Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

Title: 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin
Publisher: Atria
Format: ebook was received from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 288 pages
Genre: non-fiction

Synopsis: On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip. A vicious storm killed his engine and the current dragged his boat out to sea. The storm picked up and blasted him west. When he washed ashore on January 29, 2014, he had arrived in the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away—equivalent to traveling from New York to Moscow round trip.

For fourteen months, Alvarenga survived constant shark attacks. He learned to catch fish with his bare hands. He built a fish net from a pair of empty plastic bottles. Taking apart the outboard motor, he fashioned a huge fishhook. Using fish vertebrae as needles, he stitched together his own clothes.

He considered suicide on multiple occasions—including offering himself up to a pack of sharks. But Alvarenga never failed to invent an alternative reality. He imagined a method of survival that kept his body and mind intact long enough for the Pacific Ocean to toss him up on a remote palm-studded island, where he was saved by a local couple living alone in their own Pacific Island paradise.

Review: Based on hours of interviews with Alvarenga and his rescuers along with input from other people who have also survived long periods of time in tragic situations this book is a true tale of survival.  I wasn't hooked from day one but once that storm hit Franklin had me and didn't let go. Interspersed with the story are snippets of information from oceanographers, doctors, earth science specialists, and climate specialists which really added to the story by making it educational as well as entertaining.

No one else has ever survived that long at sea but somehow Alvarenga surived for 14 months adrift at sea.  He started out in Mexico and finally washed ashore in the Pacific Islands.  Finding fresh water and food was a daily struggle. The way in which Alvarenga kept his mind occupied and didn't completely lose hope was even more miraculous. Its amazing that he made it with his mind intact.

I have read many stories on survival but this tale will stick with me.  Alvarenga's will to survive and his extraordinary ingenuity really got him through in the toughest conditions. It really gives you a new perspective on life.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

ARC Review: Grave of Hummingbirds

Title: Grave of Hummingbirds by Jennifer Shutelsky
Publisher: Little A
Format: ebook received through amazon prime
Pages: 204 Pages
Genre: Mystery

This title will be released January 1, 2016

Synopsis: In the remote Andean village of Colibrí, a boy discovers what appears to be the body of an angel. But in the face and wounds of the dead, winged woman, Dr. Gregory Moreno sees something even more disturbing: an uncanny resemblance to his beloved late wife that cannot be mere chance. And in American anthropologist Sophie Lawson, still more echoes of the doctor’s lost love stir…igniting the superstitions of the townspeople, and an elusive killer’s deepest desires and despair.

When Sophie vanishes, her son and Dr. Moreno must navigate the streets, politics, and mysteries of a place where tortured ghosts and strange omens exist side by side with mortals both devout and corrupt. But they may need nothing less than a miracle to save her from sacrifice at the altar of a madman’s twisted passion.

Review: Sophie and her son Finn stumble upon the small town of Colibri while on vacation.  Despite laws against it Colibri still holds mysterious ceremonies to appease the gods. Finn seems to have a mysterious connection to animals and Sophie resembles two women who have both died mysteriously in Colibri. Both start to feel uncomfortable and want to leave Colibri but find themselves being kept there like they are lead actors in a play not of their choosing.

 There is a lot of folklore and small town mystery, intrigue and superstition in this book, reminding me a lot of Isabelle Allende's work. Ghosts and secrets abound leaving you often wondering what exactly is real. This story is very atmospheric and lyrical. Several of the characters are very well developed and others we get to know enough to carry us though.  This small town seems to be straddling their present and their past traditions, they seem to need to let go of the past in order to move forward but struggle with letting go.  I really loved this book and found the feel of it to be very fable like also reminding me of the works of Paolo Coehlo. The ending was surprising and satisfying even though it left me wanting a little more.

The title is a little confusing I feel like it should be Grave of the Condors not Hummingbirds which barely make an appearance.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Book Review: A Grimms Curse

Title: A Grimm Curse (Grimm Tales Book 3) by Jana Jennings
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Format: e-book received through from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 174 pages
Genre: YA, Mystery

This title was released on November 20, 2015

Synopsis: An orphan girl befriends an enchanted frog while her cursed stepsister plots revenge in a twist that can only transpire in a fairy tale.

Lady Wellington’s obsessive quest for a crown for one of her daughters has ensnared Cynthia and her musical talent in her scheme. Cynthia turns the nightmarish concert into a gesture of true friendship in an attempt to reverse the curse of a frog prince.

Attempting to be invisible to her abusive stepfamily while sidestepping the arrogant prince, Cynthia searches for an understanding princess to change Remi back to his rightful form.

Things do not go as planned when Remi disappears, leaving their friendship in his wake. Meanwhile, the single-minded Prince Wilhelm is determined to make Cynthia his bride.

Review: I really liked this reimagined story.  Cynthia lives with her step-mother and two horrible step-sisters (sound familiar?). During a ball for the prince Cynthia caught the eye Prince who is now trying desperately to get her to agree to marry him.  But Cynthia wants more than the pompous prince and is starting to have memories, or are they dreams of another place.

With her cousin, the Prince's cooks son, Jack, a stolen goose, and a fisherman Cynthia tries to make her way back to her world but can she do that before the Prince or her step-mother find her?

Blending fairy tales together in a unique and really enjoyable way, Grimms Curse is a great little book.  Weaving characters from some of the most loved fairy tales together in a twisted tale with more self-confident women and princesses.  Although it is the 3rd in a series I didn't feel confused or lost, it definitely can stand alone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

ARC Review: Tough Justice: Exposed 1

Title: Tough Justice: Exposed (Part 1 of 8) by Carla Cassidy
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases
Format: advanced e-book sent to me from the publisher through
Pages: 85 pages
Genre: Thriller/Mystery

This title will be released January 12, 2016

Synopsis: A new job. A new case. A new criminal…?
Special Agent Lara Grant will do anything to get her mark—until her last undercover case, infiltrating the notorious Moretti crime ring, forced her to get close to the top. Way. Too. Close…

Now starting a new job in New York City, all Lara wants is to leave the ghosts of her past behind. Until a dramatic sniper attack leaves Lara's face – and real name – all over the media. In the blink of an eye, her cover is blown, her identity exposed.
Then a woman's body is found, branded with the ritual Moretti tattoo. Someone knows who Lara is…and exactly how to make her pay

Part 1 of 8 in a chilling, high-octane FBI thriller TOUGH JUSTICE from NYT bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Carol Ericson and Gail Barrett.

Review: I was really interested in this book not only by the description but also because each installment is written by a different author and I am curious to see how the writing varies and if it changes the way the story flows.

This first book really set the stage and left me wanting more.  Lara Grant has a lot of secrets from her time undercover in the Moretti crime ring and we haven't even scratched the surface of it yet.  When bodies start turning up with crime ring tattoos there has to be a connection to Lara, but Moretti is in prison so who is setting up these kills? Is it Moretti seeking revenge from prison, someone else trying to start up his crime ring or something else entirely? Lara has to learn to trust her team but trust isn't easy for her.  Can she trust them or are they in on whatever is going on?

This was a quick read and I am anxiously awaiting the release date so that I can download the other installments to this series.  This is a fun, edge of your seat mystery with lots of dark alleys to wind down so I'm hoping that the authors take us for a wild unpredictable ride.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: The Innocent (Book 2)

Title: The Innocent: A Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel by Taylor Stevens
Publisher: Broadway Publishing
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352 pages
Genre: Mystery Thriller

Synopsis: Eight years ago, five-year old Hannah was spirited out of school and into the closed world of a cult known as The Chosen. Ever since, followers of its leader have hidden the child and shielded her abductor. Now, childhood survivors of The Chosen who have escaped to make a life for themselves on the outside know here to find Hannah and turn to Vanessa Michael Munroe for help. Munroe reluctantly takes the job, and travels to Buenos Aires to infiltrate the cult and save the girl. Inducted in to a world unlike anything she has faced before, Munroe must navigate unpredictable members and their dangerous cohorts, the impatient survivors who hired her, and the struggle against her own increasingly violent nature so she can rescue the child before the window of opportunity closes and Hannah is lost forever.

Review: Its been a long time since I read the Informationist which is the first book in this series.  I do remember liking it and wanting to return to it so here I am a few years later.  Michael Munroe is a deadly chameleon. She can change her appearance, fluently speaks several different languages and knows how to blend in. Her expertise is information.

When her friend asks her to help get a child out of a cult she reluctantly takes the job. She is having a difficult time and is having nightmares that leave people in danger.  Hopefully she can suppress this long enough for her to find Hannah and get her out of the cult before she gets moved again.

I found myself a little lost on what the nightmares were about, maybe it was something that happened in the first book that I don't remember but her violent episodes were such a central part that I felt I was missing something. However it didn't take away from the overall story.  The Chosen are terrifying in the realistic portrayal of a religious cult and the way in which Michael infiltrates them is brilliant and simple.  The characters are well developed with many layers.  

I don't think I will wait so long to read the next book in this series.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: My Girlfriends Pregnant

Title: My Girlfriend's Pregnant!: A Teen's Guide to Becoming a Dad by Chloe Schantz-Hilkes
Publisher: Annick Press
Format: protected epub - received from the publisher through in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 129 pages
Genre: Parenting, pregnancy, adoption, abortion, fathers

This book was published August 2015

Synopsis: Based on interviews with teenage dads, social workers, and medical professionals, this book explores:
  • What it's like to discover that your girlfriend is pregnant
  • What to expect during pregnancy and childbirth
  • The experience of parenthood--both positive and negative
  • How involved the role of a teen dad can be
  • How parenthood can affect young relationships
  • The stress of being a teen dad
  • The impact of abortion and adoption on young fathers.
Review: This is one of the only books I've read that focuses on the father.  Most teen pregnancy books are written from the mothers perspective, and I really appreciate the shift.  With great quotes throughout the book this book gives some great insight into the thoughts and feelings of many young men who find out their girlfriend is pregnant.  While most of the book does focus on parenting there are also chapters on the other alternatives, abortion and adoption. This book also includes chapters on dealing with stress, domestic violence, relationships, and childbirth. There is also a resource guide in the back.

Finding out that your girlfriend is pregnant can bring up so many emotions and this book validates so many different responses to different scenarios.  Whether you plan to parent, place the child for adoption or your girlfriend has an abortion there is no right or wrong way to feel and this book has interviews with many different fathers in different situations.  This book is very much about really looking at what is best for you and taking care of yourself.  It also stresses that staying together may not be the best option and if you do try to stay together what obstacles you may face and not to use the pregnancy as the reason to stay. There are many co-parenting relationships out there that are healthier because they decided not to stay together than if they had tried to stay together.

While this book is geared toward teens I believe any young adult up through their 20's could benefit from reading it.  When that pregnancy test turns out positive there are all kinds of emotions that happen and this book helps break them down so you can start to put them into perspective.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: Friday Night Bites ( Chicagoland Vampires Book 2)

Title: Friday Night Bites (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 2) by Chloe Neill
Publisher: NAL
Format: paperback
Pages: 368 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: Ten months after vampires revealed their existence to the mortals of Chicago, they're enjoying a celebrity status usually reserved for the Hollywood elite. But should people learn about the Raves--mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle--the citizens will start sharpening their stakes.

So now it's up to the new vampire Merit to reconnect with her upper class family and act as liaison between humans and bloodsuckers, and keep the more unsavory aspects of the vampire lifestyle out of the media. But someone doesn't want peace between them--someone with an ancient grudge...

(82) Review: Merit is back standing sentinel for house Cadogan. Torn between Morgan of House Nararre and her Master Eric Sullivan.

Merit has a secret, she seems to have not fully integrated into a vampire, in fact the vampire seems to be a separate part of her that is aching to come out but what will happen once she does?

This book was a little slower to develop than the first one but the characters and emotions are getting deeper and more developed.  I really appreciate the struggles that some of the characters are dealing with learning of their new natures.  It rings very true and helps pull you into the story.

The political maneuverings in this book get a little deeper and more twisted.  Merit also may need to face her secret if she is going to defeat some of the enemies coming after her house.

All in all a solid book that gives you enough of the backstory that you wouldn't feel adrift if you hadn't read the first one.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Book Review: Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires book 1)

Title: Some Girls Bite: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel by Chloe Neill
Publisher: ROC
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: They killed me. They healed me. They changed me.

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but I was doing fine until Chicago’s vampires announced their existence to the world. When a rogue vampire attacked me, I was lucky he only got a sip. Another bloodsucker scared him off and decided the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead.

Now I’ve traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed,
four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude—and servitude. Right…

But someone’s out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches?

My initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

Review: I'm not sure why it took me so long to get to this series.  I've had books 1-3 sitting on my shelf for almost a year.  I finally picked it up the other day and couldn't put it down.  I love this world and I fell in love with Merit, her roommate Mallory and the host of other beautiful and crazy characters.  The hole that was left by the ending of Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series has now been filled with Chicagoland vampires.

This world is filled with political maneuvering from Merit's ambitious father, as well as the new vampire world she finds herself in.  While Merit was a bit of a geek as a human she is a very talented vampire.  Caught between hatred and love with the vampire who made her to save her life and now rules her house and is ultimately her boss, Merit often finds herself walking a thin line and having to play catch up to the vampire politics that have been around for centuries.

The characters all have multiple layers and are developed nicely.  The politics are fascinating and I can only see it getting more complex and intriguing.  This is a great start to a series and it definitely sucks you in (pun intended).  I expect that we will start to meet more species in the supernatural spectrum as the series goes on.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Autobiography of an Assasin: The Here and Now

Title: Autobiography of an Assassin: Part One: The Here and the Now by MT Hallgarth
Publisher: Troubadour Publishing
Format: advanced e-copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 273 pages
Genre: Mystery Thriller

This title was released on Aug 28, 2014

Synopsis: Beneath a seemingly pleasant and unpretentious façade lurks a ruthless predator...
A narcissistic sociopath!

Martin has an unusual life – he works as an assassin, having killed his first victim when he had only just turned sixteen. After fleeing to Belgium, he finds himself recruited by a mercenary organisation, more commonly known as ‘La Légion’. Given a new identity, Martin is taken to Morocco to undergo extensive training... training that is frequently brutal and bestial.

In Vietnam, Martin is recruited into ‘Section 9’, a covert organisation with the British Secret Intelligence Service. Upon discovering they want Martin to become an assassin, fate intervenes. On arriving back in London, he discovers feelings and emotions that he’s never experienced before – love and affection.

But nothing lasts forever...

When tragedy strikes, an assassin is truly born and overnight, Martin becomes a ruthless, heartless killer.

Review:  I waited and waited for this book to get better but for me it just didn't.  Over the top descriptive with chapter after chapter on guns, different types of guns, different types of ammunition what damage they do as well as different types of bombs, etc...I have to give it to the author they definitely know a lot about weapons.

Interspersed were really interesting bits and pieces of a story that I wished the book would have been the focus instead of on the weapons.  Describing different missions that Martin and his family undertook. There was also a vivid description of the Manor house and how they came to obtain it, renovate it and find the secrets to it.  Those were the pieces that held my attention and I wish there were more of.

The next book in this series is Autobiography of an Assassin: The Family

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