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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Kiss That Changed Me

As two brothers reach the final phase of their plan to seize the stolen powers of a God made flesh, the Psirens lay claim to the debris of the Occulta Mirum. With this, a race against the rising blood moon begins.
As the seconds tick away, Callie and Orion must journey to the farthest corners of the earth, learning to balance devotion and duty whilst reuniting the segregated Kindred of the Circle of Eight. If this is not enough the function of the conduit is still unknown, meaning Callie and Orion must learn democratic flare in multicultural waters to convince others to risk their lives as well. With their foretold future together in the balance, their unity has never been so crucial and one’s willingness to sacrifice the other for the greater good never more necessary.
Can the journey of an immortal lifetime hold answers to salvation, or will it only bring the mer to their final resting place as their race is threatened with extinction?
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Friday, September 9, 2016

The American Girl

The American GirlThe American Girl by Kate Horsley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

This book is the story of Quinn Perkins, an American exchange student living in France in 2015. One night, she is found by some German tourists stumbling around outside after being hit by a car. She winds up in the hospital. Video of the accident goes viral on the Internet, drawing the attention of a TV reporter, Molly Swift. As the investigation unfolds, it is discovered that Quinn's host family has disappeared, with no explanation. Suspicion falls on Quinn, that she may be responsible for this. Is Quinn a victim or a villain? Or is the truth somewhere in the middle?

I don't want to give away too much, because of spoilers. It was an intriguing novel. The point of view shifts back and forth between Quinn and Molly. Early on, Molly is taken as Quinn's relative, which gives her more access to the story. Quinn's story is told in flashbacks, with a video log and her own blog. This works to add to the suspense, to keep you guessing. There are some details to keep this going. For example, Molly goes out to the house to find a creepy old caretaker out there. Part of me thought that this is how Scooby-Doo cartoons usually started. "I'd have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!" But that was a minor distraction. All in all, this was a good book.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mystic Tides

Mystic TidesMystic Tides by C.J. Godwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

I've always been fascinated with mermaid stories. Most people now know the Hans Christian Andersen story The Little Mermaid, or, more precisely, the Disney version of that story. The premise of the book is that the Hans Christian Andersen story was true, and that mermaids exist. The story starts out with Aden in Alaska. He has just turned 17, and is given a necklace with a mysterious moonstone as a birthday present. He's moving to Florida, to be with his aunt and his cousin. There are quite a few people who are interested in him, and have been watching him for some time. While in Florida, he discovers some unusual powers. He also meets Kat and Kailani, twin sisters with something special. I don't want to say too much more, because of spoilers.

I thought it gave a good backstory on mermaids, and why they were the way they were. Full disclosure: I am the author of Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident, another novel about mermaids, so I know how important the backstory can be. She doesn't try to overwhelm everyone with the backstory all at once, but reveals it piece by piece as needed. I like how Aden's story (1st person) and the mermaid story (3rd person) are alternated, with Aden's story in regular type, and the mermaid story in italics. This made it easier to follow. I've read other books that don't do this, and it can be easy to get lost. I couldn't help think about Disney's version, though. In one scene, Aden picks up a crab, and part of me thought the crab would start singing "Under the Sea." In another, Aden plays his guitar and sings to Kailani. I thought for sure the song would have been "Part of Your World," which would be an ironic commentary on their situation. (Read the book to find out why.) I also felt a little bit of the Australian TV series H20: Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids. Both of these series deal with mermaids in high school. The end of the book suggests that this is the first of a series. It's like Marty McFly getting the Western Union letter that Doc Brown is alive and well in 1885. The series aspect also explains all of the exposition in this book, to avoid a lot of this later. All in all, a good book. I look forward to reading book 2.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Little Black Dress

Little Black DressLittle Black Dress by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the Bookshots series by James Patterson. Short books of less than 150 pages, priced at less than $5 each. In another world, they would be called novellas. They're designed for quick reading. You can finish it quickly.

This was the story of Jane Avery, a magazine editor who usually spends her nights alone with Netflix and Oreos. One day, she buys a little black dress. Suddenly, she releases her inner sexual desires. At first, she is somewhat reluctant, but that soon passes. This leads her in to some dangerous situations.

Obviously, this is designed for a quick read. There's not much character development, except for Jane. It seems a little unrealistic. A woman gets a black dress, and suddenly she's a nymphomaniac. I didn't buy that. Granted, an outfit can give you a different attitude. I feel different in a suit than I do in a t-shirt and shorts, but it's not that dramatic.

I picked this edition up at Target. The Target edition had an epilogue just for this edition. It felt tacked on, like it wasn't part of the story. This may be so that non-Target readers wouldn't feel too left out.

I think this is a good concept for a series. Shorter books might encourage more people to read. You also have to tighten up the plotline. I just think this book had some shortcomings to it.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Army of the Winter Court

Army of the Winter CourtArmy of the Winter Court by Ali Winters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Army of the Winter Court is about a battle between Aurelian and Nolan for control of the Winter Court. Their sister, Lilith, has set rules so that neither one will have an unfair advantage.

Evvie is a college student who meets a man named Ian. After one date with him, she suddenly feels strange. She takes a skeleton key and unlocks the door to another world, where she is the prize in the battle between Aurelian and Nolan.

This is a novella, not a full length book, so the story moves along quickly. I won't say too much more about the story, to avoid plot spoilers. I thought it was a good story. I wanted more development, but that's not in a novella. The author focuses on the 4 main characters, which is good for a novella. Too many cooks spoil the broth. When they mentioned it was winter all the time, I couldn't help but think of Frozen. Granted, there was no talking snowman named Olaf. but there were some similarities, especially compared to The Snow Queen, which is the original tale on which Frozen is based. Again, I can't say too much because of spoilers.

This is part of the Skeleton Key series. I look forward to reading other books in the series.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Goodreads giveaway for Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Operation Mermaid by Joseph McGarry

Operation Mermaid

by Joseph McGarry

Giveaway ends July 31, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Friday, June 10, 2016

Through the Storm

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.
Through the Storm (From Kenya, With Love #3) Rula Sinara Adult Contemporary Romance Paperback & ebook, 368 pages April 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming
The biggest risk she'll ever take… Tessa Henning is no damsel. But she's definitely in distress. If her husband really is involved in the ivory trade, he'll come after her when he finds out what she's uncovered. Unfortunately, the only person who can help is Mac Walker. Stubborn, fiercely independent, danger-loving bush pilot Mac Walker—with whom she shares custody of their orphaned nephew. Though Mac's no knight in shining armor, he can keep her and their nephew safe in the Serengeti while they wait out this storm. But he can't protect Tessa from the strange weather brewing inside her, stirring up feelings for Mac she wishes she could ignore.
Other Books in the Series
The Promise of Rain (Book 1)The Promise of Rain (From Kenya, With Love #1) Rula Sinara Adult Contemporary Romance Paperback & ebook, 384 pages January 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming
He wants to take her child out of Africa...
The Busara elephant research and rescue camp on Kenya's Serengeti is Anna Bekker's life's work. And it's the last place she thought she'd run into Dr. Jackson Harper. As soon as he sets eyes on her four-year-old, Pippa, Anna knows he'll never leave...without his daughter.
Furious doesn't begin to describe how Jack feels. How could Anna keep this from him? He has to get his child back to the States. Yet as angry as he is with Anna, they still have a bond. But can it endure, despite the ocean--and the little girl--between them?
After the Silence (From Kenya, With Love #2) Rula Sinara Adult Contemporary Romance Paperback & ebook, 368 pages March 1st 2015 by Harlequin Heartwarming
Does following her passion mean losing her way?
Marine Ben Corallis is an expert at facing death, but nothing comes close to the terror that grounds him when his wife is killed in a car accident the day he returns from duty. He's left to raise an infant, a toddler and a ten-year-old girl who hasn't uttered a word since her mother's death.
It's hard not to care for the widowed marine with three young children. Yet he's still grieving, too burdened with guilt to fall in love again. And Hope Alwanga's future as a doctor awaits her on the other side of the world, in Nairobi. If two such opposites can't agree on a common country, how can they ever create a safe place to call home?
After a childhood enriched with exotic travels and adventures (both in books and real life), USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author Rula Sinara is now settled in rural Virginia with her husband, three boys and crazy but endearing pets. When she's not writing, she's busy attracting wildlife to her yard, watching romantic movies or researching trees on her garden wish list.
In addition to being a coffee addict, she's also a 2015 HOLT Medallion Award of Merit winner, a 2014 National Reader's Choice Award winner and double finalist, a 2015 Golden Quill Award Runner Up and a 2015 Book Buyers Best third place recipient. For updates on her releases and more, sign up for her newsletter.
Tour Schedule
Tour Giveaway
US PRIZE PACK: One winner will receive 3 'From Kenya, With Love' series canvas tote bags (one of each book), bookmarks, autographed copies of The Promise of Rain and After the Silence, and a $10 Amazon gift card.
INTERNATIONALLY OPEN PRIZE: One winner will receive Kindle copies of The Promise of Rain and After the Silence.
Ends June 17th
Excerpt She curled onto her side on the massive leaves he’d laid on the ground. “You’ll watch for snakes, too, right?” she asked. Her back was turned but her waning voice told him her eyes were closing. “I have you covered. Go to sleep.” Hopefully they wouldn’t get any unwanted visitors—legless or legged—but he had a gun tucked at his lower back and a preferred tranquilizer rifle a couple of feet away just in case. He’d also shone his LED torch around the area in search of red eyes. No night stalkers turned up. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t. She shivered again and put her hands between her knees in a fetal position. Mac leaned back and reached over her. He put his hand against her forehead. It felt normal. “Sorry, just wanted to make sure you didn’t have a fever. You got vaccinated before coming out here, didn’t you?” He kept his voice down, not wanting to make Nick anxious if he wasn’t totally knocked out. “Yes. I don’t think I’m sick. I’m just freezing. I really think it’s exhaustion and the temperature drop.” Her voice sounded sleepy and weak. Mac laid down behind her and pulled her against his chest for warmth. “Does this help?” She nodded, holding onto his hand at her waist. Within seconds, her muscles relaxed and her breathing steadied. He hoped she wasn’t coming down with anything like malaria. He lay there with every intention of staying awake, but the touch of her hair against his face and the warmth of her scent lulled him to sleep for a few minutes. The call of a wild dog had his eyes jerking open. He kept his ears peeled to gauge the distance, relaxing when the sound got farther away. He’d always been comfortable being alone. He’d always felt at home out here in the Serengeti...but right now, hearing Tessa’s soft breathing and a bit of snoring from Nick, for the first time Mac felt like he was home. This was his family. The idea shocked him. Panic zipped through his chest. What was he doing? Warming Tessa? Yes. But still, lying here spooned against her was wrong. He slowly unwove his fingers from hers, lifted his arm up and inched his body away from hers. He sat up without waking her and considered the small supply box and tranquilizer gun within his reach. He was here to protect them. That’s all any of this was. Hopefully, Tessa wouldn’t get too cold...or remember being held by him when she woke up in the morning. He wouldn’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive EssaysThe Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays by Ann Patchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, MN, as part of Independent Bookstore Day. It's a short book but a good one. In this age of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores still thrive. Why is that?

The author, Ann Pratchett, owns Parnassus Books in Nashville. It consists of three essays about her experience. When the last independent bookstore, as well as Borders, in Nashville closed, she was approached about starting a new one. She was originally cool to the idea, but eventually she decided to go for it. As one person described her, she was like a chef who wanted to open a new restaurant. Mount Parnassus in Greek mythology is the home for poetry, music, and learning. In some traditions, it was also the home of the Muses. An appropriate name for a bookstore.

The bookstore went well, and is still going today. It got a big boost when the author was on The Colbert Report talking about her book. She describes her experiences with the bookstore, like employees, and dogs. She doesn't have a café, because she allows dogs to come into the store. (So does Scout & Morgan. They have two dogs on their logo.) There is also a list at the end of books she recommends. She encourages anyone who wants to open a bookstore to do so, provided you can get the money.

I like both types of bookstores. I will admit to getting books from Amazon that I can't get anywhere else. I also get a lot of Amazon gift cards. I will also admit to spending lots of time in Barnes & Noble. My first experience with Barnes & Noble was at Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Three floors of books, all available for me, provided I had the money. I was in heaven. And yet, I do like the independent bookstores like Scout & Morgan. It's easier to talk to people, especially the owners. It feels more relaxing. I can sit an enjoy a potential new purchase. There's a café next door, so it's easy to get a drink and relax. The other night, our local bookstore sponsored Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove, in Cambridge, MN. He came from Sweden to be with us. That took a lot of work, and was a good event. I will have a separate post on my blog later about that.

I also like the different attitudes on book signings. I've gone to Mall of America book signings. There, you stand in line with your book, which is usually a celebrity autobiography. You get your book signed, a picture with the celebrity, and then you go on. It's like an assembly line. At Scout & Morgan, and at the event last night, the author interacts with the audience, and gets to know them. As an author myself Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident(Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident, available on Amazon), I like the second type better, although I wouldn't mind being in the Rotunda of Mall of America with a huge line to sign books.

All in all, this is a good little book. It was just for independent booksellers, and just for the one day. It does make me appreciate them more. While I'm mentioning independent bookstores, I'd like to give a shoutout to some other independent bookstores I've been to over the years. Paperbacks & Pieces and Book Shelf in Winona, MN, and Book People in Sioux City, IA.

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Under New Management

Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as UsualUnder New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been on both sides of the management coin. I've been in management, and I've been managed. I have an idea of what works for me and what doesn't. In this book, David Burkus shows that many of the management practices that were developed in the early 20th century to manage line workers don't work today. Even some that have evolved over time need to change. He identifies 13 items that need to change. They are:
1. Outlaw Email
2. Put Customers Second
3. Lose the Standard Vacation Policy
4. Pay People to Quit
5. Make Salaries Transparent
6. Ban Noncompetes
7. Ditch Performance Appraisals
8. Hire as a Team
9. Write the Org Chart in Pencil
10. Close Open Offices
11. Take Sabbaticals
12. Fire the Managers
13. Celebrate Departures.

Some of these sound counterintuitive at first glance, but he makes the case, with examples of companies that have tried them, that they can actually work. Some of this is not new. For example, the idea of scrapping the standard vacation policy was explored in Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. They argued, as does David Burkus, that as long as the work is done accurately and on time, it shouldn't matter if you're at your desk for a certain time each day. There is some freshness to this book, though, from the use of real world examples. Some of them are modified from what he thinks. For example, the chapter on outlaw e-mail could be retitled outlaw internal e-mail. If a client is emailing you something important, you'd better be ready to take it. Space alone prohibits me from going into detail about every chapter.

One thing I wish the book had done more of is to show instances where the item in the chapter title was tried, and it didn't work. There is some of this, but there could be more. In the chapter on salaries, he discusses a company called SumAll, which has fixed, but transparent, salaries. You're assigned to a salary level, and there is apparently no negotiation. When I saw that, I thought of Ellen Pao, former CEO at Reddit. Ms Pao came to Reddit after losing a discrimination suit against her former employer, an investment firm. The jury returned the verdict in favor of the firm. Ms Pao then instituted a no negotiation policy for salaries at Reddit. This was your salary, take it or leave it. It was supposed to take the pressure off people who didn't feel comfortable negotiating, which some studies have shown many women are. Ms Pao may still have been reeling from her loss in court. At any rate, the policy was universally panned, not just at Reddit, but on other social media and the regular media. It probably led to her exit from Reddit. I believe the policy has since been rescinded. I'm not sure if salaries at Reddit were disclosed within the company or not. This would have been a good example for the book.

The author does emphasize flexibility. There is no one size fits all solution. For example, I'm a CPA who does taxes. The policy on vacations would have to be modified. January 1-April 15, no extended vacations other than medical or death in the family. The rest of the year, the schedule is much more flexible. That's what I like about this book. It doesn't attempt to impose a solution. it suggests a solution, and leaves it to the individual companies to implement it, realizing that it may not work for everyone. All in all, a good book.

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