Book Review: The A List

The A List
by J.A. Jance

Review:

J.A. Jance has some entertaining books out there. This one is a good addition to the collection. It is suspenseful and follows a storyline that is all tied up neatly by the end.

The story follows the deeds of a Dr. Edward Gilchrist, who was a popular doctor providing artificial insemination procedures in the L.A. area before the days of DNA tests. He was also somewhat cheap and saved money by being the sperm donor for his clinic, which meant that he ended up with many offspring. Unfortunately for those offspring, he had a genetic kidney problem passed down from his father. Some of the offspring inherited that defect. This led the parents to come looking for medical history for their supposed “donor” which the doctor could not provide them. He destroyed all the falsified files and tried to cover his tracks. That included murdering his ex, which is what landed him in prison.

He was not a nice character and was quite vengeful, blaming others for his downfall. He decided he would, with the help of others, get even by murdering all the people he assumed were responsible for his demise. He gets help from his wealthy mother, who has no other children and just wants to help her only child (a very misguided woman), and a fellow inmate who runs a criminal enterprise from inside the prison. Unfortunately for Ali Reynolds, she is on his list. Will she figure it out in time?

I found the story to have plenty of suspense and intrigue. The plot goes back and forth through time to tell the story from back in the early days, through 2017. The reader learns the entire story through a look at each character’s involvement in the whole picture. There are some interesting things going on in Ali’s workplace with an AI (artificial intelligence) too, and that was probably the highlight of the book for me. I won’t give spoilers, but I hope to see more of the AI character in future novels from this author. I think that is a unique and interesting angle for a novel and it has some great possibilities.

If you haven’t read any novels by J.A. Jance, what are you waiting for? The writing is top-notch and the stories are intriguing and interesting. Jance is one of the best suspense writers out there and this novel continues that tradition. I recommend it highly.

 

alisy

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Book Review: Family Foraging

Family Foraging
by David Hamilton

Review:

Family Foraging is an interesting book designed to encourage families to get outdoors together and forage for edible plants. It is clearly written and has good advice on how to make sure of your identification. It would make an excellent addition to any family bookshelf.

I love books about edible and useful plants and this one is no exception. It covers plants found both in the UK and the USA, so it can be used on either continent. I did wish that it had more photos included and covered more species. But it’s a great book to get you started on your foraging journey. You can learn more after you master the skills in this book.

I always advise that you make thoroughly certain of your identification before trying any wild plants. Some out there do have poisonous look-alikes, as indicated in this book. The author does a good job of pointing this out. If there is one change I’d wish for in this book it would be a section showing the poisonous plants you are likely to find, so that you can avoid them.

If you stick with the safer plants, which are easier to identify and are less likely to have poisonous look-alikes, you should have tons of fun out there foraging as a family. That’s what I like about this book – that it emphasizes those types of plants. It’s a good way to get outdoors together and learn more about nature. If you want to get your kids away from screens and indoor games, take them outside and try foraging. Take this book with you. You will be glad you did. It’s even got recipes that look absolutely delicious!

 

Book Review: The End of Ice

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The End of Ice
by Dahr Jamail

Review:

 

Climate disruption. That’s the word used by journalist Dahr Jamail in the new book, The End of Ice. This book should be required reading for everyone who lives on planet Earth.

Read this book, but do so in short sessions to give yourself time to digest what you’ve just read. You will want to think deeply about it. It’s that moving. We have done some serious damage to our planet and our climate is suffering. It makes for very emotionally taxing reading, but it is so important that the word gets out. I found myself sobbing with heartbreak after some chapters. The writing is that good. The story told is that sad.

Jamail offers numerous statistics to back up the story of how the ice is melting, the oceans warming, the water rising, the coral reefs dying and more. It is incredibly disturbing to realize that we are at a point where we may not be able to reverse the damage and the consequences for survival of the human race are severe. Jamail interviews countless people who live or work on the front lines of this crisis. Their stories share a common theme and message, one that we desperately need to hear. The interviewees are scientists, fishermen, people in the tourism industry, city planners, and more. People who have seen firsthand how the disruption of the climate is wreaking havoc on the planet we call home.

Our ecosystems are in peril. Glaciers are melting. Permafrost is disappearing. And the warming of the oceans and melting of the ice could lead to a catastrophic and sudden release of large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. We are facing the end of Earth as we know it. What will be left for our children and grandchildren?

I cannot recommend this book enough. Read it and take action to try to slow the destruction of our planet. The need to make changes is urgent and we are the generation who needs to do it. Yes, we can grieve for what has been lost, but we need to turn that into action as well. To try to save what’s left.

 

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Book Review: Surviving the City

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Surviving the City
by Tasha Spillett (Author), Natasha Donovan (Illustrator)

Review:

Surviving the City is an interesting graphic novel that comes with a message. The story focuses around two friends, Dez and Miikwan, who are First Nations girls. They are in school together and the best of friends. Dez lives with her grandmother.

The two girls are inseparable. So, when Dez fails to show up for school, Miikwan is worried. Dez had been given some bad news – that her grandmother was getting sicker and that Dez might have to go live in a group home. Miikwan worries because she thinks that Dez could have disappeared, as have other indigenous women and girls, including her own mother. Many of them turn up murdered.

This is a book that addresses a real-life issue that indigenous women and girls face daily. There is an epidemic of missing women and girls and you see some indications of that in the book. Everywhere the girls go, there are people who have shadowy ghost figures following them, the evil spirits. People watch them, and you know that not everyone has good intentions toward them. The girls are not really safe anywhere, as is graphically portrayed with very well-done artwork. There are threats everywhere, even from people who they should be able to trust. This is the reality that they face daily. This novel brings home that message so well. It brings attention to a very real issue while presenting characters in a situation that anyone of their age might find themselves in.

The novel also shows bright spots. The center where the girls can go to connect with others of their culture. The people that join together to march in protest of all the missing women who have not been found. There are places the girls can go to feel safe and to be with like-minded people. That is a message that many young people should hear.

This novel would make a great addition to a classroom reading or social studies program. There are many opportunities for lessons and class discussions that center around the story in the book and the larger issues it represents. This could be an important book to show students this reality. The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is, sadly, not going away. We need to work on finding the missing ones. This book is great for raising awareness of this issue. There are other lessons here as well. The fact that Dez might be removed from her home, living with a blood relative, and placed in a group home, shows that government interference in the lives of indigenous people is still an ongoing issue. These are things that are not at the forefront of the knowledge or experience of the general public. If people learned of these things going on, maybe they could be changed. For those reasons, I think this, and books like it, are so important to get out there.

It is written in an easy-to-read graphic format. The illustrations are top-notch. The graphics contribute much to the storyline. I find graphic novels are an interesting art form. The words and illustrations work together to bring a story to life in ways that plain text cannot. This one was very well done and I recommend it highly, not only for its message, but for the excellent artwork as well.

 

 

Book Review: My Life in a Cat House

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My Life in a Cat House is highly entertaining reading for any cat lover! Gwen Cooper has done it again with these funny and heartwarming tales of her feline family. In these pages, you will find all your favorite furry friends: Scarlett, Vashti, Homer, Clayton and Fanny.

Any fan of Gwen Cooper’s books knows that she has a knack for finding the most amusing anecdotes about her cats. And, they sure get into some interesting adventures! This collection of short stories is chock full of moments that will make you laugh out loud at the feline antics. From hilarious toy fetching sessions, to a crazy cross-town trip to a new vet while juggling three carriers full of angry felines, you will find amusement in droves.

As any pet parent can tell you, our pets each have their own personality and they communicate with us in different ways. Gwen Cooper is an observant pet parent and an excellent writer. She combines those skills to bring us readers some very fun tales. Told in short story format, each tale features one of the five cats and their humans. You won’t find this collection of stories elsewhere. If you have read any of this author’s previous books, you know the good quality read in store for you. I highly recommend this book. I give it four paws of approval.

 

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Book Review: Monte Rio

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Monte Rio

By Mark Joseph

Review:

Monte Rio, California, is home to the famous Bohemian Grove. The Bohemian Grove is a huge grove of redwoods owned by the Bohemian Club, a men’s club in San Francisco. This is not just any club though; the men making up the membership rolls are some of the most powerful in the world. There are political leaders, industry leaders, entertainers, and more. It is a given that all are super rich. This is their version of summer camp, the world’s biggest party for rich men. Naturally, such an exclusive group would be protected by the best security money can buy.

The Russian River Society of Pirates and Thieves is a group of four guys from the little town whose entertainment during the 18-day encampment involves spying on the wealthy men at the grove, who they call the Bohos. They don’t do this for any nefarious purpose. They just do it for fun and because they can. If a Boho leaves the campgrounds to go visit a local brothel, they follow him. They use very sophisticated radio equipment to listen to the security patrols in the Grove and to learn who is arriving and departing. They know more about the Grove than the security teams themselves. So, it’s not surprising that the FBI decides to recruit the Russian River Society of Pirates and Thieves to put Grove security to the test.

FBI agents Teddy Swan and Paul Kruger pay a visit to the Pirates and gain their assistance. So, when the president of Belarus, Boris Dimitriov, arrives, the group spies on him just like they normally do. But little do they know that a group of Russians is angry at Boris over a pipeline deal. They have recruited a terrorist group to get their revenge on Boris while he is at the Grove. Will the Pirates be able to help in time to stop the plot?

The characters are really great and provide seriousness as well as funny moments. The neighbor with one arm who keeps complaining that people are trespassing on his land is a good example. The Pirates themselves are an eccentric mix of characters. The financial guy for the group, Albert Flowers, is a tech genius who retired with $8 million dollars, which was still not enough to get him invited to the Boho’s club! He is the one who purchased all the high-tech gear that Jeremy uses. Butler Rhodes is an older veteran who was a sniper in Vietnam. The radio geek is Jeremy Steadman, who can find just about any radio transmission nearby and snoop on it with his gear. Phillip Mercier is the youngest member and is a math teacher. He helps out the radio guy by using his high-tech computer gear and databases to look up information.

I loved the scene where they dress up in costumes and storm the beach at the Grove. Hilarious! Then, there is the more serious subplot involving the terrorists. It details how they come into the country and arrive at the Grove and how they remain hidden. It is plausible and believable.

The local sheriff is a corrupt guy and there is a whole subplot involving him. He and his deputies are mysteriously absent during the attack. Was this part of the plan, one wonders? It is not indicated that it was part of it, but the reader can use their imagination and think that maybe the terrorists plotted the sheriff’s rather convenient downfall to coincide with their attack.

This was a very entertaining novel and quite exciting ending too. Not what you would expect to happen. I enjoyed learning about the mysterious Bohemian Grove. It’s also a look at the local culture, where people protest outside the gates and local business owners cater to the rich guys and make a lot of profit during their visit. Then, there are all the eccentric characters who populate the peripheries of the story. All in all a very entertaining and enjoyable read. I recommend it!

 

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Book Review: Homer and the Holiday Miracle

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Homer and the Holiday Miracle is a short story about a cat named Homer. He’s a 15-year-old rescue cat who has no eyes, due to having lost them to an infection when he was three weeks old. That hasn’t stopped Homer though! His blindness doesn’t seem to impair this spunky cat one bit! When he falls sick and is taken to the vet, his owner, Gwen, is told that his blood test numbers are “incompatible with life” and that he doesn’t have long to live. Homer proves them all wrong though! His holiday miracle will have you alternately cheering and crying. If you haven’t read any of her other books, Gwen Cooper has written about Homer previously in Homer’s Odyssey, where you can learn more about this amazing little cat! She has several other cat books, and I recommend them all. They all make great reading for cat lovers. If you are a cat lover looking for a short and uplifting story for the holidays, get Homer and the Holiday Miracle!

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