Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Cry of the Fish Eagle by Peter Rimmer

Title: Cry of the Fish Eagle
Author: Peter Rimmer
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: March 20, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The heart-breaking and mostly forgotten African period in history of Rhodesia to present day Zimbabwe, is told in this wonderfully written book, CRY OF THE FISH EAGLE.

It’s the story of Rupert Pengelly who first heard the CRY OF THE FISH EAGLE when he was stationed in Rhodesia for six months during the Second World War. As he was to find and as the saying goes, once you have heard the CRY OF THE FISH EAGLE, you will always come back to Africa!

It is during that first six months, Rupert searches for Sasa, the orphaned daughter of his friend, Rigby Savage. Rupert was honouring a promise made to Rigby to care for Sasa if anything did happen to him. To complicate the search, Sasa's eccentric grandfather, Kobus Loubser, had taken the young orphan into the bush prospecting for emeralds.

The search is unsuccessful and Rupert returns to the war, with intentions afterwards of farming the family estate in Cornwall. However a distant cousin, George Geake, conspires to cheat him out of his inheritance and Rupert loses his beloved home. His only option is to return to Rhodesia to begin a new life as a tobacco farmer and to continue his search for Sasa.

Although their destinies are bound together, it is many years before Rupert and Sasa meet but meanwhile, Kobus acquires a business partner in Lewdly Jones, a remittance man, who develops a passion for Sasa.

The years pass and Rupert triumphs over adversity. But another war is looming. The irrepressible tide of Black Nationalism is sweeping through Africa and a new generation of men like Tererai Ndoro and Lovemore Ngwenya have joined the struggle for Zimbabwe. All their lives are about to change forever. But still, they are all enslaved by the CRY OF THE FISH EAGLE."

My Two Cents:

 "Cry of the Fish Eagle" is the story of a changing time in the history of Rhodesia, which is now the country of Zimbabwe. Set against this changing time, the characters struggle both with each other and with the changing country. The characters are really the stars of this tale with the historical detail providing a lush and interesting backdrop for the action of the story.

This is story really fits into the vein of an epic story with Rupert Pengelly at the center of it. During WWII, Pengelly finds himself in Rhodesia looking for Sasa, the daughter of his friend. Pengelly knows that he must find her and his journey will take him all over the countryside into places that are facing very difficult times. This journey will change Rupert's perspective and himself over and over again as the story progresses. I really enjoyed reading about him. He is driven to do what he first promised, no matter how difficult it gets. The secondary characters also made for interesting reading as well, especially Sasa. Sasa exemplifies the hardship that so many others are going through during this time of change and turmoil.

The pacing of the book worked well for the most part. It did get a little confusing with the time changes and I kept having to go back to figure out where in the sequence of events the narrative was. There were some parts of the book that could have been slimmed down. My fellow historical fiction lovers are going to love all of the detail, which really helps to bring the story to life.

If you all have read my blog before, you know how much I love traveling different places through books. This book provides the reader with a great opportunity to travel to the heart of Africa!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett

Title: The Hollow Ground
Author: Natalie S. Harnett
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: May 13, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: ""We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."

The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet."

My Two Cents:

The historical events in "The Hollow Ground" are centered on the burning of towns like Centralia, Pennsylvania, which started in the 1960s due to coal under the ground igniting (the reason why this happened is debated). The fires still burn today and Centralia is all but a ghost town. These events reflect the turmoil going on in the Howley family. As the fires drive people out of their homes, the Howley family is falling apart. The historic detail lends a haunting setting for this story of a family in free fall.

Even with all of the events happening throughout the town as people begin to leave, the characters are really at the center of this story. Harnett paints a stark picture of the proud, but chaotic Howley family. Some of them are determined to stay as their neighbors leave and their home life keeps getting worse. Some are determined to go even if it means that they are only running away from problems that will eventually catch up with them.

These characters are fascinating. I really liked reading about them. Harnett does a really good job of showing all of their inner turmoil. Brigid, the Howley daughter, is at that age where she begins to realize that her family is in trouble. She has to grow up quickly and in a way, she believes that it is up to her to try to keep the peace in her family but how can she when so much seems to be going wrong? Her father seems to only want to run away and hide. Her mother is impulsive and brash and is sure that she deserves more. Brigid is worried about her brother, who has an intellectual disability of some sort that no one seems to want to understand.

If you like character driven stories with a historical element and you don't mind hard subjects, this would be a good pick for you!


Review: Prototype by M.D. Waters

Title: Prototype
Author: M.D. Waters
Format: ARC
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: July 24, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads: "Emma looks forward to the day when she can let go of her past—both of them. After more than a year on the run, with clues to her parents’ whereabouts within her grasp, she may finally find a place to settle down. Start a new life. Maybe even create new memories with a new family.

But the past rises to haunt her and to make sure there’s nowhere on the planet she can hide. Declan Burke wants his wife back, and with a little manipulation and a lot of reward money, he’s got the entire world on his side. Except for the one man she dreads confronting the most: Noah Tucker.

Emma returns to face what she’s done but finds that the past isn’t the problem. It’s the present—and the future it represents. Noah has moved on and another woman is raising their daughter.

In the shocking conclusion to M.D. Waters’s spectacular debut, Emma battles for her life and her freedom, tearing down walls and ripping off masks to reveal the truth. She’s decided to play their game and prove she isn’t the woman they thought she was. Even if it means she winds up dead. Or worse, reborn."

My Two Cents:

Okay, first things first, "Prototype" is a fantastic conclusion to the epic sci-fi story that M.D. Waters started in "Archetype." The book takes place awhile after "Archetype" left off. Emma is on the run. She knows that she needs to try to find her parents. She knows she must stay away from Declan, the husband that married her under false pretenses. The problem is that she isn't sure where to search and she is not sure where she will be safe. She thinks she will be safest with Noah, her first husband that she was torn away, from but their relationship has obviously changed. Filled with a lot of action and fantastic world building, this book thoroughly and utterly engaged me. If you are looking to read a book that packs a punch, this is a great pick!

You really should read the first book in this series or you may not understand "Prototype." It would be best for you to read these books together if possible so that you can see Emma's story all the way through right from the start!

I was so excited for this book after loving "Archetype" so much. One thing I love about sci-fi is when it has really good world-building and this book definitely has it. You can see the turmoil of Emma's world. You fully understand what happened in order to get the world to the point it's at. I loved all of the detail that the author included as it really helped me be fully engaged with the book.

The main character, Emma, continued to be a fantastic character in this book. Emma lives in a world where women can literally be bought. Need a wife? You can have your perfect Stepford beauty made to order, if you'd like. She is a former resistance fighter who still yearns to help change the world, even after all that she has been through. I loved her strength and resilience! She is definitely a character to root for!

The writing of the book continued to be really good. I loved the way that the author kept the book moving at a quick clip. The book definitely has nice pacing and you can almost feel Emma's desperation through the words. Overall, this was a great book and one that I know that I'm going to want to revisit in the future!

HF Virtual Book Tours: The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle

Title: The Queen's Exiles
Author: Barbara Kyle
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "1572. Europe is in turmoil. In the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise ...

Scottish-born Fenella Doorn rules like a queen over a privateer's haven on the Isle of Sark. Her success at salvaging crippled vessels affords her gold and security, and it is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron—and privateer—Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him.

But Fenella’s own bold actions have put a price on her head. Now Adam and Fenella’s lives are in peril as they race across Europe in an attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember."

My Two Cents: 

"The Queen's Exiles is the sixth book in Kyle's Thornleigh series. The books take place during Elizabethan times. Each book can be read as a standalone story. "The Queen's Exiles" has a really fascinating setting and takes place in Spanish occupied Netherlands. I actually did not realize how thoroughly entrenched Spain was in that area and those details made this book really interesting to me!

The book centers on Fenella Doorn. Born in Scotland originally, she has made a good life for herself salvaging ships on Sark, one of the Channel Islands. I really enjoyed reading about her. Kyle does note that Fenella is a wholly fictional character but you really do get a good sense of how people were living as exiles during that time period. We get to see just how chaotic things were during that time period.

I've said it before and I will say it again, but one of the things that I most love about historical fiction is how you can learn something new from it. This book was very much in that vein for me. I really did not know much of anything about what was happening in the Netherlands during this time period. Kyle included a lot of good detail. I wish that we would have gotten to see a lot of the action more first hand as it was usually told through recounts and remembrances.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. The detail makes it a treat for my fellow historical fiction fans.  

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, June 16
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, June 17
Excerpt & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Friday, June 20
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, June 23
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, June 24
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, June 26
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, June 30
Review at HF Book Muse-News
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, July 2
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Book Muse-News
Monday, July 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, July 9
Review at Historical Tapestry
Thursday, July 10
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Friday, July 11
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Monday, July 14
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, July 16
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 17
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, July 18
Interview at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, July 21
Review at Always with a Book
Wednesday, July 23
Guest Post & Giveaway at Always with a Book
Thursday, July 24
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, July 25
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, July 28
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, July 29
Review at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, July 30
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, July 31
Interview at Passages to the Past
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: Portobello Road: Lives of a Neighbourhood by Julian Mash

Title: Portobello Road: Lives of a Neighbourhood
Author: Julian Mash
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Ltd.
Publish Date: July 25, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Designed as a series of snapshots, told through the eyes of those who have lived it, this is the alternative history of a street rich in diversity, full of fascinating voices and unlikely encounters. Portobello Road and the surrounding neighbourhood is perhaps the most important source and barometer of social and cultural change in Britain over the last fifty years. Themes of slumification, gentrification, London as a melting pot, vintage fashion, independent record labels and the life and death of record shops emerge from these street-level accounts of the dealers and DJs, film-makers and fashionistas, punks, politicians, producers and poets who make the street what it is. In four sections covering the market, the music scene, the Carnival and the changing local population, Julian Mash weaves together their extraordinary stories."

My Two Cents:

"Portobello Road" is a travelogue that brings to life the sights and sounds of London's Portobello Road area. After reading this book, I know that this is an area that I would absolutely love to visit the next time I happen to be in London. This is a great collection of stories about the people and places that make up this vibrant neighborhood!

I love to travel and when I can't travel, books are definitely one of the best ways to visit a new place without leaving my favorite chair. Hurray for armchair traveling and hurray for travel writing! This book doesn't only give you a good sense of place but it gives you a good sense of people too. Mash spent many, many hours interviewing a lot of people that live and work on Portobello Road. He didn't just interview them about the place but also about some of their life stories. The care that he took in curating the interviews is definitely apparent in this book. I loved some of these stories.

The book is broken into different stories. Some of the stories cover various places along Portobello Road. Some of them cover the merchants that have made their living along the road. One of my favorite stories involves the little bookstore on Portobello Road (I know, so typical Meg). The bookstore, which is now called the Notting Hill Bookstore, was the inspiration for the adorable bookstore in the romantic comedy "Notting Hill" (ah yes, I love that movie).

Are you looking to do some good armchair traveling? Pick up this book and get to know the people and places of "Portobello Road!"


Friday, July 25, 2014

#SRC2014 Review: My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

Title: My Last Kiss
Author: Bethany Neal
Format: ARC
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Publish Date: June 10, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy?

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal's suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart."

My Two Cents:

In "My Last Kiss," Cassidy dies at her birthday party. The circumstances are mysterious and no one is really sure what happens. Cassidy doesn't understand how she died and as a ghost, it's up to her to figure out what happened. The police rule it as a open and shut case of suicide but Cassidy knows better even if she can't put her finger on it as to why she knows that didn't happen. She can't remember and nothing is making sense. She needs to figure out what happened to her before she is allowed to go to the great beyond. Her beloved boyfriend, Ethan, is still able to see her and together they hope that they can find out what happened so that Cassidy can have her peace. This is a good YA mystery with a lot of paranormal activity. I was a little unsure of the premise but it really worked out and I enjoyed this light read!

There were a lot of twists and turns in this book. Any time there is a mystery in a book, I love being able to not figure out what happened until the very end. You definitely get that in this book as Neal leads the readers astray a lot of different times. Cassidy is able to follow her circle of friends, even if she can only communicate with Ethan and she finds out that a lot of them were hiding secrets too. Cassidy was hiding secrets as well, such as cheating on Ethan with outcast Caleb, and she thinks that might have been why she died.

The characters in the book weren't exactly likeable except for Ethan and Cassidy's friend, Aimee. Even Cassidy herself did some things that made her unlikeable but you can still sympathize for her situation. I thought it was really cool how Neal was able to give Cassidy that sort of gray area. It definitely made for a more interesting story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Eat Now; Talk Later by James Vescovi

Title: Eat Now; Talk Later
Author: James Vescovi
Format: Ebook
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publish Date: May 1, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Prepare yourself for a feast consumed in delicious bites. Stories in this collection can be read before bed, on a lunch hour, or waiting in line. They can even be shared with friends who complain they have enough to read. Together they ask the question, “How do you make modern life run smoothly for parents or grandparents who grew up when oxen were used for plowing, children left school after third grade to tend chickens, and meat was eaten only on religious holidays?

When Tony and Desolina Vescovi arrived in America,they collided with the 20th century. Born around 1900, they were stumped by telephones, banks, fast food, TV wrestling, and supermarkets. It was up to their only child, a son, to serve as their shepherd, and it wasn’t easy For example, how to explain that his job was taking him and his family 700 miles away when, in their day, sons stayed put to work the family farm? Or that it wasn’t wise to hide $10,000 in the bedroom? Or that the ice cream they just tried and enjoyed is called ‘Chubby Hubby’?"

My Two Cents:

"Eat Now; Talk Later" is a family memoir that James Vescovi wrote with his beloved grandparents at the center of it. These stories are bite size and many of them are only a few pages along. This would be a great book to consume a little bit at a time and really savor the stories (if you can help it and not devour it like I did). Because the stories are so short and really good, I kept saying to myself "Just one more" and would end up reading at least three more. No. Self. Control. If you like warm family stories and short stories, this would be a great pick for you.

I have a fascination with immigrant families. My own family has only been in the States since the 20th century for the most part and I love reading about families that came here with nothing and through a lot of hard work and in this case, a lot of family support are able to do some really wonderful things. You definitely get a sense of Vescovi's grandparents and how brave they must have been in order to give up some place so familiar in order to come to the States.

Perhaps you could tell from the cover but if you couldn't, the family at the center of the book is Italian and that, of course, means a ton of yummy food. The book even includes a couple family recipes at the back of the book, which was a touch that I really enjoyed. Another special touch is the family pictures that the author included!

And while this did not affect my review, I have to tell you all how much I like the cover of this book. It is really cute and definitely captures the title as well as all of the big family meals that appear in the book. This is a great cover!

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