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Free Book Friday! Burn What Will Burn by C. B. McKenzie

August 17th, 2018

 

 

Burn What Will Burn: A Novel
by 
C. B. McKenzie

Bob Reynolds doesn’t recognize the body in the creek, but he does recognize the danger of it. He’s a newcomer to town, not entirely welcome and not entirely on good footing with the sheriff. So far, he’s kept his head down, mostly over the bar at the Crow’s Nest. But he has other interests than drinking and spending his inheritance, including one that goes by the name Tammy Fay Smith and who may have caught the sheriff’s eye as well.Bob Reynolds would rather pretend he never saw the body, but when it disappears he begins to doubt what little he knew about this secretive town, one that seems to become more unwelcoming by the day. But he can’t just forget the body, despite the advice he’s given to do so, and despite the evidence to suggest that he might be disappearing along with it.Following his acclaimed, Edgar-nominated debut, CB McKenzie’s Burn What Will Burn will appeal to fans of literary crime.

ISBN 9781250083371, Hardcover

There are currently 10 Members wishing for this book. 1 lucky member will win a brand-new copy.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

 

 

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

Nonfiction Review – The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

August 15th, 2018

 

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story
by Douglas Preston

Review by Gail P. (TinkerPirate)

Picture yourself looking through a bookshelf and randomly picking up a book titled “The Lost City of the Monkey God”.  The premise is a group of scientists are searching for a lost city in a deep South American jungle.  You figure you are in for a finger-nail biting, thrill ride.  Then, you learn that many of the scientists develop symptoms of a mysterious disease that takes trips to far-away countries and months to diagnosis.  Oh, yes, you know you have a book that will keep you up at night.  Lastly, you see that the author is Douglas Preston.  Now, you know you have a great read in your hands and you clear your calendar for non-stop reading.  Then, comes the unexpected curve…it’s all TRUE!  “The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story” is Preston Douglas’ eyewitness account of a 2012 expedition in search of this lost city. 

The book set in an area of eastern Honduras called La Mosquitia that consists of tropical rain forests, marshs, and savannahs.  It contains the largest wilderness in Central America and is considered largely unpopulated.  While there are some areas inhabited by people, the vast majority of La Mosquitia is home only to animals that can amuse you, annoy you, or kill you.   In addition to being considered a World Heritage site, it is reportedly the location of a legendary city of immense wealth.  That city is called La Ciudad Blanca (the White City) or Lost City of the Monkey God.  

The search for the Lost City of the Monkey God is not for the faint of heart.  Since the time of the conquistadors, men have been trying to find this lost city.  Many have boasted of finding it, but none have provided evidence of its existence.  Preston provides descriptions of a number of these previous attempts.  His narrative of those expeditions are not only entertaining, but informative.  Along the way you will discover interesting pieced of history about Honduras and the role the United States has played in creating its present state of unrest.  I was surprised to learn the origin of the term “banana republic”.

I went into the book expecting a good read about an expedition into the unknown and some history into indigenous culture. What I got was much, much more.  While the first 60 pages or so were slow, Preston does an incredible job of presenting dry subjects such as Central American politics, archeologic processes, epidemiology, etc. in a way that makes the book a real page-turner.  He brought me into the adventure as an eye-witness to one of the greatest discoveries in the 21st century.

Key things I walked away with: 

  1. Great civilizations fail for the same reasons. 
  2. Humans have an amazing capacity to protect natural and historical wonders, but, unfortunately, more of us just want to exploit whose wonders. 
  3. In a battle between nature and humans, nature wins. 
  4. One of the greatest dangers to us has been around since dinosaurs walked the earth and little is being done to control it. 
  5. Never under estimate the power of a dream. 

 

 

Young Adult Fiction Review – Paper Towns

July 31st, 2018

Paper Towns by John Green

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Paper Towns won the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery, was number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and was written by the same author who gave us The Fault in Our Stars.  I had very high expectations.

Meet Quentin and Margo, neighbors who were close as children, but who have grown apart as teenagers.  They have had very little to do with one another until Margo climbs into Quentin’s window one night during their senior year of high school.  Margo takes Quentin on a reckless ‘adventure’. Margo dishes out some teenage justice to those who have wronged her and Quentin lets go of some of his ‘good boy’ personality for a few hours.  And then Margo is gone.  Did she run away or did something more malevolent happen to her?  Thus, begins a quest to find Margo.

There were a couple of things I really liked about this book.  One, Quentin’s friendship with Ben and Radar and two, the dialogue between the characters. Ben and Radar reminded me of those fabulous friendships where you can say almost anything to one another and still be loved.  They provided the brutal honesty and constant ribbing perfect for any situation or for any emotion.  Ben and Radar provided the levity that was much-needed in the more complex, difficult to understand mentality of Margo.  And Green did not disappoint with the dialogue between the characters.  Witty and quick-paced, it read like a natural conversation and had me smiling or laughing out loud at times.

While there were things I liked about the book, I did feel it was a bit of a letdown in the end.  In my opinion, the character of Margo and her perceived complexities came off as artificial and forced. I thought the other characters were much stronger, so having the character I considered the weakest at the center of the story made it a bit harder to truly appreciate the novel as a whole.

Overall, I think the premise was a good one but the lack of character in Margo impacted the result in the end, so I give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend The Fault in Our Stars more heartily than Paper Towns.  You can also read my review of The Fault in Our Stars on the PaperBackSwap.com blog.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Beautiful Day

July 25th, 2018

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I have read numerous books by Elin Hilderbrand and what I enjoy most is that she can transport me to Nantucket with her vivid descriptions.  Beautiful Day is no exception to this, but I don’t think the other areas of the novel delivered quite as I hoped.

The novel begins with a wedding invitation.  Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married in Nantucket.  Almost every detail of the wedding has come from The Notebook, a guide written by her mother Beth before her death to help Jenna with the planning of her wedding.  Margot, Jenna’s sister, is dealing her own problems and dreading the entire wedding weekend. She has been at her sister’s side and followed almost every direction in The Notebook.  Beth has given direction on flowers, colors, location, music, food…everything.  The pressure to have the wedding Beth envisioned is a pressure that has weighed heavily on Jenna, Margot, and their father Doug.  Friends and family descend on Nantucket, but The Notebook doesn’t include guidance on what to do when there are doubts and cold feet, thus the perfect summer wedding may now be called off.

In true Hilderbrand style, Nantucket and the Carmichael island home (even the tree in the backyard) are characters in this novel.  As Hilderbrand does best, her locations become characters themselves and the reader can almost feel the salty breezes.

I think my main issue with this book was The Notebook itself.  I understand that Hilderbrand wanted it to be an outpouring of love from mother to daughter, but to me it came off as overbearing and manipulative. The entries in The Notebook irritated me and, even with all the praise for Beth from other characters, came across as a power play with the impression that Jenna would be a disappointment to her mother if Jenna didn’t follow every word. This seemed to overshadow the entire novel since excerpts from The Notebook are dispersed throughout the novel.

I think Hilderbrand’s position as queen of the beach read is probably safe, but I hope her next book that I read leaves a better impression on me.  And I will read another of her novels, that is of no doubt. Hilderbrand offers a type of escapism that typically is very satisfying for me.  Even though Beautiful Day didn’t leave me with a beautiful feeling, I still recommend Hilderbrand’s novels.  If you’re interested, check out my review of Hilderbrand’s Winter Street previously posted in the PaperBackSwap.com Blog.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Prester John

July 18th, 2018

Prester John by John Buchan

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

The beautiful cover of the Oxford World Classics edition of Prester John (1910) hints that Buchan’s descriptions of landscape are pleasant in this novel.

I could scarcely believe my eyes as I ran towards [a gleaming lake], and doubts of a mirage haunted me. But it was no mirage, but a real lake, perhaps three miles in circumference, with bracken-fringed banks, a shore of white pebbles, and clear deep blue water. I drank my fill, and then stripped and swam in the blessed coolness. After that I ate some luncheon, and sunned myself on a flat rock. ‘I have discovered the source of the Labongo,’ I said to myself. ‘I will write to the Royal Geographical Society, and they will give me a medal.’

Ah, the daydreams of a 19-year-old.

Another plus is that the teen hero freely admits to being at the end of his tether on numerous occasions and he feels the physical effects of his ordeals, both of which are rarely admitted in adventure novels of any time. Although not quite as thrilling as Greenmantle, this is an admirable story, packed with chases and escapes. Aside from the total of absence of female characters, modern readers may be put off by the ethnocentrism and imperialism, enlightened or not. What balances the typical opinions of a man of his nation, class, and time, I think, is Buchan’s relevant idea that civilization is fragile, “a pane of glass,” and that savages come in all guises.

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobook (Fiction) Review – The Bette Davis Club

July 11th, 2018

The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

On a recent work trip, I listened to The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter.  Unbeknownst to me, Jane Lotter passed away in 2013. The forward by her daughter Tessa highlighted Lotter’s sense of humor and life as a writer. It was an unexpected and touching way for the book to begin.

Margo Just is a middle-aged woman who is in California for her niece’s wedding.  Dreading the day because of her very strained relationship with her half-sister Charlotte, Margo is drinking double martinis and hoping to get through the event unscathed.  When her niece Georgia disappears before the wedding, Margo is offered $50,000 by Charlotte to go after Georgia and bring her back, along with property that Georgia took without Charlotte’s permission.  Margo has no idea what this mysterious property is and doesn’t want to get involved but finds herself in need of the money and decides to accept the challenge.

Margo finds herself in her father’s classic red 1955 MG convertible with Georgia’s jilted fiancé Tully.  This is the start of a long car ride of awkward discussions, petty arguments, a search for clues of Georgia’s location, and a reality check on the state of her relationships and life.

I thought The Bette Davis Club was a funny and heartwarming novel.  Margo was self-deprecating and seemed like she was in denial but she was funny and charismatic.  Margo’s life had been punctuated by hurt and disappointment that colored her life choices but through the journey to find Georgia, Margo managed to find herself and come to grips with the losses she had endured.

I have since learned that Lotter wrote her own obituary and, after reading it, I wish I would have had a chance to know her in life.  Funny and witty with a great grasp of just the right words to use, Lotter was a humorist of the highest order and I highly recommend her novel.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – Appleby on Ararat

July 9th, 2018

Appleby on Ararat by Michael Innes 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

In this 1941 mystery, series hero John Appleby is returning to London from The Sunburnt Country (i.e. Australia) by ocean liner with a zany bunch of passengers. After the liner is torpedoed, the plucky band washes up on a deserted island in the South Pacific which turns out to be not so deserted. One of the passengers is murdered, making the island into a classic locked room. With a few silly elements, the story is more adventure a la John Buchan than a restful whodunit. 

Another attraction is among the cast is an archetypal  Australian woman, the intrepid and fearless prototype and paragon, that Innes used in other novels like The Man from the Sea (Innes taught EngLit in the U of Adelaide, in the 1930s and 1940s). 

This one is fun. It isn’t too wordy or frighteningly erudite so it does not feel too long, as ones set in country houses (Death by Water) and colleges (Seven Suspects) sometimes do.