Showing posts with label 4 star. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4 star. Show all posts

Book Review: Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert

Conventionally Yours 
by Annabeth Albert is the first book in the True Colors series. Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all, but in reality he's scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control. Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection but even he can't help but feel a little broken inside. When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way—even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

Conventionally Yours is a slow burn, frienemies to more romance. I really enjoyed the slow  reveal of the characters and their individual problems. The getting to know the characters as they really got to know each other was paced very well. Unraveling their fears and problems was intense and I felt for both of them as I took the road trip with them. I found the exploration of new adults facing very different crisis in their lives coming together and getting to better understand each other, and themselves hit me right in the feels. Conrad is always trying to hide his difficulties behind a happy face, not wanting anyone to see what he is going through while Alden just wants to find his place and be accepted as he is without being obsessed with labels. I enjoyed their banter and how well they balanced each other, and I could relate to much of the fear each had about the future and just figuring out who and what they want from it. I thought the neurodiversity and family problems in the book were handled very well, and acknowledged how varied experiences can be, and how people on all sides of the circumstances can react, for good or ill. 

Conventionally Yours is an engaging read with realistic characters. I enjoyed the read and will continue to read anything I find by this author.

Book Review: Abandoned Industrial Places: Factories, Laboratories, Mills and Mines that the World Left Behind by David Ross

Abandoned Industrial Places: Factories, Laboratories, Mills and Mines that the World Left Behind by David Ross explores the discarded detritus of our modern mechanized age. Discover the grand Ore Dock in Marquette, USA, squatting isolated in the waters of Lake Superior; or the abandoned Caspian Sea oil rigs and drilling gear in Azerbaijan; or the enormous, gaping pit of the Mirny diamond mine in Sakha Republic, Russia; or the wall of latticed steel towers of the Duga radar in Chernobyl, Ukraine; or the Domino Sugar Refinery, Brooklyn, New York – formerly the world’s largest sugar refinery when built in 1882; or the still contaminated Fisher Body Plant 21 in Detroit, USA, a place where General Motors created some of their great marques for almost a hundred years. Filled with more than 200 memorable photographs from every part of the planet, Abandoned Industrial Places provides a strange and often spooky insight into the life and workings of industries long since ceased.
Abandoned Industrial Places is a beautiful book. I grew up splitting my time between a small greenhouse and a small manufacturing company (my family was very busy). Because of that industrial locations and machinery are special to me, and I have always seen a special kind of beauty in it while others just saw grease and metal. I thought the pictures were nicely varied, in industry and location. The colors of the buildings, machinery, and in some cases nature reclaiming space were attention grabbing. Some were bold, others muted, but they were well balanced. I really enjoyed studying the photographs and thinking about the impact the rise and fall of each of these locations had on their communities and the individuals that worked there- and how many small moments have been forgotten over the years.

Abandoned Industrial Places is a fascinating look at locations that have been abandoned over the years. Some images are beautiful, others are haunting, but they are all thought provoking. 

Early Book Review: A Favor for a Favor (All In) by Helena Hunting

A Favor for a Favor is the second book in the All In series by Helena Hunting. While there are carry over characters, you can enjoy each book on its own as well. It is currently scheduled for release on January 28 2020.
When I joined Seattle’s NHL expansion team, I thought it was the start of something great. But nothing ever goes the way you expect. Take my introduction to my new neighbor. She came rolling in on the hot mess express at midnight, making a racket while she tried to get into my team captain’s apartment. Did I mention that he’s married to a woman who definitely was not her? Imagine my surprise when I end up with an injury that has me out of the game for weeks, and she’s the one to offer to help me. I should probably add that she’s not the captain’s mistress. She’s his sexy, pastel-haired younger sister. So we come up with an arrangement: she rehabs me so that I can get back on the ice sooner, and she can add a professional athlete that isn’t her brother to her client list. Seems simple enough. As long as I can keep my hands to myself and my hormones in check.
A Favor for a Favor has everything I love in a romance. Stevie and Bishop are honestly good people with snark and a fair amount of emotional baggage. I love that they both own their issues and are doing everything they can to make themselves and their lives better. Misunderstandings, emotional wounds, and injuries keep the verbal banter at a high level- and I enjoyed it. I loved watching the paor get to know each other and fall in love when they convince themselves that PT is all they are doing. The secondary characters are just as well built and complex as the main characters, and I enjoyed seeing returning characters as their stories continued and getting to know more of the players in Hunting's book universe. I honestly just enjoy the writing style and find myself thinking about the characters after I finish the book. They feel real, like I could run into them if I ventured into their neighborhood, and I would enjoy every minute of it. 
A Favor for a Favor is a wonderful slow burn romance with heart and humor. It is a must read for fans of Hunting.

Book Review: The Man Who Knew Everything: The Strange Life of Athanasius Kircher by Marilee Peters, Roxanna Bikadoroff

The Man Who Knew Everything: The Strange Life of Athanasius Kircher is a biography written by Marilee Peters and features illustrations by Roxanna Bikadoroff. Athanasius Kircher was a 17th-century German Jesuit and scientist. He was one of the modern world’s first scientific celebrities—the Einstein or Stephen Hawking of his time. In 1638, Kircher was lowered into the smoking crater of Mt. Vesuvius to observe how volcanoes work. After thirty years, he published an 800-page volume of his findings—along with theories about fossils, geography, the Earth’s core, dragons, the location of the lost city of Atlantis, and more. Kircher has been described as the last Renaissance man, the first postmodernist, and “the man who knew everything.” This book celebrates Kircher’s insatiable curiosity, his willingness to ask questions and to suggest answers, even when he sometimes got it wrong. 
The Man Who Knew Everything is well written and researched. I liked the straight forward but somehow playful tone of the book, and found that the illustrations added interest and humor. I loved how Athanasius's curiosity is framed in a way that show both how valuable it is, and the way others sometimes reacted to it. This could help young information seekers understand that while their questioning and answer seeking might not always be well received- it is important and could lead to interesting discoveries and adventures. I also like that the dangers, and mistakes that he made were touched upon as well.  This could help adventurous young readers think through some of their explorations a bit more, and to show them that everyone makes mistakes and that is part of learning. I thought the text was accessible and would be interesting to readers from middle grade on up through adults. 

The Man Who Knew Everything is a dramatic retelling of one man's fascinating life. 

Book Review: Dive In: Exploring our Connection with the Ocean by Ann Eriksson

Dive In: Exploring our Connection with the Ocean by Ann Eriksson is a nonfiction book for children and adults. It starts with the idea that we are all connected to the ocean, and the ocean to us. The ocean provides half the oxygen we breathe; it feeds us, creates our weather and provides us with water. But people have not been as kind to the ocean in return. The problems are many: pollution, overfishing, rising seas and acid waters. What can be done? Don't despair; take action. 

Dive In explores the connection between mankind, our actions, and the oceans. We get a great deal from the ocean, and treat it like our private playground, drilling field, and dumping ground. Thankfully there are scientists and activists that spend their time studying the ocean and working to protect it, and everything that lives in, on, or near it. The book is text heavy, with some great information and photographs to engage readers. I liked that there were big and small things suggested for readers and their families to do in order to help the environment. The glossary and additional resources at the end of the book can help readers understand more, and hopefully encourage them to further explore the topic on their own. Some of the informational text boxes were hard to read because of the color choices, I was reading a pre publication galley, so that might have been fixed by the final printing. I think this is a great book for older children, or reading together as a family. Some of the text is more difficult than I think new or struggling readers might be happy tackling on their own.  I do think that parts came off as a little too preachy, and just how big the changes could or should be might be overwhelming to readers, even though the little changes are mentioned as well. I know that I was a little taken aback and felt a little preached at rather than encouraged to make bigger changes.

Dive In is an information and interesting read. I was fascinated by some of the statistics and details about the ocean itself and think it can help readers see how interconnected the environment is, and how even the smallest choices can have an impact. 

Book Review: Tying the Scot by Jennifer Trethewey

Tying the Scot by Jennifer Trethewey is a historical romance. At age eleven, Alex Sinclair pledges an oath to the Duke of Chatham promising to serve and protect his illegitimate daughter, Lucy FitzHarris. Nine years later, the duke unexpectedly takes Alex up on his vow, offering the future Laird of Balforss his daughter’s hand in marriage. Now a man, hotheaded Alex has difficulty convincing Lucy—who would rather starve to death than marry a vulgar Scot—to go through with the arranged marriage. Once Lucy arrives in Scotland, she cannot resist the magic of Balforss or the allure of her handsome Highland warrior. But when Alex seemingly betrays Lucy right before their wedding, she is tricked into running away. Alex must rein in his temper to rescue his lady from unforeseen danger and Lucy must swallow her pride if she hopes to wed the Highlander she has come to love.

Tying the Scot is a story with complex characters and an intense plot. Lucy is a young and naive lady, facing marriage with a person she met only once as a child, all the while thinking herself in love with another. She makes some decisions or jumped to some conclusions that had me shaking my head, but all fit with her personality and character. I did like that she had some spunk and skill, rather than being a useless miss. Alex is an honorable Scot not sure that the marriage is a good idea either, but is willing to test the waters. His plans to find out more about Lucy, and to 'protect' her are not always well thought out, and often cause more harm than good- but they are entertaining. I love the way they both have reservations, and make mistakes, but for the most part talk about them. Although Lucy is more than a little naive, she is also good at heart and caring. Likewise, while Alex is a little rash and not exactly great with words, his effort to do the right thing and take care of those around him. The treachery and danger surrounding them makes for significant excitement- and plays on the doubt they each have in themselves and each other. While I think the pair having more conversations and less jumping to conclusions would have made for an easier relationship it would have also made for less excitement and a much shorter book.

Tying the Scot is an entertaining read with plenty of suspense and surprises. I enjoyed the read and found the characters to be very compelling, and they stayed with me after I finished the book. 

Book Review: Fantastic Creatures from the Fellowship of Fantasy

Fantastic Creatures is a collection of short stories from the Fellowship of Fantasy, which includes the authors H.L. Burke, Cave Yates, Arthur Daigle, Craig A. Price Jr., Intisar Khanani, Lea Doue, Nicole Zoltack, Vincent Trigili, Julie C. Gilbert, Katy Huth Jones, L. Palmer, Kandi J. Wyatt, Morgan Smith, Lelia Rose Foreman, Jessica L. Elliott, Bokerah Brumley, Caren Rich, A.R. Silverberry, D.G. Driver, and Frank B. Luke.
Here be dragons, and selkies, and griffins, and maybe even a mermaid or two. Twenty fantasy authors band together to bring you a collection of thrilling tales and magical monsters. Do you like to slay dragons? Or befriend them? Do you prefer to meet cephalopods as gigantic kraken or adorable tree octopuses? Each story focuses around a fantastic creature from folklore or mythology, and they range from light and playful tales for the whole family to darker stories that may make you wish to leave the lights on. These stories carry the Fellowship of Fantasy seal of approval. While our monsters may be horrifying, you won't stumble into graphic sex and constant swearing, also not that any story with adult level violence is marked, so there is not stumbling upon that type of surprise. 

Fantastic Creatures is an anthology with a good variety of stories. As with all anthologies, some really grabbed me, others left me a little less impressed, and many were in the middle. There was humor, romance, stories that left me sad, stories that left me upset, and some that left me shaking my head. I really enjoyed sme of the twists that were given to some of the familiar creatures, while some were so odd and unexpected that I was left admiring the creativity of the author. I found the collection as a whole to be well written, and consistently edited. While not every story grabbed me, I thought the book was well done and an entertaining read. I think the lack of explicit content, and the warnings about violence before it happens, makes it a good choice for sharing as a family.

Fantastic Creatures is a varied and entertain collection of tales. I like that the creatures were all different and expectations were often defied. Each of the stories has a satisfying conclusion. I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy short stories, and those that are interested in exploring fantasy authors, but want to start small. What a great way to check out the work of 20 writers without committing large amounts of money or time in something that might not be your cup of tea.

Book Review: Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic) by Melissa F. Olson

Midnight Curse is the first book in the Disrupted Magic series by Melissa F. Olson, which is a follow up to the Scarlet Bernard book, so you could think of it as the fourth book in that series if you would like. It also has some characters from the Boundary Magic series. I think I would recommend reading the other series first, before jumping in here. Since I adore the books, I think it would be a pleasure rather than a task. However, if you want to just dive in, there is enough groundwork and explanation in the book that I think newcomers could catch up quickly. 
Scarlett Bernard is used to cleaning up messes. As a human who cancels out any magic around her, Scarlett’s job is to keep the supernatural world hidden—at any cost. But on the eve of the Vampire Trials, a two-day tribunal that allows the otherworldly community to air their grievances, Scarlett receives a blood-soaked message from Molly, her estranged former roommate. Molly, a vampire, had been living with twelve human college students…and in one terrible night, she slaughtered them all. Scarlett believes Molly’s been set up, but no one else in the Old World agrees with her. Meanwhile, the true perpetrator is determined to make sure Molly goes on trial for the massacre—and the penalty is death. With less than two days to prove her friend’s innocence, Scarlett calls on former LAPD detective Jesse Cruz to help her dig into Molly’s past. But no one—Molly included—wants Scarlett and Jesse to bring the terrible truth to light.

Midnight Curse is exactly what fans of Olson are looking for. The first chapter was spent playing catch up and remembering what I had read already, but I think that is the case for more series or related books with good backstories. I think there is a good amount of information so that newer readers to the world will catch up, but I still recommend reading the books in order to get a fuller understanding of the larger relationships and politics involved. I really enjoyed the growth that Scarlet shows, and the realistic personal and interpersonal reactions and feelings. I thought the danger and mystery were well done and pretty perfectly paced. I liked that not everything, and everyone, was perfectly good or bad- but that Olson continued to show how most everyone comes in shades of grey.

I was glad to see Molly back into Scarlet's life- although not in the way anyone was really hoping for. I also like that the book wrapped up the mystery and struggle of the particular story while still leaving plenty of open avenues for future books that will not be a reach or stretch. I was glad to see Jesse back as well, and think this is going to be a great series with the majority of my favorite characters. A must read for fans, and good motivation for urban fantasy fans that have yet to read her work to start from the beginning and become a fan.

Midnight Curse is another great book from Olson. I was disappointed that I took this long to get around to reading this book, but so glad I did. To those that like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to the series. I binge listened to ALL the previous books from Olson via my library overdrive offerings and Audible. The reader is wonderful, and actually reading this book rather than listening, I still heard the narrator I was used to in my read as I read.

Book Review: The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel

The Cranky Ballerina is a picturebook written and illustrated by Elise Gravel. Ada hates everything about ballet class, yet she still has to go! Then one Saturday, Ada pliĆ©s right out the door and into the hallway, smacking into someone who thinks her ungraceful moves are great! Her mistake might just lead to a wonderful new adventure for Ada.

The Cranky Ballerina is another winner from Gravel. The illustrations are wonderful, and the thought bubbles keep the flow and energy of the book at a constant level. Ada is an energetic and plucky young girl who wants to go her own way. she does not like ballet, and does not feel like she is good at it despite the rehearsals she is dragged to. I like that Ada dislikes ballet, not because of what it is, but because she just does not feel like it is right for her. She pits in an honest effort, and it just does not click with her. when she stumbles into the perfect solution I was delighted on several levels. I like that her new activity is not necessarily a 'girl' activity, but something that she takes to right away with no thought to gender roles. i have to admit that I see a bt of myself, and my daughter, in Ada's stubbornness and love for something other than what is the suggested activity for her.

The Cranky Ballerina offers readers a book in which the author clearly understands how her youngest readers feel, and offers them understanding and support through fun books that just might help their adults understand them a little bit better as well, and remember how they felt when they were younger themselves.

Early Book Review: Wolf’s Clothing (Legend Tripping) by E.J. Russell

Wolf’s Clothing by E.J. Russell is the second book in the Legend Tripping series. It is currently scheduled for release on October 10 2016. I was somehow unaware it was part of a series until I started reading it. It did take me a bit to catch up, and I think that readers that have already read Stumptown Spirits will have a head start. However, I did catch up and full enjoy the novel despite the lack.

For Trent Pielmeyer, the answer is run like hell. Run away from his hostile family, away from the disbelieving cops, and far, far, far away from anything that smacks of the supernatural. After seven years’ captivity in a whacked-out alternate dimension, he is so over legend tripping.When Christophe Clavret spots Trent in a Portland bar, he detects a kindred spirit—another man attempting to outrun the darkness of his own soul. But despite their sizzling chemistry, Trent’s hatred of the uncanny makes Christophe hesitant to confide the truth: he’s a werewolf, one of a dwindling line, the victim of a genetic curse extending back to feudal Europe. But dark forces are at work, threatening more than their growing love. If Christophe can’t win Trent’s trust, and if Trent can’t overcome his fear of the paranormal, the cost could be Trent’s freedom and Christophe’s humanity. Or it might be both their lives.

Wolf’s Clothing is an interesting book that initially took me by surprise. I wish I had read the previous book first, but I feel like the character development and story stood well on its own. Trent has survived seven years of horror, and come out the other side only to have to hide the reason he was missing and deal with the family issues he had been trying to avoid his entire life. In trying to ground himself he runs to the only people that know his story- only to discover that his plan is no longer a viable option. Christophe has his own problems, and when the pair meet they are instantly in lust. I like that the plot is complex, as are the characters. This could have been an easy love story with only the supernatural revelations standing in their way- but the plot against Christophe, the wedding, and Trent's facing of his demons make the story move quickly. I like that the story is a LBGTQ romance under all the other things going on, and is not used as a gimmick or attention grabber. It flows perfectly with the story and felt fully organic rather than because the author was trying to fit in a niche or be trendy. I love a read that defies exceptions in a multitude of way while feeling like it just happened rather than being planned. The rest of the story is so full of complications, betrayal, and coming to understand the bigger picture that it was simply wonderful.

Wolf’s Clothing made me eager to go back and read Stumptown Spirits, and explore the few other books by the author. I think readers that enjoy urban fantasy and complex characters and conflicts will enjoy the read. I would not recommend it to read that are upset by non traditional couples and LBGTQ stories.