Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer Reading!

This summer has seemed to fly by. All those things I thought I was going to get done over summer break mostly stayed not done. I had grand plans of reading a ton of books, and while that didn't happen, I did read some good ones. I even read a few, that while they weren't exactly my cup of tea, are at least worth a mention. So here goes nothing, the Great Summer Rundown!

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
Book Supplied by NetGalley

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

My Ramblings: 
I'm holding my full review until closer to release date (per the publisher's request), but I will say this much here, I LOVE THIS BOOK. Frankly, Elkeles can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.  This book is no exception. What I love about Elkeles is that she manages to both stick to a formula, and keep it fresh and interesting. I knew before I even started reading how the story would end. If you've read any of Elkeles other books, then you can probably figure it out as well. One would think that it would get boring, knowing the ending, but it never does. Elkeles books are much more about the journey then the destination, and finding out how the characters, in this case Ashtyn and Derek, get there is the best part. Another great one for Elkeles and I can't wait to see what comes next in this series! 

Secrets of a Mayan Moon and Secrets of an Aztec Temple by Paty Jager 
Book Provided by NetGalley

Secrets of a Mayan Moon
Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job at the university. In the world of publish or perish, her mentor’s request for her assistance on a dig is just the opportunity she’s been seeking. If she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can—she’ll keep her department. She heads to Guatemala, but drug trafficking bad guys, artifact thieves, and her infatuation for her handsome guide wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.

DEA agent Tino Kosta, is out to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s deep undercover as a jaguar tracker and sometimes jungle guide, but the appearance of a beautiful, brainy anthropologist heats his Latin blood taking him on a dangerous detour that could leave them both casualties of the jungle

Secrets of an Aztec Temple
Revenge is not always sweet…

Isabella Mumphrey can’t leave a puzzle alone. This time she attempts to use her anthropology knowledge to uncover who is stealing priceless artifacts from an Aztec Temple in Mexico City. She believes the discovery will prove her worth to the World Intelligence Agency. 

Tino Constantine is also in Mexico City. He has infiltrated a drug lord’s organization to find enough evidence to not only prove the man’s illegal activities, but to bring him down for numerous deaths. Namely those of Tino’s family.

But when the love of his life, Isabella, strolls into his enemy’s home, Tino is challenged with the choice of saving her or fulfilling his revenge.

My Ramblings:
So I have to be in just the right mood for romance novels. Sometimes I'll get on a kick and read an authors entire catalog of titles- it's a bit obsessive really- and then I might not pick up another one for months. When I saw the first book, Secrets of a Mayan Moon, on NetGalley I figured I'd give it a go. Why not? It not only had some romance, but it delved into some other topics that I dig. Specifically tribal history and archeology. As soon as I finished I went back and got the second book. They were great! Jager had lain out a tough task for herself with these stories. She was combining a bunch of topics and styles and it really could have gone either way. However, Jager managed to pretty seemlessly weave together history, archeology, romance and mystery into two really fabulous books. 

I liked both of the main characters, both Tino and Isabella read as real people who just happen to get caught up in some seriously insane situations. I also appreciated that neither character got trapped into a stereotype. Tino  falls into the latin lover stereotype a bit and he struggles with Isabella's independence and need for adventure. Struggles with it being the important part. He's not an oaf or a womanizer, although those tendencies are seen here or there, and he tries too hard to protect her sometimes, but in the end he knows that if he wants her, he's going to have to let her be herself. Which, to me, is a real path that some guys have to travel. If you want a girl like Isabella you have to get over your hero complex and let her be the superhero sometimes. As for Isabella, she walks a fine line between being super prepared and strong, and forgetting that all the preparation in the world can't save you if you keep making stupid decisions. Basically they are perfect for each other, even as they keep getting each other in trouble. 

All in all this is a fun set of books that are easy to read and keep you guessing as you fallow Tino and Isabella into crazy situations. 

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek


For nearly two decades, Scott Jurek has been a dominant force—and darling—in the grueling and growing sport of ultrarunning. In 1999, as a complete unknown, he took the lead of the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile traverse over the old Gold Rush trails of the California Sierra Nevada. He won that race seven years in a row, setting a course record along the way. Twice he won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile “jaunt” through Death Valley. Recently he set an American record of 165.7 miles in 24 hours—6 1/2 marathons in one day. And he was one of the elite runners who traveled to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara Indians, as profiled in the bestseller Born to Run. His accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary, but that he has achieved all of this on a plant-based diet makes his story all the more so.

In Eat and Run, Scott Jurek opens up about his life and career—as an elite athlete and a vegan—and inspires runners at every level. From his Midwestern childhood hunting, fishing, and cooking for his meat-and-potatoes family, to his early beginnings in running (he hated it), to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, to his world-spanning, record-breaking races, Scott’s story shows the power of an iron will and blows apart all the stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. Chock-full of incredible, on-the-brink stories of endurance and competition, fascinating science, and accessible practical advice—including his own favorite plant-based recipes—Eat and Run will motivate everyone to “go the distance,” whether that means getting out for that first run, expanding your food horizons, or simply exploring the limits of your own potential.

My Ramblings:
Last year I started to take my running serious, and one of my turning points came when I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. In the pages of his book I had my "aha" moment and I found what running is supposed to be for me. Also within those pages I was introduced to a cast of characters who were out there doing awesome things, and fortunately for me some of them have written their own books. Using those books to continue my running education I've been able to change not only the way I run, but the way I think about running. The latest book on the list is Jurek's, which not only gives a great rundown of his running history, but it also talks about how he got there as well as sharing some tasty recipes! My full review of the book is over at the running blog I'm a part of (From the Page to the Princess), but the long and the short of it is that if you run, or if you've even wondered about those crazy people that run 50 to 100 miles (fun fun!), the  this books is a great read. 

Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum

Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.

Only a few escaped the robot revolution of 2071. Kevin, Nick, and Cass are lucky —they live with their parents in a secret human community in the woods. Then their village is detected and wiped out. Hopeful that other survivors have been captured by bots, the teens risk everything to save the only people they have left in the world—by infiltrating a city controlled by their greatest enemies.

Revolution 19 is a cinematic thriller unlike anything else. With a dynamic cast of characters, this surefire blockbuster has everything teen readers want—action, drama, mystery, and romance.

My Ramblings: 
So this is a weird one for me to recap. I picked this book up at my absolutely favorite bookstore in the world, Books & Company in Oconomowoc, WI. I only get there once a year and when I do I stock up on books. It's just about the only place I by real books anymore (read as non- e-book) and I when I saw this book on the shelf it immediately caught my eye. I plowed through it in one sitting. It has a ton going for it- the rise of the machines, an overthrow by the robots that mankind created, a band of survivors who are constantly on the look out for the robots who destroyed the world as they knew it. It's a plot that I've seen before (most recently in Keary Taylor's Bane series and the entire Terminator franchise), but Rosenblum manages to keep his series feeling fresh while still feeling familiar. 

I loved the whole concept that somewhere there is a power that is pulling strings, as of know I'm not sure if it's a human, a robot or some combination of the two, but there is someone or something that is making the big decisions. I also like that when Kevin, Nick and Cass enter the city and see first hand what life is like under the power of the robots they are confused at whether or not it's a good thing or a bad thing. It isn't as horrid as they imagined it, but they soon find out that it isn't as peaceful as it seems on the surface either. When they start getting deeper into how the City is run, you really start to see the dark underbelly. And this is where I started to lose focus. Like I said I blew through the book in one sitting and really liked it, but I wanted more. Much, much more. Without giving too much away, Rosenblum delves into mind control, torture, using technology to control the masses and some other very real things that are not far fetched at all. In fact they are happening all the time. It's not so far fetched to see how they could become the norm. Which is what makes it so freaky, and yet, Rosenblum brought me right to the edge without really giving me all I wanted. It's all horrible, but I felt like it was glossed over a bit in the book. The scenes of torture didn't feel as bad as they should have. He talks about the after effects of the long term mind control, but I didn't feel like I saw those effects playing out. Granted this is the first book in a series, so the long term effects may come into play later, but when I closed the last page I just felt like it could have been much more then it was. However, this could all be my point of view on it. I watch a ridiculous amount of news, and I spend a fair bit of time reading books by George RR Martin, who doesn't sugar coat anything, so while I was expecting more, someone else might be absolutely horrified by what happens in the book. 

In other words- I'd recommend giving this one a go. It's a good book that might just be perfect for someone else! 

Lake Thirteen by Gregg Herron
Book Provided by NetGalley

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.

And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families…

My Ramblings:
Here's a review that isn't really a review, because I din't even finish this book. I tried a few times, but just couldn't do it. So instead of really recapping this one, I'll just tell you why I didn't read it. It has nothing to do with the story itself, which, from the part I read was really great. It's a great plot, with some really cool characters. However, Herron lost me right at the beginning and no matter how many times I returned to the book I just couldn't get into it. 

So here's the deal. Some authors let their personal biases seep into their story. As well they should. The story is theirs to tell and there's no reason they should try to write to please every person on the planet. Everyone has a different perspective on the world and the other people who live it, that is exactly what makes life interesting. Sometimes when you read a book you come across a sentence or two that just rubs you the wrong way, and that's the case with this one. Early on in the book the main character, Scotty, is talking about coming out to his family as well as reminiscing about his awesome boyfriend. So far so good, we've got a character who is gay, but this fact isn't his defining character. I love that. Then he starts talking about the boyfriends evil father and how this has forced the relationship to be hush, hush. I'm still with them. This happens all the time and sucks. Big time. No one should have to hide who they are and who they love because of other people's ignorance. Then we get to why his father is an asshole. It's because he watches Fox News and only knows how to regurgitate the hate that the anchors tell him to buy into . Chances are the father is a jerk no matter what, and maybe some of that hate is fed into by a news station, but I was rubbed the wrong way by how the father hating all gays was tied to the being told to hate people by Fox News. Why? Because I watch Fox News. A lot. And yes, some of the talking heads are idiots, much like other stations have people who are idiots on them, but I can say I never once have felt like they were preaching hate or telling me that I should be an asshole to people who are different. Occasionally someone has gone on a tirade and said things that suck, but this happens on TV all the time, and not just on one station. Fox News doesn't hold the monopoly on idiot anchors. 

In the grand scheme of things this is a very minor issue in what appears to be a great book. So I gave it the old college try, but eventually realized not every book is for everyone, and it's better to move on then force it. So what does this mean- why even include it in my wrap up. Well, first of all, because my bias shouldn't effect someone else's enjoyment of the book! Also, I thought it was an important issue to highlight. The idea that everyone has their own reading path to follow and that you aren't going to love and agree with everything you read. So if you are all about some YA mystery, or if you are looking for really well written gay characters, then go snatch this one up and give it a go. 

So ends my summer wrap up. Next week it's back to the grind. Hopefully I will manage to find time to still enjoy some awesome books! I'd love to hear what everyone else read this summer- my TBR pile could always use a few more titles on the stack! 

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