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Review – Mercies in Disguise – Gina Kolata

Mercies in Disguise
Author: Gina Kolata
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
The phone rings. The doctor from California is on the line. “Are you ready Amanda?” The two people Amanda Baxley loves the most had begged her not to be tested—at least, not now. But she had to find out.

If your family carried a mutated gene that foretold a brutal illness and you were offered the chance to find out if you’d inherited it, would you do it? Would you walk toward the problem, bravely accepting whatever answer came your way? Or would you avoid the potential bad news as long as possible?

In Mercies in Disguise, acclaimed New York Times science reporter and bestselling author Gina Kolata tells the story of the Baxleys, an almost archetypal family in a small town in South Carolina. A proud and determined clan, many of them doctors, they are struck one by one with an inscrutable illness. They finally discover the cause of the disease after a remarkable sequence of events that many saw as providential. Meanwhile, science, progressing for a half a century along a parallel track, had handed the Baxleys a resolution—not a cure, but a blood test that would reveal who had the gene for the disease and who did not. And science would offer another dilemma—fertility specialists had created a way to spare the children through an expensive process.

Review:
Last year one of the books that I read and reviewed for my blog was Inside the O’Briens (Lisa Genova) – the story of a Boston family where the Patriarch is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease – a progressive disease that causes the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Around the same time I posted my review, I also proposed a question on my facebook page about genetic testing – specifically, if there was a 100% certainty that you would inherit a disease if you carried the gene for it (i.e. Huntington’s), would you pursue the test or would you want to just see how your odds fall? It was interesting reading some of the responses from people I know and others who came across that question, as a friend of a friend. Fast forward to March this year and I saw mention of a non-fiction book with a similar theme mentioned on Doing Dewey Non-Fiction Friday that I just knew I needed to read in the very near future.

Mercies in Disguise is told in 2 parallel stories – that of the Baxley family, where grandfather, father, and brothers had been afflicted by an unknown disease – a disease that resembled Alzheimer’s and a touch of Huntington’s but not just that…and the scientist who discovered the disease approximately half a century earlier. From the get-go, I was drawn into Ms. Kolata’s story-telling – she managed to weave science, family dynamics and medical mystery in a way that I wanted to keep reading (in fact, I pretty much read the entire book in one sitting while waiting for my car to be serviced). There were lots of questions about the ethics of medical advancements including genetic testing for embryos. It is definitely a book that make me think a lot about what I would do if I was put into the same situation as members of the Baxter family. Personally, I’d probably fall on the side of wanting to know my future so that I could plan for it – even if I know that I might die at a very young age…but thankfully, I’ve not had to make a medical decision like that. I think I found the medical side of the story – how the disease was identified to be less interesting than the family dynamics overall – not saying I didn’t like it, but the Baxter family portion was more intriguing to me – maybe because it was a bit over my head with some of the science (I mean, I did get a D in college biology…sooooo).

If you are looking for a solid non-fiction book that would pair well with a book like Inside the O’Brien’s or Still Alice – then you may enjoy Mercies in Disguise.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Wicked Takeover – Tina Donahue

Wicked Takeover
Author: Tina Donahue
Series: #1 in the Wicked Brand series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
She’s just inherited a tattoo parlor…and the hunk who comes with it.

Lauren’s in a helluva mess. Not only has she lost her corporate HR job, she’s just inherited Wicked Brand, a struggling West Palm Beach tattoo parlor…along with the virile dude who runs it. Lauren’s full-figured, sorta pretty, and wanting him badly. Dream on. She’s here to sell the place as quickly as possible for some much-needed cash and score a new position in the corporate world.

Dante’s sinfully hot with a killer smile and beautifully inked biceps. He sees the heat in Lauren’s eyes despite her conservative appearance, recognizing the dynamite woman she could be if she’d just loosen up and have some wicked fun. Dominance and submission. Making love in a public place. Having her lush body always accessible to and ready for his.

Unwilling and unable to keep their hands to themselves, Lauren and Dante turn to carnal games and seduction. Until lust turns to surprising need and friendship to something deeper that might just change their futures.

Review:
It’s funny, when I got an email from Tina Donahue asking me if I would review her newest book, I totally jumped on it because I was like (mentally), I’ve read her before and enjoyed her writing…now looking back at my Goodreads shelf, I can’t find any books I read by her. So obviously I must have been smoking some kind of crack when I thought I had read her – but since I ended up really enjoying Wicked Takeover, maybe its a good thing I thought I had read her in the past 🙂 I think her biggest writing strength is that the conversations between Lauren and the crew at Wicked (Jasmina, Dante and Van Gogh) just flowed like a normal conversation. Sometimes I find that conversation writing can feel very stilted and patchy – but no worries here.

Holy Hotness between Lauren and Dante! I’m pretty sure I needed a fireman (hey, Kimberly Kincaid, you got one I can borrow) to come and hose me down – their scenes were just steaming up the place. I honesty don’t know if i’ll ever be able to look at Dove Ice Cream bars the same again…but it wasn’t just hot hot hot scenes between them. The relationship (while a tad insta-lust/love) had a decent amount of tension before sexual implosion (I’m pretty sure that is the only word I can use). There was one scene where Lauren and Dante….well, you know, I’m not going to tell you – you’ll just have to read it and find out (yes, that is kind of mean and i’m proud of it).

Besides the hotness of Lauren and Dante’s relationship, I thought Ms Donahue did a good job with developing Lauren and Dante both as characters. You got to see what drove them – Lauren and her search for a job after being laid off (which in her career field is unfortunately a sad commentary on affairs today) and Dante with how he ended up at Wicked (hint, its not quite a tear jerker, but has the potential). I think the one part I wish had been a bit more developed was the history behind Lauren and her father – we knew that he had left Lauren and her mother while Lauren was growing up – but you never really find out why.

So here’s the skinny – holy hotness, sizzling sexual tension – read it! You won’t regret it if you like contemporary romance!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Running from a Rock Star

Running from a Rock Star
Author: Jami Albright
Series: #1 in the Brides on the Run series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Purchase Link: Amazon

Description:
She’s a good-girl control freak. He’s a bad boy in need of a clean image. Will these opposites attract or self-destruct?
Scarlett Kelly is the poster child for responsible living. Growing up as the daughter of the town floozy she’s made it her mission to be the exact opposite. So when she wakes up naked and hungover in bed with a bad-boy rockstar, Scarlett bolts immediately. But she never expected him to follow her home… and tell her they’re married!
Gavin needs to repair his image or his music career will go down the tubes. He’s also just learned he has a son he never knew existed! Gavin wants to settle down, and bribing his new wife to stay married may just fit everything into place.
Scarlett agrees to the ruse to help her family’s financial troubles even though she can hardly control herself around the rock star. As they search for Gavin’s son, will the cross-country adventure give them exactly what they’ve been missing or send them packing?

Review:
Running from a Rock Star was a random discovery for me through Kindle Unlimited – basically I searched for a word that I needed in a book title for a reading challenge (in this case, running), and then randomly picked a book that sounded interesting. Yeah – I know, kind of weird – but hey it worked and I discovered a new to me author that I will definitely be reading more of in the future. Having been a romance reader for many years – more often than not, I’m finding myself getting burnt out and bored with most of the recent released – so finding a book that can keep my attention (and that I can finish in a short time period) is kind of hard. Yeah, I know that probably sounds insane – but it’s definitely how I’ve been feeling lately.

I loved the mesh of Scarlett, the small town good girl (who writes her name in her underwear!!) and the on the edge bad boy rock star that was Gavin. Their relationship was explosive in a drunken antics kind of way that only a trip to Las Vegas can result in. If I need to say more, then all I can say is, what happens in Vegas definitely didn’t stay in Vegas for this book 🙂 Ms. Albright also pegged the small town vibe so perfectly – it almost made me have nightmares of some of my experiences growing up in a small town.

For me, one of the things that makes most romance novels that I love, are the secondary characters – Scarlett’s friend Luanne was a hoot and I can’t wait to see if she gets her HEA in Jami’s next book. Although the rest of Scarlett’s family (Aunt Honey in particular) made me just laugh. I cringed at the description of the small town gossip biddies (because there is no other word to describe them). I wasn’t a huge fan of Gavin’s manager – but i’m sure he is going to redeem himself in a later book (or at least he better!). Overall, 4 stars for Running from the Rock Star and I know i’ll be looking for more books by Ms. Albright in the future.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Book Review

 

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Review – Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon
Author: David Grann
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

Review:
Over the last few months I have been focusing more on reading non-fiction books because I’ve been feeling so burnt out on the vast majority of the fiction books that I’ve been reading (or trying to read). So when the quarterly reading challenge picked this book for the Summer reading challenge, I knew without a doubt which of the 3 choices I was going to read (the other options were Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead). What drew me to this was not on another series of events in history that I’d never heard about, but also because it was how the FBI came to play such an important role in law enforcement (in fact when the events in this book took place, FBI agents couldn’t legally arrest folks, they needed local law enforcement to actual arrest the folks).

The mystery surrounding the deaths of multiple Osage Indians was one that had spanned many years and different types of death, from execution style shootings, to a bombing to poisoning that appeared to mimic illness. There were few commonalities between the victims and witnesses and people trying to solve the murders were also being killed – it was a mystery that would take many years to solve. But there was one commonality between all the victims (but don’t worry, I’m not cruel enough to tell you what or who that is)…I will admit that for me, the solving of the murders and the steps that the FBI took to solve it, was more interesting to me than the background of the FBI (probably because I’ve read enough about J. Edgar Hoover to really not care too much although in part, his personality and persistant was key in the eventual solving of the murders).

More interesting to me was how the US government treated the Osage Indians who were all individually wealthy because of the discover of and subsequent selling of oil leases for their land and yet were treated like (for lack of a better term), delinquent children. Having guardians assigned to these Indians as a way to control them (needing approval to access funds that were rightly theirs, people marking up merchandise the Osage wanted to purchase 4-5x the normal cost and other shady business practices). This was another of those dark periods in history that are valuable to study and yet have been hidden away until an enterprising researcher discovers it and decides to start unraveling the mystery.

Killers of the Flower Moon was an solid mystery and intriguing examination of a lost time period. I found the pictures that were sprinkled throughout of the victims and the FBI agents who eventually solved the crime, as well as the murderer(s) themselves. A solid 4 star read.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Book Review

 

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Review – Riptide – Skye Jordan

Riptide
Author: Skye Jordan
Series: #6 in the Renegades series

**Review Copy Provided by Author**

Description:
When pro surfer Zach Ellis isn’t traveling the world-wide competition circuit, he works as a Renegade stunt double for the hit TV series, Hawaiian Heat. After years of tangling with the ocean, his body has paid the price. So when he gets a shot at a star role on the show, Zach’s all in. He celebrates the career opportunity by taking a chance on a woman who’s not his usual island-girl type, only to discover he can’t bear to let her go.
 
Tessa Drake belongs mired in legislation battles in Washington DC, not standing on the sidelines of a filming set in Maui like a wannabe starlet. But even more important than her law career, Tessa needs Zach Ellis’s signature on legal papers. Papers that relinquish his parental rights so Tessa can adopt the girl who already calls her mommy. When she discovers Zach has slipped out of town before she makes contact, Tessa takes solace in the sexy star of Hawaiian Heat. A man whose warmth and dazzling grin makes her Mensa-level IQ vanish into thin air.
 
After an electrifying night together, Tessa is horrified to discover just who rocked her world. Zach is stunned to learn he’s a father. And both find themselves caught in a riptide pulling them in the opposite direction of their dreams.

Review:
I’ll admit, when I first got the email from the author asking if I would be interested in reviewing her newest Renegades book, I was a bit skeptical because I’ve been in a serious reading slump lately – I think I’ve had more 1-2 star reads in the last month than all of last year. But since I’ve pretty much wholly enjoyed all the previous books written by her – I figured what the heck and said, sure I would love to read it. And it did the trick to help pull me out of my slump!

Previous to this, I’d only read the first book in the Renegades series, but I will definitely be adding the other ones to the TBR pile (or borrowing via KU) in the near future. This was one of those books that just tugged at my heart-strings with the storyline (adoption, single mom) and add in the hot hunky stunt double (who was a former pro surfer – ummm yes please) for a solid romance that just made me all happy inside. Unlike many books I’ve read that feature children, where they kind of just stay off to the side, Ms Jordan made sure that Sophia was integral to the story – I laughed at some of the one-liners she came up – total gems that you would expect to hear from a 3/4 year old as well as the portrayal of the epic kid meltdowns (you know, when you just look at them wrong and the world implodes).

I also learnt a lot about legislative law (which I’d never really heard of before this) – aka, the lawyers that work with politicians to craft the bills that go before congress. I applaud the author for maintaining a very even keel POV on something that is often so fraught with emotions (never really demonizing any one group of people that play a role in the process). I always love when I learn new things from reading romance novels 🙂

I know that I’m looking forward to going back and reading the intervening books in the Renegades series, as well as more books by Syke Jordan in the future. A solid 4 star read and a recommendation for anyone who likes action driving contemporary romance.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Book Review

 

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Review – Angel of Death Row – Andrea D. Lyon

Angel of Death Row
Author: Andrea D. Lyon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded. Dubbed the “Angel of Death Row” by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her career, she has defended those accused of heinous acts and argued that, no matter their guilt or innocence, they deserved a chance at redemption.

Now, for the first time, Lyon shares her story, from her early work as a Legal Aid attorney to her founding of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases. Full of courtroom drama, tragedy, and redemption, Angel of Death Row is a remarkable inside look at what drives Lyon to defend those who seem indefensible—and to win.

There was Annette who was suspected of murdering her own daughter. There was Patrick, the convicted murderer who thirsted for knowledge and shared his love of books with Lyon when she visited him in jail. There was Lonnie, whose mental illness made him nearly impossible to save until the daughter who remembered his better self spoke on his behalf. There was Deirdre, who shared Lyon’s cautious optimism that her wrongful conviction would finally be overturned, allowing her to see her grandchildren born while she was in prison. And there was Madison Hobley, the man whose name made international headlines when he was wrongfully charged with the murder of his family and sentenced to death.

These clients trusted Lyon with their stories—and their lives. Driven by an overwhelming sense of justice, fairness, and morality, she fought for them in the courtroom and in the raucous streets, staying by their sides as they struggled through real tragedy and triumphed in startling ways. Angel of Death Row is the compelling memoir of Lyon’s unusual journey and groundbreaking career.

Review:
Its always interesting to see where my Goodreads challenge reading takes me, since I know that the Angel of Death Row is likely not a book I would have picked up, if I wasn’t looking for a non-fiction book with a specific theme. These theme (in homage to the pioneering women in Hidden Figures), a non-fiction book about a women who was first to do something significant (which Ms Lyon most definitely did). I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical going in – I mean, when I think about Death Penalty cases – visions of people like Jodi Arias come to mind or the scene from The Green Mile (where they are using the electric chair) and my thought pattern was how can she defend people who seem indefensible (yes, I know that everyone deserves the best defense they can afford by our constitution), but its still hard for me…but that wasn’t what I got.

As soon as I started reading Angel of Death Row, I felt drawn to Ms Lyon – it was interesting seeing how when she made up her mind on her career pathway that nothing derailed her and seeing how she knowingly made choices that would set her career on the trajectory to become the first female to try a death penalty case in the US. Added to that, her experience as the only female on Task Force Homicide which was part of the Public Defender’s Office (which by the way, why do we never see anything more than the slovenly public defender on TV who is quickly replaced by a high-powered shark of a lawyer, who swoops in to save the day) – made her career progression all the more intriguing – I haven’t read a lot of biographies about individuals in the legal field (lawyers or judges) – so I can’t say what I expected a typical career to look like, but this isn’t what I expect (yeah, I know, totally vague there)…

It’s hard to go into the different cases that were mentioned in Andrea’s book – several of them are mentioned in the books description – but in so much more color/detail – at times, I felt like I was sitting in a kitchen with Ms Lyon while she interviewed a witness or trudging the streets with her while she tried to find that one person who would be able to exonerate her client. But her career wasn’t all roses, she had her ups and downs and in the writing of her book, she didn’t shy away from talking about those issues – including the impact that such a career has on a personal life.

I believe that Angel of Death Row should be a required reading book for law students, especially those who are maybe considering defending or prosecuting individuals charged with homicide. There is something that everyone could learn from reading it. I’ll be interested to see what derivative recommendations I get based on my reading of the Angel of Death Row.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – The Valiant – Lesley Livingston

The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Series: #1 in the Valiant series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Princess. Captive. Gladiator.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.
Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Review:
A couple of months I received an email from Netgalley (as I do quite often) about a new young adult historical fiction book that was due to be released in February. Normally, I take a quick scroll through these emails but don’t pay a lot of mind – but this time something caught my eye – maybe it was a rather unique time period (ancient rome) or the cover that just showed a single young woman standing in a stadium – but I knew that if I didn’t request it, then I was going to ask my library to purchase it (which they so kindly did). Anyways, I had had a long week and so I curled up in bed with the pups one Saturday and pretty much read the Valiant in one sitting – which is something that I rarely do.

Ancient Rome is definitely not a popular time period in historical fiction, and a book featuring a female gladiator (gladiatrix) is even rarer (honestly – I can’t even think of a recent book featuring male gladiators). Fallon has to be one of the most kick-ass heroines I’ve read about in a long time – especially considering the time period that the book was set – where women were often seen as little more than chattle. From the get go, I knew that Fallon was a character that I was going to be drawn to – like many other well-known females in history, she bucked the traditions of her time, and pushed the boundaries of proper behavior.

While there were the undertones of a potential romance between Fallon and one of the Roman soldiers (or male of significant rank, I can’t remember exactly what his position was) – it wasn’t overwhelming (and thankfully there was no love triangle!). It was more of an adventure/coming of age than a romance – but I believe that is a second book in the works, so that could change. I know that I will be looking forward to reading it when it does come out. I wish in general there were more books set in time periods like Ancient Rome (or similar civilizations). The Valiant got 4 stars from me with a heavy recommendation for anyone who likes historical fiction with kickass female characters!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Book Review, Review

 

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