“I read a Tessa Dare book which everyone always recommends and now I’m going to have to read everything she’s ever written.”
Now look at what happened.
I absolutely hate romance novel covers like these. That’s the nice thing about e-books. You never have to see the covers while you’re reading.
I was reading in bed one night. The husband asked what I was reading and I said it was a romance novel. A few nights later he asked the same question and I gave the same answer. He asked if it was the same one. I had to think for a bit and then decided that there had been two or three since the last time he asked. I can’t help it that romance novels get read quickly.
What Am I Reading?
I picked these up from the library this weekend. They are both hefty books. They should keep me busy for a while.
What Am I Listening To?
I’ve only got a little bit of this left. I may even finish it before this posts. What am I supposed to do with my life then? This series gives me the worst book hangovers. I looked up the narrator to see what else she has read but this series is it. I don’t know what to listen to next.
While I was whining to myself about this I found this on Audible.
This is another of my major book hangover series. It just came out. Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’ll be finishing Lake Silence before this posts then and moving on with my life. My angst will be under control until this one is done.
In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era
Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time the center stage.
Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand-new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?
Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.
I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
Alma Mahler was a very interesting woman. She was ambitious in a time and place that did not reward that in upper class white women. She wanted to be a composer but was told that she couldn’t if she wanted to marry the man she wanted.
This book does a good job of highlighting the mental cost of requiring a woman to be a wife and mother if that is not their desire. Her depression and their martial troubles in the face of his refusal to see her as a creative human being was well written.
I wish this book had pulled me deeper into the story emotionally. Great historical fiction should immerse you in the time and place. It should take a little effort to get your focus out of that world when you put the book aside. This reading experience felt very surface level which is a shame. Early 20th century Vienna and the artistic world there could be a very lush setting for a novel.
I enjoyed learning about this woman that I had not previous been aware of.
Last Friday the husband and I went to see Neil Gaiman talk in Cleveland. This is a fine measure of how much I’ve corrupted the husband. He used to be an ordinary fellow. Ever so slowly I’ve been moving him over to the sci-fi/fantasy side of life. He is actually the one that heard that Neil Gaiman was going to be in town and wanted to go. He only really knew of him from the TV version of American Gods, although he had seen other movies and TV shows he had written for without knowing it was him.
We were only able to get seats in the balcony since we found out late. When we got there we found that the seats were very compact. My butt just fit into mine and my knees were touching the seat in front of me. I’m only 5’6. You have to be friendly with your neighbor. The husband doesn’t really do well in situations like this because he has big shoulders that take up more than his share of space. His PTSD doesn’t do well crowded in like that either so I always make sure to buy an aisle seat for him.
We started to notice that there were seats around us that weren’t occupied. The husband started talking to our sardine section. “When the lights go down, we should all just spread out to the empty chairs.” Then he got up and disappeared. I finally saw him surrounded by a group of female volunteer ushers. He was regaling them with some story.
Then it happened. I always this day would come.
An usher broke away from the group, came over to me, and asked, “Ma’am? Are you with that gentleman?“
I sighed and said, “It depends on what he’s doing over there.” That confused her.
Turns out he was getting official permission for us to scatter. Two ushers (one was the head person) escorted us to seats farther up in the balcony. They really wanted to make sure we were ok. I didn’t see the big deal. We were going to “worse” seats than the ones we paid for. He told me later that he might have played up the PTSD/wounded warrior angle for official permission. No one else in the sardine section moved but we got to spread out and sit a bit sideways to be able to stretch out our legs.
Neil Gaiman was great, of course. He had a stack of questions from the audience that he answered by telling stories. He interspersed a few readings.
The most exciting news for me is that he is working on a second London Below book. My favorite of his books is still Neverwhere. I am here for whatever he wants to write in that world.
He told stories about working with Terry Pratchett and the filming of the Good Omens series, including David Tennant being bit by a dog who didn’t know about acting and decided to defend the kids that were being threatened.
He talked about meeting his now-wife around 2008. The husband later said that it was good thing that he had found me first because Neil Gaiman was single at the same time I was in that year and I fit his definition of people he liked. That’s people who liked books and were a little weird. I was thinking, “Wait a minute. I was not aware that Neil Gaiman was an option at the time I was making life partner decisions” but I didn’t tell him that.
I loved the fact that he was talking against book snobbery. He wanted people to sample and get to know authors from all genres – horror, romance, kidlit, etc.
Then he read a full story from Norse Mythology. The husband started snoring but swears he heard the whole thing. He says that it was just that Neil’s voice was so “melodic and soothing.” He couldn’t have done that in sardineland.
So if you ever have a chance to hear Neil Gaiman on tour, we highly recommend it. Just remember if you spread out and get comfy that you might be lulled into a happy sleep.
I have a new rule. I’m only reading historical romances that have been recommended on Twitter. This week I tried two that I picked out on my own. I think they were from Book Bub. I had to rapidly DNF both. There are SO MANY historical romance books and authors that it feels like just randomly reaching into a hat and trying to draw out a good one.
I’m doing a thread on Twitter of all the books I DNF this year and why. Here the explanations for each.
Catching Captain Nash – Hero’s been gone for 5 years – His wife says that she will allow him to have sex w/ her as often as needed in order to control his emotions YEAH BYE – Also too many uses of the word ‘swive’ pic.twitter.com/V11KBzXBkg
So then I started picking books from romance recommendation threads.
I promised a list of historical romances with Indian characters that don’t make my head explode. I’m kicking it off with Meredith Duran’s DUKE OF SHADOWS, which is set partially during the Indian rebellion of 1857-58 (aka “the Sepoy Mutiny”).
Check out these lists if you are looking for well done romances. Also look at WOCinRomance too.
What Am I Reading?
I read a Tessa Dare book which everyone always recommends and now I’m going to have to read everything she’s ever written.
What Am I Listening To?
I’m so excited about this one. I loved her series about The Others. This is set in the same world but in a different place. It is assumed that you have a working knowledge of world. It doesn’t have a prologue explaining things as clearly as each of The Others books do.
I loved Meg and Simon’s story so much (Grumpy Ponies!) that I worried a bit about leaving that behind but I fell right into this story. I’m loving it so far.
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
This book is so good!
Conflict between immigrant Asian parents and their American-born kids is a staple in a lot of books. What I appreciated about this book is that it took a deeper look at the people involved to figure out their motivations. Mei is trying to be the perfect daughter because she has seen real world consequences of disobedience. Her brother was cut out of the family years earlier for dating a woman with some health issues that may impact her fertility. His parents would not accept a potential daughter in law who might not produce grandchildren. Mei is raised on stories of a local Taiwanese-American woman who was cast out of her family and the horrible things had (supposedly) happened to her. From an outsider’s perspective it is easy to wonder “Why doesn’t she stand up for herself?” This book does a great job of showing where she gets the idea that she has no other options.
The book features other characters who have been in these situations and examines the results of their decisions. There is:
A woman who became a doctor because her family decided she would be
A female relative whose life is taken up by caring for her mother
Mei’s boyfriend, who is from a Japanese-American family that has been living in the United States for several generations
Mei’s mother’s story was amazing. At the beginning she is portrayed as an overbearing, neurotic mother who has Mei’s schedule memorized and panics if she doesn’t answer her phone when she knows she should be out of class. Her phone messages are played for laughs. As the story deepens though we start to see her conflicts. She’s the daughter-in-law of a very traditional family in an arranged marriage where her role is very sharply defined. As she sees Mei start to branch out, she opens up a little about her life and you develop a lot of compassion for a character who very easily could have descended into a caricature.
It’s great. I would recommend this one to everyone. Go get it and read it and pass it on.
An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.
Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.
A slick mix of gonzo playfulness, evocative detail, skillful pacing, and elegant writing, Hippie Food is a lively, engaging, and informative read that deepens our understanding of our culture and our lives today.
Obviously I had to listen to this book. They should have just titled it “A Book for Heather.”
This is a history of the health food and vegetarian food movements in the U.S. It starts with briefly talking about health food people like the Kelloggs and Dr. Graham at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. It then segues into the macrobiotic movement which came to the U.S. from Japan. The bulk of the book focuses on the post-WW II push back to the marketing of processed convenience food.
What I really learned from this book:
White Folks Can’t Cook
The hippie/back-to-the-land movement was overwhelmingly white. That’s briefly addressed but not explored deeply. A lot of these people seemed to come from a background where they didn’t learn to cook without convenience foods. So when they tried to cook whole food ingredients, they pretty much failed. Spices? What are they?
That’s how vegetarian food got a reputation for being bland and boring. It only started to get good when they started stealing ideas from other cultures. Japanese influences came in through macrobiotics. This gets linked to politics because of the 1965 immigration reform that allowed more immigrants from non-European countries. Those people opened restaurants and suddenly people realized that you don’t need to eat food with the texture and taste of tree bark. If the movement was inclusive from the start, hippie food might not have had such a bad reputation.
I loved hearing about how all sorts of foods that we consider staples now came to the United States. Again this is presented from a white, middle class perspective. It talks about starting tofu production in the States but I’m sure there were people in Asian communities who were doing this before white people adopted it and started mass production. The same can go for different spices and/or vegetables that I’m sure were in use in black or Latinx communities. That’s my major criticism of this book.
I would get excited whenever some of my favorites where mentioned. Diet for a Small Planet! (Yes, her made up theory of the necessity of “complete proteins” has been repeatedly debunked. Can we let that die now? Please? Asking for all vegetarians who get asked about it ALL THE TIME.) The Moosewood Cookbooks! Those were some of the first I read.
Read this one if you love food history as it relates to personal ethics and politics.
A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives.
In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend. Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man's best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.
Readers will be inspired by...* Extraordinary reunions: A dog is rescued from Aleppo, Syria, and reunited with his family in Canada, where they had relocated in 2015 after a missile destroyed their home.* Friendships meant to be: When a prosthetics clinic scheduled appointments for 9-year-old Avery and shelter puppy Hattie Mae on the same day, a fateful encounter leads to a lifelong friendship built on combatting disability. * Heroic acts: Shaya, a crime-fighting dog trained to track illegal poachers, hurt his leg chasing an injured rhino. The leg had to be amputated, but Shaya goes right back to work protecting animals.* True devotion: As he was participating in China's Four Deserts Gobi March, a six-day foot race, Dion Leonard met a dedicated pup who accompanied him for about 120 miles. Afterward, he decides to adopt the dog.
Of course I loved this book. How could you not? This is a book filled with beautiful pictures of dogs as you’d expect from National Geographic.
Each dog has a story that is 2-3 pages long. It describes how the dog was taken out of a shelter and found a job that they love to do. There are therapy dogs, security dogs, actors, medical dogs, and anything else you could think of. There are probably dogs doing jobs that you’ve never even thought of before.
I’ll be taking this book to my office for people to look at in the waiting room.
I don’t like reading about rape in fiction. Recently though I found myself reading a few books almost back to back that had rape story lines. That got me wondering about the different ways this topic can be covered and if that changes the reading experience.
Gender of the author
I don’t think that I would be willing to read a female rape story line in a fiction book written by a man. Even if it was written from the point of view of a woman, there is still the fact that it was imagined in the mind of a potential perpetrator instead of a victim that adds a layer of disgust to it for me. It feels too voyeuristic even if that isn’t the intent.
Surprise or Anticipated
In the synopsis of The Hollow Girl it says that the main character is raped so you know going into the book that this is a major part of the plot and can decide whether or not that is a book for you.
In another series I read recently, it was not discussed in the synopsis so it felt like being blind sided by it.
There has been a lot written about “fridging”. That’s the trope of having something horrible, like rape or murder, happen to a secondary female character in order to inspire the main character(s) to do something heroic. But what if that rape happens to the main character?
In The Hollow Girl the main character is a Romani girl who is learning magic. She is attacked and raped and the boy who comes to her defense is murdered. In order to bring him back to life she needs to collect body parts. She decides to collect them from the boys who raped her and those whose inaction allowed the attack to happen. The rape here sets up a horror revenge fantasy.
I don’t like stories that use rape of a main character to humble or humilate a strong woman. That felt more like what happened in The Godkindred Saga series.
This is a fantasy series featuring a female general who is anticipating retirement but is instead sent to a newly captured territory to be its governor. She is a great character – complex, competent, just – but then along the way she is suddenly raped while confronting a horde of half-feral men. These men had been keeping women in fear in the area. The danger from them and need to subdue them was explained well in the book but having the main character raped seemed like an odd choice. It wasn’t absolutely necessary for the story.
As the story progresses there are other rapes of high ranking females in this Army. None of them seemed to serve any real purpose in the story but to belittle them.
I love this author but I do have an issue with her use of rape in her books. She writes beautiful pastoral books and then she writes books that feature a lot of violence and rape. There are series of hers that I won’t read because they are specifically labeled as featuring a lot of sexual violence. The attitude towards this in her books is basically, “Suck it up and deal. This is what women have had to deal with from the beginning of time.” It is off putting to me.
In Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, the main character is the offspring of military strategy of raping women. The attitude there is that she is going to make sure that this ends when she brings down the bad guy. It has the same kind of violence but somehow it is more hopeful (despite it being a much darker book) because they aren’t just putting up with it.
On page or Off
I have no interest in reading the details. In all these examples euphemisms are used and then the scene fades to black. In fact, in Flight of the Godkin Griffith, I didn’t realize that there had been a rape until the character references it later. I had to go back and look at the scene again to realize that was what that euphemism meant.
All of these examples I’m citing are fantasy.
I think for me that gives a distance that makes it a bit easier to accept these story lines. I find books like Stained, which is a contemporary story about a rape to be much harder.
I find nonfiction accounts easier to read. Some people may find that strange but to me it is an account of something that happened and needs to be faced. It is not something that someone sat down and imagined because they thought it would be entertaining.
Do you avoid rape plots in books? What standards do you have for what you will or won’t read?
I am leaving this week for my annual silent retreat. Some people head to monasteries. I go to vet conferences in Las Vegas. For a week I listen to lectures for 8 hours a day and speak to no one but waiters. It is lovely. I haven’t done as much prep as normal yet.
Things to do:
Search out the latest and greatest vegan offerings in Vegas – Done and some reservations made including a restaurant where you eat in the dark and have no idea what you are eating
Download harp albums from the library onto my phone to lull me to sleep during my flight
Pick out what lectures I’m going to. This is started. I’m down to about 2-4 per hour that I’d like to hear. It is hard this year to narrow them down. Only vets have thoughts like, “Chronic diarrhea lecture with free food? That sounds good. But that’s the same time as Handling Nasty Infected Wounds- now with extra pictures! Such a hard choice….“
Pick out what books I’m taking. I know, this should be priority one. I get so much reading done in these weeks. I keep thinking that I have so many books on my iPad and through that have access to my library and Amazon, so why plan? This way lies madness, I know. I’m know I’m running out of time to read A Wrinkle in Time before the movie comes out. I have a vague recollection of DNFing this book as a kid. I thought it was boring. I want to revisit that before the movie.
What Am I Listening To?
“Since his arrival at The Daily Show in 1999, Jon Stewart has become one of the major players in comedy as well as one of the most significant liberal voices in the media. In Angry Optimist, biographer Lisa Rogak charts his unlikely rise to stardom. She follows him from his early days growing up in New Jersey, through his years as a struggling standup comic in New York, and on to the short-lived but acclaimed The Jon Stewart Show. And she charts his humbling string of near-misses—passed over as a replacement for shows hosted by Conan O’Brien, Tom Snyder, and even the fictional Larry Sanders—before landing on a half-hour comedy show that at the time was still finding its footing amidst roiling internal drama.“
I was thrashing around looking for an audiobook. I DNFed one and wandered away from another but I’ll probably go back to it. I have a highly anticipated one hitting Audible in about a week so I’m killing time with this one. Not a great recommendation I know, but it is entertaining enough.
Dee is a Good Witch but she wonders if she could be a better witch.
She wonders if there’s more to life than Disney movie marathons, eating a whole box of chocolates for dinner and brewing up potions in her bathtub. So when she’s offered a chance to go on a personal development course in the English countryside, she packs her bags, says goodbye to the Shelter for Unloved Animals charity shop and sets a course for self-improvement.
Caroline isn’t just a Good Witch, she’s a fricking awesome witch.
She likes to find the easy path through life: what her good looks can’t get for her, a few magic charms can. But she’s bored of being a waitress and needs something different in her life. So when a one night stand offers her a place on an all-expenses-paid residential course in a big old country house, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.
Jenny is a Wicked Witch. She just wishes she wasn’t.
On her fifteenth birthday, she got her first wart, her own imp and a Celine Dion CD. She still has the imp. She also has a barely controllable urge to eat human children which is socially awkward to say the least and not made any easier when a teenager on the run turns to her for help. With gangsters and bent cops on their trail, Jenny needs to find a place outside the city where they can lay low for a while.
For very different reasons, three very different witches end up on the same training course and land in a whole lot of trouble when they discover that there’s a reason why their free country break sounds too good to be true. Foul-mouthed imps, wererats, naked gardeners, tree monsters, ghosts and stampeding donkeys abound in a tale about discovering your inner witch.
This book was absolutely ridiculous and I loved it. I actually, honestly, literally laughed out loud a few times. From surveys where the only right answer is commenting about the survey taker’s flaming hat to absolutely perverse imps to flying landscaping equipment, it took every stereotype about witches and twisted them delightfully.
This is a book that you don’t try to hard to make perfect sense. It is a madcap romp and you should just go along for the ride. There are witches of all ages and abilities. Some use herbs. Some use whatever is laying around. Others have a complete set of every type of mystical craft available in occult stores.
My only complaint is that with all the action the characterization took a back seat. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of which witch was which. But that is a minor quibble. Pick this one up for a light, silly story.
After my first few experiences with tour companies, I avoided them for years. The books I was sent were horribly bad. I wanted to change my name and move away so I wasn’t under any obligation to finish the books. Now I work with a few companies and the experience is much better. What changed?
Be super picky about the books you accept
This is especially true for us mood readers. You are getting the book in exchange for promising to read it all the way through and review it. For me that means that the synopsis has to make me think, “Yes, I absolutely want to read this book!!” and not “Um, maybe that would be good.”
When I get approved for a book tour, I immediately go to my wordpress calendar and start a post on the correct day with the name of the book and the tour company it came from. That way I can see what is coming up and get the post published on the correct day – except for the time I put the post on the correct day in the wrong month. This also lets me see if I’m getting too many too close together. If so, I need to stop accepting requests to have time for other reading and posting. Nothing kills the fun like having to read for a deadline.
Choose the right tour companies
I found tour companies by seeing them mentioned on other blogger’s reviews of books that sounded interesting. Going back to being picky, I signed up to host for companies that consistently had books that I would be interested in. You can see what books they are currently touring on their webpage.
So how does this work?
When you sign up to be a host you aren’t obligated to read every book that the company is touring. You will be sent emails with books on offer. If you are interested in a book you respond to the email. Most books are sent as ebooks but some companies send paper books. The books may be ARCs before publication or may be part of the publicity package for a paperback release.
This is the company I use the most. They send out an email 3 or 4 times a year with a list of books that they will be having available. I generally am interested in most of them. I restrain myself and still end up with 1 or 2 most months. I get a lot of nonfiction from here but they also have a lot of fiction.
My only complaint is that the books come directly from the publishers and sometimes they get delayed. I’ve had books that I haven’t gotten until after I was scheduled to review or in the week before I was supposed to review. Rushed reading to review a book in a few days isn’t fun.
This is a fairly new company to me. They send out a separate email for each book on offer. I’ve been choosing to get mostly fluffy, fun books from here. I’m a sucker for books with pastel covers featuring British women reinventing their lives in a cafe or bookshop. This company sends ebooks so they are available immediately and you generally have a few months before your review is scheduled.
I don’t choose a lot of books from here. That’s mostly because my mood reading really kicks in with historical fiction. It is hard for me to plan ahead to read a book and then still want to read it when I get it. The books I have gotten from here have been good. I just got one recently that I’m planning on reading soon. Deadlines are about 1-2 months out.
I have a few other companies that I am on the mailing lists for but I hardly ever choose their books. It doesn’t hurt to look though! The same rule applies as on sites like NetGalley. Don’t overburden yourself with requests in your excitement for free books.
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.
I wanted to love this book so much more than I did. I’ve been hearing about it for so long and have heard such glowing praise of it that when I finished it and felt a bit blah towards it, I was disappointed.
This book has been super hyped because of the use of a black model in a gown on the cover. It was celebrated as a great step forward for representation in books and it is. But because of that I thought that race would play a bigger part in this book than it does. Skin color in this world is decided on a whim. There is no change in status/power/importance placed on the skin color that you have. It is a fashion accessory. It just seemed like it went from “Yay for Black Girls” on the cover and in the promotions to “But actually, this doesn’t have anything to do with you specifically” in the story. If I didn’t know anything about how this book was promoted, it probably wouldn’t have felt strange to me.
The author does a great job in the opening of setting up the world. It is imaginative and vivid. After that though the world building just seems to stop. This is a long novel at 448 pages. In most fantasy books that size you’d know about countries around the area, the basis of the economy, how people of different classes live, what is their technology based on, etc. The main character is very sheltered but that isn’t unusual in fantasy. Usually they find out more about their surroundings that she does in this book though. At least they show some interest in what is going on around them. Camillia really doesn’t.
Wishy Washy Heroine
Events happen to the characters in this book. They do not direct the action. I think this is the key to my dissatisfaction with this book.
Every time she is asked to make a decision, she puts it off for days. Eventually she makes a decision but it is usually irrelevant by then because events have moved on. When deciding between what is right/hard and what is easy/cruel, she always chooses easy/cruel if forced to make a choice in the moment. She seems like she is supposed to be a nice person – she remembers servants’ names! – but she is so very weak. Only after witnessing and participating in abuse after abuse does she start to think that something might be wrong. I would be much more interested in reading a story about the one of her fellow Belles who threw a fit about what she was being made to do almost from the beginning.
Series vs Stand alone book
It is fine to have a book designed to be part of a series but I hate it when there is no resolution at the end of a book. Even just wrapping up some side storylines is more satisfying than a totally open-ended book. In a way this feels like the story is just starting and the pages run out. That’s fine if you can move right on to the next book but it is annoying here. At the end I kept thinking of questions that weren’t answered and thinking, “Maybe that’s in the next book” instead of enjoying what was in this one.
I think the idea was good. There are some very creative details in the world building like teacup elephants and mail being delivered by small balloons. It may turn out to be the beginning of a good series. But it doesn’t stand alone well as a single book.
The first three were all library holds that came in. The last one is a follow up to a book I tried to read out loud on a road trip because I knew the step daughter would enjoy the story. She had always hated being read to even as a little kid but I figured she was trapped in the car. She got really mad and then put her headphones on to block me out. The husband loved the story though. The day this book came he appeared with it at bedtime and demanded one chapter read to him before bed. Yes, this is the same husband who gets snarky every so often about people reading anything other than nonfiction who wants a middle grade book read out loud to him. Don’t try to apply any logic to this situation.
Him after the first chapter – “That’s it? But there was no Millie. Where are my friends????”
Me – “This was introducing you to new friends. New friends are nice.”
Him, fake pouting and holding the book to his chest – “I like my old friends. I missed my old friends. (Deep breath) Ok, new friends are nice. New friends are nice.”
People ask if I regret choosing to not have children. I have no idea what they are talking about.
What Am I Listening To?
“In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s glowing memories of his graduate school years here. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since. Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas, and later lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.“
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives. For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently? These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.
As soon as I heard about this book I knew that it was a book I needed to read. I turn into a tower of rage whenever I hear “Where were their parents?” in response to a teenager committing a crime. I feel this because I know that someday this accusation is going to leveled at me concerning my stepdaughter.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t read this book to get into the mind of a mass murderer. I wanted tips about what to do after a child commits a crime. Knowing that I wanted this felt awkward so while reading this book I broached the subject with my husband.
Me: “So…… I’m reading Sue Klebold’s book about the aftermath of Columbine. I sort of wanted to know what you do after a crime.”
Him: “Yeah. (long pause) So what did you find out?”
Me: “Lawyer up and grab the pets and go into hiding with relatives who don’t share your unusual last name.”
Him: Looks concerned at me while we contemplate our very unusual last name. We’re screwed.
The Klebolds had a very different experience than parents of mentally ill children do. She addresses this at one point.
“I have heard many terrible stories of good peoplestruggling to parent seriously ill, violent kids. I have nothing but compassion for them, and feel we must rehabilitate a health care system that too often leaves them out in the cold. If you want to feel sick to your stomach, listen to a mom tell you about the day her volatile ten-year-old narrowly missed stabbing her with the kitchen shears, and how it felt to call the police on him because she was worried the lock on his younger sister’s bedroom door wouldn’t hold against his rage. Too often, parents of seriously disturbed kids are forced to get the criminal justice system involved—even though it is drastically ill-equipped to manage brain illness—simply because there is nowhere else to turn.”
One thing I was surprisingly shocked to read was how many lawsuits were filed against the families of the shooters. It wasn’t like they helped their kids stockpile weapons and then drove them to the school. How were they at fault? I think it is a sad commentary on our society feeling like someone has to take the blame for anything that happens and if the people responsible are dead, then the victim’s families just wanted someone else to blame. There are excerpts of letters written to her by parents of the victims years later blaming her for not talking publicly so people could see if she was showing enough remorse. They talk about wanting to know if she has learned anything. This hounding from the victims’ families is part of the reason she wrote this book. The proceeds are all being donated to mental health research.
I found Sue Klebold’s descriptions of herself and her parenting to be an example of the type of parent that drives me to exasperation. It is the overinvolved yet absolutely clueless type. These are the perky women who tell you that they have a great family and will fight to the death to uphold their belief that their precious little munchkin would never do anything wrong while you know that their child is the local drug dealer. I’ve known a few of these types of mothers. They are exhausting. I switched halfway through the book from audio to ebook because listening to her talk about the time before the shooting was irritating. I understand it though. The parents’ letters ask if she ever hugged her child or had a sit down meal with him. People want to think that if they do everything “right” then their child will never commit a crime. She admits that she thought like this too until her son went on a rampage.
Few of these parents ever have their illusions shattered as horrifically as this author did. But she admits that she was able to shield herself from hearing anything about the crime for months so she was able to persist in her denial that her child did anything wrong. She convinced herself that he was drugged or kidnapped or really a victim or was being threatened with danger to his family. She was willing to believe anything except that he was a killer. She persisted in this belief until the police laid out their whole case for them about 4 months after the murders. Here is a horrible example of how she tried to justify her thinking.
“This wasn’t the drug-riddled inner city, or some supposedly godless corridor like New York or Los Angeles.“
Her solutions are jarring. They are based in the idea that parents should know everything about their children. She is obviously an extrovert who says that she loves to talk about issues. If only you could force your children to tell you everything, you could prevent problems. I can feel my poor little introvert soul shrinking when she talks about this.
“I’ve even imagined barricading myself in his room, refusing to leave until he tells me what he’s thinking.“
She advocates searching rooms to find hidden journals or papers. She says this knowing that her son hid weapons and bombs from her while she was actively searching his room. They hid things so well that the police didn’t even find some of the hiding spots until they watched videos Dylan and Eric had left behind explaining how they had hid everything. If a kid doesn’t want you to know something, you aren’t going to know it.
She brushes over the practical aftermath of the shootings for her family in one paragraph. Basically, they were sued over and over and over and lost their house and went bankrupt for a crime they didn’t commit. They also eventually divorced after 43 years of marriage because she is active in suicide prevention and he wanted to leave all of this in the past.
I think she dismisses the bullying that Dylan and Eric had at school too much. She doesn’t talk about it much at all. Other sources have talked about how toxic Columbine High School was. I did appreciate this statement in the book.
“Larkin also points to proselytizing and intimidation by evangelical Christian students, a self-appointed moral elite who perceived the kids who dressed differently as evil and targeted them.“
So much was made after Columbine in evangelical circles about the targeting of Christian kids. It was used as proof that the shooters were evil. Maybe the Christian community also needed to look at the behavior of their kids.
That’s ultimately the point of this story. Everyone wants to demonize the parents of murderous kids because if you find the thing they did wrong, then it won’t happen to your family. No one wants to admit that that isn’t the case. Until society admits that it could happen to anyone, real help won’t happen.
Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she's taken over a derelict cafe. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn! She's hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It's a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past. But the cafe holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn't help. The more you try to pretend that you know what's going on, the worse it gets. Andorra's plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands. In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?
I’m not usually a cozy mystery fan because it always drives me crazy when people don’t report crimes to the police and decide to investigate themselves. I decided to give this one a try though because of the twist on the genre. This cafe owner who is investigating a crime is living on a space station.
Andorra and her friend Cyril moved to a space station near Saturn. It is there to support mining in the rings of Saturn. The previous owner of the cafe left suddenly. When cleaning the cafe to reopen though, they find his body. Not knowing who to trust on the station because they are new, they keep him in the freezer.
The book gets into issues of sexual harassment and infidelity because the previous owner was known for seducing many women on the station and then keeping records that could be used to blackmail them. Anyone could be a suspect. I was reading this book just as all the accusations of sexual harassment in Hollywood were coming to light. It was a jarring juxtaposition to see this plotline at that time. It made it feel very timely and topical.
I liked the world building. Andorra is taken all over the station to see how life on the space station works. It was well thought out and logical. I love that there is a farm.
The book takes place an unspecified time in the future when Mars has been colonized for a long time. Unfortunately, there still is homophobia on the space station. That surprised me because usually I don’t see that in sci-fi I read. It made me uncomfortable because I kept thinking that we should be over that by then.
Overall I did enjoy this story. I would be interested in reading more in this series. Check this one out especially if you enjoy both cozy mysteries and sci-fi.
A native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.
He can be found at www.richarddeescifi.co.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RichardDeeAuthor
Twitter – https://twitter.com/@RichardDockett1
“Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.
One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.
She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.”
What Am I Listening To?
“Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.”
On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.
Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of "flags of convenience." Infesting our waters, poisoning our air, and a prime culprit of acoustic pollution, shipping is environmentally indefensible. And then there are the pirates.
Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates the harm that ships inflict on endangered whales.
I’ve been intrigued by shipping ever since I heard a statistic in Moby Duck that said that 2 ships are lost weekly. I never knew whether I should believe that or not. That seemed like a lot of ships to lose without it being something everyone knows. This book didn’t tell me if that was true but it did say that over 2000 people a year die at sea.
This book follows a container ship journey from England to Singapore with side trips to investigate issues like piracy. You learn about shipwrecks and human smuggling. My favorite fact was that a container of broccoli will set off the radiation detectors at the shipyards. (I knew broccoli was bad for you.)
I was surprised by how horrible life as a sailor is. I knew it wasn’t a cushy job but the companies seem to go out of their way to make it worse. The amount allotted per day for meals keeps dropping. There is no internet even on ships built in the last few years. Fast turnaround at docks means that shore leave is pretty much a thing of the past. Some sailors she talks to haven’t been off the ship in 6 months. If your ship gets captured by pirates, you are pretty much on your own for a while. There is a set time that negotiations generally take. If your company tries to speed it up so it doesn’t take months, the pirates get suspicious and keep you longer.
I was interested to hear how the dockside churches are stepping up for sailors. Because they can’t leave the ships, chaplins come onto the boats to help them get things they need. They also try to help fix some of the horrible conditions by finding the right authorities for sailors to report complaints to.
Read this one to find out everything about an industry that is so pervasive but no one knows about.
I loved the narrator of this audiobook. She doesn’t sound like a typical nonfiction book narrator. She’s very posh and British. I looked up what else she has narrated because I was going to listen to them all. It turns out that she is mostly a narrator of Regency Romances. She sounds like she should be reading those. I want her to read more nonfiction because that’s mainly what I listen to on audio. Pearl Hewitt for narrator of every book!
Andrew Schulman, a fifty-seven-year-old professional guitarist, had a close brush with death on the night of July 16, 2009. Against the odds—with the help of music—he survived: A medical miracle.
Once fully recovered, Andrew resolved to dedicate his life to bringing music to critically ill patients at Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s ICU. In Waking the Spirit, you’ll learn the astonishing stories of the people he’s met along the way—both patients and doctors—and see the incredible role music can play in a modern hospital setting.
In his new work as a medical musician, Andrew has met with experts in music, neuroscience, and medicine. In this book, he shares with readers an overview of the cutting-edge science and medical theories that illuminate this exciting field.
This book explores the power of music to heal the body and awaken the spirit.
Andrew Schulman was a professional classical guitarist. He went into the hospital to have a biopsy but an allergic reaction to medication while in surgery led to him spending time in a coma in the surgical ICU. He was nonresponsive to anything until his wife started playing his favorite playlist of music for him. After his recovery, he started to research the links between music and healing. He also returned to the surgical ICU three days a week to play for an hour.
I’ve been lurking on some music therapy harp groups on Facebook. I like the types of music that these musicians seem to play and I was actually looking for good sources of music for relaxing harp pieces. I know a lot of it is improv. In this book, Andrew Schulman does some improv but finds himself mostly playing three types of music – Bach, Gershwin, and The Beatles.
There are a lot of stories in the book that show how small of a world the New York music world must be. He meets family members of composers, Gershwin scholars, and people who performed on his favorite recordings. Along the way he is shocked to find that he starts to heal the brain damage that his time in a coma caused.
I liked the incorporation of the science along with the stories. He will talk about seeing music calm pain responses and then will get a scientific opinion on why that works.
You’ll finish this book believing that Bach should be playing in every recovery unit in the hospital. Even if you don’t play an instrument, this is an uplifting story about how the body can heal itself and how not every medical intervention needs to be using drugs.