Book Review: Fighting Fire!: Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them by Michael Cooper

Fighting Fire!: Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them by Michael Cooper is a nonfiction book for children and adults alike. The book details 10 of the deadliest fires in American history from colonial times to the modern day. There are two constants in all of the stories,  the destructive power of fires and the bravery of those who fight them. The infernoes included in this book are the great fires of Boston, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco, the disasters of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the General Slocum, and the Coconut Grove nightclub, the wildfire of Witch Creek in San Diego County, and the catastrophe of 9/11. Each blaze led to new firefighting techniques and technologies, however the battles against fires continues to this day. The book offers historical images and a fast-paced text, this is both an exciting look at firefighting history, a celebration of the human spirit, and a chronicle of lost lives and dreams.

Fighting Fire! is a must read for anyone that is interested in the history of fire fighting, knows fire fighters, or have been touched by fire's devastation in their lives. The book is not always an easy read, as the stories and lives lost are heart wrenching. However the things we have learned from fires, the changes we have made and the techniques we have developed in response to the tragedies offer us hope and inspiration for further innovation. It is a wonderful resource about the history of our nation, its people, and fire fighting techniques through the lens of tragedy and loss.  

Book Review: The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg is the second book in the Fox and O'Hare series. The series premise is that internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare.

In this adventure the pair go up against Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad. A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

I normally love Evanovich's work, including co-written series. However, this series just has not grabbed me. I read every Stephanie Plum book, have read all the standalones, and enjoyed the Motor Mouth series. Here I just could not connect with the characters or the tension between Kate and Nick. It just did not grab me. I do not know if I am just in a reading slump, or if this book is not up to the quality and fun that I expect from Evanovich. If you liked the first book in the series then I say give this one a go, but if it left you cold or have not read it then I say skip it, at least for now. 

Book Review: Sojourner by Maria Rachel Hooley

Sojourner by Maria Rachel Hooley is a young adult novel. Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Moon has been dreaming about dying in different times her entire life. In each dream there is always a haunting face watching her death. When she returns home to Hauser’s Landing with her guardian, the very place her father disappeared, she meets Lev Walker, who looks an awful lot like the guy in her dreams. Then there is the most eligible bachelor in school, who will not leave her alone, graffiti, mysterious accidents, and more making the return to a prejudice small town harder than it should be. When Lev finally shares his secrets everything begins to close in on Elizabeth and she is not sure who or what to believe in.
Sojourner had promise. A girl that does not seem to fit in no matter where she goes because of her mixed heritage and desire to simply fly under the radar. Lev is the mysterious boy that seems to care but also seems to invade Elizabeth's dreams and stands by to watch her die time after time. It all takes place in a town that is prejudice against Native Americans, and most likely anyone that they can label as other. So far so good. But then, I started reading the book. There are so many parallels with Twilight that i had trouble getting past it. Super small town, new girl immediately being fought over, supernatural boy that seems to be trouble, good guy that carries his own brand of trouble, girl driving a temperamental pick up truck, ice causing some accident, accident prone girl in need to constant supervision, and so on. 

Some of the writing her was better, and Elizabeth seemed to want to be a more independent soul than Bella, but in the end I think the mirroring here was just to much for me, even though I liked Twilight the first go round (I blame pregnancy hormones) the more i think about Bella's dependency and whining the more I wish I never saw the movies, never mind read the final book. therefor I will not be continuing on with this series.

I would recommend Sojourner to readers that did, and still do, love Twilight. The angst and desperation and high school drama are all here along with the idea of a destiny that can not seem to be avoided.If you disliked Twilight, then I would suggest that you skip this read. 

Early Book Review: I Remember Beirut by Zeinia Abirached

I Remember Beirut is a graphic novel by Zeinia Abirached that is currently scheduled for release on August 1 2014.Zeina Abirached grew up in Beirut in the 1980s as fighting between Christians and Muslims divided the city streets. Abirached recalls the details of ordinary life inside a war zone with a combination of stark reality and simple innocence.

I Remember Beirut has simple but striking black and white images that do a wonderful job of telling the story of everyday life. as a child we often see more than adults expect us too, and still miss vital bits of information until we look back at our childhood from a safe distance. Abirached show readers what it can be like living in a war zone, a situation far too many children have had to deal with throughout history, and are still dealing with today. the juxtaposition of what she saw and thought as a child with the full picture that see has of events today make everything come to life and really let readers understand where she is coming from and what others are still struggling with in a variety of locals today. 
I would highly recommend I Remember Beirut to readers that want to dive in and understand what it was like to live in Beirut in the 1980's and beyond. it will go a long way to show readers just how lucky they may be, and that even though situations and locations may be very different, we are all the same at heart. For another, more detailed look at life during war and Abirached's family and experiences, I would also recommend A Game for Swallows to Die, to Leave, to Return.

Book Review: Dream Boy by Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett

Dream Boy is a young adult novel by Madelyn Rosenberg and Mary Crockett. Annabelle Manning feels trapped in the small town of Chilton, Virginia. She has a group of good friends, and some crazy dreams that include one perfect dream boy. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that, a dream. At least until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class. One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. Could Martin Zirkle really be a dream come true? More importantly, if dreams can become real, what else can? 

Dream Boy started with a really good premise. a girl dream and somehow her dream boy finds his way into the real world. as usual, getting what we think we want causes more trouble than expected. Suddenly her male best friend is acting weird and a creep girl has started making her normally nice dream time something she would much rather avoid. Then the inevitable 'you are the special one' comes about along with the love triangle- or is that parallelogram? The book had a lot of promise, and some of it really worked. I liked the character development that took place in the immediate circle of Annabelle's friends, but honestly I came to like her friends more than her. The action of the book started slowly, which actually was a perfect pacing to allow readers to figure out exactly what was going on and form their own ideas. However, I felt like towards the end the pace alternated between crazy slow and so fast that I had trouble remembering who was where are doing what. it was still a good read, and I am glad i read it, but i felt like it could have been even better with a smidgen of work on Annabelle and Martin's characters and some work on pacing. 

I would recommend Dream Boy to readers that enjoy urban fantasy and do not mind a few cliches finding their way into the story. Not a perfect read, but one worth some time this summer.

Early Book Review: Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Flame is the tenth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series by Michelle Sagara. It is currently schedule for release on July 29 2014. Kaylin knows that any day that starts with dragon arguments is going to be bad, and far too many days have started that way since she returned from the West March in one piece. She does not fit in, or feel comfortable, living in the Imperial Palace. All she wants is to get back to her normal work routine, apprehending average criminals,  and a place of her own. Well, a place with a dragon as a roommate. But the newest residents of her city are having some trouble adjusting and are causing some serious problems in the fiefs. When a family argument wakes something that should have been left alone everything and everyone that Kaylin has ever cared about is at risk.

I cannot believe that Cast in Flame is book 10! Some series start to either all read the same or get so off track when they get past five or so books that I only read them because I have already invested so much time into the series. This is not the case here. i feel like this series is getting better with each book. While it is getting more complicated and metaphysical, the threat to life and limb and the importance of specific characters and relationships is growing and going strong. If you have need read the previous books, do not (I repeat DO NOT) start here. You need to start at the beginning with Cast In Shadow. Go ahead, get reading. This review will still be here when you are ready for it!

Anyone that has started this series and enjoyed it needs to read Cast in Flame. The last few books have gotten better and better. The only issue is that now I have to wait to see what Kaylin has to deal with next. 

Book Review: His Enchantment by Diana Crosby

His Enchantment by Diana Crosby is a historical romance with a fantasy twist. Lady Catarine MacLaren is a fairy princess, but English knights have murdered her Uncle and there is danger to her entire family is in danger. Lord Trálin MacGruder, Lord Grey, will stop at nothing to defend the Scottish crown against the Comyns. As they plot to rescue the kidnapped king and queen, Trálin and Catarine will discover a love made all but impossible by her obligations to the Otherworld. Now, Catarine is torn between loyalty to her people and helping Lord Trálin rescue the Scottish king. 

His Enchantment is labeled as the sixth book in the MacGruder Brothers, none of which I remember reading, but it is apperently more like a prequel to the series. So, if you have not read any thus far, do not worry that you will be missing anything. 

Now, I liked that Catarine is a strong woman, a warrior and full of honor and loyalty. I also liked that Trálin shared similar traits, and dispite his desire to protect her still generally respects her and her abilities once he gets his head around her skills. The story and the characters were all reasonably well written, and I did enjoy seeing Catarine show of her warrior prowess on occasion. I liked that each character had thier own inner conflict, which they were open about, as well as the larger more life threatening conflicts. I really liked that the characters actually talked to each other about thier issues, rather than just thinking about them through the whole book which is one of my biggest pet peeves in romance.

I would recommend His Enchantment to readers that have read and enjoyed the other books in the series. I think readers that are fond of books that overlap Fae and historical storylines will enjoy the book. I felt like parts of the book were a little rush while other bits dragged, but overall I was satisfied with the read.

Book Review: Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin

Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin is a young adult novel about family, mystery, and connections. Alan Knightley is an expert in crimes too strange for Scotland Yard to handle, but four years ago he fell into a mysterious coma. His thirteen year old son Darkus is determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and find out what really happened. But when Alan suddenly wakes up, his memory is out of wack and he needs some help. There is a mystery that gets weirder by the minute, a bestselling book that makes its readers commit terrible crimes, and a sinister organization known as the Combination, and unusual family members who are all more than they seem.

Knightley and Son is a novel with a little bit of everything. There is mystery and humor with quirky characters and connections that will keep you wondering what will happen next. I always love a book with odd characters that are written sop realistically or surreally that I half expect to bump into them out in public. Alan Knightly, Darkus, and the variety of characters are each well fleshed out, and each have a vital role in the story. the larger mystery has enough twists and turns to keep every reader on thier toes while giving us just enough to feel like we already saw coming that we feel smart and engaged as we read. Darkus is dedicated to his father, and solving mysteries. While I felt like there were a couple aspects of him that I just did not get, like I had missed a prequel or something, I still found him to be a character I would watch on television.

Young adult and preteen readers that enjoy Sherlock Holmes, mystery, and humor will enjoy Knightley and Son. Adults that monitor their children's reading and those that are willing to pick up books labeled children's or teen books will get some enjoyment from the book as well. I will admit that there were some slow moments, but there were some break neck speed moments as well, so I feel it all balanced in the end and left me as a satisfied reader. 

Book Review: Rival by Lacy Yager

Rival is the second book in the Unholy Alliance series by Lacy Yager. This young to new adult novel is about  a fifth generation vampire Chaser, seventeen-year-old Emily Santos wants nothing more than to join the family business. But Emily's mother refuses, so Emily must channel her aggression into her martial arts training, at least until her eighteenth birthday. Black belt senior Brett Carson has decided it's time to rid himself of his unrequited feelings for Emily. But when he finds himself in the middle of an altercation with Emily and a gang of vampires, he is drawn into a world he never expected. And Brett is hiding his own secret.

I have not read Unholy Alliance, the first book in the series. I am glad to say that while there is some connection between the two, I do not feel like I enjoyed Rival any less for that lack. Emily is a smart and strong teen that would rather be off riding four wheelers in the mud with her cousin, sparing at the gym, or even hunting vampires than getting ready for a catilion. Brett is a fellow martial artist with a crush on Emily, and a secret he thinks will make her view him as weak. Coinidence and vampire attackes make thier relationship even more complicated, and might be just what they need to see each other as they really are. I liked that Emily is strong, not just mentally but physically as well and that she want take part in a dangerous proffesion she is not reckless. Brett is dealing with his own issues, and while he has feelings for Emily he is aware of hoe unobtainable she was and was not being the dopey suiter you sometimes see in this sort of book. He is aware of himself and his ewmotions and how the effect those around him. 

I enjoyed Rival, and while I do not know if I will go back and read the first book, but I know i will keep an eye out for future books by Yager. this is not typical vampire fiction, in faction the vampires in this book are not actual characters, only a source of danger and violence, which is not true in Unholy Alliance according to the description.

Early Book Review: There's a Mouse Hiding in This Book! by Benjamin Bird

There's a Mouse Hiding in This Book! is an interactive picturebook written by Benjamin Bird and illustrated by Carmen Pérez. It features Tom and Jerry and is currently scheduled for release on August 1 2014. On each page Tom and the reader are challenged to find Jerry. Is he on the title page, on the back cover, or somewhere in between? Readers that know and love the characters, and those who have never been introduced to the cat and mouse team, will be delighted to help Tom find the mischievous mouse. Perfect for storytime.

There's a Mouse Hiding in This Book! is a book that makes me think of my favorite picturebook when i was little, There's a Monster at the End of this Book. Young readers and their caregivers can find something to appreciate in this interactive story. the book is a great way to get younger readers excited about books and keep them entertained.

I would recommend There's a Mouse Hiding in This Book! for one on one sharing or for storytimes. The story might not be incredibly unique, but it is great fun.