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Tag: "adventure"

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

[ 3 ] January 29, 2014

downloadReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Wow! I definitely found Red Rising to be amazing. I think this is the first 5-star book I’ve read for The story just sucked me right in from the first chapter, and I can’t wait for the second installment to come out!

Red is the color of Mars and it is also the color that defines Darrow’s life. He is a Red, and Reds mine underground for H3, one of the most important gases used in terra forming. The Red’s are watched over by the Greys (police/army) and the colors go up all the way to Gold–yellow haired, yellow eyed, bronzed and god like. The Reds sacrifice for the good of all so Mars can be turned into a paradise for the other colors to come and colonize the planet.

Little do they know that the planet has been colonized for centuries and the other colors have been living on their labor and feeding them lies. It’s a hard life and men who make it to 35 are considered very old. Darrow, a married man at 17, learns one lie after we meet him. The Reds are split into different clans and are competing against each other for the ‘top’ spot as the highest producers. As high producers they are eligible for bonus rations. Darro’s clan reaches the highest production level but the award still goes to Gamma, like it always does. That’s when Darrow learns it’s all about control.

Shortly after this several events in his life coincide, changing his life forever. Darrow is shown the truth of Mars and is asked to do the impossible. He needs to infiltrate the ranks of the Golds, become one of them, be better than them. His mission is to tear down the ziggurat they have built on the backs of the other colors. It is a cast system the likes of which were never dreamed of in India.

Darrow has to rebuild his body and his mind from the bottom up. He doesn’t even recognize himself when it’s all done. Then his first challenge. He needs to get accepted into their most prestigious university, because only the Peerless Scarred, who rule everyone, come from there. These are the best of the best, and the school’s training makes the Spartans look like posers.

This book was incredible. A great story of a man becoming the ultimate double agent. His quest is to bring down those who have oppressed his people by becoming one of them. His challenge is to avoid becoming one of them. Beat them at their own game.

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 Del Rey. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Devil’s Playground by Cynthia Sens

[ 0 ] January 10, 2014

9781491711835_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Mel Taylor is a genealogist who has anything but a normal career and past. This abnormal past that Mel can never quite escape includes the fact that he is really ninety-five years old vs. the forty-four year old that everyone in his life really thinks that he is. The year is 2011 and Mel survived World War II, but he did not survive the memories and haunting images that accompanied his life then. The time travel for Mel was possible thanks to his possession of a holy relic known as the sapphire staff. The staff may be hidden in Mel’s office, his true age concealed, but no one is ever completely free from the past or the secrets that it contains.

Mel finds all of this out when his friend Joseph passes his number along to a man who is desperate to locate his missing son. Mel is reluctant at first, but finally decides to help the man out. When the past begins to unfold through confirmed suspicions and the research of Mel’s assistant Emily, it seems that the Nazis of Mel’s World War II past may in fact be in the same situation he is in. And, they may not only be connected to the disappearance of the young boy in question, but they are also hot on Mel’s tail. When Mel begins digging more deeply, his research takes him to the cornfields of Iowa and quickly puts everyone that he cares about in deep danger. Overcoming his own fears, his demons of the past and embracing the power of the sapphire staff seem to be the only way that Mel can beat his old foes and their very old game. While the time travel aspects of the novel are a bit far fetched, the story contains modern twists that make the time travel only a part of the story, rather than the entire premise.

Mel is an easily relatable character and one that Cynthia Sens makes very easy to root for. His character is a bit guarded though and his true emotion is a bit hard to pick through at times. There is to be more books in the Sapphire Staff Series and hopefully Mel will continue to unfold in these following novels. The end of the story was dramatic, but pieced together neatly and allowed for a seamless transition for the rest of the series. I do wish, however, that Joseph and Emily were a bit more developed in the story. They were main players and were very active in the story, but there didn’t seem to be much to them. Joseph had an interesting back story and was a character that was also easy to warm up to so more development for him would have really made The Devil’s Playground shine. I would be interested in reading the other books in the series in order to see how Sens continues the story, particularly with the recognition of Mel from someone very close to his past and deeply entwined in his present.

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 Cynthia Sens. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Hidden Chamber in the Great Sphinx by Linda A. Cadose

[ 2 ] December 24, 2013

g12c0000000000000005ee10a7615afdc240f65e81e424fe4877eb8fefbReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Hidden Chamber in the Great Sphinx is an archaeological mystery aimed at middle school kids. I think that all the problems I had with this book stemmed from its target audience. I was not it and unlike many of the famous books – Harry Potter, Bartimaeus, Artemis Fowl, etc. – The Hidden Chamber will likely have a narrower appeal.

The book started off by introducing the protagonist Dr. Cliff Post, who’s a very nice guy but a little naive. I suspect that Cliff’s purpose was to help the reader feel smarter than him and see things coming. I think the weirdest part – and one that irritated me the most – was that Cliff, a college professor teaching archaeology and a member of the Archaeology Society – believed that aliens helped the Egyptians and other early peoples create their pyramids and other wonders.

Dr. Post has a friend in Egypt, Dr. Saad, and he discovers a chamber under one of the paws of the Great Sphinx. Dr. Saad invites his friend Cliff to join him on the exploratory dig to find out what is in the chamber. There is however a bit of a problem: Dr. Sadat hates having non-Egyptians working in Egypt because of their years of theft from the country. Dr. Sadat wants to have full control of the dig site and is trying to have it put into his hands.

After the site has been opened up, strange things start happening around Dr. Post, like sand in his gas tank. Dr. Saad thinks that Dr. Sadat might be behind it, but Dr. Post can’t believe a well known and respected person such as Dr. Sadat would ever try to do something so underhanded.

Things continue to escalate and actually become dangerous for our hero, especially after some of the artifacts found turn out to be a form of computer. (Subtly linking back to Dr. Posts belief in alien interference)

I think it would be a very good book for 5-7th graders who like stories about Egypt with a little excitement added in. It was written cleanly and it did tell a decent story. I suspect I would have enjoyed reading the book much more had I been in the target market. As things stand, I thought it wasn’t bad.

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 Book Publicity Services. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

[ 3 ] December 14, 2013

Inferno-coverReviewed by Sara Drake

Robert Landon (hero of The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol) returns for another adventure. He wakes in a hospital with no memory of why he is in Italy or what day it is – then someone comes to kill him. Racing through Italy, Robert attempts to solve the mystery of his lost memories, avoid those trying to find him, and save humanity. Of course, he has help. The beautiful and mysterious Dr. Brooks.

Dan Brown offers another book with all his trade mark charm. Like most Dan Brown books, you will either enjoy this fast paced adventure or you will hate it. In Inferno, Dan Brown shifts his focus to overpopulation while chasing the symbology found in art and Dante’s Divine Comedy. The insights into Divine Comedy were absolutely fascinating and held my attention throughout. The exotic backdrops and constant action keep the reader turning pages.

Mr. Brown turns the table on the readers two-thirds of the way through the book in a move that would have been stunning if it had worked. Not only wasn’t I convinced by the turn-around, I thought it took a great deal of the suspense from the book, leaving the last portion of the book boring and unsatisfying. Mostly, it felt like a cheat. It seemed like Mr. Brown got so far with the book and couldn’t figure out how to keep it exciting, so he took a short cut. I would explain more but I really don’t want to spoil anything. Fans of Dan Brown will read the book regardless of any review and I would hate to be the one to take the fun of the ending away from them.

I enjoy Mr. Brown’s books, even the ones I roll my eyes at, because he has unique style and voice. All of his books make me pause at least once to actually think about something – which may be why I continue to read them. I enjoyed this one, too, reading it straight through. I’m just not yet willing to forgive him for the ending, so feel free to ignore my complaints.

Overall, Mr. Brown gives us detailed descriptions of foreign destinations, a chance for the reader to travel there in their own minds. I have previously visited many of the locales he describes and enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I could almost taste the cappuccinos. At times, the layers of descriptions felt distracting and I had to fight the urge to skim.

I am sure I’ll pick up the next book he writes. He’s written worse books than this one and much better books. Overall, if you’re a Dan Brown fan, read this book.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

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

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Review & Giveaway: Innocent Blood by James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell

[ 18 ] December 10, 2013

9780061991066_p0_v2_s260x420Reviewed by Jenna Arthur

Be sure to enter the giveaway below! Five winners will receive a copy of The Blood Gospel, the first book in the series, and a grand prize winner will receive both The Blood Gospel and Innocent Blood!

In Innocent Blood, by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, not everything is as it seems. Erin is a curious and brilliant archaeologist determined to delve into the words of the Blood Gospel, thought to have been written by Christ himself. After a horrible attack in California, Erin is driven back to the order of the Sanguines – an order founded on Christ’s blood – where she must find the missing link that holds the key to this darkness. The only problem is that she is not alone in this pursuit. Another, more sinister man is also in pursuit of this object for his own dark purposes. He wishes to bring about the end of the world: the end all, be all Apocalypse.

Along with Jourdan, an army sergeant, and Father Rhun, a member of the order of Sanguines, Erin must fight to save the world and the boy believed to be the gospel made flesh: an angel in human form. But can this priest be trusted? He is a member of the Order of Sanguines, an order of what some may call vampires. These three must fight their way through trials and tribulations and delve deep into the life of Christ in order to find and extinguish this perilous threat.

Innocent Blood gives the reader intrigue, bringing Catholicism, Vampiric literature and mystery all together and then wrapping it all up in a beautiful bow. It gives a deeper, darker view of the world and the mysteries that are unknown to most. Mystery readers, fantasy, and even crime literature lovers will all dig their heels into this book and find that it satisfies their need for amusement. Though a bit slow at times, Innocent Blood is still a great book to pick up when you are looking for something less deep and more indulgent, like a decadent cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh, PA with her wife, her chihuahua Penny, her retriever Ella and her two beautiful cats. Along with her passion for reading and the literary world, she is also an artist, writer, environmental activist, creative coordinator and aspiring culinary genius. She believes there is nothing better to her then a good book, and lives one cover to the next.

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 Wild Roses by Robert J. Elisberg

[ 0 ] November 12, 2013

The Wild Roses novelReviewed by Colleen Turner

France, 1648: The monarchy is left vulnerable in the hands of its 10 year-old King Louis XIV and his mother, the Queen Regent. Sensing this as the ideal time to bring down the crown, the aristocrats, led by the sinister and calculating Marquis de Longueville, begin taking the law into their own hands and kidnap the child king, hoping to force the abdication of the royal family and reestablish the feudal privileges that allowed them to reign over their own land unobstructed. As the queen and her chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, work to keep the king’s abduction a secret and find him before it is discovered, law begins to breakdown around France and chaos threatens to erupt into civil war.

With this swirling around them, three very different women find themselves thrust together: Racine Tarascon, a quick-tempered gypsy with a whip smart intelligence and sword skills to match; Gabrielle Parnesse, a flirty actress quick on her feet and always ready to be the center of any stage; and Charlotte le Renaud, a sheltered, sweet noblewoman desperate to find her place in a world that is quickly unraveling around her. As each woman initially sets out on her own mission they soon begin fighting together to try and bring order back to those innocent people bullied by the French aristocracy. When they discover just how far the Marquis is willing to go for his own power, they set out on a quest to not only save the King but all of France as they know it.

The Wild Roses is a fun, quirky sort of story that finds three beautiful women in the role of Musketeers. As I don’t know very much about this time period in France and no author’s notes were given detailing what is factual and what is fiction, I am hesitant to say how true to life the story really is. There were many times when I had to turn off my instinct to second guess the accuracy of the history and just enjoy the story for what it was. I had to do this with the language style as well, as it seemed to be very modern at times before transitioning back to what I would think better fit the setting. This being said, the adventures of Charlotte, Racine and Gabrielle were quite funny at times and I enjoyed their story line more than any other part of the book.

My biggest complaint with The Wild Roses would have to be that there were quite a few editing errors that kept pulling me out of the story and made for a disjointed and awkward reading experience at times. Missing words, double words and odd word placement kept throwing me off and making me reread the sentences to figure out what was going on. This might not be a problem for all readers but has always been a pet peeve of mine.

Overall The Wild Roses is a fast, exciting adventure that pits three remarkable and entertaining women at the forefront of what most would consider a male-dominated world. It was unconventional and thrilling and is sure to be enjoyed by anyone interested in a female Three Musketeer sort of story.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

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

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