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Review: Host by Robin Cook

[ 1 ] February 9, 2016

host by robin cook book coverReviewed by Jenna Arthur

In Host, Carl, the main character Lynn Peirce’s boyfriend, goes into the hospital for routine surgery.  Lynn thinks nothing of it until she is told Carl is brain dead. Her life is turned upside down by the devastating news; as a medical student, she decides to use her knowledge to investigate what went so alarmingly wrong during his surgery. Carl was healthy–an active, healthy 29 year old man with a passion for life and for running. His surgery was one probably performed a thousand times a day. But this time, this surgery left the patient permanently unconscious. Lynn can’t understand. Along with her lab partner, Michael, she delves head-first into the world of Middleton Healthcare and its pharmaceutical counterpart to find out why something so routine turned into something so deadly. Lynn’s curiosity with Michael’s no nonsense nature make them the perfect team to expose this maniacal and deadly plot.

Not knowing what they would uncover, Michael and Lynn’s further investigation into malpractice uncovers a devastating fact–Carl’s death is not an isolated event. In fact, there has been a suspicious number of anesthetic related deaths and mysteriously contracted and sometimes fatal diseases in the hospital. Dozens of patients are being stored, in vegetative states, in another facility owned by the same company. Is Middleton and its counterpart performing some type of a sick and twisted experiment? What reason could a hospital and a pharmaceutical company possibly have for causing the deaths of so many people? The farther Michael and Lynn go, the darker the secrets, and as they get closer to the conspiracy, those who wish to keep their secrets buried get closer to finding them.

Though the Host’s plot may sound interesting, this book, unfortunately, is a poor attempt at a modern rewrite of Robin Cook’s Coma. The slow nature makes this book hard to invest in and does little to pull the reader in. Cook’s insistent use of repetitive 1950’s type adjectives related to women and African American men make the book even harder to latch onto. Throughout the entire book the author consistently tells the reader that Michael does and says things because he’s black or Lynn does or says things because she’s a woman. These characterizations add nothing to the story and instead take away from it, leaving the reader’s mind focused more on Michael’s race and Lynn’s gender and forcing them to wonder how this is supposed to be a modern day plot. Coma’s plot should have stayed its own, with Host, a lesser book with a similar plot, rehashed and edited.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh with her wife and furry children. She loves to cook, watch movies, and looks for inspiration in every book she reads.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Letters for Lucia by David Brown Jr.

[ 0 ] February 9, 2016

letters for lucia book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

It is often said that the true test of strength is how we react in situations of strife and even tragedy. Letters for Lucia is the work of one such critical and heartbreaking test for David Brown Jr. Placed in a terrible situation that would have caused so many to head in the opposite direction, in a way almost rightfully so, David instead shifts his focus to opening his heart, mind and life to love and light. The book is a story of forgiveness, of lessons and growth and offers proof that even in times of terrible hardship, it is possible to not only go on, but also to thrive.

David Brown Jr. was young, successful, ready to have fun and looking for love. Coming from a close, warm family, David wanted to share his ability to love and his passions with someone and in meeting Jolie through mutual friends, he thought he finally had his chance. Jolie originally hailed from Uzbekistan and was a student when she met David. Captivated by her looks, her strong sense of family and more, David thought he had found his person. After Jolie found out she was pregnant, the two were pressured to marry and after his strong initial hesitation, David finally agreed.

Things were not easy for the young couple even after the birth of their daughter Lucia, but David resolved to do whatever he could for his tiny family against all odds. The story begins to shift when the couple disagrees over where Lucia should be taken for medical treatment, the US or abroad, and everything about their relationship begins to fall apart. After maxing out funds to send his wife and daughter overseas, David feels hope when they return, but things again turn towards the negative for David. A normal Saturday ends up being like no other when he receives an email from Jolie informing him that she and Lucia have left the country and there’s nothing he can do to stop them or change her mind. Absolutely furious and also crushed, David learns that his wife, daughter and mother in law have fled to their home country and there seems to be little that he can do about it. It was very disheartening to read how helpless David felt and how much legal and bureaucratic red tape he had to endure just to get answers. With minimal communication from his wife and little hope to ever be reunited with his child, David had no choice but to turn inward for reflection.

Letters for Lucia is an inspirational and emotional read. The author begins each chapter with a letter to the daughter he cannot see and even without knowing her whereabouts, his love for her can be felt across the pages and miles. The lessons he presents to Lucia translate into lessons for the reader and for David himself. He makes it abundantly clear that often we have the choice to choose how we feel, how we react and where we go emotionally. The book is an encouragement to head to the light and to stay positive. David Brown does not preach, readily shares his own downfalls/shortcomings and encourages the reader to step outside of situations and look for paths to acceptance, forgiveness, hope and light. The book is a quick, engaging and each chapter culminates with author presenting questions for the reader to reflect on as part of their own inward journey.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by David Brown Jr. 

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Giveaway: Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D.C. Taylor

[ 2 ] February 8, 2016

hot dudes coloring bookTo celebrate Valentine’s Day, I have 1 copy of the Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D.C. Taylor to give away! 

Open to US residents only

About the book

For all lovers of washboard abs, bad boys and… crayons—there’s a new group of hotties in town and they are ready to get graphic (artistically, that is!).

Inside this steamy book you will find a swoon-worthy collection of 60 scantily-clad heartthrobs for your coloring pleasure. With sexy cops, cowboys, lumberjacks and a plethora of other fantasy beaus to choose from, every artist is sure to find their muse. Hitting stores just shy of the most amorous holiday of the year, this entertaining book prompts one to ask the question: who needs to choose one valentine when you can have them all?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Smithsonian Sticker Creations: Dinosaurs

[ 3 ] February 8, 2016

sticker creations dinosaurs book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

It seems like nearly every child goes through a stage of fascination with dinosaurs. Those great beasts that once roamed the earth capture the imagination and illicit many questions. Where did they live and why did they die? These are just the beginning of the questions children ask. One great way to explore these many questions is with the interactive sticker activity book, Smithsonian Sticker Creations: Dinosaurs.

When I opened this packaged set, I was immediately captured by the high quality components that are sure to appeal to children of all ages. Included in this set is a 64 page sticker activity book, 175 reusable stickers, five 3-D stickers, and a framed play scene for children to create their own dinosaur masterpiece. Each of these components works together to create a learning experience that is both informational and interactive. The activity book is both a teaching tool and part of the fun. Children get to help finish the pictures with sticker components easily organized by page in the back of the book.

While I love how this set is packaged and all bound into one set, I don’t find the setup extremely easy to use. The book is hard to read while attached to the portfolio like packaging and if I remove the book, it will tear off the back cover. Additionally, the play scene that children are meant to use and reuse is difficult to remove from the frame packaging and definitely requires an adult the first time around. The packaging states that this is for ages 5+, but I found that my 5 and 6 year old could not do the stickers without assistance as they require very specific placement. As a parent, I love this set, but I would be hesitant to just hand it over to a younger child to use without a little involvement on my end. One additional note is that this book is written from an evolutionary perspective. Those seeking something from a creationscience perspective should look elsewhere. I think this set would work best for a parent or grandparent looking for an activity to do with a child in order to maximize its benefit.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Smithsonian Sticker Creations and Smithsonian Discover. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 7 ] February 7, 2016

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes last week:

Paper Review Copies

me meternity book covercity of mirrors book covergirl from everywhere book coverlaura ingalls wilder book coveri'll see you in paris book covervilla triste book covercracked spine book coverthe choices we make book coverkingdom of ashes book coverlady bridget's diary book coverterrible virtue book coverout of the blues book coverlacombe lucien book coverchildren of paradise book coveri'm not a terrorist book covernight at the fiestas book cover

Digital Review Copies

untangled book coverplaying the part book coversisi book coverthe ones who matter most book cover

Additions to Personal Library

from siberia with love book coverdancing girls of lahore book coverfair child book coverpurple hibiscus book coverghost gifts book covertears of the silenced book cover

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Review: Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting! by Beth Thomas Cohen

[ 3 ] February 7, 2016

drop the act it's exhausting book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting! might be inspirational for some people. It might even spur a few women – those looking for that unknown “it” – on to action. The title of this book says it all–that we need to be freer in order to be ourselves, and that we need to drop the act of having “it” altogether, especially if we really don’t have a clue. Unfortunately, for me, the book lacked luster and I didn’t agree with much of the advice. You see, I don’t have an axe to grind, a complaint to make, or an “act to drop.” In short, I just couldn’t relate.

The book has nine well thought out chapters with hefty titles such as relating to being a gestating supermom, about forty being the next twenty, faking it, choosing safe over sorry, having it all and so on. Each chapter includes tips, breakout session text boxes with personal anecdotes from the author and advice on growing older gracefully. I have heard much of this info before–it didn’t feel fresh and new. And to me, it sounded as if the author was constantly complaining, which I couldn’t tolerate for long. I am personally – even when everything leaks, breaks, can never be paid for on time, looks unsightly, has rot on it or is moldy again – way too blessed to complain about really anything in my “old” age. I apologize that my tolerance for hearing other people’s complaints is practically zero. And my attention span isn’t that long.

I get that the book was meant to be funny, but most of the humor was lost on me. For example, the author states that our pictures look different when we age because our glow is gone, or that we are sold a bill of goods from advertisers telling us that we can have it all, etc. Okay, sure, I have heard all of this before, but doesn’t everyone have to manage life as it comes, make the best of it and get over ourselves in the process? As I was reading the book, I found it slightly depressing, not uplifting. In the end, I just lost interest.

I do still recommend this book to anyone struggling with trying to have it all in life and there may be a few tidbits that someone else could relate to (don’t just go by my opinion). If anyone needs advice on how to sort of give up on what you haven’t yet managed to get out of life, then go ahead and read the book. But if you are just looking for some happiness, then go outside and take a walk in nature while thinking the most amazing and positive thoughts. There is no act to drop when you allow yourself to be happy in spite of everything that life has to throw at you.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Taylor Trade Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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