Thursday, April 28, 2011

Necromancer, by Lish McBride

Necromancer: A NovellaWho would have know that Death could come in the form of a 10 year old girl?  But that is exactly what Ashley is now, a harbinger of death, typically unseen by humans.  The exception to this rule is her best friend, who sees her and communicates with her regularly.  One day, he asks if he can watch her in action as a harbinger.  But even watching Ashley do her thing does not change the fact that she is his best friend.

This whole thing was a little on the deceptive side.  This book is labled as a novella.  When going on word count, a novella is usually between 10,000 and 40,000 words.  There is no way this was a novella.  I am not even sure it was a novelette, most likely it was just a short story.  And to even get to the short story, the plot of which I describe above, one must first read an excerpt from a full length novel.  However, the excerpt is not, in my opinion, presented in a way that makes me want to read the novel, it is presented in a way that makes this whole "novella" confusing.

Posting excerpts in ebook form and calling them a free book download is somewhat surreptitious if you ask me.  And I see it becoming a big trend on sites that support various e-readers.  It tends to be ill received by those who do download and read the book.  Sure, free is free, but when you are doing it to promote a book people need to pay for, you are somewhat shooting yourself in the foot.  There are better, more forthcoming ways to do this that do not alienate a reader.  Write a prequal.  Or in this case, write a really good novella, an actual novella, and put the excerpt at the END of the ebook, not the beginning.

It made me sad that this turned out to be so disappointing.  Both the short story and the excerpt did seem to have a lot of promise, but the whole experience of the book being not what it purported to be just sort of pushed me away as a reader.

This is a book from my personal elibrary.

Unsinkable, by Abby Sunderland and Lynn Vincent

Unsinkable: A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High Seas

All her life, Abby has loved sailing.  In fact, as a child, a great portion of her life was lived at sea.  After watching her brother circumnavigate the world by boat, Abby set the same goal, with the additional hope to be the youngest person to sail nonstop around the globe.  After lots of preparation and sacrifice by her whole family and sailing team, Abby struck out to face her goal.  She was pushed to lengths and in ways she never knew existed, and came to rely on God in a way she had never experienced.

I remember when Abby was in the news for her attempt.  At the time, I thought the whole endeavor ridiculous and negligent.  I read this book in the hopes of understanding Abby's motivations, as well as those of her parents.  And the book certainly did clear things up for me.  I now understand and respect Abby's choice, for the choice truly was hers, and it does seem as though she was well prepared for her attempt.

That being said, I found the book somewhat boring.  It is chock full of nautical information that I really did not care to understand.  Reading this book felt like work.  I really expected to see more about Abby's emotional and spiritual journey, and am disappointed that the book did not deliver.  A lot of the book is highly technical.  Sure, I could have worked a little harder to understand the nautical aspects, but the book just did not make me care enough to do that work.

As far as memoirs or autobiogrpahies go, I think readers who enjoy those genres will find this a little shallow on the aspects we typically expect from memoirs.  However, for people who enjoy more technical reads, or for those readers experienced with and in love with sailing, this book would be a fantastic match.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.
I review for BookSneeze®

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Inadequate Conception, by Lori Green LeRoy

The Inadequate Conception: From Barry White to Blastocytes: What your mom didn't tell you about getting pregnantSo many women have problems with fertility, and it is easy to feel angry and frustrated, as if everyone else is having babies but you.  When the author and her husband began down the long, winding road of fertility treatments, she realizes that for her, the only way she is going to get through it is by keeping a sense of humor.  She is not making light of infertility, as it is a very serious issue for so many women; instead, she is doing what she needs to do to get by.

This is such a charming book.  I know so many women who have suffered the heartbreaking trial of infertility.  And each woman handles it in her own way.  It is poignantly sweet to see this author showing humor to cope.  Her stories are honest to the point of complete vulnerability, and bound to make you chuckle, but also apt to make your heart ache a little.

I love the frankenss of this book.  So many women who have struggled with fertility will find this book relatable.  But I can also see where the book might be a difficult read for women not in a place where the can see any humor in their fertility trials and tribulations, so keep that in mind when reading or recommending the book.  It may not be for everybody, and that is ok, because if this book can make just one woman smile and feel less alone in her journey toward motherhood, then in my opinion, it has done it's job well.

I received a touring copy of this book courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Promise Me, by Nancy G. Brinker

Promise Me: How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast CancerNancy and Suzy Goodman were more than just sisters, they were best friends.  They grew up together, had adventures, they went through everything together.  So when Suzy (Susan G. Koman) developed breast cancer, Nancy went through it with her.  And when Suzy realized she was losing the battle, she made her sister promise her that she would fight the disease long after Suzy was gone, to make sure no women would suffer the way she did.  From this promise, and empire rose, all in the name of Susan G. Koman.

When I first decided to review this book, I was not sure what to expect.  I did not know if it would be frightening, or depressing, to read an entire book about fighting breast cancer.  What it ended up being was tremendously uplifting, and empowering.  To be sure, my eyes leaked mutliple times during the reading.  Not all these times were caused by sadness however.  There is so much beauty in this book, based on a sister's love.

I am ashamed to say I was pretty uninformed about breast cancer, despite having watched one of my aunts survive her own battle against it.  This book is an eye opener in terms of learning about the history of reported cancer patients, the evolution of treatment methods, and the importance of prevention and early detection.  I like the way the book is set up, with fact based information woven into the tales of real people, while having Suzy and Nancy's stories intertwining.

The book is powerful, and so is the movement all in the name of Susan G. Koman.  I think this book is a must read for all women, but it may prove a bit more emotional for survivors or family members of women who have battled breast cancer.  This book gives voice to so many women; it is important that we listen.

I received this as part of the Amazon Vine reviewers program.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Life in the Fat Lane, by Cherie Bennett

Lara is pretty much the perfect teenage girl.  Smart, beautiful, kind.  She is what many girls would love to be, right down to the moment she is crowned homecoming queen.  But her perfect reality ends when she starts suddenly, and inexplicably, gaining weight.  After gaining a substantial amount of weight, it is determined she has a rare disorder.  But that does not stop the way people look at the once perfect beauty queen.

I bought this book because, as a young adult, I struggled with my weight, and back then no one really talked about it that much.  Sure, there were after school specials, and late night movies about eating disorders and such, but no one really talked on a young adult level in a way to which we could relate.  I was hoping that this book would do just that, and it really did.

The story here is not one that is earth shattering; as an adult reader, I found it a tiny bit shallow.  But the book is geared to middle grades and high school readers, so it actually is crafted quite well for its audience.  Lara is a character which comes alive.  She is the girl in high school that you wanted to hate, but she was too darn nice.  Now we get to see what life is like, or could be like, for those seemingly perfect girls.

I enjoyed the story, it was a nice quick read, and well recommended for middle grades and high school readers.  It would be a good book for a young adult book club, to get girls talking about body image.  All in all, a nice book.

Life in the Fat Lane

This book is from my personal library.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Bookie's Runner, by Brendan Gisby

The Bookie's RunnerAs he returns to school for the new term, the narrator (the author) looks back over the life of his recently deceased father.  Never a famous, wealthy, or overly successful man, his father was a good man nonetheless.  Different aspects of his father's life are discussed, anecdotes and personal histories.  The narrator's stories serve to eulogize his father, as he prepares to share his loss with the world.

This book is nothing short of gorgeous.  I have said it before, I love stories about real people, and this novella is certainly that.  The book flowed so well, it was more like a conversation with the author than a book.  It felt as though we were sitting at a wake, remembering the best times in the life of a man, a father, a husband.  This may be one of the most poignant books I have ever read.

I love that we really feel the emotion in the storytelling.  Several times, the narrator/author interjects his attempts to keep from weeping.  I would have to try to keep myself from weeping as well.  So much beauty in a story of an everyday life.

This book is a great fit for anyone who loves memoirs or autobiographies.  It is a nice short read, but it packs a walloping emotional punch.  Read it, and keep the tissues handy.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of the author.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blog Tour-A Touch of Deceit, by Gary Ponzo

Today, we are taking another look at A Touch of Deceit, for the Blog Tour de Force.

A Touch of Deceit (Nick Bracco Series #1)
Nick Bracco is an FBI agent who specializes in investigating terrorists. When Kurdish rebel forces crop up in the United States seeking vengeance for the American assistance in Turkey, it is clear that Nick and his partner Matt will be a part of the operation to bring the rebels down. But, when the Kurds start to get personal, and target members of Nick’s family, as well as families in all 50 states, the lines of legality and morality start to blur. Nick is Sicilian, with mafia connections, and, well, desperate times call for desperate measures. But the question is, how desperate?

This book hooks you from the very first chapter. The action starts right away, with the character development woven in as the story progresses. Gary Ponzo does an absolutely flawless job of telling the back story without sacrificing any forward motion of the plot. You are never left wondering who a character is, or how they fit into the big picture, which is saying a lot, as this story has a lot of players.

I was concerned that I would get confused with the action in this book; as a reader, action and thriller books tend to move too quickly for me, or I get so anxious I read quickly and miss important details. However, this book moved at a smooth yet still rapid pace. There was a definite sense of urgency, but Gary made me so invested in his characters, there was no way I was skipping a single word. Even though the government and mafia worlds are somewhat alien to me, this book made me feel at home in them. I really was in the war room, and I understood every moment of it. I really felt this book was pertinent to the current state of affairs, and at times, it frightened me that something like this could actually happen. But, if the bad guys could be real, then so could the good guys.

I think the thing that made this book so much more appealing to me than many others like it was the underlying story of Nick Bracco. Nick is a great character, and getting to meet him in this book, and learn about his family, really took it from a good book to a great book. Nick’s situation in this book is complicated, to say the least, and he is flawed, which makes him relatable. But it does not take long to figure out that he wants what is best for this country, and his family. How can you not love a guy like that?

I look forward to the possibility of more books with the Nick Bracco character in them, and I certainly look forward to seeing what else Gary Ponzo has to offer. He has a fresh voice that can appeal to readers across many genres, and I imagine we will continue to see great works from him.

This book was provided for review by the author.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, by Jerome Charyn

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil (Icons of America)Joltin Joe.  The Walloping Wop.  Mr. Marilyn Monroe.  These were the ways the American public viewed Joe DiMaggio.  But only a select few really new him, knew his impact on the game of baseball, knew his fears and his pains, saw him at his rare moments of weakness.  So come, learn more about one of the silent heroes of the great American pastime.

Baseball is in my blood.  You see, my maiden name is Niekro.  To many, that name means nothing, but to baseball fans, it means knuckleballs, pitchers, brothers.  My cousins Phil and Joe Niekro played pro ball years before I was born.  But that legacy has stayed with me, and given me a love for all things baseball.  I hoped this book would feed my love affair.  It did so much more than I could have ever expected.

I did not know much about Joe DiMaggio, since he was also well before my time.  I knew of his greatness, without specifics.  I knew of his marriage to Marilyn, without realizing the tragedy.  Now, I know, I realize, I adore, and I mourn.  This book made me wish I had been alive to see Joe play, to see him at his best, and his worst, through his streaks and his slumps.  This book made me fall a little in love with Joe DiMaggio.

Clearly, Jerome Charyn has love for Joe as well.  Because this is not written as a stiff, cold biography.  No, these are words filled with love, the romance of the times, and pure, unadulterated joy at the privilege of getting to see Joe play.  Charyn never denies Joe's faults, he simply loves him despite the faults.  If you read the book, chances are you will too.

I think this book is wonderful for all baseball fans, as well as fans of biographies.  If, like me, you adore both, then this book is certain to hit a home run with you.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of the publishers.  View the book's tour website here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Marika, by Andrea Cheng

MarikaGrowing up in Hungary, Marika never gave much thought to the fact she was Jewish.  She celebrated Christmas, went to Catholic religious education classes, and attended Mass.  But when Hitler began redefining what it meant to be a Jew, Marika found herself, and her family, in danger.  Suddenly, her family is torn apart, and thrown into hiding.  Marika's future is uncertain.

This story was almost like a memoir, since Cheng tells the tale of her mother's life during WWII.  Marika's character is well developed, it is her voice we hear, but in some ways I still found her to be very removed.  The whole book was like this, more like hearing someone talk about a book they read than actually experiencing reading the book.  It is hard for me to explain.

The book is intended for a young adult audience, most likely middle grades, and I think that it is artfully written for this age group.  It seemed to me that it would not translate as well for older readers (perhaps that is why it seemed so detached).  I think that the Holocaust is an important topic for children to read about, but it must be handled delicately.  This book does a good job of approaching the subject in a way that is not terribly traumatic for young readers, and would make a wonderful introduction to the Holocaust for middle grade students.

Overall, it was a good story, blending literature with history, part memoir, part fiction.  It may not resonate as much with adults, but for it's intended audience, it is right on the money.

This book is from my personal library.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Unofficial Harry Potter Party Book, by Jessica Fox

The Unofficial Harry Potter Party Book: From Monster Books to Potions Class!: Crafts, Games, and Treats for the Ultimate Harry Potter PartyWhether you are a squib, a muggle, or a well known wizard, the ideas in this Harry Potter Party book will be sure to turn your party from humdrum to heroic in a way that is purely magical.  With tons of ideas for crafts, decorations, games, and goodies, kids of all ages will enjoy being transported to the world of Harry Potter.

I will admit it, I have read and loved all the Harry Potter books, and have seen all the movies but the most recent.  If I were a kid, heck even as an adult, I think I would love to have a Harry Potter themed party, whether for a birthday or perhaps for a movie release.  This book is chock full of fantastic ideas that fit nicely into any budget.

I first love the various crafts that can either be used to make decorations or as activities at the party.  Each has a rating of difficulty, as well as a price estimate, so you can pick and choose what works best with your budget and party age group.  The activities range from simple to complex, again depending on your preference.  A big trend with child birthday parties is to have crafts or activities related to the theme, so I think a lot of parents will find these ideas helpful, and the kids will love them as well.

My absolute, hands down, favorite part of the book is the section of recipes for snacks and drinks.  Again, the creativity and variety are simply fantastic.

In short, this book is extremely helpful for anyone planning a Harry Potter themed party of any sort.  Parents will find the ideas helpful and easy to execute.  One does not need to be magical to pull off a great party, all thanks to this book!

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793The year is 1793, the capital is Philadelphia, and the country is in its infancy.  Mattie helps her mother around the house, and in their coffee house, which is the family business.  Suddenly, people begin falling ill, and before long an epidemic of the yellow fever has hit the city.  Chaos ensues as Mattie is forced to flee with her grandfather.  Mattie struggles to stay alive, in the hopes of being reunited with her mother.

Once again, I am enchanted by a fantastic piece of young adult historical fiction.  Had I read books like this when in high school, I would have much more interested in history.  Clearly, much research went into this book, and it shows through in the writing.  The setting is painted so accurately, I felt as though I was there.

I greatly enjoyed learning about Mattie's character, her backstory, her private thoughts.  Throughout the story, we see her go from being a girl to a woman, dealing with strife and finding fierce determination to survive.  I think she serves as a fantastic role model for young girls, despite the fact that the story is set over 200 years ago.

I really enjoyed the historical aspect of the story, it made me want to learn more about the real yellow fever epidemic, and more about Philadelphia during the 18th century.  All in all, the book provided a great story, and sparked a hunger for knowledge, which makes for the best kind of young adult book in my opinion.

This book is from my personal library.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Island Girl, by Lynda Simmons

Island GirlAt 55, Ruby appears to all those around her as a free spirited, independent woman full of life.  In reality, she is dealing with early onset Alzheimer's, which she wants to keep secret from her daughter Grace.  Ruby plans to commit suicide, but wants to make sure Grace will be taken care of, since Grace is slightly mentally challenged.  As Ruby begins to confide in the other people in her life, she sees a glimmer of hope, not only in her condition, but her relationships with all those around her.

I was greatly disappointed in this book.  As someone who watched my grandfather suffer with Alzheimer's, I was sad in the way the subject of this disease was handled in the book.  No real description of the disease was given (not everyone knows the particulars of its progression), and we never really get to know Ruby that well as a character, only a women with a disease.  I think I would have appreciated the story more if we met Ruby at the time of her diagnosis.

There are three mail female characters, Ruby and her daughters Grace and Liz.  And each character has 2-3 storylines going on.  It was all too much.  With all the issues, I never felt like I connected much with the characters.  Of the three, Grace was my favorite, but I still never felt like I knew her.  With the narrator and point of view changing each chapter switching between Ruby, Liz, and Grace) the timeline was fuzzy for me, and again there were just too many subplots.

I am sure for readers fond of dramatic stories, and tear jerkers, this book will be a good fit.  But for someone who watched a loved one suffer with this terrible disease, it may ring false.

I received a touring review copy of the book courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wizards, by John Booth

WizardsJake realized early on that he had some rather unusual abilities.  Now, as a young adult wizard, life is fairly complicated.  He gets entangled with police investigations of missing people, and one such investigation leads to a steamy romance with Jenny.  Add to this a dragon, the ability to hop into new worlds, encounters with evil wizards, and an unintentional betrothal to a princess, and you have yourself a fantastic and humorous time.

This is not your Harry Potter type of wizarding.  This book has a much more humorous take on what can happen when one is a teenage wizard.  While there is some danger in throughout the book, it is nothing so dark as parental murder and dementors.  I personally found the book to be quite humorous, showing all the angst of being a teenager with the added magical twist.

I really liked Jake's character.  He is a complex lad, on one hand trying to find a steady job, and on the other shooting streams of fire at evil wizards in a parallel world.  I love how Booth's explanation of the nuances of the wizard world tie into mysteries in our own, such as Stonehenge.  This book will definitely keep readers on their toes.

While there are a lot of minor characters, and various fantastical settings, I never found myself confused regarding the action in the book.  It was clear what was happening, and it made complete sense within the story.  For someone not prone to reading fantasy novels, I greatly appreciated the clarity.

Overall, I found the book delightful, and it had me wishing for a movie version of this young wizard.  The book is great for young adult readers of high school age, as well as adults.  Any fan of fantasy will like the book, but keep in mind that the book also has fair doses of humor and romance, so the appeal can be very wide reaching.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of the publisher and editor.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Alphabet Killer, by Cheri Farnsworth

Alphabet Killer: The True Story of the Double Initial Murders (True Crime)In the early 1970's, three young girls were abducted, raped, and murdered in the Rochester area.  Each girl had double initials, and their bodies were dropped on a town starting with the same letter as that initial.  Surely this was more than coincidence.  After thousands of interviews, and the deaths of a few of the prime suspects, the crime still remains unsolved.  Surely, someone, somewhere, must know something.

This book was a wonderful example of true crime writing.  Cheri Farnsworth went over all the different aspects of this case.  First, she explains each girls life, and situation surrounding her disappearance.  So, she makes the case more about the girls than the brutal crime, which I personally liked.  I think the more people think about the girls, the more likely it is witnesses will step forward.

Farnsworth also coveres all the aspects of the case.  She talks about the suspects and leads, specific to each girl's abduction.  It saddens me that in one case, many people saw a young girl, half nude, running down the highway, and no one did a thing.

I think books like this are so important, because it may spark some new information to be given to the investigators.  I pray that someone who knows something about this terrible crime will see the book, read it, and come forward.

I highly recommend this book for fans of true crime writing, but also, to anyone who saw the movie Alphabet Killer, I suggest you read this book to get the true story of these crimes, not some Hollywood supernatural spin.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of publisher and editor.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

Ozma of OzDorothy is back in Oz, this time joined by her chicken, Billina.  She is joining some of her old friends (the Scarecow and the Tin Man), as well as some new friends, to try to help rescue the Queen of Ev, and her children, from the clutches of the Gnome King.  Dorothy gets some assistance from Ozma as well.

Yet another Ozian adventure!  I liked this book, but not as well as the previous one.  I personally am not terribly find of Dorothy's character, she is quite different than the movie version with which we are familiar.  I am more loyal to the native citizens of Oz, and am happy that many of the characters from the previous book have returned.

Like many great classic books, this book transcends time, and it still resonates with readers today.  Any fan on fantasy fiction will enjoy this book.  For people not familiar with the differences between the Oz books and the famous movie, this will seem quite different, so it is probably best to start with the beginning of the series. While not my favorite of the three Oz books I have read so far, still a wonderful story for kids of all ages.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The King's Daughter, by Christie Dickason

The King's Daughter: A NovelJames I is king of England and the British Isles, though he is not nearly as popular with his subjects as his son Henry and daughter Elizabeth are.  Elizabeth has no idea how precarious her position is, as the king's daughter, nor how much danger her brother is in.  After discovering a treasonous plot to put Elizabeth on the throne, the king punishes his children in cruel ways.  Elizabeth's only hope at happiness is marriage, but fears her father will never consent to a union.  How is Elizabeth going to survive her situation in life?

I am a huge fan of the British royal history, so I thought this book was going to be fantastic.  I have to admit, I was a little disappointed; the book is good, but not quite as wonderful as I hoped it to be.  The history is told as fiction in an accurate and fairly engaging way.  The storyline is definitely not the issue.  The plot is engaging, and multifaceted.  You have intrigue, you have mystery, you have romance.  The story itself is solid.

My biggest problem was the character development.  I never really felt close to Elizabeth as a character, and it is only through her relationship with Tallie, one of her ladies in waiting, that I felt I got to know Elizabeth at all.  I found the writing to be a little stiff, which given the royal subject matter was probably appropriate, but still difficult for me to allow myself to really sink into the story.  For that reason, it took me much longer to read than it normally would to read a book of this length.

Any fan of British royal fiction will enjoy this book.  If you like the books of Philippa Gregory, I believe you will enjoy the book, though it is not quite on par with Gregory's writing.

I received a touring copy of the book courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Belfast Girls, by Gerry McCullough

Belfast GirlsGrowing up in Belfast is not easy for Phil, Sheila, and Mary.  As children, the girls all got along, and were shielded from the dangers of the times in Ireland.  But as life progressed, they grew up, grew apart, and grew aware of the realities of life.  Men, glamour, drugs, gangsters.  Who will save these girls in their times of need?

I have to admit, the book had a little bit of a slow start for me.  It took me a while to get into it, to really feel connected to the characters.  But I am so glad that I stuck it out.  Over the course of the timeline, we get to know these three women, and the important men in their lives, as closely as we do our favorite television characters.  I would "tune in" to another chapter just to see what would happen to these girls that I now cared about.  With the brilliant descriptions of the setting and action, this book would make a fantastic mini series.

This story has a lot going on, but the action gets really fast paced at one point, and keeps you rocketing to the end of the story.  After the book is over, you need to take a few moments to let it all soak in.

I was not very familiar with the life and political climate of Ireland, so it took me a bit to catch on to this aspect of the book.  But I definitely learned a lot.  Which is why this book is so important.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of the publisher and author.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rage, by Jackie Morse Kessler

Rage (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 2)Missy releases her pain by cutting herself.  Her body is covered with scars, and she is shamed by those scars. She thought when she fell in love, the pain would go away, but now, her pain runs deeper than ever.  She is filled with anger, and in some ways not at all surprised to learn that she is the embodiment of War, a horseman of the apocalypse.  Will she learn to channel her power, or will she simply walk around cutting down all those who contributed to her pain?  And can she survive without the cutting?

This book, like it's predecessor, leaves the reader feeling battered, raw.  And yet, I absolutely loved it, and was sad to see the book end.  Missy's character is so real, and I think many of us have a little piece of of Missy in our souls.

The topic of teen girls cutting themselves is one that rarely discussed as frankly as it is in this book.  We see the sad, scary world of cutters as clearly as day.  There is no sugar coating here, and the book may be a little disturbing to some teen readers, but I think this book is really important for teens.  They need to know that there is hope for them.

The storyline in this book is truly unique, and I really love this series.  I can only imagine what will come next, and wait this baited breath.

I received a review copy of this as part of the Amazon Vine review program.