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review 2018-12-09 02:13
Alter By Jeremy Robinson
Alter - Jeremy Robinson

A story about what happens to an everyday, normal guy who is accidentally thrust into an unforgiving environment and the changes he undergoes as he tries to adapt. It is visceral and sometimes depressing, but it is a story of survival.

 

Very different from the author's other books, but I am sure it had a lot to do with the medical issues he has been going through lately. Maybe Jeremy saw a little of himself in the main character. Whatever the case, you can tell he put a lot of his soul into it.

 

An enjoyable read and recommended. 5 stars.

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review 2018-12-01 03:04
Heart-warming and Funny Bone-Tickling
The Summer Holidays Survival Guide - Jon Rance

‘Oh, Dad, how little you know,’ said Liv, her head returning to her phone.

 

How little I know. I have a feeling this one cold, hard sentence, uttered from my twelve-year-old daughter’s lips, might sum up my life.


Ben Robinson is an art teacher, in his mid-40s, and is trying to figure out how he'll survive the upcoming summer holidays -- 6 weeks with his three kids, and a marriage who's spark is gone out (possibly for good). Oh yeah, and an aging father with dementia moving in with them, rather than a nursing home. Meanwhile, he's trying to prepare for a half-marathon, which is about a whole marathon more than he's ready for.

 

We get a day by day (or close to it) account of how this goes for Ben. The short version is: not very well. Particularly in the beginning. Ben meddles in his fifteen year old son's love life (with some really bad sex tips -- all of which I'm considering passing on to my kids), cannot understand his twelve-year-old daughter's social media life (and nascent pubescence), and derails his eight year old son's summer plans without trying. Things go downhill from there, really.

 

His dad is having trouble remembering that he doesn't live in the same home, or that his wife has been dead for a few years -- this is a source of strain for both Ben and his father -- and the relationship becomes strained. Ben is having trouble seeing his father this way, and his father is having trouble being this way. Both are trying their best, but this

Speaking of a strained relationship, the number of things wrong with his marriage keeps growing, and every thing that Ben tries to do to fix it just makes things worse. He and his wife aren't communicating well -- one of those problems that keeps feeding itself and growing worse.

 

Throw in an accidental participation in an anti-Brexit demonstration, a road rage incident leading to social media notoriety for one member of the family, teen romance problems, summer-altering injuries, and well -- clearly, someone needs to write a survival guide.

As Ben and his family try to get through their struggles intact -- and maybe even better than that -- there's plenty of fodder for humor. There's a lot of heartwarming material, some real laughs and more than a few chuckles. There's some really effective writing and characterization.

 

However, there's also Rance's need to go for the big laugh. And here, he basically turns Ben into Basil Fawlty -- with all the wild schemes, failing schemes, shouting, misunderstandings and slapstick involved. I don't think any of these scenes or moments worked for me. When he's going for subtle laughs, or those that grow from character, I really enjoyed it. When the subject matter is serious (or at least non-comedic), Rance is really strong. It's when he's obviously trying that he falters.

 

‘Marriage,’ said Dad. ‘There’s always ups and downs. You just keep riding it, son. It’s like a rollercoaster. You can’t get off, so you just hold on, and do your best to enjoy it.'

 

‘I’m holding on for dear life, but life is harder than it was, Dad. The world has changed. The rollercoasters are bigger and scarier now. The drops are bigger, the hills higher.’

 

‘Oh tosh. The world might change, but people don’t. Love is still love, clear and simple. Don’t blame the world for your problems, son. Hold on tighter. Love stronger.’

 

That's one of the more earnest moments -- and there are plenty of them in the latter part of the novel, all set up well in the early part -- and it shows the heart of the book -- and there's plenty of heart. Rance won me over, and got me to put more of his books on my list because of these kind of moments, and the genuine laughs I got from the smaller moments, I've got more of his stuff on the TBR.

 

It's a nice, pleasant book that'll tickle your funny bone and warm your heart.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/11/30/the-summer-holidays-survival-guide-by-jon-rance-heart-warming-and-funny-bone-tickling
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review 2018-10-20 15:15
4.2 Out 5 "Incendiary" STARS
When We Caught Fire - Anna Godbersen

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~BOOK BLURB~

When We Caught Fire

Anna Godbersen

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It’s 1871, and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson.

Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze.

 

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~MY QUICKIE REVIEW~

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Despite having less than likable characters (with Fiona as the exception) this was still an engrossing listen.  The backdrop of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was what made this story stand-out for me.  I could see how others found this to be slow in the beginning, with its soap-opera-like feel and melodrama of the elite high society of the times, but on Audio, those parts fly by fairly quickly.  Once the fire starts burning, the unceasing flames and the lives at stake make this unputdownable.  The way the author takes the truth about the actual fire and plays it out with her cast of characters is quite the tale.  I found this exert from here about the Great Chicago Fire. 

 

The Chicago Fire of 1871, also called the Great Chicago Fire, burned from October 8 to October 10, 1871, and destroyed thousands of buildings, killed an estimated 300 people and caused an estimated $200 million in damages. Legend has it that a cow kicked over a lantern in a barn and started the fire, but other theories hold that humans or even a meteor might have been responsible for the event that left an area of about four miles long and almost a mile wide of the Windy City, including its business district, in ruins. Following the blaze, reconstruction efforts began quickly and spurred great economic development and population growth.

 

With the ending the irredeemable characters become redeemable and the love triangle that takes the center of the stage throughout this story has its inevitable outcome.

 

๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏๏

~MY RATING~

4.2STARS - GRADE=B+

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~BREAKDOWN OF RATINGS~

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Plot~ 4/5

Main Characters~ 3.8/5

Secondary Characters~ 3/5

The Feels~ 4/5

Pacing~ 4/5

Addictiveness~ 4/5

Theme or Tone~ 4/5

Flow (Writing Style)~ 4.5/5

Backdrop (World Building)~ 4.7/5

Originality~ 4.2/5

Ending~ 4.2/5 Cliffhanger~ Nah…

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Book Cover~ It's incendiary…

Narration~ 4.5 for Suzanne Elise Freeman, she was perfect for this story and she switched from one pov to another quite seamlessly.

Setting~ Chicago 1871

Source~ Audiobook (Library)

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review 2018-10-17 22:30
Are we, as in humans, headed in this direction???
The Last Town - Blake Crouch

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~SERIES BLURB~

Wayward Pines Series

Blake Crouch

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The plot surrounds Secret Service agent Ethan Burke's introduction to the remote small town of Wayward Pines, his new home from which he cannot escape. The mysteries and horrors of the town build until Ethan discovers its secret. Then he must do his part to keep Wayward Pines protected from without and within.

 

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~MY QUICKIE (and non-spoiler) REVIEW~

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A very mysterious, uniquely done creepy-scary scenario with scy-fy and dystopian-ish elements, this trilogy is a must-read. I loved it, despite certain aspects confusing the heck out of me…I'm inclined to believe that's on me, more than the writing, though.  And geez-louise, what an ending...

 

If you don't know much about this series…you should keep it that way…and dive in.  Seriously, just do it.  The narration is excellently done for one-person narration. 

 

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~MY RATING~

4.7STARS - GRADE=A

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~BREAKDOWN OF RATINGS~

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Plot~ 4.7/5

Main Characters~4.7/5

Secondary Characters~ 4.5/5

The Feels~ 4.5/5

Pacing~ 4.5/5

Addictiveness~ 5/5

Theme or Tone~ 5/5

Flow (Writing Style)~ 4.5/5

Backdrop (World Building)~ 5/5

Originality~ 5/5

Ending~ 4.5/5  Cliffhanger~ Well…

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Book Cover~ Meh…

Narration~4.5 for Paul Garcia

Series~ Wayward Pines #3

Setting~ Wayward Pines

Source~ I Own Audible Audiobook

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I used this for Modern Noir Square in Halloween Bingo 2018

 

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review 2018-09-30 04:04
The Wild Robot (audiobook) by Peter Brown, narrated by Kate Atwater
The Wild Robot - Peter Brown

The Wild Robot is a Middle Grade sci-fi/survival/talking animal book. I had seen it before and considered getting it, but I have too many books as it is. When I saw that my local public library had added it to their Overdrive audiobook collection, I pounced on it. I believe my checkout included access to accompanying files with illustrations, but I didn't attempt to find and open those files.

The Wild Robot begins with a terrible shipwreck during a hurricane (although the words "climate change" are never used, this is definitely a vision of the near future that includes some of the effects of climate change). The ship's cargo included several robots, only one of which survived the wreck. That robot, Roz, is activated by a group of curious otters. Over the next few months, Roz gradually learns how to survive in the wild and communicate with the animals around her. Can a robot somehow make friends and find a home in such a wild place?

I really enjoyed how this audiobook started. The beginning seemed very much like a robot survival book, as Roz attempted to figure out how to protect herself from the elements and from animals. She was programmed to be nonviolent and was therefore incapable of fighting back against any animals that attacked her. She was also programmed to keep herself clean and shiny, a serious drawback in outdoor survival, where her shininess drew attention to her and prevented her from properly hiding from dangers.

I was a bit disappointed when Roz learned to communicate with animals and this suddenly morphed from an outdoor adventure into a talking animal book. Somehow, Roz's newfound animal communication skills allowed her to talk to all animals she came across in full sentences, and allowed them to talk to her in full sentences. I had some trouble accepting that Roz and a beaver were somehow using beaver language to discuss the specifics of building a lodge. The beaver even suggested that Roz grow a garden with some help from local deer. Meanwhile, I was sitting there wondering how a beaver and deer were supposed to know anything about gardening.

Eventually, I managed to stop thinking of the book's animals as true animals so much and was able to think of them more as talking animals, which helped me enjoy the story more. (I'm guessing that the author really did intend for them to be true animals, based on details later on in the book. But animal communication doesn't work like that, so I'm just going to go with my "talking animals with a few true animal characteristics" interpretation.)

Roz's efforts to find a place for herself and make friends were nice, although the lengths she had to go to before the animals stopped considering her a monster and started considering her a friend occasionally bothered me. I mean, what if she hadn't been able to build all those lodges?

At any rate, I particularly liked her efforts to figure out motherhood after she accidentally became the mother of a gosling. I worried about where Brown planned to go with that. In theory, Roz could outlive Brightbill, her son. If you, like me, worry about fictional animals, I can tell you that

there were a few animal deaths here and there but that, as far as I can remember, none of the animals readers are likely to be most attached to die.

(spoiler show)


I did start to worry that Roz wasn't going to make it, though. It's amazing the amount of damage she sustained in only a few months living in a forest. With no humans around, there was no way for her to acquire new parts or get any kind of maintenance. It was a relief to know that a sequel already existed. If Roz was the main character of that book as well, surely she wouldn't be destroyed at some point in The Wild Robot.

Kate Atwater's narration was wonderful. I liked most of the voices she chose for the various animals, and her robotic Roz voice somehow managed to be appealing. She was accompanied by various sound effects, such as otter squeaks and button clicks, which I thought was nicely done.

All in all, I enjoyed this and will probably read (or listen to) the next book at some point.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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