Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World


I am very impressed by all six of the women included in this book. I had heard of Eugenie Clark and Katherine Johnson, but the others were to me. Each of these women had to work around the system that would have kept them from their chosen careers due to their gender, and sometimes their race, too. If you are someone who gets frustrated by stories of inequity and prejudice, then you may need to do some deep breathing while you read Super Women. Eugenie Clark was held for questioning by the FBI due to her Japanese ancestry and lost her place on a research trip to the Philippines because of it. Katherine Johnson and other African American computers had to eat in a segregated dining room at NACA. Gertrude Elion's applications to graduate school were turned down because she was a woman. Marie Tharp wasn't even allowed on ocean research vessels because she was female. Margaret  Burbidge had to pretend to be her husband's research assistant to get access to Mount Wilson Observatory (although she wasn't allowed to use the restroom while she was there). And Florence Hawley Ellis had to fight against the belief that archaeology was men's work and too hot and dirty for women.

It's hard to imagine how they managed to keep their composure and accomplish all they did despite all the obstacles that were placed in their paths. Author Laurie Lawlor details the route that each woman took to make their incredible contribution to science - in drug research, zoology, research mathematics, astronomy, archaeology, and cartography. Quotes from the women, archival photos, and other background information bring their careers and personalities to life for readers. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes, index, and photo credits. A welcome addition to biographies of famous scientists.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings, #1)


Fans of Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid stories will be glad to see the start of a new series. While they will recognize Hearne's usual attention to detail and intricate plotting, this time they will be experiencing an entirely new setting. The kennings refer to powers or blessings that individuals from each of the realms may receive after passing through a deadly trial. There are five known kennings, with tales that a sixth and even a seventh may exist but have yet to be found. The five include air, water, earth, fire, and plants. So a person with the air kenning might be able to hold him/herself aloft in the wind and travel without touching the ground, or one with water powers might be able to breathe underwater, etc. The culture of each realm is greatly influenced by these kennings, but it will take all of them to even have a hope of defeating the giants who attack across the continent.

The tale of the invasion and the battles against the giants are told in a unique way by a bard who travels from one realm to another. Along the way he gathers more bits of the story and adds them to his performance, similar in a way to the collected reports and observations of World War Z. The action jumps from one realm to another, with a different key personality as the focus in each area of the conflict. This jumping from scene to scene keeps readers eager to return to favorite characters and their part in the action. In addition to the incredible world building with all the realms, kennings, and cultures, the characters themselves are fascinating and compelling. Whether it is a sedentary scholar caught up in trying to translate the giants' language, or a scout looking for a way to stop the enemy advance, each of them is a distinct and memorable individual.

Readers who enjoy tales of armed combat, mental or supernatural powers, honor and sacrifice should pick up a copy of this book, and then pre-order the next one.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Harley's Little Black Book


Collecting issues #1 - 6, this compilation features stories of super-powered team-ups with some of the biggest names in the DC Universe. Harley Quinn battles drug lords and evildoers while attempting to bond with Wonder Woman. (Can you imagine the two of them as besties trying on each other's clothes?) She has an adventure with Green Lantern after purchasing a red and black power ring online. Harley sees dead people, and so does new friend Zatanna as they try to save some spirits being tormented in the spirit world. Superman and Harley have a no holds barred boxing match to save planet Earth. A trip to Superman's arctic retreat leads to a bit of pilfering that leaves Harley in possession of the ability to travel through dimensions. She manages to visit World War II and meet the Bombshells - Catwoman, Batwoman, Big Barda, Zatanna, and even a version of  herself. Then she finds herself on a spaceship boarded by Lobo and Dawg, before they are forced to spend time on an unknown planet.

Whether you have imagined Harley teamed up with any of these characters, or always thought that she could never be a team player, this series is full of action, humor, and plenty of attitude. Everything from her fan girl collection of super hero items, her discussions with her stuffed beaver, and her insatiable appetite for hot dogs and pizza comes together to round out the depiction of this anti-hero. Not for the very young; there is plenty of language, violence, nudity, and sexual innuendo. Fans who fell for Harley in the movie "Suicide Squad" will enjoy these outings with other DCU names.

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Arrow of Lightning (Killer of Enemies #3)


I first heard Killer of Enemies described as "post-apocalyptic Apache steam-punk" and I had to read it. The main character Lozen, can track, hunt, and fight with all the skill of her Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo ancestors. She and her family and friends live in a PC world. Not politically correct, but Post Cloud. A strange silvery cloud from space has enveloped the planet and there is no longer anything electromagnetic (hence the steam-punk).

In this third installment of her story, Lozen and some others have escaped from the compound ruled by tyrannical overlords and established a community for themselves. But those rulers are intent on revenge and send various attacks to kill Lozen and the others while also plotting to kill off each other and become the sole ruler. There are also still genetically modified creatures (gemods), that have escaped from the zoos and collections that were contained by electric fences and other gadgets. The characters have to defend themselves against giant crawdads, enormous spiders, and things like camelions that are part camel and part lion. There is also the mercenary Luther Four Deaths who went missing after a battle with Lozen and may also be coming for revenge.

Throughout the series Lozen has added to her combat training and skill with weapons and martial arts. Readers of the first two books will have seen the development of mental powers that she exercises and works to strengthen. Telepathy is just one of these skills; a warning sense of impending danger also comes in handy. In a quiet moment, Lozen speculates that the lack of electricity has allowed these powers to flourish. Not that there are many quiet moments, but still...

I highly recommend the entire series to any readers who like action, adventure, post-apocalyptic settings, female characters that can kick butt and maintain their attitude, or books that show how Native American stories and traditions find a place in whatever setting or time period the action happens to take place. Bruchac weaves in stories and beliefs from various tribes in a way that fits with the internal logic of the story.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Night Witches: A Novel of World War II


Told as the personal recollections of sixteen-year-old "Valya," Night Witches is the story of the brave female pilots who helped the Russians defeat the Nazi invasion during World War II. Valya and her family are in Stalingrad when it is besieged by the Nazis. Her father is a pilot, MIA. Her sister joins the Night Witches, and Valya is left at home with her grandmother and mother. When she finally joins her sister in the 588th Regiment, she works hard to prove she is ready to be a pilot, too.

From the conditions in Stalingrad - children fighting in the trenches, starvation - to those on the front - frostbite, exhaustion, constant danger- the book makes clear what war is really like for those caught up in it. The deprivations, the noise and dirt, the lack of niceties we take for granted, and the loss of friends and family to enemy fire are all experienced by Valya and those around her. It also shows that the Russian people were aware that Stalin was not all that different from Hitler, with the NKVD, SMERSH, and thousands at a time that he ordered sent to the gulags.

Lasky also shows that there can be bonding and friendships that develop during times of shared danger and purpose, and that a smiling face can hide deception. The incongruous sight of deadly pilots calmly embroidering by the fire, or a sniper risking his life to save someone, make it clear that people are always more complicated than we first believe. The use of Valya's references to favorite children's books sharpens the contrast between her life during the war and the peaceful years before it came. As she tried to find a way to the airbase through the troops ringing Stalingrad, "it looms as sparkling as the Emerald City of Oz, and the frozen river is my yellow brick road." And when she is finally on her way, she feels that the "Darlings' nursery window has indeed blown wide open, and I feel myself jumping on the back of the wind."

Some readers may not associate the author of the Ga'hoole stories with her works of historical fiction, but she is a master storyteller in both types of writing. Her use of imagery helps create the atmosphere. In Night Witches, Valya's mother is a violinist and she wishes that her daughter would also have been a musician. As Valya fights in the trenches, she thinks, "So now I am playing a DP-28 machine gun. A staccato nocturne." Balancing between the tension of the bombing runs, the hopes of reunion for the sisters, and the devastation of their country by the troops, the story carries us along through all the ups and downs as if we too were borne on the wings of the Night Witches. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Giveaway: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

And we have landed on #5 in the giveaways. This is a great YA novel I picked up in hardback at ALA Midwinter this year. As awesome as it is, it doesn't really belong in my elementary school library collection, so please help it find a good home.

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Check back soon to see what else I have found in my cleaning and reorganizing.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Giveaway: The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

Day four of the giveaway spree and I'm getting closer to seeing the top of my desk. Today I have an ARC of Erin McCahan's The Lake Effect. A perfect summer read with YA romance at the lake shore. Enter to win and good luck!

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Stay tuned for more giveaways in the days ahead.  :-)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Giveaway: Girls Like Me by Lola St.Vil

And we're already at giveaway #3 in the midst of this summer cleaning frenzy here in my office. Enter below, and good luck!

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Keep on believing - there are more books for future giveaways.  :-)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Giveaway: Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss

As promised, here's the second giveaway of an ARC found while straightening my home office. Enter below, and good luck!

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More giveaway goodies to come, so stay tuned!

Summer Reading 2017 The Goblins of Bellwater


In the Pacific Northwest, Kit works as an auto mechanic by day and tries to pacify the goblin tribe with gold on full moon nights. Despite all his efforts, they still lure humans into the forest and play their (sometimes deadly) tricks on them. When local resident Skye becomes mixed up in a goblin curse, then Kit, his cousin Grady, and Skye's sister Livy are also pulled into the conflict. Can four humans find a way to outwit a goblin leader who has been playing her tricks for centuries?

Unlike many urban fantasies, Ringle's tale does not have humans yearning to enter the other world. Instead, these humans want to hold onto their humanity, even though they are not sure how to do so. Mixing elements of tales about goblins, other fae, the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest, and a family curse, the story also deals with human problems like job hunting, dating, and pursuing dreams. The details of the setting are worked in cleverly through Livy's job with the Forest Service, as well as part of the trials the characters must go through to try and gain their freedom. Creatures from the treetops to the depths of Puget Sound make appearances, and sometime serve as the bodies of the fae.

It's not all despair and fighting against an unwanted fate. There are elements of humor sprinkled along the way to lighten the mood. Just imagine goblins demanding their own milk steamer so they can make fancy coffee, or a chain saw artist carrying off driftwood illegally while rangers look the other way because the artist is a part of the local color. What about the goblin tradition of being named for the first item they steal? In a modern world that could be real trouble for an immortal being. Imagine being called iPad forever. Eww!

Readers who enjoy urban fantasy and new takes on the traditional fairy dwellers of old tales should find plenty to enjoy in this original story of lovers, curses, and the strength of mortals when battling for those dearest to them.

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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Giveaway: Gutless by Carl Deuker

Hello, one and all! We're halfway through summer break here in East Tennessee and I have been using some of those precious days off to reorganize my home office. The upside to all that effort is a host of new giveaways that are First up, an ARC of Carl Deuker's Gutless. Enter below, and good luck!

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P.S. Stay tuned for more giveaways as I continue with my cleaning spree.  :-)

Summer Reading 2017 Venturess (Mechanica #2)


In Mechanica we were introduced to a complex world with the kingdoms of Faerie and Esting so different from each other and so intriguing. The folk from the Faerie kingdom are re-imagined in a way that shows them as distinctly nonhuman, however humanoid their appearance can be. The magic of Faerie and the mechanical, gear-driven inventions of Esting are as unlike as their creators. And there is Nicolette, our heroine - intelligent, inventive, and so lonely and mistreated since the deaths of her parents. Our hearts can't help but long for her success and happiness.

Now we have Venturess, the second of Nicolette's adventures. After the events in Mechanica, Nick moves from her childhood home and into the city. She lives near her friends Fin and Caro and has a workshop of her own to make her inventions and sell them. When Fin's father agrees to an attempt to negotiate a peace with Faerie, Nick and Caro climb aboard the airship with Fin and set off for the land across the sea. Incredible sights await them, along with discoveries about Nick's past, but so do danger, treachery, and battle. Can their love and friendship see them through all these hazards and into a future where the two realms are at peace?

The wonderment of all the mechanical gadgets (clockwork and otherwise), and the magic of Faerie will dazzle the imaginations of readers. Familiar characters from the first novel such as Fitz, Bex, Lord Alming, and Mr. Candery appear, along with our trio of heroes and Nick's trusty steed Jules. New personalities include the airship's crew, its captain (Wheelock), and the Faerie ruler Talis. Questions of loyalty, duty, love, friendship, and the meaning of family are all addressed by Nick and her companions, and readers will ponder them as they enjoy the story. After all, every good fairy tale has something to teach us.

I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys fairy tale reworkings, mixtures of magic and mechanics, and young adults who are brave enough to reach for their dreams.

The publisher was kind enough to supply a galley for me to read and review.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation


Did you ever have to write a report on a president when you were in school? I remember writing about Thomas Jefferson when I was in third grade. I was impressed with all his accomplishments, and had a hard time figuring out the pronunciation of Monticello. But the only sources back then were the biographies in the school library, or the family edition of World Book Encyclopedia. Those books barely mentioned the explorers he sent out to map the Louisiana Territory, mostly just their names and the dates of their expeditions. If you had the same experience, there is now a cure for our lack of information - Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster.

In her book, Fenster traces the events and world politics that led up to the Louisiana Purchase. She explains the personalities involved - Jefferson, Napoleon, Carlos IV, Talleyrand, Godoy, Grenville - and the posturing and empire building they were attempting in North America. Mixed in with the international scene, there were also the internal politics of the United States. Jefferson's service under Washington, his own presidency, the famous Burr-Hamilton duel, and other events and relationships are painted in as the backdrop of the action along the western frontier. 

It seems amazing that so many people had so many different schemes and personal agendas. When we look back at the times of the founding fathers, we tend to imagine that everyone was pulling together for the good of our fledgling nation. We are surprised to hear that the government was run by human beings rather than saints, and that they played power games and backed pet projects just as politicians do today. And it may seem callous to us that Jefferson would send men out to explore when he knew that the other nations with territories outside the U.S. borders might kill them on sight. But each man who answered his call "was hungrier than all those he left behind to see the New World of his generation - the American West."

Jefferson's explorers were successful to varying degrees, and they received varying amounts of fame and recognition for their efforts. Some became household names, like Lewis & Clark. Others, such as Thomas Freeman, tend to be forgotten outside of history classrooms. They were not just filling in blank spaces on a map, or meeting native tribes and establishing lines of communication. These men were helping the president to "bring forward in place of his words the color of the rock, the words of the chiefs, the direction of the water, and the fact that the American mind had met its frontier." Jefferson needed to appease the critics who disagreed with the money spent on the territory, as well as feed the popular curiosity about what the west was like. 

The text of the book does a wonderful job of making the personalities of these historical figures come alive, and to toggle back and forth between the various expeditions to give a sense of how much was going on in so many different directions at once. It is easy to see why some details were left out of the World Book articles. Most parents wouldn't approve of their children learning about the reputation Sacajawea's husband had for "interfering with underage girls." And Ellicott's ploy of bringing his own "harlot" on a surveying mission by passing her off as his washerwoman wouldn't really be a fact to include in an elementary school report.

Along with all the details about the explorers and what they found, the author also puts the whole situation into a context that modern minds can appreciate. Yes, these men risked their lives to travel where few Europeans or their descendants had gone, but it was more than that. As Fenster puts it, this was a cold war of the early nineteenth century. "In the last part of the twentieth century,the entry into space served the same purpose in a climate just as tense between the United States and the Soviet Union." A-ha, now we get it.

Anyone interested in general U.S. history, early American heroes, or the Jefferson presidency will enjoy this thoughtfully written text. Some readers who do not normally turn to nonfiction may find themselves absorbed in the tales of pirogue portages (say that three times quickly), log jams, and grizzly bears.

There is more information about the author and the book available on the publisher's website. The hardback copy came out last spring. The books is now available in a paperback edition.

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 The Hidden Machinery


Author Margot Livesey shares the lessons she has learned about being a writer in this essay collection. Each section begins with a quote from a famous author such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Epicurus, or George Herbert. She also uses examples from well-known pieces of literature to illustrate her points. Other writers might have chosen to only use their own work as the examples, but Livesey has chosen to refer to works that are widely known and often considered classics as well as pulling from her own writing. It makes an interesting balance and shows how the principles of writing apply across generations of writing past and present. 

There is humor and honest self criticism. Talking about a novel she attempted to write and the problems she encountered, Livesey identifies one issue as her "failure to understand that irrelevance is a sin." She compares Aristotle's claim that "All human happiness and misery takes the form of action," with the advice "Show don't tell." Everything from dialogue, setting, characters, plot - any of the pieces that go together to create a piece of writing that speaks to readers - are discussed and examples are shown and analyzed. 

A useful book to read for any aspiring writer or anyone interested in the craft from the perspective of an informed reader. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Summer Reading 2017 Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights


We've all heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Emmeline Pankhurst and their efforts on behalf of suffrage for women. But in the rush to cover all the topics in the history curriculum standards, they may be the only figures that are introduced in class. The new biography of Alice Paul will expand library collections and offer those interested in the suffragettes a new heroine to learn about. From her first introduction to the topic in a lecture by Christabel Pankhurst, to details on the hunger strikes and other tactics Miss Paul used to gain attention and support for the cause, the details of her years leading the fight for woman suffrage are a fascinating tale. Reading of the infighting and friction between Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association and between the NAWSA and the National Woman's Party is a big surprise. It seems so strange that the two groups wanted the same results, but couldn't cooperate with each other.

Anyone interested in the work that went into the national right to vote for women and how that crusade also fed into the push for the Equal Rights Amendment, should read this book. Paul was a determined, tenacious, and intelligent adversary to those who opposed her goals. Delving into all the obstacles she conquered, the hardships she endured, and the solutions she devised, will impress readers and earn their respect.

I received an advance copy for review purposes from the publisher.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Solo


Kwame Alexander's first YA novel blends his style of novels in verse with teenage angst and a journey of self-discovery. Blade Morrison is salutatorian at his high school, all set to head off to college in the fall. He plans to do that with his girlfriend Chapel, although her parents have forbidden them to see each other. The reason? Blade's father is a rock star who is frequently in and out of rehab and the tabloid headlines. When his father publicly embarrasses him once again, Blade sets off to find his roots. So he heads from Hollywood to Ghana.

The story unfolds through a mix of song lyrics Blade writes, texts between the characters (Blade, Chapel, Blade's sister and father), and poetic narrative stretches. Along with the usual teenage search for identity and independence, the story also deals with themes of betrayal, loss, love, forgiveness, celebrity lifestyles, and what makes a family.

Although it has such meaningful content, it is a quick read due to the way the verse carries you along. Meant for YA and too mature for younger readers, Solo is another masterpiece by Alexander. Readers who are music buffs will enjoy the references to musicians and particular songs that are scattered throughout the book. (They may also wince over the fate of a certain Eddie Van Halen Frankenstrat.)

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

Summer Reading 2017 Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery #5)

Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery #5)

Jamie Quinn is back in action and things don't slow down for the entire story. When she visits an assisted living home to meet some prospective clients, she never imagines she will wind up in a murder investigation. (Of course, knowing Jamie, we are not surprised.) It's a good thing that she is an insomniac because there are not enough hours in the day to deal with everything that is going on. Someone seems to be killing off residents at the home, a friend asks her to look into a forged piece of art his father purchased thinking it was real since it had a certificate of authenticity with it, she's hired to do legal seminars, she's invited to a birthday party of 8-year-old girls, her best friend Grace is dating her frenemy Nick, her boyfriend Nick is still in Australia saving the wombats, and her father is still waiting for his visa to be approved so he can come to the United States. How can one girl fit it all in? Jamie manages to squeeze everything into her busy days, and she has some help from friends like PI Duke Broussard.

Readers of earlier adventures will recognize the trademark way that trouble always seems to find Jamie and suck her in. Her klutziness and scatterbrained ways haven't changed, nor has her relationship with her mother's cat Mr. Paws (aka Mr. Pain in the Ass). We can laugh at her antics, worry over her safety as she tries to track down a killer, and ache for her loneliness while Kip is out of the country. Fast-paced and fun, this is an enjoyable mystery.

I received a copy from the author for review purposes.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters

What creates meaning in our lives? How do we know that our lives matter? These are questions that many people wonder about at some time in their years here on Earth. Great thinkers throughout the ages have pondered these ideals and offered the truth as they perceived it. And many are still trying to find the answer today, or turning to despair when they feel there is no meaning to be had. Smith begins in the way this search does fro each of us, with her own experiences. From memories of her childhood time around Sufi darvishes, reading great thinkers like Aristotle and Freud, to visits with speakers from The Moth, she pulls out threads from each source and weaves them together to form a complete picture - a tapestry of what makes a meaningful life. 

In her presentation, she describes four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. She gives multiple examples of how each pillar manifests itself, with quotes from sources such as researchers, artists, and authors. These exemplars are not only from past masterworks of literature or science, but from contemporary groups and individuals who are pursuing meaning in their own lives and trying to help others find it, too. And then she goes on to explain how finding these pillars and strengthening them can lead to personal growth and a way to improve the world around us. Whether it is the soul searching of Holocaust survivors like Frankl, or terminally ill patients in modern medical trials, the stories are honest and poignant.

Whether you are curious about what makes a life matter, or enjoy philosophical discussions of a meaningful existence, this book offers many different viewpoints and paths to take. Some may resonate more with one read than they do with others, but there is plenty to think about. And a little soul-searching is a good way to start this journey.

Visit the publisher's website for more information about the book or the author. You may also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Dot-to-Hot Darcy: 40 Literary Lovers and Heart-throbs


Dot-to-Hot Darcy is a combination of scenes from literature, with a romantic "heart-throb" in dot-to-dot form to occupy each page spread. Along with the illustrations, there is a brief synopsis of the the character, what book he is found in, and commentary on his traits. Reading the text is like listening to a really clever friend explain what she likes and dislikes about each of these figures. Pontmercy from Les Miserables resembles an app "programmed for romance." Bolkonsky from War and Peace earns "#hotprince." And we are informed that Laurie from Little Women "should feel ashamed" for picking the wrong sister.

This is not a Cliff's Notes version of the books that are referenced. Instead, this is an entertaining look at major romantic figures from 40 different pieces of literature. With its combination of dot-to-dot pictures, coloring pages, and witty character analysis, it is the perfect companion for a rainy afternoon, a sick day spent on the couch, or an evening with friends and chocolate. 

I received a sample from the publisher for review purposes.

Spring Reading 2017 In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs


When my father died two years ago, my brother and I talked about his influence on us as we were growing up. Dad was a computer programmer; my brother earned a double graduate degree in mathematics and computer science, while I run coding and robotics programs at my elementary school. Dad loved to read; we are both avid readers. But one of the earliest influences he had on us besides reading, was music. He loved music and performed in many church groups, and there were often records playing in the house when we were young (yes, vinyl). The majority of the albums were by gospel or folk groups, but Dad also had The Beatles. And that is where our love of rock and roll began.

Reading through the essays in this book was like having conversations with my brother about the different songs. Remembering the first time we realized this was a different type of music than The Kingston Trio or Simon and Garfunkel. Noticing songs on the car radio that we had heard on the stereo at home and singing along. Thinking of the first time we managed to play one of the songs on the piano or guitar. Laughing over the memories together.  Famous authors and musicians may have written the essays, but there is an inclusiveness about them that pulls you in as you read. We all have similar memories of where we were when we first discovered a Beatles album (whatever the medium), or a story about our favorite song. The remembrances of how a specific song connects to a life event or loved one are also something communal that we can add to with our own memories.

If you are a Beatles fan of any age, or simply interested in rock history and its impact on culture, then you should pick up a copy of this book. The discussions of how the group changed the face of popular music and how the songs changed as they matured as musicians and explored new techniques are interesting even to those of us not in the industry. Putting the essays in chronological order by the release date of the songs was a great idea. Even though the authors may have come to each song at different points between its release and the present day, we can still see the group's evolution over the years. And it reinforces the point that The Beatles have a continuing impact on those who have been listeners all their lives, those who have only recently discovered an affinity for their work, and everyone in between.

I highly recommend this book for young adults and up. (There are some instances of language that keep it from being ideal for a younger audience.)   I received access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

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.