Category Archives: Book Review

Review – Ashley’s War – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

ashleys-warAshley’s War
Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command created Cultural Support Teams, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. The idea was that women could access places and people that had remained out of reach, and could build relationships—woman to woman—in ways that male soldiers in a conservative, traditional country could not. Though officially banned from combat, female soldiers could be “attached” to different teams, and for the first time, women throughout the Army heard the call to try out for this special ops program.

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion about the opening of combat roles in the military to women. Discussions about should women be allowed in these traditional male roles? can they carry the same weight? various services have conducted different studies to see how women perform in these training pipelines – but few people know that women have been in combat roles for several years – serving alongside men in the special operations, including Army Delta forces. In fact, while I had heard of these women in passing, I knew next to nothing about these ground breaking women, so when I came across Ashley’s War in the library, it seemed like a good choice for something to read.

ashleyAt its heart, Ashley’s War is a fairly simple read, but the depth of emotion held within resulted in me crying and nearly crying several times throughout. Its a story of sisterhood; or pushing yourself beyond what you believe capable; or providing evidence that women do have a place in direct combat roles. What started out as a “social experiment” as many anti-women in combat folks like to say, soon emerged as a way for the US to tackle the empty cavern that was the female half of population in the villages, soldier’s often ended up in their pursuit of Taliban. The women of the Combat Support Teams (or CST’s) aided in identifying members of Taliban hiding in the general population because they were able to talk to female members of the population, who previously were not included in interrogations. There wasn’t anything special about these women – they were daughters, wives, and sisters; Academy graduates and ROTC, regular Army and National Guard – but each of them were special in their own way. Each of them were trail blazers for the women in the military today and the into the future.

memorial1-jpegBy the end of the book I was a blubbering mess – even though going into it, I knew what was going to happen to the title solider (thank you huge spoilers in the description!). But reading how she died and how the unit that she was supporting did their best to save her and the others that were injured in the IED detonation; the reading of the recollections of the other members of the CST who had trained with Ashley when they realized she had been killed…I think I’m almost glad that I was reading this book and not listening to the audiobook like I had originally intended.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about what our Combat Support Teams did in Afghanistan; and anyone who wants to see what the role of women in combat can truly be.

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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Review – How Bad Do You Want It? – Matt Fitzgerald

how-bad-do-you-want-itHow Bad Do You Want It?
Author: Matt Fitzgerald
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

The greatest athletic performances spring from the mind, not the body. Elite athletes have known this for decades and now science is learning why it s true. In his fascinating new book “How Bad Do You Want It?,” coach Matt Fitzgerald examines more than a dozen pivotal races to discover the surprising ways elite athletes strengthen their mental toughness.

Fitzgerald puts you into the pulse-pounding action of more than a dozen epic races from running, cycling, triathlon, XTERRA, and rowing with thrilling race reports and revealing post-race interviews with the elites. Their own words reinforce what the research has found: strong mental fitness lets us approach our true physical limits, giving us an edge over physically stronger competitors. Each chapter explores the how and why of an elite athlete s transformative moment, revealing powerful new psychobiological principles you can practice to flex your own mental fitness.

The new psychobiological model of endurance performance shows that the most important question in endurance sports is: how bad do you want it? Fitzgerald s fascinating book will forever change how you answer this question and show you how to master the psychology of mind over muscle. These lessons will help you push back your limits and uncover your full potential.

“How Bad Do You Want It?” reveals new psychobiological findings including: Mental toughness determines how close you can get to your physical limit. Bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more. Champions have learned how to give more of what they have. The only way to improve performance is by altering how you perceive effort. Choking under pressure is a form of self-consciousness. Your attitude in daily life is the same one you bring to sports. There’s no such thing as going as fast as you can only going faster than before. The fastest racecourse is the one with the loudest spectators. Faith in your training is as important as the training itself.

At the end of August, I completed in an Half Iron event in Maine (a half iron consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run). While talking to my coach the night before, we were talking game plan and goals and my response was, I’d love to PR (personal record) – my fastest time was 7:12 in 2013 in North Carolina, my other times had all been in the 7:30 range). I had a solid swim and my bike was within 10 minutes of my goal (I wanted to get 3:30 and ended up with 3:39) and so knew going into my run that there was a chance if my run went as planned, that I might PR…and then at mile 8 (of 13 on the run)…when I realized how close it truely was…my brain started playing tricking on me and I nearly sabotaged myself with my finish. in case you are wondering, I did PR by a grand 40 seconds! But after that race, I knew I needed to focus not only on the physical aspect of my training, but also the mental. So when I realized I had a review copy of How Bad Do You Want It? to read, I figured now was a good time to dig in.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Matt Fitzgerald – I’ve already skimmed through his book about race weight, and he has a whole host of other books out there about various aspects of triathlon and marathon training. The publisher (Velo Press) is also known for their books focusing on different aspects of athletic performance (I previously reviewed their book on Strength Training for Triathletes and have used several of the workouts included in it). In How Bad Do You Want It – Fitzgerald uses a series of stories about elite athletes and different pressures that they had faced in their careers while competing. From coping with the pressure to be successful to adapting strategies to do with physical limitations, to overcoming from behind (or being the underdog). Each chapter in the book starts with a story of an athlete and then the author talks about current research that is available that talks about that particular coping mechanism. There is a bibliography at the end of the book so you can research further into the research if you are intrigued but it wasn’t written in a way that was overly scientific. For me, the biggest take away was to have fun because if you don’t, then the stress of training and trying to improve will start to eat you up and you will fail.

I gave How Bad Do You Want It? 4 stars and its a great book for understanding some of the psychology that goes into endurance training. I know I’ll be looking for more books by Matt Fitzgerald in the future.


Posted by on October 13, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Review – The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel – Jennifer McQuiston

the-perks-of-loving-a-scoundrelThe Perks of Loving a Scoundrel
Author: Jennifer McQuiston
Series: #3 in the Seduction Diaries series

Review Copy Provided by HarperCollins Publishing

Every girl dreams of a hero . . .
No one loves books more than Miss Mary Channing. Perhaps that’s why she’s reached the ripe old age of six-and-twenty without ever being kissed. Her future may be as bland as milk toast, but Mary is content to simply dream about the heroes and adventures she reads about in her books. That way she won’t end up with a villain instead.
But sometimes only a scoundrel will do.
When she unexpectedly finds herself in the arms of Geoffrey Westmore, London’s most notorious scoundrel, it feels a bit like a plot from one of her favorite novels. Suddenly, Mary understands why even the smartest heroines can fall prey to a handsome face. And Westmore is more handsome than most. But far worse than the damage to her reputation, the moment’s indiscretion uncovers an assassination plot that reaches to the highest levels of society and threatens the course of the entire country.
When a tight-laced miss and a scoundrel of epic proportions put their minds together, nothing can stand in their way. But unless they put their hearts together as well, a happy ending is anything but assured.

I’m probably a bit late jumping on the Jennifer McQuiston train because I know lots of my friends have been reading her for years and i’ve only read one in the past, but after reading (ok, cramming) The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel, I may have to make it a mission to catch up on her backlist. I mean, who can’t fall in love with an author who opens a book with drunken shenanigans and a wallflower observing certain drunken behavior occurring outside her window (don’t worry, I won’t tell you too much😉 ) From then on, I knew i was going to be in for a fun ride and McQuiston didn’t let me down.

Having not read the previous books in the Seduction Diaries series, I’m curious to see how this one compared to the others. I liked how McQuiston managed to mix mystery and sleuthing with the romance between Geoffrey and Mary. Honestly, in general, Mary made me laugh – she was a wallflower who while notionally quiet and perfect, really seemed to want to break out of the mold of how society dictates women should behave. you could tell from early on in the book, that she was just bursting to find out who she was and how Geoffrey helped her figure that out (without placating her). there were definately a few moments where she was floating ideas by Geoffrey about the mystery and he just treated her like he valued her opinion and wasn’t just listening to her, for the sake of just listening…

While The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel is the 3rd book in the Seduction Diaries series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone (although I know there are many people out there who get eye twitches if they read books out of order🙂 ) If you want a historical romance with a rake falls in love with a wallflower storyline, that has witty banter and solid writing, the The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel may be the book for you.

jennifer-mcquistonAbout the Author:
A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal.

Connect with Jennifer McQuiston
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Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Review – Shining Sea – Anne Korkeakivi

shining-seaShining Sea
Author: Anne Korkeakivi
Rating: ☆ ☆ ½

Opening in 1962 with the fatal heart attack of forty-three-year-old Michael Gannon, a WWII veteran and former POW in the Pacific, SHINING SEA plunges into the turbulent lives of his widow and kids over subsequent decades, crisscrossing from the beaches of southern California to the Woodstock rock festival, London’s gritty nightlife in the eighties to Scotland’s remote Inner Hebrides islands, the dry heat of Arizona desert to the fertile farmland of Massachusetts. Beautifully rendered and profoundly moving, SHINING SEA by Anne Korkeakivi is a family story, about the ripple effects of war, the passing down of memory, and the power of the ideal of heroism to lead us astray but also to keep us afloat.

One source of books that I often find to be intriguing when I’m looking for new books to read are the lists published by various magazines called “most anticipated books of…,” “books you can’t wait to read in…” and other various ways to title lists. Mostly I’m curious to know how the books that are selected for these lists are selected – who determines that they are the “most anticipated” – is it some kind of algorithm based on sales (although since sometimes these posts are done months in advanced of publishing dates I find that hard to rectify); is it based on preferences of the article writer or staff at a magazine…and there is a reason behind my meandering here…I had a profound sense of disappointment as I read Shining Sea and struggle to understand how it ended up on a most anticipated list.

The beginning of the story was interesting with how a family dealt with tragedy, but about 1/3 of the way through it just started to meander a bit – lots of focus on family drama (mostly focused around 1-2 of the family members) rather than the family saga that I was kind of expecting. I also kind of expected more than two generations to be part of the story – maybe I had a bit of an over-inflated sense of expectation because of how it was presented on the Most Anticipated list…I will stay that I enjoyed the earlier portions of the book that had shorter chapters that jumped through different time periods – so there was one chapter that would be in 1965, and then another in 1967 for the first couple parts of the book. Then there was a portion that was a good 100 pages and honestly, there is where the author started losing me…i just wanted engaged in that portion of the story – it just felt out of place. I think that is kind of where I started to wonder exactly what I was reading…up until then i was ambivalent, but that is just where i turned from ok to ehhh….but i did stick it out until the end and while the second to last chapter (prior to the epilogue) was solid and fulfilling – once again after I finished reading the epilogue I was like ehhh….

Maybe i’m just not the right audience for this book – i’m sure there are people who would enjoy it – it just didn’t work for me – 2.5 stars overall.

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Review – Bookish – Olivia Long

Author: Olivia Long
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

My name is Aubrey Britton. I was your every day average nerdy book blogger, obsessed with the hot guys on the covers but lusting from afar. I knew I’d never meet a guy like the ones in my books, with muscles like that, with eyes like that, with a mouth like that.

I knew I was destined to be an old maid, get a bunch of cats, work at a book store and live in my fantasy world until the day I died.
Hot, steamy sex was something reserved for the girls in my books, not a girl like me.
Until the day I literally fell for Isaac James, the hottest man to grace the cover of any romance novel.

And he wanted a girl like me.
And he had muscles like that.
And eyes like that.
And a mouth like that…and was a filthy talking sex god in the bedroom.

But we both had our secrets and we both had our guarded pasts. When all was revealed, would the nerdy book blogger get the guy?

Or was I destined to be alone forever?

One of the many things that I love about Goodreads are the friendships that I’ve made and the book recommendations that I get from them. Bookish is just one of those recommendations – it popped up in our August what are you reading thread in one of my romance groups and the mini-review by the member that posted caught my eye. Of course, seeing that it was also available via Kindle Unlimited helped (since I could borrow it as part of my subscription). Double bonus was that it fit into a reading challenge as I needed a book that featured a writer (including book bloggers) as a main character.

I’ll admit that there wasn’t anything in Bookish that blew me away writing or plot wise. In fact, I actually found how the story unfolded to be kind of predictable – there weren’t really any surprises in what happened (and at least to me, much of it was telegraphed through previous actions of the characters). Also, I have to admit that insta-love is one of my least favorite romance tropes.

But don’t get me wrong – just because I found the plot to be fairly predictable, didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy Bookish and I found Ms Long’s writing to be fluid with few errors – just solid – which is this day and age I find to be a bonus. If you are looking for a cute, but predictable romance with an insta-love trope, then Bookish might be the book for you.

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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Review – The Girl from the Savoy – Hazel Gaynor

the girl from the savoyThe Girl from the Savoy
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

sometimes i have to wonder if my desires in book settings is like published somewhere…so funny(ish) story, maybe a month or so ago, I was talking some book-ish friends on facebook and mentioned that I would love to see more books that were set in the post-WW1 era, but pre-WW2 (so the 1920’s and 30’s). And then not long after, I got an email asking me if I would be interested in reviewing Hazel Gaynor’s newest book, The Girl from the Savoy. I’d first read Gaynor when I picked up her “The Girl Who Came Home” when it was on sale one day (which told the story of a Titanic survivor, interspersed with a modern day story). And who doesn’t love this cover, like I have serious cover envy right now!

The first thing that sucked me into Gaynor’s story-telling, was how I felt like I was in London during the 1920’s. I felt like I was walking into the Savoy for the first time, seeing its opulence and having Dolly (or one of her friends) being my maid. Reading the vivid descriptions of the clothes and their trips to see Loretta May perform on stage. Dolly was just a character that you could fall in love with because she was so relateable – a girl who just wants to live her dreams, but one that also has a past that she is trying to reconcile with. It took me a few chapters to realize that while the majority of the book was set in the 1920’s, that there were a few portions that were set 1919 and more immediately post WW1 (yeah, I know, sometimes, I’m a bit slow on the uptake).

There was such a cast of characters included in The Girl from Savoy – Dolly and her fellow maids, several customers of the Savoy (there was one who really gave me the heebie-jeebies) so you could see the types of people who stayed at the Savoy, to Loretta and her brother, Percy and then there was Dolly’s long-lost love, who while he came back physically from the war, was never the same. His portion of the story was probably the most gut-wrenching off all the parts in the story (I know that it was supposed to be, but maybe its because I am in the military, that it hit home even closer)…

The Girl from the Savoy makes 2 books in a row by Gaynor that I have really enjoyed and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I’d recommend both the Girl from the Savoy (and the Girl Who Came home) to people who like historical fiction that has been extremely well-researched and just draws you in. A solid 4 stars for The Girl from Savoy and one step closer to Gaynor being added to my auto-buy list.

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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Review – The Angel Wore Fangs – Sandra Hill

the angel wore fangsThe Angel Wore Fangs
Author: Sandra Hill
Series: #7 in the Deadly Angels series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Once guilty of the deadly sin of gluttony, thousand-year-old Viking vampire angel Cnut Sigurdsson is now a lean, mean, vampire-devil fighting machine. His new side-job? No biggie: just ridding the world of a threat called ISIS while keeping the evil Lucipires (demon vampires) at bay. So when chef Andrea Stewart hires him to rescue her sister from a cult recruiting terrorists at a Montana dude ranch, vangel turns cowboy. Yeehaw!

The too-tempting mortal insists on accompanying him, surprising Cnut with her bravery at every turn. But with terrorists stalking the ranch in demonoid form, Cnut teletransports Andrea and himself out of danger—accidentally into the tenth-century Norselands. Suddenly, they have to find their way back to the future to save her family and the world . . . and to satisfy their insatiable attraction.

Sandra Hill is an author who has been on my to-read pile for a while, in fact, i’d heard about her vikings series quite often (since there are very few authors who write in that romance sub-genre), so when I was approached by her publicist to review the newest book in her Deadly Angels series, I was intrigued (even if it is book 7 in a series, which made my OCD eyeball twitch just a bit)…based on the description, I was intrigued with how the author was going to try and merge the historical world of vikings with a paranormal world with demons and vampires (or rather Lucipires aka demon vampires).

But i got to be honest, I was more intrigued with the viking world that Cnut (funnily enough, I have a co-worker with a similar name) and Andrea ended up in rather than the paranormal undertones of the book. Maybe because to me that part of the story just sucked me in and i haven’t read the previous books in the series to understand the paranormal background. I’ll also say that I had a few issues with the ISIS storyline that the author chose to use, mostly because a whole secret compound in the US isn’t typically how these middle eastern terrorist groups recruit people. It was also like she tried to work in an element of romantic suspense as well with Cnut helping Andrea to find her sister. I don’t know, in general, I think if I were going to read Ms Hill’s stuff again, then i might stick to the straight historicals, like her Vikings series, rather than her paranormals, since this one just didn’t really work for me. Don’t get me wrong, fundamentally, there was nothing wrong with her writing style, it is just a personal preference. Overall, I gave The Angel Wore Fangs 3 stars, because while it didn’t necessarily work for me, it was a solid paranormal romance.

sandra hillAbout the Author
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons

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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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