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review 2017-04-24 02:02
The Promise of Pierson Orchard
The Promise of Pierson Orchard - Kate Brandes
Jack's family life began crumbling early in his childhood.  When Jack and his brother Wade were four and five years old, Jack's mother walked out on the family due to severe depression.  Later in his youth, their father died in a hunting accident.  Not long after that, Wade disappears. Jack is left to run their apple orchard by himself.  Jack marries a neighbor, LeeAnn and after eight years of infertility, their marriage falls apart.  Then, Wade returns along with his new job at Green Energy with hopes to reconcile his past and help out the town.  Wade is selling land leases for Green Energy to frack for natural gas in the abundant shale deposits of his hometown of Minden, Pennsylvania.  The quick money is a big draw for many of the families and businesses who have seen their town dwindle since the coal companies left.  However, Jack is worried about the effects of fracking on the land, his orchard and LeeAnn's organic apple trees.  He makes the decision to call in his mother, Stella, now an acclaimed environmental lawyer to get some perspective on the issue.  With Wade, Jack and Stella all back together there will be more be more explosions than just the hydraulic fracturing.
 
As an environmental scientist, I appreciate pertinent environmental issues featured in contemporary fiction. The Promise of Pierson Orchard expertly incorporates the slowly leaking and infiltrating toxins of the hydraulic fracturing with the disassembling relationships within Jack's family.  The characters are definitely the focus of the story.  The writing switching between the point-of-view of Jack, Wade, LeeAnn and Stella giving an intimate look into each character's back story and reasoning, making it easy to see everyone's beliefs and why they were convinced they were doing the right thing.  The shorter chapters also made for quick reading and a build of suspense as secrets were revealed.  I was most impressed with the author's ability to come up with a compromise solution for the town and the hydraulic fracturing.  While the dangers of fracking and its many consequences are highlighted, Stella's character is able to come up with a solution that includes fracking done a better way in order to help the community and family that she left behind.  With a heart-pounding and surprising ending, The Promise of Pierson Orchard provides an engaging and thoughtful read.
 
This book was provided for free in return for an honest review. 

 

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review 2017-03-11 21:40
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below - Donald G. Firesmith

Dr. Jack Oswald is a geologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.  Just before classes are ready to begin for the semester, Jack receives an urgent call from Kevin Kowalski who works for ExxonMobil drilling oil.  There have been a series of mysterious holes opening up around the drilling fields that are affecting operations.  The holes are deep and perfectly cylindrical and just plain strange.  Jack has been hired to investigate; he assembles his team consisting of his wife, Dr. Angela Menendez, a climatologist, two of his grad students Mark and Jill Starr, a wildlife biologist Bill Henderson and is cajoled into taking along AIleen O'Shannon, a photojournalist.  When the team arrives in Deadhorse, they immediately get to work exploring the holes.  However, upon closer examination of the holes, no explanation for the holes can be found.  Then, disaster strikes and all hell is literally unleashed.  Now, the research team turns instead to survival and perhaps sending the demons back to where they belong. 

 
This was a fast-paced and short read that managed to combine climate science and supernatural horror in an effective way.  The book is written from Jack's point of view as a memoir of a survivor the attacks.  The first part of the story is a bit of an info dump as Jack's explains what he does, describes the fieldwork and his team's hypotheses about the holes. As a scientist myself, I enjoyed reading about permafrost and pingos and liked that climate science is featured in a book.  The story quickly picks up as hell breaks out on Earth.  One character has a large surprise up their sleeve that may help the team out of the mess if they can accept their new reality.  The different demons were all very interesting and I wish Bill could have continued his post mortem of the Hellhound.  Since this is a memoir of events, there is not much characterization, but more focus on events.  The story ends on quite a cliffhanger and with a sneak peek of book two at the end, I will definitely want to read on. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2017-02-27 01:49
The Heatstroke Line
The Heatstroke Line: A Cli-Fi Novel - Edward L Rubin

Dr. Daniel Danten is an entomologist in Mountain America.  In the future, climate change has hit hard and most of what was once the United States is now far too warm for humans to live and thrive in; they are below the heatstroke line.  Countries in the northern latitudes, such as Canada, are now in power are.  Dan studies one of the bugs that has become a major problem below the heatstroke line, biter bugs- giant insects that have evolved a taste for animal flesh, including humans. Until recently, Dan has been happy at his job that supports his wife, a food inspector, and three children.  Now, Dan feels the need to do some serious research into controlling the biter bugs instead of simply studying their evolution.  When he asks the government about this line of research, Dan is surprised at how quickly they agree.  However, when Dan is scheduled to travel to the Confederacies for his research, tragedy strikes.  Dan and his colleagues are kidnapped for his knowledge of the biter bugs and  Dan is forced to work on an alternate plan for the biter bugs in order to help the Confederacies. 

 
I have always been interested in books that deal with the very real and present issue of climate change.  The Heatstroke Line takes on this issue headfirst.  The world that Rubin has built after the climate has changed is realistic and interesting.  I was intrigued to explore the new world where the USA was no longer a world power due to wars over temperate and arable land; however humans persisted, maybe not in as high numbers, but persisted.  Among other important changes in the way people live, food production, cooling, and the change in landscape after the climate warmed, the evolution of insects was one of the main issues, and a dangerous one.  As an environmental scientist, this peaked my interest since human interaction with insects will definitely be an issue with climate change.  I enjoyed reading about Dr. Danten's studies and plans for the biter bugs; however, there was a lot of science, research and entomology included, which  might be heavy for some readers. The excitement did ramp up when Dan was kidnapped, conspiracy, political intrigue and survival were paired with the contrast of Dan's residence with a family in the Confederacies where he begins to care for their daughters.  Overall, a very interesting and science driven look at a possible future if our habits do not change. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2016-12-27 21:31
Bees on the Roof
BEES ON THE ROOF - Robbie Shell

Sam and his dad Nick have recently moved to New York City. Sam’s dad has taken the job of head pastry chef at a fancy restaurant, the Bella Vista in The Meadows Hotel.  With the job comes an apartment on the top floor.  Sam is lucky enough to attend the Manhattan School for Science and with the start of the winter semester, Sam and his friends Ella, Matt and Tristan must think of a theme for their seventh grade science project.  This year there is an added bonus where the winning team will go to Washington D.C., so the team has to think of something good.  With the help of a newspaper article about colony collapse disorder and the news that the Bella Vista may soon be out of business, Sam comes up with an idea that will be great for his team and hopefully help his dad- bees!  The Bee team proposes the idea to set up hives on the roof of the hotel and study the bees, with the extra honey going to the Bella Vista kitchen.  However, The Bee Team will be up against some stiff competition and will have to overcome many obstacles taking care of live bees.

 

This is a wonderful middle-grade environmental fiction novel that I know I would have enjoyed reading just as much in middle school as I did now.  With a focus on colony collapse disorder within honeybee hives, Bees on the Roof brings a current and relevant issue to middle grade readers.  With the seventh-grade science project that the team completes, kids are encouraged that they can be influential helpful within the scientific community.  There was a lot of great factual information on bees in general, the problems they are facing, Colony Collapse Disorder and how to set up and maintain a hive.  I enjoyed that common issues were brought up including cost, stings and potential hive failure.  Each of the characters- Sam, Matt, Ella and Tristan are relatable and is going through their own personal issues; the team must overcome a budding romance, cheating, family issues and medical issues while working on their project.  It was great to see each character have a different scientific interest as well whether it is engineering, computer science, math or biology and how they made all their specialties work together.  My only complaints were that the romance was a little heavy for an environmental fiction book taking place in seventh grade, it didn’t interfere too much, but if I was a seventh-grader reading this I may have felt a little behind the curve; also, I didn’t like the way the cheating scandal was handled, although it worked out fine in the end.

 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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review 2015-11-07 00:09
A Sandy Grave
A Sandy Grave - Donna M. McDine

Friends, Leah, Nicole and Hayley are looking forward to their beach vacation.  When they arrive, they find an unappealing surprise.  A whale has washed up on the shore and the police are investigating!  Someone has poached teeth from the whale.  When the girls notice some men acting strange, they decide to act.  

This is a great story for middle readers.  It brings to light the  important issue of poaching that isn't usually discussed with kids.  The writing is simple but exciting, helping kids dig into the issue.  The characters in the story are easy to relate to and go through the process to ultimately make the right decisions and bring the poachers the attention of the authorities. With a great message and great characters, A Sandy Grave makes an exciting and educational story.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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