Finding John by Andrew Serra was heartbreaking, terrifying, and a great piece of investigative reporting. Serra was a member of the New York Fire Department's Red Hook Engine 279 and Ladder 131. My brother who is retired from the FDNY also served in that house on 9/11. He felt the book was important enough to send copies to all his siblings (and there are a lot of us).
Serra tells the story of his experience at Ground Zero, not only on 9/11 but also in the months that followed. Most people are aware of the events surrounding the fall of the Twin Towers but few have heard the story of the months of work on the Pile. Every day for many, many months after firefighters were detailed to work on the Pile. Many also worked it on their time off. Serra describes finding a fellow fight fighter, John Tipping II, in the debris. Tipping was a member of Engine 54 and Ladder 4.
When the towers collapsed, so did much of the structure around them. Ladder 4 was parked next to one of the buildings. As the buildings collapsed so did the sidewalks around them talking Ladder 4 with them. Ladder 4 come to rest, mostly intact, several levels down on the shopping mezzanine. A prominent writer who spent the year following the attacks with the engineers and construction crews made the claim that looting had occurred by firefighters before they went in to save those they could. He based this claim on someone telling him that pairs of new jeans had been found in Ladder 4. Every single member of Ladder 4 died on 9/11 and now their names were being tarnished by hearsay.
Serra does a fantastic job of investigative journalism. He proves with eyewitness testimony plus the help of Charles Pelligrino, a scientific writer that the members of Ladder 4 went directly to their deaths that day. They did not stop for anything, even the realization that they probably would not survive. This book is a must read. Not only for the investigative journalism but also for the eyewitness view of the aftermath of 9/11. Serra shares his experiences working the pile, attending many of the 343 funerals, watching FDNY's members contract the illness from working the pile. I highly recommend Finding John. I would suggest to Serra that he and his publisher look into having an audiobook made. With a good narrator, Finding John can find a whole new audience.
Armistice is a wonderful sequel to Amberlough. It picks up the story after the powder keg has blown and the characters have each run to where they thought was safe, if only for a moment. Although they are scattered, the thread that binds them is their wish to return to Amberlough City in Gedda. In order to do that they will have to oust the Fascist regime that has taken Gedda to add to its "One Nation". With this many characters in many locations getting the gang back together involves a lot of adventures and narrow escapes. Looking forward to the concluding volume of the series.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amberlough came to my attention from a friend after we shared our mutual like of the Netflix series Babylon Berlin. My husband picked it up for me from our library. A few days later I found out that I had won a contest. Lara Elena Donnelly was sending me an autographed copy of the book. I finished the book quickly. It was amazing. There are many colorful characters from all economic levels. The political uncertainty and changes drive the characters to set themselves on a variety of courses. It is a book full of excitement and fully fleshed characters. I am looking forward to the sequel.
I love the Adrian's Undead Diary series. The latest addition to the series, The Last Resort: Adrian's March Part Two, is no different. The book has all the wonderful Adrian, Becky, Hall, Kevin and Michelle readers love plus other new characters. Adrian is Adrian, still questioning if he is a good person or not, and reacting strongly when his loved ones are threatened. The action is non-stop and well written. I have never held a gun (have no desire to) but Chris Philbrook writes his action scenes so well that even someone like me can follow what is happening.
If you are already an Adrian fan, pick up this exciting new addition. I believe the audio is expected by the end of the year. If you have not read The Adrian's Undead Diary series, check it out. It is one of those series that you read multiple times because it is a world that you want to visit again and again.
Robin Miles's narration of The Good House by Tananarive Due is perfection. Her characters, no matter gender or age, are recognizable from each other. She conveys the depths of emotions involved in this book, anger, love, grief, regret, and hatred. There is a sense of building tension in the book which ratchets up with a calming spoken sentence from Miles. She does an incredible job with The Good House.
There is not much I can comment on the plot other than what is listed in the publisher's synopsis. The book transcends the mystery/thriller/suspense genres. It could easily be added to the horror and paranormal genres as well. The book contains one point that should probably have a trigger warning. I am not sure how to word it and not give away the plot. Maybe someone who is more skilled can do that.
I highly recommend The Good Book in audio format. It is a long listen but with Robin Miles leading you, you will want to take every step.
Gilded Cage, Tarnished City, Bright Ruin. The Dark Gifts Series. Author Victoria James has created a trilogy that will be counted among the classics. I loved all three books. There was never a slow spot or a dip in the action. All three books were at full throttle from the first page to the last.
I do not want to spoil the series ending for anyone who has not read it yet. (A piece of advice? Read the series.) The characters who the reader has come to care for continuing their stories. Each storyline builds to a stunning conclusion. I never even imagined the events at the end of The Dark Gifts trilogy.
As with the first two books, I purchased print copies as well as audiobooks. In the future, the print books are going to be passed on to a young person so I can share my love of the series with a new generation.
NetGalley provided a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.
Charlotte Goodwin is coming home. She is familiar with the old adage "you can never go home" but she is going to try. Before she faces her family and friends, she has to get through the barrier at the border. It is an invisible barrier and a very special border. Honeysuckle Hollow is home to witches, fairies and all types of magical beings. Charlotte is home to rebuild burned bridges and no amount of magic can help her.
Johanna Parker does a wonderful job of bringing the world and inhabitants of Honeysuckle Hollow to life. Her male and female characters. It was an enjoyable listen. Moonshine & Magic is the first book in Bella Fall's A Southern Charms Cozy Mystery series. I will check out the rest of the series when I have time.
I won a free copy of the audiobook from the author's Facebook contest.
Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach, Cassandra Campbell (Narrator), Danny Campbell (Narrator)
My husband and I are space nerds. We grew up in the days of Apollo. We used to watch every shuttle launch and landing, so we were watching Feb. 1, 2003. The memories of that morning were with me as I read Bring Columbia Home. The book is a love story with the joy and heartbreak that have accompanied Human Space Flight. From the first realization that something had gone horribly wrong to the final answer of what caused the disaster, the book chronicles the meticulous work of the process of collecting and reconstructing the evidence (pieces). Through the entire book, the loss of seven humans was never forgotten. In October of 2015, we stood in front of the recovered windscreen of Columbia and the photos of the seven astronauts. Bringing Columbia Home is a thank you to all who helped with the recovery and a memorial to those lost in the exploration of Human Space Flight.
Thank you to Tantor Media for a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
True Crime has become a very popular genre, whether in print, audio or streaming services. Truman Capote may have invented the genre with In Cold Blood but Fatal Vision is a true crime controversy that is still ongoing after thirty years. The book was published in 1983. I read it then and saw the TV movie the next year. The audiobook is narrated by Fred Sanders. The production values are good and Mr. Sanders speaks clearly. Fatal Vision is an easy audiobook to listen to. Deciding the truth of the case is much more difficult.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
Dead Men Do Tell TalesThe Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic AnthropologistAuthor William R. Maples, PhD, Michael BrowningNarrated by Stephen Bel Davies
Stephen Bel Davies narrates the fascinating book Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist. He does a good job pronouning all the words I would have struggled with.Written by forensic anthropologist William R. Maples PhD and Michael Browning, the book is a good introduction to the discipline of forensic anthropology. Maples starts with an antecdote of seeing a very simple poem on a headstone. When he looked above to the poem to see the name on the headstone, he was shocked to see it belonged to Bonnie Parker, as in Bonnie and Clyde. It helped him to remember the humanity of all remains he studied, whether victim or perpetrator.
Maples examines the importance of forensic anthropology through a series of antedotes. He has the opportunity to study the remains of several interesting people, including Joseph Merrick (the elephant man), Pizzaro (the Spanish explorer), and Tsar Nicholas II. He also explains how to reconstruct a skeleton from a body bag of small bone fragments. The book is enjoyable and educational.
Thanks to Tantor Audio for giving me a copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
I haven't added any new content since April of this year. I have not given up on the blog or on adding new content. It just is not possible at this time. I have spend weeks deciding how to write this post, this difficult post.
Sometime late last year when my depression began a downward spiral, I began to notice that my writing process was not as smooth as before. More often I found myself stalling for long periods. By February of this year, it has screeched to a halt. Writing at this point is similar to trying to write in a language I do not speak. Every word searched for like using an English to whatever language dictionary. I do not know when my writing will return to normal. My physician has two theories. Hopefully in the near future an answer will be found.
If I owe you a review (and I owe 4 audio and 6 e book reviews), I apologize. In most cases, I have completed reading or listening to your item. I just cannot write the review. I will continue trying until they are all complete. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
An Unkindness of Ghosts
By: Rivers Solomon
Narrated by: Cherise Boothe
Length: 11 hrs and 53 mins
Release date: 10-03-17
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
The Matilda is a generational ship. It is a massive and awesome ship. Her power comes from the “Baby Sun”. Everything and everyone on the ship is dependent on the Baby. The Matilda has a stricter class system than the Titanic. The top decks are where the rulers and other elites live and work. The work they do is not labor intensive. Decks P through T are where the Tarlanders live. Second class citizens with no chance of upward mobility.
The Tarlanders also carry a genetic mutation where they are not always born male and female. Many are born with characteristics of both sexes. Each deck functions as its own society and chooses its own pronouns. Some are all “she” no matter how they present, other desks use “they”. It is their own solution to what pronouns to use. No matter what deck they come from, all Tarlanders live in a state of insecurity. Tarlanders can be killed, beaten, raped and have no recourse, no justice, no hope.
Aster is the main character. She is a medic. She cares for the residents of the lower decks with no supplies or support. She watches as the Elites cut rations for the Tarlanders, cut the heat back to freezing, and treat them as sub-human. She has a complicated relationship with the surgeon from the upper decks. She has a complicated relationship with everyone.
An Unkindness of Ghosts is a fantastic book and an incredible audiobook. I cannot do this book justice. The science fiction components of the book are brilliant. It is presented in such a fashion that a non-science person like myself understood it. The characters are very well done. There are no two dimensional characters. They are all very real. Rivers Solomon has created a wonderful story that compels the reader to keep turning pages. Cherise Boothe does a fantastic job as narrator. There are many different accents just among the Tarlanders plus the different accents of the upper decks. Boothe smoothly slips through the different voices without any hesitation or any missteps. She is clear and understandable at all times. The projection values are very good.
Solomon’s book gives a voice to the powerless. She shows us the fierce will to survive among those who one would expect to have no hope. An Unkindness of Ghosts is a powerful story. I highly recommend it and look forward to Solomon’s next book.
Forty stories set in the Star Wars Universe. Forty stories on the periphery of the main stories we all know. Whether you are a Star Wars fan or a true Star Wars all out nerd, these stories are enjoyable. For example, the first story Raymus by Gary Whitta was an enjoyable story for me, a Star Wars fan. My daughter-in-law, who was listing with me, told me one of the characters mentioned is the Stormtrooper Luke and Han knock out when they are freeing Leia from the prison. I would have missed that but it was still a good story.
Ultimately that is why this collection works because it has something for everyone. Just looking through the authors in the table of contents is a sci-fi fans dream. Chuck Wendig writes a great fun piece called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here”. Based on that one line in A New Hope, Wendig creates an entire piece that changes how you view the character that speaks that line. Wil Wheaton’s Laina was incredible. Just so many feels, especially bitter and sweet. There are too many stories to list them separately as I usually do with anthologies but they are more hits than misses. Authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Glaudia Grey and Alexander Freed who are already familiar with Star Wars fan, extend their writings into the universe in this collection. And who can pass up on the story told from the viewpoint of the monster in the trash compactor?
This audiobook does have sound effects, which is something I am not usually fond of. In this particular case though, the sounds effects do not overwhelm the dialogue and are a nice addition. Each one of the narrators does a great job. Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris and Janina Gavankar are just three of the very talented bunch to narrate the book. Every story is a fascinating trip into part of the beloved universe that finally have a light shined upon them.
This review and many others on Audio Book Reviewer who provided a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours starts off with a bang and a leviathan. The colony on Sirsa III is a mining colony who possession of the planet was granted after studies revealed there was no native life on the planet. The colony is now under siege from a leviathan that rose from the ocean. The governor of the colony decides to break the long standing policy of having as little to do with the Federation and ask for help.
On the Starship Shenzhou, Captain Georgiou has her hands full with deciding who to promote to first officer and second officer. The two candidates, Lieutenant Michael Burnham and Lieutenant Saru, do not work well together at all and seem in perpetual competition. The tension from the promotions will have to wait as the crew of the Shenzhou are instructed to respond to the call for help. To insure the threat to the colony is solved, Starfleet also instructs the Starship Enterprise, commanded by Captain Pine, to rendezvous with the Shenzhou.
The book is populated by a few familiar characters like Mr. Spock and Ambassador Sarek, as well as the characters from the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series. It has plenty of action and intrigue. Where did the leviathan come from? Is the colony responsible? Are the Shenzhou and the Enterprise working off the orders regarding helping the colony? The book will probably appeal more to the hardcore Star Trek fan. I am a fan of the two later series, Deep Space 9 and Voyager; no so much of the original series.
The narrator, Susan Eisenberg, does a fantastic job. She reads the book. She does not perform it; for example, she does not do different voices or accents for each character. She does project emotion and tension into the story. I would definitely choose a book narrated by her.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for giving me a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
I had picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess after seeing it recommended by several YA authors on Twitter. I really enjoyed it and made sure I picked up the sequel. It was just as enjoyable as the first one.
In the first book we meet Henrietta and Rook. They are best friends having grown up at an orphan school in miserable conditions. This universe that Henrietta and Rook live in has monsters, glorious monsters and human monsters. Rook is "unclean" because he has scars from surviving a brush with one of the Seven Ancients. He has to fight to keep the darkness or evil from taking him over.
Henrietta is identified as the chosen one who will defeat the Ancients and save England. There are so many questions about whether Henrietta is indeed the one, who her parents were and what type of magic she turny wields.
In this second book, we find out the truth about so many things, not only Henrietta but what truly allowed the Ancients to enter their reality. The boys she trained with are also learning new truths and what their place is in helping defeat the Ancients.
What I really enjoyed about this book is the revelations were a total surprise. I did not see them coming. They did make sense though. It is hard to praise this book without giving examples that would be spoilers. So let me say as soon as I finished the book last night, I was ready to start the next one. Unfortunately it wasn't ready for me. I have pre-ordered the next book and am looking forward to going to the universe where the Ancients rage and Henrietta fights to save humanity.
I loved The Queen of Ieflaria. I devoured it, staying awake way past midnight to finish reading it. This book has so many wonderful things: strong female protagonist, dragons, a unicorn, battles, palace intrigue, and a romance between the two main characters who are pansexual.
Princess Esofi of Rhodia has been betrothed to the heir of Ieflaria since she was three years old. Her education has been focused on being the best queen possible to what will be her new homeland. Over the years she has gotten to know her future husband, Crown Prince Albion, through letters. After she begins the months long journey to her new home and marriage, she receives the news that the Crown Prince has died in an accident.
Esofi arrives in Ieflaria and is faced with a choice: marry the new heir, marry another in the line of succession or go back home. Esofi chooses to marry the new heir, Crown Princess Adale. Adale never expected to rule. She has not been educated to rule but she does know how to drink, hunt and start a really good bar fight. Yet she is such a wonderful match for Esofi.
From the first introduction to Adale, I fell hard for her. I wanted her to marry Esofi and not let one of her cousins take her place. Adale was strong, vulnerable, prickly and caring. She is such a wonderful character. Esofi carries a touch of superiority because of her education. She needs to learn about her new home from the bottom up. Meanwhile others at court plot to remove Adale from the crown and marry Esofi to someone else.
This world that Effie Calvin created is so unique. Gender is not a barrier to anything, whether it be a crown or a marriage. Under the right conditions and with a little magic help, individuals can transform to the opposite sex long enough to insure a child is conceived. This world also has dragons. Big, fire breathing dragons who do more than just eat sheep. The descriptions of everything from the architecture to the clothing is amazing. The reader learns so much about the world by the author's wonderful flowing descriptions.
I absolutely loved The Queen of Ieflaria and am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series. This book does have a logical ending so readers are not left hanging but instead are left wanting more. ARC courtesy Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins was a very interesting read. King Athelrick is in a coma. His daughters, the eldest who is his heir, are not with him. They do not know of his illness. His wife, Gudrun, sends word to her son Wylm, the King's stepson, but not to the King's daughters. No matter her reasoning, it looks very bad. It looks as though she plans for her son to step in and rule for the King.
The King's heir, Bluebell, is a fantastic character. Her name does not reflect her character. Bluebell is a warrior, respected by her troops, feared by her enemies. When she hears of her father's illness and her stepmother's actions, she imagines the worst. She sets off home, pausing only to notify her sisters. Rose, married to an allied King but loving one of her father's retainers, Ash studying to be a Counselor but already having the gift of sight, and the twins Ivy and Willow.
The story has wonderful intrigue. I was not sure if the King was really sick or cursed. And if cursed, who was responsible. As Bluebell tries to save not only her father but the kingdom and her family, the action moves fast. This is the first book in a series and I am looking forward to the next one.
Acceptance is the conclusion to Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. It is told from multiple view points. The Biologist, Control, the former Director, the Assistant Director are all woven together to create the most complete picture of Area X readers will be given. There are still questions when the book is finished. Some may be answered by a second listen. Others may remain because Area X is still Area X and as such is till a mystery.
Carolyn McCormick, Bronson Pinchot, and Xe Sands do a fantastic job as narrators. The alternating viewpoints are clearly voiced and it is no problem deciphering who is speaking. I really enjoyed this changing of narrators in this book. It helped make the mysteries of Area X more believable. There is so much about the book that cannot be shared because of spoilers. I highly recommend the entire Southern Reach trilogy.
Authority is the 2nd book in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. I highly recommend reading the first book Annihilation before Authority. Otherwise it will not make much sense.
While Annihilation was told from the viewpoint of The Biologist, this book is told from the viewpoint of Control. Control is the third generation of spies in his family. He is sent to the Area X administration to assume the position of Director. His job is to find out what is wrong with the Area X explorations and fix it. First up is to interview the three members of the 12th expedition who returned, including The Biologist.
Control is challenged at each step by the Assistant Director who loyalty is to the former Director. He is also given orders by The Voice, a faceless, nameless male that he must give progress reports to daily on the phone. As Control struggles to do his assigned job, he discovers there is as much hidden in the administration of the Southern Reach as there is behind the barrier of Area X.
Bronson Pinchot does a fantastic job narrating Authority. He creates distinct voices for Control and The Voice as well as the female characters. He is one of my favorite narrators. Authority leaves the reader/listener waiting for the solution to Area X.
Jeff VanderMeer creates a very realistic and at the same time foreign world in Annihilation, the first book of the Southern Reach Trilogy. The world is real. It seems to be set in contemporary times, with cell phones and no radical technology that screams future world. The premise is that an area called the Forgotten Coast, which is predominately rural, has suddenly been cut off from the rest of the world. Some type of invisible force field came down and the area became inaccessible. No one knows what happened or the fate of those behind the barrier.
The Southern Reach is the administrative body created to monitor and study Area X as it is called. This first book deals with the 12th expedition sent into Area X. The story is told from the viewpoint of The Biologist. The expedition members are referred to by their functions, not their names. As the story details the expedition from The Biologist viewpoint, we learn about the strange life forms in Area X and the byzantine administration that continues to send expeditions in Area X even after disasters.
The narration by Carolyn McCormick is very good. Although this is the first in a trilogy, it does have a rational ending. Trust me, you will want to continue. Trying to find the secret, the reason for Area X will get under your skin.
Scott Kelly describes life on the International Space Station with total clarity. Not having been there myself, Kelly's descriptions made it easy to understand what he was talking about. It is not just the science Kelly discusses but the humanities, such as the smell of flowers, the sound of rain. The windows on the station do not open and it has been continually occupied for decades. Weather is a big discussion among the crew since they are not getting to experience any type of weather. The US and Russian sides of the station are operated much differently. Kelly provides examples of this. For anyone who loves space and is looking forward to man going back beyond our own Earth orbit, this book is a must.
I saw the Psycho movie multiple times over the years but this was my first time with the book or audiobook in this case. The story is so much more than the movie ever covered (no surprise). There is an entire backstory to Norman and his mother. Norman is described as being overweight, not the thin good looking Anthony Perkins from the movie. Mary, the character Janet Leigh played in the movie, also has a more complete story. I really enjoyed the write style of Robert Bloch. Even though it is somewhat dated, the dialogue is not stilted at all. The suspense was maintained until the very end. The narration was good but not great. I cannot quite put my finger on what in the narration bugged me but something was enough to cause me to rate it 4 instead of 5 stars. I will be checking out the rest of the series soon.
by Vic James
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Pub Date 06 Feb 2018
Tarnished City is the sequel to Gilded Cage. You must read Gilded Cage first or there will be major spoilers in this review. Gilded Cage is amazing so go read it.
Tarnished City continues with the same lush detail that I enjoyed so much in Gilded Cage. Every event, person and thing merits a second look because nothing is what it seems at all. The Skilled and the Unskilled both have unexpected reactions to the events that culminated in Gilded Cage. Abbey goes on the run in an attempt to find the truth and free her brother, Luke. Luke is taken captive and delivered into the hands of Crovan. At Crovan’s isolated castle, which cannot be entered or exited without the lord’s permission, Luke is to be tortured and questioned about his activities at Kenyston.
I have read over 100 books in 2016, and The Gilded Cage was in the top 3. It is a finely crafted novel. I enjoyed it so much I purchased it in a Kindle version, a hardback and an audiobook version. I plan on doing the same with Tarnished City. I already have the paperback from the United Kingdom because I could not wait for the American release date. It continues the wonderful story lines that Gilded Cage excelled at. Now everything is in flux. Abbey has found the resistance and found them to not all be Unskilled like her. Luke is trying to survive each day and find a way to escape the castle without instant death as he walks through the door. The Jardines work to consolidate their power, seeking to make their family not just powerful but royal.
I was so pleased that Abigail Hadley, strong in the first book, continues to fight to save not only her brother but all the Unskilled. She has moments of doubt but stays strong. It makes her a very relatable protagonist. Luke has lost some of the strength he gained in Milltown. What the Jardines and Corvan did to him has left his brain broken. Gavar is still hot tempered but not as naive as he once was. To share his father’s vision of a powerful future means to lose his Unskilled daughter. Silyen has his own plans for the family’s power. He just has not shared them. Since he seems to be the most powerful Skilled of all, people must use caution around him.
All of the characters in both books are 3 dimensional. None of the characters are flat or unformed. This world, with all its magic and class distinctions, is very believable because the characters and their reactions to the events are so real. Tarnished City takes the politics and action from Gilded Cage and turns it up several notches on the scale. It leaves the reader breathless and ready for book number three.
Book Review - While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent Into Madness by Eli Sanders
While the City Slept is a disturbing and compelling read. It kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Mr. Sanders weaves the story of two women and one man together with such skill that the inevitable collusion still creates tension. For anyone who questions whether or not there is parity in mental health care in this country; anyone who wonders if tragedies could not sometimes be avoided; anyone who thinks preventative care for mental health is unnecessary - this book is a must read. It is also a book that will stay with you and hopefully move you to action. Write letters to your representatives, support charities that work with mental health and help those who need help fight to get it.
This was amazing. The ebb and flow of the life, both good and terrible, of the hospital itself is well done. The pages with Mr. Lobotomy were shocking (I had read about him elsewhere). But what ultimately got me was the cemeteries. All the sudden there they were. And I could not get over the numbers of souls in them. If I ever have occasion to be up in the MA area, I plan to stop by with flowers for those forgotten souls. Thank you so much for documenting this important historical place and time.