Friday, June 24, 2016

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Fantasy

This is book four of the amazing Song of Ice and Fire series. Though, Martin mentioned at the back of the book how this is actually just one part of book four and the next is the second part of book four. This one tells the story of Cersei, Jamie, Arya, Sansa, Sam, Asha, some folks from Dorne, and Brienne. I missed some of the other characters but can understand why Martin decided to split this up. That said, I felt like there were entire chapters where nothing really happened.

I still enjoyed it and got sucked in, but would have liked there to be less filler.

Rating:
(4/5)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Fiction

Seventeen year old Ethan and his mom are planning a trip to South America but when they arrive at the airport, an error sends them back home. When they arrive at their New York apartment, they find Ethan's dad with his secretary. Ethan storms off and eventually gets mugged on the streets; his mom also leaves.

In a few months, it's a whole new living arrangement. Ethan's dad has moved in to a cabin in the woods and he and his mom stay in New York, only to find that his grandmother has suffered a serious medical condition and needs help. Ethan's mom sends him to stay with his dad. The two aren't talking to each other so it's going to be an uncomfortable situation. Add on top of that, Ethan is not an outdoors person.

Eventually, when Ethan's dad goes missing, Ethan needs to become what he doesn't think he is: brave. This is the story of a young man pushing himself to the limits to find his father, but also find himself.

This story pulls you in and makes for a very easy read. But I found all the scenarios that lead up to Ethan's being out in the wilderness too coincidental. His dad cheats, for some reason decides to move out to the middle of no where (why? how does this fit his character? what is he doing about work?), and then Ethan's grandmother gets sick and his mom must leave to take care of her, without Ethan. The entire purpose of the book is for Ethan to be out in the woods but the story leading up to that didn't feel entirely flushed out.

I enjoyed his journey out in the wilderness with his neighbours. The fights they had between them, the animals they travelled with, how they were sore and where they camped. This was the most enjoyable part of the book. The lessons that Ethan learned about himself were a little stereotypical but the book did end realistically.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

First Line: "Ethan remembers the shaking most clearly."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

About the Author
Catherine Ryan Hyde is author of many books, taker of many pictures, and rider of one horse. She likes to hike and kayak and plans on trekking the lower Himalayas of Nepal.
Find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her website.


Win a copy of Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Lost Kin by Steve Anderson

Historical Fiction

In Post-WWII Munich, the Americans and German police have control of the city. Anyone associated with Nazis or SS officers are being jailed. Those that have different nationality are being repatriated back to their country, whether they want to or not. Harry Kasper is an American officer who hasn't heard from his brother, Max, who was a German officer. Irina, a Cossack refugee asks specifically for Harry stating that she knows his brother and leads him directly to a dead German officer, dressed as an American. Harry finds himself involved with a bunch of Cossacks being hunted by the Russians, but not friendly with the Allies. If the Russians find them, they will be killed. If the Allies find them, they'll be sent back to Russia because of the repatriation agreements. Harry looks for his brother and a way to save these people.

I've read quite a few fiction books that focus around WWII. I've never read about post-WWII and the repatriation efforts. I had no idea this happened and I'm glad to have been educated on it. Anderson obviously did his research on this and the description of the politics behind it I'm sure will make anyone frustrated. There wasn't too much description of those caught in the middle since the story focused more on the characters trying to help these folks out. But the descriptions that were given made me believe it would be terrifying.

The book was a slow go. In my opinion, the main point of this book is for Harry to work with his brother to help save the Cossacks. Yet we aren't even introduced to that problem until half way through the book. The first half of the book felt like it was about almost nothing. It introduced a few characters, but didn't do a good job of keeping my attention.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

Rating:
(3/5)

About the Author
Years ago, Steve Anderson planned to become a history professor. He landed a Fulbright Fellowship in Munich. Then he discovered fiction writing — he could make stuff up, he realized, using history and research to serve the story. Now Anderson writes novels that often introduce a little-known aspect of historical events, mixing in overlooked crimes, true accounts, and neglected underdogs.
Find him on Twitter, Facebook and at his website.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Lamb by Christopher Moore

Humour

We know a lot about Jesus's birth and his 30s when he starts to spread the word of God. But what about his time as a kid and teenager? What was he like? Enter Biff, Jesus' (or Joshua) childhood friend. Biff follows Josh around as he searches for what it means to be the Messiah. Biff invent sarcasm, the two make a tradition of eating Chinese food as Jews on Jesus' birthday, and they figure out that coffee tastes much better with milk.

This isn't an easy book to write a review for. I enjoyed how smart this book was. Moore did a good job of coming up with things that Biff and Josh discovered, created, or were part of starting traditions for. His descriptions of these events made complete sense in the context he wrote them and were entertaining.

I've read quite a few Moore books now and think this ranks up there in the top 3.

First Line: "The angel was cleaning out his closet when the call came."

Rating:
(4/5)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Plane Insanity by Elliott Hester

Memoir

Elliott Hester is a flight attendant for a major American airline. He flies all kinds of routes, though many of his stories seem to include routes to South America. He lets us know what it's like to be a flight attendant and all the quirky stories that go along with it. The stories range from funny to gross. It's an interesting look in to this life, which you would normally only see for a few hours at a time.

Having just finished a book that looked inside the world of waiters (Waiter Rant), it's hard not to draw comparisons to this book. And unfortunately for this book, I found Waiter Rant better. There were a couple of reasons for this.

First, I found like Hester had no passion for what he was doing. He worked this for a job and then expected us to care about what he did in his job. As a result, you only care about the stories but not much about Hester himself. Some of the responses he gave customers I would consider unprofessional given the industry he's in. Sure, some of the customers are jerks and deserve worse, but in the service industry you still need to be polite to people (up to a certain point, I guess). Hester seemed snippy with most everyone and it just made me glad that I've never been on a flight with him before.

The second is Hester's continuous negative description of people. For example, there was an incident on one of his flights where a flyer has a heart attack so they call for a doctor. There is a doctor, but apparently he's fat. So Hester says the doctor waddles down the aisle like a pregnant lady and then every time this doctor is mentioned again, he's called some form of fat. Why? The doctor wasn't even a major player in the story, nor had he treated anyone poorly.

All in all, I think Hester's a bit of an ass himself, which made it hard for me to like this book.

First Line: "I never wanted to be a flight attendant."

Rating:
(2.5/5)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

Memoir

In another blog-to-book, Waiter Rant examines the operations at the front of the house for a restaurant. Steve finds himself out of work in his thirties and not knowing what to do. His brother gets him a waiter gig at the restaurant he's working in and Steve carried on in this career for many more years than normal. He eventually becomes the head waiter at a restaurant he calls simply 'The Bistro'. It's an upscale Italian restaurant. There are many tales: funny, horrifying, sad, uplifting, I could go on. This book has been billed as the waiter version of Kitchen Confidential, which I haven't read so I can't compare to. But I get the feeling it doesn't quite measure up.

If you start this book with the understanding that you're going to be reading fluff, you'll be ok. It's fun fluff. There isn't too much substance. There's a little bit of self-righteousness. You have to let it slide. This waiter does try to tell you how you should act at a fine dining establishment. As someone who is pretty certain I have never caused problems for a restaurant, it did annoy me a little. But I let Dublanica's preachy parts just slide on by and enjoy the juicy bits. I enjoyed hearing about some of his stories and it was an interesting look in to the restaurant business, but it was still just fluff.

First Line: "'So, you take it up the ass?' Benny asks me."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Monday, May 09, 2016

Once Upon a Lie by Michael French

Fiction

This is the story of two teenagers from completely different backgrounds. The first is Jaleel, an African American from a small town who witnesses his father kill his mother and then himself. The police decide that Jaleel is the murderer and rather than trying to clear his name, he flees. He meets a man on the bus who helps him out, providing him a new identity so we can start a new life in LA. Jaleel is a smart kid with a knack for baseball, which allows him to carry on in school and get accepted to a top tier university.

Then there's Alex. She comes from a privileged family, in a wealthy neighbourhood of LA. Her dad is a successful criminal lawyer, her mom a socialite that likes to put on the best party. Having an adventurous nature, Alex happens in to Jaleel's neighbourhood and they start talking. They hit it off and Alex wants to return as soon as she can, but she finds out that her mom is having an affair with her dad's best friend and eventually her dad finds out too. Alex convinces Jaleel to help her warn off her dad's friend, which puts them all in a bad situation.

French does a great job of writing these two teens. Alex felt particularly real to me. She had a great head on her shoulders for a teen, but she wasn't so mature or insightful that you couldn't believe her age. She was worried about some things that teens worry about, which added to her realness. Jaleel was a bit of a harder nut to crack because of how guarded he was from all the horrible things he had been through. I liked him, but it felt like there was less time dedicated to him so I couldn't get as much a feel for him.

The adults are another story. All of them are pretty pathetic. Alex's dad has no ethics or values, Alex's mom is the most selfish person in the world that completely abandons her kids, all the cops are blind to the clues in front of them and the lawyers are no better.

This interesting mix of characters makes for a page-turning novel. There are unexpected twists and turns through the whole thing and a very realistic ending. The only thing this book needs is a cover worthy of the story inside!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

First Line: "Sunday, July 6, 2014."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

About the Author
Michael R. French graduated from Stanford University where he was an English major, focusing on creative writing, and studied under Wallace Stegner. He received a Master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He later served in the United States Army before marrying Patricia Goodkind, an educator and entrepreneur, and starting a family. French’s work, which includes several best-sellers, has been warmly reviewed in the New York Times and been honored with a number of literary prizes.
Find Michael on Twitter, Facebook and at his website.


Win a digital copy of Once Upon a Lie!