Thursday, August 27, 2015

Audio Book Review: Croak

Title: Croak by Gina Damico
Publisher: Audible Studios
Format: Audible
Length: 8 hours 16 minutes
Narrator: Jessica Almasy
Genre: YA Sci/Fi

Synopsis: Fed up with her wild behavior, 16-year-old Lex’s parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can’t stop her desire for justice - or is it vengeance? - whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?

(59) Review: I really enjoyed this book.  The narrator Jessica Almasy is fabulous at reading, she really helps put you in the book and helps to keep your attention.  I loved the premise of this book, it reminded me a bit of the Showtime series Dead Like Me only the girl in that show had died, where in this series Lex is still alive, she just has a gift for taking life.

This is Gina Damico's debute novel, and it definitely breaks some molds.  The main character Lex is not the most likeable, she is a straight A wonderful girl who all of a sudden turned into the school bully.  She is biting kids, breaking bones and sending people to the hospital.  Fed up she is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle in the small town of Croak.

In Croak Lex discovers that she has the gift of being a grim reaper, in fact her Uncle, the mayor of Croak is one as well as are all the inhabitants of Croak.  I loved the way Damico describes the afterlife, and the fun quirky way she has established the politics of Croak and the the death business.

Lex starts to calm down and realize how much she likes Croak and she is finding that she actually fits in with this bunch of weirdos.  The story has a light tone that takes some of the morbidity away, but underlying is a mystery. There are mysterious deaths happening and no one can figure out what is going on. The story slowly builds toward a conclusion regarding these deaths and Damico does this masterfully until the final showdown when she kicks us in the gut. I'm not gonna give it away but WOW.

Of course there is the inevitable romance that it seems all YA books require.  Driggs lives with her Uncle and is Lex's Grim partner. He culls the souls that she releases.  He is mysterious and witty and doesn't stand for any of Lex's antics.  They are a good match.

This is a fabulous start to the series.  I can't wait to read book 2 Scorch.

Monday, August 24, 2015

ARC Review: Eden

Title:Eden (An Archer & Bennett Thriller) by Candice Fox
Publisher; Kensington Books
Format: I receive this book as an advanced ebook from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review.
Pages: 320 pages
Genre: Thriller

This book is due to be released on August 25, 2015

Synopsis: Most homicide detective teams run on trust, loyalty, and the shared desire to put killers behind bars. Frank Bennett's partner, Eden Archer, thrives on darkness and danger. She has a rare talent for catching killers - but her idea of justice has little to do with courtrooms.

Now three girls are missing, and Eden is going undercover to a remote farm where the troubled go to hide and blood falls more often than rain. Frank’s job is to keep an eye on his partner while she's there - but is it for Eden's protection, or to protect others from her? Walking a tightrope between duty and desperation,  Frank confronts a threat from Eden’s past—the sadistic crime lord Hades, who raised her. Suddenly, the hunter is the hunted. And a killer’s vicious desires are about to be unleashed . . .

(58) Review: After reading only a few pages I realized that this book was the second in a series and the characters were so intriguing that I had to pick up the first book.  Despite not having read book 1 I plunged ahead and fell in love with Hades, Eden and Frank.

This book is fast paced and full of mystery.  I loved it.  I couldn't put it down, and there is a bit of a cliff hanger in the epilogue that left me desperate for the next book and this one just came out!

The story delves into Hades past, where he came from and how he came to be what he is, and also where his passion for art came about.  Living in a garbage dump Hades still helps people take care of "trash" but he has his scruples.  His business is being compromised by someone watching him, someone who wants payback for the past, something that he swears he didn't do.

Meanwhile Eden, Hades daughter goes undercover to try to solve a murder and may be underestimating the killer.  Her back up is falling in love with her and Eden being the predator she is doesn't really have time for this. Jack seems torn between Hades, his need to help his partner and trying to get over the death of his girlfriend.

The characters are all really well developed, dark and broken but realistic.  This is definately a series to keep your eyes on, because I have a feeling its only going to get better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Audio Book Review: Conspiracies - A Repairman Jack Novel Book 3

Title: Conspiracies: A Repairman Jack Novel, Book 3 by F. Paul Wilson
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Format: Audio Book through Audible
Narrator: Christopher Price
Length: 11 hours 28 minutes
Genre: mystery/ supernatural

Synopsis: Looking for clues to the mysterious disappearance of leading conspiracy theorist Melanie Ehler, Jack attends a convention of bizarre and avid conspiracy theorists. It’s a place where aliens are real, the government is out to get you, and the world is hurtling toward an inevitable war of good versus evil incarnate.

Jack finds that nobody can be trusted - and that few people are what they seem. Worse yet, Jack’s been having vivid dreams that make him wonder whether he’s headed for a clash with his own past - maybe The Tomb’s evil rakoshi beasts aren’t through with him quite yet.

(57) Review: Jack always finds himself entangled in mysteries that start out normal and quickly turn into something else.  Because of this I find myself being reminded of John Connelly's Charlie Parker series particularly because of the good vs. evil aspect of these novels. Jack is starting to question his choice of business and if he wants to continue or if he should try to go straight and just spend time with his girlfriend Gia and her daughter Vicki.

In this book Jack attends a convention on conspiracy theories  in order to find a conspiracy theorist who disappeared and left a message for her husband that said to find Jack and that Jack is the only one who could help.  The description of the convention and the people who attend it were spot on what you would expect at one of these convention and the stories are hilarious. Despite a brutal murder at the convention and a missing body the convention itself leads only to more questions and Jack's dry sense of humor keeps the book moving as the mystery gets weirder.

While Jack is searching for Melanie he starts getting strange packages that show up in his hotel room without anyone having brought them.  The scars he got in The Tomb (Adversary Cycle/Repairman Jack) book 1 also take center stage in this book.  Do the Rakoshi have something to do with this womans disappearance?

These books are constantly evolving and changing and keep getting better. Jack's rye and sarcastic sense of humor and comments just make me chuckle and keep the weird and brutal on a lighter level.

Monday, August 17, 2015

ARC Review: The Collector

Title: The Collector by Anne-Laure Thieblemont
Publisher: Le French Book
Format: Advanced e-copy from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 211 pages
Genre: Mystery

This book was released on August 11, 2015

Synopsis: In the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, some people collect art, while others collect trouble. Marion Spicer spends her days examining auction catalogues and searching for stolen works of art. She is a top-notch investigator when it comes to eighteenth-century art. But for her it's just a job and her life is well ordered. All this changes when she inherits a huge and very prestigious collection of pre-Columbian art from a father she never knew. There are conditions attached: she must first find three priceless statues. That is when her troubles begin. Her father’s death sparked much greed, and Marion finds herself facing sharks, schemes, fences, traps, scams, and attacks. Her quest draws her into a world where people will kill for a love of beauty.

(56)Review: If you have a day to yourself you could probably breeze through this book.  It was intriguing and moved at a slightly slower pace than many American mysteries but still kept you interested.  I liked that it slowly unraveled Marion's fathers life, and wound down different corners of intrigue. By the end I thought the mystery of the statues was revealed but an epilogue left you with more to ponder.

Very well researched and detailed the book brings you into the world of high priced art and the collectors who buy it.  What lengths are people willing to go to, in order to achieve their prize and what happens when winning isn't enough.  In the end you are left wondering about some of the characters. What will happen to them after all they went through, was all the death and deceit worth it to Marion in the end? She may think so now but will it turn out to really be that way in the end? Does money bring happiness or does it bring its own perils.  Did she burn too many bridges along the way? I believe this is the start to a new series so it will be interesting to see where the author goes with it.

My biggest criticism of the book was near the end when it seemed that the Detective who didn't seem to know too much all of a sudden had more answers than anyone else.  We never really learn how all of a sudden he not only caught up with what was happening but how he jumped ahead of the game and new everyone's role in it.  Maybe we learn more about that as this series moves on but that was my disappointment with this book.

Friday, August 14, 2015

ARC Review: Black Eyed Susans

Title: Black-Eyed Susans: A Novel of Suspense by Julia Heaberlin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Advanced e-copy from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 368 pages
Genre: Thriller

This title is due to be released August 11, 2015 

Synopsis: A girl's memory lost in a field of wildflowers.
A killer still spreading seeds.

At seventeen, Tessa became famous for being the only surviving victim of a vicious serial killer. Her testimony put him on death row. Decades later, a mother herself, she receives a message from a monster who should be in prison. Now, as the execution date rapidly approaches, Tessa is forced to confront a chilling possibility: Did she help convict the wrong man?

(55)Review: This is a tough book to review without giving too much away.  I loved it, disturbing with a good flow.  Each chapter goes either back in time to when Tessa was first found and current time while Tessa is trying to figure out what happened to her because she isn't sure that the man who is currently on death row due to be executed any day is actually guilty.

There are some interesting thoughts on the death penalty throughout the book but nothing black or white on either side of the fence.  Tessa has lived her life in fear, that the man she put behind bars is not actually the man who left her in a grave of Black Eyed Susans to die.  As Tessa delves into the past to try to figure out what she is missing she keeps going back to her best friend and how she helped her through the trauma back then and wishes she was there to help her through this. And even though she worries that she might have helped convict the wrong man Tessa is in no way a weak character.  In fact she is very strong and determined, she doesn't and didn't let what traumatized her hold her back.

The ending definitely took a turn I didn't expect.  In fact it left me angry and sad for certain characters whose lives were played with like puppets when they could have been much easier. Any book that can evoke that kind of emotion within the last few chapters get a big thumbs up from me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen Driven World

Title: Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman & Arlene Pellicane
Publisher: Northfield Publishing
Format: E-book
Pages: 241 pages
Genre: Parenting/ Christian

Synopsis: In this digital age, children are spending more and more time interacting with a screen rather than a parent. Technology has the potential to add value to our families, but it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child's emotional growth. In Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, you'll learn how to take back your home from an over-dependence on screens. Discover the five A+ skills needed to give your child the relational edge in a screen-driven world: affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention. Today's screens aren't just in our living rooms; they are in our pockets. Now is the time to equip your child to live with screen time, not for screen time. Constant entertainment is not the goal of childhood. No phone, tablet, or gaming device can teach your child how to have healthy relationships; only you can.Growing Up Social will help you:
  • Equip your child to be relational rich in a digital world
  • Replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time
  • Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
  • Read what's working for the screen savvy family down the street
  • Prepare your child to succeed down the road in relationships and life
  • Learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things done
(54) Review: While I am not a huge fan of most Christian lit this book peaked my interest and honestly it wasn't until I was about half way through that I realized it was a Christian book.  Not overly preachy of any type of religion it gives some startling statistics about what screen time is doing to our children. "The average american child and teenager spends fifty-three hours a week with media and technology."

This statistic is alarming to me because it also coincides with research that shows that "before mobile phones and computer apps were popular, the average person's attention span was 12 seconds. Since then, our attention span has dropped by 40 percent." Read that line again, our attention spans have dropped by 40%!!! That's crazy.  And we wonder why the rate of ADHD is increasing in children.

By setting limits on electronics and teaching our children to interact in the real world instead of just the virtual world we will actually raise more empathetic, social children with decreased anxiety and depression. Social interaction in the real world has been shown to decrease feelings of isolation and depression but so many children are relying on virtual interaction and are losing the skills of being able to relate to people in the real world.

Limiting children's screen time isn't enough though we also have to limit our own since we as adults need to practice what we preach and lead by example.  This book shows different ways we can encourage our children to limit their screen time and how to be consistent.  What they find is that when we as parents put down our phones and tablets and interact with our children we not only have increased patience we have better relationships with them as they grow.  Imagine how much we miss while staring at our screens.

I freely admit I am addicted to my phone and feel lost if I forget it and will actually go back for takes a concious effort on my part to keep my phone in my bag during dinners out etc...and I didn't grow up with this technology, imagine if this was the world we grew up in? It would be normal, I actually pity so many of today's children for not playing outside, riding bikes and wading through creeks. This interaction with our world is so important to our well being - getting our hands dirty, making mud pies, using our imaginations, instead of blankly staring and being entertained.  Playdates shouldn't consist of ipads, they should consist of making forts and baking cookies, playing tag, or visiting museums and parks.

The authors have great ideas for how to talk to kids about technology and how to not get mad at them or "punish" them for using it but setting limits and talking about how it affects us as people.  This book IS NOT anti-technology its about using technology wisely.

This book is filled with some great ideas and some wake up calls to help our future generations.  Me and the authors may not agree on religion but we agree that we are harming our children with all of this technology and putting them at a disadvantage in the world instead of what tech companies are trying to push us to believe.  You don't need tech to learn you just need someone to teach you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Audio Book: Graduation Day (Book 3 of The Testing)

Title: Graduation Day: The Testing, Book 3 by Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Recorder Books
Format: Audio book
Length: 9 hours 17 minutes
Narrator: Elizabeth Horton
Genre: Dystopian YA

Synopsis: She wants to put an end to the Testing.

In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor Cia Vale vows to fight.

But she can't do it alone.

This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for - but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves - and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates.

Who can Cia trust?

(53)Review: I actually liked this book the best out of the whole trilogy. While Cia still seems perfect in many ways, this book starts to show her humanity and her flaws and how this whole thing is affecting her. I did find it odd that the President is relying on a child to shift the political power of the Commonwealth but given this society is just as messed up as the one in the Hunger Games I guess nothing is uncommon, although by the end of the book you have more of an understanding of this.

Trying to stop the testing Cia and her friends uncover a conspiracy that could put the rebels in jeopardy.  With little help from the President Cia and her friends have to stop the people who are in charge of putting an end to the rebellion.  Fighting their conscience they find that sometimes people they called friends or family are on the wrong side of this fight and in order to fulfill their goal they may have to commit heinous crimes.

Cia and her friends also uncover what happens to candidates that fail the testing and those findings are terrifying and help to keep them on their path to fulfill their mission.

I felt this book talked more about the consequences of the characters actions on their personalities than the others, in this book what they do they will have to live with instead of the previous books where they were given serum to forget. In addition, Cia has to put her personal feelings aside and focus on what is best for all of her friends and the future generations.

This book twists and turns and you start to wonder who is working with who and what everyone's real agenda is which makes it a little hard to follow but also much better than the last two. In this book you start to understand the choices Cia has to make and you have to try to figure out if someone is your enemy or your ally.  By the end Cia has really changed and you wonder what her future holds.  It ends without much of an answer to that question which was okay because finally things in this series weren't so predictable.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: Kids Books on Surrogacy, What is a Family, Foster/Adoption Story

Title: Sophia's Broken Crayons: A Story of Surrogacy from a Young Child's Perspective by Crystal Falk
Publisher: Amazon's digital Services
Format: E-book
Genre: Surrogacy, Children

Synopsis: Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs bark? When will I be tall? Where do babies come from? Kids ask a lot of questions. Some of them are easier to answer than others. Explaining why someone would choose to become a surrogate or why a family would choose a surrogate to help grow their family are even harder questions to answer. Sophia’s Broken Crayons can help you answer those questions.

 (50)Review:  A simplistic story to explain surrogacy to a young child.  The book is geared toward ages 2-6 and would be great to help children of surrogates understand why the baby isn’t staying with them and also to help the child that is born through surrogacy understand the process.  It doesn’t get into great detail it just talks about how one family shared their tummy to help another family just like the young girls friends share their crayons when hers are broken. 
This book was published in conjunction with Surrogacy Together and while a great book the back of the book is filled with full names of names of surrogates, intended parents and donors, which I felt was a breach of confidentiality and was unnecessary for a story geared toward children. If they had just left the forward and the little blurb in the back about their organization I think it would have been much better. However the story itself is very good and could be used for anyone involved in a surrogacy situation.

Title: Children Books: What is a family?: (Preschool Values book) - Picture Book for Early & Beginner Readers fiction (Balu Baldauf series 9) by Ruthz SB
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Format: e-book
Genre: Diversity, Children

Synopsis:What is a family? For BeBe, it is a father, mother, boy, girl, cat or dog living in a house with a garden. When BeBe's teacher asks her students to tell about their families, BeBe learns that each child comes from a different kind of family.

In this book, BeBe's friend World shows that children live in close or faraway, with a mom and dad, grandparents, two same-gender parents, or stepparents. Also mentions adoption, divorce, addition and loss of a member.

(51)Review: This is a sweet book about BeBe who is trying to define family.  His friend poses different questions to him to get him to think harder about the question until BeBe realizes that defining family isn’t always so easy and there are many different types of families.  This book shows many different aspects of what being a family means.  In the end BeBe realizes that family means different things to different people and none of that is wrong. 
The author has a beautiful note at the end of the book where she writes “A family is a collective consciousness - our first step towards understanding the supreme soul consciousness. Families make communities, communities make nations, nations make humanity…”, “…family is always our fundamental milestone.”
This is a great book to start talking about different types of families and looking at all the different types of families you may know.

Title: Sprout: an adoption story by Megan Meredith
Publisher: a Herald's Megaphone Publishing Co
Format: ebook
Genre: Foster care, Adoption, children, abuse

Synopsis: Sprout lives in Wild Wood where he is trampled and scorched. Who will care for Sprout? Will someone save Sprout? Will Sprout find a place to safe and belong?

(52)Review:This is a beautifully illustrated story about a seedling that isn’t given the chance to grow, it is not taken care of and harmed until one day a stranger comes and takes it away, nurtures it and helps it to grow. For children who are removed from dangerous or harmful environments and placed in new homes this is a story of hope, of love and what can happen when you give a child the love support and care that he or she needs to grow. Without talking about what happened to a child in the past this story is not an in your face book, but a subtle story about what love and encouragement can help create.  Hopefully a child will see his or her own story in this one and while maybe not fully understanding that it relates to them at first it may spark hope inside them. I can see this as a book you would want to read again and again. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ARC Review: About a Girl (The Metamorphoses Trilogy- Book 3)

Title: About a Girl: A Novel (The Metamorphoses Trilogy) by Sarah McCarry
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Format: Advanced e-copy from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 272 Pages

This title was released on July 14, 2015

Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Tally is absolutely sure of everything: her genius, the love of her adoptive family, the loyalty of her best friend, Shane, and her future career as a Nobel prize-winning astronomer. There's no room in her tidy world for heartbreak or uncertainty--or the charismatic, troubled mother who abandoned her soon after she was born. But when a sudden discovery upends her fiercely ordered world, Tally sets out on an unexpected quest to seek out the reclusive musician who may hold the key to her past--and instead finds Maddy, an enigmatic and beautiful girl who will unlock the door to her future. The deeper she falls in love with Maddy, the more Tally begins to realize that the universe is bigger--and more complicated--than she ever imagined. Can Tally face the truth about her family--and find her way home in time to save herself from its consequences?

(49)Review: The third and final book in this trilogy. I didn't realize this was a trilogy when I requested it from the publisher through netgalley, so when I found out I wanted to hurry up and get to the first books in the series before reviewing this one.  I listened to the other books on Audio and the narrator Renata Freedman's voice was hypnotic and I found myself hearing her voice as I read this one on my e-reader.

This book focuses on Tally, Aurora's daughter who she dropped on her best friends doorstep as an infant. Once again we never learn Aurora's best friends name instead Tally calls her Aunt Beast, and no one else ever refers to her by her name.  As Tally gets older, as with many children whose parents have abandoned them she has questions about her parents that no one is willing to answer, she finds someone who she thinks may be her father and leaves on a quest from New York City to Seattle Washington. The story from there takes on more of the supernatural light that the first two alluded to.
This book was so beautifully written and this whole series is such a nod to Ovid and his famous poem Metamorphosis,the mythology of which, is scattered throughout this final book really tying it all together. Tally may have been a very mature teen but you see her transformation from naive young girl to a more mature young woman by the end of the book.  Her experiences not only transform her but also transform some of the other characters as well. This book is poetic, tragic, mystical and beautiful.  I couldn't put it down.

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