Friday, April 14, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Free Space (Evagardian #2)


Let me confess. I would have rated this book more highly, but I am angry with the author for the cliffhanger ending. Those who have read Admiral (book 1 of the series), will be happy to see the return of the titular character, as well as Tessa Salmagard - another survivor of the previous adventure. That happiness may be short-lived, when they are quite speedily dropped into another dangerous situation and battling for their lives. After all, they deserve a little vacation, don't they?

The Admiral (we still don't know his name), and Salmagard meet up for a brief R&R leave, but there is nothing restful or relaxing about the circumstances that develop. They are thrown together with two more Imperial soldiers, Sei and Diana, and have to use their varied skills to survive repeated hazards. Without spoiling things too much, let me just throw out some examples in no particular order - cults, indentured servitude, cryosleep, poisoning, free market economy, and tacky lingerie.

Fans of the series will recognize the Admiral's quick wits and general snarkiness when he's stressed. At one point he can't speak and needs some medical help. When he fails to communicate his distress to someone using only his facial expression, he thinks to himself, "Did she think I was making faces at her for my health? Because I was." There are also pop culture references for film fans. Diana quips, "Have you ever danced with an Everwing in the pale moonlight?" as she maneuvers a space craft while being pursued. Our hero tells an opponent, "You think I'm sitting here because I don't have the strength to stand." And the man replies, "I've seen that drama." (You gotta love a good "Princess Bride" line.)

For fans of SciFi/fantasy who enjoy intrigue, high speed chases, sarcastic quips, and the debate of what makes conduct honorable, this is a series not to miss. Even if I am mad about the ending leaving us all in suspense.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, his Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

This book accomplishes a number of things. It provides a biography of Hermann Rorschach, traces the development of his ink blots and their use since that time, and also delves into the nature of perception itself. As part of the biography and the explanation of how the his ink blot "test" spread and changed over time, it also traces the changes in psychology, psychiatry, and the treatment of mental and emotional problems. Any or all of these topics could be an interesting subject to read about, but seeing how they have interacted and influenced each other is fascinating. The inclusion of color pages with photos of Rorschach and reprints of a few of the ink blots helps the reader make a visual connection with the material.

Anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis in the United States will appreciate the way Searls covers the changes from each generation and the swing from desiring an X-ray of the psyche to preferring quantifiable data, as well as the various groups that have defended the use of the Rorschach, argued against it, or attempted to revise it. 

Those who have actually undergone the Rorschach process will learn the reasoning behind its development and what its inventor hoped to gain from it use, as well as some of the more modern explanations of how it adds to a complete profile of an individual being studied or treated. I remember taking the "test" as part of a study being done on college students during my undergrad years. Those of use who participated were never told the results of our interviews, but at least I can now guess at what they hoped to learn.

The inclusion of how the ink blots were used during WWII, the Nuremberg Trials, and in cultural anthropology will be of interest to students of history and social studies in general.

Altogether a satisfying read, with plenty of food for thought and connections to many different interests. Please visit the publisher's website for more information on the author or the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

SYNC 2017 Begins April 27th

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens. Returning April 27 2017, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week - pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. Sign up for email or text alerts and be first to know when new titles are available to download at

I participate in SYNC every summer and I always find books that I enjoy. If you haven't tried it yet - get SYNCed this summer. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Speed of Life


I can't imagine losing my mom when I was only 14. Imagine just being ready for high school and dating and all those teenage things, and having no mother to help you through them. Sofia is dealing with that. She and her father are trying to keep going, keep climbing. As Sofia explains in the introduction, "sometimes, if you just keep climbing, you get an amazing view. You see what's behind you and what's in front of you and - the big surprise - what's inside you." Of course, at the beginning of the book, she doesn't see any of that. Most days she is trying to recapture her old self, the one not weighed down with sadness. And after several months, her father begins dating someone. Sofia turns to Dear Kate, the advice columnist from Fifteen magazine for advice. Imagine her horror when she meets her dad's new girlfriend - Dear Kate, herself!

There are parts that made me cry and then parts that made me laugh out loud. All the ups and downs of moving to a new town, new house, and new school are there. The drama of your father starting to date, and being serious about his new companion. The awkwardness of getting to know that new woman, and her daughter. The thrill of meeting a boy you like and who likes you back. The sadness of having to tell your grandfather that your mom has died. There are so many life events packed into this one book and Sofia will win you over as she makes her way through each one.

Definitely for middle school and up. Mentions of sex, contraception, STDs, and other topics are a bit mature for readers younger than that. The topics are handled with a care you would expect from someone who can create a character like Dear Kate and make her believable. Perfect for fans of stories like Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gym Shorts who are now reading YA.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Spring Reading 2017 Defy the Stars


Imagine a younger, untried Honor Harrington and you will come close to Noemi's character. Her planet is a former Earth colony world that has fought the Liberty War and declared its independence. Now they must continually fight off waves of "mechs" (androids), sent through the Gate (wormhole travel) to reacquire their planet of Genesis for the overpopulated home world. While on a training run, Noemi boards an abandoned Earth ship and discovers an android unlike any she has ever seen or heard of in her training. Together, they set off across the known worlds to find a way to seal the Gate and protect Genesis on a permanent basis.

That tells you the basic plot, but it doesn't capture all the ways in which both of the main characters, Noemi and Abel, change during their journey. Noemi begins the story so sure that her world is right and Earth is wrong, so convinced that she is part of a holy crusade of sorts. Abel desperately wants to return to Earth and his creator, the famous scientist Mansfield. He has been told that the people of Genesis are selfish for not wanting to share their world. Then the two of them spend time together and see the other worlds and the conditions on each of them. Slowly, they come to appreciate other points of view and respect one another's abilities. Can a Genesis soldier and an Earth mech become friends?

You'll have to read to find out. And let me tell you that the story will satisfy those who like character centered fiction and still have plenty of good parts for readers who like lots of tech in their sci-fi. There are androids specifically programmed to fight which are eerily similar to Terminators at times. The devices that stabilize the wormholes for travel between the planets remind me of StarGate. And Abel may touch on a few memories from movies or books where AI becomes truly sentient. 

Whether you are a techie or a fan of personal growth stories, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Spring Book Festival

Welcome spring 2017 by attending:
MARCH 27-29
Find your new favorite books and authors. Fiction of every genre, from Children's Literature to Fantasy, Romance to Horror will be represented by a diverse list of Indie authors at discount prices; many are free. You say you like Non-fiction, too? Don't worry, we've got that.
Enter the $150 giveaway in prizes!
Come join us and tell your book-loving friends!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 The Flintstones, Volume 1


Forget the Saturday morning cartoons. The Flintstones is social commentary that is relevant and funny. Take the Neanderthals that Mr. Slate hires to work at the quarry. After just a few days in town they are able to figure out that "it seems like the whole point of civilization is to get someone else to do your killing for you." (Simple enough even a caveman could figure it out?) Everything from people buying things they don't need, like a Trilobite Cooker, to arguments over whether marriage is a good idea and who should be allowed to get married are mixed into the stories. There are plenty of spoofs on pop culture: stores like Starbrick's and Tarpit, shoes like Pradzoa and Mammotho Blahnik, and even Professor Sargon at the Science Institute talking about when the galaxy was formed "billions of days ago" and performing calculations on his new Applecus computer. But there are also serious issues like veterans dealing with the return to civilian life, men who had been talked into attacking others and then finding out there was never any threat, and people protesting new things just because "it wasn't around when I was a kid."

There are plenty of laughs about aliens entering the Earth into Galactapedia and alien kids using their Death Ray app "Disintegr8." Betty Rubble asks Pebbles what she has been learning in school and Pebbles replies, "How to sit still and shut up." But my favorite allusion would have to be the Space Oddity scene at the Science Institute. Professor Sargon shoes them a monkey about to be sent into space. He reassure the kids that the monkey's "spaceship knows which way to go." We see the monkey saying, "Tell my wife I love her very much." and a dinosaur replying, "She knows." References like that and some of the language that is used makes this a title for readers 12+.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life


You had me at Kwame Alexander. I admire his writing, so I had to try this book, even though I am not a big sports fan. Reading about Kwame's struggles to find the sport he could excel in and the lessons he learned from those experiences adds personal depth to the book. His appreciation of that hard-won knowledge and love of sports comes through clearly in his words. 

But beyond the fact that he wrote this, it is a wonderful book based on its own merits. The rules are actually free verse that can apply to sports or life, words like, "A loss is inevitable, like rain in spring. True champions learn to dance through the storm." These rules are paired with quotes from famous personalities, mostly from sports, but also from other occupations. Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Nelson Mandela are mixed in along with other famous players, coaches, and historical figures. The illustrations are a mix of photos and graphics - silhouettes of figures dunking a basketball or diagrams of moves across a court give visual interest to the pages and add to the sports theme of the rules. 

Highly recommended for fans of Kwame or sports. This would make a great graduation gift!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Diadem of Death


You would think that once a girl has survived the efforts of a cult to turn her into the reincarnation of Cleopatra, had her leg amputated, and managed to finish her junior year of high school, then she would deserve a nice summer vacation relaxing with her friends and snuggling with her boyfriend. Nope. Nefertari "Terry" Hughes has her plans for the summer suddenly upended by her father's announcement that they are returning to Egypt to resume the search for Cleopatra's tomb, the search that killed Terry's mother and left Terry with a crippled leg (before the amputation). Now she's had to trade in the beach for the sands of the archaeological dig, and deal with rumors of curses and possible Illuminati plots.

With the powers that were bestowed on Terry in the first book (Asp of Ascension), readers may expect her to make short work of any threats to the dig, but things are never simple. Even if there were no curses, mystical powers, or possible plots - there are still the quest for fame and power, government corruption, and unethical grave robbers to contend with. Luckily, Terry has her friends and her father to depend on and maybe something a little bit extra.

If you enjoy mystery, suspense, a bit of romance, and the thrill of looking for antiquities - try the Nefertari Hughes mysteries.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Winter Reading 2017 Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope


The Women's March of January 21, 2017 has been called "a groundswell of resistance, love, and hope." Across the United States and around the world, people marched, carried signs, sang songs, decorated their faces and t-shirts, and listened to speakers about topics important to them. This book captures all those activities as well as a sense of the emotions felt and portrayed that day. Images from Prague to Paradise Bay, Orlando to Fairbanks, Toronto to Kosovo, and everywhere in between show moments of humor, frustration, and solidarity. Interspersed throughout the book are pages of text which highlight quotes from some of the day's speakers. Those pages are a vibrant pink with white lettering that pops off the page at the reader. The quotes are representative soundbites of the day's events, like this one from Senator Elizabeth Warren, "We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back."

Some of the images that made the greatest impressions on me are:
- the two little girls in pink, holding a sign together that reads "GRL PWR"
- another sign stating "I am German and I've seen this before!!"
- the woman whose poster reads, "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept."
- and for a bit of humor, "I've seen better cabinets at IKEA."

The crowds in the photos capture the breadth of the demographics involved in the march at all the locations. At one end of the age spectrum are babies in Snugli packs being carried by their parents, and at the other end are senior citizens with assistive devices like canes. Men and women are both present, as are members of too many ethnic groups to name them all here.

Even without a narrative to accompany the images, the book makes a powerful statement. It is sure to provoke strong reactions in readers/viewers and spark discussions. Due to some of the language and images on the signs, this is best for more mature audiences, ages 13+.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Eat Beautiful

Rowe has compiled information about the benefits from various foods, herbs, and spices for inner health and also clearer and healthier skin. She begins with a brief discussion of the connection between beauty and food, touching on topics like detoxification, digestion and stress. Then she goes through the year, season by season, and gives the rundown on foods that are fresh during that time and what nutrients or other healthy effects they have. At the end of each section, she shares some of her favorite seasonal recipes that feature those foods.

Whether you are looking for a beauty treatment from the inside out, or just looking for guidance on some healthy recipes that might feature foods you hadn't considered before, this is a helpful volume. The photos are beautiful (the foods and the models). The seasonal arrangement helps those who are trying to eat fresh as much as possible throughout the year. And there were even a couple of foods that I had not heard of before, which may not be the case for other readers, but they may learn some interesting facts about familiar foods.

Recommended for readers interested in eating in a more healthy way and for those who want to support their own health and healthy appearance. Check the publisher's website for more information about the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Asp of Ascension (Nefertari Hughes Mystery, #1)


If you enjoy present day mysteries that tangle with ancient artifacts, then you should the Nefertari Hughes books. "Terry" as she prefers to be called, is the daughter of archaeologists. When her mother dies in an accident on a dig and Terry is severely injured, her father decides to move somewhere safer to start over. That is how they end up in the cold of New England, with her father working at a museum that is run by an old school friend. Nothing feels right to Terry. She misses the warmth of Egypt, the food, her friend Awad, her mother... High school is a nightmare. The limp from her injury makes her feel awkward, she has managed to incur the wrath of the reigning cheer leading captain, and their history assignment on Cleopatra brings up too many painful memories. How will she navigate the world of ball games, dates, and school projects without her mother's guidance? And when it seems things can't get any worse, they do.

Join Terry and her friends (Maude, Fraser, and Zach), as they try to survive high school, solve a 50-year-old mystery, save Terry's dad from a deadly threat, and maybe even manage to complete their class project and find time for a date. Plenty of suspense, murky motives, personal and ancient history, drama, romantic tension, and bad guys/gals. Recommended for ages 12+ who enjoy mystery, a smidgen of romance, and stories where the protagonist rises above challenges.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 1


This isn't the Scooby-Doo that you grew up with. This is the end of the world as we know it.

The characters have the same appearance, names, and similar personalities, but they are in a different setting. Daphne has a cable show investigating mysteries and Freddy is her cameraman. Shaggy is a dog trainer and works in a military "smart dog" experiment, and Scooby is one of the project's dogs. Velma is a PhD researcher with the project. And the Mystery Machine is a pet project of one of the researchers and is more like the APC from the movie "Aliens" than the groovy van from the Saturday morning cartoons. 

When all the characters come together, they discover that a plague of sorts has been released and is mutating people around the world. And the sad part is, the cause of the plague was supposed to "better" humanity (shades of "Serenity"), but instead folks have different reactions, becoming strange creatures. Between the mutants roaming around, the breakdown of civilization, and the pack of other "smart dogs" that escape from the military complex, the gang will have a hard time staying alive - much less finding a cause and a cure.

Revamped for a new generation of fans with a level of violence and gore best suited to ages 12+. Those readers will also be mature enough to understand the concepts of conspiracy, suspicion, pursuing ideals, and the sarcastic humor. A favorite example: Velma, "Please! This isn't a comic book!" Shaggy, "It's sure starting to feel like one."

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 DC Universe Rebirth Volume 1 Samplers


This sampler gives readers a taste of the story-lines within the DC Universe Rebirth. Son of Superman shows the "Smith" family living quietly on their farm as young Jonathan tries to control his burgeoning powers. I Am Gotham has Batman flying into the air to rescue a passenger jet hit by a missile. As he works on guiding the plane toward a safer landing Alfred jokes with him, "Yes, sir. Awaiting your stability. As always." The Lies finds Wonder Woman searching for a way back to Themyscira, looking for answers in the Okarango Region of Bwunda. And, by amazing coincidence, Steve and his team happen to be in the same country on an op. Lightning Strikes Twice has Barry Allen as the Flash trying to be everywhere at once, which is impossible even with his speed. He is still working forensics for the police department and keeping his secret identity under wraps. The Extinction Machines finds the entire Justice League battling an ELE with major earthquakes and tsunamis striking simultaneously across the world. And each of them is confronted by people saying they are part of the Kindred and they want their stolen powers back. Better than Batman has Dick Grayson swinging back into action as Batwing, but having to work with a sinister organization who have gained his compliance by threatening the life of Damian, a.k.a. Robin. And, in The Death and Life of Oliver Queen, Oliver seems to be facing trouble on multiple fronts - his possible relationship with the Black Canary, his half-sister Emi wanting to leave school, and the discovery of corruption at Queen Enterprises. What's a poor little rich boy to do?

Each story is just a chapter, a quick taste to whet your appetite and let you see the artwork, the characterization, and the plot lines that are being developed. If you have any interest in the characters, you will want to read the entire story arc for each one after these appetizers.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Winter Reading 2017 Elementary, She Read (A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery)


Welcome to 222 Baker Street, West London, New England, home of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. Proprietor Gemma Doyle's uncle purchased the building, after failing to convince the owner of 221 Baker Street to sell. Then he began his bookshop, which Gemma now runs and co-owns, as well as Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room next door. Just that might be enough to lure into reading, but in case it isn't...  Gemma shares many characteristics with the Great Detective. She sees and observes. She notices patterns and occurrences that others overlook. She also has problems with personal relationships due to her hyper-attentiveness and a lack of some social skills. But when there is a mysterious murder in the quiet town of West London with Gemma and her bet friend Jayne finding the body, Gemma uses the skills she does have to assist in the investigation. Well, she tries to assist but the police rather firmly tell her to leave it to them. Typical.

Everything about this book will pull you in if you are the least bit interested in Sherlock, whatever the incarnation. The bookshop sells books and movies from all the various writers and actors that have added to his legend. There is the shop's cat, Moriarty. And the fact that the murder victim seems to have possessed a rare copy of the first ever appearance of Sherlock in print just adds to the  layers surrounding the motive and perpetrator of the crime. I haven't read any of the authors other mysteries, but I plan to grab Bookshop Mystery #2 as soon as I see it.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 One Week in the Library


Imagine a man living in a library. He has always been there; there are various stories of his arrival there and he cannot leave. What would his days be like? He would be surrounded by books all day, every day. Would his relationship with the books be different than ours? 

The creators of One Week in the Library have made a graphic novel that also mixes in infographics, pages of text, poetry, lots of references to other works, and some metafictional scenes, too. Each day of the week shows a trip to a different section of the library and a different experience. For instance, on Friday he meets a wooden boy very much like Pinocchio and Saturday he eats porridge in the company of Ursas Major, Medium, and Minor. 

I liked the graphics of Sunday's that show that the "library is an indeterminate number of protean quadrate galleries." All sorts of mathematical terms are thrown around - things like contranimbuses and perpendiculums. And the explanation that the books are not written in ink, but in "the very blood of the living stories held within that makes the pages readable - we call this hemo-fictive illumination." 

My least favorite day was Monday, which shows a frightful variation on Charlotte's Web in which the spider writes the word "Terrible" and the farmer ends up eating bacon. That one gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The many references to stories are like an Easter egg hunt for avid readers. There are mentions of the wardrobe to Narnia, Alice and the Looking Glass, even Morpheus offering little red pills. There are clever allusions in the names of the characters. Larry is the one who becomes Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), Hadder runs a board room that is reminiscent of the Mad Hatter's tea party, and Mr. Pilar smokes constantly like the caterpillar with the hookah in Wonderland. And the illustrations feed into this too. Even the Millenium Falcon and the Enterprise show up at some point.

Several statements in the book would make great quotes on bookmarks or posters. "There's always a better story. It takes just a tiny red pill...A stumble through the looking glass...A journey through the back of a wardrobe...The borders are porous, you see. Break on through to the other side."

Books like this help readers to break on through. Have fun on the trip!

I received an e-galley from the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2017 Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe


Mike Massimino, "Mass," has written a captivating memoir of his quest to become an astronaut and his life serving as an astronaut with NASA. He paints a clear picture for us of the 7-year-old boy in his homemade astronaut outfit clutching the Snoopy astronaut doll that his big brother gave him. Then he takes us through the events that encouraged him to pursue that dream and the obstacles he overcame in order to become a "spaceman." Everything from his fear of heights, passing the qualifying exam for his Ph.D. program, the freeze on flights after the Challenger was lost, and even the problem of correcting his eyesight are shown and put into the path of that small boy making his way to the shuttle. 

One of the things that really makes the book enjoyable is the "guy next door" personality of Mass. As he says, he was the most all-around in situations his whole life. He was the guy good enough at sports to talk to the jocks, the kid whose grades were good enough to hang with the smart students, etc. And that ability to fit in and be genuinely interested in other people is what we see as he tells his story. He pulls us in and makes us a part of his circle of friends.

Another fun thing is the references to pop culture. He talks about his reaction to watching the moon landing, "The Right Stuff," and other space related media up to the movie "Armageddon" and his own cameo appearances on "The Big Bang Theory." He mentions books he enjoyed as a child like the science fiction of Jules Verne, and the musical groups he loaded on his iPod to listen to during his shuttle missions. Mass even discusses what it was like to be the first astronaut to tweet from space. (Check out his Twitter feed at

But the thing that really comes through is his love for space and his feeling of belonging to the greatest team that you could possibly want to join. Anecdotes about the ways in which the space community - and the astronauts in particular - support each other, are crowded into the pages. Mass credits his father and watching him work with the New York Fire Department with building his belief that "whatever you do in life, it can't just be about making money. It's important that you work to make the world a better place, that you help improve the lives of the people around you." And he also helps us grasp the majesty of space, the image of the Earth as a spaceship carrying us all, and the drive to expand human knowledge.

I will warn you that many of the stories will make you teary-eyed, or downright make you cry. I went through lots of Kleenex reading about the loss of the Columbia, his father's fight with cancer, and the other sad events. But I also teared up over his triumphs like making the cut to become an astronaut in training or his first spacewalk. This is a story that you cannot read without responding to it.

You may check the publisher's website for more information about the book and an author biography.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.