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.
Cooking a wonderful meal is an art. An act of love. An act of grace. A gift that affirms and gives life—not only does it nurture those who partake of the meal; it also feeds the soul of the creator. These are lessons Gina learns from her mother, daughter of an unfortunate French chef.
Gina is a young woman born to poor parents, a nobody keen to taste life outside the world she was born into. A world that exposes her to fascinating people gripped by dark motives. Her passion for cooking is all she has to help her navigate it.
She gets lucky when she’s chosen to cook at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where customers belong to a privileged class with money to spare for a dinner of inventive dishes costing hundreds of dollars. In this heady, scintillating atmosphere, she meets new friends and new challenges—pastry chef Marcia, filthy rich client Leon, and Brent, a brooding homicide detective. This new world, it turns out, is also one of unexpected danger.
The main character is working at a restaurant. She has a chance to serve one of the dishes she created to a favored client. He is there on a date with her childhood best friend. He immediately, like while sitting in front of his date, starts talking about his interest in the main character. That’s super creepy behavior. Then he starts to stalk her in spite of her repeated requests for him to stop.
Apparently every time her friend’s boyfriends meet our main character they immediately fall for her without her doing anything at all to encourage them.
I actually checked several times to confirm that this was written by a woman. You usually don’t see the ‘vapid heroine who doesn’t do anything to attract men but they fall all over her just for existing storyline’ in books written by women. You especially don’t see it to the point where other women are physically attacking her – repeatedly. This book also doesn’t really seem to consider stalking to be a bad thing. It is just proof he loves you. If he won’t stop, you just haven’t said no hard enough and why are you wanting to say no anyway?
I thought our stalking dude was obviously the bad guy of the story but I was wrong. Our MC decides to move in with her stalker because he’s rich and she wants to live that lifestyle until he gets tired of her and kicks her out. That’s her plan. When her mother tells her that it is a completely stupid idea she is presented as out of touch.
I didn’t care about anyone in this story except maybe Christi, the main character’s childhood best friend. Everyone else was only out for themselves and didn’t give you any reason to root for them. I’m not a fan of books with amoral characters. Books where everyone is just using each other with no concern about the right or wrong of their actions don’t usually work for me. That’s definitely the case here.
Evy Journey, writer, wannabe artist, and flâneuse (feminine of flâneur), wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.
She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.
Deborah’s father dreamed that, one day, she would become a prophet—a seemingly impossible dream for a woman in a patriarchal society. To see her father’s dream come true, Deborah made the cunning decision to become a man and sought out a mysterious elixirist who can turn women into men.
Under the elixirist Kassite’s tutelage and training, Deborah learns the essential traits of masculinity and steadily grows stronger, building muscle and willpower. But Kassite requests something in return: he needs Deborah's help to escape the tannery and return to his homeland. It is the beginning of another thrilling adventure through the desert—a cat and mouse chase between Deborah and her violent fiancé who still hunts her, a chance meeting with an ancient healer with a prophetic message, and a revelatory spiritual experience in an abandoned cave.
As she continues on the path God has laid before her, Deborah witnesses the darkness that can take hold in the hearts and souls of men—evil that causes her to reflect on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration she has gained from the women in her life. Will becoming a man truly help her become a prophetess, or might there be another path? Visionary dreams, a mysterious eagle, and an extraordinary band of ex-slaves will help Deborah find the answer . . . and ultimately her calling.
I haven’t read the first book in this series that imagines the life of Deborah from the biblical book of Judges. I received this book as part of a blog tour but it was not difficult to understand what had come before. We know in the bible Deborah is leading the tribes of Israel but how did a woman get to this position of authority? This story posits that her father had a dream that said that she would be a prophet. She can not imagine how this could happen as a woman so she decides to take a potion that would turn her into a man. Obviously, hormone therapy wasn’t available then so she is getting scammed by the people who are supposedly helping her.
She has a lot of internalized misogyny. This isn’t surprising given the thoughts about women in her time. But the men who are supposedly helping her keep drilling it into her head. Women are stupid and emotional. Men are in all ways superior. I started highlighting these comments as they came up in the book.
“Girls aren’t stupid.” “It is not a matter of stupidity, but of destiny. Women exist to keep the home—make food, sew clothes, bear children, care for infants. That is why the gods made women fit for domesticated submission—passive, temperamental, small-minded, and anxious.“
Deborah’s face flushed with shame. The mere sight of someone resembling Zariz had caused her to cast off all masculine strength and posture, instantly regressing to the foolish girl she had once been.
Kassite might view it as yet another manifestation of feminine weakness.
There are more but that is the general idea. They keep telling her that she needs to search inside herself to get the final inspiration to complete her transformation to a man. I was hoping that this led to her realizing her strength as a woman and deciding that she didn’t need to change herself externally in order to be able to be a prophet. The book could have easily had that be the outcome. I thought that was what it was leading to. Instead she decides to embrace her life as a woman because she has a magical dream where she sees herself dispensing justice as a woman. What?
When she declares this to her “mentors”, they dismiss her ideas and no longer accord her the same respect as when she was trying to be masculine.
“I am disappointed,” Kassite said. “You still think like a girl.”
Obviously the constraints of the time and place restrict how “Smash the Patriarchy” the story can go but I wanted more realization of feminine strength than was seen in this book.
This is part of a continuing series. You don’t know at the end how she rises in power. This is a story that I would love to hear but I’m not sure that I will be satisfied with this author’s imagining of the story. This book works fine as an adventurous historical fiction tale but it was worrisome to read this much internalized misogyny that isn’t disputed in the text from a male author.
There are also some anachronisms in the story especially in regard to the horses. I’m a horse history nerd so that might not bother anybody else.
“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?“
I’m not sure if I’m going to make it all the way through this book. It isn’t really giving me the information that I was looking for. I may fast forward a bit and see if the focus of the book changes. I’m not particularly interested in what happened before the shooting. I’m looking for specifically what happened to the family afterwards.
From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors' story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.
The phrase “When They Call You A Terrorist” refers to two episodes in the author’s life:
When Black Lives Matter is referred to as a terrorist group by people who oppose them
When her mentally ill older brother was charged with terrorism for yelling at a person during a traffic accident
This memoir focuses more on her life leading up to the founding of Black Lives Matter than the aftermath. It tells the story of living in a community that is very heavily policed. When her brother starts showing signs of mental illness his interactions with the police increase. He is taken away and no one is able to find out where he is for months despite constant searching. He isn’t treated but just medicated to keep him quiet. He is repeatedly beaten by the police.
I immediately compare this to police treatment of my mentally ill step daughter. She’s 14. She has been repeatedly restrained by the police both at schools and at home because of her violence. She has sent adults to the hospital. She has destroyed property. The police will not ALLOW her to be charged with a crime despite multiple requests because “she has a diagnosis.” Wanna guess the other differences between her and the author’s brother besides access to healthcare to get a diagnosis? Yeah, she’s white and lives in an affluent suburb.
I’m not sure how so many white people can continue to think that unequal policing doesn’t exist. Even if you aren’t involved in a situation that highlights it, so many videos exist. It has to be just willful ignorance to deny the evidence.
The author helped organize a bus trip into Ferguson after Mike Brown’s death. A church was offered as a staging place for the 600 people coming in. I thought about that for a while. My brother works at a church that would be perfect for that sort of thing. It is right off the interstate. It has a huge parking lot that could hold a lot of buses. There is a school attached so maybe there are locker rooms so people could shower. Then I laughed and laughed. I can’t imagine a white majority church EVER opening their doors to a protest group. They’d have to fight about it in committee and through the church gossip networks for months before they could even begin to make a highly contested decision. Then the pastor would be fired.
My mental tangents aside, this book is ultimately about the power of love and what it looks like to try to live out that love in the real world. It is a short, lyrical book that can help open people’s eyes to the needs in communities that have adversarial relationships with police.
We had a great start to 2018 in January with 30 links! The winner of the drawing is Tina from Novel Meals. I’ve decided to change up the prizes for the monthly drawing. We’ve been having more international winners recently, which is wonderful. Because the cost of shipping books I already have is high, I have been shipping them books directly from Book Depository. That made it easy. So, I decided to make the same offer to everyone. Any winner can pick a book from Book Depository (or Amazon if in the U.S.) for up to $10 and I will order it for them. U.S. based winners also have the option of getting a $10 Amazon gift card emailed to them.
I’ve heard of people tracking how far they run/walk on a map to see your distance this year. That’s cool if you run to Brazil or something but at my rate I’d spend a month just trying to get out of my neighborhood. Still, I like the idea so I was excited to find something similar on Yes.fit.
This is a site for virtual races. You sign up for race, pay your entry fee, and then do it on your own time. There are short races that you could do on one day up to races hundreds of miles long. That’s what I’m going to do.
I’m doing the Tortoise Creep. It is 155 miles long. The route is in Thailand. As you enter your workouts you get moved along on your map. You can even go to streetview to see where you are running.
You can have a fitness tracker upload your info but I’m entering my data manually. I’m only counting actual workout miles. Miles I walk for other reasons don’t count in my race. Let’s see how long it takes me to earn my medal.
Spoilers for The Little Bookshop on the Seine – I wanted to like this book but I realized that I had missed the point. I thought we were firmly in the “woman realizes she has horrific boyfriend who undermines her confidence so she gets rid of him” plot until the very end of the book when they suddenly reaffirm their love for each other for reasons that absolutely baffle me.
What Am I Reading?
DNF This Week
I’m a big fan of debt free living. I especially like memoirs from people who have achieved this creatively. But this guy…. He basically was a middle class white dude who coasted on that until his junior year of college. Then he decided that he liked learning and wanted to keep going to school and learning things. He doesn’t want to be tied down to any job that he could get with a liberal arts degree. He wants to be free. So he goes to Alaska and works a low pay job that provides room and board. He throws all his money at the debt from his student loans. That’s all fine.
The problem is that he is callous to anyone who isn’t him. He talks about one guy in Alaska who he knows is beating his Native girlfriend every night. He mentions it casually like it was the color of his hair. There is no attempt to help her. Eventually the guy gets fired when he beats her bad enough to make her bleed from her ears. The author recounts this in a section that talks about why people were moving on. There is no compassion for her.
He talks about people pouring water on sleeping sled dogs at night in the Arctic as an example of people being weird. His friend from back home sends emails about having to work in “the ghetto” with a “stereotypical black man”.
Yeah, DNF. I did have an absolutely lovely time reading the 1 star reviews on Goodreads of this book. They are hysterical. Click on the picture to go there.
What Am I Listening To?
“In celebration of the one-year anniversary of Women’s March, this gorgeously designed full-color book offers an unprecedented, front-row seat to one of the most galvanizing movements in American history, with exclusive interviews with Women’s March organizers, never-before-seen photographs, and essays by feminist activists.“
I was first introduced to historical romances through my grandmother’s vast collection of clean/sweet romances. We called them the Smut Books precisely because there was zero smut in them. People met, fell in love, got married, then maybe, but just maybe, they kissed – cut to epilogue where magically children have been obtained from somewhere.
That’s always been my preferred type of romance. I’m just not interested in anyone’s sex life in books, movies, or the real world. I was disappointed to find that clean romances were harder to find now that I’ve gotten back into historical romance. I like the stories so I’m marching on and now I have opinions about sex in romance books.
Can we be more realistic?
Here’s the storyline that makes me roll my eyes. A blushing English beauty who has never had a sexual thought in her brain meets a dashing Duke. (It is always a Duke. Apparently there are two of those for every non-Duke person in England.) They get married or if they are really racy they are planning to get married and then they have sex. It is always straight to the intercourse. Never any sessions of “Hey, I know you don’t have any idea what sexual activity is because we’ve got messed up ideas about keeping knowledge away from women, so why don’t we just kiss for a while until you feel more comfortable?”
Then, then, this woman has a mind-blowing orgasm purely through intercourse with no other stimulation at the same time as her partner because of course she does.
Look, I understand that this is female escapism but come on. About 70% of women never experience orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone. I’m willing to bet that number is near 100% for virgins who have been told to lay back and think of England. Given the sorry state of sexual education in the world I would guess that romance novels might be the main sex ed some people get. I hate to think that some people might think that that is what sex is supposed to be like every time and that they are somehow wrong if that isn’t how it is for them.
Here are some outlandish thoughts for other plot lines that could be interesting.
I love you but this sex stuff isn’t doing much for me. Maybe we could talk about it and figure something out.
Male virgins who learn from experienced ladies. Think man marries rich widow if you want to keep it between married folk.
Sometimes a sexual encounter doesn’t have to include intercourse. GASP!
That’s just off the top of my head while writing this post. I’m sure authors could come up with more ideas.
I have found some books with more realistic and open minded sexual story lines. The common denominator seems to be that they are stories about working-class people, especially people of color, instead of aristocracy. (Although I’m not even sure how they find each other with all the Dukes running around.)
How do you feel about sex in historical romances? Too much, not enough, too predictable? What would you like to see?
**Shout out for creativity to a book I picked up once that had a guy running a sex dungeon in his castle’s actual dungeon. It was one of the first books I picked up when coming back to the genre after 20 years. I was quite surprised how things had changed from my grandma’s books. I didn’t read the book or remember what it was called.
Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
Annie and Evie have been friends since Annie first stood up for Evie against some bullies in elementary school. Now as adults, Evie is Annie’s personal assistant. Annie is San Francisco’s only superhero Aveda Jupiter. She’s all about the glory. She dumps everything else on Evie who takes it because she feels like she owes Annie.
Annie/Aveda is truly abusive to Evie. Everyone sees it but her. When Evie is forced out of the shadows she needs to rely on her own powers to save the city and find a life for herself outside of Aveda Jupiter’s orbit.
Good things about this book:
Asian female superheroes – Annie is Chinese and Evie is half-Japanese
The menace is fairly lighthearted and fun. It starts with demons taking the form of cupcakes that bite and ends with demonic minions who complain about everything the boss demon does. I could imagine this whole book as a technicolor comic strip.
Evie learning to stand up for herself is wonderful.
Evie has been suppressing her emotions in order to keep her powers under control. When she starts to get in touch with her feelings, the first one that she notices is lust. She refers to her lack of lustful feelings as the Dead Inside-o-meter. The idea that she hasn’t had sex in three years is considered proof of emotional problems. I’m not a fan of stories that consider either asexuality or celibacy as the weirdest thing that ever happened.
Evie’s teenage sister is the worst person ever. Well, maybe second worse next to Aveda. It is hard to tell but then they start hanging out together and amplify each other’s behavior and it is everything horrible. They are selfish and childish but Evie is supposed to be seen as no fun for objecting to it all.
I didn’t like the romances in this book. They just seemed added because you have to have a sexual partner (see complaint 1). Suddenly, she has feelings for a person who annoys her all the time? The fact that someone annoys you is actually stated as proof that you probably deep down want to sleep with them. No, maybe they are just annoying and you have the good sense to stay away from them.
“Grace Owens danced her feet bloody to become the finest en pointe prodigy of her generation, but the only accolade she longed for—her father’s approval—never came. Finally, broken and defeated, she cut ties and fled to London to live life on her own terms.
Now, after four years as an actress in London’s smaller theatres, a last-minute production change lands her right where she never wanted to be again. Front and center in the ballet—and back in toe shoes.
From his perch on the catwalks, machinist and stagecraft illusionist Isaac Caird can’t take his eyes off Grace. A woman who wears men’s clothing, but not as a disguise. An exquisite beauty who doesn’t keep a lover. A skilled dancer who clearly hates every pirouette.
The perfect lines of her delicate body inspire him to create a new illusion—with her as the centerpiece—that will guarantee sold-out shows. Maybe even attract a royal’s patronage. But first he has to get her to look at him. And convince her the danger is minimal—especially within the circle of his arms.
Featuring a gender-fluid ballet dancer, an amateur chemist who only occasionally starts fires, and an old rivalry that could tear them apart.”
What Am I Listening To?
“In this memoir, Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. Ilgunas set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a 3-year transcontinental journey, working in Alaska as a tour guide, garbage picker, and night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York.
Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled in a master’s program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again. He used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure—it would be his very own Walden on Wheels.“
For over a century and in scores of countries, patriarchal presumptions and practices have been challenged by women and their male allies. “Sexual harassment” has entered common parlance; police departments are equipped with rape kits; more than half of the national legislators in Bolivia and Rwanda are women; and a woman candidate won the plurality of the popular votes in the 2016 United States presidential election. But have we really reached equality and overthrown a patriarchal point of view? The Big Push exposes how patriarchal ideas and relationships continue to be modernized to this day. Through contemporary cases and reports, renowned political scientist Cynthia Enloe exposes the workings of everyday patriarchy—in how Syrian women civil society activists have been excluded from international peace negotiations; how sexual harassment became institutionally accepted within major news organizations; or in how the UN Secretary General’s post has remained a masculine domain. Enloe then lays out strategies and skills for challenging patriarchal attitudes and operations. Encouraging self-reflection, she guides us in the discomforting curiosity of reviewing our own personal complicity in sustaining patriarchy in order to withdraw our own support for it. Timely and globally conscious, The Big Push is a call for feminist self-reflection and strategic action with a belief that exposure complements resistance.
I heard about this book somewhere on Twitter. I was able to get a copy sent to me through interlibrary loan. Then through the vagaries of mood-reading, I didn’t start to read it. I felt that it was going to be an academic slog through feminist theory. But, I had gone through some effort to get it and it needed to be returned soon so I decided to give it a try.
I was so wrong about this book.
I didn’t expect to get teary-eyed sitting in a restaurant that specializes in feeding huge plates of food to Trump supporters with a country music soundtrack because of the author’s insistence of the importance of the Women’s Marches. The author perfectly recreated the feeling of needing to be in the vast sea of people to voice your opposition to what was going on in the country.
I didn’t expect to have to totally recalibrate my thinking about how I look at world events because I had missed a major plot point. I had read Richard Holbrooke’s book about negotiating the Wright-Patterson Accords to end the Bosnian War. I had read Might Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee about women’s protests outside the peace negotiations for Liberia. What I missed in both was these was asking why women were not included in the peace negotiations from the beginning. Ending armed conflict is traditionally seen as requiring just the armed participants to come to an agreement. That can stop the fighting but it is ignoring the majority of the population who need to live in the rebuilt country afterwards. Even now, women are not seen as participants even if they are the people still on the ground providing assistance to civilians. The author gives examples of conflict resolutions that were seen to be enlightened because they would let women draft a statement that would be read into the proceeding by a male delegate. There could only be one women’s statement though so women from all sides of the conflict had to sit down together and draft a consensus statement that might or might not be taken into consideration by the men who hadn’t yet been able to reach a consensus. How would the rebuilding of nations look different if women were included from the beginning?
This book will lead you to see more areas for improvement in our world that you may have been blind to before. I was reading this at the same time as I was reading a book that glamorized a war from a patriarchal perspective. Every comment like that in the other book jumped out at me in a way that it may not have before.
This book gives hope for a world that so far has been beyond most of our imaginings. Hopefully, once people start to see what really could be possible we might be able to approach it.