Friday, February 24, 2017

Anticipated March 2017 Releases!

Well, it's that time of the month again when I spotlight some incredible new books slated to release next month! March is full of incredible releases, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on some of these books, - or other releases that I haven't listed - so feel free to leave your comments below!

*Note: more books may be added to this list, so be sure to keep checking back for more!

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Exit WestThe Idiot
The Confessions of Young Nero (Nero #1)The Illusionist's ApprenticeLady of the Lake
The Wages of SinIn the Name of the FamilyThe Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman
Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1)Garden of Thorns

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor - March 28th
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid - March 7th
The Idiot by Elif Batuman - March 14th
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George - March 7th (Review coming March 6th!)
The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron - March 7th
Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski - March 14th
The Wages of Sin by Katie Welsh - March 7th 
In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant - March 
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denise Thériault - March 14th 
Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan - March 7th
Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell - March 6th

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mudmen: The Quest for Humanity by Shitij Sharma

Mudmen: The Quest for Humanity by Shitij Sharma. Shitij Sharma, 2017. Ebook. 88 pages.

The question "What if you thought you could play a better god than God?" begins the synopsis of Mudmen: The Quest for Humanity, and easily draws the reader in to an extremely creative, imaginative world. Whether one actually believes in a god or not, this question poses an intriguing idea, which is exactly what Shitij Sharma explores throughout his book.

There was a lot to pack into such a short book, but I think Sharma managed this feat with a talented hand.  Something that really stood out for me and that I particularly loved was how this book read almost like a classic fairy tale in the sense that it was engrossing and ever so whimsical. However, there were ever-present darker aspects that lurked around the edges of every scene and page, which added a great deal of depth and intrigue to the story overall. 

I find it difficult to describe the plot itself without going into too much detail, and I feel that this story is best read without too much knowledge beforehand of its contents. There didn't actually seem to be an overly apparent storyline to follow, but Sharma's vivid storytelling was enough to keep me engaged. I felt that this story had a lot of potential that was developed quite as fully as it could have been, but this is an area that I feel could be addressed in subsequent novels.

Along with the fantastic  elements, Mudmen is also largely characterized by philosophical undertones that are occasionally hard to grasp, but overall fascinating. I found there to be a lot going on in this short novel, which did occasionally make it hard to follow. The Mudmen creatures themselves were one of the most interesting aspects of the book, and I enjoyed seeing how they interacted with one another and the world around them. 

Overall, I am giving Mudmen four stars! I was extremely impressed with the depth and concept of this story, and seeing as Sharma is still only nineteen years old, I think it's safe to say that we can expect many more great works from him!

*I received a copy of Mudmen courtesy of Shitij Sharma in exchange for an honest review.*

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Gloss

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Gloss
Publication Date: June 20th, 2017
Saga Press
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
"Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents' death, quickly finds herself drawn into the secrets of her father's mysterious past. A clue leads her to believe that Edward Hyde, her father's former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is still a reward for information leading to his capture - a reward which would solve all er immediate financial woes. Her hunt leads her not to Edward Hyde but to Diana, his daughter, a near feral child left to be raised by nuns.

With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde and soon gathers around her more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankestein. When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past soon arrive as well, and it is up to the five of them to stop the malicious machinations of the Société les Alchimistes. It is time for the monsters to triumph over the monstrous."

I love Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - it's one of my favorite stories. (Does anyone else remember that episode from the show Arthur that was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde themed? No?) I also love the Sherlock Holmes stories. So combining those characters, along with the many any other intriguing character names - Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein - makes this book sound incredible! I am so intrigued by this, not to mention that absolutely gorgeous cover. 

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Diane over at Bibiophile by the Sea. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Diane's blog, or simple check it out to find more new books to read!

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)


"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

From the forward aspect of the convent you can see both the northern ice and the southern, but the finer view is out across the plateau and over the narrow lands. On a clear day the coast may be glimpsed, the Sea of Marn a suggestion in blue. 
At some point in an achingly long history a people, now lost to knowledge, had built one thousand and twenty-four pillars on the plateau, Corinthian giants thicker than a thousand-year oak, taller than a long-pine. A forest of stone without order or pattern, covering the level ground from flank to flank such that no spot upon it lay more than twenty yards from a pillar. Sister Thorn waited amid this forest, alone and seeking her centre."

If you want to know about Red Sister, check out the synopsis on Goodreads!

I was so fortunate to receive an ARC of this highly anticipated beginning of Mark Lawrence's new fantasy trilogy, and I am loving it so far! I'm only ~150 pages in, but I am definitely hooked and can't wait to find out how the rest of the story ends.

I really wanted to post the beginning of the first chapter along with the prologue, but since it is an ARC and I haven't seen any chapter excerpts around the internet, I'll stick to what is already out there. :)

Red Sister will be published April 4th, 2017 by Ace Publishing.

What do you think? Would you keep reading? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 
If you're enticed by this chapter, be sure to check out the full synopsis on Goodreads!

*Excerpt taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

*The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff is available Tuesday, February 21st!*

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff. Mira, 2017. Hardcover. 368 pages.

There is no shortage of World War II-era books roaming about, and I have certainly read my fair share of them. In fact, I used to read so many that I found myself becoming a bit tired of reading books in this particularly period of time and actually stopped for a while. I've recently been sent a few ARCs set in World War II, however — such as The Orphan's Tale — and I felt that it was finally time to jump back into this interesting period.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this was the best book to start with. The Orphan's Tale is by no means a bad book, but it wasn't really at that good, either. I found the premise intriguing: a young girl, Noa, who is kicked out of her house for becoming pregnant finds herself living on her own, saves a baby from the likely fate of death, and eventually finds refuge at a circus. Once at the circus, she is introduced to Astrid, the lead aerialist and our second main character, and that is the basic setup of this novel. I'm a fan of circus-related stories, so I thought this would certainly be an refreshing setting for a book of that type. 

The problem, however, was that I never felt truly connected to the story. I read about the characters' issues, but I never fully felt them or felt overly attached to them. Noa is surely an interesting young woman, but she was written to be somewhat flat and uninteresting. I also found her frustratingly naive, which was something I couldn't get over. I understand that she might not have been quite as fully aware of the dangers of the current time period as Astrid, but I just don't understand how she could have been nearly as naive and trusting as she was. And I won't say too much in the way of Noa's love interest in case of spoilers, but I felt that that entire storyline was unnecessary and hard to believe. The love interest, Luc, was somehow even more flat as a character than Noa, and I was unable to discern the connection between the two. 

Astrid was slightly more compelling to me, and I found myself more interested in her storyline than in Noa's. She had much more in the sense of street smarts, and I found her story much more compelling overall.

The chemistry between the Astrid and Noa was written well, and I appreciated how they managed to form such a strong bond of friendship, though I will say that the dynamic between the two changed too quickly from enemy to friendly. There just wasn't quite enough development to build up to the forming of their strong friendship. 

The Orphan's Tale is written in alternative first-person narratives told by both Noa and Astrid, and I liked the idea, but there were far too many instances in which I had to double check which narrative I was reading from. Both had a similar voice, and there was not much available to make it possible to tell them apart. 

My last problem was the ending. In general, I like this type of ending in books, as I find it takes strength and leaves a lasting impression. In this case, it felt entirely too abrupt and unfinished, leaving me feeling as though the author just needed to quickly wrap up this story as easily as possible. 

Despite the many flaws I found within The Orphan's Tale, this was still an entertaining story that did keep me reading. I enjoyed seeing another side of those impacted by the Nazis -- I had never even considered how something like a circus would be treated in these circumstances, so I definitely enjoyed that aspect. I would recommend this to those who enjoy World War II novels and want something a little different.

Overall, I am giving The Orphan's Tale three stars.

*I received a physical ARC of The Orphan's Tale in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Mira publishing.*

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Black History Month Reading Suggestions!

As most of you know, February is Black History Month! This month is dedicated to sharing African American history and raising awareness of the vast contributions African Americans have made to our country. To honor this month, I decided to compile a list of a few (out of many) wonderful books that celebrate African Americans and encourage everyone to take a minute to learn more. I have included books for a wide variety of ages, so hopefully there should be a little something for everyone.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport 
"Acclaimed author Doreen Rappaport and Coretta Scott King Award winner Bryan Collier, who previously collaborated on Freedom River , have pooled their talents yet again in a stunning tribute to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An extraordinary picture-book biography, Martin's Big Words consists of Rappaport's own words interwoven with quotes from Dr. King...all powerfully brought to life by Collier's striking, glorious art. "

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton
"Celebrated for her courageous exploits as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman has entered history as one of nineteenth-century America's most enduring and important figures. But just who was this remarkable woman? To John Brown, leader of the Harpers Ferry slave uprising, she was General Tubman. For the many slaves she led north to freedom, she was Moses. To the slaveholders who sought her capture, she was a thief and a trickster. To abolitionists, she was a prophet. Now, in a biography widely praised for its impeccable research and its compelling narrative, Harriet Tubman is revealed for the first time as a singular and complex character, a woman who defied simple categorization. "

Sonata MulatticaSonata Mulattica by Rita Dove
"In a book-length lyric narrative inspired by history and imagination, a much celebrated poet re-creates the life of a nineteenth-century virtuoso violinist.

The son of a white woman and an African Prince, George Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860) travels to Vienna to meet a bad-boy genius Ludwig van Beethoven. The great composer's subsequent sonata is originally dedicated to the young mulatto, but George, exuberant with acclaim, offends Beethoven over a woman. From this crucial encounter evolves a grandiose yet melancholy poetic tale."

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
"Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom."

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Dreams from My Father
by Barack Obama

"Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this lyrical, unsentimental, and powerfully affecting memoir, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller when it was reissued in 2004. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother—a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego. "

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
"Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself "the angriest Black man in America" relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind. "

I am Rosa Parks
I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer
"“Kids always search for heroes, so we might as well have a say in it,” Brad Meltzer realized, and so he envisioned this friendly, fun approach to biography – for his own kids, and for yours. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a vivacious, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, those who aren’t quite ready for the Who Was biography series.  Rosa Parks dared to stand up for herself and other African Americans by staying seated, and as a result she helped end public bus segregation and launch the country’s Civil Rights Movement."

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

The Warm of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
"In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. "

Invisible Man
Invisible  Man by Ralph Ellison
"First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be."

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
"In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community -- and all of us - -to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America."

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
"Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star."

**All summaries are provided by the book's listing on Goodreads.

Have you read any of these? Do you have any books to add? Let me know below!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Extreme Measures by Jessica Nutik Zitter: Review + Giveaway!

Extreme Measures by Jessica Nutik Zitter. Avery Publishing Group, 2017. Hardcover. 352 pages

The topics of death and end of life aren't exactly the most popular of dinnertime discussions. In Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter's book, Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life, Zitter discusses these topics in length, both enlightening and sharing various scenarios in which these topics should be discussed.

This book opened up my mind to the field of pallative care, which consists of the main goal of improving the quality of life of patients and their families when facing life-threatening, often emotionally challenging situations. Zitter did a remarkable job this medical field, as well as exemplifying the challenges associated with it. For instance, both patients, families, and doctors alike seem to get caught up with "doing everything they can" to save a person who is dying, not realizing that what they are doing may not actually change the outcome of their life expectancy, but it will affect their quality of life.

Zitter is a passionate advocate for pallative care, and this makes for an incredibly eye-opening book. It's not an easy thing to realize that although a person may be able to be physically alive because of breathing machines and other medical devices, it doesn't mean that they will ever make a full recovery or even be able to live a life without being plugged into machines.

Extreme Measures is littered with informative, engaging anecdotes of the many different experiences Dr. Zitter has faced throughout her career surrounding those struggling with life-threatening illnesses. I found her to be an empathetic, powerful, and inspiring narrator. Not all of her stories have a positive ending -- in fact, most of the things in this book are somewhat depressing, but it is written in such a way that I was not left feeling depressed, but instead feeling thoughtful and wanting to consider such situations I have not previously considered.

I have personally experienced the deaths of quite a few close friends and family in my life, so this topic has popped up a fair bit, making me realize the importance of it. I don't mind having these discussions, but a lot of people do, and that's exactly why I think everyone should read Extreme Measures.

I also would like to add the Zitter provides a vast array of resources regarding Advanced Directives and similar material at the end of the book, which I found extremely helpful to have available. Overall, I was extremely impressed with this book, and I am giving it five stars!

Photo of Jessica Nutik Zitter, MDJessica Nutik Zitter, M.D., MPH, is an expert on the medical experience of death and dying. She attended Stanford University and Case Western Reserve Medical School, and completed her residency in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was a fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of California San Francisco. Zitter is double-boarded in the two specialties of pulmonary/critical care medicine and palliative care medicine—a rare combination. She writes for The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, The Atlantic, and Journal of Palliative Medicine, and is featured in Extremis, an Oscar-nominated documentary about end-of-life decision-making in an ICU. 
Author bio from: Penguin Books

Now, on to the giveaway! One winner will receive a completed copy of the book, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

**Please note that this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.**
Winners will be notified by email, so be sure to check!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize provided by Avery Publishing Group.

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