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Book Review: Maui Widow Waltz by JoAnn Bassett (Series, #1)

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Book Review: Maui Widow Waltz by JoAnn Bassett (Series, #1)Summary:
Maui wedding planner Pali Moon wouldn’t normally accept a last-minute request to plan a wedding when the groom is lost at sea, but the client wants to pay cash, and she is in debt up to her ears.  Plus, the bride assures Pali that the groom’s best friend will stand in as his proxy if the groom hasn’t been found by the wedding date.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, when a body washes up on shore….it turns out, a lot.

Review:
This would be a cozy mystery if it offered any type of recipes or patterns in the back, as it is, think of it as a light-hearted mystery with very little blood and some steamy kissing scenes.  The story transports the reader to Hawaii with lovely described settings and keeps the reader there with an intriguing plot.

A wedding planner in Hawaii is just an interesting job to begin with.  Plus, Pali has a bit of mystery to her.  She admits from the very beginning that Pali isn’t her name, but the reader never finds out (in this entry in the series anyway) what her real name is.  Why is she keeping it a secret?  Plus, Pali’s friends (and enemies) are an interesting bunch.  Her Native best friend who also runs the general store and officiates weddings is a breath of fresh air to the story. Her gay roommate may feel a bit expected at this point, but the author keeps him from verging too far into stereotype and gives of a hint of the three dimensions he could have in future installments.  The bad guys may veer a bit toward caricature sometimes, but that lends the book part of its humor and lack of tension that is key to this type of mystery.

The mystery and plot consist of two main points of conflict.  First, Pali is at risk of losing her business.  Second, the missing groom and the bride’s family may not be precisely what they appear.  This lends some realness to the character.  She has more going on than this mystery that fell in her lap.  It also gives her a reason for accepting a client who has a clear iffy feeling about them.  That said, the will she or won’t she hold onto her business lacks some real tension, as it’s fairly clear that Pali will figure a way out of losing her business.  With the missing groom conflict, while we know Pali will probably be safe, since she’s the main character, the rest of the characters are basically up for grabs for danger.  This gives it just enough tension to stay interesting but not be stressful.  Similarly, this plot was more well-written, with some unexpected yet believable twists.  It also takes into consideration the local laws of Hawaii, so events stayed grounded in the real world.

The romance consists of two potential love interests.  I am always a bit turned off when a main character has two people interested in them.  It will never not feel a bit fake to me.  However, the two potential love interests are handled in a balanced and modern way.  Neither is the clear “right choice,” and readers could easily prefer one over the other while still liking the main character with either.

I also would like to mention that there is a good minor plot involving characters revealing that they are alcoholics who have been in recovery for a while.  It’s good to see people with a mental illness that they have worked on and are actively managing in a positive way.  I appreciate this diversity being included in this book.

Given all of these positives, why is it only an average read for me?  There was nothing unexpected for this type of mystery. It is very similar to others I have read in the genre.  Additionally, the main character can kind of rub me the wrong way sometimes.  How she handles her love interests is not as up-front as it should be.  It is also unclear as to how she managed to get herself into so much debt.  It seems she might just be bad at balancing books but all for taking favors from friends.  Similarly, she’s a white woman, albeit raised in Hawaii, but she goes by a Native name and never explains why, beyond the fact that she doesn’t like her own name.  Add to this the fact that the romance didn’t really work for me, and this is why I consider this a rather average read.  It may be more than average for you, if these factors I have named are not an issue for you.

Overall, this is a light-hearted mystery that transports the reader to the tropical island of Maui.  Some readers may be a bit turned off by the main character or the romance secondary plot.  Those who enjoy a non-tense mystery set in a tropical locale will most likely enjoy the read, however.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Botanicaust by Tam Linsey (Series, #1)

February 27, 2015 2 comments

Book Review: Botanicaust by Tam Linsey (Series, #1)Summary:
When the world is devastated by GMO plants over-running the land and destroying cropland, humanity splits into multiple factions.  There’s the people who firmly believe in transforming people so that they can photosynthesize food from the sun–and have green skin. There’s the cannibals, who have returned to a hunter/gatherer way and eat humans when necessary.  Unbeknownst to the green folk, there’s a holdout of Old Order Amish.  They’ve changed from how they were in the past but still hold onto many of their ways.  In particular, they have decided that taking green skin is the Mark of the Beast, and will not go for it.

Tula is a scientist among the green folk who is tasked with assisting cannibal children who are kidnapped and converted.  Levi is an Amish who leaves the compound against orders, seeking yet another group of scientists who are supposed to live in a mountain and may have the cure to his dying son’s Cystic Fibrosis.  When Levi is swept up in a green raid of cannibal land, his and Tula’s worlds collide with unimaginable consequences.

Review:
I picked this up because the cover of a green-skinned woman in a desert appealed to me, and then the description seemed like an interesting post-apocalyptic future.  This is certainly and interesting and unique read for any fans of post-apocalyptic or dystopian literature.

The future is imaginative with many different groups and reactions to the botanicaust (the destruction of plant matter that is considered this world’s apocalypse).  As someone who has studied the Amish, I appreciated how the author imagined how the Old Order would handle such a crisis and address it for the future.  Allowing people into the compound if they are willing to convert seems logical, and showing that the Old Order did accept some technological innovation also makes sense.  Similarly, the green scientists who seek to photosynthesize everyone and don’t seem to care too much if the cannibals want to be photosynthesized or not make logical sense.  The scientists believe this is the solution in a world without enough food, and hey haven’t bothered to do any cross-cultural studying to see if there is any rhyme or reason or value to the cannibal lifestyle.  This again is a logical position for a group of scientists to hold.  The other group of scientists who live in the mountain and have managed to find the solution to not aging are a great contrast to the groups of greens.  Whereas the greens do sometimes do evil but don’t intend to, they only intend to be helping (with the exception of one bad guy character), the mountain dwellers have been turned inhumane by their abnormally long lives.  These three groups set up a nice contrast of pros and cons of scientific solutions and advancement.  At what point do we stop being human and at what point are we being too stubborn in resisting scientific advancement?  How do we maintain ethics among all of this?  The exploration of these groups and these questions was my favorite part of the book.

The plot is complex and fast-paced, visiting many areas of the land and groups of people.  I wasn’t particularly a fan of the romance, but I can see where others would find that it adds to the book.  I just wasn’t particularly a fan of the pairing that was established, but for no reason other than it seemed a bit illogical to me.  Then again, romance is not always logical.

The one thing that really bothered me in the book was the representation of Down Syndrome and the language used to refer to it and those who have it.  The mountain scientists have children, but as a result of tampering with their own genetics, all of their children have Down Syndrome.  First, I don’t like that this makes it appear as if Down Syndrome is a punishment to the evil scientists who went too far with science.  Down Syndrome is a condition some people are born with.  It is not a condition as the result of anything a parent did, such as fetal alcohol syndrome.  Second, all of the characters with Down Syndrome are presented as large, bumbling oafs with hearts of gold.  There is just as much variety to the personalities and abilities of those with Down Syndrome as there are in those of us without Down Syndrome.  Finally, the author persists in referring to these characters as:

a Down’s Syndrome woman (loc 2794)

or of course, “a Down’s Syndrome man.”  First, the preferred term for Down Syndrome is Down Syndrome, not Down’s Syndrome.  This is a mistake that is easy to make, though (I have made it myself), and I am willing to give the author a pass for that.  The more upsetting element in the way she refers to these characters though is that she always lists the condition first and then the person, not the other way around.  It is always preferred, in any illness or condition, to list the person first and the illness or condition second.  For instance, a woman with cancer, not a cancerous woman.  A man with PTSD, not a PTSD man.  A child with Down Syndrome, not a Down Syndrome child.  I cringed every single time this happened, and it happens a lot in the section of the book that takes place in the mountain.  Given that this is an indie book, and it is thus quite easy to make editing changes and fixes, I would hope that the author would go through and fix this simple aspect of language.  It would be a show of good faith to the entire community of people who have Down Syndrome, as well as their families. For more on the preferred language when referring to Down Syndrome and people who have Down Syndrome, please check out this excellent guide, written by the National Down Syndrome Society.

It’s a real bummer to me that the language about Down Syndrome and presentation of these characters isn’t better, because if it was, this would have been a five star read for me.

Overall, this is an interesting and unique post-apocalyptic future with an action-packed plot.  Those who are sensitive to the language used to refer to Down Syndrome and representation of people with Down Syndrome may wish to avoid it, due to an unfortunate section where characters with Down Syndrome are referred to improperly and written a bit two-dimensionally.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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ETA:
The author has written a thoughtful and kind comment on this post.  You may view it by going below.  To sum up, she cannot make edits to those book, due to it also having an audiobook version.  However, she has promised to edit for these issues in future books containing characters with Down Syndrome.  This genuine and thoughtful response is much more than the community of those with Down Syndrome and their families and loved ones often get, and it is very much appreciated.

Book Review: Preserver by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)

February 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Book Review: Preserver by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)Summary:
Captain Kirk and his nemesis from the mirror universe, Tiberius Kirk, pair up to hunt down the preservers, orbs left by some more intelligent race.  Kirk is teaming up with Tiberius because Tiberius holds the key to saving his wife’s and unborn son’s lives.  Their quest will reveal hidden secrets about the universe.

Review:
This is the second audiobook my fiancé and I listened to on our road trip to and from Michigan.  We listened to the previous book in the series, Dark Victory (review), on the drive out.  We listened to this one on the drive back.  (Each direction is a 13 hour drive).  Whereas the previous book kept us entertained and awake for our road trip, this one left us confused and concerned we might actually be drifting off into sleep periodically, because it made so little sense.  (For the record, we were not drifting off into sleep. This book just makes very little sense).

All of the audiobook qualities that were great about the previous book stay great here.  Shatner’s narration alternates between hilariously good and hilariously bad but mostly is just hilariously Shatner.  The sound effects continue to be stellar and one of my favorite parts of the book.  It continues to feel like listening to a Star Trek movie as a radio show, and that it was kept me going through it.

The plot, however, just makes very little sense and seems to fall apart.  Whereas in the previous book a continuing plot point is Shatner’s ruined hands, in this one it’s Shatner’s unborn (and then born) son who is all kinds of genetically messed up thanks to the poison in his mother’s system from the cloned children of Tiberius.  (Are you confused yet?)  This could possibly make for an interesting plot, but it’s dropped frequently to pursue the other plot about the preserver orb things.  We read this book and both fiancé and I are still unclear as to precisely what the orbs mean.  We’re not even sure if they’re good or bad.  This is how confusing the plot is, I can’t even properly sum it up for you folks.  In spite of the plot being really confusing, there are still some fun scenes, such as when Kirk meets his son for the first time.  It’s a short audiobook, so I’m not unhappy I listened to it, even if I mostly only understood the Kirk’s son plot.

Overall, while this provides very little clear closure to the plot point set up earlier in the trilogy, it does feature the birth of Kirk’s son and all the fun of listening to a radio show version of a Star Trek movie.  If you liked the previous books in the trilogy and don’t mind a confusing plot, you’ll enjoy finishing up the trilogy.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Spectre
Dark Victory, review

Book Review: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott

February 3, 2015 4 comments

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen AbbottSummary:
Abbott looks at the little discussed role of women in the Civil War by highlighting the lives of four different women spies, two with loyalties to the South and two to the North.  By following their lives through the Civil War, Abbott demonstrates the critical role women played in the Civil War that is too often silenced.

Review:
Doing Dewey’s review of this book landed it on my wishlist, and I was really pleased to receive it for Christmas.  It was everything I’d expected it to be.  A look at the Civil War through a women’s history perspective and told in an easy to follow style with lots of respect for the historical source material.

Abbott notes at the beginning of the book that she only uses quotation marks around information she is directly quoting from source material.  I knew from that second forward I was going to enjoy this work of nonfiction, because too often authors stray either too far toward hearsay and imagining how people felt or too far toward distancing themselves from anything other than the driest facts.  Abbott beautifully switches among the four different women, following the timeline of the Civil War and telling their stories simultaneously.  This lends a clearer perspective on the Civil War than I had before.  It puts a humanizing eye on real events.

So who are the four women highlighted in this book?  On the side of the North, there’s Emma Edmonds, who had already been living as a man to escape a marriage being forced upon her by her family.  Emma enlisted as a Union soldier and soon wound up spying for them — pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman to cross the lines.  There’s also Elizabeth Van Lew and her freed slave Mary Bowser in Richmond who worked together to spy on the Confederate president.  On the side of the South there’s Rose O’Neale Greenhow, a socialite in DC who used her affairs with Northern politicians to spy.  There is also Belle Boyd, a boisterous woman at first more interested in notoriety than in helping any cause but whose loyalty to the South became ever more strong.

This book makes it clear that women made ideal spies thanks to sexism.  The men of the North and South both viewed women as the “delicate sex” that would never actually participate in anything so soiled as war, so when they attempted to cross the lines, they would be let through without being searched.  The more high class a woman, the more protection she was afforded, so even though women were under suspicion, they were always treated better than men under the same suspicion.  For instance, Belle Boyd was caught red-handed as a spy once.  The penalty for a man would be death, but she was sent to prison and then later paroled and sent back to the South, basically with a slap on the wrist and demand she not do that again.  Another example, in the case of Elizabeth Van Lew,

For now, at least, her social position and gender served as her most convincing disguise. No one would believe that a frail, pampered spinster was capable of plotting treasonous acts, let alone carrying them out right under the government’s nose. (page 47)

Abbott does a good job of presenting the reality of these women’s lives and their politics matter-of-factly with little judgment from the future.  The women are allowed to basically speak for themselves, and the reader can ultimately decide how they feel about them.  Abbott maintains the historic feel by referring to African-Americans as “Negroes.”  This may bother some readers, and they should be aware to expect it.

The only element of the book that disappointed me was how the author handled Mary Bowser.  First, this woman is not one of the four featured in the book description or the title, and yet she served as a spy inside the Confederacy presidential household.  Mary Bowser was freed from slavery at a young age by Van Lew’s family.  The Van Lew’s sent her North to be educated and kept her on in the household as a free servant.  When Elizabeth heard that Confederate President Davis’s household needed more servants, she talked to Mary about her serving there.  This educated and highly intelligent woman (she was rumored to have a photographic memory) proceeded to pretend to be the stupid, subservient person the Davises were expecting through their racism, and thus was able to do things like dust President Davis’s desk and memorize upcoming troop movements to report later.  It was thanks to her work in conjunction with Elizabeth, who organized how to get the information out of the South to the North, that the Union was able to know so many of the Confederacy moves ahead of time.  Yet, she is not featured as one of the four main women in the book.  She is not listed as one of the women spies. The end of her life after the Civil War is not mentioned, not even to say whether or not Abbott was able to find any information about her.  For a book highlighting the lives of those often erased from history, writing Mary as Elizabeth’s sidekick was quite disappointing.

The book ends by telling the reader what ultimately happened in these women’s lives after the Civil War.  It’s a bit of a sad note, particularly for the Union women who fought for freedom and yet wound up with little of it themselves.

At last Elizabeth retreated, withdrawing entirely from public life. She had no target for her ferocious will. Her one political act was to attach a note of “solemn protest” to her annual tax payment, declaring it unjust to tax someone who was denied the vote. (page 426)

Overall, this book covers the history of the Civil War from the unique women’s history perspective of women spies.  Those looking for an engaging alternate way to learn about Civil War history will enjoy this book and learning about the women who had an impact on history.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Book Review: Dark Victory by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)

January 29, 2015 1 comment

cover_darkvictorySummary:
Our universe has been invaded by the inhabitants of the Mirror Universe–a parallel universe that is a dark, twisted version of our own.  Now, Captain Kirk, with the captains and crews of The Next Generation and Voyager must battle evil versions of themselves, led by the evil version of Kirk — Tiberius Kirk.  What nightmares does Tiberius have planned for the Federation?

Review:
Back in December, my fiancé and I road-tripped to Michigan to visit his family.  It’s about a 13 hour drive, and I had Audible credits, so I suggested we pick out a book.  We both love Star Trek so we investigated what Star Trek options are available.  This one jumped out at us for the obvious reason that it’s narrated by William Shatner himself!  Other reviewers complained about sound effects, but that just made us more excited, so we downloaded it, oblivious to the fact that it’s the second book in a series.  This book reads like a radio program version of a Star Trek movie featuring a crazy mash-up of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Voyager.

The action starts right away, which was admittedly a bit confusing, since we hadn’t read the first book.  It starts with Tiberius and his crew escaping into our own universe, and Kirk and his trying to battle them.  Also, Kirk’s hands are mysteriously mangled from something that happened in the first book.  Ultimately, we were able to catch up with the plot and follow it somewhat.  Kirk is in love with a woman who is pregnant with his baby.  Tiberius seems intent on getting to some orbs that the Federation wants to protect.  Kirk wants to stop him, but the Federation and some spy branch of theirs are trying to keep him from engaging in the fight anymore.  They even go so far as to lie to him and tell him that Tiberius is dead.  It’s a complex, twisting plot that makes some sense when listening to it, although summarizing it is nigh on impossible.  Suffice to say, that if you enjoy the concept of the mirror universe and the characters from three series all interacting together, you’ll probably enjoy this plot.  Plus, there’s also Kirk’s wedding in this book, and that is just not to be missed.  (There are horses! And red leather outfits!)

What really made the book for me was the audiobook presentation of it.  It is presented like a radio program, complete with amazing sound effects.  The communicator actually beeps! There are impact noises from shots at the Enterprise! There are even whinnies from the horses.  If you’re a more serious Star Trek fan, you might be irritated by the relative kitsch of this book and its reading, but if you enjoy Star Trek for its periodic utter ridiculous, then you’ll enjoy the way this audiobook is presented.

Shatner’s narration is sometimes good but often hilariously bad.  His voice for women is unnaturally high and soft, making me giggle each time, and mysteriously, he uses the same voice for Captain Picard as for women.  Listening to him narrate anyone who is not Captain Kirk is a bit like watching Captain Kirk “fight” in the Original Series.  I enjoyed it for its ridiculousness, not for its quality.

Overall, if you’re a Star Trek fan who doesn’t take the show too seriously, you’ll enjoy this radio program like audiobook with a plot mashing up everything from a mirror universe to somehow placing Captains Kirk, Picard, and Janeway on the same ship.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Spectre

2015’s Accepted Review Copies!

January 24, 2015 2 comments

Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I open up to submissions of review copies in November and December.  I predetermine a number I will accept to be reviewed the following year.  You can view more about my review process here.  You may view the accepted review copies post for 2014 by clicking on the year.  For 2015, I decided to accept 6 books.

This year, 37 review requests were submitted.  This means I only accepted 16% of the submitted books.  Put another way, each book only had a 16% chance of being accepted.

Authors submitting to me were 59% male, 38% female, and 3% preferred not to say.  Last year only 26% of the submitting authors were female.  I am pleased at the increase for two reasons.  I’m a female author myself and like to support other female authors, but also the world is approximately half female, and I’d like for my submissions to reflect that.

14% of authors submitting self-identified as GLBTQA! I am really pleased at this, as I actively sought out authors identifying this way.  However, 19% of the books were identified as having significant GLBTQA content.  This means that more than just GLBTQA people are featuring GLBTQA characters, and that makes me really happy.

Graphical depiction of genres submitted

The above graph depicts the genres submitted to me.  I only accept the genres listed in the graph.  You can easily see that scifi was by far the most submitted genre, with 35% of the books.  This is followed by thriller and horror with 24% and 16%, respectively.  Nonfiction was clearly the least submitted, with only 6% of the books being any type of nonfiction at all.  Next year, I would like to see more variety in my submissions as far as genres go.  More cozies, paranormal or western romance, and nonfiction.

When I was doing my initial pass through of the books submitted to me, I created a document of blinded book summaries.  This means I only saw the summaries of the books, no other data, not even the title.  They were also randomized so I had no idea which were submitted when.  Using this technique, I eliminated half of the books.  In the final pass through, things like gender of the author, genre, and GLTBQA content were taken into consideration to give me a more diverse reading list for the year.  I also took into consideration whether or not the author was willing to participate in a giveaway, as well as the format of the book being offered, particularly when doing a tie-breaker.  For instance, all other things equal, if one book was willing for me to host a giveaway and another wasn’t, the one with the giveaway won.

I provide these stats for two reasons.  First to give everyone an idea of the competition the accepted books were up against.  It’s an accomplishment to be accepted for review here!  Second, I want those considering submitting to me this November and December to look at these stats and take them into consideration when submitting.  Consider the fact that I don’t want to read only scifi all year.  If you have a nonfiction or a cozy waiting to be reviewed, it has a higher chance of being accepted.  But enough stats!  It’s time to get to the accepted review copies!

The review copies are listed below in alphabetical order by title.  The authors of the accepted review copies are half female and half male.  One of the authors identifies as GLBTQA, and one of the books has GLBTQA content.  Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own.  These books will be read and reviewed here in 2015, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.

cover_the everlastingThe Everlasting: Da Eb’Bulastin
By: Rasheedah Prioleau
Genre: Horror
Summary:
After another incident of sleepwalking, Aiyana Gamelle wakes up lying under the stars on the Beach of Sa’Fyre Island, an island off the cost of South Carolina with a rich Gullah and Native American history.

Knowing these incidents of sleepwalking have something to do with her long awaited transition into queen of the island, Aiyana shrugs them off as little more than a nuisance to be expected since her lineage leads to a mysterious African goddess.

Aiyana moves forward with plans to host a week long festival that will end with her succession to the island throne, but the murder of an important guest and the passing of her grandmother threaten to bring the festivities to a screeching halt. Then Aiyana learns that the transition involves an unwanted possession and the revelation of a dark family curse.

cover_markMark of the Harbinger: Fall of Eden
By: Chris R. McCarthy
Genre: Scifi
Summary:
Stranded from Earth for five-thousand-years with no hope of rescue, a deep space colonization ship named Eden becomes the new home for humanity. Half its population lives a life of luxury, while the other live in destitution. When a man wakes aboard the ship without memories, he must uncover the clues of not only his identity but his origin.

With the help of a female rebel he becomes embroiled in the plot to overthrow an oppressive regime, and forced to decide if doing so could cause the extinction of the human race.

cover_mediatorpattern2The Mediator Pattern
By: J.D. Lee
Genre: Scifi
Summary:
Some ​people wait an entire lifetime for purpose. Some don’t find it at all. Some spend an eternity searching for paradise… for a Utopia. But sometimes purpose and paradise come at a cost.

BelisCo-San Jose boasts all ​the latest breakthrough technology: the fax machine, the electric typewriter, the tri-ox system transport vehicle and the newest technological breakthrough, the porta-fax. With innovations ​galore, BelisCo-San Jose is a modern-day Utopia—perfect​ly designed, complete with adult-only zones, smoking and non-smoking zones, cannabis, cigarettes, food, work, income, and reliable, clean transportation—all provided by BelisCo.

But things are not entirely as they seem in San Jose. It is here that jaded, chain-smoking Marcus Metiline’s world is turned upside down. ​After taking a mediation job with the ​ubiquitous BelisCo and meeting a peculiar doctor beyond the city’s zoned limits, Marcus’s world quickly unravels.​ It all starts with flashes of déjà vu and memories that have gone astray. ​As Marcus searches for answers to the increasingly strange events around him, it’s not long before he discovers that the fate of the world rests ​in him.

He’s been told exactly what he needs to do… But is something bigger moving him along?

cover_porcelainPorcelain: A Novelette
By: William Hage
Genre: Horror
Summary:
Out near the Pine Barrens in New Jersey sits the Whateley Bed & Breakfast, home of a wide collection of knick-knacks and antiques for its guests to view, including a beautifully ornate porcelain doll. However, after the Whateley’s latest guest purchases the doll as a gift, a horrifying series of nightmarish events begins to unfold.

cover_setadriftSet Adrift
By: D.S. Kenn
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Summary:
Terric Blythe is a hybrid demon and wolf shifter whose life has largely been spent in anonymous cities, moving among people while keeping them at arm’s length. The list of those who matter to him is short, but when he cares, he does completely. He has allowed himself to love the one person who truly knows him.

Jordyn Kinsley is an achingly beautiful vampire, haunted by her past. Choices and chance brought her into a world filled with evil, tragedy, and loss. At her lowest point, she encountered Terric. She learned to trust him, her demon with the heart of a wolf.

Their anonymous life in New York made it easy for Jordyn to isolate herself. Realizing she needed a change, Terric found their new home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The tip of Cape Cod, where paranormal beings live easily among humans, is filled with closely guarded secrets. As Jordyn begins to heal and discover her strength, it’s clear she will one day be ready to stand on her own. The wolf must decide if he will return to existing in solitude or if he will follow her lead and explore what life has to offer.
Set Adrift is a story of love and loss, of deeply abiding friendship, and of sacrifice. The Immortal Isle series will grab ahold of your heart and have you falling in love with the inhabitants of this small coastal town.

cover_Unreal cityUnreal City
By: A.R. Meyering
Genre: Horror
Summary:
Sarah Wilkes is desperate enough to do anything, even make a deal with the devil—or in her case, a familiar spirit.

After her twin Lea is murdered, Sarah finds college life impossible and longs to escape. Everything changes when Sarah realizes a familiar spirit is stalking her and offers to transport her to the terrifying and fantastical realm of Unreal City. The payment for admission? A taste of her blood. Unable to resist, Sarah is drawn into an alternate reality that is a dream come true…at first.

The deeper she explores Unreal City, the more Sarah’s reality becomes warped. Death surrounds her as people are murdered in the same fashion as her sister. She has no choice but to continue her visits to Unreal City, which grows darker by the day.

Is finding out the truth worth becoming part of Unreal City forever?

 

 

Book Review: Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! by Jillian Michaels and Mariska Van Aalst

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

cover_masterSummary:
Jillian Michaels became famous for being a personal trainer on The Biggest Loser, a show she has since left.  In addition to being a personal trainer, she is also a woman with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), an illness that messes with hormones and often makes the sufferer gain weight due to these hormonal problems.  Jillian, with the help of her doctor, takes her years of experience both dealing with her own hormonal issues and training others with them and offers up advice on how to adjust your diet and lifestyle to optimize your hormonal balance for easier health and weight loss.

Review:
Despite its title, this book primarily focuses on achieving health through making permanent changes to your lifestyle, advocating a gradual overhaul with the focus on improving health, with weight loss as a side bonus.

The book opens with an introduction from Dr. Christine Darwin.  It then moves to Jillian giving a brief introduction to her own health journey.  It was fascinating to learn about how she became a trainer in her late teens, got her job on The Biggest Loser, and was diagnosed with PCOS.  This lends a personal touch to the entire book.  Jillian isn’t “naturally fit.” She works hard at it and has an illness that actually makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.  This book is honest about the fact that achieving fitness is varying levels of difficult for people, but also takes a no-nonsense, if you want health you’ll fight for it, attitude.  That attitude may rub some readers the wrong way, but I appreciate it.

The book next tackles explaining how your biochemistry impacts your health and weight and why it’s therefore important to keep them balanced.  Readers who enjoy knowing the why’s behind certain bits of health advice (such as keeping your stress levels low, getting enough sleep, not eating after 9pm) will particularly enjoy this section, as it explains the biochemistry behind this advice.  Readers who prefer to just get the advice without knowing the why’s can easily skip this bit and just partake of the advice if they so choose.  My favorite part of this section is how kind Jillian is about how people may have beat up their bodies so far in life.  She’s very encouraging that what’s in the past is in the past, and every body can be improved.

No matter how you’ve abused your body up until now–and I’m willing to bet you have, even if you didn’t mean to–you can make it better. (loc 583)

The next section talks about how various chemicals and hormones in our environments contribute to messed up hormones.  Jillian is quite passionate about how things like BPA in cans and hormones in non-organic dairy can pile up to mess up human hormones.  Jillian makes a point of saying that even changing one of these things (for instance, buying organic dairy) can help your body, because every little bit helps.  However, she is also so passionate about these hormonal and chemical pollutants that it can sometimes seem as if she is telling the reader to change everything all at once, and that can be a bit overwhelming.

Next the recommended diet is tackled, and it’s actually fairly straight-forward.  Limit processed foods (and all the HFCS and artificial sweeteners and preservatives that come with it).  Focus on eating only things that grew in the ground or had a mother. Limit starchy root vegetables (less than 2 servings a day), alcohol (1 drink per day), caffeine (stick to green tea), soy (2 servings per week), full fat dairy and fatty meats, and canned food (to avoid BPA).  She encourages including power nutrients, such as: legumes, alliums, berries, meat and eggs, colorful and cruciferous fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, organic dairy, and whole grains.  Perhaps the most difficult part of the diet, besides cutting out processed food, is the timing of eating she recommends.  Eat within an hour of waking up. Eat three more times in the day, once every four hours.  Eat until you’re full but not stuffed. Don’t eat after 9pm.  The explanation for the timing issue is to help balance your hormones.  She also states that you must have fat, protein, and carbs at every meal, but to aim for higher protein, particularly in the evening meal and as you age.  The reasoning behind this is you feel more satisfied with all three macros and also are more likely to not lack in any particular nutrient.  Two other reasons are that protein increases your metabolism and as people age they need more protein to retain muscles.  This is not a particularly challenging diet, nor is it far off from what is generally recommended by doctors and nutritionists as a healthy diet.  Again, the most challenging part is the timing issue.  Not everyone’s life lets them perfectly space out their meals.

For those readers who are new to eating a whole foods, unprocessed diet, the book includes a sample menu (I believe it covers two weeks, but can’t double-check as it was a library copy).  The recipes are perfect for beginner cooks with nothing too complex and not too much time required.  Jillian teamed up with a professional for the recipes, and is straight-forward about that.

The book next tackles the six most common hormonal disorders, including PMS, hypothyroid, metabolic syndrome, and PCOS.  These hormonal issues require special recommendations and guidelines, and Jillian explains them quickly and clearly.

Finally the book ends with some tips on how to live out the recommended lifestyle, including how to afford and/or find organic food, how to clean your house without chemicals, etc…  Just as earlier, Jillian is so passionate about this that it’s possible for the reader to feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing everything, even though Jillian does make a point to state that changing even one thing, or one thing at a time, will help.  Perhaps it would help if the book ended with a checklist of the most important changes or how to adapt gradually or something like that to make it feel less overwhelming for the reader.

Besides the fact that sometimes the book can make the lifestyle feel a bit overwhelming, my only other issue with the book was when Jillian recommends that women stop taking hormonal birth control pills and use condoms instead.  Condoms are nowhere near as good a form of birth control as hormonal methods, and randomly recommending everyone stop using hormonal birth control is more than just a bit irresponsible.  It would have been far more responsible to do something such as suggest that if the reader is concerned about the level of hormones in her birth control to speak to her doctor about lower level hormone options, such as the mini-pill or the IUD, and see if those may work for her.  Just flat-out saying everyone use condoms is not helpful.  Plus, there is a risk/reward calculation that every individual must make for themselves.

Overall, this book mostly recommends diet and lifestyle changes that would also be recommended by most doctors and nutritionists.  The timing of eating is something that is up for debate, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the reader to try it.  Jillian sometimes gets so passionate about all of the lifestyle and diet changes that it can feel overwhelming to the reader.  Recommended to those interested in the science behind generally recommended lifestyle changes.  Just remember that you don’t have to do everything at once and take the advice with a piece of salt. Do your own research and talk to your doctor before dropping medication/birth control.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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