Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Family Romanov

I did not want this book to end, it was a fascinating, enlightening, and horrifying read. Having taken Russian history, studied abroad to St. Petersburg for two weeks, and been a huge fan of the animated movie, Anastasia, I STILL learned a ridiculous amount! This book was chock full of amazing facts, details, and accounts and was impossible to put down! This nonfiction novel chronicled the entire family history of the last Romanov family, the political tensions in Russia, and even had great first hand accounts from peasants, workers, and other Russian citizens to contrast with life in the palace. I believe this novel painted a very accurate, albeit not flattering, account of the last imperial family, but the account will still make readers sympathize with untimely demise of the last ruling family. It was simply fascinating, it pulled accounts from diaries, letters, official documents, and more to create a complete picture of the huge divide between the royal family and Russian subjects that left the country ripe for civil war. I was lucky enough to have visited many of the sites mentioned: The Winter Palace, Peterhof,  Tsarskoye Selo, St. Peter and Paul fortress (where I was able to see the final resting place of the Romanav family), and St. Petersburg. Listening to the audiobook also added an extra dimension, because many of the accounts were narrated by Russian voice actors which really helped bring the story to life for the reader (or rather listener). I give this a well deserved five star rating. It's a must read for any history buffs or those curious about the tragedy of the end of the Russian Tzars. Simply fantastic!!!


The cover of this graphic novel inspired me to pick it up, it's truly eye catching! I was able to read it in it's entirety over my lunch hour. Bandette is the story of a masked thief (I'm assuming she's in her teens or early twenties, her age is never referenced) who enjoys stealing priceless treasures, helping catch bad guys, and hanging with her buddies and dog. Her rivals and enemies are memorable and her banter with them is beyond witty. Whenever she is outnumbered or in a tight spot all Bandette has to do is press her "panic button" and her friends (ballerinas, baseball players, and her "boyfriend" the thai delivery man with the sweet vespa)  come running. It's a cute, light hearted read that is geared for teens but younger kids may enjoy as well (light swearing is the only "bad thing"). I look forward to checking more of these humorous volumes as they're published. Truly refreshing.

Unelmoija: Paradox

The fifth installment of the Unelmoija series answers some questions and raises others. Amy and Kat still reeling from the death of their mother are trying to move on with their lives. Their grandparents and Duncan have moved in, hoping to raise their spirits and morale. They cope the only way they know how, by eating copious amounts of food. The most described and detailed part of this book are the massive meals (and I do mean massive) and it just made me want to eat! All eating aside, the proverbial shit hits the fan when, Vlad (the traitorous friend mentioned earlier in the series) , storms into their house and demands that the family help his father. Vlad's father, Klaus, is suffering from a severe meltdown and is convinced that Kat and Amy's dad is responsible for his dad's death. If he doesn't get the chance to kill him, he threatens to destroy the nuclear power plant and kill all of Florida. Amy promises to help find him some answers because she's not convinced that her father is a murderer (although he is a jerk). What she discovers will change the very fabric of their lives and all their futures.

While it can be confusing at times, readers will enjoy the timeshifting and troubling consequences that arise from it. Definitely ambitious, there is a twist at the end that will leave many wondering about more titles in the series. An urban fantasy that Floridians, food lovers, and adventure seekers will surely enjoy.

I received this book for free from the author in return for my honest, unbiased review.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Port Chicago 50

Hands down the best nonfiction book I've read all year, maybe even in a few years! I was soo enamored with this book that I finished it in under two hours. I simply could not put it down! The Port Chicago 50 talked about an event in history that I literally had no idea about, the largest mutiny trial in naval history and at the time one of the largest man made explosions history. The tagline for the novel sums it up, "Disaster, Mutiny, and the fight for Civil Rights."

During the first half of the twentieth century all the United States armed forces units were segregated, including the Navy. Black men could join but they generally could not fight, they were relegated to doing all the cooking cleaning, loading, etc., because they were considered "unfit" for combat. At the start of WWII many black men signed up only to be disappointed that German POW's got better treatment then they did. This book focuses on a few units of all black Navy sailors who had the task of loading ammunition onto Naval ships. They had no training handling bombs, incendiary devices, and ammunition and it was only a matter of time before something disastrous happened. The higher ranked white sailors had all received several weeks worth of training but they weren't the ones handling the millions of pounds of bombs, their version of monitoring safety and supervising the black sailors included placing bets on which team could load the fastest. In this unsafe environment it came as no surprise that disaster inevitably struck. One night two explosions went off; sinking two massive Navy tankers and killing nearly 400 people (most of whom were black), the blast was soo massive that over a mile away windows were blown out and nearly 700 people were injured by flying glass and debris. Instead of learning from their mistakes, the Navy sent the remaining black sailors to another port to learn ammunition.... still with no training. Joe Small and 49 other black men refused to go back to work until they were given training and safety precautions, the Navy refused and tried all men with mutiny. This is their story and it needs to be heard. Before Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, and other Civil Rights heroes, there were these men who stood up to injustice and helped change the course of history.

An absolute must read, I can't recommend this book enough!

Death Masks

Not necessarily my favorite in the series so far, but still a damn good read! The cast of characters introduced in this one are amazing, we get to meet Michael's fellow Knights, a bunch of the fallen, some nasty vampires from the red court, and Susan finally shows up again (reunited? or not, duh duh duh...)! When the shroud (the blanket that cloaked Jesus on his death) is stolen from Rome, Dresden is approached by a foreign priest to help get it back. When he signs on for the job he has no idea how much danger he has put himself in, demons from hell (way cooler description in the book than I can accurately summarize here) are intent on retrieving it first. As if that's not enough to worry about, Susan is back in town (with a man!), and Dresden has been challenged to a duel by a warlord in the red court. Soo many things going on and Dresden has to somehow keep it all straight and not get killed. Wickedly funny, sexy, and adventurous, it's another great installment in the series.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Love Inspired Books and Giveaway

I had to find out what all the hype is out because Harlequin's Love Inspired line of paperbacks are some of the most checked out books in my library. We get six new titles a month ranging from historical to modern romance to Amish, most titles include at least one of the following words in the title: firefighter, cowboy, rancher, bachelor, widow, doctor, or Amish. I never took them very seriously and wondered what could possibly keep patrons coming back for more. Reading the following two books, helped me get some insight onto the popularity of these quick reads.

A Firefighter's Promise, follows the story of a young widow and her son who just moved to town to find a fresh start. Rachel's son Carter had a hard time at school because he was bullied for being adopted, Rachel hopes that by moving to the town where he was found (abandoned at a fire station) he can start to put down some roots and make peace with his life. What Rachel didn't expect was to run into a handsome fireman, the same one who took care of Chris when he was left there as an infant. There is an undeniable attraction between the two, but Matt (the sexy firefighter) is in a rush to leave town to flee the memory of the little girl he was unable to save from a fire a few years prior. It's chaste, romantic, cute, and charming. Why don't Matt's exist in the real world!? Overall, it was a quick light hearted, feel good read, and I can see why people are soo eager to read these titles. Who wouldn't want to escape into a perfect world where everything has a happy ending?

I had to pick up Bachelor to the Rescue because it featured a librarian. I wanted to see how badly stereotyped she would be, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did our main character, Lainie, have a masters degree in library science, she also realized how hard it was for libraries to stay relevant in today's modern world (even though it was only mentioned once). I also like that she wasn't a frumpy cardigan wearing, secret nymphomaniac. She was a young widow with two children trying to find a fresh start in a new town with a new job as a head librarian. The only unbelievable aspect was that she never read (at least not in the book, Lainie flips though the Bible only once, no other reading material is mentioned... suspicious) and she didn't own a cat.

Long story short, Lainie and her two daughters move to town and are instantly robbed. Instead of being able to buy a house and get settled she has to rely on an enemy for help. The man that is responsible for her husband's death lives in the same town and for the sake of her daughters she turns to him for help. He offers to let them stay in his huge Victorian house while she waits for her new credit cards and ID to arrive and even helps out with the groceries. Despite her best intentions, Lainie finds herself falling for this man. Shocking, I know. I won't spoil too much but you better believe there is a happy ending. Yay for librarians!

Overall, it was good to see what all the hype was about. They're quick light reads and easily finished in a day or two. Now for the good part, THE GIVEAWAY! You can win a set of SIX Love Inspired books, no strings attached. All you have to do is comment below with your name and which title you want to read most. The six books in the bundle are as follows:

  • The Rancher Takes a Bride
  • The Doctor's Second Chance
  • The Single Dad Finds a Wife
  • Winning the Teacher's Heart
  • Bachelor to the Rescue
  • A Firefighter's Promise

Also, if you're interested in purchasing some Love Inspired books, click here and use the coupon below!!

"Disclosure: Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/ FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win, Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification."

Sunday, April 19, 2015


There's something intriguing about reading sex worker's memoirs. It's dark, fascinating, and impossible to put down. This novel is a fictionalized account of what it takes to "make a living" working in the post-Soviet Ukrainian sex trade. Julie and her two sisters are desperate to find work, jobs are few and far between. When a friend tells the sisters how much money can be made by working in the "cabaret" (whore house) they decide to try their hand at making some quick money. Julie (the youngest sister and narrator of this story) especially has a hard time avoiding hard drugs and booze because it helps take the edge off of what she is doing. She isn't ashamed of being a call girl, but sometimes she just needs to forget some of the nasty things she does for money (namely an old man named Death). Her sisters try to get her to get clean, but Julie is convinced that there isn't a problem. This story spans about a year and chronicles Julie's descent into greed and addiction. Compelling, dark, and impossible to put down, this quick read will make you feel a little better about your life, or will maybe cause you to rethink your life's decisions.

I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest, unbiased review.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Before Watchmen: Minutemen & Silk Spectre

Soo glad that I found this gem at Half Price Books! It's been a few years since I read Watchmen and this prequel really got me in the mood to re-read it. There are several prequels but this one focuses on the Minutemen and Silk Spectre. The firdt half of the graphic novel is told from the viewpoint of an elderly Hollis (Nite Owl) as he writes his tell all book about his time in the Minutemen. He recalls the history of each of his masked friends and some of the major crimes that they solved. It was really nice getting more of a back story on Ursula (the silhouette) and some of the other characters. The second part of the graphic novel focuses on Silk Spectre's beginnings. It starts in her adolescence and follows though her teenage years. She becomes a hippie, meets a boy, and runs away from her mom's imposing nature. It's a fantastic book and one I will definitely come back to and reread.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Very Good Lives

Ahhh, one of my most anticipated books for the year. I have to devour anything that JK Rowling writes and this slim little book was no exception. It's her only anticipated book release for 2015 and it does not disappoint. "Very Good Lives" is an illustrated commencement speech that Rowling gave to Harvard University in 2008. It's a fantastic and inspiring peice about the fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. In it she discusses the failure of her marriage and her parents hopes for her prosperity (although she was able to turn that one around) and how her failure become her foundation for success, "... rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." Then she describes how having a good imagination allows one to empathize with others. Something she learned to do well when she was working for Amnesty International. Overall it is an inspiring and uplifting little book that will be sure to put a smile on everyone's faces, especially the Potterheads :)

Constructed of Magic

I felt that I couldn't celebrate National Poetry Month without reading at least one collection of poem so it was very fortuitous that this came in the mail for me to review this month. It was meant to be! Constructed of Magic is a collection of poems that illustrate the immorality and beauty of the human spirit. It's broken into eleven sections: death, grandmothers, spirits, love, children, America, sanctity, angels and monsters, aesthetics, immorality, and hope. Throughout the collection there are also sketches and drawings dispersed (I'm assuming they're done by the author) that help visually impart the message and tone that Louis Alan Swartz is trying to impart. The poems range from light and cheerful, to thoughtful , and remorseful. They follow no particular style or set length, which makes it a quick and meaningful read. Below is a sample from one of the poems that I really enjoyed from the children section, "Pajamas with Feet":

"Unto himself
Harmoniously complete.
Standing on the bed
In his pajamas with feet."

It's a cute poem that sticks with you. I enjoyed this collection, some poems more than others. The only thing I didn't like is that the author (poet) put asterisks by "big" words and defined them at the end of each poem. If this was a poetry collection intended for kids I could understand, but as an adult I could have done without that. Overall, a nice rounded collection.

I received this book for free from the author in return for my honest, unbiased review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

I ate this book up. I had forgotten how much I loved short story collection, this filled a whole in my soul. I've always been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and reading this collection just re-affirmed my belief that he is one of the greatest authors of the twenty-first century (and an avid supporter of libraries!). It's dark, poetic, mythical, lyrical, and refreshing. Each story and poem packs a punch that gets you to think and expand the boundaries of your mind. None of these writings are new per se, but it's the first time they've been collected in a short story collection. There's something for everyone, a Doctor Who story, a tribute to Sherlock Holmes, William Blake, and Ray Bradbury, fairy tales retold, legends expanded, and light shined on dark places. It's a fantastic collection and a must read/buy for any Gaiman fan. It's also a great introduction for the non-enlightened and sure to make them instant Gaiman converts. I can't express how much I loved this collection. It's a book I know I'll come back to again and again.

Beyond Orange County

I'll admit, I have never watched an episode of The Real Housewives... ever, reality TV is not my cup of tea. So I was mildly interested in checking out this book that was written by a "Godly" housewife (seems impossible, at least from what I'd heard about the show). Lydia felt that she was called to be on season 8  of The Real Housewives of Orange County to show women that she could be a positive Christian role model. This book is part memoir, part devotional, part guide to female Christian behavior. It's an insanely fast read (short and large print!) and can be gotten through in several hours. It can also be used as a group discussion guide because there are questions at the end of each chapter. The different spiritual topics she touches on include: dealing with discouragement, family matters, forgiveness, finding peace, self-image and worth, and so much more. It's a memoir mixed with scripture, statistics, how to's, prayers, and more. It's primarily aimed at mothers or wives, but other spiritual women could still gain a thing or two from reading this. It' nothing groundbreaking, but it may reach the hands of some non-spiritual people who will only read this because it was written by a housewife, so it has the potential to seek out new audiences. A good introduction guide to spirituality for those unfamiliar with it or those who have lost the purpose in their faith.

I received this book for free from First Look Blog Tours in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Walking Dead: Book Eleven

Book Ten showcased the massive war between Negan and the saviors and this books highlights the after effects. After Alexandria is destroyed, the remaining communities unite for one last stand against the Saviors. They are enraged at how unfair Negan has been fighting (he was infecting all their weapons with walker blood to infect and kill all the wounded) and decide to take him down once and for all. The aftermath of their war leads to the biggest status quo change that we've seen soo far. Shit is on the mend. The only problems are little problems. Too much good may be occurring, I fear what book twelve will bring. This much peace and prosperity cannot last!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Walking on Custard and the Meaning of Life: A Guide for Anxious Humans

Even though this was listed as a self help book I kept waiting for it to turn into a novel (no idea why), maybe because Neil says he's a comedian?!? Anyhoo, I actually picked up waay more advice than I ever thought possible from a self-help book. Author, Neil Hughes, makes concepts, theories, and practices understandable, relate-able, and funny, which makes it infinitely easier to like and use in real life. I don't particularly find myself an anxious person, but I do stress over small things and have a wicked mean inner voice so I was able to glean a lot of helpful information from this book. Another reason I think I enjoyed it so much is because Neil isn't some fancy dancy psychologist or therapist, he's an average educated bloke that's dealt with anxiety his whole life and has compiled years worth of researches and best practices to help others out. Humor is an underlying element which helps make the topic of anxiety less scary. This is a must read for anyone suffering from anxiety, minor or major it doesn't matter, it's helpful, funny, and insightful. At times you'll find yourself groaning at the author's ridiculous puns and inner critic, but it's all in good fun and makes the book even more enjoyable.

I received this book for free from the author in return for my honest, unbiased review.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Darkness Under the Sun

It's been years since I've read a Dean Koontz book so I thought I would test the waters by reading one of his short stories. "Darkness Under the Sun" sheds light on childhood innocence and naivety and how it can be broken. Eleven year old Howie, a sad, laughed at, scarred little boy encounters the terrifying Mr. Blackwood on one of his afternoon adventures. Howie is at first terrified of the stranger's menacing and horrifying appearance, but soon begins to like the odd man because they seem to have much in common. Mr. Blackwood knows what it's like to be pitied and laughed at, the ugliness on the outside doesn't have to reflect what's on the inside (or so Howie thinks). Howie won't realize until it's too late just how sinister and evil this man is, but by then, what innocence he had will be long gone. A chilling tale, with a thoughtful conclusion.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Touch of Stardust

Alcott, Kate. A Touch of Stardust. 9 CDs. unabridged. 11 hrs. Books on Tape. 2015. ISBN 9781101889442. 

Alcott (The Dressmaker, The Daring Ladies of Lowell) brings to life the glitter and glamour of old Hollywood in this exciting and eye opening novel. Indiana native, Julie Crawford, flees her Midwestern roots and heads to the bright lights of Hollywood. She finds a minor job on the set of Gone with the Wind but quickly moves up the ranks when Carole Lombard (a fellow Hoosier) takes her under her wing. Carole a gorgeous, uninhabited, scandalous actress helps Julie acclimate to the dog eat dog world of Hollywood. With Carole's encouragement, Julie pursues her dream of becoming a screenwriter and learns to let go of the past. With the set of Gone with the Wind as their playground, the two Hoosier pals learn that they have more in common then they ever thought possible. Narrated beautifully by the prolific voice actress Cassandra Campbell, who skillfully brings to life an wonderful cast of characters. Filled with interesting Hollywood factoids, romance, and humor, this tale will delight readers and entice them to pick up some classic movies. For fans of glitz, glamour, romance, and old Hollywood. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Secret Life of Bees

Just as good, if not better, the second time around. This novel beautifully brings to life, the Civil Rights movement, broken families, and the fragility of the human condition. Lily, a fourteen year old white girl runs away from home and busts her black caregiver out of jail to go with her. Disgusted with her father, Lily decides that she wants to find out more about her mother, the only clues she has about her mother's life is a portrait of a black Virgin Mary, a photo, and a pair of gloves. On the back of the painting is a note that says Tiberon, NC so that's where Lily decides to go. They quickly discover the origins of the black Madonna, a trio of black sisters who produce honey and honey products. Lily convinces them that she is an orphan with no place to stay and the to are welcomed into their home. Lily falls in love with the three quirky sisters and their bees and starts to think of it as home. But what if her past  catches up with her? Does she really want to know the truth about her mother?

A great read. For fans of The Help and Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Ireland

Fans of Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures and Young Indiana Jones will relish this novel for young readers. Filled with adventure, humor, pictures, and world culture it will capture the attention of even the most determined non-reader. Gannon and Wyatt are twins and thanks to their parents jet-setting lifestyle they get to travel the globe. Their latest adventure lands them in Ireland. They start off the trip with their parents by sightseeing some castles, kissing the Blarney Stone, and seeing the countryside. After a week of fun they decide to work on an Irish farm learning the ropes of sheep shearing, peat cutting, and potato farming. It's hard work but they learn to "enjoy" it when they meet the farmer's pretty daughter. Everything seems to be going well until they discover that the farmer's neighbor is factory farmer and is polluting the countryside. Together they decide to do something about it, never realizing the trouble they are about to get themselves into.

A great reader for kids grades 3 through 6 or homeschooled students (Gannon and Wyatt are both homeschooled). It's educational, enlightening, humorous, and captivating.

I received this book for free from Library Thing Giveaways in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Lock In

I was due for a good sci-fi read and this was perfect!! I fell in love with the story from the beginning. John Scalzi did an amazing job world building and bringing to life this novel of the near future. A disease has been ravaging the globe for years and it's side effects are horrific. Those who don't die from Hadens are either locked in their bodies unable to move (like in a coma but with a fully functioning brain) during the third stage or are able to become integrators in the second (able to let people locked in have control of their bodies). Millions of people worldwide have become locked in throughout the past two decades but thankfully research has helped those people by creating threeps, robots that can be controlled by the mind of threes (which allows them to be a part of the world) and by training integrators. All that is about to change though when the government decides to cut off funding. Rookie FBI Agent Chris Shane (a Haden's survivor using a threep) partners up with Agent Vann and together they must solve some fishy murders as it relates to Haden's research. Interesting, compelling, and impossible to put down, this is a must read!!