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review 2017-06-17 04:38
Lost Boy by Christina Henry
Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook - Christina Henry

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was a lot of fun. I am not really someone who reads a lot of fairy tale retellings but the idea of this one really appealed to me. I really don't know a whole lot about the original Peter Pan story besides what I know from Disney which was probably one of the things that made me want to pick this book up. It did start out a bit slow for me and I was able to set it aside but once I really got going, I didn't want to put it down. This was really a great read.

I have a weakness for villains but Jamie really doesn't feel like a villain in this story. I really enjoyed seeing Peter Pan, the island, and the other boys from Jamie's point of view. Jamie was the first boy that Peter brought to the island and he is the favorite. He takes care of the others and keeps things in line. For a boy that will never grow up he is really very mature.

Peter wasn't the lovable innocent child that I know from the Disney movie. Not at all. Peter was cunning and thought only of himself. He brings boys to the island so that he will forever have playmates and he wants them all to love him. That doesn't mean that he cares about them all that much because if they die or get hurt he can just go and get more boys. Peter wants things the way that he wants them and he has all of the power on the island so the boys follow his lead.

The story had a lot of exciting moments. I was happy to see the things that I remember from my limited knowledge of Peter Pan including the pirates, the tree, and mermaids. I was also thrilled to see a few surprises along the way. This was definitely not a Disney movie and some of the scenes were actually quite violent. There were plenty of characters to like and a few to hate. Once the book hit the mid-point the action really didn't let up until the final page.

I would recommend this book to others. I thought it was a really well done story with great characters. This is the first book by Christina Henry that I have read but I hope to read more in the future.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
I don't really know much about the Peter Pan story besides what Disney has shown me. I must say that I really did enjoy seeing this other side of Jamie and Peter. I will have to check out some of Christina Henry's other books.

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review 2017-06-10 18:44
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story - Douglas Preston

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world's densest jungle.

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.

Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, The Lost City of the Monkey God is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century.

 
**********
 
As a longtime fan of the Pendergast series that Douglas Preston writes together with Lincoln Child was I curious to read this non-fiction book about a lost city. Personally, I find mysteries likes this very intriguing. I mean a lost city that is mentioned in old documents, but no one has found? What's not to like? And, what makes this book so fantastic is that Douglas Preston himself was part of the expedition to what could be White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. A place where no one has been for centuries, a place with a lot of deadly creatures like the deadly fer-de-lance, one of the most deadly snakes on the planet.
 
The Lost City of the Monkey God captivated me from the beginning, Preston has written a well-researched book, which gives the reader both the historical background as well as the impressions from the expedition. I always love books that are entertaining and learning as well, and Preston has managed that. The only thing I found a bit dreary was the technical descriptions of the equipment that they used to pinpoint the city, but I got the gist and that was enough for me. I'm just not that interested in technical things so stuff like that always makes me a bit bored. But, I fully understand the need for it to be included in the story. Especially since it pissed of archaeologists who thinks that it's cheating to use lidar to find lost cities. I loved that part of the story, how petty some archaeologists were. 
 
As much as I enjoyed reading the historical background must I admit that reading about the expedition, how they were the first ones there were very thrilling. I could easily picture the scenery and I found the discovery of the city and artifacts fascinating. Although I'm not sure I would want to travel there with all the bugs and deadly snakes.
 
The Lost City of the Monkey God was a truly great book. I loved learning more about the history of Honduras and it made me sad to think how the Europeans arrival pretty much killed off most of the natives all over America thanks to the sickness they brought with them.
 
I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DOUGLAS PRESTON worked as a writer and editor for the American Museum of Natural History and taught writing at Princeton University. He has written for The New Yorker, Natural History, National Geographic, Harper's, Smithsonian, and The Atlantic. The author of several acclaimed nonfiction books--including the bestseller The Monster of Florence--Preston is also the co-author with Lincoln Child of the bestselling series of novels featuring FBI agent Pendergast.

WEBSITE: http://www.prestonchild.com

FACEBOOK: http://facebook.com/PrestonandChild
 

EARLY PRAISE

"A story that moves from thrilling to sobering, fascinating to downright scary-trademark Preston, in other words, and another winner.” —Kirkus, starred review

"Replete with informative archaeology lessons and colorful anecdotes about the challenges Elkins' crew faced during the expedition, including torrential rains and encounters with deadly snakes, Preston's uncommon travelogue is as captivating as any of his more fanciful fictional thrillers.” —Booklist

"For anyone who dreams of lost times and places--and who doesn't?--this is the book. Revelatory, chilling, creepy, and alive with deadly snakes and insects bearing incurable disease, it's high adventure at its best, and all true.” — Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Dead Wake and The Devil in the White City

"What reader could resist a new book by Douglas Preston called THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD? Not this reader. Preston's book offers rewards for both the mystery fan and the nonfiction aficionado. THE LOST CITY is addictive-fast-paced and riveting, but it's also important. We mustn't repeat the cataclysmic mistakes of the past. Ironically-as THE LOST CITY illustrates-that's exactly what our short-sighted civilization is doing right now.” —James Patterson

"If you're going to explore a lost city-in this case one that vultures, poisonous snakes, sand flies, and mudholes have protected for 500 years-you really only want to do it with Douglas Preston. A tale of bravado, chicanery, and impossible dreams, arresting at every turn, no less so in its unexpected, pulse-racing coda.” —David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z

"Douglas Preston is one of the most adventurous figures in American letters today. Inured to personal danger, braving venomous snakes and lethal pathogens, he somehow gets it all--the science, the history, the intrigues, the obsessive characters, the electric moment of discovery, and the haunted cries of a once-powerful civilization. Preston's marvelous story is made all the more potent by the astonishing fact that, from beginning to end, it happens to be true.” —Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of In the Kingdom of Ice

"A great true adventure, filled with danger, close calls, better-than-Hollywood characters, and a lost world that reaches through time and into everyone's future. One of the best nonfiction books I've read.” — Robert Kurson, New York Timesbestselling author of Shadow Divers and Pirate Hunters

"The Lost City of the Monkey God is a throwback to the golden age of adventure archaeology, the thrilling true story of a group of explorers penetrating one of the toughest jungles on earth in search of a lost city...and finding it. Preston is a terrific writer of both non-fiction books and bestselling novels, and makes you feel the dark heart of this lost Honduran wilderness.” —John Sandford, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Prey series of novels
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review 2017-06-09 11:52
Review: Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This was a gutwrencher of a book. I could only read it in short spurts because the emotional upheaval was so deep.

 

The novel tells the story of Juliet and Declan, both of whom are dealing with tough losses, both as results of tragic car accidents. Declan lost his younger sister, Juliet lost her mother.

 

 Declan appears to be your typical YA bad boy. Darkly good looking, grumpy yet possibly a lot smarter than everyone thinks he is. He’s sullied by a bad reputation. Whereas Juliet is a typical high school good girl. She has a run in with Declan in the halls one morning and accidentally spills her coffee on him running to class. However, when a teacher comes in a finds him moaning about it and yelling at her, he’s the one who’s carted off to detention.

 

Juliet has been spending a lot of time at the cemetery where her mother is buried and leaves her letters. Declan has community service with the grounds keeper at the same cemetery and one day he finds the unsigned letter Juliet has left her mother. And responds to it. Leading to a letter writing exchange without names. Where both parties explore their grief and guilt over their own losses and start to talk to each other in a way they can’t open up to anyone else.

 

The grief poured into the letters is raw and unflinching, mixing of guilt, anger and responsibility. Juliet and Declan are able to explore feelings they have never admitted to anyone else before, it’s much easier to talk to someone anonymous than admit these feelings their closest friends. The letters eventually become emails.

 

Yet in real life whenever Juliet and Declan have run-ins with each other, it’s unpleasant. They rub each other the wrong way. Yet keep finding themselves running into each other. He helps her out several times. And sometimes some of the things anonymous Declan says in his letters resonate deeply with Juliet, particularly when he talks about how unfair it is that with a bad reputation that wasn’t his fault he’s blamed automatically even when things aren’t his fault. This makes her start to try to open up.

 

Both have tough home situations, Juliet’s dad is trying but kind of absent and checked out. Juliet’s mom was a renowned photographer who was often out of the country in dangerous places. War zones and such. There’s a very hard hitting scene at the front of the book where Juliet’s dad asks her if he can sell her mom’s camera equipment to her mother’s agent, and Juliet falls to pieces. It’s tough to read and absolutely heart breaking.

 

While Declan’s mother is equally passive. His father is in jail after the accident that killed Declan’s sister, and his mom has since  gone through a patch of bad relationships and finally married a snotty man who has taken an instant disliking to Declan (bad reputation at fault again) and automatically assumes the worst. They argue a lot and Declan’s mom just won’t step in to defend her son.

 

Though Declan doesn’t help himself with an equally pissy attitude. Though it’s clear he loves his mom he’s obviously frustrated by her at the same time. His support system comes from his best friend Rev and his family. Who are all awesome.

 

Juliet and Declan keep finding themselves thrown together and start realising who the person they’re writing to might be. Which shocks both of them. But their feelings for each other are growing deeper and deeper despite their equal reluctance to admit the truth and open up to each other for real. Both find themselves dealing with some home truths in their own home lives which shock them to their cores.

 

It’s kind of obvious what’s going to happen in the romance department, but even you the way the story is written makes the reader want to get these two together. (Or it certainly did for me).

 

Beautifully written with some incredible characters. I loved it so much I bought a finished copy as well.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

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text 2017-06-09 05:43
The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan,Joshua Swanson
City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare
A Court of Wings and Ruin - Sarah J. Maas
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

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review 2017-06-03 14:03
A gentle read for those who love books set in Britain, short-stories and Blithe Spirit
The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel - Cecily Ruth Hogan

Thanks to NetGalley and Two Roads for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not sure this is ‘the feel-good novel of the year’ I’d have to agree it is a feel-good novel, although perhaps not for everybody.

The novel tells many stories, although it tells two in more detail, those of Anthony and Laura (later of Laura and her new family) and Eunice and Bomber. Although those stories are separated by forty years, they are parallel in many ways: an older man who puts an advertisement for an assistant, a younger woman —very young in Eunice’s case— who ends up becoming a personal friend of the man and whose life ends up enmeshed and entangled with that of her employer, both men’s work relates to literature (Anthony is a fairly successful writer of short stories and Bomber is a publisher), both males die leaving some sort of legacy to these women (and also asking them to fulfil their final wishes). As we read on, we might suspect that the relationship between these two stories runs deeper than at first appears, but it is not confirmed until very close to the end.

There are other important elements in the novel, which functions also as a collection of short stories, as Anthony, after experiencing a terrible loss, started to collect lost things, cataloguing them and using his study for safe keeping, in an attempt at recovering something he had lost himself. Throughout the novel, there are stories about those objects (written in italics so it is easy to differentiate them to the rest) interspersed with the two main stories. We are told, later in the book, that Anthony used those objects as inspiration for several collections of short stories, but the novel allows for several possible interpretations of what these stories really are. Are they imaginary stories? Are they the real stories behind the objects? If they are imaginary short-stories who has written them? Anthony? Somebody else? Each reader can choose whatever explanation s/he prefers and I’m sure there are more possibilities.

I mentioned the two main stories that frame the novel and the short stories within. Each chapter is told (in the third person) from one of the characters’ point of view (mostly Laura or Eunice) and this is is clearly indicated, as it is the year, because Eunice and Bomber’s story develops from the 1970s up to the current days. We get to know his family and follow his father’s illness (Alzheimer’s) that unfortunately later also afflicts Bomber himself. There are comments on movies of the period; there is the wonderful relationship with Bomber’s parents, the two dogs that share his life and an unrequited and impossible love story. Ah, and Bomber’s sister, Portia, her awful behaviour and her even worse attempts at getting her brother to publish one of her rip-offs of well-known and loved classics, that make for hilarious reading, especially for authors and book lovers. I must confess that, perhaps because their story develops over time and it has none of the paranormal elements added to the other, I particularly warmed to it. I found the depiction of the dementia sufferers (both father and son) touching, humorous and bittersweet, and although we don’t get to know Eunice well (other than through her devotion to Bomber and his life-work), she is a character easy to like and some of her actions make us cheer her on.

Laura’s story is that of somebody lost, perfectly in keeping with Anthony’s life mission. She made some questionable decisions when she was younger, married too young and her knight in shining armour turned up to be anything but. She is very insecure and full of self-doubt and that makes her a less likeable character as she pushes people away rather than risk being rejected, but she is also the one who has to change more and work harder to get out of her shell. Sunshine, a young neighbour, Down’s syndrome, also shares her point of view with the reader at times and becomes a member of the family, although she has her own too. She is less hindered by concern about what others’ might think, or what is right and wrong, and she has a special connection (not sure ‘power’ is the right word) with the objects and with the paranormal elements that later appear in the novel. Fred, the gardener, is the love interest, handsome and kind, but he seems to be there to provide the romance and second chance more than anything else, and he is not very well developed.

I’ve mentioned the paranormal elements. There is a ghost in the house and that takes up a fair amount of the book as Laura keeps trying to work out how to make things right. I am not sure this added much to the story but references to Blithe Spirit (that is being performed by an amateur theatrical group in the neighbourhood) put an emphasis on the effect the writer might have been aiming for (each reader can decide how well it works for them).

This is a well-written novel, with effective descriptions of objects, locations and people. There are elements of chick-lit (the descriptions of Laura’s disastrous date, her chats with her friend…), romantic touches, some elements of mystery, plenty of loss, death and second chances, a fair bit about literature… The whole feeling of the story is somewhat old-fashioned (and very British. I’ve lost count of how many ‘lovely cups of tea’ are prepared and drunk during the novel, and although that is partly in jest, yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, foreshadowing and signposting, perhaps unnecessary in this kind of story). Some of the references, including songs and films, will be lost on the younger generations. Everything is fairly gentle; even the bad characters (Portia) are only moderately nasty and they are the object of fun rather than being truly evil. There are gossip and misunderstandings but nothing really awful happens. No gore details, no huge surprises, no hot sex (I think you’ll have to buy Portia’s stories of Hotter Potter for that), and even technology only appears by the backdoor (people send text messages and a laptop and a website  appear towards the end, but this is not a book where characters follow mother trends).

Funnily enough, a publisher (rival of Anthony) sums up what the books he publishes should be like, thus:

I know what normal, decent people like, and that’s good, straightforward stories with a happy ending where the baddies get their comeuppance, the guy gets the girl and the sex isn’t too outré.

The structure of the novel and some of the short-stories are not at all like that, but the spirit behind it perhaps it and its charm might be lost on some readers who prefer more action and adventures and a more modern style of writing.

In summary, a gentle read, bittersweet, with plenty of stories for those who love short stories, of particular interest to lovers of books and movies set in Britain, stories about writers, the publishing world and women’s stories. It has sad moments and funny ones but it is unlikely to rock your world.

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