Syria’s Secret Library: a Review

I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My thoughts remain my own.

Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Small Town Under Siege by Mike Thomson

Book description:

The remarkable, improbable story of a small, makeshift library in the Syrian town of Darayya, and the people who found hope and humanity in its books during the four-year siege they endured.


My thoughts:

It’s hard to decide what would be the most critical item to have on hand if your city was under siege. Food, medicine, clean water? How about books? I bet you didn’t even think about books. For Darayya, a town right in the middle of Syria’s civil war, books were the thing that kept people going.

Some remarkable young men decided to save as many books as they could, gathering them from abandoned buildings, digging through rubble, even under the bombing. They did this to create a hidden library where anyone could come and escape into another world.
When the library became a hit, they started offering classes on reading, lessons in Engliah, and lectures on many subjects.

I found the story fascinating, but it was frustrating at times. It’s not organized well. They author skips from subject to subject. Sometimes the quotes are well used to illustrate a point, but often they’re just stuck in there and they go on too long.

It’s a sobering reflection on modern warfare. It makes me angry that the world stood by and did nothing. Now the flow of refugees is a crisis, but with timely intervention, perhaps it could have been avoided. Read this one not for the writing, but for the story of these brave individuals.

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The End of the Beginning: a Review

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I received this book from Net Galley for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My thoughts remain my own.

The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure by Michael Kinch

My thoughts:

Cancer is a frightening word. Even with all the advancements in early diagnosis, screenings tests, and chemotherapy, it’s still a word that no one wants to hear. My dad died of advanced cancer 9 years ago. They couldn’t even tell where it has started and it was too late to matter. He died a week later.

So if you hand me a book about what’s next in the treatment of the disease, I will definitely read it. This book, however, really exceeded my expectations. There’s so much in here, from what cancer is exactly and how humans came to understand the disease to how we began to fight it.

It’s incredibly rich and detailed. I wouldn’t call it an easy read. It’s full of names and scientific concepts you will never have heard of. But it was fascinating stuff. And for all the assumptions that people have about the disease, I came away from the book feeling quite positive about the future. So many brilliant researchers are working on so many different treatments. One way or another, humans are going to beat this disease.

Lamarck’s Revenge : A Review

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Title: Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present

Author: Peter Ward

I was very pleased to receive this one for review. I am a big science nerd, and learning about epigenetics sounded fascinating. Unfortunately, the writing was not as good as the concept. Much of the data was repetitive, and the book was organized in a very strange way. It wasn’t until I was almost 1/3 of the way through that the book got down to specific examples of epigenetics in action that it really became interesting for me. If you are really interested in the subject, this might appeal to you, but I would bet there are better books out there.

Thanks you to Library Thing and the publisher for giving the me the chance to read this one. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My opinions remain my own.

Murder at the Mill: a review

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Iris Grey needs a quiet place to work on her art and decide what to do about her failing marriage. She finds just what she needs in Mill Cottage, deep in Hampshire and even featuring a picturesque stream nearby. Things are going pretty well until Christmas time. That’s when the neighbors plan a big holiday party that ends with a body being found floating in the previously mentioned stream.

Iris is right in the middle of events. She was present at the holiday party and has been drawn deep into the neighbors secrets. Now she has to figure out what’s going on before she dies too.

I liked this mystery, but from the description I was imagining a 1930s style house party with servants and sleuths and all. However, this is set in present day. The overall feel of the book is quite different as well. I think the description was rather misleading. I did enjoy this story and I quite like Iris. However the mystery wasn’t all that hard to solve and I’m not sure I would feel compelled to read another in this series.

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

The Bird King: A Review

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. My views remain my own.

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The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Synopsis:

From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

My review:

I was drawn to this one because I have enjoyed some of Wilson’s previous books. This one sounded intriguing, both for the historical aspect and the fantastical element. It took me a little while, but it wasn’t long before I was truly hooked.  I feel like I learned so much from this book. I don’t know much about medieval Spain. This has got the beginning of the Inquisition, and the threat to both our main characters is truly terrifying.

The strongest part of the book is definitely the characters. Both Fatima and Hassan were clearly drawn, fully dimensional characters with believable motives and flaws. I loved their relationship. Then there was the jinn. I liked that he was so untrustworthy, and yet so appealing.

If there was one thing that made this a little bit hard to stick with I think it was the pacing. It seemed a little uneven. But I would recommend it for those who want to try a mix of historical fiction and magical realism.

 

 

Burning Ridge – a review

Burning Ridge, Timber Creek K9 #4

By Margaret Mizushima

Mattie Cobb is a police detective with a K9 partner working on a small town in Colorado. Her latest case turns out to have a very personal connection and her past will hold the answers she needs to solve the crime.

This is the 4th book in the series, but I didn’t feel lost for long. I really liked Maggie’s relationship with her dog, Robo. That was the best part of the book. I would definitely read more in this series.

Murder Among the Pines

Murder Among the Pines by John Lawrence Reynolds

I got this one from Early Reviewers for free in exchange for an honest but fair review. My opinion remains my own.

Police chief Max Benson is busy enough with the summer visitors to her sleepy Canadian town, but when her ex-husband becomes the chief suspect in a murder investigation, she might have to clear up her schedule. This was a very quick read. The ending was not really a surprise, but if you like mysteries, I think you’d like this. Perfect for beginning readers. It is the third in the series, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying it.

Children of Blood and Bone: Review

34728667Title: Children of Blood and Bone, Legacy of Orisha, book 1

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not affect my opinion of the book.

First off: That Cover. Wow.

Synopsis: Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy. 

My thoughts:

I was lucky to get a chance to read this one! It came at the perfect time, right after I watched AND LOVED Black Panther. I had been hearing from absolutely everyone how amazing this book was, how much they were looking forward to it, if they hadn’t read it yet, and on and on.

I really liked it.

And that’s it. I didn’t LOVE it; it wasn’t AMAZING. It was good. Maybe really good. But that was it.

It started off really well – this horrible oppressive nation with a rich and complex history. Zelie’s back story is really compelling, and the secondary characters were very likable. The magic system is really interesting, and I loved the world building. I would love to see a leopardaire. I loved Princess Amari and absolutely hated her father. He is just horrible!

It was Zelie that I didn’t really love. I felt like the romance there was weird and it just didn’t work for me. But I could have kind of gone with it, maybe it was just that it was the first book and thinking about it more would have changed my mind. But Zelie was not as a great a character as I was hoping for in the beginning. I felt like she didn’t learn and grow much over the book. She was still impulsive, still getting into the same fights with her brother.

When I compared this to Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, which I also read recently, I liked Sierra more. I felt like she really had that moment when she came into her own power and really transformed into this powerful, strong woman who was ready to fight the world and win. Maybe it was because this book was split between Zelie and Amari, but I didn’t feel like Zelie had that moment of transformation in quite the same way. Don’t get me wrong – I think this was a good book and I’m glad I read it. But I think it could have been even better.

It’s possible that it was just me, that I read it at the wrong time and I would have enjoyed it more if I were in a different mood. If you are looking forward to reading this one, I’d say go ahead and give it a try. But I’m not in a hurry to read the next book.

Sinking the Sultana: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Title: Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home

Author: Sally M. Walker

Setting: 1865 Mississippi River

Synopsis:

The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River — and it could have been prevented.

In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln’s assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn’t find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat’s boilers exploded, plunging theSultana into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal — more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the Sultana’s disastrous fate?

Civil_War_Steamer_Sultana_tintype,_1865 (1)My review:

This little known catastrophe was a tragic end to the war. In their rush to get Union prisoners home after the war, they packed the first boat far past its capacity. That alone might not have caused this disaster, but when the worst happened and the boilers exploded, hundreds more died because there was no way to safely evacuate them all.

I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book. I’ve read many books on the Civil War, but I didn’t know anything about this disaster. The author does a great job of putting this accident in its proper perspective. What made it so heartbreaking is that the entire thing could have been avoided.

This book is packed with photos, maps, and facts that make the story come alive. The writing is clear and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend this one for kids or adults who like reading about disasters or the Civil War.

Hamilton At War

downloadI received this free in exchange for a honest review. My views, however, are my own.

Title: Alexander Hamilton’s Revolution: His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff

Author: Philip Thomas Tucker

“Sell-out crowds every night enjoy the smash hit Hamilton on Broadway, which presents a fact-filled and entertaining glimpse into the patriot’s life. But very few of us know about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s trusted military advisor.”

If you thought Rob Chernow’s masterpiece Hamilton was just not detailed enough, then this book is for you. I’m a major fan of Alexander Hamilton – the guy was a genius and I’m glad to see him finally getting the credit he deserves. But even I was a little daunted by the level of detail in this new book by Turner.

I agree with his basic premise – we focus a lot of what Hamilton accomplished before and after the revolution, but sometimes overlook what he did while he was serving. This book deals mainly with the extraordinary relationship between Washington and Hamilton. They became an amazing team who Got. It. Done.

But while the book was insightful and like I say, I love the idea, the writing was often repetitive. He’d wind up saying things three times in one chapter. I don’t need that. I can remember what you just said. And then the level of detail – naming so many names, for instance – was really just too much. I would recommend this one for serious readers of American History and advise others to pass.