Warren the 13th and the all-seeing eye

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing EyeWarren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warren, the under appreciated and often comical main character in Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, is sure to warm the hearts of adult and younger readers alike. This book is just so much fun to read.

If you enjoy sharing stories with your kids and are looking for a book that will keep their imaginations captive, may I recommend this one. Warren is the bellhop for the Warren hotel, which has fallen into repair after falling under the control of his clueless uncle and his nasty Aunt Anaconda. The adventures he has trying to solve the mystery of the hidden treasure in the hotel and save the place that he loves are so exciting and enjoyable that you won’t want to stop reading until the very end.

This book is not tremendously long so would be ideal for children who are just beginning with chapter books. The characters are engaging, the story is unique and the ending is full of just the right amount of danger and happy ending.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good story for their kids, or even just for themselves.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Beast of Barcroft

The Beast of BarcroftThe Beast of Barcroft by Bill Schweigart

Fans of Stephen King and Bentley Little will devour The Beast of Barcroft, Bill Schweigart’s brilliant new vision of dark suburban horror. Ben thought he had the neighbor from hell. He didn’t know how right he was. . . .

Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down—way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.

First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.

Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first, I figured this would be another silly horror book with very little plot, but only a few pages in, I discovered that wasn’t true. I liked the main character right away, and that led me to being interested in the rest of the story.

What I enjoyed about this book the most, was the mystery surrounding what the creature actually was. Things would lead one way for a while and then something would change and it would appear to be something else. There was a good mystery about this story and it kept it intriguing until the very end.

I also liked the varied cast of characters and the descriptions of their situations. The characters each had strong, individual personality traits that set them apart from one another, so they were easy to keep track of.

If you enjoy books where the terror builds as the story moves along, this would be a great book for you to choose. Perfect for a spooky Halloween night or an any time fright.

I liked it. Thumbs up.

Hoping for a sequel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, which was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Live to Air by Jeffrey L. Diamond

Live to Air: An Ethan Benson ThrillerLive to Air: An Ethan Benson Thriller by Jeffrey L. Diamond

Television, politics, and the Russian mob: Live to Air is a riveting crime thriller, jam-packed with intrigue and unforgettable characters.

Ethan Benson is a charming and principled-if sometimes difficult-television producer in New York City who detests doing crime stories. But that’s of no significance to his high-powered boss at the network, and Benson finds himself assigned to investigating a bloody shoot-out in the Meatpacking District, whose old grime and new glitz provide a symbolic background for a sensational murder that has dominated the headlines.

As he pieces together his story, Benson literally covers New York-from Central Park and Fifth Avenue to Little Russia in Brooklyn and Rikers Island in Queens-crossing paths with a fascinating cast of characters on both sides of the law. Unknown to Benson, organized crime may be only one facet of the thrilling investigation. With his wife and son in hiding and his life in danger, Benson draws closer to a resolution that will have explosive results for the criminals-and for some members of New York City’s political elite as well.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved a lot of this book. There is a lot to recommend it, but there were also some parts that I thought could have been better. Allow me to explain.

First of all, if you can keep up with the Russian names in this book, you will be doing okay. So many K names. You can do it–but don’t attempt to read whilst you are distracted by other things or they will most likely all blend together.

I liked Ethan as a main character. His struggles with alcohol and trying to impress his boss made him seem more realistic than if he had been perfect from the start. I enjoyed the relationship with his son and wife and felt it made him seem more authentic. Overall, he was a character that I would like to see return again and again.

The problems I have with this book begin with the large focus on the mob connection. I thought those parts were interesting and well written, but then they just seemed to go poof and disappear. I am not completely clear on how so much of the book was devoted to explaining those activities, but then they were not integral to the plot at the end. I almost felt like I was reading two different books.

The ending of the book became a bit unbelievable, but I was still fascinated with the intricacies of the plot enough that it kept me reading until the very last page.

I would have liked to have seen what happened to some of the characters after the shocking revelations at the end, but that didn’t happen. It is up to the reader to decide how they think things turned out for those characters.

There’s enough action here to keep those who love a quick paced story going and for those who like the psychological aspects that is there too. It was a good book with a few quirks, but one that I still feel good about recommending.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Until We Break by Jamie Howard

Until We BreakUntil We Break by Jamie Howard

When Sloane Avery stops to help a stranded driver, she finds more than a broken down car on the side of the road. Luke Evans is faster and sexier than her Maserati, but with her heart still on the mend, she’s not interested in taking him for a test drive. Despite their initial disdain for each other, emotion and passion simmer, complicating their fragile friendship. But when a tragic loss and devastating betrayal send them spiraling, their growing love isn’t enough to save them.

That was five years ago, practically a different lifetime and definitely a different Sloane. Before she’s been hardened by booze, sex, and as much distance as she could get from the past. Now, called home on a family emergency, she’s determined to hold onto her heart the next time she sees Luke.

Except Sloane’s not the only one who’s changed. Luke’s turned his life around. Only the reappearance of Sloane and the reminder of his biggest mistake can put a dent in his plans. Luke is set on fixing what he’s broken. But with her emotions boiling to the surface, Sloane needs to decide if falling in love is life’s greatest gift or its cruelest joke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Usually I hate angst filled books with younger couples, but the writing in this one is too good to let it slip into that category. Jamie Howard gets it–she understands the complexities of relationships and that reflects in the behaviour of her characters.

Sloane immediately made me like her and the back story for her love interest drew me in as well. I liked the chemistry between them from a very early point in the story and waited with anticipation to see how things would work out for them. This is a book that will take the reader on an emotional ride, wanting things to work out and then cursing when they don’t go the way you want them to.

More than just another silly romance, this novel is written with readers in mind. I won’t soon forget it.

Give this one a chance, even if it isn’t the kind of book you would normally read. It’s worth the time.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

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George Washington’s Journey by T.H. Breen

George Washington's Journey: The President Forges a New NationGeorge Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation by T.H. Breen

This is George Washington in the surprising role of political strategist.

T.H. Breen introduces us to a George Washington we rarely meet. During his first term as president, he decided that the only way to fulfill the Revolution was to take the new federal government directly to the people. He organized an extraordinary journey carrying him to all thirteen states. It transformed American political culture.

For Washington, the stakes were high. If the nation fragmented, as it had almost done after the war, it could never become the strong, independent nation for which he had fought. In scores of communities, he communicated a powerful and enduring message—that America was now a nation, not a loose collection of states. And the people responded to his invitation in ways that he could never have predicted.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“George Washington’s Journey” is not your typical, boring historical account of the life of a president. Instead, it follows closely in the footsteps of a man who had many difficult decisions to make and set out on a course to learn everything he could about the new nation he took command of.

I love history, and that is no secret. I’d rather read non-fiction most of the time and tend to get particularly excited over early American history, so when I saw this book I had high expectations for it. Truly, it not only met those expectations, but far exceeded them.

Everything about this book was exciting for a history lover. Not only did it incorporate careful research and obvious effort from the author for accuracy, but it was written in a conversational tone that made it seem less intimidating for me as a reader. I liked the way the author made an attempt to follow the same roads that the former president had, offering unique insights into the changes that have occurred in these places since Washington’s original journeys.

If you are interested in the life and times of George Washington, or simply this period of history, this would be an excellent book to add to your collection. Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Derek Takes Action by Mac Black

Derek Takes ActionDerek Takes Action by Mac Black

Derek has a cause but, being Derek, he also has a host of misunderstandings to sort out, mistakes to rectify and a wife to mollify. As a natural leader, he knows that beating the Railway Developers is down to him. As a natural disaster area, we know it is unlikely to go quite to plan. In Mac Black’s fifth and final Derek book the plot is stirred as poor gullible Derek tries his best and makes us laugh all the way to the end!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve grown rather fond of poor, bumbling Derek over the years, and it saddens me a bit to see him go in this final sendoff, but what a sendoff it was.

Once more, he finds himself in the worst sort of trouble from the very beginning of this book, but manages to save face in time for the ending, becoming the local hero that all his readers knew he could be–albeit, with a bit of drama along the way. I still feel for Sally.

This book had Mac Black’s unique humour spread evenly through it, and is full of moments that make you glad you are not the main character in one of his novels. Derek is as witty and enjoyable as ever in this story, and after finishing it, I think it is a tie for me over which is my favourite–this one or the first.

I liked the new characters in this book and felt like this story did a good job of tying everything before it together.

If you haven’t read this series yet and you enjoy humour and unlikely heroes, you should pick up a copy of the first book and get started. I’ll miss Derek, but I understand that everyone has limits, and he has already used more than his share of 9 lives.

Read it, have a giggle.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

The Last MidwifeThe Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn’t imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.

But everything changes when a baby is found dead…and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.

She didn’t commit the crime, but clearing her name isn’t so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that’s dangerous. Invited into her neighbors’ homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can’t help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart.

With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it’s worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now…especially since she’s been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.

With Sandra Dallas’s incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful, emotionally charged novel that will keep you turning pages even when you should have been in bed hours before.

“I guess I know more than she does, because the baby don’t come out of your foot.”

I dare you to read this book and not fall completely in love with Gracy. She is the kind of character that works her way into your heart and refuses to leave. I find that I am still thinking of her, long after the last page has been read.

Really, I can’t say enough good things about this novel, or the author’s writing. I’m struggling to find words that will do it justice.

What I loved: Gracy’s life in the various terrains and her midwifery skills, including the struggles she faced with weather and other folks in the community were wonderfully descriptive. I really felt like I was there with her, travelling the bumpy roads and helping these women through their birthing trials.

What I loved even more: Gracy is forgiving, kind and understanding, but she can also be as tough as nails, as one would expect a woman living at the time and doing the duties she performs would have had to be.

This story doesn’t waste time delaying the events that shape the story, and by the time the important stuff happens, it feels like a natural progression. This author has an excellent handle on language and her writing is smooth and flows easily. I was particularly impressed with the dialogue.

There are a lot of books out there, but few that I can find no fault in–this is one. Read it, you won’t be sorry.

This review is based on a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan

Science of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to SuperpowersScience of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to Superpowers by Matt Kaplan

From the author of The Science of Monsters, this engaging scientific inquiry provides a definitive look into the elements of mystical places and magical objects—from the philosopher’s stone, to love potions to the oracles—from ancient history, mythology, and contemporary culture.

Can migrations of birds foretell our future? Do phases of the moon hold sway over our lives? Are there sacred springs that cure the ill? What is the best way to brew a love potion? How do we create mutant humans who regenerate like Wolverine?

In Science of the Magical, noted science journalist Matt Kaplan plumbs the rich, lively, and surprising history of the magical objects, places, and rituals that infuse ancient and contemporary myth. Like Ken Jennings and Mary Roach, Kaplan serves as a friendly armchair guide to the world of the supernatural. From the strengthening powers of Viking mead, to the super soldiers in movies like Captain America, Kaplan ranges across cultures and time periods to point out that there is often much more to these enduring magical narratives than mere fantasy. Informative and entertaining, Science of the Magical explores our world through the compelling scope of natural and human history and cutting-edge science.–Goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Need a bit of personality with your nonfiction? Enter Matt Kaplan. If you are on a quest to expand your brain and find magic, mythology, ancient lore and religion all to be interesting topics but can’t handle one more dry, unemotional observation, you should really consider giving this book a go.

I can’t honestly say that I have ever read a nonfiction book where the footnotes were funny, until this one. Matt Kaplan approaches science through a different perspective. Clearly he is intelligent and interested in many facets of the world around us and that comes through in his writing, but he approaches things in a way that makes the reader feel involved and keeps you wondering what he is going to conquer next. Through his recounting of personal experiences interwoven with scientific fact, he gives us a broader view of the topics at hand.

You’ll feel smarter after you read his work, but you won’t feel that usual brain burn that tends to follow reading a serious text. This would be a great book for older students, as it won’t put them to sleep. The author included a variety of different topics and made each one of them interesting and easy to understand.

Honestly, this is the most fun I’ve had with a nonfic in a long time, possibly ever. Highly recommended. Looking forward to checking out the author’s other work now.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

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The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath: A NovelThe Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath: A Novel by Kimberly Knutsen

Set in the frozen wasteland of Midwestern academia, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath introduces Wilson A. Lavender, father of three, instructor of women’s studies, and self-proclaimed genius who is beginning to think he knows nothing about women. He spends much of his time in his office not working on his dissertation, a creative piece titled “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.” A sober alcoholic, he also spends much of his time not drinking, until he hooks up with his office mate, Alice Cherry, an undercover stripper who introduces him to “the buffer”—the chemical solution to his woes.

Wilson’s wife, Katie, is an anxious hippie, genuine earth mother, and recent PhD with no plans other than to read People magazine, eat chocolate, and seduce her young neighbor—a community college student who has built a bar in his garage. Intelligent and funny, Katie is haunted by a violent childhood. Her husband’s “tortured genius” both exhausts and amuses her.

The Lavenders’ stagnant world is roiled when Katie’s pregnant sister, January, moves in. Obsessed with her lost love, ’80s rocker Stevie Flame, January is on a quest to reconnect with her glittery, big-haired past. A free spirit to the point of using other people’s toothbrushes without asking, she drives Wilson crazy.

Exploring the landscape of family life, troubled relationships, dreams of the future, and nightmares of the past, Knutsen has conjured a literary gem filled with humor and sorrow, Aqua Net and Scooby-Doo, diapers and benzodiazepines—all the detritus and horror and beauty of modern life.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This can be a difficult book to read at times, since you know from the beginning that everything is not going to come up roses, but it is also unique, moving, funny and heartfelt.

I love books that can mirror real life so accurately that you feel like the author really poured their heart and soul into them. You definitely feel that when you read “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.”

Kimberly Knutsen writes with a passion and it is felt through each of her carefully worded passages. I enjoyed reading this and found myself nodding my head in agreement with many of the characters thoughts and much of the dialogue. This author is able to put into words what many people must think but not be able to voice.

The characters are strong and believable and the emotional link between them is apparent from the beginning. These are not one-dimensional characters and it is obvious that the author put a lot of work into each of them.

If you enjoy realistic dramas, and books that can make you forget about your own worries and become involved with the characters, this one is likely something you will enjoy.

This review is based on a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Hitler at Home by Despina Stratigakos

Hitler at HomeHitler at Home by Despina Stratigakos

Adolf Hitler’s makeover from rabble-rouser to statesman coincided with a series of dramatic home renovations he undertook during the mid-1930s. This provocative book exposes the dictator’s preoccupation with his private persona, which was shaped by the aesthetic and ideological management of his domestic architecture. Hitler’s bachelor life stirred rumors, and the Nazi regime relied on the dictator’s three dwellings—the Old Chancellery in Berlin, his apartment in Munich, and the Berghof, his mountain home on the Obersalzberg—to foster the myth of the Führer as a morally upstanding and refined man. Author Despina Stratigakos also reveals the previously untold story of Hitler’s interior designer, Gerdy Troost, through newly discovered archival sources.

At the height of the Third Reich, media outlets around the world showcased Hitler’s homes to audiences eager for behind-the-scenes stories. After the war, fascination with Hitler’s domestic life continued as soldiers and journalists searched his dwellings for insights into his psychology. The book’s rich illustrations, many previously unpublished, offer readers a rare glimpse into the decisions involved in the making of Hitler’s homes and into the sheer power of the propaganda that influenced how the world saw him.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For all of those who have only seen the one side of Hitler, represented in popular media, this book will be a real eye-opener.

I was greatly impressed with this book. The author could have chosen to go a lot of different ways with this, and I have great respect for the route she chose. I felt, whilst reading this, that she chose to remain as impartial as possible. Rather than trying to make the audience see the softer side of this man, or try to paint him in an overall different light, she let the facts and historical documentation speak for itself. Neither making him look bad, nor good, just–human.

I was surprised to read much of this book, as I had not realised before what an important role his homes had played in his life. Nor had I realised what a big part of his life Gerdy Troost was. I found the chapter on what happened to her after the fall of the Reich fascinating.

This book allows the reader inside a private world of long ago, and offers them the chance to see first hand the insecurities, nuances and personality quirks of one of history’s most infamous men.

There are many photos that I have not seen elsewhere, and a lot of information that was more than just a simple repeat. If this is a subject that interests you, you can’t go wrong with this book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley.