Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Meet Masanobu from All the Pretty Books!

Hey friends! As many of you know, this is BBAW 2016, which means I get to introduce you to my new friend, Masanobu, from All the Pretty Books. (I know, I know. We are a day behind schedule, but we live in very different time zones so cut us some slack!)

To get to know Masanobu a bit better, I asked her a few questions.

Me: It seems we are paired together for the BBAW interviews. I'd love to hear a bit about you and what kind of books you love best!

Masanobu: I'm a bookish 26-year-old from Spain, although right now I'm living in France (and yes, eating lots of crepes and pastries). I'm doing a PhD in Plant Physiology, which is why I'm not at home - I'm doing a lab stage to learn new lab techniques. The PhD is demanding, but I couldn't be happier with that choice, although it leaves less time than I'd like to for reading. I am quite eclectic when it comes to genres. Some of my faves are classics, sci-fi, fantasy, and comics. I'm quite partial to time-travelling or alternate history books, and I also enjoy reading sci-fi set up in dystopic worlds or during World War Two. If a book forces me to consider a different point of view, teaches me something or makes time fly by, I'm a happy reader.

What's really cool about this is that Masanobu and I actually both studied in Salamanca, Spain! How cool is that? It was a definite "Small World" moment.
Me: Wow! I'm impressed that you love literature so much as a scientist and have the time to review books. That's a rare breed!

Masanobu: Thank you for your kind words, but there are quite a few scientist-book bloggers who read a lot more than I do! Science is nice, but I like unwinding with books. If I can't read I become grumpy! Sometimes I wonder whether I should have studied English or Literature! 

Me: What got you fascinated with reading?

Masanobu: I have always read. I have always enjoyed stories - my parents and my sisters read to me literally since I was born. You could say it runs in the blood. But there were times when they couldn't or wouldn't read to me, so I decided I couldn't depend on them and apparently taught myself to read when I was 3. I haven't stopped since.

Me: How many languages do you speak/read in?

Masanobu: I speak Spanish, English, and French. Although I can read in the three of them, I do most of my reading in English and Spanish. I don't know of a good place to get good recommendations for French books that would be interesting to me.

Me: How did you start blogging?

Masanobu: I started book blogging back when LiveJournal was a cool thing. I then switched to Goodreads, but when Amazon bought it and they deleted some reviews, I thought about going back to a place that felt more mine. I still actively use Goodreads and post reviews there, but I enjoy the free format that a book blog offers. I enjoy writing discussion posts, doing readalongs and readathons, movie reviews, and bookish events like this one. I'm still trying to find the right content and voice for my blog. For the moment I'm focusing on building the habit to blog regularly.

Me: What was your favorite book as a kid?

Masanobu: Fairy tales and mythology. Perrault, Grimm, Ovid. It sounds weird, but I've always been fascinated by stories that have been around for a long time and passed from generation to generation. I like stories that try to make sense of the world with a bit of magic. I also loved Beatrix Potter's tales and Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree and Famous Five novels.


Me: What genre do you find yourself reading most recently?

Masanobu: Comics. Right now, grad school is getting most of my time and brain power. Comics are my comfort blanket.

Do you have questions for Masanobu? Post them in the comments or follow her on All the Pretty Books.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review of Virals, Book 4: Exposure by Kathy and Brendan Reichs

AuthorKathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs
Pages: 418
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Source: Birthday present (thanks Mom!)

Quick Summary
When twin classmates are abducted from Bolton Prep, Tory and the Virals decide there’s no one better equipped than them to investigate. But the gang has other problems to face. Their powers are growing wilder, and becoming harder to control. Chance Claybourne is investigating the disastrous medical experiment that twisted their DNA. The bonds that unite them are weakening, threatening the future of the pack itself. The Virals must decipher the clues and track down a ruthless criminal before he strikes again, all while protecting their secret from prying eyes. And everyone seems to be watching.
Opening Lines
"Beads of water tumbled from the darkness above. Drip. Drip. Drip. The girl shifted, angling her pale face away from the cascade. Sodden blond hair hung lank to her shoulders, filthy with grime and debris." 

My Thoughts
All I can say is that I really need to get my hands on a copy of TerminalI am dying to know how this series ends! While Virals started out a bit slow, by the time you get to Exposure you are all in. The mystery of what happened to the twins is baffling and terrifying. Tarot cards are left as clues, hinting at a sinister villain with a flare for the dramatic. And on top of it all, Chance is getting closer to figuring out the Virals' secret. This book is suspenseful and high energy to the last page. 

I think Tory grew a lot in this book. She is finally making female friends on the soccer team. She feels a little more comfortable in her skin at Bolton Prep. It seems like it is all coming together for her. Until Chance starts snooping around. Tory already feels guilty for making Chance think he's crazy, so she has a hard time seeing him search for the truth. It doesn't help that he's super attractive, and she can't seem to get that out of her head even thought he has played her before. Then her classmates go missing. How can she keep up with school, cotillion, soccer, Chance,  and an abductor? And to top it off, her powers start going crazy! Headaches, flaring in public, and unexpected lapses in power make for a difficult time as the Virals race to find their friends and stay one step ahead of Chance. 

Ben gains some depth to his character in this book too. It's obvious (to us) that he likes Tory as more than a friend, but doesn't want to mess up the dynamic of the group or risk losing her by telling her how he feels. Instead, he makes himself distant, pulling away from the group and trying to get Tory out of his head. But this leaves Tory confused and the Virals a man down. She can't see what is happening between them and why Ben acts the way that he does. Why does he seem to hate when Chance hangs around Tory? Why is he pulling away from her? There are some beautiful moments in this budding romance and some terrible heartache. I've been waiting for Ben and Tory to happen for four books now (and yes, I totally called it from book one), so these new developments are exciting!

Well, I can't say too much more without give away details of the mystery, so I guess I'll stop there. But one little disclaimer, this book leaves off in a cliffhanger. You definitely want to have Terminal close at hand when you finish!  

Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts.
Absolutely loved it!

About the Authors
Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and for the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec. She is one of only fifty forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and is on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. A professor of anthropology at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. at Northwestern. She now divides her time between Charlotte and Montreal and is a frequent expert witness in criminal trials.

After three long years working as a litigation attorney, Brendan Reichs (Kathy's son) abandoned the trade to co-write the Virals series. He continued to live in Charlotte with his beautiful wife, Emily, his mischievous son, Henry, and his baby daughter, Alice. He also has a playful pitbull mix named Soldier, and two ferocious cats, Fenway and Wrigley. Together, Kathy and Brendan completed the fifth and final book in the Virals series, Terminal, and it was released in March 2015. A Virals short story collection, Trace Evidence, was just released on February 2, 2016, with a brand new story, Spike, set after the events of Terminal. And he is happy to announce that he just agreed to a new two-book deal with Putnam for his debut solo YA series, Nemesis. Look for it in Spring 2017! He is also on the Executive Board of both the YALLFEST and YALLWEST young adult literary festivals. He plans to keep on writing novels until they drag him kicking and screaming from his desk.

Follow Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs at the links below:

Support the non-profit I work for (Family Life Services of Washtenaw County) or one of your choice by purchasing a copy of Exposure on Amazon Smile here

See what I thought about the other books in this series by clicking the pictures below:
See what people on Goodreads thought about the other books in this series that I haven't read/reviewed yet by clicking the pictures below:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Review of Romance is for Other People by Lee Wolf

TitleRomance is for Other People
AuthorLee Wolf
Pages: 199
Publication Date: May 2, 2015
Source: Copy from the author

Quick Summary
Chris Howard is content with being “Best Friends Forever” with Lydia Jamison, but Lydia secretly wants to go out with him. Meanwhile, Chris’ older cousin Jeremy and Amanda have a tumultuous love-hate relationship. After a recent fight with Amanda, Jeremy starts pursuing Lydia and refuses to leave her alone. Lydia is at first disgusted, because Jeremy has been a pest to both her and Chris in the past. Chris doesn't believe that Jeremy has a chance with Lydia, and does nothing about it. But as Jeremy refuses to give up his pursuit… 

Romance is for Other People is a unique novel told from first person from the point of view of two main characters: Chris and Lydia and their experiences with first love and first heartbreak.
Opening Lines
"I looked at Lydia, as she stopped at the poster at the end of the cafeteria buffet line." 

My Thoughts
Romance is for Other People seemed like a fitting story to discuss with Valentine's Day right around the corner. It's about two life-long friends who figure out they want to be more than friends, but their timing is off and there is a lot of the miscommunication and fear that comes with first love. It's a cute story, and I really liked the dynamic between Chris and Lydia. You can really tell how much their friendship means to them and what it's done for their own self images and feelings of worth. But as with any relationship, communication is an issue. They both go through the struggles of "what if I mess up our friendship by wanting more?" and watching someone so close to you be pursued by someone you know isn't good for them. There is agony and heart break and beauty and love. 

I really enjoyed this quick little read. The characters have good depth for such a short novel, and the emotions are expressed well and come across as very honest. I personally think that if the characters had been a bit older that they would've fit the emotions they were feeling a bit better. But this was a minor concern. Chris is a careful but good friend who is afraid of discovering that he is in love with Lydia. He repeats a mantra - romance is for other people - trying to remind both himself and Lydia that friendship is all he wants. Lydia is loving and hopeful and open. She is obviously in love with Chris, and everyone, including Chris, knows it. But she feels like Chris will never see her in the way that she wants to be seen. She cares about their friendship but knows it could be something so much more. 

Then there is Jeremy and Amanda. Jeremy is a jerk, who has picked on Chris his whole life. He goes after Lydia because it will bother Chris and it will bother Amanda, his ex-girlfriend. He's a pest and an instigator. But let's be honest ladies, when a guy pursues you and keeps trying and trying, eventually it is hard to say no. And when you have a crush that won't pursue you juxtaposed with a guy who is trying really hard to impress you, it's a sticky situation. Add the fact that Jeremy's got the redeemed bad boy thing going on and they're all in high school, and Lydia's eventually bound to give in to Jeremy even against her better judgment. And Amanda isn't much better. She goes after Chris to get back at Jeremy, which only complicates matters. It's all sorts of mixed up. Talk about high school drama! 

There were a few sections that were pretty unbelievable. Chris and Lydia are theatre kids, and at one point they share a Shakespearean moment in the middle of the hallway where they are both quoting lines from Romeo and Juliet in front of all of their classmates. While I can believe that theatre kids could memorize lines of Shakespeare, I doubt many of them would have the guts to act it out in a romantic hallway scene. And if they did, there would be some major bullying fallout. Teasing and jokes would ensue. Sadly, that's just how high school is. 

My other major issue with this book was that it was in dire need of a good editor. But really. It read like a rough draft. I couldn't find an ARC disclaimer anywhere on the book or publishing page. I sincerely hope that it was an early copy of the book and that a good editor was employed at some point because reading some thing that badly edited was hugely distracting. 

Overall, I give it 3 out of 5 hearts.
A few flaws but worth reading.

About the Author
Follow Lee Wolf at the links below:
Support the non-profit I work for (Family Life Services of Washtenaw County) or one of your choice by purchasing a copy of Romance is for Other People on Amazon Smile here

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wine About Wednesday: Hell Fire!

In this feature I will pair a wine (or other beverage that fits the story) with whatever book I am currently reading. I'll give some thoughts on the book while I am still reading it, hopefully some reason (however ridiculous) that the beverage I am drinking goes with the book, and pose a few questions to you or the author. I would love for this to be interactive and fun, so please leave your thoughts in the comment section about the book or the drink. Or let me know if you have a good pairing of your own! The only thing that I ask is that you don't ruin the ending of the book for me!! I will be talking about books that I haven't finished yet, and one of the greatest sins is ruining the ending of a good book. Don't be that guy. 

Quick note: I purchased this book myself from Better World Books

My Current Read
I am currently reading Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre, the second book in the Corine Solomon series. Blue Diablo, the first book in the series, was actually my very first Wine About Wednesday post! And now that I'm on the second book, I've realized that all of the books in the Corine Solomon series are named after beverages, which is perfect for Wine About Wednesday. So expect to see all of them under this feature at some point! 

Hell Fire is really interesting so far. We pick up where Blue Diablo left off: with Corine and Chance headed to Kilmer, Corine's hometown, to try to unravel the mystery of Corine's mother's death. But Kilmer is a weird town in the creepy, no-one-can-hear-you-scream type of way. There are no phones, no cell service, no computers, and no visitors. In a matter of minutes, Chance and Corine are the talk of the town, even though the talk happens behind closed windows and locked doors. No one wants to answer their questions, even though it's obvious everyone knows something fishy is going on. It seems like no one ever leaves Kilmer like Corine did. And if they ever get out, they don't come back. This book is hard to put down! It's full of suspense, creepy woods, hot kisses, and conspiracy theories. I can't wait to see how it will end!

Why This Drink?
I paired this book with it's namesake, Hell Fire, for obvious reasons. Corine orders a few of these at the only bar close to Kilmer, where they get some dirt on the goings on and learn that people even in the next town over have basically forgotten that Kilmer even exists. It's creepy. And it's a moment where some of the clues start to fall into place.

"'What can I get you folks?' His voice boomed out... 'Hell Fire,' I said aloud, my voice low and husky as a phone-sex operator. He blinked at me. 'I reckon I have no idea what that is, but if you tell me how, I can mix it for you.'" 
- excerpt from Hell Fire (pg. 204)

"With an expression that said yuck, he slid it my way. The bartender studied me as I drank the concoction, as if expecting smoke to rise from my mouth. But I was used to stronger stuff. I was made of stronger stuff." 

- excerpt from Hell Fire (pg. 204)

The friendly bartenders at The Blue Leprechaun in Ann Arbor were kind enough to mix one up for me, even though it wasn't on the menu. And I have to admit, I was really nervous to try this drink! I mean, Tabasco and tequila? Yuck! But once I got up the nerve, IT WAS SO GOOD! I liked it so much that I ordered a second one. Seriously, I might have a new favorite drink. It tastes a little bit like those red-hot hard candies that I used to love as a kid (plus alcohol of course!). And it has a very satisfying burn at the back of your throat that lingers. I loved it. I will definitely be baffling bartenders again by asking for this beverage. 

Hell Fire Recipe
So I tried for a long time and couldn't seem to find this exact recipe online... Perhaps the author created it? But here is the description from the book, and what I ordered when I tried it. 

"'Equal parts tequila, vodka, Red Aftershock, and a dash of Tabasco. Mix well, pour over ice.'" 

- excerpt from Hell Fire (pg. 204)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

GIVEAWAY and Review of Annabeth Neverending by Leyla Kader Dahm!

TitleAnnabeth Neverending
AuthorLeyla Kader Dahm
Pages: 233
Publication Date: Dec. 15, 2015
Source: Copy from the author

Quick Summary
At first, teenager Annabeth Prescott thinks she’s found quite a deal when she talks down the price of an ankh pendant she discovers at a flea market. She soon wonders if the bauble is more than she's bargained for when she faints and glimpses images from a past life in ancient Egypt. The discovery coincides with another new find: Gabriel, a handsome young man who takes an interest in her. When she meets his twin brother C. J. at a Halloween party, she realizes they look exactly like two boys who figure prominently into her memories. Does C. J. share the heroic qualities held by his past incarnation Sethe, her bodyguard when she was Princess Ana? Does Gabriel possess the same evil powers he wielded as Kha, the black sorcerer who sought her affection? Love meets the supernatural in this gripping young adult paranormal romance. Readers with an interest in reincarnation, as well as ancient Egypt, will be drawn to its mystical mixture of history and hesitation as Annabeth sways between the two brothers. Will her reincarnated soulmate win out? Or will Kha finally find the way to her heart?
Opening Lines
"Mrs. Lansing pulls her SUV into the dusty, unpaved lot, which is located behind two antique malls."

My Thoughts
I really wanted to give this book a better score. Sadly, I wasn't able to talk myself into it. The concept is interesting - it's what caught my attention in the first place - but the execution needed a little work. 

My first complaint is that the characters don't exhibit enough depth. This is true of the main characters but is glaringly obvious in the peripheral characters. Towards the beginning of the novel, we hear that Annabeth has had some health scares in the past that have greatly worried her adoptive parents - this seems like a pretty normal family response. But then it really isn't mentioned again. We n
ever really hear why her parents worry about her sickness or how even see how it has affected them. Her parents just come across as really checked out and one dimensional. They didn't catch her drinking beer or have any concerns about her seeing a college boy at the age of 15? I know my dad would have had some words for that! The parents weren't supposed to be important characters, but they should still be believable. And a good relationship with her parents in this life could have been an interesting dynamic that could've added so much depth to the reincarnation theme. What about other parents in other lives? Even a disconnect from her parents/brother would have added something. But having them there and only sort of concerned didn't add anything.

We also see this lack of character development in the main characters. I thought Kha (the bad guy) would come off a lot more sinister than he did. I mean, he's evil and wants to force Annabeth into being with him, but I would have made him even more clever and deceitful. Does she ever fall for his tricks? Why does he want her so badly? Maybe he could have had some of that hot bad boy charm or something to add some depth and intrigue. To me, both of the brothers come off as just okay guys. I don't know. I just didn't hate Kha the way you're supposed to loathe really good villains. And Sethe (the good guy) is the same way. He is attractive and cares about Annabeth, but that's about all he has going for him. The author could've played on the tension of Sethe being Annabeth's guard and their forbidden love a bit more. There was no tension. There was no heat. I wanted Sethe to sizzle! Instead, he was just kind of flat. I wasn't invested in either of the guys, so the love triangle between the three really didn't have the tension it needed to be successful. 

I think the novel would have benefited from exploring more past lives than just the one in ancient Egypt. Why is that the only life Annabeth has memories of? I think a lot of depth could be added to Sethe, Kha, and Annabeth's characters by seeing the struggles they've gone through in multiple lives. It also adds some strength to the magic of the ankh/reincarnation theme. How does it find its way to her every time? How many lives has she lived with Sethe? Is she ever interested in Kha even a little bit? Adding more lives could have fixed the major characterization problems in this novel.

There were also some sections of the book that were a bit predictable. There is supposed to be a big twist at the end, but I figured it out too early and it just didn't have the punch I wanted it to. It was too easy. I think this also stems from the characterization. If the characters had been more conflicted or more interesting, I may not have thought of the ending before it happened. 

So, I gave this book a 2 out of 5 hearts, which would normally mean that I "had trouble getting through it." That wasn't the case. It was closer to the description of a 3: "a few flaws but worth reading." In this case, I just didn't think the character development or the plot was strong enough to bump it up to a 3. I read this book really quickly, it just needed some more depth to get it to a 3. So this is a 2 heart book with a 3 heart description (if that makes any sense at all!). 

Overall, I give it a 2 out of 5 hearts.
A few flaws, but worth reading.

About the Author
Wisconsin native Leyla Kader Dahm popped popcorn and dreamt of a career in show business while working in a movie theater during high school. The small-town Midwestern girl opted for the practical route and studied communications at Carroll College and Cornell University. But her life changed course dramatically when a temp agency placed her in a production and development gig at Miramax/Dimension Films. Dahm went on to work as a script consultant for numerous production companies. She appeared in the acclaimed spoken word show Sit ‘N Spin and had her comedy feature spec, Due North, optioned by Michael Levy Enterprises. She sold her pitch, Survival Instinct, to Nickelodeon Original Movies. Dahm lives with her husband and children in Los Angeles, where she focuses on writing quality material for families and young adults.

Follow Leyla Kader Dahm at the links below:
Support the non-profit I work for (Family Life Services of Washtenaw County) or one of your choice by purchasing a copy of Annabeth Neverending on Amazon Smile here

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review of The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

TitleThe House of Silk
AuthorAnthony Horowitz
Pages: 296
Publication Date: Oct. 2, 2012
Source: Birthday Present (Thanks Chris!)

Quick Summary
London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap - a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place. The House of Silk brings Sherlock Holmes back with all the nuance, pacing, and almost superhuman powers of analysis and deduction that made him the world's greatest detective, in a case depicting events too shocking, too monstrous to ever appear in print... until now.
Opening Lines
"I have often reflected upon the strange series of circumstances that led me to my long association with one of the most singular and remarkable figures of my age."

My Thoughts
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Anthony Horowitz is a genius! I've never read a Sherlock story that is written as closely to the originals as his. If you missed my review of Moriarty by Horowitz, definitely check it out. I read these two books out of order, but they stand alone as stories so it was fine. Comparing the two, I actually prefer Moriarty to The House of Silk because I've always loved the Moriarty/Sherlock rivalry. But The House of Silk is just as good in its writing style, its capturing of the characters of Sherlock and Watson, and its suspense and intrigue! 

Once again, I couldn't figure out what was going to happen in the end - the mark of a truly good mystery story. I think this is especially true of a Sherlock mystery because some of Sherlock's charm is that he is so incredibly intelligent that no one else could possibly put clues together the way that he can. The story has to outsmart us as readers. And it does! This story is a brilliant addition to Sherlockian canon. I think the way that Horowitz wrote this book as an untold tale by Watson was beautiful. We see Watson reflecting on his time with Holmes as he leaves us this final story. It highlights all that we love about Sherlock and Watson, while adding something new to their narrative. 

There isn't a whole lot that I can mention about the plot that hasn't been said in the summary without giving anything away about the ending, so I apologize for leaving the details vague. But you can trust me. If you like Sherlock in any form (original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, BBC Sherlock show, Elementary TV show, Robert Downey Jr. adaptation, etc.), then you will love The House of Silk and Moriarty as much as I do! 

Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts!!!
Absolutely loved it!

About the Author
Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders, and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009. On 19 January 2011, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle announced that Horowitz was to be the writer of a new Sherlock Holmes novel, the first such effort to receive an official endorsement from them and to be entitled The House of Silk.

Follow Anthony Horowitz at the links below:

Support the non-profit I work for (Family Life Services of Washtenaw County) or one of your choice by purchasing a copy of The House of Silk on Amazon Smile here

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wine About Wednesday: Annabeth Neverending with Milwaukee's Best

In this feature I will pair a wine (or other beverage that fits the story) with whatever book I am currently reading. I'll give some thoughts on the book while I am still reading it, hopefully some reason (however ridiculous) that the beverage I am drinking goes with the book, and pose a few questions to you or the author. I would love for this to be interactive and fun, so please leave your thoughts in the comment section about the book or the drink. Or let me know if you have a good pairing of your own! The only thing that I ask is that you don't ruin the ending of the book for me!! I will be talking about books that I haven't finished yet, and one of the greatest sins is ruining the ending of a good book. Don't be that guy. 

Quick note: I received this book from Leyla Kader Dahm (the author) for review. 

My Current Read
Annabeth Neverending is about Annabeth who picks up an Egyptian ankh at a flea market and begins seeing visions of a past life in ancient Egypt. At the same time, she is juggling a pair of hot brothers that both seem interested in her and both feature in her past-life visions. Talk about boy drama! Phew! Better her than me. I have enjoyed reading this book so far. I can't decide which brother I want Annabeth to end up with. It's a toss up right now. I'm sure as I get further into the book, I'll have a stronger opinion. 

Why This Drink?
I chose Milwaukee's Best to pair with Annabeth Neverending because it actually goes with the story. Unfortunately, I didn't have any Milwaukee's Best in the fridge, and I'm cheap because I don't exactly make money blogging. So, I am officially pairing this book with Milwaukee's Best; you'll just have to pretend that's the beer in the picture!
The reason that I chose a beer to go with this book is because each time Annabeth has a vision from a past life, she comes out of it with side effects. The first time this occurs, she comes home with a hankering for beer, even though she's 15! When her parents leave the house, she grabs a Milwaukee's Best from the fridge and drinks it. 

"'We're going to the grocery store. Want anything?' Dad asks as he jingles the keys in his pocket. 'How about some beer?' My parents look at each other and laugh. I join in. But it's forced. Because I'm not kidding. Ever since the flea-market vision, I've been insanely parched. For some reason, I feel like the only thing that will quench my thirst is beer. Even though I can't stand the stuff, or it's smell... After what feels like an eternity, they're finally gone, and I take the stairs two at a time, the box containing the ankh in one hand and a Milwaukee's Best in the other."  
- excerpt from Annabeth Neverending (pg. 13, 14)

"She pulls out a large volume on ancient Egypt and flips through it. 'According to this, the Egyptians loved beer. Sometimes they even settled debts with it.'" 
- excerpt from Annabeth Neverending (pg. 35)

Apparently, the Egyptians really loved beer. Who knew? (This is what I get for acquiring my knowledge of ancient Egypt from Stargate SG-1!) Beer was a refreshing beverage to complement this intriguing book. Be sure to check back soon for my review and a giveaway!

Discussion Question
So, I have to ask: If you had two hot brothers that were into you and you could see into a past life with them, would you want to know what they were like? Or would you prefer to make up your mind about them in this life alone? 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review of Echoes by Laura Tisdall

Title: Echoes
Author: Laura Tisdall
Pages: 291
Publication Date: Sept. 8, 2015

Quick Summary
Volatile mathematical genius Mallory Park is living two lives. In one, she is balancing senior year with looking after her little brother and troubled ex-Marine father; in the other, she spends her nights glued to her laptop, breaking into some of the world’s most secure systems as the hacker Echo Six. As part of a corruption-exposing cyber network called the Forum, Mallory is far more at ease among the codes and hidden identities of her online world than she has ever been in the real one, but when other hackers start to go missing, she finds herself caught up in a web of secrets that could have repercussions far beyond both. When anyone can be a name on a screen, how do you know who to trust?
Opening Lines
"Mallory Park hunches forward over the desk, icy blue eyes glued to the screen of the laptop, a single glow in the otherwise darkened room." 

My Thoughts

This is the first international book that I've received from an author! I was so excited when I got it in the mail with it's beautiful British stamp. This may have happened awhile ago for my fellow book bloggers, but it was very special to me. It made me feel like this blog might actually be read by someone. Call me crazy, but that's the truth of it! But enough about my emotional moment with my book mail. On to the review! 

My first contact with Echoes was an email from the author requesting a review. But it was the cover that caught my attention. Yeah, yeah. Don't judge a book by it's cover and all that. But let's be real. We all do it. And this cover was very compelling to me. It's got hints of The Matrix, a girl with a clever smirk, and a spy-esque vibe. I just had to know more. When I read the synopsis and discovered it was about a teen computer hacker, I was sold. Maybe it's my girl crush on Chloe Sullivan from Smallville or my love of the computer nerds in Chuck, but I have a thing for hackers. I find them to be thoroughly fascinating. Probably because I wouldn't know the first thing about it, and it all looks like magic to me! Needless to say, this book was worth the fancy postage. 

Mallory Park is a compelling main character too. She leads two lives. In one, she is a quiet girl just trying to get through life without anyone noticing that she is the one taking care of her brother and father. In the other, she is a smart kick-ass computer hacker who can make anything happen with a few lines of code. This juxtaposition of a shy girl going through the motions and a risk taker illegally hacking in her bedroom is so poignant for teen culture today. Having been a teacher, I've seen so many kids who live double lives, even if they aren't quite this extreme. So many teens are one person at school and then completely different at home. They have secret ways of expressing themselves that they are afraid to share with their peers for fear of ridicule or rejection. They hide who they really are behind a tough exterior. I know students don't think that teachers/adults notice or understand these shifts, but the good ones do. This split within Mallory adds a lot of depth to her character and makes her more real to us as readers. She expresses herself and her individuality in computer code and hacking finesse. She's a math genius, but consciously does just enough to get average grades in school so as not to draw unwanted attention to herself. She is a messy character. And I love that about her. 

She is also the one holding her family together. Her dad deals with PTSD and her mom left awhile ago. She takes care of her brother. She makes sure they eat healthy. She runs interference with her dad and makes sure that he gets himself to work. She takes her brother to school and worries about him when he gets picked on. She holds down a steady job. She is the adult in her household. But she is just a kid. I think people would be shocked how often this is the case in families across our nation (and probably the world). I had so many kids in my classes at school that dealt with this kind of family drama. So many kids who had to grow up too fast. I think Laura Tisdall really hits home on some valid issues in American culture. These are feelings that many American kids have. These are real issues in our communities. And this adds reality to Mallory Park's character and her background. 

Now, that being said, there were also some parts of this story that were pretty far-fetched. I can get past teen genius computer hacking. That I can believe. I can believe a friendship turned romance over the internet. I can believe a hacker ring leaking info to the public. But I doubt Warden (love interest) would be able to convince his parents to let him fly out to the east coast alone to "visit a college." Or that these two high schoolers would be able to sneak into a nightclub with the computer equipment necessary to perform an on-site hack. I doubt Mallory's brother and dad wouldn't ask more questions. Sure, the dad is checked out most of the time. But I think he would notice if his caretaker was missing for long periods of time. These are all things that made me say, really? but they aren't deal-breakers. I really enjoyed this book. I loved the interactions between Warden and Mallory. Their flirting and witty banter is wonderful. I love the social commentary about teen hardships in America. And I still have an unhealthy love for computer hackers. 

My Rating

Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 hearts.
Really good.

About the Author
Laura grew up in Woking, England, and studied music at the University of Surrey. She has written two musicals. The most recent is fantasy story The In-Between, the concept album for which featured performances by nine leading West End stars. Since it's release, it has been played on BBC Radio 2, performed at West End Live and received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook. Laura's first musical, Faerytale, was showcased by the Guildford School of Acting at the Electric Theatre. She has also written the scores for two nationally touring plays, The Haunting and The Perfect Murder, and been Music Advisor for a third, Dead Simple. Echoes is her first published novel.

Follow Laura Tisdall at the links below:
Twitter: @LauraTisdall 

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