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100 Pages A Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews

I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way.  I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.

Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis

Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis - Andrew Reeves

 Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis is environmental journalist Andrew Reeves' in-depth look at just how the Asian Carp species that were brought into the United States to help solve one environmental issue ended up causing one of the biggest threats to the Great Lakes to date.  Reeves gets to the heart of the matter by going back to the beginning when the first carp were brought over as well as looking into what invasive species are as a whole and their impact on the environment. 

 
As an environmental scientist who lives on one of the Great Lakes, Overrun was of particular interest to me.  I do a lot of education on invasive species and wanted to learn more about these species of fish.  Overrun is a very comprehensive look at the Asian Carp crisis over time.  You do not need to be a scientist to understand the issue at all.  Reeves tells the story of these misunderstood fish through a series of interviews with those who have worked with the fish from the beginning, his own research and observations from the field.  I was very interested in exactly how the species of Asian Carp were brought to the US and was meant to be an ecologically friendly alternative to herbicides in order to clean up waterways. Unfortunately, after this step it seems like everything went wrong for the Asian Carp.  Reeves conducts intriguing interviews with those who were responsible for the first Asian Carp in the country, those dealing with their impacts and those trying to solve the crisis.   I also enjoyed his time in the field working with the fish and seeing the issues that they caused.  I was most amazed by just how resilient these fish are, it seems that everyone has underestimated them.  The money that has gone into these fish is astounding, because of this alone I can't believe that more people aren't interested in this issue.  In addition, their presence has seemed to create a domino effect of other issues in waterways and riparian ecosystems including environmental justice issues.  Overall, the Asian Carp crisis highlights human's relationship with water and nature and the unintended consequences of our actions.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Saving the Music (Bellafortuna #2)

Saving the Music - Vincent B. Chip LoCoco

 As the war rages on in 1942, a group of Jewish musicians are being rounded up onto trains by Nazis. Through the relentless work of resistance members and friends, they are hidden away and freed from the trains.  At the same time Pope Pious XII is debating what to say publicly about the massive loss of life at the hands of the Nazis.  Making the difficult decision to retain neutrality, Pope Pious XII quietly assists in the relocation of thousands of Jews, including a special group of musicians.  With the assistance of Father Biaggio Sanguinetti, the group of fifteen Jews finds a new home and new identities in the small Italian town of Bellafortuna where they find how to create music together.  When the German's occupy Bellafortuna, the residents use their ingenuity to keep everyone safe and when the Nazi's threaten the Roman Ghetto, the Pope's network and the Italian people come together to save as many people as they can.

 
Saving the Music is a beautiful story of hope and fear during World War II.  Set in the fictional village of Bellafortuna, Sicily, the stories of several characters from A Song for Bellafortuna are continued, but it is not necessary to read beforehand. The theme of music is strong within the story and is what brings everyone together regardless of religion or language and keeps spirits high during the darkest of times.  The characters are all wonderfully created and quickly became people that I cared about.  The writing skillfully showcased the beauty of Bellafortuna and the resident's immense capacity to care for others.  While Bellafortuna is fictional, the actions of the Italian people and Pope Pious XII were very real.  Reading about the Pope's difficult decisions that were made to save lives, all while receiving criticism for not speaking out against Hitler's atrocities was profound showing that true heroes do not act in order to receive praise, but will gladly risk themselves in order to do what is right.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Winterglass

Winterglass - Benjanun Sriduangkaew

 As her homeland of Sirapirat is being conquered by the Winter Queen and it's people being fed to the ghost kiln, Nuawa is given a tiny shard of glass to swallow by her mother.  Nuawa survives the ghost kiln and is taken in by her Aunt.  Nuawa trains relentlessly to be a fighter and one day avenge her homeland and mother.  Her chance comes with a tournament where the prize is to be trained by General Lussadh, the Queen's right hand.  Nuawa easily qualifies for the tournament and moves forward, gaining favor with General Lussadh who quickly recognizes Nuawa as a glass-bearer. 

 
Winterglass is  an intriguing retelling of The Snow Queen with a science fiction spin.  The writing is beautiful and pulled me into the scenes of the brutal landscape and resilient people. I was immediately fascinated by the world that was created, the mysterious Winter Queen, the ghost kiln and the many different people now living in everlasting winter.  However, I kept feeling that I was missing something of how and why the Winter Queen came to be and why she is so destructive.  Nuawa is a very decisive character.  She has one purpose and knows she will fulfill it no matter what.  This makes her motivations clear, but also a little difficult to get to know.  I really liked the idea of the glass fragments as well as all of the other enchantments in the world, but I really wanted a little more time to get to know about them.  I also give a big kudos for this world being built with gender neutrality and fluidity.  The pronouns for some people are 'ey' as in they and sexual preference is a non-issue.  This is a shorter book and is very action packed.  There is some explanation of the Winter Queen and glass fragments near the end, but not nearly enough.  This is book one of a series, so I will definitely want to check out what happens next.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Water Bodies

Water Bodies - Jeffrey Perso

 John Voltaire returns to his childhood home of L along the banks of the Mississippi in order to settle his parents estate.  John thought he escaped the backwards confines of L long ago, but he is right back where he started.  Now, L is experiencing a strange plague of drownings.  More than usual, the water seems to be taking more lives than usual in an array of unusual and terrifying circumstances.  Locals are in disagreement of the cause- increases in drunken accidents, a supernatural force, a serial killer or natures revenge.  John's return coincides with the uptick and on top of the unusual circumstances, John's siblings, Cristo and Laura aren't helping much with the sale. 

 
Told through the device of John's scientific journal, Water Bodies presents a unique view of a very strange circumstance through the eyes of a former resident of the town and a current Doctor of Biology and Freshwater Science.  Since it is John's science journal, I really didn't get a good sense of his character.  In fact, the first section of the book is just a recounting of all of the strange recent drownings and no sense of who is recording it.  As John's family history unfolds, it also gives hints that John may not be the most reliable of narrators.  The plot of the story sort of dragged for me, but I was pulled along by the mystery of the water.  There may have been something in this story that I didn't quite get or something that went over my head and I was left unsatisfied and a little confused. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Moto and Me

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat's Foster Mom - Suzi Eszterhas

 Suzi Eszterhas  is a wildlife photographer on the Masai Mara Preserve in Kenya. Suzi is asked if she would like to foster an serval kitten that was brought in by a tourist group after a fire. Suzi readily accepts and takes on the additional role of wildlife rehabilitator to Moto, the serval.  As Moto's adopted mother, Suzi must learn how to care for Moto and teach him how to be a serval in the wild, just like Moto's real mom would have done so he can go back to the wild once more.  

 
Moto and me is a fun and informative inside look at wildlife rehabilitation and the life of a serval.  This nonfiction book is aimed at children aged 5-10.  The pictures were all very cute and obviously amazing, taken by Suzi herself.  They documented Moto's life with her from kittenhood to an adult cat and give readers a chance to see Moto learning how to be a Serval as well as techniques that Suzi used in Moto's rehabilitation.  Along with this are great lessons about African animals, life cycles and the importance of leaving wildlife in the wild.  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Along Came A Soldier

Along Came A Soldier - Brenda Davies

Two small villages in Cornwall, 1820 have been feuding for years after the murder of Charity Perrow's mother.  Jethro Ennor's father was accused but acquitted of the crime.  Now, Charity takes care of her father and brothers, but feels trapped in her home.  Jethro is a farrier who desperately wants to leave his violent and drunk father, but needs to wait until his little brother is of age.  While roaming the woods collecting mushroom for the town bonesetter, Charity and Jethro meet without knowing who the other is.  Even after they find out, Charity and Jethro can't stay away from one another.  However, another danger lurks in the woods.  Henry Blight, a returned soldier from Waterloo has come back to seek revenge against those who made him commit an unspeakable act years ago.  

 
Along Came A Soldier is a complex and intriguing historical murder mystery paired with romantic suspense. The characters were interesting and caught my attention early along with the tensions between the two towns.  Charity is caring and  adventurous.  Jethro is impulsive and rough around the edges.  Together,  Charity and Jethro make a perfect pair. Henry is haunted, showing signs of what we would call PTSD, but still wanted to right his wrong from the past making him a sympathetic villain.  I also loved Grace's knowledgeable, meddling and well-meaning character, although I don't know why her boobs had to be described every time she moved.  The mystery also pulled me along, though I had the gist of it pretty early, element were added to the very end for an unexpected and satisfying ending. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

A Goddess Among Men

A Goddess Among Men - Daniel Davidsohn
Alan Reid and Julian Welch have both found themselves in the Amazon rainforest in 1907 in search of their fortunes in the form of rubber.  Both men are extremely motivated, but that is where their similarities end.  Alan is ruthless, manipulative and not afraid to break any rules.  Julian is kind-hearted, genuine and charismatic.  They form a dangerous partnership that pays off through a series of not-so-legal transactions on Alan's part.  The Reid & Welch empire is born and expands through the years to a multi-billion dollar corporation.  Upon Julian's death he attempts to assure his daughter, Christel's as heir to the empire by having Alan adopt her.  However, Alan has other plans for Christel and places her in a secret program.  As Alan nears death, he tracks down Christel and prepares to hand over everything.  Christel does not balk and takes on the challenge, turning the immense wealth into something good.  Years later, a property in the Amazon that Reid & Welch owns begins trouble for everything that Christel has built for her family.
 
A Goddess Among Men is a generational family saga reaching over a century.  The plot was intense and high stakes keeping the story at a good pace. Moving from the Amazon Jungle to New York City and back again definitely kept things interesting.   The point of view was from the third person, which didn't really allow me to feel close to any of the characters, however most of the characters were not especially likable people.  I would have loved to know more of Alan and Julien's backstories and what motivated them to be the type of people they became. Christel's story was by far the most intriguing.  I couldn't imagine being raised in a training program and used how she was and coming out anything near ok.  Christel's amazing sense of self, confidence and struggles to do better than those who came before her shine through.  I was engaged in her decisions with taking over Reid & Welch and righting the wrongs of the past.  As the story moved back to the Amazon, I was intrigued by the environmental issues and impacts.  Overall, a compelling story of the implications of power and wealth, especially when in the wrong hands.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Tales of Ming Courtesans

Tales of Ming Courtesans - Alice Poon

When Jingjing finds a memoir written by her mother, she discovers that the world her mother, Rushi and Aunts Yuanyuan and Xiangjun grew up in was cruel and traumatizing.  All three women were sold as children to thin horse breeders, or slave traders.  They were taught music, art, dance and poetry in order to entertain men who would pay for their company.  The women were now objects to be bought and traded as men saw fit.  Their lives take many twists and turns, but the sisterhood that they forged with matching kerchiefs helps them through.  

 
Tales of Ming Courtesans is a heartfelt and uplifting memoir style account of the role and treatment of women in 17th Century China. Liu Rushi, Chen Yuanyuan and Li Xiangjun were all real women who were concubines at this time.  I was moved by their stories of constant struggle yet determination.  Each woman was considered as property and were used by men in different ways, to settle debt, for pleasure or even to hold hostage in exchange for political favor. I was constantly amazed by their perseverance and constant struggle to raise their station.  I enjoyed learning about the accomplishments of these women, despite abuse and slavery Rushi excelled at painting and poetry, Yuanyuan played a role in Ming General Wu Sangui's decision to defect to the Qing, Xianjun excelled at the pipa gaining the attentions of Hou Fangyu beginning one of the greatest romances in Chinese History.  Tales of Ming Courtesans presents an almost overwhelming amount of information of the lives of these three women.  The memoir style of writing was a little rambling for me, often losing my interest for short periods of time before picking up again.  There were also large jumps in time.  Overall, an insightful and honest look at Ming Dynasty Courtesans. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Little Palace

The Little Palace - Jeffrey Erlacher, Mary P. Williams

During World War I on a tiny island in the Seine sits The Little Palace, a restaurant run by master chef and cheese maker, Narcisse.  Narcisse happens to be a cat who believes in equality and service for all.  The stress of the war has allowed for animals and humans to communicate in ways unknown before. With the help of a very special group of animals, Narcisse has made The Little Palace an oasis for good food, company and a refuge for artists.  In the cafe animals and humans work side by side; however, one of the servers at The Little Palace believes that animals and humans should not be equal.  The server hatches a plan that damages the reputation of The Little Palace.  At the same time Narcisse gets word that her father has been injured in the war.  

 
A creative and charming story that highlights the animals that, without choice, serve alongside of us in the midst of war.  Written for a middle grade and teenage audience, The Little Palace resonates with adults as well as with themes such as equal rights, justice and kindness.  At first I thought the anthropomorphic animals characters were the only characters in the book, however when I learned that humans were also characters, I became very intrigued at their interactions.  I do wish the mechanism for the human and animal communication was brought up earlier in the story, although it made sense once it was finally disclosed.  I loved the camaraderie between the many species of animals and their willingness to help in the war that was decidedly human. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Poor and the Haunted

The Poor and the Haunted - Dustin McKissen

Life has never been easy for Jimmy and Kelly Lansford. Their parents never had much money and what they had was spent on drugs and alcohol.  When they are teens, their father commits suicide and their mother continues to spiral.  Jimmy is kept afloat with the help of local detective, Mike Carlisle and finds his way to Arizona State on a track scholarship. Jimmy doesn't like leaving Kelly behind with their mother, but Carlisle promises to look after her.  Jimmy excels at college and is able to become a successful trader.  He marries and is able to buy the house of his dreams and build the family he always wanted.  On his daughter's twelfth birthday, Jimmy begins to recall his childhood and the events that shaped him.  After that,  Jimmy begins to see and feel things  He begins to wonder if he inherited something from his father or if the family ghost has come for him.

 
The Poor and the Haunted is a psychological thriller paired with an unexpected ghost story.  Jimmy's character is wonderfully created and I could easily feel the intense bond with his sister, his guilt for leaving his childhood behind to start over and need to protect the life he has made for himself.  The writing bounces back and forth between Jimmy and Kelly as teens and Jimmy as an adult.  The writing created two very different worlds from Jimmy's childhood to adulthood and I could feel the buildup of trauma, stress and anxiety from his childhood.  As Jimmy slowly descends into darkness it is difficult to tell if he is truly having physiological issues or if a ghost has found him.  The Poor and the Haunted is complex, full of family drama and intrigue with a surprising ending. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Of Darkness and Light (Soli Hansen Mysteries #1)

Of Darkness and Light - Heidi Eljarbo

Soli Hansen's life changed when the German troops invaded Norway in 1940.  For four years Soli has seen the consequences of the occupation; however, she was still able to go to art school and find work at a small art shop in town.  One day on her way to work, Soli finds that the shop helper, Mrs. Gunderson has died right outside the shop in a terrible accident. Inspector Nikolai Lange brings Soli in for questioning and leads her to believe that Mrs. Gunderson's death was a murder related to the artwork in her shop.  Soli is intrigued and continues to help Inspector Lange.  Soli is brought into the Norwegian resistance as she discovers the Nazi's plan to confiscate all of the valuable artwork from Jewish homes.  When Soli and the underground discover a priceless Baroque piece, Soli is willing to risk everything to keep the artwork safe and out of Nazi hands.

 
Of Darkness and Light is an intriguing and inspiring murder mystery set in World War II Norway.  I don't think that I have ever read about the German Occupation of Norway, so I was very interested in reading about the effects on the country.  I did know of the Nazi's collection of artwork, but did not know that it extended into Norway or of the resistance dedicated to protect it. Through Soli, I was able to see the deep appreciation and beauty of the artwork that she fought for.  The point of view also briefly switched to the artist, Caravaggio in 1607.  Caravaggio's story was equally fascinating and I enjoyed learning about the chiaroscuro technique that he made prominent. I was constantly amazed by Soli's persistence, bravery and dedication to the cause.  The mystery was well created and complex with a murder, hidden artwork and unknown intentions.  Soli and the underground resistance members are definitely characters that I want to visit again.  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Rose and the Whip

The Rose and the Whip - Jae Hodges
All that is documented of Lidia Wardell's existence is her one act of defiance in May of 1663.  Lidia Wardell walked into her town meeting house naked.  For this act, Lidia was given a punishment of being stripped down to her waist and publicly whipped.  Lidia was not the first to be punished or the last, but her actions tell a larger story of persecution and perseverance.
 
The Rose and the Whip is a unique look at a very specific incident.  With limited information, the time period is examined thoroughly through Lidia's punishment.  I was amazed that the whole story took place within the period of time that it took for Lidia to be whipped. I can't imaging the feeling of being whipped, but the author has managed to recreate the feeling. With each lash of the whip, Lidia recalls how she has come to be tied to the whipping post and those that have suffered before her for their faith.  It was intriguing to read about Colonial America and the persecution of those of the Quaker faith by a group of people that left their homes due to religious persecution.  Through Lidia the bravery and fortitude of all those who chose to defy the church are highlighted.  I do wish the writing had stayed firmly in from Lidia's point of view instead of jumping to tell the reader what is unknown.  Overall, a deeply moving story of courage and bravery in Colonial Massachusetts. 

The Lane Betrayal (Time Box #1)

The Lane Betrayal - John A. Heldt

Mark Lane is about to put in place a decision that will change the life of his family, a corporation and possibly history.  Mark has invented the Time Box in conjunction with the Janus corporation headed up by billionaire Robert Devereaux.   When Mark learns that Robert will only use the Time Box for evil, he makes a difficult decision to sabotage the company, steal the working Time Boxes and disappear into the past with his family. Mark, his wife Mary and children Jordan, Laura, Jeremy and Ashley travel in haste to 1865 Virginia.  The family tries to fit in and rebuild a life as best they can.  However, Robert Devereaux will not let Lane's betrayal slide.  Devereaux's team rebuilds a Time box and sends a hit man into the past  to enact revenge.

 
The Lane Betrayal is a high-stakes, action packed time travel adventure.  From the very first page the suspense is heightened as Mark destroys his friend's company and is chased into the past.  There are a lot of characters in this book, but they are all very well developed and distinctive.  The Lane's are very family oriented and serve one another well. None of the family members are perfect, but they are all trying their best to do what is right during a very weird situation.   The assassin added another layer of danger with a cold-hearted and focused attitude.  The setting of the tail end of the Civil War was an interested choice.  There is a lot of danger in the time period, especially for the men, but it was a time that they knew about well.  I enjoyed reading about Laura's time as a nurse in the field hospital.  Though her time there was difficult, it was authentic and realistic to the time period.  It was also interesting to read about the family's interactions with Lincoln himself and his advisors.  I was intrigued at the family's outlook at potentially changing history and the influence that their presence has had.  With a cliffhanger ending, I can't wait to jump into the next book and next time period with the Lane family.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
 

Protecting Pollinators

Protecting Pollinators - Jodi Helmer

Pollinator numbers in the wild have been decreasing.  With most of our food sources relying on one pollinator or another, this is a problem that we all have to be aware of and begin solving. Protecting Pollinators: How to Save the Creatures that Feed Our World  presents the information on our declining pollinator species including insects, birds and bats.  Told through stories and specific studies, the information is presented in a way that is interesting and easy to understand.  Each study highlighted focuses on a different species and cause for their decrease.  Focused mainly on native pollinators in the Western Hemisphere and the invasive species that pose a threat to them from the Eastern Hemisphere, this book will mainly appeal to people in North America.  In addition to learning more about the ecology of our many native pollinators, I enjoyed learning about the people who are fighting for them, the studies they are carrying out and what I can do to help these animals myself.  Inspiring, enlightening and easy to follow, Protecting Pollinators presents what is happening to our pollinators, why it is happening and how we have to help them now.

Greed

Greed - Ker Dukey, K.  Webster

Micah Dixon wants it all.  Above all he wants to know what happened to his best friend, Mason and his sister, Evelyn.  Two years ago, Micah asked his father with help protecting them, but it was all lies.  With membership to New Orleans secret society, The Elite, Micah will be able to figure out a way to make up for it all.  The Elite have control of both Mason and Evelyn, and together they are going to find a way to bring it all down.  First, Micah has to take care of his task. Then there is  Sabella, the twin sister of Wrath and the girl that everyone believes that Envy has killed. 

 

 Greed is the last book in The Elite Seven Series and needs to be read last.  Micah's story brings together the suspense that has been building within the past six books.  The brothers are finally ready to take The Elite into their own hands by taking out the old order.  For this book, the story switches between Micah and Sabella's point of view.  The women's characters have been just as influential in the story as much as the men's.  Sabella regains her self confidence and builds her strength with Micah and becomes just as much a part of the group.  I'm glad that their romance was slower and took the time Sabella needed to find confidence again without losing any of the steamy scenes. The ending is exciting, violent and accomplishes what it needs.  I do wish there was a continuation of what this set of brothers achieve afterward.  

Sloth

Sloth - Giana Darling

Rush Dempsey doesn't care about much in life except finding out the truth about what killed his mother.  He knows that the secret society, The Elite has something to do with it.  It isn't until his father mentions that Rush is a candidate for the very same group that he is compelled to do something again.  Rush knows that getting into to The Elite will be the only way to destroy it.  His task to become a member of the group is to desecrate Archbishop Savoie's daughter, Isabelle on the alter of the church.  Rush's task becomes easy when Isabelle is pushed into her hands and taking down The Elite is in sight.  No one expects the laziest member of the group to have planned so carefully.

 
Sloth is the sixth book in The Elite Seven series.  Sloth brings together a lot of the previous stories, so I would definitely recommend reading the rest of the series first.  Rush is motivated from the very beginning to end The Elite and expose their secrets.  His character, from the outside seems like to least likely to do so, however; Sloth is just a cover for patience.  I enjoyed Rush's relationship with Isabelle and the fact that it didn't seemed forced or even too tied to his task.  The romance is sweet and sexy with plenty of steamy scenes.  Isabelle was courageous on her own and I was glad that she was able to use Rush to get out from under her father.  For a book about Sloth, this installment was really action packed as Rush and his brothers begin to bring down The Elite.  I was impressed at how well all of the stories have fit together so far and can't wait to see if Rush's plan will work in the last book, Greed.