Saturday, May 30, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Normal by Graeme Cameron


"The truth is I hurt people. It's what I do. It's all I do. It's all I've ever done."

He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving you into the lane ahead of him.

What you don't know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he's carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he's holding there against her will—one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.

This is how it's been for a long time. It's normal... and it works. Perfectly.

Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room... the others. He doesn't need any of them anymore. He needs only her. But just as he decides to go straight, the police start to close in. He might be able to cover his tracks, except for one small problem—he still has someone trapped in his garage.

Discovering his humanity couldn't have come at a worse time.

Hardcover, 300 pages
Published March 31st 2015 by Mira (first published January 1st 2015)
ISBN 0778318508 (ISBN13: 9780778318507)

My Thoughts
Oh, and I knew three more things. I knew that her last hot meal was lasagna, her cause of death was a ruptured aorta and her tongue tasted of sugar and spice.
This story follows a cannibalistic serial killer who likes to keep women in his dungeon until he decides to kill them, and often eat them as well. The story doesn't get too much into his way of life. It seems he's been doing this for awhile when the story picks up, but it covers a brief period of time.

I just couldn't really get into this story. It seemed to move too fast, with the characters emotions and infatuation escalating too quickly. The character development was really rather superficial, and I just didn't understand them.

The story wasn't very believable, the characters didn't feel authentic, and when it was all over I was mostly left just scratching my head and wondering what just happened?

Meh. It was okay, but it didn't live up to my expectations.

Buy Now:
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My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

REVIEW: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery


In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus' surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature: and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

Sy Montgomery's popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, "Deep Intellect"; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?

The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.

Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: May 12th 2015 by Atria Books
ISBN 1451697716 (ISBN13: 9781451697711

About the Author

Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed by an orangutan in Borneo. She is the author of 13 award-winning books, including her national best-selling memoir, The Good Good Pig. Montgomery lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.  


My Thoughts
On a rare, warm day in mid-March, when the snow was melting into mud in New Hampshire, I traveled to Boston, where everyone was strolling along the harbor or sitting on benches licking ice cream cones. 
I think probably just about every person who came in contact with me while I was reading this book, and for weeks after, heard about it from me. That's how much it affected me!

This book follows the author's experiences with the New England Aquarium and her time getting to know octopuses, both wild and tame. As the title would indicate, the book showcases the octopus, with its intelligence and complexity and depth. However it also includes many of the other inhabitants of the aquarium, like starfish, anemones, lobster and fish of many varieties.

The author first wrote about the octopus Athena in her piece “Deep Intellect” in Orion magazine in 2011, and this book introduces us not only to Athena, but also to Octavia, Kali and Karma, and their various personalities.

Like the author, I learned that I've "been using the incorrect plural of octopus all these years..."
I knew little about octopuses-- not even that the scientifically correct plural is not octopi, as I had always believed (it turns out you can’t put a Latin ending-- i -- on a word derived from Greek, such as octopus).
And I learned that the power of an octopus is mindblowing…
A giant octopus-- the largest of the world’s 250 or so octopus species-- can easily overpower a person. Just one of a big male’s three-inch-diameter suckers can lift 30 pounds, and a giant Pacific octopus has 1600 of them. An octopus bite can inject a neurotoxic venom as well as saliva that has the ability to dissolve flesh.
Octopus are viewed as frightening enigmas, or even as ugly and disgusting creatures, but the author helps the reader to see their beauty. At one point, she writes of a time that she was standing with the aquarium’s other visitors and observing the octopus Octavia. Some teenage girls were disparaging the aging octopus absorbed in the care of her eggs, and the author engaged the girls through education about Octavia’s anatomy and behavior, but then there was a moment that the girls could identify with, and eventually the girls’ attitudes toward Octavia turned around.
They don’t want to hear how Octavia is different from us. They want to know how we’re the same.
My final word: The author successfully shows that octopuses are so much more than what we typically think. Their behavior is sometimes reminiscent of a pet dog, seeking human interaction and their tactile natures touching and tasting their human companions. The author succeeded in affecting me, and not only making me recommit to never eating octopus or their cousin the squid, but it made me begin to doubt my ability to continue to eat seafood at all. The consciousness of even fish like grouper is phenomenal and at times unsettling. Tender and amusing stories of starfish and anemones had me shaking my head in amazement. I adored this book, and it left me yearning to make the acquaintance of an octopus, envious of others who have been so blessed.

Buy Now:
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My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Chowderland by Brooke Dojny


Creamy Clam Chowder. Portuguese Caldo Verde Chowder. Northwest Salmon Chowder with Leeks and Peas. Double Corn Summer Chowder. Brooke Dojny offers 57 recipes for chowders of all kinds -- some made with seafood, some with meat, and some with just veggies -- plus side dishes, salads, and desserts to round out the menu. Whether you’re looking for a hearty meal on a cozy winter evening or a fresh gumbo perfect for a summer lunch, you’ll turn to this delicious collection again and again!

Hardcover, 144 pages
Expected publication: June 2nd 2015 by Storey Publishing, LLC (first published May 5th 2015)
ISBN 1612123759 (ISBN13: 9781612123752)

My Thoughts

I haven't historically been a big chowder fan. I'm not even sure whether I've ever had clam chowder. I know, I know. What kind of American has never even tried clam chowder??

But I'm a pesctarian. That means I eat a lot of fish and seafood, along with vegetarian. And how can you be pescatarian and not eat chowder? Even if I don't want to eat clam chowder, there are other kinds of chowder. Right?

Ummmm...what other kinds of chowder is there? Well, I knew about fish chowder, and then there's...




Okay. I guess I really do need this book!

Well, I can tell you that the cover photo looks delicious! Upon opening this book, I found that it is really visually appealing. I liked the Table of Contents, which looks like an old hand-drawn map.

The author starts with a brief history of chowder, typical ingredients and what makes chowder "chowder". The next chapter has some typical chowder-type recipes. There are clear chowders, milky white chowders, red chowders. Next come seafood stews and bisque. Then tasty accompanying breads, salads and desserts.

I made the Smoked Fish and Corn Chowder for Floyd recipe from the book. I used smoked salmon rather than mackerel or trout as suggested in the recipe, and one or two other minor tweaks or substitutions. The salmon created a greasy orange film in the chowder, so it didn't look like a creamy white chowder, but ohhhhhh the flavor! It was pretty good the first day, but the second and third days? Oh so good! Red potatoes and corn with cream and smoked salmon. Yum!

I wanted to try the Crusty Skillet Cornbread as well, but realized I didn't have any cornmeal on hand. *sigh*

My final word: Full of beautiful photos and chock full of flavor-packed chowder recipes, this book is for chowder-lovers and novices alike. There are a number of traditional clam chowders as well as lots of fish and seafood, chicken and veggies. There is even a "Day-After-Thanksgiving Chowder"! If your idea of a deliciously comforting meal is centered around a steaming pot of chowder, then this book is for you!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Bone Tree by Greg Iles


Greg Iles continues the electrifying story begun in his smash New York Times bestseller Natchez Burning in this highly anticipated second installment of an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.

Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancee, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi's most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn't the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police's Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage--who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him--is either to make a devil's bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles' downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as "the bone tree."

The Bone Tree is an explosive, action-packed thriller full of twisting intrigue and deadly secrets, a tale that explores the conflicts and casualties that result when the darkest truths of American history come to light. It puts us inside the skin of a noble man who has always fought for justice--now finally pushed beyond his limits.

Just how far will Penn Cage, the hero we thought we knew, go to protect those he loves?

Hardcover, 816 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by William Morrow & Company (first published April 9th 2015)
ISBN 0062311115 (ISBN13: 9780062311115)

About the Author

Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960. He grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. He was active in a band called "Frankly Scarlet", but quit after realizing that the touring lifestyle was not conducive with his family life. Once no longer busy with the band, he turned his attention to writing.

Greg's novels have been translated into various languages and are published in more than 20 countries. In addition to his popular novels, he wrote the original script for the movie 24 Hours (later renamed Trapped).

When not writing, Greg spends some of his time playing music. He's a member of "The Rock Bottom Remainders", which includes other authors (Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and James McBride).

Greg still lives in Natchez, Mississippi, with his wife and two children.

Check out the author's website
Follow the author on Twitter 
Like the author on Facebook

My Thoughts
Special Agent John Kaiser stood at the window of the FBI's "tactical room" in the Hampton Hotel and stared at the lights of Natchez twinkling high over the dark tide of the Mississippi.
This book is a continuation of the Penn Cage series. I was introduced to this series, and to the author, with his last book Natchez Burning, the fourth in the series.

In The Bone Tree, former attorney and current mayor of Natchez Penn Cage continues his battle for justice, and struggles to keep his family safe while going head-to-head with the Double Eagles, an off-shoot of the KKK. Penn and his fiance Caitlin know things about the Double Eagles-- crimes they have committed over the decades, including rape, kidnapping, torture and murder-- and the Double Eagles will go to any extreme to prevent them from bringing their deeds to light.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I have not yet finished this book. It is a very long book, and I am currently preparing for a trip (in fact I'll be in the air when this review posts). So I just simply haven't had time, and will be taking the book with me to finish on my trip.

However I became a fan of the author with his last book, and nothing has changed this time around. His writing is so effortless, his characters well developed. His transitions between characters flows easily. There is action and drama to keep you reading.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Friday, April 24th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, April 27th: Anita Loves Books
Wednesday, April 29th: Joyfully Retired
Thursday, April 30th: Books That Hook
Tuesday, May 5th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Wednesday, May 6th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, May 7th: A Bookworm’s World
Monday, May 11th: Lit and Life
Tuesday, May 12th: Always With a Book
Wednesday, May 13th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
TBD: My Bookshelf

My final word: After Natchez Burning, and now The Bone Tree, I'll read anything by Greg Iles! He holds my interest every moment-- and that isn't an easy thing to do! He is one of the few authors who can make me eager to read an 800 page novel! If you like crime dramas, historical fiction centered around the civil rights era, and books about the deep south, dive into this one with both feet. Greg Iles knows how to weave a great yarn!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.