Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: Tom's River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

Tom's River: A Story of Science and Salvation
by Dan Fagin
Random House Audio
18 hours, 31 minutes
3 stars
Synopsis: The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. For years, large chemical companies had been using Toms River as their private dumping ground, burying tens of thousands of leaky drums in open pits and discharging billions of gallons of acid-laced wastewater into the town’s namesake river.

In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes in Toms River who struggled for justice: a young boy whose cherubic smile belied the fast-growing tumors that had decimated his body from birth; a nurse who fought to bring the alarming incidence of childhood cancers to the attention of authorities who didn’t want to listen; and a mother whose love for her stricken child transformed her into a tenacious advocate for change.

A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed.
My view on the book: The actual story behind this book was interesting, but the book is filled with scientific explanation and history of the chemicals and epidemiology (I think that's the word I mean - the history of the spread of disease, etc. that I found myself bored out of my mind at times.  It also felt that somethings were explained more than once, but with so much scientific and technical language that may not be the case. I ended up giving this only 3 stars, because all the scientific jargon had me feeling lost and confused at times.  I enjoyed Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iverson, more though.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#T5W: Top 5 Books of 2015

Top 5 Wednesdays are hosted by Ginger Reads Lainey and you can find the goodreads page here for more information.
Sorry that I haven't been around here much to post.  Just the usual holiday, family, work busyness.   So without anymore delay, here are my top 5 books that I read in 2015.  For a change, I had 7 or 8  5-star books, so deciding which to include in my top 5 was not easy.

Thunder on the Plain is by my favorite author, Rosanne Bittner.  She's been writing since the 80s and I started reading her books in the 90s.She's written over 60 novels and is still going strong.  Her novels are historical romance novels with usually western themes and with a lot of history written in to make it authentic and written in a way to be very engaging.  This book is about ther building of the transcontinental railroad.  Like most of her books. this story covers a span of time, in this case 12 years. Here's my Goodreads review:

Finding Hope by Stacy Finz was an ARC that I received through NetGalley and thi9s has become my newest favorite series.  This is the second book in the Nugget series, which centers on a small town in the Sierra Nevadas. Reading this book first, really did not affect my enjoyment of this book and seies; actually I found that I enjoyed this book more than the first book, Going Home.

Dogtology: Live, Bark, Believe by Jeff Lazarus was another I received through NetGalley.  If one is a dog lover or at least a former or current dog owner, you'd probably appreciate this book. It is so funny and even if you are not a fanatical dog lover/dog owner, you'll find bits of yourself as well as others you know in this book.  Just a very enjoyable and funny book about our love and sometimes obsession in our furry, canine friends.

Red Blood, Yellow Skin by Linda L.T. Baer This was the true story of a young This was more of an autobiography of the author's life, rather than a history of the war.Vietnamese  girl/woman who grew up and came of age before and during the Vietnam War.  This made the story more personal and allowed you to see the Vietnam War through the eyes of a civilian.

Bent Creek by Marlene Mitchell  I read this early in the year when I had a trial period to Amazon Prime and this was my monthly free book.  Although I do not remember a lot of specifics of thisbook, I do remember that I loved the story.  It was written in a way that was very different from other books that I read.  This book took place mostly in Appalachia and you felt immersed in the story

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

#T5W: Books To Read By The Fire (winter/holiday recommendations)

Top 5 Wednesdays are hosted by Ginger Reads Lainey and you can find the goodreads page here for more information.

A Big Sky Christmas (Christmas, #3)A Rocky Mountain Christmas (Christmas, #2)

My top 2 favorites are in the Christmas series by William W. and J.A. Johnstone.  Most of their many books are westerns probably aimed at men, but this series has a good blend of action, adventure, and romance, tied up perfectly for both women and men to enjoy.  every year, this being the 4th year in a row, I have enjoyed the next book in the series.  I am a year behind, but this way my library has the book for me to read.  A new book came out this year, so I know I will have another book to enjoy next Christmas, when hopefully a 6th book in the series comes out.

The Red Suit Diaries: A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith

I so enjoyed this book.  It is filled with funny anecdotes and stories of Ed Butchart's career of playing Santa.  I read this last year and it put me in such a Christmassy mood.  I really need to read it every year or two.

Bring Me Home for Christmas (Virgin River, #16)

This is the 16th book in the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr.  Although it is a series one does not have to read any or all of the books.  They can also be stand alones since enough of the back story is found in each book, but it is also more enjoyable reading them from the beginning and meeting up with old friends in future books.

Mistletoe Magic (Copper Mountain Christmas, #3)

This is a very short story of only 40 or so pages, but it is very sweet and puts you in the holiday mood.  Whenever there is an adorable dog or cat on the cover of a book, the chances of the book being a good one increases.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Book Review: Operation White Christmas

Operation White Christmas: An Escape to the Country Novella
by Nicki Edwards
Momentum Books
Advanced Reader Copy, Kindle edition Pages: 153 (approx.)

2 stars

Synopsis: Hollie Douglas has dreamed of a White Christmas ever since she was a child, but her dream implodes when her fiancé breaks her heart two months before their big day. Convinced by her best friend to go ahead with her planned honeymoon anyway, Hollie doesn't expect to find herself stuck in a snowstorm in rural Canada two days before Christmas.

Jim Bell has been dreading another Christmas without his wife. When one of his orphaned animals goes missing in the middle of a snowstorm, he didn't expect he'd be rescuing a stranded Australian tourist as well. He quickly realizes Hollie is carrying as much emotional baggage as him, and when she accepts his offer to seek shelter at his farm, he wonders if he's doing the right thing.

As Jim helps Hollie fulfil her White Christmas dreams, the winter wonderland and spirit of Christmas work their healing magic on both of them.

A sweet Christmas romance in the tradition of Melissa McClone and Alissa Callen.

My view of the book:  Although this was a sweet story, being a novella of just slightly over a 150 pages, everything had to happen quickly, so I often found myself thinking this is ridiculously implausible. Had this been a full 300+page novel, things would have probably happened at a more realistic pace and over a longer timeframe.  I received this as an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Although I may not have enjoyed this novella as much as I would have if it was a longer novel, the basic story  was good, but the characters were not developed as well as they probably would have been in a full-length novel. I would possibly read a future book by Nicki Edwards. 

If you enjoy novellas and sweet romances, you probably would enjoy this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

November Wrap Up!

I had a very good reading month in November with 8 books completed, one in process and one that I just could not finish.  
I'm currently reading Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle by Kristin Green about a county in Virginia that closed down their public schools rather than integrate their public schools in the late 50s and early 60s. 
2.5 stars
Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, I reviewed a few days ago.  So check my previous post, please.

 4 stars
I also reviewed Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe, which I listened to the other week

 5 stars
and also read and reviewed Dogtology by Jeff Lazarus.  These also can be found as separate blog posts.

3 stars
Over the past 2 years, I slowly read Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul by Jim Canfield.  It is made up of some very good short stories by persons involved in different ways with adoption.  Some were not as enjoyable, but overall, I enjoyed it. 

 5 stars
Heartsong Cottage is the 10th book in the Eternity Springs series and was an ARC I received from the publisher through NetGalley.
 3 stars
My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege was listened to on audio and is about a biracial young woman, who although she knows she is adopted, finds out her maternal grandfather was Nazi commandant. Amon Goeth.
 2 stars

I also listened to Candyfreak: A Journey Through The Chocolate Underbelly of America.  It was really just an okay book.
3 1/2 stars
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life in Scientology and My Harrowing Escape was a very interesting audiobook.  It is by the niece of the current leader of Scientology.  It is a very bizarre religion (cult) and it makes one wonder how seemingly intelligent  people, including celebrities Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Ally, etc. can believe in it.  I very much am interested in reading Leah Remini's new book about her life in it and why she left.

I started Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich on audio.  Why I specifically chose it, I am not sure; I guess it sounded like a good premise.  I got about halfway through and there was soft-core submission and domination and I could not go on.  It was not the two main characters, but I did not care to stick around anymore and waste my time reading this.  

I pretty much don't plan out my reads enough to do a monthly TBR.  But in December, I plan to finiksh the book I;m reading and read a couple Christmas stories.  I know I have an ARC Christmas story, Operation White Christmas: An Escape to the Country Novella by Nikki Edwards.  I just noticed that uit is part of a series, but I'll give it a try and hope it can be read without reading the previous ones.  I have 1 or 2 library books coming I think and I recently picked up a free copy of the classic, A Christmas Carol.  I've seen countless movies, but don;t think I  ever read the actual book.  I actually need to start reading the occasional classic.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#T5W: Best Audiobooks

Top 5 Wednesdays are hosted by Ginger Reads Lainey and you can find the goodreads page here

I just started reading/listening to audiobooks this year and I really enjoy it.  I do it spurts it seems and still prefer to read them usually on my Kindle.  In no particular order:

Summerland was my very 1st audiobook.  It took a bit to get use to.  But I really enjoyed it.  I don't remember a lot of the specifics of this book, but it sure wasn't the light fluffy summer read that I was expected.  It was told in the point view of several characters and revolved around a car accident that claimed the life of Penny Allstair and left her twin brother in a coma, as well as its effect on the passengers who were unhurt physically, but not emotionally.

This was the by the niece of the current leader of Scientology and discusses her life in Scientology (her parents were Scientologists and her eventual escape.  I think I enjoyed this more since I listened to it on audiotape than I would have if I read it.  So much of Scientology is bizarre; one wonders how seemingly intelligent people can buy into it.  It has piqued my interest and I look forward to reading Leah Remini's book, Troublemaker.

Jim Gaffigan, if you don't know is a comedian and by listening to this book.  It was like listening to a very long comedy show by him.  I would have enjoyed this if I read it, but listening to it just increased my enjoyment.

Another book that I enjoyed more on audio than I would have in physical form.  I really enjoyed the short-lived TV show, although some of this book was a lot more raw than the TV show, which was on during early primetime.

This was very interesting.  It was the memoir of a young woman born in Iran, who was imprisoned in a Tehran prison and brutally interrogated for what us, Westerners commonly do. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses
by Jenny Hale
Advanced Reader Copy, Kindle, pages 305

2 1/2 stars

Synopsis: Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?
My view on the book:  This is the third book that I have read by Jenny Hale, the second Christmas book. This book starts out slow, but picks up just between the halfway point and two-thirds into the story. I also saw quite a few similarities in the other Christmas book that I read, A Christmas to Remember. Both involve a woman, who is struggling to make ends meet, goes to work at the estate of a millionaire, there is a developing relationship between the two, although the millionaire is a workaholic, he learns to take time and appreciate life, beyond just working and making money. Summer by the Sea did not follow the same formula as the 2 Christmas stories. Next Christmas, I hope to see Ms. Hale not follow the same formula in her holiday book. I'd give this 2.5 stars on Goodreads if I could.

I do recommend this if you enjoy sweet holiday romances.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

#T5W Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Books You Are Thankful For

This week's topic is Top 5 Books You are Thankful For.  In no particular order:

1.   Ready-made Family I must have read this in grade school and enjoyed it.  Don't really remember that many specifics, but I credit this for my interest and love of adoption ever since I was young.  I remember thinking I will adopt when I am adult Some 30+ years later, my husband and I adopted our son.

2. The Little House Books Without these books, I may not have had such a long-lasting love of reading.    I know I read the about half of these, but I do not think I read the last few of the original series.  I wish these books were available for the Kindle, I don't often re-read books, but I think these would be enjoyable and probably quick reads.

3. Although I have yet to read the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson series of books, I am thankful that they have resulted in a whole new generation of readers.  Many of whom may not have been ones who typically were readers, especially in this age of electronic everything.

4.  I am thankful that I picked up that first historical romance back in the late 80s.  I believe it was Janelle Taylor's First Love, Wild Love and though it was not quite a 5 star read (or looking at my rating at the time maybe it was), it resulted in me reading many other historical romances and finding many great historical romance authors. 

5.  I am thankful that my mother instilled the love of reading, although she herself is not really much of a reader except for the newspaper; over the years, she has occasionally read a book here and there.  But having a parent read to a young child is probably one of the best ways to get that child to want and to enjoy reading.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#T5W Top 5 Wednesday: Top Authors You Discovered This Year

Although the actual topic for this week is Top 5 Hunger Games Moments (movies or books), I have never read the Hunger Games (not a fan of dystopian fiction) since this is my 1st Wednesday book blogging.  I thought I'd pick a Top 5 from the other month (I think it was from October).  Since it is November, I'm going back 12 months to December 2014 to choose the authors that I discovered..

In no particular order the Top 5 authors I discovered this year are:

1.  Stacy Finz - She writes the Nugget series, which takes place in Nugget. California, a small town in the Sierra Nevadas.  I started at the beginning of the year reading an ARC of the 2nd book in the series, Finding Hope. I loved the book and she hooked me into reading the first one, Going Home and since then have been lucky enough to get the next 3 as ARCs.  I'll be reading #4, Starting Over within the next couple weeks, I hope and #5, Getting Lucky just came out last week. and a new one is coming in February, Borrowing Trouble.  I'm looking forward to reading them all.

2.  H.Y. Hanna - I discovered her last December.  She is an Australian writer and wrote her first contemporary romance series, Summer Beach Vets, which takes place in Australia and consists of 5 short books.  This summer, she continued with a spin-off series, Summer Beach Brides.  I'm anxiously awaiting the release of her next book.

3. Jenny Hale - I discovered her also last December, also through an ARC from NetGalley.  I'm on the third book written by her.  I think she has 5 books out, 3 Christmas ones and 2 that aren't.  She writes sweet romance novels.  It is refreshing to be able to read a book where the characters don't either jump in bed way too soon or just have steamy, love scenes.  I do enjoy those too (although not  Fifty Shades of Grey).  I am currently reading her newest release, Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses.

4.  Collen Coble - Although she has written quite a number of books, I first read her earlier this year.  The Inn at Ocean's Edge, which was the first book in the Sunset Cove series.  She is a Christian fiction writer.  But boy was that a good book.  Mystery, suspense, romance, it had it all and was full of plenty of twists and turns.  She has Mermaid Moon, which will be released in January as the second in the Sunset Cove series.  I have this as an ARC and hope to be able to read this in the next month or so.

5, Linda L.T. Blair - Like the other authors, I discovered her through an ARC I received on NetGalley.  She wrote a memoir/auto-biography of her life in Vietnam during and before the time of the Vietnam War.  I usually do not enjoy books on the war, but as this was her personal story, it was extremely interesting. She is coming out with a 2nd book that I believe follows her life after Red Blood, Yellow Skin: A Young Girl's Survival in War-Torn Vietnam.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Audiobook Review: Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War
Helen Thorpe
Dreamscape Media, LLC
Narrated by: Donna Postel
Length: 15 hours, 54 minutes

4 Stars

Synopsis: In Soldier Girls, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of three women over twelve years on their paths to the military, overseas to combat, and back home, and then overseas again for two of them. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends, and we watch their interaction and also what happens when they are separated. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home. We see some of them drink too much, have illicit affairs, and react to the deaths of fellow soldiers. And we see what happens to one of them when the truck she is driving hits an explosive in the road, blowing it up. She survives, but her life may never be the same again.

My view on the book:   I found this book extremely interesting.  It covers from before the women enlisted with the National Guard, either the late 1990s or early 2000s, even before 9/11 had occurred up until 2013 or so.  Why they enlisted, what was going on in their lives at the time through the time that were sent over to Afghanistan and for 2 out of 3 of the women also later to Iraq, as well as when they returned home.  Just seeing how their lives caused then to enlist and later as they faced deployment to the Middle East and how they coped upon their return to their lives in the United States.  At nearly 16 hours of audio, it seemed long, but at the same time very thorough as it described the effects on both the three women and their families.  The narrator at times seemed to robotic and I found myself several times having to replay parts of what I just heard because I tuned out.  But other times, I stayed focused if not enthralled and narrating a non-fiction book, I would assume would be more difficult than navigating a fictional book. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: Dogtology: Bark. Live. Believe.

Dogtology: Live. Bark. Believe.
by Jeff Lazarus
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Advanced Reader Copy, Kindle , pages: 179

5 stars

Brief Synopsis: Live. Bark. Believe. Dogtology is a humorous exploration of man’s fanatical devotion to Dog. In this book, Lazarus makes the case that Dogtology has become a bone-a-fide belief system on par with the world’s great philosophies and religions.

My view on the book: I just loved this book. It is all about our devotion to our four-legged BFF, the dog. I found myself nodding yes, I did this back when I had a dog growing up or yes, so and so does this, who is extremely obsessed about her little "Fi-fi".  I laughed and smiled through out the book and must admit that I am definitely, a Dogtologist, although currently not a practicing one.

I received this book as an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend this book to any dog lovers out there. You are not alone in your love and devotion to this wonderful species.