamela Ribon (Illustrated by Cat Farris)
Publisher: Oni Press
Source: Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Cover of My Boyfriend is a Bear

Nora has bad luck with men. When she meets an (actual) bear on a hike in the Los Angeles hills, he turns out to be the best romantic partner she’s ever had! He’s considerate, he’s sweet, he takes care of her. But he’s a bear, and winning over her friends and family is difficult. Not to mention he has to hibernate all winter. Can true love conquer all?

My book club has been reading Bear by Marian Engel. We have one copy and we write comments in it before passing it along to the next person. The final person finished it and last Friday we got together to do a final review complete with dramatic readings of the comments. As you can imagine, when I saw this title, I HAD to get a copy of it. I mean, first, it would be an inside joke with my book club. Second, the story is odd but the cover is… adorable?

My boyfriend is a Bear isn’t a joke. It had some funny, and sweet moments. When it’s hibernation time, and Nora is left alone to face the relationship criticism from her family and friends, I felt so bad for her. I don’t know of many women who will say anything bad about a person’s partner while the relationship exists. She had her own doubts the relationship would survive the time apart and to have that piled on top of her was just crappy of her friends and family to do.

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.

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.

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