Into the Wild

=> “Alaska has long been a magnet for dreamers and misfits,… The bush is an unforgiving place, however, that cares nothing for hope or longing.” -Into the Wild<=

Author: Jon Krakauer

(3.98 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Biography

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: 2015, Anchor Books

Pages: 215

#IntotheWild #ChrisMcCandless #AlaskanWilderness

No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny.

Who has come and taken over my body?! I don’t know what’s happening folks, but my first completely finished non-ARC, print book of 2020 is… wait for it… a NONFICTION BIOGRAPHY! What the heck is happening here?

Chalk it up to Goodreads. I casually scrolled by a review of this book months ago and the reader/reviewer made it sound so interesting. Why was this kid out there? Where was his family? What happened to him?
It’s one of the things I love most about reading – a mystery, only this one is real. Here’s the book blurb:

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Chris was good at almost everything he ever tried…, which made him supremely overconfident.

Walt McCandless

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way, Chris doesn’t make it out of the Alaskan bush. He dies. That’s not a spoiler – it says it right on the back of the book. Now, I have my own personal opinions about what kind of person Chris “Alex Supertramp” McCandless was, but I have to make it clear that what happened to him is a tragedy and I feel so sad for his family. Chris was a dreamer, but his dream ultimately didn’t end the way he intended.

I really appreciate the way that Jon Krakauer approached telling this story. He focused on Chris’s unique personality, his connections to his family and few friends, and the events in his life that prompted him to make his fateful journey into the Alaskan wilderness. Krakauer opens readers’ eyes to the nature and character of a young man who wanted a life outside of the rat race; something different, something… other.

It is impossible to know what murky convergence of chromosomal matter, parent-child dynamics, and alignment of the cosmos was responsible, but Christopher Johnson McCandless came into the world with unusual gifts and a will not easily deflected from its trajectory.

If you appreciate biographies or if you’ve ever heard of Chris McCandless and want to know more about him and his abbreviated life, this book will provide that insight. While what happened to him is sad, Krakauer takes a methodical and practical look at his journey across North America, the people he met along the way, and how he positively impacted each of them. It all makes sense in the end. From his initial escape from the status quo to his haunting final photograph, Chris Mccandless will be one of the most enigmatic people you will ever read about.

Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer, well-known for outdoor and mountain-climbing writing.

April ARCs Spotlight

⇒Shining a spotlight on just a few book requests I’ve received in 2019!⇐

When I started That New Book Smell over a year ago, one thing I didn’t count on is the amount of review requests I would receive. At first, I really did try to respond to each and every person/publisher that contacted me, I soon found that it was overwhelming. And while I am extremely flattered that authors would value my opinions about their valuable works, it would be an insurmountable task to read every book requested of me.

So, I thought it would be good to at least shine a spotlight on some of the books that have landed in my inbox. This does not mean that I will never give these books a full review, it just means that these are a few that have caught my interest and I think they deserve more exposure and more readers!

Fate Came Calling

Author: Kurt Bryan

Nonfiction / Biography / Adventure

Warren Vest was unexpectedly chosen to transport a new species of animal to a continent on the other side of the world. His remarkable journey led to a series of events that altered the course of his life from farming to becoming an incredible pilot and airline executive.

Details: 378 pgs; Published March 21, 2019 (Available on Amazon) #fatecamecalling #AprilARCs

Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick

Author: William Harris


A science mission to investigate the planet Sworld goes wrong and the crew are marooned with no way to get home. As they explore their new home, they meet new species, discover a sentient forest that reveals a quest, and ultimately face off against the Gliders – an ancient race who have turned to violence and aggression.

Details: 458 pgs; Published date: May 3, 2019 by Chandra Press (Available on Amazon)

#Sworld #AprilARCs Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick

A Perfect Lie

Author: L. R. Jones

Mystery / Thriller

I am Hailey Anne Monroe. I’m twenty-eight years old. An artist, who found her muse on the canvas because I wasn’t allowed to have friends or even keep a journal. And yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m that Hailey Anne Monroe, daughter to Thomas Frank Monroe, the man who was a half-percentage point from becoming President of the United States. If you were able to ask him, he’d probably tell you that I was the half point. But you can’t ask him, and he can’t tell you. He’s dead. They’re all dead and now I can speak.

Details: Publish date: May 14, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#theperfectlie #AprilARCs


Author: Keith Knapp


After a devastating earthquake hits Los Angeles, a group of survivors find themselves whisked away to a place known only as The Town. It is there that they will face their inner-most demons and relics of the past as they try to find a way out and back to reality. But an evil presence awaits them there. It knows their fears, their sins and their lies and will do anything to keep them right where they are.

Details: 426 pgs; Published March 13, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#Coda #AprilARCs Coda on Goodreads

Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza

Author: Kitty Felde

Middle Grade Mystery

Legend has it anyone who sees the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill will be cursed with bad luck. 10-year-old Fina Medoza just saw it. And the last thing her family needs right now is more bad luck… The only way for Fina to save her family from future “cat”astrophe? She must solve the mystery of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill.

Details: 182 pgs; Published February 28, 2019 by Black Rose Writing

#Welcometowashingtonfinamendoza #AprilARCs Website

Whether you’re a reader, a blogger, or both, I encourage you to explore books published by independent publishers. I know that books by established authors and popular publishing houses may feel new and shiny, but there are some amazing gems to be found in the indie world (and, apparently, right in my inbox)!

Audible Originals (x3)

⇒I binged a couple – or three – Audible Originals last week. Let’s see how they stacked up to my usual audiobook reads.⇐

Last week was slower than usual at work (thanks spring break), so I popped in my earbuds and binged a few Audible Original audiobooks to see what all the fuss is about.

What fuss? Audible members now have access to at least two free original audiobooks per month. And we get to choose which two from a variety of genres.

These were my picks last week (three because I’m just now getting around to reading them), and a short review of each.

Author: Bryan Burrough

Narrator: Steve White

(3.32 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime

Published 2019by Audible Originals

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs 45 mins


The small town of Temple, Texas, where Bryan Burrough grew up, had harbored a dark secret. One of his high school classmates, Danny Corwin, was a vicious serial killer who had raped and mutilated six women, murdering three of them. Yet the town had denied all early signs of the radical evil that was growing within Corwin. -Adapted from Goodreads

As a true crime junkie, I was immediately drawn to this title. How much better can a crime story get than when it’s being told from someone close to both the victims and the criminal? Although I enjoyed exploring this story about a serial killer I’ve never heard of before, I think the choice of narrator for the audiobook was a curious one. Steve White’s voice, although perfect for book narration, did not convey the serious and grave tones the subject matter deserved. The story is tragic and graphic at many points, but White’s “Mr. Rogers”-style tone forced me to remove a star from my rating.

Author: John Woolf, Nick Baker

Narrator: Stephen Fry

(3.75 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / History

Published: First published October 20, 2018

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hrs 33 mins


Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy—welcome to Victorian Secrets. Over 12 fascinating episodes, Stephen Fry explores the weird and worrying ways of Victorian Britain through true accounts delving deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality. –Goodreads description

This book is only available as an audiobook and once you hear it, you’ll understand why. Stellar audio production combined with superbly perfect narration by Stephen Fry make this a book standout effort. And if you’re into spicy British secrets, then this is definitely the book for you! While I found the beginning of the book very intriguing, as it progressed, my interest steadily waned all the way down to the somewhat “unfinished ” ending.

Author: John Scalzi

Narrator: Zachary Quinto

(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

Published: 2019 by Audible Originals (First published October 4, 2016)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs 18 mins


Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him. -Goodreads description

Easily my favorite of the three audiobooks, The Dispatcher is sufficiently sci-fi enough and thrilling enough to satisfy my reading needs on both fronts. I could easily see the action playing out in my head, and I’d pay for a full-price ticket to see it on the big screen. Plus, let me ask in super-kudos for Quinto’s narration on this one – I’d listen to anything he reads!

Verdict? If you’re an Audible member, give the Originals a try – after all, with everyone else creating original content, why shouldn’t Audible as well? Happy Reading!

Looking Forward (Fall/Winter)

So, Tiffany, you might ask, why is there no book review today? The main reason is that I did not finish a new book in time to post a comprehensive review of it this week. <Gasp!> My daughter’s birthday celebration was on Saturday and my sister is moving and… well, let’s just say it has been a hectic week!

OK, so today’s blog is going to be a little different. It’s not a review – wait, is that allowed? Yes, it’s my blog, so it’s totally allowed. Today I take a look ahead at some of the titles releasing this fall and winter that will totally be worth the wait!

Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum, #25) Look Alive Twenty-Five

by Janet Evanovich

Putnam Pub Group

Fiction / Comic Mystery

Releases November 13, 2018

I had to put this one first because I LOVE THIS SERIES! Stephanie Plum is one of my favorite book characters, and these books always put me in a great mood. Yes, they’re not at all plausible, and yes, they’re a bit formulaic (ok, more than a bit), but that predictability only translates into familiarity with loveable characters and slapstick comedy that always manages to brighten my mood. Plus, I’ve read all 24 of the previous books, so it would be criminal to stop now!

“There’s nothing like a good deli and the Red River Deli in Trenton is one of the best. World famous for its pastrami, cole slaw and for its disappearing managers.  Over the last month, three have vanished from the face of the earth, the only clue in each case is one shoe that’s been left behind. The police are baffled. Lula is convinced that it’s a case of alien abduction. Whatever it is, they’d better figure out what’s going on before they lose their new manager, Ms. Stephanie Plum.”


by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker


Supernatural Historical Thriller / Horror

Releases October 2, 2018

This spooky prequel to Bram Stoker’s world-famous horror story, Dracula, was teased on J.D. Barker’s website back when I first read his stupendous thriller, The Fourth Monkey (if you haven’t read it yet, get it. It’s one of the best crime/thriller/suspense novels I’ve read).

So, J.D. announced that he’s working with the Bram Stoker Estate – namely great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker – to create the story of how Dracula actually became a thing. I was instantly intrigued. And when I say this release is going to be perfect, I mean just that. One: it releases in October, perfect for Halloween reading. And Two: it releases just a few days before my birthday! PERFECT TIMING! Can you tell I’m more than a little excited for this title? And if you’re just as anxious, J.D. has thoughtfully provided us with a countdown timer on his website. Just a little over 100 days…

“It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside a desolate tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast, armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun, kept company by a bottle of plum brandy, praying to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles out the events that led him here–a childhood illness, a haunting nanny, stories once thought to be fables now proven true.
A riveting novel of Gothic suspense, Dracul reveals not only Dracula’s true origin, but Bram Stoker’s–and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.”

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the VanderbiltsA Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilits

by Therese Ann Fowler

St. Martin’s Press

Historical Fiction

Releases October 16, 2018

My mother’s side of the family is from Asheville, North Carolina, home of beautiful Biltmore Estate. The mansion, Biltmore House, is the largest private home in America. It was built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s.

Not quite that long ago, I had an uncle who helped to select and gather plants for parts of the expansive Biltmore gardens, specifically in the 15-acre Azalea Garden. Some of the azaleas there today are descendants of the ones selected and planted by my great-uncle’s hands back in the 40s! Don’t believe me? Check out this short article.

And that’s just one of many links my family has to the Biltmore Estate and to the Vanderbilt family. So, naturally, I am obsessed with all things Vanderbilt – including the books that are currently popping up about them.

“Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built 9 mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women’s suffrage movement.

With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, in A Well-Behaved Woman, Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted against desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman. Meet Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, living proof that history is made by those who know the rules—and how to break them.”

***A Well- Behaved Woman is available as Read Now on NetGalley

The Silent PatientThe Silent Patient

by Alex Michaelides

Celadon Books

Thriller/ Mystery / Suspense

Releases February 5th, 2019

I enjoy a great thriller. That particular genre is one of the first (Sci-fi being the true first) that really drew me down the rabbit hole of reading.

And everything about this title says “perfect thriller” to me – especially the fact that film rights have already been sold on it and it’s screenwriter Michaelides’ DEBUT NOVEL! Now if that doesn’t get your bookish motor revving, nothing will!

“Alicia Berenson lives a life most dream of… Her life is seemingly perfect. That is until one evening when Gabriel, her husband, returns home late from a fashion shoot and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.”

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth FrankensteinThe Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

by Kiersten White

Delacorte Press

YA / Historical Fiction

Releases September 25, 2018

Can I be honest about this book? I am not a fan of Frankenstein. No particular reason. He’s just not my particular monster of choice.

However, I do love a good origin story AND I love a good alternate perspective story. Think about it… What if the Princess Bride had been told from the POV of Fezzik the giant? Or Harry Potter solely from Hermione’s perspective? I’m sure the outcome would be very different. As successful? You’d never know unless you try. So, I’m eager to see what Victor Frankenstein’s sister thought about the monster he was building in his workshop.

“The Frankenstein legend as you’ve never seen it before, as told by New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White! You will not be able to put down this stunning and dark reimagining of the Mary Shelley classic told from the point of view of Elizabeth, Victor Frankenstein’s adopted sister, timed for the 200th anniversary.”

***The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is available for request on NetGalley

A Willing MurderA Willing Murder

by Jude Deveraux

Mira Books


Releases September  18, 2018

Romance novels. Most times they are either hit or miss. You never can fully get away from the standard characters or the all-too-common “instalove”, but some romance can be pretty compelling. And that’s what Jude Deveraux fans have been expecting (and getting) from her for years.

But Jude’s got a surprise for her fans. A Willing Murder is her very first mystery novel! It’s labeled as “A Medlar Mystery“, so not only is it a break from her standard genre, it is expected to be a series too, apparently. Ambitious, Mrs. Deveraux!

New York Times bestselling romance author Jude Deveraux makes her debut in the world of mystery with a story of old secrets, deadly grudges and an improbable group of friends who are determined to uncover the truth regardless of the consequences.

When two dead bodies are accidentally discovered in the quiet town of Lachlan, Florida, an unlikely trio comes together to solve a mystery everyone else seems eager to keep under wraps.”

***A Willing Murder is available for request on NetGalley

The Dinner ListThe Dinner List

by Rebecca Serle

Flatiron Books

Women’s Fiction

Releases September 11, 2018

I already know my dinner “bucket list”. I’ve had it together for several years now. And – surprisingly – it has only changed by one person since I created it. I actually did a “Last Supper” guest list, so I had 12 guests (and no, none of them was Oprah). My guests included Neil deGrasse Tyson, Criss Angel, my mom, Kelly Clarkson, and Steven Spielberg. Coincidentally, The Dinner List‘s main character and I have another one of my guests in common (Hint: she’s had a Roman Holiday and she had Breakfast at Tiffany’s)!

“At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen?

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.”

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, THE DINNER LIST is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.”

*** The Dinner List is available for request on NetGalley

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to SurviveMaid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

by Stephanie Land

Hachette Books

Nonfiction / Autobiography

Releases January 29, 2019

Newsflash: I’m not the biggest fan of the nonfiction genre. I’ll admit that. But sometimes a particular nonfiction title will come along that intrigues me. This is one of those books.

“In the tradition of bestsellers NICKEL AND DIMED and EVICTED, Stephanie Land—a writing fellow for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (EHRP) and Center for Community Change (CCC)—writes a compassionate, unflinching account of her years scraping by as a housekeeper to make ends meet. In MAID, we enter Stephanie Land’s world and that of domestic workers who are paid far less than their needs.

Written in raw, masterful, heart-rending prose, MAID is the story of one woman’s tenacity to survive and break free of the grips of the system to give her child a better life. Stephanie Land’s work gives voice to the working poor. Her compassionate, unflinching writing is fueled by her own struggle as a low-income single mother who aspired to use her stories to expose the reality of pursuing the American Dream while being held under the poverty line.”


So there you have it – 8 book titles that I am SO looking forward to in the fall & winter of 2018! Do you already have your fall/winter TBR list going? What titles are you looking forward to?



The Missing Hours

by Emma Kavanagh
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(3.74 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Re-Published February 27, 2018, by Kensington Books

Genre: Fiction / Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: EBook

Page Count: 320

#themissinghours #netgalley

missing hoursWe rarely know the people around us, only what they show us of themselves.

When Dr. Selena Cole mysteriously vanishes from a playground leaving her daughters stranded, DC Leah Mackay takes the case but struggles to find any clues to help solve it. Twenty hours later, Selena is found alive but has no memory of where she was or how she got back home.

…whatever filled in those missing hours, at the end of them is a mother kissing her cildren. And so everything is well. Right?

That same day, Leah’s brother, DS Finley Hale, is assigned the murder case of an associate who has been dumped unceremoniously on a mountain lane. Finn, too, finds any clues hard to come by.

What follows is a procedural whodunit with ping-ponging points of view between the brother and sister detectives who learn that more than one of the suspects in each case have crisscrossing ties to each other.

What at first appears to be just a creepy missing-persons case ends up dragging us into the shadowy world of kidnapping for ransom with each character becoming a suspect in crimes that are as much of a mystery as the perpetrators.

There are always cases that speak to you, pulling themselves out of the pile and grabbing hold of your consciousness.

Kavanagh does a great job of revealing the truth in bite-sized morsels as we read along – totally caught up in the secrets of each person we meet. However, at times it was hard to follow the characters’ awkward trains of thought as they shifted from past to present and back again in the same unbroken paragraph.

However, as any novel reader will tell you (especially connoisseurs of mysteries and thrillers), if your pulse starts to quicken as the action begins to climax, then you’ve got to give the author kudos for that. And mine did (Hint: Great “chase” scene!).

I enjoyed this book and did not find it predictable or overly familiar. Kavanagh’s placement of the Cole Group’s case files helped with that. The individual kidnapping cases kept us wondering about their relevance and about a possible next victim. The ending felt a bit unsatisfyingly abrupt – even after the surprising resolution, but it did not take away from my overall appreciation of this well-written crime fiction novel.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Get it here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Half Price Books

About the Author

Emma KavanaghGoodreads




Emma K. & Kensington Books

Emma Kavanagh is the acclaimed UK bestselling author of Falling and Hidden. Born and raised in South Wales, she is a former police and military psychologist. After completing her PhD, Emma began her own consultancy business, providing training to police and military across the UK and Europe. She taught police officers and NATO personnel about the psychology of critical incidents, terrorism, body recovery and hostage negotiation. She has run around muddy fields taking part in tactical exercises, has designed live fire training events, has been a VIP under bodyguard protection and has fired more than her fair share of weapons. She is married with two small sons and considers herself incredibly privileged to get to make up stories for a living.

(Bio from Kensington Publishing Corp.)



The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

by Douglas Preston
Rating: Gold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipart

(3.91 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 3, 2017, by Grand Central Publishing

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 336

30636125No civilization has survived forever. All move toward dissolution, one after the other, like waves of the sea falling upon the shore. None, including ours, is exempt from the universal fate.

In 1995, Douglas Preston and co-author BFF Lincoln Child took us on a journey to the jungles of Brazil where artifacts were found and returned to the US along with a deadly beast called Mbwun. Mbwun then began hunting and killing humans for their hypothalamus. It was all frightfully creepy and thrilling. Fictional, but still thrilling.

Over two decades later, Preston takes us back to the dark, dangerous jungle but this time, in real life. Armed with a Nikon camera, plenty of Deet, and some snake gaiters, Preston takes off in a rickety plane following a dream and some pictures of impressions in the earth taken by NASA’s LIDAR machine. This is the true story of his harrowing trip to Mosquitia, deep inside the Honduran interior with a group of archeologists, scientists, photographers, and “money men” to rediscover La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), previously known as the Lost City of the Monkey God. Mbwun, thankfully, wasn’t a threat to this expedition; however, there were many other all-too-real hazards the group faced in the sweltering wilderness of Central America.

It was truly a lost world, a place that did not want us and where we did not belong.

Preston was on site as a correspondent for National Geographic magazine. The expedition’s efforts to prove the city existed, find the city and then get permission from the unstable Honduran government to actually go there turned out to be only a small portion of the challenges they faced. The “lost” city was reputed to have been immensely wealthy and well-stocked with treasure and priceless artifacts. Those claims were nearly impossible to verify, however, due to its remote location and the various bands of murderous drug cartels and criminal gangs that surrounded the area. Not to mention that invasion of the city was rumored to result in a lethal curse.

Preston also tells of the deadly snakes, the inhospitable spider monkeys, campsites blanketed with cockroaches, sucking mud holes, relentless mosquitos and sand flies, and roaming jaguars that stalked the camp every night. And just like in Relic, after the expedition was over, the team managed to bring a little something back with them.

OK, no, it wasn’t Mbwun, but it wasn’t just lovely pictures either.

‘And then,’ said Nash, ‘you intruded. You were a mistake.’ By invading the valley, we were like clueless civilians wandering onto a battlefield and getting shot to pieces in the crossfire.

This was a great book even for devout lovers of fiction like myself. There was mystery, danger, political corruption, drug smuggling, an intriguing archeological find, and then to top it all off, a pesky infectious disease. A little something for everyone.

Once upon a time, Preston managed to make history museums even creepier for those who get skittish in half-lit rooms surrounded by dusty, dated artifacts. This time, he manages to scare the heck out of all of us – not by fear of a deadly, hypothalamus-eating sci-fi beast, but by fear of the effects of uncontrollable, unrelenting deforestation and the inevitability of the next inescapable, deadly global pandemic.

Happy reading!

Get it here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Half Price Books

About the Author






After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, and geology, before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin’s Press, Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: “This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!” That thriller would, of course, be Relic.


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

by Neil deGrasse Tyson
( 4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 2, 2017, by W. W. Norton Company

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 222

32191710At one time or another every one of us has looked up at the night sky and wondered: What does it all mean? How does it all work? And, what is my place in the universe?

Nonfiction. Even that title sounds boring, doesn’t it? It’s not even a thing – it’s a non-thing. It’s not a personal rule, but I tend to shy away from nonfiction – simply because it’s… real.

Reading has been my method for escaping from reality for as long as I can remember – not that my reality was fraught with danger or discontent in any way whatsoever. But it was occasionally. Very. Boring.

I am an only child. And while I had cousins and plenty of friends in my neighborhood and at school to play with, there were many times when the house was too quiet, my mom was too busy, and there were too few channels on TV. So, I turned to books to fill the void. And once I did, I was hooked.

Around the same time that I was discovering my love for reading, my grandparents gave me a big picture book about the universe. There were huge, glossy, color-filled pages showing off the beauty of Saturn, the power of a supernova, and the amazing size of distant stars like Rigel and Betelgeuse (one of my personal favorites btw). Once again, I found myself hooked – on space.

That mild (but consistent) obsession with all things “astro” has lead me to add shows like “Space’s Deepest Secrets”, “How the Universe Works”, and “Cosmos” to my DVR on a regular basis. And it was “Cosmos” that introduced me to Neil deGrasse Tyson. His charismatic manner and conversational tone made understanding astrophysics less of an unattainable goal for a liberal arts major like myself. I wanted to know more about the stars and more about this man who made it so easy for me to grasp concepts about space-stuff like I never had before.

The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we’re told.

My dad loaned me this little book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. In it, deGrasse Tyson brings the stars into reach of the “common man” – or rather, anyone who doesn’t also hold a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. I’ve been so enamored with deGrasse Tyson’s field of science (and his brain) for a while now, so I dove right in to it – not even really registering that it is nonfiction (except to maybe a flat-earther).

The tone of the book is technical but conversational. Some scientific topics and theories are hard to explain without sounding a bit obnoxiously erudite; however, deGrasse Tyson’s humor easily tempers all that and brings us all to the table as equals. But don’t take that to mean that he “dumbs-down” the information in any sense. He just includes references and comparisons that bring complicated themes into better focus.

Ignorance is the natural state of mind for a research scientist.

I also really appreciated the fact that he is notably transparent about how much scientists still have yet to learn about our own solar system and the universe at large. The book expresses more than once that advances we have made in understanding the space we occupy have changed human thought drastically in only a few decades, and that we should continue to expect that same level of knowledge-shift as scientific methods and tools improve.

We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out – and we have only just begun.

This book, as advertised, is a quick overview of the wonders and mysteries of astrophysics, and in the end, I found it to be not enough. I could have used a few more chapters covering black holes, the theoretical 9th planet, our sun’s current life cycle, and future plans for interstellar travel.

Welcome to the Universe just may give me what I need. Published in 2017 and co-authored by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who acts as director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History; J. Richard Gott and Michael A. Strauss, both professors of astrophysics at Princeton University, it touts itself as “an astrophysical tour” and even has an accompanying website at Welcome to the Universe. Intriguing topics include “Our place in the universe”, “Is there a black hole in our backyard?”, and “Do we live in a multiverse?”. Another one added to the TBR pile!

 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry earned a healthy 4.5 stars from me, and after reading it my admiration of Neil deGrasse Tyson – and my IQ – rose a few notches. Signing off from this little person in the Western hemisphere of the 3rd rocky planet from our sun, in the Milky Way galaxy, on the Orion Arm, in the Local Group of the Virgo Supercluster, in the Observable Universe.


Get it here: Amazon ; Kindle ; Barnes & Noble

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