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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Review – Stolen Years – Reuven Fenton

stolen yearsStolen Years: Stories of the Wrongfully Imprisoned
Author: Reuven Fenton
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
There is a horrible murder in your neighborhood. You stand outside with your neighbors and watch, or maybe you peek out of your curtains. Hours pass, then days, maybe even years. Until one day there is a knock at your door, and the police take you in for questioning. Do you remember what happened? Do you have an alibi? Can you take countless hours of interrogation without breaking? Can this happen to you?

It can happen, and it happens more than you think.

From The Fixer to The Shawshank Redemption to Orange Is the New Black, books, films, and TV shows have, for decades, fed the public’s endless hunger for nitty-gritty details about prison life. Stolen Years will not deny readers those details, but it will also offer something more satisfying: the stories of ten former inmates who fended off the blackest kind of despair so they could keep fighting for freedom; the years they spent waiting for an appeal; and their struggles to get back to living after losing so many years behind bars.

Review:
There are some books that when I read them, it takes me time to decompress from the reading experience before I can write a review, Stolen Years was one of those books. I’ll admit that I’m one of those people who honestly wants to believe that those people who are in jail, especially those for long periods of time, actually deserve to be there – but with the rise of podcast’s like Serial, and the Netflix documentary, Making of a Murderer, I’ve started to question my belief of and in the legal system. Its kind of coincidental, that as I am writing this review, a Law & Order: SVU episode came on with a false accusation premise that actually echoed one of the stories in Stolen Years.

The book itself was a fairly simple read, 10 stories about different people from all walks of life: different states, different socio-economic classes; some parents, some not; some young and some old; male and female – but the one thing these people all had in common, was that they were found guilty (either via a judge or a jury) for a crime that they didn’t commit and all of whom spent significant time in prison – the least amount of time in the book was ten years, others were in the twenty year plus range. I think for me, the story that really hit me the hardest was the one about the father who spent 10 years in jail for raping his daughter, only to have her recant – her reasoning, she was angry that he wasn’t spending enough time with her and her sister. And even after his release, she continued to threaten him with reporting him again whenever she got mad at him. I was honestly just dumbstruck after reading his story, I couldn’t believe what that girl (now woman did).

One of the things that has come in some of my recent non-fiction reading has been the need for prison reform – the need to better rehabilitate prisoners who are released (either due to their sentences being complete, or in cases such as this, being found innocent and sentences vacated). The lack of social reintegration for these former prisoners was emphasized the issue even more – when you have individuals who have been in jail for sometimes decades, when they make comments like computers being very limited when they went to prison and now they are an integral part of our lives. How do you overcome something like this? Stolen Years is one of those books that anyone interested in social justice should read; it should be required reading for any student who may become involved in the legal system; people who are involved with making laws and working in the prison system. Heck, it should be required reading for pretty much anyone, I would lay odds, if you had asked any of the people who had their stories told in Stolen Years, prior to their convictions, if they would have thought this would have happened to them – and I’ll lay odds, they’d say never!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Highwayman – Kerrigan Byrne

Romance nominee banner

the highwaymanThe Highwayman
Author: Kerrigan Byrne
Series: #1 in the Victorian Rebels series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Derek Perkins
Run Time: 10hrs 54min
Audiobook Producer: Tantor Audio
Audiobook Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Audiobook Review Copy Provided by Tantor Audio

Description:
STEALING BEAUTY
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…
COURTING DESIRE
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

Review:
It’s kind of weird, I would say that when you look at my romance reading (or listening) that I’m fairly solid in the historical romance realm – so it was kind of surprising to me that I’d never heard of (or if I had, I don’t remember), Kerrigan Byrne before. That being said, as soon as the nominations for the Audies were released, I observed several people mentioning her books on different forums (so maybe it was just a case of me not paying any attention…not that that should surprise people). Anyways, I was excited to check out both a new to me author and a new to me narrator to kick off my armchair audies listening and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ll admit that I’m a junkie for heroes that seem to be undeemable, especially one who goes by the name of “the Blackheart of Ben More” as well as heroines who break the traditional mold that they are expected to fill, in particular, that of the proper lady, not one who works as a clerk in a prison. there was a bit of a mystery element to the story that I found to be well-developed, even if I did figure out whole the bad guy was on fairly early on. I will admit that the use of the name Farah for a female in a historical romance kind of struck me as a name that may have been too modern for the era, but my google-fu has been unsuccessful in finding an origin for it, aside from the fact that its a Muslim name. So I guess the potential for it to be period appropriate it plausible, but I’ll admit that it was a tad distracting for me.

Not only was Kerrigan Byrne a new to be author, but Derek Perkins was a new to me narrator – although he has a significant backlist. Overall, he had a nice melodic narration style that suited the story well, especially the portions where Dorian and the other male characters were speaking. But I will admit that I struggled a bit with his narration of Farah – while it wasn’t a horrible female voice, there were a few times where it just grated on me. It got a bit pitchy in places which was a bit irksome. But overall, a solid narration that I gave 3.5 stars for. The audio production of The Highwayman was well done, which is something I have come to expect from Tantor Audio over the years.

I’ll admit that i was intrigued enough by both the book and the narration to want to continue the series in the future. Overall, I gave both the story and the narration 3.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Review – Try – Ella Frank

try ellaTry
Author: Ella Frank
Series: #1 in the Temptations series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
Try – verb: to make an attempt or effort to do something or in this case…someone.
Sex. Logan Mitchell loves it, and ever since he realized his raw sexual appeal at a young age, he has had no problem using it to his advantage. Men and women alike fall into his bed—after all, Logan is not one to discriminate. He lives by one motto—if something interests you, why not just take a chance and try?

And he wants to try Tate Morrison.

Just coming out of a four-year marriage with an ex-wife from hell, a relationship is the last thing on Tate’s mind. He’s starting fresh and trying to get back on his feet with a new job at an upscale bar in downtown Chicago.

The only problem is, Tate has caught the unwavering and unwelcome attention of Mr. Logan Mitchell – a regular at the bar and a man who always gets what he wants.

Night after night Tate fends off the persistent advances of the undeniably charismatic man, but after an explosive moment in the bar, all bets are off as he finds his body stirring with a different desire than his mind.

As arrogance, stubbornness and sexual tension sizzles between the two, it threatens to change the very course of their lives.

Logan doesn’t do relationships. Tate doesn’t do men. But what would happen if they both just gave in and…tried?

Review:
So this is probably a book series that I never would have picked up, if one of them hadn’t been nominated for an Audie in the erotica category. However, when I saw the nominees and noticed that this was #3 in the series, I asked around to find out if that nominated book could be read alone, or if i needed to read the previously 2 first. the overwhelming response was that the series needs to be read in order because its one continuing storyline, although, several of my friends prefaced their comments with, “logan is a total man-whore” – which I’ll admit made me kind of skeptical. So i’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised when I actually sat down to read Try, so much so that I read it in like a day.

It’s been a while since I’ve found a m/m series (or trilogy) that I could get invested in, i think because I got partially burnt out, but there was something about Ella Frank’s writing that just sucked me in. I’ll admit that Gay For You is a harder trope for some authors to write, in that, its hard to make it believable…but I found Tate’s reactions to Logan’s advanced to be what I would think is realistic to someone faced with a similar dilemma. Especially since in the beginning of the book, he was just getting divorced. I think my one complaint is that once again, an author writing a m/m romance resorted to a female character being a bitch and playing an integral role in the story – which annoys me beyond all reason.

I’ll totally agree with my friends who referred to Logan as a man whore in the beginning but I loved seeing him change as he fell more and more in love with Tate as the book progressed. There was something so honest about it, I couldn’t help but like Logan. And while the focus of the book was Logan and Tate, there was something about the cast of secondary characters, specifically, Logan’s brother and his wife that made the store even more engaging. I was going to put something here about loving to read a book about the 2 of them and just found out that that book is already available (yes, I might be a dork and way excited about this).

Ella Frank had an engaging writing style that just sucked me in. I found that the story flowed well, with limited redundancy in the writing (something I’ve started noticing a lot more lately). I gave Try a solid 3.5 stars and definitely looking forward to seeing where the other two books in the trilogy take me.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Book Review

 

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Armchair Audies Overview – Paranormal

Armchair Audies

So a little bit delayed with my third and final post in the my Armchair Audies Overview series, but something you got to save the best for last (or do you?). Paranormal is the second category that I reviewed last year and overall it was one of the strongest ones for nominees (IMHO). I had a REALLY hard time picking what book was going to be the winner, and it also opened me up to a bunch of new authors that I had never before heard of (several of who I have read more of since then). I’ll admit that I was excited to see that Seth Skorkowsky (author)/R.C. Bray (narrator) got a nomination for the second book in the Valduan series (the first one was one of my top ranked nominees last year).

The PARANORMAL Nominees are…

the dead houseThe Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich
Narrator: Charlotte Parry and Christian Coulson
Audiobook Publisher: Hachette Audio

Description:
Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Initial Thoughts
One of my favorite listens recently was Anna Dressed in Blood, a YA mystery and the description of The Dead House kind of gives me the same vibe. The idea of a story being told through letters is something that I enjoy, because it makes for a different approach that can be either hugely successful or a total fail. Both the author, as well as the narrators are new to me and I’m intrigued to see how the dual narration will play out – how will the narration be split between the male/female narrator.

hounacierHounacier – Seth Skorkowsky
Narrator: R.C. Bray
Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios

Description:
Eleven years ago, atheist MALCOLM ROMERO met a god. Now he’s a demon-hunting voodoo priest armed with a holy machete named Hounacier.

After the murder of his mentor, he returns to New Orleans to catch the killer. But more is at stake when Malcolm finds himself betrayed, and his holy blade stolen. Now Malcolm’s only hope to save his soul and to recover HOUNACIER, is the Valducan knight sent to kill him, MATT HOLLIS, the wielder of the holy revolver DÄMOREN.

Initial Thoughts:
ok, so i’ll admit, I did a bit of a fan girl dance when I saw Hounacier had been nominated this year. Damoren was one of my top ranked picks last year and I bought this one when it was released a few months ago (but as my norm, I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it yet…) It was something different in the urban fantasy realm, that is so often dominated with the kick-ass female trope (don’t get me wrong, I like them as well, but they can get a bit tiring after a while). I can’t wait to see how the adventures that started in Damoren continue

fall of manLycan Fallout 2: Fall of Man – Mark Tufo
Narrated: Sean Runnette
Audiobook Publisher: Podium Publishing

Description:
Mike is back. Devastated by his loss he strikes out on a doomed journey to wipe the earth of the Lycan scourge, with his faithful companion Oggie by his side. Bailey, a distant relative of Mike’s best friend BT, joins him but for different reasons. Azile struggles to reign him in, while a world already pushed to the edge begins its fall over the precipice. When all is lost, can anything ever be won?

Initial Thoughts:
So my initial thought from reading the description – who is Mike and why is he back? I know that this is bk 2 in a series, but I also know that I don’t have time to go back and listen to the previous book, so i’m hoping that it can function ok as a stand-alone. I’ll admit that I was intrigued by the description and that it was likely something that would catch my eye if I was browsing audible titles. The narrator is new to me but from looking at Audible, he has a pretty substantial backlist for me to check out if i like his narration.

seven yearsSeven Years – Dannika Dark
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Audiobook Publisher: Tantor Media

Description:
Seven years ago, my world ended.
Seven years later, my new life began.

It’s been seven years since Lexi Knight lost her brother in a tragic accident. On the anniversary of his death, her brother’s best friend shows up unexpectedly – a man she hasn’t seen since the funeral. He is no longer the boy Lexi once knew, but a dangerous-looking man with tattoos and dark secrets. He broke her trust and abandoned her family, yet what he reveals makes it impossible to stay angry. Lexi has been secretly infatuated with Austin since childhood, so finding out he’s a Shifter just makes him sexier. Dammit.

Austin Cole has returned to the city where he grew up, and just in time. He’s lived a hard life these past seven years, and the shadows of his past are threatening to destroy Lexi’s family. It’s time that she learned the truth about her brother, but there is a shocking twist that Austin never saw coming. Now he must protect her family when her mother and sister wind up in mortal danger. Will Lexi learn to accept the truth about who he is, and can Austin salvage a relationship from the ruins of their past?

Destiny will find you.

Initial Thoughts:
So this is really the one book in this category that I am skeptical about because I tried to read it a year or so ago and didn’t make it past about the 20% stage. I’ve also heard some reviews of the audiobook and it seems that several people felt the same way as I did on my initial attempt to read. But I am willing to give it a second try – here’s hoping…

white trash zombieWhite Trash Zombie Gone Wild – Diana Rowland
Narrator: Allison McLemore
Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios

Description:
Angel crawford has buried her loser past and is cruising along in undead high gear–that is, until a murder-by-decapitation sends her on a hazardous detour. As Angel hunts for the killer, she uncovers a scheme that would expose zombies to the public and destroy the life she’s built, and she’s determined not to rest until she finds out who’s behind it.

Soon she’s neck-deep in lies, redneck intrigue, zombie hunters, and rot-sniffing cadaver dogs. It’s up to her to unravel the truth and snuff out the conspiracy before the existence of zombies makes headline news and she’s outed as a monster.

But Angel hasn’t quite escaped the pill-popping ghosts of her past–not with an illicit zombie pharmaceutical at her fingertips. Good thing she’s absolutely sure she can handle the drug’s unpredictable side effects and still take down the bad guys…or maybe she’s only one bad choice away from being dead meat–for real this time.

Angel knows a thing or two about kicking ass, but now the ass she needs to kick might be her own

Initial Thoughts:
I’ve heard about this series on and off over the last few years, but I’ll readily admit that zombie fiction normally isn’t my thing – and here’s hoping that book 5 in the series will act decently on its own because I don’t have the listening (or reading time) to get back to the rest of the books. The narrator, Allison McLemore, has a relatively small repitoire of audiobooks out there, but enough to maybe check out more by her in the future depending on how White Trash Zombie Gone Wild Plays Out.

Initial Predictions:
1. Hounacier – Seth Skorkowsky
2. The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich
3. White Trash Zombie Gone Wild – Diana Rowland
4. Lycan Fallout 2: Fall of Man – Mark Tufo
5. Seven Years – Dannika Dark

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2016 in Armchair Audies, Listening Events

 

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National Read Across America Day

read across america

So I didn’t know this until it popped up in my facebook feed, thanks to author Christy Reece, but today is National Read Across America Day. And not only is it National Read Across America day but its also Dr Seuss’s birthday. Dr Seuss was a huge advocate of getting children to read – I know that I have many fond memories of reading his books when I was younger. Not just the well known ones like Green Eggs and Ham and Cat in a Hat; but Go Dog Go; Hop on Pop and one of my all-time favorites – Oh Say Can You Say (to this day i can barely read it when i’m sober…lol!).

National Read Across America day is hosted by the National Educational Association (NEA) with the goal of encouraging young kids and teens to pick up a book and read. You can read more about this years even at the following link.

And on that note, i’m going to do what the day is meant for…i’m going to go and curl up on the couch and read. I have a historical fiction called America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie that I’m reading; along with an urban fantasy, Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews.

What are you guys reading on this special reading day? Any plans to curl up with a kid to read with them? (I checked my local library but didn’t see anything going on – maybe next year!)

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Reading Events

 

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