Secrets of PEACE by T.A. Hernandez

CoverFrontFinalv1Title: Secrets of PEACE
Author: T.A. Hernandez
Publication Date & Publisher: July 27, 2016, Sanita Street Publishing
Genre(s): Thriller (Dystopian), General Fiction
My Rating: 3.5/50

Description (from Goodreads):

Nearly 30 years ago, the PEACE Project rose from the ruins of a global war to take power over a new America. Providing stability in exchange for absolute authority, the Project controls every aspect of citizens’ lives through each of its five units:

Protect
Enforce
Advance
Control
Eliminate

Raised in the Project since infancy, eighteen-year-old Zira has been trained as an assassin under the stern guidance of unit E-2’s Chairman Ryku. After she makes a careless mistake on an assignment, the chairman partners her with Jared, the best operative in her unit. Their partnership transforms into friendship as they work together and learn to rely on each other. But when misinformation causes a solo mission to backfire, Zira’s deepest loyalties and strongest relationships are tested in a place where even a hint of doubt can be perceived as treason.

The life she knows is falling apart, and nothing will ever look the same again.

My review:

Okay, I’m going to attempt to give a review here without any spoilers, but it’s gonna be really hard with this one…

Secrets of PEACE tells the story of a promising young assassin named Zira. She’s spent her entire life as a member of the PEACE Project. The Project is supposed to be taking care of what’s left of civilization, but how it goes about doing that is a secret not just to those living outside of the Project’s compound walls, but even to members in the organization itself.

Since most of the members in the Project were raised by the Project, they are completely brainwashed to believe the Project is infallible. Going against the Project isn’t an option and leaving is considered treason.

I loved the way both sides are portrayed in this story. You get to see life from both inside the Project and outside, and you can’t help but feel for both those protecting the Project and what it stands for and also those opposing it.

Ryku, the PEACE Project Chairman in charge of Zira’s unit, partners her with Jared, another E-2 operative. Neither of them are happy about the situation, but as they train together and prepare for their first mission as a team, they grow on each other.

When Zira is sent on a solo mission without Jared, everything falls apart and she is changed forever. By the time she returns to the Project, she has no idea who to trust and is no longer able to follow orders blindly. Jared and her best friend, Aubreigh, can’t help her as she wrestles with the consequences of what happened on her last mission. Her eyes have been opened, but she’s not sure that’s a good thing.

The pacing of this story is super fast and I found myself kind of disappointed when I got to the end because I wasn’t ready to be done with it yet. And speaking of “the end”… I both loved AND hated it!!! I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but it happened. I read the last sentence and was like NOOOOOOO…I need to know what happens from here! (Thankfully, there’s a second book (Renegades of PEACE)!!)

My biggest pet peeve about this book was that it went back and forth between Zira’s point of view and Jared’s, but at times it was hard for me to tell the difference. I often forgot who’s head I was in and then they’d say something and it’d completely throw me. Normally, this kind of thing would put me off of a book completely, but that didn’t happen here. Even with this, I couldn’t stop reading because I NEEDED to know what was going to happen. (So I probably should’ve realized the ending was going to drive me nuts.)

Overall, I’d recommend reading Secrets of PEACE if you like dystopian novels.

I received a free review copy of this book from the author. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek by Anthony O’Neill – BOOK REVIEW

Dr Jekyll and Mr SeekTitle: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek
Author: Anthony O’Neill
Publication Date & Publisher: October 16, 2018, Skyhorse Publishing
Genre(s): General Fiction (Adult); Horror(-ish)
Length: 288 pages
ISBN: 9781925143898
My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

In this dark, atmospheric sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless classic, the strange case continues with the return of Dr. Jekyll . . . Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman shows up in foggy London claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful lawyer and confidant, knows that he must be an impostor–because Jekyll was Hyde.

But as the man goes about charming Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming the estate, and as the bodies of potential challengers start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life . . . and questioning his own sanity.

This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements, as well as subverts, Stevenson’s gothic classic. And where the original was concerned with the duality of man, the sequel deals with the possibility of identity theft of the most audacious kind. Constantly threading on the blurred lines between reality and fantasy, madness and reason, self-serving delusions and brutal truths, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek honors the original Stevenson with a thrilling new conclusion.

My review:

The events in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek take place seven years after those in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While I was familiar with the general Jekyll & Hyde story, I’d never actually read the book. About a chapter in to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek, I decided it would be worthwhile to read the original work. It was definitely beneficial to do so, as it gave me insight into who the main character in this case is.

As Dr. Jekyll has been “missing” for the last seven years, Mr. Utterson, his attorney, friend, and beneficiary, is about to inherit Dr. Jekyll’s estate. But a wrench is thrown in those plans when it appears that Dr. Jekyll has returned to his home, along with a new butler. The story is told from Utterson’s perspective, a man with more knowledge than most of what happened the night Jekyll disappeared and Hyde was found dead. So of course, Utterson is secure in his knowing that the man claiming to be Jekyll, must be in impostor.

Unfortunately, Utterson appears to be a greedy man who is only out to destroy Dr. Jekyll and steal his fortune. And if Utterson came forward and let everyone know what he knows happened to Jekyll seven years ago, he’d be labeled insane and locked away for the rest of his years. He’d never practice law again.

The suspense is high throughout the book in that you’re constantly wondering whether it’s possible Jekyll is alive. You’re left pondering the implications of everything, the motives of just about everyone, right up until the last chapter, where everything is tied together and you’re given a somewhat plausible ending.

While I enjoyed this book a lot, the ending was a bit of a let down. It definitely didn’t end the way I expected and there was something disappointing in that. I’d love to elaborate, but if I tell you how I wanted it to end, then I’d totally spoil the book for you!

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories featuring the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I also recommend reading the original story when you get the chance!

I received a free review copy of this book through NetGalley. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar – BOOK REVIEW

36576005Title: Auschwitz Lullaby
Author: Mario Escobar
Publication Date & Publisher: August 7, 2018, Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Length: 304 pages
ISBN: 9780785219958
My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

In 1943 Germany, Helene is just about to wake up her children to go to school when a group of policemen break into her house. The policemen want to haul away her gypsy husband and their five children. The police tell Helene that as a German she does not have to go with them, but she decides to share the fate of her family. After convincing her children that they are going off to a vacation place, so as to calm them, the entire family is deported to Auschwitz.

For being German, they are settled in the first barracks of the Gypsy Camp. The living conditions are extremely harsh, but at least she is with her five children. A few days after their arrival, Doctor Mengele comes to pay her a visit, having noticed on her entry card that she is a nurse. He proposes that she direct the camp’s nursery. The facilities would be set up in Barrack 29 and Barrack 31, one of which would be the nursery for newborn infants and the other for children over six years old.

Helene, with the help of two Polish Jewish prisoners and four gypsy mothers, organizes the buildings. Though Mengele provides them with swings, Disney movies, school supplies, and food, the people are living in crowded conditions under extreme conditions. And less than 400 yards away, two gas chambers are exterminating thousands of people daily.

For sixteen months, Helene lives with this reality, desperately trying to find a way to save her children. Auschwitz Lullaby is a story of perseverance, of hope, and of strength in one of the most horrific times in history.

My review:

I could summarize my reaction to this story only one way:  SOOOOO MANY TEARS!!!

Auschwitz Lullaby is such an emotional story! I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it! I know that doesn’t sound like a good time to everyone, but I was ready to re-read this one as soon as I finished it… and put myself through the misery all over again!

Helene is a wife and mother we can all look up to. She loves her family fiercely. She’s been supporting them for some time now since her Romani husband is no longer able to work in Nazi territory. And she doesn’t show fear when the Nazi’s come! When faced with the decision to either stay behind and live a comfortable life or follow her husband and children into the Nazi’s camp, she makes it clear there was only one choice:

“There’s no need for you to come, Frau Hannemann,” the sergeant insisted.

I looked straight into his eyes and asked, “Do you think a mother would leave her children in a situation like this?”

“You’d be shocked if I told you all I’ve seen in the past few years,” he answered. “Very well, come with us to the station. We have to get them to the train before ten o’clock.

This wasn’t the only time Helene was given the chance to leave. But she won’t abandon what she knows is right. She ends up protecting not just her own family, but every child in the camp comes under her protection. At one point, she tells the doctor this:

“My family is here. I can’t leave without them. I’m a mother, Herr Doktor. You all wage your wars for grand ideals, you defend your fanatical beliefs about liberty, country, and race, but mothers have only one homeland, one ideal, one race: our family.

One of the hardest things to read in this story centered around the experiments Dr. Mengele was performing on twins. Helene has a set of twins and she lives in constant fear of someone showing up to take them. Mengele uses this on more than one occasion to force Helene to bend to his will.  We’re currently fostering twins and I’ve become a huge fan of all twins! I find myself automatically drawn to and loving every twin I meet (real or fictional). So this aspect of the book drew me in and caused an even deeper emotional wound for me.

There isn’t a single character in Auschwitz Lullaby that I didn’t feel some connection with. I either loved or hated them, but don’t expect to get a lukewarm feeling about anyone! That being said, there were times when I was confused on how I felt about a couple characters. In a situation like this it’s easy to think of the guards as less than human. It’s really the only way to rationalize what they do. But somehow, Mario Escobar managed to keep reminding me that they’re real people, with real feelings (good & bad), and no one is purely evil or purely good.

This truly is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Helene’s journey and sacrifices to protect her family and others around her is amazing and will stick with me for a very long time!

I received a free review copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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A Home for the Redeeed by Sue Behnke – BOOK REVIEW

31164677-_sy180_Title: A Home for the Redeemed
Author: Sue Behnke
Publication Date & Publisher: July 13, 2016, WestBow Press
Genre(s): Christian Fiction
Length: 206 pages
ISBN: 13: 9781512748406
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

“He remembered with bitterness how much he had aspired to become a pastor. He had assumed that somehow it would change him. It would make him a different person, a better man. When he earned the title pastor, it seemed everyone else also assumed he was some super being, above the rest, with keys and answers to all life’s problems-the voice of God no less.

He had to admit he believed his own publicity for the longest time.”

Carl is a disillusioned pastor, toying with despair, watching his marriage fall apart. Leading the flock, he still has to counsel those who knock at his door, deal with an attack of the media, and still find a way to love a church that is no longer confident in his leadership. Benjamin is an atheist. His life is shaken by encounters with angels and supernatural happenings. He believes he has a divine message for Pastor Carl. Brendan, a member of the church, used to be a street urchin and an addict. He is a babe in Christ. His transformation is still rocky, and his relapse threatens to shatter those who love him. Can an imperfect pastor shepherd a church? Can the grace of God prevail in brokenness?

My review:

This story is CRAZY!!! It follows a number of people who either attend or are led to a  church led by Pastor Carl, who seems to have been in a funk for quite some time now. His dedication to his faith, his church, his marriage, and even himself is put to the test.

Brendan is a member of the church who used to be a homeless drug addict. After getting saved, he married his ex and now raises their child together. Brendan’s faith seems strong, until he’s really tested…

Benjamin is an atheist married to a woman who prays privately, multiple times a day, in her prayer room. She hasn’t been to church since being driven away after her previous marriage fell apart. Her faith is strong, but she’s been trying to do it all on her own and her new husband doesn’t even talk to her about her beliefs… until they’re both tested to the point of worrying Benjamin may be crazy…

There are many stories and lives woven together in A Home for the Redeemed. Real issues are dealt with and just when it seems everything is going to e okay… BAM! The church and all it’s members are suddenly thrown back into chaos.

I really enjoyed this story, but I got a little confused at the beginning. There are so many characters thrown at you and Brendan and Benjamin’s names are a little too similar for me… I got them mixed up more than once!

Definitely recommend picking this one up!

I received a free review copy of this book through Harper Collins Christian Publishing’s BookLook Bloggers Program. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of A Home for the Redeemed? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

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Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi – BOOK REVIEW

35795940Title: Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Publication Date & Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (MacMillan), June 19, 2018
Genre(s): Young Adult
Length:  327 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-15181-0
My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.

My review:

There was so much I loved in Not the Girls You’re Looking For, that it’s going to be hard for me not to ramble on and on, but I promise to try!

The main character, Lulu, has a bad habit of getting herself into situations with boys that she shouldn’t. We’re first introduced to Lulu as she’s trying to recover from her latest bad decision with a boy she doesn’t even really like. She’s been warned by her best friends that she’s going to get into serious trouble one day, but, like so many other things, she shrugs it off. Eventually, she does end up in a position she almost doesn’t escape from. I think the author did a good job of showing how Lulu’s high risk behavior doesn’t excuse the boy for his actions, and also shows the psychological effects of the encounter on Lulu.

Lulu’s father is Arab and her mother is a white woman from Louisiana. I love how this book is open about Lulu’s struggles with identity and where she “fits”. It didn’t back down from showing this not just from Lulu’s side, but also how she sees others around her, including, her own family’s struggle with the realities of her parent’s relationship and what that means for Lulu.

To be honest, it’s hard for me to find books I can connect with as much as I did with this one. Lulu experiences racism from kids she grew up with, including from boys she’d had crushes on and even boys she’d kissed – something that I also experienced growing up. It’s a complex feeling, one that’s near impossible to describe… when the people you’ve loved and thought you were accepted & loved by in return, reject you not for who you are, but for “what” you are.

Side rant: I could have really used a book like this when I was growing up! Unfortunately, though I read everything I could get my hands on as a child (not unlike now), there wasn’t a single book with a bi-racial character in it. So out of hundreds of books, I never found one featuring someone I could relate to. That’s not to say that those books didn’t exist, just that none made their way into my hands. It would have been incredibly helpful to have known that I wasn’t as alone as I felt. I’m so incredibly thankful that books like this one finally have a place in this world!

This is one of the most real paragraphs in the book, and it hit home so hard that it made me cry:

Lulu couldn’t help but be reminded of countless conversations she’d had, over and over again; they played out in her head. Of strangers asking her over and over again, what she was. Like a piece of flora or fauna. Like she was missing her proper taxonomy. That her father had planned this kind of life for her was a new idea for Lulu, and the reality of it took her breath away.

There’s a lot I want to say about that, but I’m getting side-tracked and I promised not to ramble, so I’m going to just leave that there and move on… (Except I am going to make this request: If you ever find yourself referring to someone as a “what” instead of a “who”, please stop. Apologize immediately, and then go deal with whatever it is in your heart that allowed you to go there in the first place.)

I love books with messy, real characters and Not the Girls You’re Looking For is full of them! The relationships are raw and real in a way you can’t always find. The conversations Lulu has with her friends are exactly the way I see my teens and their friends talking to each other, so bonus points for being realistic! I also loved the way every character in this book grew and changed, not just the main character!

I definitely recommend reading this one!

I received a free review copy of this book through a giveaway hosted by Eric Smith. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Not the Girls You’re Looking For? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

Are you planning on purchasing Not the Girls You’re Looking For? Please consider using one of these affiliate links: Amazon, Book Depository