Saturday, August 16, 2014

Here is Where by Andrew Carroll

Author Andrew Carroll was inspired to write this book after visiting the spot where Abraham Lincoln’s son was saved by the brother of Lincoln’s assassin.  He sought out forgotten places filled with history.  The book is broken up into short chapters, each with a different topic.  It is a fairly quick read because you can read a little at a time and then go back to it later.

I’m not sure why some were included as “forgotten history” as the stories and places are fairly well known.  Some of the stories start out interesting, but then start to fizzle out. The stories sometimes tend to drift and I wish he had stayed on point!  Quite a few of the stories, however, are fascinating.  The ones I found most interesting: Mound City, about a disaster worse than the titanic; Hart Island, a huge potters field; and Robert Goddard’s Backyard, a real rocket scientist. 

I question the addition of a couple of the stories. One was a racial incident which made neither side look good.  A page of jokes about Jehovah’s Witnesses was the way the author chose to start a chapter on the abuse and discrimination against the Jehovah Witnesses. 

Overall, the book is an interesting and unique collection of stories.  

 Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Remains of Innocence by J.A. Jance

I am very pleased to be part of the Remains of Innocence by J.A. Jance Blog tour. Although there are quite a few Joanna Brady mysteries, this was my first. I never thought I was missing anything so I can say that this is a good stand-alone book.

There were two stories going on at the same time that later merge into one. The storyline were never confusing, although there were quite a few characters, and I sometimes had trouble remembering who they were.  I liked most of the characters and the very normal family life Joanna has with her husband and children.  The story takes a few odd twists and turns and the Liza’s story isn’t very believable, but I am quite able to overlook the wild adventure and just enjoy the story.  I normally do not like long prologues or intros, but in this case the prologue gave a good background to one of the main characters.  I enjoyed Remains of Innocence very much and I look forward to picking up some more of the Joanna Brady series.

I received this book from the Partners in Crime blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Confession by Robert Whitlow

Assistant DA Holt Douglas has a tragic secret in his past that he has buried deep in his heart, but the people and circumstances in his life do not let it stay buried.  Holt discovers the files of an old case and secretly investigates was reported to be suicide.

This was a good story of relationships, honesty, guilt, and forgiveness. The story starts out strong,  gets a little bogged down in too many details in the middle, but then again builds to a strong finish.  I liked all of the characters and their interactions.  I always enjoy reading about good characters of faith that struggle, but live that faith outwardly.  While as the Assistant DA, he appeared before the judge, there was not much in-court action.  It was still a good legal drama, with a good message and a very satisfying ending.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook book blogger program in exchange for an honest review. 

Schism The Battle For Darracia

The planet Darracia has a growing social unrest as the divide between the upper and lower classes are growing. We watch Prince V’sair branch out from his education and grow as an individual and as a leader.  Battles with political motives, between family members, and internal struggles of the main characters made this a well-rounded tale that held my interest from beginning to end.

I read this series out of order and read the second book first.  Although the second did well as a standalone, going back helped me understand who and what each character was and learn more about their personalities. Everything seemed to fall into place. 

Michael Cash captured a strange world and explained it perfectly to this new reader of science fiction.  I recommend this book and the series for those who enjoy fantasy, sci-fi, or if you would just like to read something different.  This is a good story by a very good storyteller. 

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Spider Woman’s Daughter, A Leaphorn & Chee Novel by Anne Hillerman

Had this been written as a first novel without claiming that they were a continuation of Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee novels, I would have probably not been so disappointed. This book had no beautifully described landscape, no rich characters, and no interesting mystery to be solved that we were so accustomed to in Tony Hillerman’s books.  The characters in Spider Woman’s Daughter are cartoon-like, especially the “killer”. 

I don’t really understand why the author decided to butcher the characters of Leaphorn and Chee.  Joe Leaphorn is shoved into the background early in the book and then only referred to occasionally.  As for Jim Chee – what on earth happened to him?  This author made him a whiney lapdog for his rough and tough wife.  His constant use of terms of endearment and rushing home to cook were cringe-worthy.  The dialog between those two was laughable, and she decided to add jealous husband to his list of character traits.  He is also shoved into the background as his wife Bernadette Manuelito is the focus of this book.  Her character is rather bland and boring with no sense of a deep heritage I expected.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  

Treat Yourself, 70 Classic Snacks by Jennifer Steinhauer

When I think back to all of the yummy treats I enjoyed as a child, I never really thought about recreating
them as homemade.  Obviously, Jennifer Steinhauer did!

Not really a copycat recipe book, but just the author’s take on each of her favorite treats. Although some in the photographs look like the originals, others are much different – and actually look much better. Just to give an idea of the recipes included, here is one recipe title from each category:  Classic Cookies, Thin Mints; Sandwich Cookies, Oatmeal Crème Pies (the first I will be trying!);  Snack Cakes, Zebra Cakes; Fruity Treats, Fig Newtons; Savory Snacks, Soft Pretzels; Candy, Fannie May Mint Meltaways; and Frozen Treats, Orange Creamsicles. 

The layout of the recipes is easy to read and the recipes are easy to follow.  Many have full-page photographs, but a few are missing photos.  Some of the recipes are easy to make and others are a bit more challenging, but there is a good combination of both.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III by Ben H. Winters

World of Trouble is the last of a three book series.  Although I had not read either of the first two, I never thought I was missing anything from the story. It is truly a great standalone book with interesting characters and very well written. 

Detective Hank Palace wants to solve one last case before the catastrophic asteroid hits Earth.  His sister is missing and he wants to connect with her one last time.  There were times I didn’t understand why Hank behaved as he did, but I was totally fascinated by his character. As I read through this book, there was a subtle gloom because we know what is coming, but as much as I wanted like a different conclusion, I am glad the author stayed true to the story. 

This will probably end up in my top 10 favorite books for this year.   I can’t wait to go back and read the first two of the series.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in Russia, A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P. Roman

Next stop Russia! If you have read Carole P. Roman’s earlier series of If You Were Me and Lived in…” books you would by this time feel as though you are on a round the world tour.  All of the books in this series answer the type of questions of most interest to children.  They also teach children that no matter now far apart you live, no matter how different in looks, children and their families have more in common than they have differences with other children around the world.

I enjoy reading the books to my granddaughter, and I learn from them too. The stories about local historic buildings, foods, and holidays, and other interesting facts about local culture make these books informative and fun. In this book, I enjoyed learning about the special Russian hat, the shapka ushanka, and that my little nesting dolls are called Matryoshka dolls. 

I highly recommend all of the books in this series for parents, grandparents, schools, and pr
eschools. I would even recommend them for Sunday Schools in churches with an interest in missions to begin to cultivate an interest in other cultures.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The first couple of chapters were a little difficult for me to get interested in because of the detailed explanations and math equations by the main character Mark Watney. Once past that, the story fell into place as it brought in the rest of the characters. Astronaut Mark Watney was left for dead on the surface of Mars – only he wasn’t dead, and a frantic attempt at a rescue effort was quickly put together. Most of the book is written diary style with Mark entering his actions, duties, and thoughts as log entries. The story is a very detailed description of the successes and failures of each step as they attempt to communicate with Mark and launch a rescue attempt. I really enjoyed The Martian and thought it was an interesting story. However, I thought that the character of Mark was a bit too flippant of his situation and too much of a jokester. I never really felt any desperation or real fear as he faced an almost certain death. The other characters in the book were not developed as much as I like, but this is a first novel. The story was good enough that I could overlook the drawbacks and just enjoy the read. I will also give it a light language warning to those who don’t appreciate the F-bombs and other various indelicacies.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

A Conversation with SpaceGeek and Science Fanatic
Andy Weir
author of THE MARTIAN
(Crown Publishers, On Sale: February 11, 2014)
Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a science geek. You list space travel, orbital dynamics,
relativistic physics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight among your interests.
How did you incorporate these passions into your debut novel THE MARTIAN?

A) Those interests allowed me to come up with the story in the first place. I love reading up on
current space research. At some point I came up with the idea of an astronaut stranded on Mars.
The more I worked on it, the more I realized I had accidentally spent my life researching for this
story. Early on, I decided that I would be as scientifically accurate as possible. To a nerd like me,
working out all the math and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions was fun.

Q) In one sentence, tell us what your novel is all about.
A) It’s the story of an astronaut trying to survive after being accidentally left behind on Mars.

Q) Explain how the science in THE MARTIAN is true to life.
A) The basic structure of the Mars program in the book is very similar to a plan called “Mars
Direct” (though I made changes here and there). It’s the most likely way that we will have our
first Mars mission in real life. All the facts about Mars are accurate, as well as the physics of
space travel the story presents. I even calculated the various orbital paths involved in the story,
which required me to write my own software to track constant-thrust trajectories.

Q) What inspired you to write THE MARTIAN?
A) I was thinking about how best to do a manned Mars mission (because that’s the sort of dork I
am). As the plan got more detailed, I started imagining what it would be like for the astronauts.
Naturally, when designing a mission, you think up disaster scenarios and how likely the crew
would be to survive. That’s when I started to realize this had real story potential.

Q) Are you an advocate for a manned mission to Mars? Are you hopeful we’ll actually
make it out there sometime soon?
A) Of course I’m a huge fan of space travel, manned and unmanned. I would love to see people
land on Mars in my lifetime. However, do I think it will actually happen? I’m not sure. Unlike
the 1960s, we’re not in a race with anyone to get there, so it’s not a priority. Also, computer and
robotics technologies are leaps and bounds better than they were during the days of Apollo. So
logically, you have to ask why we would risk human lives rather than just make better robots.
Still, it would be awesome, and maybe that’s reason enough.

Q) Do you have anything in common with your wise-cracking hero Mark Watney?
A) I’m the same level of smart-ass as he is. It was a really easy book to write; I just had him say
what I would say. However, he’s smarter than I am and considerably more brave. I guess he’s
who I wish I were.

Q) In THE MARTIAN, Watney has access to his crewmates digital entertainment on Mars,
including TV episodes of Three’s Company, a variety of Beatles songs, and digital books
including The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Any reason you chose to work those specific
examples into the novel?
A) It’s a selection of things I loved when I was growing up.

Q) You’re stranded on Mars and you can only take one book with you. What is it?
A) It’s always hard to pick one “favorite book.” Growing up, I loved early Heinlein books most
of all. So if I had to pick one, I’d go with Tunnel in the Sky. I do love a good survival story.

Q) How long do you think you’d last if you were left in Mark Watney’s position?
A) Not long at all. I don’t know how to grow crops, nor how to jury-rig the solutions he came up
with. It’s a lot easier to write about an ordeal than it is to experience it.

Q) You have the chance to meet any astronaut living or dead: Who is it and why?
A) John Young. He is the quintessential astronaut. Competent, fearless, highly intelligent, and seemingly immune to stress. When Apollo 16 launched, his heart rate never got higher than 70.
Most astronauts spike to at least 120 during launches.

Q) Watney seems to be able to maneuver his way around some pretty major problems with
a little duct tape and ingenuity! So he’s a bit like MacGyver in that way. Did you watch the
show as a kid? Any favorite episodes?
A) Indeed I did! I loved that show. My favorite episode was the one where engineering students
had a barricade contest.

Q) Star Wars or Star Trek?
A) Doctor Who.

Q) Your idea of the perfect day . . .
A) Sleep in. Meet Buzz Aldrin for brunch. Head over to Jet Propulsion Lab and watch them
control the Curiosity Mars rover. Dinner with the writing staff of Doctor Who.

Q) How did you feel when your original, self-published version of THE MARTIAN became
a phenomenon online? Were you expecting the overwhelmingly positive reception the book
A) I had no idea it was going to do so well. The story had been available for free on my website
for months and I assumed anyone who wanted to read it had already read it. A few readers had
requested I post a Kindle version because it’s easier to download that way. So I went ahead and
did it, setting the price to the minimum Amazon would allow. As it sold more and more copies I
just watched in awe.

Q) Film rights to THE MARTIAN were sold to writer-producer Simon Kinberg (Mr. &
Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: First Class). What was your first reaction? Who
should play the part of Mark Watney?

A) Of course I’m thrilled to have a movie in the works. The movie deal and print publishing deal
came within a week of each other, so I was a little shell-shocked. In fact, it was such a sudden
launch into the big leagues that I literally had a difficult time believing it. I actually worried it
could all be an elaborate scam. So I guess that was my first reaction: “Is this really happening!?”
As for who could play Watney, I think some good candidates would be Aaron Paul and Chris

Q) What’s next for you?
A) I have a few irons in the fire. There’s a long-running sc i-fi story I’ve been poking at here and
there for a while. Though based on the response from The Martian, I might go with a different
story idea I have in mind: a “science-crime” novel. Lots of problem-solving as technically savvy
criminals match wits with an equally savvy FBI agent trying to track them down.

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal – an Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal – an Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures by Carole P. Roman is another in this educational series for children Pre-K to age eight.  This series teaches children about their peers around the world.  It answers questions that children would ask. What do you play with? What do you like to eat? What do you call your parents? Where would you go for fun? What kind of holidays do you celebrate?

The illustrations are bright and colorful and portray the story well.  There is a two-page pronunciation guide in the back of the book for words and phrases.  

What fun this would be for preschools or early grades for learning about the world! I can see it being used in a classroom setting with children dressing up, learning about a specific country, and then giving a presentation to the class using the words learned in the book.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hanging Tree by Michael Philip Cash

The Hanging Tree is an interesting novella that involves a bitter curse, an old tree, a black cat, ghosts, and the lives of two teenagers.  The story goes back and forth in time so that you not only understand the teens, but also the spirits that meet them at the tree.    

I enjoyed the story very much especially exploring the relationship with the teen girl, Arielle, and her parents as she gains independence and has to make important decisions.  The bitterness and hatred that has carried over generations takes this story to fascinating places.   I thought that The Hanging Tree came full circle and ended with a satisfying conclusion.

This is a quick and fun read and would also be a great starter book if you haven’t read any of the other Michael Philip Cash book.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Crew Goes Coconuts A Captain No Beard Story by Carole P. Roman

The pirate gang is back in Volume 6 of the Captain No Beard stories.  Polly, Fribbit, Cayla, Hallie, Linus, Mongo, and of course, Capt. No Beard are all here. This time we also meet Matie the goat.

The story is about teasing, hurt feelings, and with the guidance of Captain No Beard they learn more about each other and why teasing can be hurtful. Once again, this is a fun, interesting, and entertaining book that children will love, and with an important message.  The illustrations are colorful and fun.  The text is well-spaced for easy reading.

I am not good at estimating the age groups that would be interesting in these books, but my 3 year old granddaughter loves them and I know young readers will also enjoy them.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in Australia by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in Australia is another informative book about the people and places around the world written for young readers. What kind of money would I use to buy something?  Where would I visit, and what would I see? What would I eat, and what games would I play.  Children will love to learn that they have so much in common with other children around the world, and still have many fun differences.

All of the books in this series are entertaining and will appeal to a wide age range. The recommended is age 3 to age 8.  They are written in simple language, but with enough challenging material to appeal to older readers.  I highly recommend this and all of the books in this series.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe Van Beuren

I was so please to receive this cookbook for review, and even more please when I realized it was much more than a cookbook. B.T.C. is a story of real people, and a real small town grocer. Their story, both struggles and success, is beautifully written in a just a few pages sprinkled through the book. You will learn about their family, the town, their small-town newspaper, and their employees.  You just can’t help but love this place and these people.

BTC is an old-fashioned grocery store in Water Valley, Mississippi that also provides sandwiches, soups, homemade mayonnaise, and much more. The recipes in the cookbook are by Dixie Grimes, and present an interesting mix of down-home simplicity and rich sophistication.  The recipes are categorized by Breakfast, Soups for Every Season, Salads, Spreads and Sandwich Fixings, Casseroles, Mains, Sides and Southern Sweet Thangs. The recipes that immediately caught my eye are Vetra’s Three-bean Salad, Broccoli Salad, Artichoke and English Pea Au Gratin, and just about all of the soups!

This is not only a wonderful addition to my cookbook shelf, but an interesting story that brought to life the story of Water Valley Mississippi.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Collision, The Battle for Darracia by Michael Phillip Cash

Book Description: The Darracia saga continues with all the key players spread out and searching for answers throughout the solar system. Prince V'sair struggles to hold his fractured kingdom together without help from his family. His stepbrother Zayden is on a vengeful hunt for his evil uncle Staf Nuen. Tulani navigates her two worlds trying to bring them together. Staf Nuen, the orchestrator of the original coup, is making unholy alliances with nefarious new allies. Like the comet zipping across the horizon, all the different factions are heading for a collision course that will test both their faith and power.

My review:

Collision, The Battle for Darracia is a well-written science fiction story that moves quickly and flows smoothly. I will confess I usually don’t read science fiction, so I think that and the fact that I didn’t read the first book, Schism: The Battle For Darracia, may have hindered my enjoyment slightly. I would recommend reading the first book so that you are introduced to all of the main characters and who or what they are! That said, I enjoyed the story and the way it was told. The characters are interesting and the story held my interest all the way to the thrilling end.  Honor, war, families, spirituality, love, and hate are all themes woven into a sailcloth that carries you through this story.

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