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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston: A Review


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The Lost City of the Monkey God is a non-fiction book by National Geographic writer Douglas Preston.  Douglas Preston accompanies a group of researchers to a remote area of Honduras, Mosquitia, which legends suggest is the home to a lost city, Ciudad Blanca, also known as the City of the Monkey God.  The author describes how lidar is used to make a map of the area, confirming that there was a civilization there.  He and a team also travel into the area to view the ruins themselves, uncovering a massive ruin with previously untouched artifacts.  The type of people that lived in the area was described as having a rich culture that had ties to the Mayans but confirmed that the Mayans were not the inhabitants of the Ciudad Blanca, the White City.  The city was likely abandoned due to disease, which the author came across first-hand when he came down with a very hard to treat parasite, leishmaniosis, which can cause the entire loss of a nose or face, in some cases. 

There were some parts of this book that moved a bit slow, due to being a little overly technical.  Someone with more of an interest in surveying (like my surveyor father) would find discussions of lidar and GPS equipment fascinating but I was more interested in the culture of the people that lived in Mosquitia.  I was not disappointed!  I was excited to learn about a culture that I had previously no knowledge about.  The people indigenous to the area were not Mayans but had some ties to them, due to trade, and some of their culture seemed to mimic that of the Mayans.  I was also intrigued to learn about the illnesses that plague the area, mostly due to the insects that are rampant, and the horrors of the fer-de-lance snake (including the frightening picture at the end of the book).  The book does contain a brief modern history lesson of Honduras and explains how the excavations were effected by that history and the current political and economic climate of the area.  I felt the author’s frustration when he described the criticism that the team received on release of news of the discovery and felt equally frustrated that academic competition continually thwarts advancements and discoveries.  Overall, this was a really great book.  If you are a reader that does not enjoy the technical nitty gritty that some non-fiction books have a lot of, keep reading past the half-way point of this book, as I don’t think you will be disappointed.  Another great book to read about the culture of the Americas prior to Columbus is Charles Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.  

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This book was released on January 3, 2017 and can be purchased at booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read additional reviews of this book on Goodreads.

I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.  I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson: A Review


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Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson is a murder mystery novel follows British-born Kate, who suffers from intense anxiety and memories of a traumatic event, as she travels to Boston to switch apartments with a cousin whom she has never met.  The day after Kate arrived, she finds out that her next-door neighbor, Audrey, has been murdered in her apartment.  Kate soon discovers that her cousin, whom she knows little about, has been having a secret relationship with Audrey but denies it to everyone.  Kate wonders if her cousin has anything to do with the killing and vows to find out.

This was a mildly interesting book that kind of read a bit slow and was very predictable.  Halfway through the book, I knew who the killer was and had a vague idea about how and why the murder occurred.  The characters were very full and complex but that really is what saved the book for me.  Kate was a very likeable character and Corbin was not a one-dimensional character, in the least, but the characters alone did not make up for the fact that this book had a lot of boring parts and absolutely no surprises.  I would recommend it for people who like complex characters and are okay with gory scenes but don’t necessarily need surprise endings or story lines that are shocking.

This book was released on January 10, 2017 and can be purchased at booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read other reader's accounts of this book on Goodreads.

I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.  I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard: A Review

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard is a murder mystery about Sarah, a young Irish woman, who seems to disappear off the side of the earth.  Her boyfriend, Adam, who has been pursuing a screenwriting career unsuccessfully for ten years while Sarah pays the bills, realizes after Sarah does not call him days after she arrives in Spain for what Adam thought was a business trip and does not arrive on the return flight home that he does not know his girlfriend as well as he thought he did.  He discovers that Sarah has an American lover and has boarded a cruise ship for a vacation that Adam didn't know anything about.  Not receiving help from the local police, Adam begins an investigation of his own.
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I enjoyed the twists and the turns in this book and the wonderful surprises at the end.  It definitely wasn't your typical ending to a mystery novel.  I also learned a lot about maritime law and how it can effect investigations on a cruise ship.  I can now see that it would be simple for someone to disappear on a cruise ship and for them to be lost to the ocean forever.  It really makes one think about booking that vacation!  The characters were not completely one-dimensional but they were not as complex as I usually like.  They were not the black-and-white, good or evil characters either, though, which I really appreciated.  While Adam is trying to save the day, he is still a bit of a dud and many will see why Sarah felt the need to stray.  This is a very quick read and it does hold one's attention from the very beginning.  This was a great mystery novel but part of the story reminded me a lot of We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver which really intrigued me as a big fan of complex family and psychological thriller stories.  This book is definitely one that will be enjoyed by any reader of mystery novels.

This book will be available on February 2nd and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 

I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia: A Review

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Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia is a murder mystery novel about Hattie, a senior in high school who is a little bit bigger than the small Minnesota town than she is living in.  Hattie acts in her high school's production of Macbeth and in her everyday life.  She desperately wants to move to New York so that her real life will begin but Hattie is murdered shortly before her graduation and her chance to do so is thwarted.  Del, the local sheriff, is best friends with Hattie's father and vows to find out who killed her.

This book led me on a crazy ride!  The characters are so interesting, especially the character of Hattie.  She is a chameleon that alters her behavior to suit her audience at any given time.  The character of Peter mirrors the Macbeth play that he directs as he grapples with his own morality and allows understanding of right and wrong.  The story winds itself in so many directions and even when you think you are done with this novel and have learned the end of the story, there are even more twists and turns around the corner.  Parts of the story are a teeny bit predictable but the majority of the story is not predictable, at all.  This was a very fast reading novel for me (I read the last 310 pages in one day, broken down into two sittings) and I really enjoyed it.  I will definitely be looking forward to reading Mejia's other novels in the future.  I think readers who enjoy books written by Mary Kubica and Paula Hawkins will enjoy this novel. 

This book was released on January 3rd and can be purchased at booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read other reader's accounts of this book on Goodreads.

I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas: A Review

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The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost by Donna Freitas is a non-fiction book about the effects of social media on our relationships, mental health and happiness, with a focus on the effects that social media has on college-aged young adults.  Recent news articles lament that social media is causing depression and low self-esteem because when users view the best of other user's experience and compare it to their own experiences they will always come up short.  This book investigates this phenomenon, as well as cyber-bullying, how young people feel as if they constantly have to be available and respond to calls or texts immediately and how relationships and communication styles are evolving to include a more technology-driven culture.  We learn that students are simultaneously encourages to "manicure" some of their social media pages so that they will appear perfect for prospective employers and in order to gain admission to the university of their dreams and use anonymous social media applications in order to express some of their darker thoughts and experiences.  Freitas uses both interviews and surveys in order to gain information on social media and technology usage from a variety of sources.  She then makes recommendations, at the end of her book, on how parents, educators and prospective employers can help young adults have a healthier relationship to social media. 

As a millennial with a degree in psychology, I know first-hand the effects of social media.  I am one of the young adults that Freitas speaks about who have partially detached from social media and enjoy breaks from my smartphone due to the lack of social civility and the feeling as if I must answer every email and text right away.  I used to answer work emails as soon as I received them and realized the absurdity of it when I found myself exhausted after answering unimportant emails at four o'clock in the morning, when I would have rather been sleeping.  I appreciated reading the stories of other young adults who have been in my situation and I no longer feel bad for not updating my Facebook page every day (or every week).  That being said, this book was hard to read.  Many times, it was very boring and read much like the academic articles that I would read in school.  Freitas repeated many of the comments and some of the information from paragraph to paragraph and even from chapter to chapter.  This made reading it feel clunky and as if I had reread large amounts of text.  I had to force myself to finish the book and it took a lot longer than a book of this size would normally, for that reason.

Most of Freitas comments about the interviews and surveys left me mouthing "Yes!  Yes!" to my kindle because Freitas seemed to understand millennials in a way that most people refuse to see us.  Constantly checking ones smartphone and updating one's status is not a sign that we are ego-maniacal and self-centered but simply that this is part of the culture in which we have been raised.  I do not recall an adolescent moment in which I didn't have the internet and have grown up using it for convenience and communication.  We are far from narcissistic with many of us feeling vulnerable and suffering from low self-esteem staring at all of our "friends" happy faces and feeling as if employers and other authority figures are constantly judging us for every misstep.  We don't participate in unsavory behavior anymore than past generations have; it's just publicized more often.  That feeling of finally being understood dissipated when Freitas gave advice and suggestions for parents and educators on how to help young people to disconnect from technology, however.  Freitas gives advice that sounds as if she has bought into the common theme that young people just need to be taught how to be less selfish, tossing out her former beliefs that our generation is no more self-centered than any other.  Instead of so much advice on how young people can disconnect, I would have liked to have seen more advice encouraging understanding and encouraging freedom of expression on social media.  There was some of that but I would have liked to see more.

The Happiness Effect has a lot of information from research that has been ignored from others in the academic community but it could have been written in such a way that it was more interesting to read and the author could have avoided contradicting herself in some places in the book.  The hardcover of this book is currently available and the e-book will be available on January 31, 2017.  It can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read other's reviews on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 

I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov: A Review

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The Patriots by Sana Krasikov was a touching story about a young American woman who travels to Soviet Russia, the country that her parents immigrated from, in order to be apart of the socialist revolution.  Upon living and working in Russia for many years, the young woman's passport is confiscated and she finds herself unable to leave Russia.  She finds herself a victim of antisemitism and anti-American sentiment. She meets an American man who is going through the same thing and has a child with him. When both of them are accused of being traitors, they are sent to prison camps and their son is raised in an orphanage.

This story is very sad but the author is able to convey hope in her writing. This book contains a lot of information that is not often spoken about in history classes about the Soviet Union and the relationship between the United States and Russia at that time. So much of this book shines a light on the injustices that many in Soviet citizens suffered. Readers will easily see the hypocrisy that Flora, and later Lenny, refuse to see and will see parallels in both the Soviet and American political systems. I really enjoyed reading the novel but I was a bit frustrated when the book ended and I was still left with unanswered questions. That being said, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great historical novel.  Sana Krasikov, as an immigrant from Russia, is able to impart a first-hand knowledge that other authors may not be able to.  Watch a video of the author speaking about her inspiration for the novel here.  


This book was released today and can be purchased at booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read other reader's accounts of this book on Goodreads

 I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 

I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren: A Review


   
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The Road to Enchantment is a heartwarming story of a single, expectant mother who has to move back to her mother's New Mexico vineyard in order to handle her mother's last affairs after living as a musician in Los Angeles for years.  Willow's mother moved Willow to New Mexico from the state of Washington after setting Willow's father's mattress on fire in retaliation for his infidelity with one of Willow's teachers.  When Willow arrives at her new school, she notices that she is the one Caucasian student among the predominantly Apache student body and is bullied because she is unsure of the culture that surrounds her.  Willow befriends Darrel and becomes passionate about music and riding horses while her mother tries to make her failing winery put food on the table for her and Willow.  Willow moves from New Mexico to Los Angeles right after graduation and begins a career as a cellist.  She also begins a relationship with a selfish musician, Ian, who leaves Willow right before finding out that Willow's mother has died and that Willow is pregnant with his baby.  Now, Willow must find a way to pay off her mother's debts and decide how she will raise a baby by herself.


In many ways, this story was very sad. Willow's mother having been an alcoholic before passing and and Willow's father making Willow feel like a third wheel by heaping praise on his new daughter were heartbreaking. There were quite a few happy parts in this book, too, though. Willow had a wonderful brotherly relationship with Darrel and his grandparents and had a wonderful passion for music and riding horses. There are times when this novel does read a bit slowly but it was otherwise a very nice, hopeful book and an interesting story. I learned a lot about the rich Apache culture and even a few Apache words! What a wonderful story with beautiful characters so full of life! This would be a great book for readers who enjoy exploring other cultures and like stories with non-traditional families.  McLaren's writing is truly filled with enchantment and the love of the tight-knit community in which Willow lives leaps off the pages.  This book is inspiring and a great read.


This book will be released on January 31, 2017.  Find this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
and read other reviews of this book on Goodreads.  

 I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 

 I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.