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Tag: "adventure"

Review: The Kill Switch by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

[ 4 ] July 9, 2014

book-review-the-kill-switch-by-james-rollins--L-6e9jwMReviewed by Marcus Hammond

James Rollins and Grant Blackwood bring their different talents together in The Kill Switch to build a suspenseful, fast paced, and scientifically intriguing novel. Both authors have different backgrounds and that diversity helps make each character, whether major or minor, relatable and the plot highly enjoyable.

The story’s central characters are Tucker Wayne, a former Army Ranger, and his military dog, Kane. After losing one of his team of military training dogs in a firefight, Tucker opts to use his and Kane’s training for private security. As the book opens, the duo is tracking would-be assassins for a wealthy Russian businessman. Tucker and Kane are, however, propositioned by a secret, Black Ops division of the American government known as Sigma to escort a Russian scientist to the United States. Reluctantly, Tucker agrees, thus beginning a treacherous and action-packed adventure that spans Russia, South Africa, and the United States.

The pivotal aspect of the novel is that the scientist Tucker is escorting has uncovered the existence of a primordial plant that could act as both a genetic enhancer to all plant-life as well as a weapon of bio-terrorism. Due to his research, a rogue Russian general who desires to use the plant for its more sinister applications begins hunting Tucker and his charges.

Rollins and Blackwood do an amazing job of balancing each aspect of this story. While the concept of a plant that holds the genetic code of the very first plant-life on the planet and its uses is incredibly complex, the authors explain it in simple terms. This is not to say that they dumb it down, however. Tucker usually prompts the explanations revolving around the uses and dangers of the plant, so Bukolov describes the scientific aspects in terms a layman will grasp.

Another aspect that is very well done is the relationship between Tucker and Kane. For many that don’t know about the realities of military dogs and their trainers the interactions between Tucker and Kane may seem unrealistic. The authors, however, represent the relationship in an intimate and realistic way. At specific points, the authors actually pull the reader into Kane’s mind as he responds to Tucker’s commands. This helps provide perspective and shows that Kane’s relationship to Tucker is one forged in intense training, trust, and animal instinct.

The detailed and emotional relationship constructed around Tucker and Kane alongside the intense action that spans continents makes this a quick, yet unforgettable ride. The relationship that Rollins and Blackwood forge between Tucker and Kane open up the possibilities for more adventures in the future that should be just as exciting and well-written.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Three Emperors by William Dietrich

[ 3 ] July 1, 2014

three_emperors_covReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Three Emperors is the 7th book in the Ethan Gage series. The only other Gage book I’ve read is #5, The Emerald Storm. I REALLY liked the 7th book a lot more than the 5th. I think it was primarily how the 5th book ended that turned me off–it didn’t seem to quite fit with the feel of the rest of the book. From what I can tell the next (6th) book has a secret that is revealed that sort of makes up for the poor ending.

Ethan is a man who has more things happen to him, both good and bad, than could ever happen to a normal person. His luck gets him into the worst sorts of trouble and just as often saves him from permanent loses. He seems to be a Mr. Magoo crossed with Indiana Jones. Often to hilarious effect.

In this episode of how to find priceless treasure and still be poor, we find Ethan has survived a naval battle between Napoleon’s navy and the British with Nelson at the helm. He has hitched rides on boats until he has washed up on the shores of Venice with a little gold to his name and a clue that his wife might be held hostage in Bohemia. He needs more money and better clues so he can be reunited with his wife and child. Like most of his plans, they never go quite as smooth as they should.

First, he is cheated out of what little money he has managed to collect gambling with the rich. Then, after barely escaping with his life, he runs into an old ‘friend’ who commandeers him back into Napoleon’s forces. It is rather inconvenient when trying to find a missing family. He seems to always jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book–much to my surprise. After reading The Emerald Storm I wasn’t really impressed and thought it was just OK. I did, however, think it was good enough to give the series at least one more chance, and I am glad I did. The Three Emperors (in my opinion) was much better and worth a read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

[ 25 ] June 18, 2014

The-Lost-Duchess (1)Please join Jenny Barden, author of The Lost Duchess, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy below – open internationally 

Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Author Jenny Barden brings a novel that reaches new heights and is a welcome addition to the Tudor dynasty stories that depict life during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. A novel of passion, intrigue, deception, loyalty, and bravery, The Lost Duchess is not a novel to be missed because it holds dear all the themes that readers of Tudor novels have come to expect from their authors but also because it explores a new story of savagery and danger.

The Lost Duchess details the adventures, misfortunes, and palace intrigue for a group of characters in the charge of Queen Elizabeth I, who under the guidance of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake sends these characters to the soon-to-be colony of Roanoke (Virginia). Barden begins and ends her novel in the various palaces of the Tudor court, but the crux of the novel is set amongst Roanoke and its surrounding Native American settlements and villages. Lady-in-waiting Emme Fifield and mariner Christopher (Kit) Noonan take center stage in Barden’s story. Along with a band of other government leaders, Planters (colonists), and Native Americans. Emme, Kit, and the Planters seek to begin an English colony in Chesapeake Bay; however, for numerous reasons—including a deceptive captain—the crew lands in Roanoke. Barden’s novel, at this point, turns from lightly historical to thorough and rich in its descriptions of survival in the New World. The author discusses these challenges within the context of her character’s fighting and discovering how to live peacefully with the Native Americans. Death, murder, poison, rape, and physical violence are commonplace in The Lost Duchess. Readers should prepare themselves for graphic scenes before reading this novel. The descriptive scenes bring authenticity to the novel and enrich readers’ interpretation of the time period; Barden’s decision to write these scenes should be praised because life in the early colonies was not as rosy as depicted by Disney in its movie musical, Pocahontas.

The novel’s themes overarch amongst different facets of the characters’ lives: love for others and country, revenge for misdoings and for wrongs taken against them, loyalty and honor for country and for personal gain during a dangerous undertaking, and lies versus truth for the betterment of family and marriage. Barden’s novel is certainly one of adventure and love, but ultimately the author’s work is a story of her characters’ personal growth and maturation amongst challenges of war, political scandal, physical hardships, and harsh landscapes.

For all of the majesty and authenticity of the novel, The Lost Duchess does have points that need strengthening: the love story between Kit and Emme, for example, definitely could be fleshed out to include better understanding of the characters. Aside from the fact that Emme and Kit are among the few male and female characters to spend time together in the novel–and therefore conclude the probability of their romance–their relationship lacks in depth; there is little reasoning for their falling for each other, and Barden takes the characters’ adoration for each other too high to be realistic. The pacing of the The Lost Duchess is slow, especially in the first half of the novel. Out of the four-hundred-plus pages of the novel, the first hundred-plus detail Emme’s life and court and her fight to be allowed to sail to the New World. This part of the story is necessary to plot development but could be cut down to allow the pacing to pick up speed.

The Lost Duchess is an engaging read; Barden’s prose is beautiful, her descriptions vivid, her characterization strong, her research thorough, and her dialog appropriate for the time period. This is a novel that any reader of historical fiction should have on their bookshelf.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Jenny Barden. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

[ 1 ] March 29, 2014

17406847Reviewed by Sarah Horwath

Defy by Sara B. Larson is an action packed thrilling love triangle. Alex/Alexa has hidden as a boy for the past three years in her work as the prince’s guard. And it’s worked–she’s a bad to the bone fighter and no one suspects that she is a girl. However, her entire life is a lie. Until the day she is captured and does not know what to do. Will she make it out of this story alive?

I enjoyed this book. It was very different from the typical books that I read. The world that Alexa lived in grabbed my attention, as did the chemistry between her and Damian. Alexa is awesome. She’s smart and strong and fights like no other. She’s kept the fact that she’s a a girl hidden from everyone and it’s interesting to read her struggles between her two personas. The two boys in the story are quite steamy. I knew who I was rooting for right away, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying all of the swoons these boys were putting out.

There was so much action and mystery in Defy that I never quite knew how the book was going to end. I loved the idea of a girl forced to pretend to be a boy to join the king’s army in order to avoid being thrown into one of the king’s breeding houses. I’m not sure about the breeding houses themselves, as the reason behind them was sketchy to say the least.

One of my favorite things about Defy was Larson’s ability to world build. Alexa and the royal family she fights for live in the middle of a humid and secret holding jungle. While jungles look pretty from far away, the way in which this particular jungle is described makes it seem like a nightmare to live in. It’s hot, sticky, and has one too many terrifying animals and potential killers lurking about. This was really a great book and I would recommend to anyone who loves action filled YA fiction.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Sarah is a college student studying English. One day, she hopes to become an author. For her, reading is much more than just a hobby.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

[ 1 ] March 15, 2014

914QEUbpyELReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

One spring morning, Liza Elston wakes up and her little brother Patrick is not there. Well, he is there in body, but from the second she sees him coming down the stairs, Liza knows that the Patrick she’s seeing is not her real brother. She knows what they’ve always feared has happened to him: his soul was taken in the night by the giant, evil spider-like creatures known as spindlers. Unfortunately, Liza’s parents don’t believe a word she is telling them, so it’s up to Liza to journey to the mystical world known only as Below to rescue her brother’s soul–where her only companion is a makeup wearing rat named Mirabella, and there’s danger at every turn.

I read this book in one sitting, and though I am an older reader I liked the magic and innocence that The Spindlers had to offer. Liza (I’m not sure of her age as it was never expressly mentioned, but I’d put her around 10) is a brave girl who is very practical. As soon as her parents dismiss her tale of Patrick not being her real brother as just another story she’s telling, Liza knows that she must be the one to save him. And though she’s sometimes scared, she never lets anyone know it. I respected her for facing such scary creatures and keeping her head about her!

The author has done a fantastic job at creating the Below environment. I had no trouble picturing not only the landscape, but the different critters that lived there as well. And there were several: the nocturni, black butterfly/hummingbird hybrids who control the dreams of humans; the nids, who are tiny but quite forceful; and of course the spindlers, who have eight legs ending in human hands, and whose queen can swell to the size of a house! Meeting with all these creatures was quite fun and reminiscent of such tales as Alice in Wonderland and A Wrinkle in Time.

There is one twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming at all, and it made the story quite good, in my opinion. I loved how the book ended, and I think middle grade readers will gobble this tale just as quickly as I did.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

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

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Review: The Field of Wacky Inventions by Patrick Carman

[ 2 ] March 9, 2014

9780545255219_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Field of Wacky Inventions is the third (and final?) book in the Floor Series. I had an opportunity to read the first two books in the series but I passed them up. Now I am regretting it. At the time they seemed a little too wacky and childish, however, the third installment was a very fun and enjoyable book.

Leo is a boy who owns and runs his own hotel called the Whippet Hotel. It is a rather unique and interesting place and it was designed and built by a rather unique and interesting person. Merganzer D. Whippet is a billionaire genius inventor who seems to live life to its fullest. Merganzer has taken Leo and his step-brother Remi on an adventure to a place called the Field of Wacky Inventions. Their mode of travel? Merganzer attached a Zeppelin to the top of the Whippet hotel and took the top floor as ballast.

After flying above the clouds for a while, they met up with five other airships with what looked like other hotel tops hanging under them. As it turns out, that is exactly what they were. Merganzer has planned for a competition between all the managers of his hotels, and the winner will be put in charge of running them all. Leo and Remi spent the night in a tree house and were the last ones to make it to breakfast where everyone else was waiting for them. After breakfast everyone was told about the competition.

I thought this was a very good book and even though it was written for middle school kids I still felt it was a fun read for myself. The writing was not skimped on just because of the target audience; the story was well done and the important things in the story were ‘explained’ to help one understand what was going on. On top of that the story was very upbeat and gave positive reinforcement for many social interactions that people in general should follow. It gives a better way to deal with people that are not so nice without becoming like them.

Overall, an excellent book! I’ll have to try and read the first two.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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