Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: Fired Up

Fired Up Fired Up by Anna Durand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm always looking for my new favorite romance book couple and unfortunately Mel and Adam fell a bit short. On one hand, I was thrilled that the two were actual friends and the author didn't try to sell insta-love to me. On the other hand, I feel like I was told they were friends rather than their friendship being developed in the book. I appreciated the mostly tasteful sex scenes and that their story was the real meat of the novel. Often that isn't the case in the contemporary romance genre so it was refreshing here. Of course we have the vengeful ex/villain with Devon, only Devon was just this nuisance character that I felt was only there to highlight how amazing and hard to lose Mel is. That could have easily been done in a dozen other, non-typical ways. Then we have the ever popular hero/heroine completely overreacts to some perceived betrayal, leading to the couple nearly breaking up for all of eternity, followed quickly by being mercifully brought back together after one of them has something incredibly dramatic happen to them which of course shocks the other into realizing they he/she absolutely, without a doubt cannot live their life without the other and they live happily ever after.
Now that all sounds a bit snarky and as though I didn't enjoy Fired Up but I actually did. Despite some tired, cliche moments, the dialogue was fresh, the story flowed and was well paced, and it was HOT! We read romance books for some hot romance, right? Well, you won't be disappointed with that aspect at all, promise.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: Spirituality 103, the Forgiveness Code: Finding the Light in Our Shadows

Spirituality 103, the Forgiveness Code: Finding the Light in Our Shadows Spirituality 103, the Forgiveness Code: Finding the Light in Our Shadows by Ivan Figueroa-Otero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third and final book in this trilogy devoted to teaching one to live a truly spiritual life. I have not read 101 and 102 so going into this cold may give me a different outlook on it than those who have been with the author since book 1. I admire the idea of forgiveness and achieving a sense of well being and overall peace through the act of forgiveness. Perhaps that's because I hold onto grudges like a life vest but the way the author writes makes me want to at least try his teachings. That is, after all, the point of writing a book like this, right? In my opinion, the epilogue was excellent for wrapping up the trilogy - even without having read the first two! Another four books are to come in the same vein? Count me in.

I agree that this book will probably be best understood by more mature readers. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, they'll grow into it eventually.

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Review: Wallace Street: A hardscrabble neighborhood seeks revenge against a child predator

Wallace Street: A hardscrabble neighborhood seeks revenge against a child predator Wallace Street: A hardscrabble neighborhood seeks revenge against a child predator by Tess Devlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tess Devlin's, Wallace Street, takes us into a disintegrating toward neighborhood of Chicago in the 1950s. Various characters are introduced and fleshed out to the perfect degree to enhance the story. Because the point of view changes so often and there are so many characters, it can be a bit cumbersome in the beginning keeping track of them all. The effort is well worth it though when slowly the way their lives intertwine is revealed and then a monstrous tension builds as one innocent child after another disappears. As the fear and fury rises in the neighborhood everyone decides that they'll be the ones to find and stop this predator. The mobsters, a street cop, one of the residents, the detectives assigned to the case... they are all trying and none actually cares who gets the job done, as long as the murderer is stopped. The list of suspects is long, red herrings are aplenty, and the twists and turns come at a furious pace.

Though there were a few editing and grammatical errors, it was not enough to detract from the story, even for a grammar Nazi like me. The novel on the whole was gripping, well paced, and truly as realistic as it was terrifying.

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Sunday, September 24, 2017


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smoke and Tranquillity by Robert Swann is titled as book #3 in the Simon Hunter series. I don't like starting a series anywhere but the beginning and I wish I had that opportunity here. From the get go, I felt like Simon Hunter was an alias considering his nefarious past, however, I'm not privy to that information if it were given in previous books. Imagine my delight when I learn his true identity! He is a spy, for lack of a better word, working for both the United States and Britain which in itself deems him an unreliable character. Whatever his official title, he's done some way not nice stuff to people in the past and apparently it's reckoning day for Mr. Hunter. His moral code and hefty taste for justice make Simon Hunter a fierce opponent to those who would try to cross him.

This novel starts out strong with an interesting hook, the points of view were perfect in my opinion, dialogue was succinct and matched well with the pace of the story. I love the way Swann writes. I will be seeking out more of his books in the future.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: City of Angels

City of Angels City of Angels by K. Patrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

City of Angels by K. Patrick chronicles the life of a young boxer named Michael Connolly as he grows up in East L.A. His trainer, Jerry, is an ex-con who squandered his talent as a fighter but wants to help Michael make it to the Olympics. Michael lives in one group home but gets sent to another where he develops deep connections with Maria and Lizzie. Together they are a family. Unexpected events conspire to land Michael in a position he never saw for himself and his struggle to navigate the treacherous new waters is a journey from bottom to top back to bottom. The ending is uncertain for Michael and his little family and you'll be hard pressed to find a band of characters you will root for more.

There is a lot of dialogue in this book and it is all very well done and necessary to keep the story flowing throughout the entire 750+ pages. This is a very long book but that worked in it's favor for me. The characters were fantastic, the story was very well written,and City of Angels goes to the top of the list for this reader.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: Curve Couture: A Beautiful Romance

Curve Couture: A Beautiful Romance Curve Couture: A Beautiful Romance by H.M. Irwing
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Curve Couture by H.M. Irwing is a contemporary romance featuring a plus-size woman in the fashion industry, hence the title 'curve couture'. Erin and Claire. I'll be honest, it took a bit for me to get used to thinking of an Erin as male. I kept thinking about the name Claire. I think Judd Nelson said it in Breakfast Club, it's a fat girl name. And the woman on the cover? Not exactly a plus size woman, which 78% of American women actually are but only represented 2% of the time by women in magazines. So, I'll be honest, I went in with a crinkled nose.

The character names aside, Curve Couture is actually pretty good. Claire is a woman who, if not at complete peace with herself, is well on her way. Of course she has anxiety and hang ups about her body but we need that for her to be relatable. Claire is definitely relatable. She's snarky and funny and she was fun to get to get to know. Janice was annoying and a bit of a monster, as was her fiance, Colin. I care so little about them that I breezed over their parts, to tell the truth.

There is a lot of humor in this novel, the dialogue is good and feels real in many places but also falls into the cheesy category at times. Some of the issues that come up are a little contrived, such as when Erin has taken too many of his anti-depressant before he has sex with Claire and she freaks out... Sorry but that rang way too true to Jessie and her caffeine pills on Saved By The Bell.

All in all, though, Curve Couture was the perfect book for an afternoon on the beach or on a rainy evening on the couch, those times when you just want to float away and let another world and it's people perform for you.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Fatal Charm

Fatal Charm Fatal Charm by Blair McDowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fatal Charm is a novel by Blair McDowell. Labelled on Goodreads as Thriller and Contemporary Romance, it's a mix of genres that attracts many different readers. I'll be honest that when I started out I was reading as if I knew what this book was already - there's a formula for so many of these books - but while it did portray a lot of that, there was just enough extra, unexpected zest, that I couldn't help but enjoy it! The action was perfectly balanced with the drama and the romance, dialogue was almost exclusively spot on - I can't think of time when I thought "Oh please, no one would actually SAY that out loud!".

Caitlin is a young jewelry designer and Colin is a dashing Irish professor. Together, they create sparks as they team up to thwart the sale of a priceless heirloom to those undeserving. The chemistry between Caitlin and Colin is great, sizzling at times but it felt like neither of them really endeared themselves to me specifically. But Colin was my guy above and beyond Caitlin. And I do realize that I don't normally attach to any specific character that is geared toward me in any given book. In fact, maybe I mindfully reject what is give to me as my heroine. I only mean that they didn't feel like the friend who was supposed to be rooting for Caitlin. Caitlin and Colin were only characters I thought I knew but didn't, really on the surface. But Colin,somehow, I want everything for Colin. Even if that was Caitlin, because I didn't get that connection with her the way I did with Colin. I know other readers who connected with Colin and could have thrown Caitlin to the wolves. I suppose that's just the way it goes in literature.I love reading reviews from both sides. To be honest, more negative reviews have made me purchase a book than positive ones have. So perhaps there's a Caitlin lover out there who will read my negative reactions to her and buy the book anyway, just for Colin. In the end we all read the same book, apply our personal experiences to the situation, and will go on to find their next favorite novel. I'm interested to know what you have to say about Fatal Charm!

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Jobs for Robots: Between Robocalypse and Robotopia

Jobs for Robots: Between Robocalypse and Robotopia Jobs for Robots: Between Robocalypse and Robotopia by Jason Schenker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved that this novel (that read like a non-fiction book) didn't go the route of 'robots will eventually override us and we'll be driven underground to survive them' the way Terminator and iRobot predict. That's a common theme when it comes to artificial intelligence so it was refreshing to see the viewpoint of this author. I have a hard time placing this into fiction/non-fiction because it is more of an advice column while still not being full of only true facts simply because if it hasn't happened, it can't be a fact. Jason Schenker provides a realistic, futuristic view of the role robots currently fill and will in the future will occupy. This book is encouraging in the way the author highlights the the positives for robots/artificial intelligence and tells the reader that this isn't 'new technology', this has been evolving since the 1800's. We must stop oversimplifying and jumping to the worst possible conclusion because the truth is, WE, at least right now, are in control of the technology. It does what we ask it to do and so many of us benefit from it, we must maintain the level of control that we currently enjoy while still allowing for further advancement. A sort of common sense approach to the robotics industry combined with straight up advice about growing with this technology without being swallowed up by it.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Danny and the Dreamweaver

Danny and the Dreamweaver Danny and the Dreamweaver by Mark Poe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Danny and the Dreamweaver by Mark Poe is a middle grade fantasy fiction book. There is no putting this in one genre beyond children's because it encompasses mystery, art, humor, time travel, fantasy, and history. Perfect for the kid in your life who switches interests like they should, but probably aren't, changing their underwear.

This writing felt so familiar, so similar to some things I've read lately and I kept thinking to myself - this HAS to be him but (I'd look again) no, different author. Turns out, I was spot on. Mark Poe is DiSilvio's adolescent alter ego. I do love it when I'm right!

Danny is a typical video game fanatic, blowing off school and off in his own world. Through a dream, he finds himself time traveling and meeting famous musical geniuses and artists. People who are recognizable through word association, like Nostrildamus. It is hysterical! An easy 100 page read (give or take based on which format you choose), brilliant writing, sneakily educational, and the kind of book that can turn even the most reluctant reader into a lover of books.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: Tales of Titans, Vol. 1: From Rome to the Renaissance

Tales of Titans, Vol. 1: From Rome to the Renaissance Tales of Titans, Vol. 1: From Rome to the Renaissance by Rich DiSilvio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tales of Titans is a collection of essays but I consider it more as episodes of a historic show. The heroes are portrayed as such but also with that DiSilvio touch of 'he's just a man'. You get both the extraordinary and the human fallacy of every historical figure you meet here. I find that it ramps up the reality and drama of each essay. Getting both aspects of the person helps to make them and everything they've been through and accomplished more approachable from our position here in 2017. History can be notoriously boring and/or dull but when you're reading Tales of Titans, boring and dull are the last adjectives in your mind.

The Hitler portion of this book was fantastic! I wouldn't say DiSilvio made Hitler relatable or someone to sympathize with in any way but I never tire of learning about that monster in a different way. I have yet to find someone who makes me want to give him an ounce of credit or sympathy but there's no denying the magnetism of his personality. The need to understand how he made so many people blindly follow along and comply in the destruction of an entire human race, it's a perfect storm that I hope is never duplicated.

This will be a book I will have my older son read because I feel like he is missing so much in school when it comes to history. I mean, it isn't even called History anymore, it's Humanities. Whatever you want to call it, it is our shared past and we can't possibly understand our present or contemplate our futures without first understanding what we've been through. Perhaps Rich DiSilvio didn't fashion himself a history professor but I'll be happy to substitute him in where I see gaps!

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review: A Blazing Gilded Age

A Blazing Gilded Age A Blazing Gilded Age by Rich DiSilvio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another history lesson served up under historical fiction by Rich DiSilvio. The last thirty years of the 19th century was a magnificent time to live a brutal life in the Pittsburgh metro area of the United States. A Blazing Gilded Age opens in Hellhole - A Huxley Coal Mine where Marcus Wozniak survives a deadly mine explosion but many friends and his father are killed. That tragedy sets the tone for this novel. It's a hard knock look at how most people lived and died in the time. A period of growth and prosperity for this country as a whole, it's just that the successes were built on the backs of folks like the Wozniaks.

The characterization in A Blazing Gilded Age is shy only of brilliance. The way these people spring to life from the pages, how you feel for them and grieve with them and celebrate with them, is not an easy task for a writer. DiSilvio has the gift. The addition of actual historic figures cements the reality of the story, despite it being fiction.

If you are looking for a sweeping, romantic look at history through rose colored glasses, move on. However, if you like a little grit in your reading, you will certainly enjoy Rich DiSilvio's A Blazing Gilded Age.

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