Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

by Jim Gorant

Animal lovers and sports fans were shocked when the story broke about NFL player Michael Vick's brutal dog fighting operation. But what became of the dozens of dogs who survived? As acclaimed writer Jim Gorant discovered, their story is the truly newsworthy aspect of this case. Expanding on Gorant's Sports Illustrated cover story, The Lost Dogs traces the effort to bring Vick to justice and turns the spotlight on these infamous pit bulls, which were saved from euthanasia by an outpouring of public appeals coupled with a court order that Vick pay nearly a million dollars in "restitution" to the dogs.

As an ASPCA-led team evaluated each one, they found a few hardened fighters, but many more lovable, friendly creatures desperate for compassion. In The Lost Dogs, we meet these amazing animals, a number of which are now living in loving homes, while some even work in therapy programs: Johnny Justice participates in Paws for Tales, which lets kids get comfortable with reading aloud by reading to dogs; Leo spends three hours a week with cancer patients and troubled teens. At the heart of the stories are the rescue workers who transformed the pups from victims of animal cruelty into healing caregivers themselves, unleashing priceless hope.

I almost stopped reading this book before I even really got started just because I was afraid of the terrible, gruesome things that I was going to be forced to read.  The author does a great job of giving only enough info to make you understand how difficult things were for the dogs and the people in charge of rehabilitating them...but not so many details that any animal lover will want to curl up and die. 
Jim Gorant approached the book with a lot of compassion and understanding for animals.  There were moments when he had wonderful insight into these dogs and their behavior.  I was very impressed with it. 
My favorite parts were the short scenes written from the point of view of the dogs.  There was a lot of intuition and love in those parts of the book.  I think Jim Gorant is a man I would like to know. 
Although some of the book recounts the time before the dogs were rescued and the case of Michael Vick (rhymes with prick), I was glad that over half of the book was focused on these beautiful creatures and their struggle for a normal life.  It is not an easy book, though.  I was especially heartbroken over the story of Jasmine, a small red dog so severely traumatized that she would freeze up and play dead when any people were in the same room as her, and after many months of work could only handle being touched by the trainer and her young daughter. 
The attention and care of the men and women fostering these dogs was beautiful to read.  I'm glad there are people like them in the world.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Latin For Bird Lovers by Roger Lederer and Carol Burr

Latin For Bird Lovers

by Roger Lederer and Carol Burr

In every scientific discipline there is an official language formed of words derived from Latin. Ornithology is a perfect example of how these words can be illuminating. Take Anas acuta, better known as the Northern Pintail, whose scientific name means duck and refers to the male bird s tail. Or pelagic (meaning of, related to, or occurring in sea), an important term for ocean-focused bird lovers. Latin for Bird Lovers explores and explains over 3,000 Latin words used to describe birds. It is information that is invaluable to birdwatchers worldwide: the words help define the identity and relationships among the nearly 10,000 known bird species; they can also define the species names by color, pattern, and size, help identify parts of the body, refer to the name of the ornithologist who discovered the bird, show where the bird is found, and even detail a specific behavior. The book also profiles twelve great ornithologists, has in-depth features on 20 beloved birds, and is gorgeously illustrated. Latin for Bird Lovers is for birdwatchers, nature lovers, and anyone interested in the words about birds.
I received a copy of this book for review via Netgalley.
This was a beautiful book.  The illustrations are exquisite and the colors are very vivid.   I really loved flipping through the pages to look at the illustrations.  I admit I only skimmed the bird name section after reading a few pages.  What I did read was very informative and interesting.  This would be a wonderful reference book for the bird lover to have on hand.  It is definitely not something to just sit and read through! 
Each Latin name in the book gives an interesting fact about why the bird may be described that way.  Sometimes they are obvious, otherwise less so, but it is always very interesting.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein

The Sunbird

by Elizabeth Wein

Telemakos is the grandson of two noble men: Kidane, member of the parliament in the African kingdom of Aksum, and Artos, the fallen High King of Britain. Telemakos is also an exceptional listener and tracker, resolute and inventive in his ability to discover and retain information. Now his aunt Goewin, the British ambassador to Aksum, needs his skill. Plague has come to Britain, and threatens Aksum. Disguised, Telemakos must travel to the city of Afar where salt—the currency of sixth century Africa—is mined, and discover the traitor who has ignored the emperor's command, spreading plague with the salt from port to port. This challenge will take all of Telemakos's skill, strength, and courage—because otherwise it will cost him his life.

I received a copy of Sunbird via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I didn't realize that this book was the third in a series when I requested it.  Still, not wanting to put off reading it any longer I forged ahead. The book grabbed my attention immediately and didn't let up until the very end.  It was fascinating and heartbreaking, with vivid descriptions of an early, almost fantastical Africa and its inhabitants.

Telemakos is the kind of character that I expect in any book written by Elizabeth Wein.  He is brave and very intelligent, enough that he can confound the adults who barely notice he's there.  I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that he is an amazing character and the things he goes through will break your heart.

There was a lot to love about this book.  The writing style was absolutely beautiful. There was nothing that I thought was lacking, from first words to last.  The setting was so well-written that it was almost as if I were there, hot and thirsty in the desert or relaxing with the lions in the sun.
After reading Code Name Verity, I've been a huge fan of Elizabeth Wein.  Now it's official.  I'll definitely find the first two books that I missed as soon as I can. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Forged by Jacquelyn Frank


by Jacquelyn Frank

When Katrina Haynes discovers a large man lying wounded in the snow, she fears he is at death’s door. But as Kat tends to his injuries, she quickly realizes that they’re the least of her worries. With an irresistible Scottish brogue and a strange ability to harden his chiseled body like a statue, the stranger awakens a desire she is unable to resist—and a fascination about the intriguing world he exists in.

As a proud Gargoyle, Ahnvil must safeguard the Nightwalker to whom he’s sworn fealty. But as this bewitching woman nurses him back to health, arousing an almost uncontrollable hunger within him, he is possessed with the fierce impulse to protect her as well. And he will have to shield her—for by coming to his rescue, Kat has placed herself in the middle of a supernatural war . . . and exposed herself to dark, powerful magic. As human and Gargoyle forge an unbreakable bond, Kat will discover that despite his intimidating strength and size, one thing Ahnvil does not possess is a heart of stone.

I received a free copy of this book for review via Netgalley.

I've read several of Jacquelyn Frank's books, most of them from the Nightwalker series, and I've loved them.  I don't know what I was expecting this time around.  A much as I as looking forward to this book, I ended up being disappointed in the end.  I think most of the issue I had with the book was because of the characters.  They came off as flat and uninteresting, and often whiney.  Ahnvil was nothing but a horny brute, and Kat was just...there.  I didn't get much from the characters at all.  Everything else- the dialogue, the plot- was just lacking. 
I'm hoping the next book in the series will be a lot better. 

Circle of Desire by Keri Arthur

Circle of Desire

by Keri Arthur


Two children have been found dead, their souls torn from their bodies. Two more are missing, and Ethan Morgan’s niece is one of them. A dedicated cop, Ethan has every intention not only of bringing her back alive but of catching the monster behind these kidnappings. And he will use anyone and everyone to achieve those aims—even a crazy woman who claims to be a witch. But time is ticking. The victims rarely stay alive for more than seven days. Four of those days have already passed.

In ten years of working for the Damask Circle, shapeshifter Katherine Tanner has never come across anything that goes after kids the way this monster does. The last thing Kat needs is interference from a cop who has no idea what he’s up against. But the greatest threat to Kat may come not from the forces of darkness, but from the man she is beginning to love. Because Ethan is a werewolf... and the full moon is rising.

I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Wow.  I loved every minute of this book.  I had intended to read only about a chapter before putting it down and doing some chores.  But I just couldn't stop reading it because I was enjoying the book so much.  I read it all in one sitting.   The writing is every bit as wonderful as her previous Damask Circle books, with a bit extra thrown in.  There was a lot of delicious angst in Circle of Desire and it made the story that much more interesting for me. I love angst!
Of all the Damask Circle books, Katherine has to be my favorite heroine.  She is tough, independent, and really knows her shit.  She avoids the 'too stupid to live' trap by being open to communication and knows not to push herself or rush into a situation blindly.  She is the kind of woman all girls should aspire to be.  I am usually pretty tough on heroines in my books, so I was glad to find one I really liked.
Ethan was just hot.  HOT.  Yes, he's stubborn and he can be a bit of a jerk, but my god is he hot.  He also has this wonderful protective streak that I love in a good hero.  He isn't caveman protective though, and respects Kat's independence and never underestimates her.
The plot was good and well thought out, but I was too focused on the great characters and the tension between them to care.  A first for me.
I loved every bit of this story and the only thing I'm disappointed in is that I've read the entire series now.  Luckily for me, there are a lot more Keri Arthur books that I can get my hands on.
Definitely recommended for anyone who loves a good paranormal romance.

Circle of Death by Keri Arthur

Circle Of Death

by Keri Arthur


In one vicious night, Kirby Brown’s world is torn apart. Her best friend is dead, killed by a madman who is now after Kirby, and she has no idea why. When the police prove incapable of protecting Kirby, she has no choice but to trust a mysterious stranger. And while she finds herself inexplicably drawn to him, she fears the strange abilities he wields.

An investigator for the Damask Circle, Doyle Fitzgerald, has come to Melbourne, Australia, to hunt down a killer. What he doesn’t expect to find is a cadre of witches capable of controlling the elements, a sorceress determined to take that power for herself, and a broken woman who is more than she seems. Doyle is certain that the reason behind the bloodshed lies in Kirby’s past—a past she has no wish to remember. Because Doyle isn’t the only one with magic in his soul: Kirby’s special gifts have the strength to destroy the world.

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.

The first Damask Circle novel, Circle of Fire, gave me an appetite for the series or anything by Keri Arthur.  When I saw Circle of Death was available, I jumped on it.   I was not disappointed.
The writing is just as good as I remembered from Keri Arthur's other books, and possibly better since she's had time to get into the rhythm of this particular series.  The plot itself shone through strongly, instead of being a backdrop to the romance between the two characters.  There was never a moment when I thought the plot was being sidetracked or forgotten, even though Arthur also focused on the relationship between Kirby and Doyle.
What always impresses me about the author's books are her characters.  They are complex, as all humans are, and they all have their own unique personalities and challenges to overcome.  Even the secondary characters are fleshed-out, instead of being merely cardboard cutouts.   Doyle is the kind of hero all women (and men) love to read about.  He has strong protective instincts, but he does not use them to keep the people he loves under his control or to take away their freedom.  He is very kind and sort of a sap at times, which just made me like him even more.  He has a deep sense of honor and the belief that you should never break a promise or make one you didn't intend to keep.  How many heroes in modern books could say the same?
I truly felt for Kirby and sympathized with her through everything she was going through.  With each painful discovery, I was impressed with her character and how she was determined to do her best to fight for what she believed in, even though she was frightened and confused.   This was a wonderful book and I loved every minute of it.  I will definitely be looking for more books by Keri Arthur in the future.

Circle of Fire by Keri Arthur

Circle Of Fire

by Keri Arthur



Sixteen teenagers taken from their homes. Eleven bodies recovered, each completely drained of blood. Some believe vampires are responsible. Jon Barnett knows that what’s happening is far worse. Sent by a group of paranormal investigators known as the Damask Circle, Jon quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of black magic and realizes he needs help. But fate gives him only one choice.

Madeline Smith has retreated to an isolated farmhouse, afraid of the abilities she cannot control—abilities that have killed. But when a “ghost” brings a warning of danger and her nephew goes missing, Maddie not only has to leave her haven, she has to place her trust in a man who is neither ghost nor human. As the noose of sorcery tightens, the search for the teenagers becomes a race against time. But the greatest danger to Maddie and Jon could be the intense feelings they refuse to acknowledge but cannot ignore.

I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Wow.  I really enjoyed this book, even more than I thought I would.  I haven't read anything by Keri Arthur for years and I had almost forgotten how much I really enjoy her writing.
It took me a few pages to really get into the story because of the way it starts.  My very first impression was that my copy was missing a chapter because we're thrown into the middle of a scene, and the first meeting between the characters is off-page and only mentioned very briefly.  I understand the reason for beginning with some sort of action but I think it could have been smoother.
Besides that rather small critique, I have nothing but good to say about the book.  I quickly grew interested in the storyline and emotionally invested in the characters.  Jon and Maddie were not cardboard characters.  They were wonderfully written and had a life of their own.  Like any great character they had faults, hopes, and dreams.  Maddie was allowed to be weak without the author feeling the need to make her invincible later in the story.  That made me value Maddie's character even more.
I loved the romance and sexual tension between the two characters.  I especially love how Keri Arthur allowed the characters to orbit each other for quite a while before anything happened between them.  It allowed the tension to really build and left me in suspense.
My favorite aspect of the book was that it had an actual solid plot, which is sometimes lacking in the paranormal romance-type books.  I have read too many PNR books that seem to have been written solely as an excuse to write romance with some added supernatural elements.  This book wasn't like that at all.  The plot was strong and present throughout the entire book, and in fact there were times when the building romance took a backseat to the plot.  I would have liked to learn even more about the Damask Circle, but I know that will probably come later in the series.   It was a great book and very well done, in my opinion.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Winger by Andrew Smith


by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.
I have no idea how to even begin a review for this book. I was taken completely by surprise at the ending and it left me speechless. I can honestly say that I did not see that coming. I don't even know how to process this at the moment.

I don't know how I can call a book filled with penis jokes and the pervy obsessions of a 14 year old boy beautiful, but there it is. It is an amazing book. Read it.