War of Rain

War of Rain, written by H.W. Vivian, is a tough book to categorize. Some reviewers have called it science fiction but it is not. Some people have called it adventure but even that is pushing it. I'm not even sure it could really fall under the Young Adult category, where the author, herself, places it. While I don't believe that all books necessarily need to fall under a category, it does make it easier to find your audience. Let me explain.

Miri, a 15-year old girl, is our protagonist. She lives in a small village called Boreala, one of four villages that have banded together via trade. Her people are peaceful Rain-gatherers. Every day, they trek up a nearby mountain to gather Rain, a strange frozen water-like substance that only melts with prayer. Rain is the only clean water source in the area so the Boreala trades it with the other villages for leather or pottery or wood. However, only the Rain-gatherers know how to pray in order to melt the Rain.

During one of the Rain gathering trips, Miri and her group are attacked by the barbarians of Stratos. These barbarians want all of the Rain to themselves. When one of the barbarians grab an elderly woman by her hair, Miri, without thinking, kills him with a throw of her hatchet. This sole act labels her a murderer. In retaliation for the kill, Genesis, the brother of the fallen barbarian, attacks Boreala. He kidnaps Miri and whisks her away to the mountain.

However, the barbarians do not kill her. Nor do they rape her. (Excuse me, "take her dignity.") Instead, Genesis throws her into the lowlands, commanding her to find five pieces of Rain before the next day. In the lowlands, Miri meets Philippe, a former citizen of Stratos who has been abandoned in the lowlands for killing a village leader. Together, the manage to escape the lowlands and kill an entire hoard of barbarians.

Back in Boreala, the other villagers aren't very welcoming to Miri. It is her fault that the barbarians attacked their village. When Exodus, the leader of Stratos, comes, he demands that Miri go to the mountain and get an invention from the God of Rain, Kalono. This invention would be able to bring war and peace to both villages. Not seeing any other way to save her village, Miri complies with the demand. She promises to return in two days.

Miri goes to the mountain, to the room where her people gather Rain. In the Rain Chamber, there is an opening in the ceiling. She enters the opening and climbs farther into the mountain, in search of Kalono.

Instead of finding the God, Miri finds an entire village of inventors living inside the mountain. However, these people do not give her the war-and-peace invention. They teach her how to read and scientific theories and mathematics. Despite promising to be back in two days, Miri is gone for 18 months. She figures out what invention she needs but will it be too late for her village?

Once again, Miri returns to her village. This time she has the war-and-peace invention. But her village, and the other three, are decimated. Everyone is gone. Or so she thinks. The barbarians attacked her village immediately after she entered the mountain. They destroyed the towns and kidnapped the people, trying to force them to pray to melt Rain. But a few of them hid in a nearby mountain and survived. With Miri's return, they attempt to attack Stratos to save their people.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one takes us from Miri's life in Boreala up to her meeting the people of Tropos, the village inside the mountain. Part two is Miri's entire time in Tropos. Part three takes us back to Boreala and Miri's attempt to save her people. I'm not entire sure how I feel about breaking the story up like this but at least it makes some sense.

While the writing isn't bad, my problem with the book lies with the heavy-handedness of the faith theme. For one, the reason that the people of Stratos were barbarians...they didn't know how to pray. They couldn't pray to turn the Rain into water. Miri had to teach Philippe how to pray! Even the scientific people of Tropos ended up with a "You have to have faith" reasoning. It got to be a little much, to be honest.

I would have liked the book much better if it wasn't so preachy. It seriously felt like the author was calling everyone who is not religious a bloodthirsty barbarian. With that in consideration, I would toss the book into a religion section, not a general young adult section. And I would definitely toss some sort of "Preachy Book Ahead!" warning on it. Nowhere in the book's description was I warned that I would be called a barbarian for not praying to the popular deity of my time. (Even the book agrees that they are all basically the same.) So, yeah. Read it but with caution and maybe some rolling eyes.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.



One To Go Giveaway

One to Go by Mike Pace tells the story of Tom Booker, an alcoholic attorney in Washington DC. The story is a little difficult to tell so, please, bear with me. Tom is a divorced father. One Saturday, he was late picking up his daughter and two of her friends for a field trip. Annoyed by his tardiness, his ex-wife sent the kids off with her sister. As Tom was rushing to get to the kids, he texted his ex-wife, attempting to figure out the plans for the day. Of course, this means Tom got into a huge accident on a bridge. A teenage driver was killed and the van containing the kids (and his ex-sister-in-law) teeters over the river below.

Just then, two preppy-looking demons jog up to him. They offer him a deal. He can "take back" the accident but he would have to kill five other people in exchange for the lives saved. Disoriented by the crash, Tom agrees to the deal. But can he really murder five people?

While I loved the idea of the plot, this book was not very well executed. At a whopping 313 pages in length, not once are we given a reason to care about the lives of these characters. Sure, we're supposed to believe that Tom is protecting his daughter but he never really acts like he loves her. He spends most of his time getting drunk and sleeping around. Even when he is supposed to be emotionally torn about murdering people, he doesn't ever seem like it really bothers him. He just goes back to drinking and screwing. 

I really wanted to like the book. The plot sounded so interesting to me. In the end, One To Go is a short story that was never fully fleshed out to become a real novel. And that makes me sad.

Oceanview Publishing is giving away a copy of the book to one of my readers. I hope that you will read the book and think that I am being overly critical. Perhaps you will see the characterization that I missed. The giveaway ends on September 18. 

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

The Mussorgsky Riddle

When Curiosity Quills Press (an awesome name for a publisher, by the way) approached me to review some of their titles, I figured it was going to be yet another set of boring non-fiction books. I paged through their website and found the most amazing and original book blurbs I have ever seen. They recommended I try The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy so I did.  Boy, am I glad I agreed to read this!

The Mussorgsky Riddle is a paranormal crime thriller. (Yes, I know that sounds odd. Keep with me.) Mira Tejedor is a psychic. But not your run-of-the-mill psychic. While she can get visions and vibes off of people or objects, her specialty lies in knowing peoples emotions. People emit scents when they have strong feeling and Mira picks up on them. So, for example, a vinegar smell means that someone is mad while an black pepper smell means they are defensive. She can use this knowledge to help her clients. 

No, Mira isn't a cop. She's a bit more like a private investigator. In this particular case, Caroline Faircloth has hired her to figure out why her son, Anthony, suddenly went into a coma-like state. He doesn't talk to anyone; he barely responds to touch; he doesn't do anything. None of the doctors or psychiatrists can figure out what is wrong. Caroline is hoping that Mira can. 

Despite Dr. Thomas Archer's, Anthony's psychiatrist, protests, Mira takes a trip into Anthony's mind to find the problem. What she finds is an exhibition of paintings. The characters within the paintings come to life to help (or hinder) her journey through Anthony's mind. 

Meanwhile, Mira finds out that Julianna Wagner, the girlfriend of Anthony's older brother, went missing at exactly the same time that Anthony's problems began. Figuring that the two cases were linked, Mira offers to help the police solve their case while working on her own. Little did she know what she was getting into!

I loved this book. When I first read the blurb, I was intrigued at the difference between Kennedy's psychic and every other psychic character. Mira may have psychic powers but there is no "I have a vision!" type scenes. Every time she has to tell someone about what she has seen inside Anthony's mind, it is almost always prefaced with "Remember, I saw this in a kid's mind so no one is going to believe it." She is a breath of fresh air in the paranormal world.

Another big plus was the inclusion of Modest Mussorgsky's classical music. Mussorgsky was a Russian classical composer in the mid- to late-1800s. All of the scenes in Anthony's mind revolve around his Pictures at an Exhibition piano suite. There are 10 movements in the piece and each corresponds with a painting in Anthony's mind. It was a clever way to give some depth and realness to the world inside someone's head. The best part is that the whole thing came together beautifully. It never felt forced or fake. 

Riddle never jams the paranormal stuff down your throat. I'm pretty sure that everyone, even if you don't like paranormal or science fiction type books, will enjoy reading this. It's just a good crime novel. And if the other titles at Curiosity Quills are anything like this, I may have to figure out how to get more hours in a day so I can read them all. 

I received this product for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

Paper Towns - the book vs the movie

Way back in April 2014, I read and reviewed John Green's Paper Towns. As soon as the movie was announced, I knew that I was going to see it. My daughter (who also read the book), my husband (who did not), and I went to see it Saturday afternoon. I wanted to take a couple of days to fully digest the experience but now I am ready to talk about it. Needless to say, there are spoilers below. 

Before I go picking everything apart, I'd like to say that I did thoroughly enjoy the movie. While there were a few moments that jarred me out of the plot (more on that later), it didn't interrupt the entertainment value. Now let's get into the nitty gritty.

There are a lot of differences between the book and the movie. Some of them, in my opinion, change the story a lot. Some of them do not. One of the big changes is the Sea World adventure. In the book, Margo convinces Quentin to break into Sea World during their revenge rampage. This doesn't happen in the movie. As a matter of fact, Margo explicitly states that they have 9 things to do (instead of 11 in the book) that night but I can only count 5...6 if you are super generous and count their shopping excursion. But maybe I'm mis-counting something. Either way, the Sea World thing is a fairly big thing in the book - after all, this is the first real illegal thing Q has done - and it isn't even addressed in the movie. The reason is understandable (no one wanted to give good press to Sea World) but it would have been nice to even have a throwaway line or maybe a discarded pamphlet or something to insinuate they did it anyway.

The movie also downplays the importance of the Omnictionary. In the book, editing the Omnictionary is Radar's LIFE. When he isn't in school or with Angela, he's editing the website. However, in the movie, the site is only used as a reference when looking up the term "paper towns." We don't see any of the characters editing it nor do we see it being leaned on heavily.  I don't know that this is a huge change in the book. But it may have shown the boys as the  social outcasts they were. Otherwise, it seemed like they didn't participate in social activities because they didn't want to.

However, the biggest change, in my opinion, is the road trip and everything that happens afterwards. In the book, Q, Ben, Radar, and Lacey skip graduation to take the road trip to Agloe to find Margo. The prom already took place. Quentin skipped the prom to go check out pseudivisions (abandoned housing divisions...also not discussed in the movie) by himself. In the movie, Angela comes with them and the gang (minus Q) insists they must be back to Orlando in time for prom. This is a very important part of the movie. So important, in fact, that the gang leaves Q in Agloe when they don't find Margo within their time limit. Yes, his best friends abandon him in New York for the prom. That is messed up. 

After his friends abandon him, movie-Quentin makes his way into the nearest town and buys a bus ticket home. While waiting for the bus, Margo happens to walk by. He chases after her and the two have a couple of milkshakes and talk it out. Margo kinda pats Q on the head and gives him a "silly boy, I'm not coming back" type of speech. Then Quentin gets on the bus and joins his friends at prom. Happy times ensue. 

BUT

In the book version, Margo is in the barn in Agloe. And Ben, Radar, Lacey, AND Quentin all find her. Margo rails at Lacey for dating Ben. Then she argues with Q about his perception of her.  The gang doesn't leave Agloe until the next morning. Quentin goes back to Orlando with his friends and Margo goes on to New York City. 

I think that the book version of the story is much more powerful than the movie version. Book-Margo decided to disappear from everything and everyone and she is angry that people still sought her out. She lashes out at the few people who truly showed concern for her. Movie-Margo comes off as an overly mature woman setting off on her own. But she's not. She is still a young woman trying to figure out who she is. Yes, she says this in the movie but that isn't how she looks or sounds or acts. 

As I said earlier, none of these changes made the movie less enjoyable for me. Though I was thrown out of the plot every time they talked about the prom. But, for once, I can truly say the book is better. If only because it had a more emotional journey for the characters. Without them missing graduation or prom, the movie left out that heavy emotional impact. 

(Side note: My husband said Margo was selfish and wasn't worth trying to find.) 

Never Ending Bad Day

Never Ending Bad Day is a tween book aimed at kids aged 8 - 14. The main character is Misty, a 14-year old girl, who is spending the last day of her summer vacation in South Carolina with her family and their close friends, the Green family. For the final day of vacation, the parents let the children decide the entire day. After Misty and her best friend, Stanley, plan their day, Misty decides to toss a coin in a nearby fountain in order to wish for the day to never end. Little did she know that the gargoyle statue topping the fountain was actually an ancient ogre. The ogre curses poor Misty to have the most terrible day ever. Just when Misty thinks the worst day is over, she finds that she is doomed to repeat the day over and over again. Will she be able to break the ogre's curse or will she be forced to live this day for the rest of her life?

I thought the plot of the book was rather interesting. However, the author spent way too much time on the minor details of the first day then glazed over the events of the consecutive days. As a result, some of the chapters were extremely short (for example, a page and a half) while others were a lot longer. It may work for some of the younger readers but it is a little jarring for more experienced readers. I also thought that the ending was a little abrupt. It was almost like the author randomly thought to add in some "cool" magical ending, even if it didn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of the story. In addition, there were some minor misspellings littered throughout the text. Overall, the book wasn't terrible but it wasn't the best tween book either. 

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I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions contained within are solely my own.


Waves of Love

Waves of Love is a slightly different type of romance novel. Thirty-two year old Sage owns a bookstore/cafe in a small beachside community in Florida. Little did she know how drastically her life would change when surfer/writer Derek Chambers showed up in her shop looking to promote his newest book. Will they be able to overcome their age difference or will they be destined to float through life alone?

I don't usually read romance novels. This novel, however, was very different from any other romance novel I have ever read. Not only were the chapters really short, most of the story revolves around the budding relationship between the main characters and not just their sex life. It was also extremely easy to read. I could have finished it in a few hours, if real life didn't get in the way. 

Admittedly, I enjoyed Waves of Love far more than I expected to. I was actually a little disappointed that the book ended. Since this seems to be the first of a series, I may need to pick up the next book to see where their romance goes. 

I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions contained within are solely my own.

Trapped Tales

Trapped Tales is an anthology of short stories written by a group of writers called The Columbia Writers. Each of the 10 stories has the theme of being trapped. Sometimes this means the characters are physically trapped, sometimes it means they are emotionally trapped. It is interesting to see all of the different ways one can interpret the word "trapped."

While not every single story is amazing, I did find it wonderful that none of the stories were similar. Even though the theme was the same for them, each story had its very own theme, setting, and voice. I highly recommend giving the book a try. I bet you will find a new favorite author!

  

The Diamond Connection

The Diamond Connection by Shimrit Hilel is a strange book, indeed. A majority of the story revolves around a love affair between the main character and a married man. The last quarter of the book is about a major diamond heist and completely drops the romantic angle. 

Ella Cohen is a poor Israeli woman. Her father died suddenly, leaving her family deep in debt. When Ella nabs a fantastic job as an assistant at a company in the Diamond Exchange, she thought her entire world could change. Little did she expect how much it would change. 

Even though her good sense told her not to, Ella fell deeply in love with her boss, Danny. Despite the fact that his wife is also his business partner, he gave into the affair as well. Ella thought her life was almost perfect. Danny took her on business trips to New York and London. He even deposited $50,000 into her account to help her family crawl out from their debts. When Danny surprised her with a secret apartment just for them, Ella was sure her life couldn't get any better.

However, during their business trip to London, Ella was abducted by a trio of men. They found an envelope of diamonds hidden in a money belt she wore. Sworn to secrecy, she hoped that there wouldn't be any other attacks. Unfortunately, she was wrong. There were a number of other attacks when she got back to Israel, including her car being blown to bits. But who would want to hurt her? She didn't do anything wrong, besides the affair.

One day, Ella was arrested as a suspect in a large diamond robbery in London. The investigators believed that she supplied the diamonds that were stolen. During her house arrest, Danny stopped talking to her. Yet Ella knew that she was innocent and she was determined to prove it. 

Hm. This book. I have to admit that I actually liked the romance aspect of the story. Not that I approve of married people having affairs but it was definitely easy to get caught up in the joy of having someone lavish all of their (expensive) attention on you. When the story made the major shift to the criminal aspect though...I lost interest a little. It was like it was an entirely different book. Everything that we accepted and knew was completely thrown out the window. While I did enjoy reading The Diamond Connection, I think it would have been better as two separate books - a romance with a different ending and a crime mystery with a different beginning. The rapid movement between the two just didn't make a lot of sense. 

I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions contained within are solely my own.

The List: Shout Out Your Dreams!

The List: Shout Out Your Dreams is part autobiography, part self-help book. Written by Yuval Abramovitz, the book tells the story of how he used list-writing to help him achieve his goals in life. As a teenager, Abramovitz found himself paralyzed. He decided that he did not want to live his life in a wheelchair so he began making lists of things he wanted to do. This gave him the will to get healed. Now he passes on his secrets to his readers.

I can't say that I completely understand this book. I get that we should all have goals and acknowledge these goals but I don't understand how writing them down will make them happen. Granted, many of the stories in the book are about people willing to drop their entire lives in order to focus on making things happen. (While I have things I would love to do, I am not willing to quit my job in order to pursue things that may not actually feed my family.) Perhaps the book should be more about taking risks than making lists. 

On the plus side, the book is very well written. If you are looking for a little inspiration in your life, this just may help you. Just don't expect any secrets on how to become rich and famous overnight to jump out. This is more about risk everything and be handsomely rewarded.

I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions contained within are solely my own.

Finding The Grain

Finding The Grain by Shulamit Hartal is a bit of a strange story. It is the story of Chani Tavin and how she lived her life despite the emotional abuse she received in her childhood from her mother. However, the entire story is told via journals that she kept shortly before she died. 

Chani is the middle of three daughters. Her older sister, Aliza, and herself were born during their mother's first marriage. Their youngest sister, Chava, was born during their mother's second marriage. All three of them experienced varying types of abuse from their mother. From threats of abandonment to overfeeding to controlling what they wore, the girls lived through their own nightmares. 

As an elderly woman, Chani tripped over some psychology books during a trip to the local recycyling center. She decides to take them home. Over the next few months, with the help of her psychologist friend, Iris, she digs through her past trauma to find the real Chani inside. 

In the beginning, I had a difficult time with the book. It seems like every Jewish mother and father are referred to as "Ima" and "Aba." I was easily confused about who they were talking about, especially since the story is told via journals read by Chani's granddaughter. Ima referred to Chani's own mother, as well as Chani herself when her children were talking about her in the present time. After a few chapters, I managed to get everything sorted out.

Once I figured out all of the relationships, I found myself drawn into the story. Would Chani abuse her children the way her mother abused her? Would she always suppress every emotion so she never had any feelings ever? Would her family find out about her inner turmoil? 

It is definitely a well-told story. If you can get past all of the random words in foreign languages (there's some Hebrew, some German, some Polish...), I think you will enjoy Chani's tale. 

I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions contained within are solely my own.