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Audiobook Review – The Martian – Andy Weir

the martianThe Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: R.C. Bray
Audiobook Length: 10h4s 53 min
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:
Every so often (although more frequently), there are books that people rave about, and rave about and sometimes I avoid the temptation to jump in and read and other times I take the plunge. I’d been hearing about The Martian on and off for probably a good year nearly from various online reading groups, so when it was selected as a group read in one of my Goodreads groups, I toddled off to Audible and grabbed the audiobook. Of course, as usual, I had several other books to finish up first before I could start it, but when I did, holy roller coaster of a ride. As I started listening, the whole storyline reminded me of that 1980’s TV show MacGyver (with the fantabulous Richard Dean Anderson). You know, where you give RDA a carrot, a battery and a spoon and he constructs a working bomb – that is who Mark Watney reminded me of. Of course, he wasn’t hunting (or being hunted by bad guys), or blowing things up (well…not on purpose at least) – but the problem solving mentally was perfect.

I’ll admit that I am not a science geek by any stretch of a means, so a lot of that kind of stuff went right over my head – especially when they had the guy talking about orbital physics (I can barely spell it – I just had to resort to using spell check to spell physics…). But even with all that, the technically stuff was for the most part, addressed in a way that even a lay person could attempt to understand – which the author used technie words/theories, he also tried to dumb them down for normal people. I think if the story had just been limited to Mark’s POV, it would have been a lot weaker overall – however, the integration of the NASA scientists who are trying to rescue him and his former crew-members who left him for dead, made the storyline much more intriguing.

The narrator, R.C. Bray, is brand-new to me but I can tell you that it won’t be the last time I listen to him. He managed to toe the line between comedic inference and serious moments perfectly. There were times when I was laughing so hard at his narration that I was crying. I found that his voice distinctions between Mark and the assortment of other characters was well-defined, even down to his narration of the Chinese astronaut and the Indian astrophysicist. I highly recommend him as a narrator to try.

Overall, I gave both the book and narration 4 stars, and glad that I took the opportunity to listen to it. Personally, for me, I think it worked better in audio, than reading, but that might just be me.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Keeping Corner – Kashmira Sheth

keeping cornerKeeping Corner
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
“Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela had been spoiled all her life. She doesn’t care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine.
Leela’s whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She’s now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew.

When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. India is suffering from a severe drought, and farmers are unable to pay taxes to the British. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who starts a political movement and practices satyagraha—non-violent protest against the colonists as well as the caste system. The quiet strength ofsatyagraha may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself?

Review:
One of my favorite things to do at the library, if I have a bit of time, is to randomly pick a shelf and then browse the books on it for something that looks interesting. In this case, I was wandering through the YA section and looked at the Fiction, R-T authors (my library has YA divided up into general fiction, genre fiction and then series). Something about Keeping Corner caught my eye and I am so glad that I picked it up to read. It is probably one of the more intriguing books that I have read in the last year.

I’ll admit that my knowledge of India’s history is rather lacking – I know very little about it, because it never really intrigued me to study it. Of course, everyone knows who Ghandi was (or at least the vast majority of us do). Keeping Corner takes place as he was starting his long-journey of activism – he wasn’t too widely known in the more rural areas of India (where Leela and her family lived), but was in the cities (where Leela’s brother lived). But while Ghandi is mentioned frequently through-out, Keeping Corner is more the story of Leela.

A young girl and soon to be child-bride, Leela is living her life as expected – waiting for her marriage to occur, so she can move in with her new husband’s family. But that all changes drastically when her soon to be husband is bitten by a snake and dies. Now she is expected to mourn for a year, in a tradition known as “keeping corner” – isolated from the world she has grown up in, not allowed to express joy, limited in interactions. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to survive what Leela did for a year – it took mental acuity that I don’t know that I possess (or many people today may possess). She faced the loss with bravery, and while at times she acted like the young girl she was (only 12) – she also displayed at times, the maturity of someone far older.

The author wrote Leela’s story in a way that would be engaging to both Young-Adults and adults who were reading the book. It has made me want to explore and read more about India’s customs, when it comes to death, weddings, births etc. although I haven’t found any books yet that I can recommend. Overall, I gave Keeping Corner 4 stars and I can’t wait to find more books by the author.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – A Forbidden Rumspringa – Keira Andrews

forbidden rumspringaA Forbidden Rumspringa
Author: Keira Andrews
Series: #1 in Gay Amish Romance series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
In a world where every detail of life—down to the width of a hat brim—is dictated by God and the all-powerful rules of the community, two men dare to imagine a different way. At 18, Isaac Byler knows little outside the strict Amish settlement of Zebulon, Minnesota, where there is no rumspringa for exploration beyond the boundaries of their insular world. Isaac knows he’ll have to officially join the church and find a wife before too long, but he yearns for something else—something he can’t name.

Dark tragedy has left carpenter David Lantz alone to support his mother and sisters, and he can’t put off joining the church any longer. But when he takes on Isaac as an apprentice, their attraction grows amid the sweat and sawdust. David shares his sinful secrets, and he and Isaac struggle to reconcile their shocking desires with their commitment to faith, family and community.

Now that they’ve found each other, are they willing to lose it all?

Review:

POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I’ll be the first to admit that ever seen I saw The Witness with Harrison Ford as a kid the Amish culture has intrigued me. Reading Amish inspirational romances as a teen was a standard and even now they still catch my eye (plus I get really interesting Amazon recommendations when you mix Anish romance and GLBT searches together). So when I saw Keira Andrews was writing an Amish M/M romance I was like – got to read!

This was my first time reading Ms Andrews (although I think I have at least one other book by her on Mt TBR). And I will admit that at first I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to get the depth of the culture in a story that was ultimately a romance but as soon as I started reading the book I was sucked in. I was sneaking reading chapters of this whenever I had a few moments to read – just a little bit more seemed to be my mantra while reading.

I had heard the term Rumspringa before- I mean, there is that horrible show on MTV (I think) about the Amish teens in New York while on Rumspringa (don’t hate me – I had a chunk of down time because of surgery earlier this year and maxed out on my normal shows). what I didn’t realized was that communities can control how/when and if even if their young people can have that experience prior to taking their vows. In this instance, I could see the logic behind why the community didn’t (very Footloose-ish) but ultimately, I didn’t feel that was a good enough reason/logic – there is only so much you can protect children, but where do you draw the line.

I felt connected to David and Issac – their story was just written in a way that you can’t help but feel for them. You could feel how they tried to battle their feelings for each other, because they believed it was wrong because of their religious teachings, but that ultimately, it came down to how they felt for each other. There was a lot of conflict between different characters – not totally over the top, but enough that I found it to be believable – between siblings, between friends, between the religious leaders and their followers. I didn’t realize that different sects (for lack of a better word) in the Amish community existed (stricter, more lenient etc – this was really highlighted in one scene with something simple like a buddy with a reflective sign on it so people in cars can see them on the road).

I will admit that I kept waiting for David and Issac to be betrayed by someone – I know that is probably very skeptical of me – but I just had this feeling – thankfully it didn’t in this book…but who knows in the later ones…I knew going in, based on the limited reviews/discussion that I had seen, that there was going to be a bit of a cliff-hanger, and normally I’m ok with that – but ugh – I can’t believe that I have to wait until JANUARY to find out what happens! (I’m doing the stamp my foot that isn’t fair action right now).

I will say wow – the level of research that went into this book was beyond what I expected – you could see how much time the author put into developing the story and community. i Overall, I gave A Forbidden Rumspringa 4 stars and recommend if you like stories where conflict between religious beliefs and love are key to the story.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Husband Games – Jamie Farrell

the husband gamesThe Husband Games
Author: Jamie Farrell
Series: #1 of the Misfit Brides of Bliss series
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
After Natalie Castellano’s marriage imploded on the field of the Husband Games in Bliss, Illinois, the Most Married-est Town on Earth, the last job she expected to inherit was planning the fiftieth anniversary of her hometown’s unique Games. But with her mother’s unexpected passing, that’s exactly what Natalie’s doing. And the position demands that she play nice with CJ Blue, the man who ultimately caused Natalie’s marital demise.

Winning Bliss’s Husband Games and being crowned Husband of the Year was the brightest spot in CJ’s short marriage. Since his wife’s untimely death, he’s taken himself around the world, hiding from his grief. But now, family obligations have him trapped in Bliss, where he’s been invited to participate in the Games and humiliate himself in the name of closure. The whole town wants him to play. The whole town, except one. And he can’t decide what bothers him more—that Natalie doesn’t think he belongs in the Games, or that she’s right.

These two would make great enemies. But all games aside, the more they find themselves in close quarters, the harder it is to deny their mutual attraction. She’s battled Bliss’s bridal brigade, and he’s jumped out of airplanes and soared over waterfalls, but now they’re both facing the biggest risk of all: taking another chance on love.

Review
So as a reader I love finding new authors to read and I thank my friend Jen every day for introducing me to Jamie Farrell. From reading her first book just over a year ago, I’ve been an avid fan (probably almost bordering on fan girl) – so when I got a special delivery in my email of my ARC of Husband Games, yeah, there was definately some happy dancing going on (figuratively, if not literally). I’d been lucky enough to see the cover long before it was released and I fell in love with it (I mean, look at it, who wouldn’t) – so I knew the book was going to be awesome. And thank god, Jamie delivered.

I will admit, I wasn’t sure about the whole weddings being a predominant role of the story – I mean, a town described as the most wedding-est town in the US, but juxtapose that with a main character who is divorced and well, there may be something there. I loved Natalie – from the first introduction of her until the end, she is probably one of my favorite female characters recently – although I will admit that she did have a few dumb moments where I wanted to shake her. But at the same time, I could see how much that was self-protection from the shenanigans from town-persons.

And then there is CJ – oh CJ, CJ, CJ – former winner of the Husband Games, now a widower and newly returned to town. Words can’t describe my thoughts on CJ – he is the perfect guy – I mean, down to his ability to distinguish his SO by the perfume she wears (or can he?). But Natalie and CJ have a history, one that she vividly remembers, but he has no idea about.

But even though the story was a romance, my favorite (and at the same time) most hated character was the Queen General – the woman who basically controlled Bliss – I know I was supposed to hate her, and I did truely – but oh my god, how she was developed as a character, I couldn’t help but also like her as well (yeah, I’m weird I know). Especially how it all came together in the end.

I loved the idea of the husband games – I mean, a competition based solely around the idea of which husband is the best at various tasks – doing laundry (ha); cooking a romantic dinner (anyone have the fire dept on auto-dial), or just all around-awesomeness. The secondary cast of characters (including CJ’s family – which consists of too many siblings for me to recount); Natalie’s sister who is going to get her own book in the future (if my RUMINT is to be believed), made the story all the more enjoyable.

I will admit that I was surprised by how hard this review was for me to write, considering how much I enjoyed the book. I don’t know what it was, maybe, that there is so much I wanted to say, but I couldn’t without going too far into spoiler territory. Either way, I loved Husband Games, a solid 4 stars and can’t wait to see what Jamie comes up with in the future.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Problems in Paradise – Kelsey Brown

problems in paradiseProblems In Paradise
Author: Kelsey Brown
Series: #3 in the Texas Nights series
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
Eden Durant hasn’t always been Eden Durant. She’s made a fresh start in Shelbyville, Texas, far from her mother’s notoriety. Running the Paradise Garden Café is as much excitement as Eden wants—or it was, until she meets Beck Childress. Although he’s the one man who could expose her past, she’s willing to open up enough to see if he might be her future.

Chief Deputy Childress is determined to get to know the real Eden, when he isn’t busy cleaning up after the sheriff and running in the election to replace him. When several men fall sick after eating in Eden’s café, he investigates even as her mysterious past raises both his suspicions and his protective instincts.

As their relationship heats up, so do the pressures of Beck’s campaign. When Eden’s secrets are revealed, jeopardizing his dream of becoming sheriff, he’ll need to choose: serve and protect the town he loves or the woman who makes it home.

Review:
I blame Jamie Farrell for my current addiction to Kelsey Brownings books – back when book 2 in the Texas Nights series (Running the Red Light) was released, she was talking about it on her facebook page and like a sucker, I one clicked it on Amazon and was hooked. I will however admit that while I remember Beck from the previous books, I don’t have as strong a recollection of Eden. I vaguely remember the discussions about her organic vegan restaurant – which I found funny, since the series in set in Texas (yeah, I know it was supposed to be) and how most texans I know (although not that many) are red meat lovin’ people. So seeing the interaction between Beck, the self-avowed junk foodie and Eden, the organic, homemade, health food junkie made me squee. (and yes, squee is a word!)

The sexual tension between Beck and Eden was hot enough that I found myself fanning my face a few times while reading – i’m sure red in my skin tone is such an awesome look! But it wasn’t overly done – meaning, there was so much more to the story than sex. Especially, the mystery about who was trying to sabotage both Beck’s campaign for Sheriff (I personally, still don’t get that, shouldn’t the Sheriff be the best at the job, not the person that can lie, whoops, I mean campaign the best). I will admit that I kind of had the mystery figured out before the reveal, but then I quite often do – its rare that I had no idea prior (except with this darn new J.K. Rowling book that STILL has me stumped, but that is a story for another day). I will admit that I did like the underlying, OMG, vegetarian food may kill us vibe that I got from several of the characters who made an appearance – it reminds me very much of my family and how they still react to this day with my sister who is a vegetarian (going on 10 years now). Such an insight, it was like the author is or knows someone who is a vegan and sees the interaction that occurs between us meat eaters (yeah, I’m admittedly one) and the non-meat eaters – haha!

Plus as with her previous books, we got to visit once again the couples from both Personal Assets (bk 1) and Running the Red Light (bk 2), but without their stories taking over, they were just there, in the background, hanging out, like good friends do. So basically, sexy contemporary romance, personal beliefs tension (carnivore vs. vegan), unresolved sexual tension and lite mystery make so a great read from Kelsey Browning. Overall, I gave Problems in Paradise 4 stars.

Kelsey will be giving away 1 copy of Personal Assets (the first book in the series) to one lucky commenter, so make sure you leave some love below (and your email, so I can get a hold of you if you win) and good luck. You have until July 25th (next Friday)

Buy Links:
Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights) – Amazon
Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights) – Barnes and Noble
Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights) – Carina Press
Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights) – Books A Million
Problems in Paradise (Texas Nights) – Kobo

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Enemies on Tap – Avery Flynn

enemies on tapEnemies on Tap
Author: Avery Flynn
Series: #1 in the Sweet Salvation Brewery series
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

Review Copy Donated by Author

Description:
Enemies …After years away, Miranda Sweet returns to Salvation, Virginia to save her family’s brewery, but her fate is in the hands of her lover-turned-enemy, Logan. What’s a girl to do when the only person who can help her is the man who betrayed her?

Lovers …Logan Martin can’t believe his luck when the woman who smashed his heart to smithereens walks into his bank asking for his help. What she doesn’t know is that he needs the land her brewery is on–and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

An Irresistible Combination …Their wager becomes a battle between their attraction and their determination to win. But it’s in each other’s arms that they realize there might be more at stake now than their bet. With the town against the Sweet Salvation Brewery’s success, Logan has to choose between what’s expected of him and what he really wants…

Review
Oh Avery, Avery, Avery…lol! Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for an Enemies to Lover story – it is probably one of my favorite romance tropes. So when I saw the description of Enemies on Tap, and then saw the post on facebook that there were going to be ARC’s available, I was on it faster than (insert some kind of inappropriate joke here) – which goes along with the story itself.

To say that I hugely enjoyed EoT (since i’m too lazy to write out Enemies on Tap everytime – sorry Avery!) is an understatement. There were times I was laughing so hard, I’m sure the people around me (I was on the metro heading home from work) probably through that I was having an attack or something. EoT was a short read (only about 160 pgs according to Amazon), so I managed to read it in about 2 metro rides – but I made the drudgery of my day job just fall away as I was sucked into Miranda and Logan’s story.

I will admit that for a good portion of the first half I wanted to go and find a baseball bat, reach into my kindle and boing Logan over the head. He was such a stick in the mud – and yet at the same time, I could kind of understand with the history that he shared with Miranda and the small town prejudices (having grown up in one myself, it was almost like a reoccurring nightmare). The whole Sweet and Martin dynamic (think Hatfield and McCoy’s without the shooting at each other – although I’m surprised it hadn’t gone that far) was funny and it was like Ms Flynn had grown up in a town where stuff like that occurred. The romance wasn’t as hot as some, but there was a reasonable amount of UST between Miranda and Logan, as well as some seriously hot moments – it just wasn’t all wham, bam, thank you ma’am type stuff (which is a pet peeve of mine).

But it wasn’t just Miranda and Logan who I loved – there was a colorful cast of secondary characters that made up the town of Salvation, Virginia. I think my favorite secondary character, aside from the curmudgeon of a Brewmaster (who rumor has it is going to get his own book in the future) was Ruby Sue and her pie (yes, the pie is a secondary character in my mind!) and with quotes like this:

“I’ll be damned. Miranda Sweet, is it you or is my glaucoma acting up again?” Ruby Sue sat her glass down on the Formica countertop with a clank. “You always did know how to make an entrance. Who do you think you are, the Queen of England?”

I can’t wait to see more of her in the later books.

I am kind of bummed that I failed to write down some of the awesome quotes that I found while reading – I always think about it and then forget. Thankfully people on Goodreads do a much better job than me (yes!).

I can’t wait for the next book in the series, to see where it goes (and of course, to see what Miranda and Logan get up to in the future). In fact, I was even tweeting the author, almost as soon as I was done, asking her when the next book was going to be out. This book has firmly put Avery Flynn on my current autobuy pile. 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Hard Hats and Doormats – Laura Chapman

hard hats doormatsHard Hats and Doormats
Author: Laura Chapman
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

Review Copy Provided by Author via RABT

Description:
Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.

But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.

While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.

Who says nice girls have to finish last?

Review:
When I read the description of Hard Hats and Doormats, I was intrigued – having worked in a male dominated capacity for a few years, it is an environment that I know and can appreciate (while also getting exceptional frustrated with). Although, I will admit that I know little about the oil business – so reading about that was introducing me to a whole new world. I sat down on Thursday night intending to only read a chapter or so on my kindle, but I was soon sucked in and before I knew it, I had read about 50% of the book (not complaining because it was the great way to start a holiday weekend). Ms Chapman has a very smooth writing style, that isn’t overly flowery, but just works well.

The relationship between Jason and Lexi made me giggle because it reminded me so much of workplace relationships that I have seen – not that I agree with them – but sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t – I liked how they tried to keep theirs on the DL, even though everyone “knew” about it. Because that is just how it always seems to be, the more something is tried to be kept quiet, the more people actually seem to know about it (I wonder if there is a psychological theory in there somewhere..)

I will admit that I was kind of disappointed in the fact that while she worked in a male-dominated world, Lexi was still in what could be seen as a more female-centric position (human resources/training). I would have loved to have seen her more in the environment, or actually doing a job on one of the oil platforms. I was also kind of disappointed in how little she seemed to know about the company she worked for – yeah, she could spout all the various rules/regulations – but when it came to the actual functioning of the company – it seemed like she had never really bothered to learn (and I can kind of see where the Doormat label could be applied). I don’t know, maybe it is just me, but if I was working for a company where I was a complete newb, I’d be down on the deckplates, trying to learn as much as I could.

However, even with those issues, Hard Hats and Doormats was a solid read. It wasn’t overly romance/spicy, but rather toned down (at least to me – others may disagree). I know I’ll be looking forward to reading more by Ms Chapman in the future. Overall, I gave Hard Hats and Doormats 4 stars for a lite contemporary romance/chick lit read.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Book Review

 

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