Saturday, June 23, 2018

REVIEW: Danger Rising

Danger Rising
Author: E. D. Richards

Climate change has devastated the world by 2100, but mankind is working to repair the damage. There are stiff penalties for breaking environmental laws, science has developed cleaner power, transportation, medicine and product packaging, and great strides have been made to clean up the planet. But, it might be too late. Dr. Abbey Bertrand has been called in to investigate a strong earthquake in Antarctica and the emergency system that failed to operate when needed. It turns out the situation is much more complex than just a failing earthquake defense system. A group of ecoterrorists want to destroy the planet. Can Abbey and her fellow scientists stop the evil plan in time?

I enjoy disaster suspense stories. I'm always up for a good earthquake, global warming, asteroid, plague, out of control tech or other scientists-come-running-to-save-the-planet action tales. For the most part, this was an interesting and entertaining read. But, there were many places where the plot, pseudo-science and thinly veiled political commentary got to be just too much. While I believe our current president has some real issues, the constant hints of Trump bashing/blaming really made me roll my eyes while reading this book. California became a wasteland that was passed off to Russia for awhile and now is home to a huge bank of solar panels. Climate change got out of hand during the worst presidency in the history of the United States. On and on. Ok....we get it. The author is not a Trump fan. The political jabs really pulled me out of the story. Not to mention impossible science.....like injecting lubricating gel between tectonic plates to lessen the severity of earthquakes and freezing large expanses of ocean to lower the planet's temperature....kept me from really getting into this story like I wanted to.  The writing is a bit hit and miss as well. In places, the story flowed perfectly. And in others I found the style choppy and in need of editing. That all being said.....I still enjoyed the story and the characters. Could it have been better? Yes. Is it all bad? No, not at all.

I like Abbey Bertrand as a main character, but my favorite character, by far, was her grandmother. Both are strong female characters. The other characters, especially the "bad guys'' tend a bit to the melodramatic side, but that's really a given in any disaster story. The evil doers construct grandiose plans to bring about destruction and fight to protect their wicked plans to the bitter end. I think it's that melodrama and over-the-top villainy that draws me to stories like this. The heroes always emerge victorious in the end....or do they?? Read the book to find out. :)

This book has some flaws that kept me from getting completely lost in the story. It might have benefitted from another round of editing. The science involved really gets to be a bit much, but this is a futuristic, environmental disaster story......I think I can let a bit of cheesy science go by without analyzing it to death.

All in all, an entertaining read. Some weak spots, but still a good story. There are some exciting action scenes involving much butt-kicking and narrow escapes.

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**




Friday, June 22, 2018

REVIEW: Convenience Store Woman

Convenience Store Woman
Author: Sayaka Murata

Keiko has always felt different. She reacts to emotions, social situations and just life in general a little bit differently than anyone else. Since her early childhood, her family has tried to "fix'' her, lamenting Keiko's odd behaviors and habits. Keiko feels her job is one of the best things that ever happened to her. One day 18 years ago she found the convenience store and applied for a job there, and she's been letting what she learns there form her life and reactions to people ever since. She uses convenience store greetings, eats convenience store foods and lives a convenience store life. However, being past 30 and working what others see as a deadend, low job has her family once again looking down on her. Poor Keiko....no marriage, no children, no future. What are they going to do about Keiko? And what is Keiko going to do to appease them?

This book is different and an absolutely enjoyable read. I love stories that are creative, different and not like anything I've read before. This story definitely surprised me, and kept me reading. Keiko is odd, but she learns how to deal with life, people and her family. She likes her job....but others keep telling her that her life isn't enough. She ponders how to solve the problem, and makes mistakes. It's very hard to pretend to be like everyone else when you aren't like them at all. I was afraid what the ending of this story might bring, but the ending was perfect.

Convenience Store Woman is a lovely and bizarre story. Just like Keiko. Loved it! I'm glad this got translated from Japanese to English so I could enjoy the story! :) I hope they translate more of her books!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Grove Atlantic via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are completely my own.**




Thursday, June 21, 2018

REVIEW: Bear Witness to Murder

Bear Witness to Murder
Author: Meg Macy

Sasha Silverman enjoys her job at the family business, the Silver Bear Shop & Factory. But she's a bit frazzled. Autumn is the start of their busy season...the Cranbeary Tea Party and the Oktobear Fest get the holiday season started. This year there's a bit more stress because an old high school rival has returned to town and opened a gift and book shop, directly competing with the Silver Bear Shop and the local bookstore. Holly Parker seems to want to cause as much drama as possible, at least where Sasha is concerned. Old high school rivalries never die? When Holly's shop assistant is found dead with a knife in her back, Sasha tries to resist doing any sleuthing. It only gets her into trouble. But as other incidents start happening around town, she realizes this is more than old high school problems or jealous business owners. Sasha wants to solve the case before anyone else is killed and Oktobear Fest is ruined.

I love this series. I'm not sure if it's the teddy bear theme (I have collected teddy bears since I was 6 years old), or the mix of humor and mystery...or maybe both? Bear Witness to Murder is the second book in the Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery series. This book was just as enjoyable as the first book in the series. I like Sasha as a main character. She's getting her life back together following a divorce and works hard at the family business. She has a good relationship with her sister Maddie who also works for the teddy bear factory. However, I don't really care for her relationship with her parents. Her mother is always trying to push her into going back to her ex-husband, who was a womanizing jerk. Why would any mother do that? And her father never sticks up for her. Just seems like a weird family dynamic.

I liked the Oktobear Fest theme. The teddy bear theme didn't over power the mystery, but just added some flavor to the story. The mystery kept my attention and had some interesting twists and clues. There is a little bit of romance sprinkled in amongst the sleuthing and fall festival-ing...just enough to round out the characters. All in all, a "beary'' enjoyable cozy mystery! I'm definitely going to keep reading this series. :)

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Along Came a Spider

Along Came a Spider
Author: James Patterson

James Patterson started his best-selling Alex Cross series in 1993 with Along Came a Spider. There are now 25 books in the series. PBS included the Alex Cross mysteries on its list of 100 books and series for The Great American Read. This prompted me to check out an audiobook of the first Alex Cross book and take a listen. Wow....I'm sorry it took me 25 years to try this series. I loved the character and the book!

Alex Cross is a metro detective in Washington, D.C. He's raising his two kids with the help of his grandmother who he affectionately calls Nana Mama. She raised him after he lost both his parents as a child. Things are dicey in D.C.  A poor black family is murdered in their home. Two children from an expensive day school are kidnapped. A teacher from the school is murdered. The crazed murderer and kidnapper keeps adding more crimes to his list, including shooting up a McDonalds restaurant. Cross wants to find the kids and capture the suspect. As he investigates he finds that this case involves a lot of politics and a plot that goes much further than a psycho math teacher.

Alex Cross is such a strong main character. He has his flaws, but he is dedicated to his job. He loves his Nana Mama and his kids. I enjoyed seeing the character develop throughout this thriller. He deals with prejudice, Washington politics and bureaucracy. I like the fact that he is a psychiatrist on top of being a detective. He's able to get into the heads of his suspects, and his background aided in the investigation of the kidnapping.

I'm definitely going to read more of this series! Once I started listening to this book, I couldn't stop. We are in the middle of painting our house, and Alex Cross kept me company while I worked a lot of hours outdoors. It made the time pass so quickly! Totally mesmerizing story! I did not see several twists coming. I love it when a thriller novel surprises me!

Along Came a Spider is the 10th book I have read from the 100 books listed for The Great American Read. I'm glad this series was included. I can see why it's been a best-selling series for decades. Very gritty and suspenseful!

This is the first book by James Patterson that I've read. I'm a bit late on the scene....but I'm definitely going to read more of this series, and other books by Patterson. Along Came a Spider was exciting, realisitic and quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

REVIEW: Jurassic Florida

Jurassic Florida
Author: Hunter Shea

I love B-movies...especially monster flicks. Godzilla, The Blob, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Sharknado......any cheesy movie with a deadly beastie in it, and I'm willing to watch. I think this applies to books as well because the minute I saw the title and cover art for this book, I put in a review request immediately. Giant lizards. Awesome!

The basics: Green iguanas begin popping up out of holes in Polo Springs, FL. The lizard problem is really starting to annoy the residents of the little town. But little do they know, those lizards are just babies......the big lizards are the ones they have to worry about. Well, that and the hurricane that's coming. Just as the storm hits, the town is attacked by giant, angry lizards. Will anyone survive?

This book is a short, easy read. It's definitely the book version of a B-movie....not long on plot and some cheesy action scenes, along with plenty of gratuitous gore. This book is brain candy -- something you read just for the entertainment value. I enjoyed it. It's nothing fancy, but it did entertain me. Fun, quick read....nice way to spend part of afternoon. The cover art is awesome! Reminds me of classic monster movie posters! :)

Hunter Shea has written other similar books including The Montauk Monster and The Jersey Devil. I enjoyed this lizard-filled adventure. I'm definitely going to check out more of Hunter Shea's books!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, June 16, 2018

REVIEW: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll

I read this book many times as a child and loved it. I enjoyed how the book used artwork, word art and font changes to make the story so much fun. And the characters....I was in love with the Cheshire cat immediately. And so many memorable lines to quote. :)

I decided to revisit this childhood favorite as part of The Great American Read (PBS). Because this is a re-read of a book I have read many, many times before, I decided to try an audio format. I was curious to see if some of the magic would be lost without the art and wonky words. And, I have to say I did miss that a little bit. But the magic spark is still there, even without a physical book in my hands. I enjoyed the Audible original version, narrated by Scarlett Johansson. She did a great job with the voices and silliness. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to understand every ridiculous, funny second of this audio book. :)

The basics: Alice is bored one summer afternoon, until she sees a white rabbit fretting about being late. A white rabbit isn't unusual...but one that talks, has a pocket watch and a waistcoat is pretty strange. She follows him down a rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland, a very mixed up, silly place. There is plenty of allegory under it all if you want to think about it.....if not, just enjoy the silly story and forget about the hints at adult concerns. :) Sometimes I read this book like a children's story....and sometimes I read this book like a children's story with darker underpinnings. I think I enjoy it better as a silly children's story where white rabbits, red queens and mad hatters are only what they seem to be and not something else entirely.

This story has inspired so many movies, plays, books, songs, poetry, art, video games......it's so original and so strange, but endearing and magical. It's one of those books that a person either loves, or hates. I love this book. Disappearing cats who leave their grins, crazy tea parties, vials of strange potions and all the topsy turvy nonsense.....   I loved it 40+ years ago and I love it now. :) Maybe it's because I'm just a bit mad. But then again, aren't we all just a bit mad?

Alice: Have I gone mad?
Mad Hatter: I'm afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are. 

Alice in Wonderland is the 9th book I've read/re-read from the list of 100 books chosen for The Great American Read. Check out the list here: http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#/  The list contains a wide variety of books that got people reading and talking about books! There really is something for everyone from much loved children's books to sci-fi, horror, fantasy and even erotica. Check it out!

On to the next!!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

REVIEW: Mockingjay

Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay is the exciting end of the Hunger Games Trilogy. The series made the list of 100 novels for The Great American Read. This is the 8th book I have read/re-read in my quest to make my way through the entire list.

I read the Hunger Games when it originally came out and loved it. I'm so glad I took the time to enjoy the books again.

In Mockingjay, the 12 Districts of Panem are in open revolt against the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen finds herself acting as The Mockingjay, a symbol of the uprising. But, starting a revolution has dire costs and the Capitol is going to fight hard to keep it's grip on Panem. There is a lot of action in this final book. It's my favorite of the series!

The Hunger Games is a YA series. There is no cursing or graphic sex. But the plot is dark and violent. The violence is not graphic, but there are descriptions of war, torture and death. I don't recommend this series for kids under 13. Hunger Games is one of my favorite YA series. It's well-written with plenty of important concepts to discuss with teens and adults reading the series -- war, life and death, the difficulty with being faced with choices that may cause others to die, totalitarian government and responsibilities of friendship and love.

I'm so glad this series is a part of the list for The Great American Read. The books got millions of teens and adults reading and talking about books! That's the whole purpose of GAR! I enjoyed re-reading this trilogy.