Friday, September 27, 2013

A Pius Man by Declan Finn

As the head of Vatican security, Giovanni Figlia must protect a new, African Pope who courts controversy every other day.  The Pope's latest project is to make Pius XII, "Hitler's Pope," a saint.  Things haven't gotten better since the Pope employed American mercenary Sean Ryan.

Then a body fell onto the Vatican doorstep.

Soon, a pattern emerges-people who go into the Pius XII historical archives are dying.  Each time, a priest has been in the background-a priest close to the Pope.  One of the victims was an al-Qaeda operative, drawing Scott "Mossad" Murphy of Israeli intelligence to Rome.

Soon, Ryan, Murphy and Figlia must join forces to unravel the mystery around the Vatican, as even the man Giovanni is supposed to protect looks like a suspect.  To get out of this alive, they must discover if Hitler's Pope was a Nazi collaborator, or a pious man.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  And it certainly is, if you can get past the beginning.  There are just so many different people from so many different agencies and so very much information jammed into the beginning that it's difficult to stay focused.  Although all of the beginning information is necessary, it's trying to a reader who just wants to get to the story.  We start off with a big bang, literally, and then we're stuck in Information Overload Land for awhile.  Once we get out of there, we do find an exciting story that's fun to read, with characters that I eventually came to enjoy.

Though I wasn't in love with this book, I have to admit I'm impressed with Declan as an author.  He didn't just write the book, but has developed an entire fictitious world around it.  Several of the chapters have a website you can go to in order to learn more about a character or situation, or to simply read a short story.  It always ties in with the chapter that you've just read.  I love that Declan has taken his dedication to this world to the next level.  I am always certain that the next book will be far more enjoyable since we've already been introduced to the cast of characters.

For more information, visit Declan's Pius Man blog.  He has a wealth of information, not only on himself and the book, but on fascinating culture as well.  *insert Spock wave here*

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Effed Up by Russ Woody

Warning:  This is an adult book containing adult situations and adult language.  May not be suitable for children.  This means I wouldn't let my own children read it.  I honestly don't care whether you let your children read it or not. 

Robert Nirth is your average man.  His family, however, is not.  There is some sort of mental illness running through his family.  The bright side is that they're mostly just plain funny.  The downside is that people are getting hurt.  That isn't so funny.  With the passing of his father, Robert is now the only sane person in his family.  How will he cope with it all on his own?

I can't remember the last time a book was written so well that it brought such genuine emotion.  I found myself laughing out loud, wiping away tears and I even punched my computer desk once in anger.  Don't worry, neither myself nor my computer desk were harmed in the making of the review. 

Robert's life is definitely not a dream, but he copes with it using sarcasm and laughter.  None of us has an easy life.  The trick is being able to laugh about it.  At times, it's difficult, but Robert has a true talent for it.  Despite what life has handed him, he's determined to be happy and not harm others.  He's a good man full of compassion and joy.  He's just trampled by a family that insists on complicating life and forcing chaos into it.

Imagine you're at the bar having a beer with your best friend.  The atmosphere is light and friendly.  He starts to tell you a story.  At first, it's hilarious.  By the end, you're sucked in the story and you don't want it to end, but you realize you've drunk yourself sober and you can't stop thinking.

I strongly suggest that those who stick mostly to Christian fiction or non-fiction not read this.  It's nothing personal, but I believe you would be offended.  For those men out there who don't read but have thought about starting, this is definitely the book you want to begin with.  For everyone else, keep an open mind and fasten your seatbelt.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Brooklyn Love by Yael Levy

I'm going to review this book a bit differently than I normally do, mostly because I'm disappointed in the other reviews I've read of this book.  Instead of just giving my own thoughts, I want to delve a little deeper and explain them, as well as why I'm disappointed in some of the reviews.  Before I do, I want to state that I only read reviews of a book after I've read it, so that it doesn't color my reading experience at all.

This book is about the stories of 3 young Orthodox Jewish women.  They're all three attempting to find their places in the world, and in relationships.  With family, religious and peer pressures upon them, this is a difficult task.  All three women must decide which direction their lives will go in and how strongly their willing to fight for their own freedoms and choices. 

My disappointment with some of the reviews comes with the fact that several of them completely missed the point.  This book is not about Orthodox Jews.  There is no conversion attempt here.  No religion is being typecast here.  There are several different families that have different versions of what being an Orthodox Jew is.  It's portrayed in several ways.  Every religion has it's own set of suggestions/rules.  Every parent has it's own set of suggestions/rules.  Every peer group has it's own set of suggestions/rules.  There is no attack on Orthodox Jews.  There is no specific love for Orthodox Jews.  They just happen to be the religion of the main characters in the book.  Those who are avoiding this book due to the religious content and what's being said, don't.  Read it for yourself and look past what others are saying.  There's a valuable story here meant for everyone if you're able to do that.

Now that that's off my chest, I'd like to take a look at the actual story.  We have a set of very different friends.  One comes from loving, yet semi-strict parents that are financially secure and moral.  Another comes from a single parent home that is extremely strict and lonely.  Another comes from a loving and sweet home but has issues of her own to deal with.  They have distinct personalities and hopes and dreams.  Not only do they all have different goals, but they have designed different means of achieving them.  Sound familiar? 

These girls are battling the same thing that all young people do.  How does love fit into life?  What do they want as far as a career?  What obstacles will they have to overcome?  Can they remain tight friends and still achieve their goals?

Amid heartbreak, violence, destruction, misunderstanding, criminal activity, and a myriad of other obstructions, these girls give it their all to do the one thing we all strive to do:  survive and be happy.  Some will succeed and some will fail, but they give it all they've got.

This book isn't just about three girls looking for romance.  It's about the daily struggle we all have to find happiness and harmony in our lives.  If you can get past the other reviews and read this with an open heart, you just might find something tangible for your soul contained in this story. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Centrum Multivitamin Chews Free Sample

Most of you are familiar with Centrum Multivitamins, but what you may not know is that recently they've introduced vitamin chews!  I was a little skeptical.  Sure, I loved Flintstone vitamins as a kid.  They tasted great!  But as an adult, I can still remember the vitamin taste that I just wasn't bright enough to taste as a child.  These are different!  I kid you not, they taste like Skittles!  Alright, in all fairness, I only tried the grape, but they taste and chew just like Skittles!  Run over to Centrum and request a free sample.  They'll also send along a coupon!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hidden by Thomas Hall

Shortly after the untimely death of his wife, Jonathan Allen is now faced with the abduction of his son.  With local police, FBI and a few good 'men' on his side, it's a race against time to get his son back.  Once they figure out the abduction is most likely linked to a child pornography ring, it opens up a whole new world filled with non-leads.

Usually when a book is labeled as suspense, I scoff.  I don't just scoff, I scooooooooff.  It takes a lot to put me in suspense mode.  Perhaps most people are easier, but I freely admit that I'm a difficult girl.  This book is adequately labeled suspense.  I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen long enough to eat or sleep.  I had to know what was going to happen next and as the bodies started to pile up and I thought I might be unraveling the entire mystery, something new would pop in to keep my on my toes.  Some of the mystery I was able to figure out ahead of time but the rest of it kept slamming into me.  It truly was me reading a suspense book.  I was held from the beginning until the epilogue.  I can't wait to see what happens next!

Another new for me, I found myself horrified and scared.  I kept imagining if this were happening to my own son and I couldn't help myself. 

It was amazing to watch the way that the different investigators worked together.  One would have a lead or a hunch and the rest would jump right in.  I found it ideal and surprising, but definitely realistic.

As for the child pornography, this is a new area for me that I've read little about.  Though there are a few graphic images described, it doesn't go overboard.  We get just enough to inflame our anger and outrage to make us really have feelings for the 'bad guys' here.  When justice is meted out, in whatever form it happens to come, I found myself feeling overwhelmed that the world was a little more righted again. 

This may be difficult for some people to read, simply because of the fact that it does deal in child pornography.  Those that believe they can get past that though, it really was a wonderful read.  The storytelling kept me entranced and I found myself engrossed in another world.  Not only suspense, but surprise and fascinating hounded me through my reading.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hope Rises from the Ashes by L.F. Falconer

Collie's journey into adulthood was met with tragic consequences when she defied society to follow her heart.  In this sequel to "Hope Flies on Broken Wings," Collie attempts to escape the haunting memories of the worst night in her young life.  Fearing a lifetime of heartbreak and shame, she leaves her seaside homeland of Donnel to seek refuge in the Tillaman Realm beyond the eastern mountains.  But she soon finds herself wishing she'd never left home when she becomes hopelessly entangled in a dangerous game of possession and jealousy between two Tillaman warriors and the women who desire them.  Has a reluctance to part with her merman scale charm bound her into a prison of her own making?  Or will a gift from the sea be her salvation?  (taken from the back of the book)

First, let's start off with the fact this is a sequel.  I haven't read the first book, but having read this one, I wish I had.  Don't get me wrong.  This stands alone perfectly fine.  There's just enough information to keep you from being confused without it becoming redundant.  The main reason I wish I'd read the first book is that I enjoyed this one so much.  It's kind of like getting to watch the second season of a television show you fall in love with.  You have to go back and watch the first season in order to find out what all you've missed.

I don't have any complaints here.  The characters are great.  You care about them from the beginning and feel a connection with them.  The storytelling factor is great.  It's easy to get swept away and not want to return to reality.  It flows smoothly to the point that you don't even realize you've nearly finished it until you flip the last page wondering how you possibly read the entire thing already.  It has great escape quality.  It has a wonderful other worldly factor.  There are politics and religion, but not enough to bore you, just enough to keep you intrigued.  Honestly, I can't find a single thing wrong with this book.

Now, let me tell you what I loved.  This book has great 'BAM!' factor.  You're reading along and the scene is set and you think you know the direction it's going to take, when all of a sudden BAM!  You're wrong.  Something insane has happened that makes complete sense, but you totally didn't see it coming.  I despise cookie cutter writing.  The main reason is that it's predictable and dull.  I like an exciting read where the writer can take me somewhere and I can't see the future, I can only guess.  Then, "BAM!  I was wrong!  I had no idea that would happen!  Well, what's going to happen next?  Holy Crow!  Did that really just happen?"  You get so excited reading that you find yourself bouncing up and down in your seat because it's just so thrilling!  Falconer is a genius at this.  It's an amazing escape from reality with the truth of reality still being vibrantly alive.  One moment we're in a sweet, loving scene and the next the blood is flowing freely!  There are a few gruesome scenes, but they aren't over the top.  The purpose isn't to gross you out, it's more because that's what happened in Falconer's head.  That's simply where the story went.  There's just enough to give you a shock factor.

A surprisingly well-done book.  I'll happily review the first in the series, L.F.!  *hint hint*  For those of you who like a touch of everything and a whole lot of excitement, this is a great read.  It's fast-paced and enjoyable.  Don't let the book cover fool you! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Brood X by Michael Phillip Cash

Seth is laid off from work.  His wife Lara just found out they are expecting a baby this summer.  Seth plans on documenting the entire pregnancy with his brand new digital camcorder.

During an evening home watching television, the news reports that a swarm of cicada (Brood Ten) are expected to overwhelm the entire Northeast.

Brood Ten is vicious and ready to invade.

During a sweltering summer night, Brood Ten emerges and wreaks havoc with the electric grid, phone and cell service, Wi-Fi, food and water supply.  Civilization as they know it is gone.

Seth and Lara are thrown back to the stone age in their own home with trillions of cicada trying to deposit their eggs and breed.  (taken from the back of the book)

Oh my gosh!  This book was so much fun!  We have horribly stupid characters that just can't seem to figure out what they're doing.  The first half of the book I just wanted to climb in and pull a ninja *slap slap slap*  move on each one of them!  They aren't annoying, just really fun to dislike.  I found myself sitting there cursing out loud at them randomly. 

As the story goes on, the cicadas arrive and our beautiful group of idiots begin to realize just how not bright they are.  That's when things really get fun!  We get blood and guts and more delicious idiocy!  And it's all written with this amazing vividness! 

The first book of Cash's that I read was Stillwell.  I enjoyed it, but it didn't wow me.  Brood X was a blast from start to finish.  I stopped thinking and sat back and cursed and ate popcorn and laughed with glee when the blood began to fly. 

Brood X isn't a book, it's an experience. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash

Paul Russo's wife just died.  While trying to get his family's life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side.  His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor.  Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free.  (taken from the back of the book)

I was really excited to pick this book up for one main reason.  Cash just seems like such a nice guy!  I know it's prejudiced of me, but I definitely prefer nice authors and I always want to adore their books.  It doesn't always work out that way, but the friendly people make me want to move their books to the top of the list.  Of course, my review, as always, will be open and honest. 

Having recently watched Insidious, I found myself having that same 'Twilight Zone, what's going to happen next?'  feeling.  There's a haunting and mystical feel to the book that sucks you right in.  You can actually hear that creepy lulling music in the background of your mind as you're reading. 

Some of the characters are brilliant.  I wasn't in love with all of them, and a few fell flat for me.  The children and Gloria, the psychic, were wonderfully created.  They though were bit players, I longed to know more about each of them.  Paul, the main character, wasn't a favorite of mine.  That actually worked in favor of the book though because if I had been crazy about him, I would have spent most of the book angry at him for being so silly sometimes. 

My only complaint about the book is the predictability factor.  I'm sorry, Cash, but I have to be honest.  I don't want to post any spoilers, but I knew the end before it happened.  It didn't take anything away from my reading experience though.  Just because I knew what was going to happen, didn't mean I knew how it was going to happen and there were a few surprises thrown at me.  This was only during the mystery portion of the story though.  The supernatural portion kept me in suspense as well as the coping factor of all of the characters.

What I love most about this book is that it takes place over the course of a week.  It's separated into days.  At the end of each day I found myself thinking 'Wow!  What an exhausting day!'  and at the beginning of each day I found myself excited to see what the new day would bring.  It was like living life vicariously through Paul.  Even though I didn't like him, his life was interesting!

Those of you who love stories of demons, possession, hauntings and anything of the supernatural sort will enjoy this read.

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All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.