Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who's often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he's also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can't rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)--and now she's dead.
Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can't rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family's life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat...and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he's the son of a trickster, that he isn't human. Mind you, ravens speak to him--even when he's not stoned.
You think you know Jared, but you don't.
This is not the book that I expected from the blurb. I expected urban fantasy with Jared finding out he’s supernatural in the beginning of the book and then he has adventures. That doesn’t happen. Instead this is a hard look at the life of a First Nations teenager who lives with his unreliable and violent drug dealer mother and her boyfriend. This book takes you up close and personal into a life of poverty and crime. There is almost no magic happening for the first 2/3 of the book.
It even has two of my automatic DNF plots. His dog dies of heartworm at the beginning of the book (with a very odd veterinary clinic scene that isn’t anything that would happen for real). There is also a scene of his mother killing a dog with her truck on purpose. Animal abuse is a DNF.
I also absolutely hate stories of teenagers who do nothing but drink and take drugs. I hate it in real life and I hate wasting my time on that type of plot in books.
So, knowing all that, why did I finish this book and think it was great?
The writing pulled me in and kept me engaged with the story. Jared looks like he has nothing going for him. His mother is an addict and dealer. He is doing some low-level dealing. But he is trying to keep his mother’s bills paid while also trying to keep his father and his new wife’s rent up to date. He even helps his elderly neighbors with their chores. None of the adult relatives in Jared’s life are responsible so he feels that he needs to be. The only person he feels like he may be able to rely on is his paternal grandmother but his mother has forbidden him to talk to her. He does anyway and he really wants to go live with her in order to finish school but he feels that it would be a betrayal of his mother, even when she is continuously betraying him. By the end you want to protect him from yet another person who lets him down.
As Jared starts to see manifestations of his traditional beliefs appearing before him, he decides that he has been doing too many drugs and decides to get clean. I love that that was his response to an invisible bear in the living room and cavemen in his bedroom. But the magic is real and has always been there even if it is just starting to get through to him.
The author did a good job depicting the charm vs the dangerous irresponsibility of a drug-involved parent. Jared’s mom obviously loves him and dotes on him but she also exposes him to men who hurt him and she will disappear without warning. She relies on him to get her through bad trips and lavishes presents on him when she is manic. She’s horrible but draws you into her self-absorbed world.
Jared’s friends feel real. They are a mix of popular and unpopular kids. Native and non-Native also. Each is well fleshed out and are unique characters.
Of course this book really started to pick up for me when the magic became more apparent. And then it was over. I feel like there wasn’t a resolution. This is part one of a series so I know that there will be more to the story but I would have liked to see more of an ending than this.
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.
I decided not to read any of this trilogy until they were all released. I think that was a good decision. I bought the first two novellas and preordered the third right after Christmas. In the years since Binti came out I had heard a lot about it but somehow did not entirely understand what it was about. I knew that she was a girl from Africa who was going to university on another planet. I thought this was going to be the story of her schooling. It isn’t.
Binti takes place almost entirely on the ship on her way to the university. Binti comes from a insular culture. Family and tradition are of the highest importance. At the same time they are very technologically advanced and make advanced devices for everyone. Binti is most comfortable working with mathematical formulas. They help her focus and relax. She can manipulate electrical current through formulas. Sheis a harmonizer who can bring disparate things together. She’s supposed to take over the family business. Instead she runs in the middle of the night to go off planet. This is an ultimate betrayal of her family and culture.
Every time I read a Nnedi Okorafor book what stays with me is the imagination in the fine details more than the plot. It starts with Binti’s faulty hover technology that she uses to move her suitcases. It extends to the interstellar ships that are actually live animals that look like shrimp. They like to travel and are fine with taking passengers along.
This whole series is an exploration of what it means to be uniquely “you”. Does Binti lose her identity when she leaves her family or is she changing into an expanded version of herself? Is it right or wrong to change in that way? The women of Binti’s tribe wear a mixture of clay and oils on their skin to protect it from the desert. It marks her as an outsider from other cultures on Earth but it saves her when the ship is attacked. She is the only survivor and has to learn to use her gift for harmonizing to help stop a war.
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day.
And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.
But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.
After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?
The events of the first novella were very traumatic for Binti. She is still learning how to handle her nightmares in addition to the changes in her body after some Meduse DNA was placed in her. Is she still Himba with the addition of alien DNA? Will her family ever be able to accept her if she goes home? She decides that she has to go back to Earth to see. Her goal is to take part in a pilgrimage that will earn her place as an adult woman of the Himba. Okwa, her Meduse friend, decides to go with her. He will be the first Meduse to ever come to Earth peacefully.
Friends and family members turn their back on her. Then she is prevented from going on the pilgrimage by the arrival of members of a desert people who the Himba have always looked down on. They take her into the desert to explain their history to her. Her father is one of the them but he turned his back on them to become Himba. Again we get into questions of identity. Binti was raised to stay in her own community. Her world keeps expanding against her will.
While she is in the desert, her family and Okwa are attacked. Now she has to try to make her way back to see if anyone survived.
This was my favorite of the series. Binti is pushing through the boundaries that have been set for a woman of her age and tribe. As she grows, there is a ripple effect in her community.
Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.
Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.
Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene--though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives--and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.
I’m glad I read these almost back to back. This story picks up immediately where the last one left off. Binti is getting back to her village that has been attacked while she was gone. She tries to rally the survivors but meets opposition from people who believe that their nature requires them to stay neutral and out of harm’s way while other more powerful groups fight. Binti wants to use the power of her culture to bring peace. She is ignored because after all she is just a girl and a very poor example of a Himba, in the elders’ eyes. Binti is becoming a bit more used to her expanded world view though. She can see how to bring people together even though it is going to cost her everything to do this alone.
These books do a very good job of combining traditional Himba culture, other West African beliefs such as the importance of Masquerades, advanced technology, and alien civilizations without making it feel like one is automatically better than any of the others. Binti learns to incorporate all these aspects of herself into her idea of who she is even if she really doesn’t want to.
“I have always liked myself, Dr. Tuka.” I looked up at her. “I like who I am. I love my family. I wasn’t running away from home. I don’t want to change, to grow! Nothing … everything … I don’t want all this … this weirdness! It’s too heavy! I just want tobe.”
I would recommend this series for anyone who enjoys science fiction that is very personal instead of a vast epic. It is for anyone who ever felt like they didn’t fix exactly in the space that they were born to occupy even if they really want to fit there perfectly.
Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.
Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.
I chose to read this book because of the mystery surrounding her grandmother’s old cookbook. I wanted to see how it saved the family farm. You know, “living well is the best revenge” and all that.
This book is told in alternating time lines. In the present timeline, Annie has had an accident that put her in a coma. She’s been moved to back to her hometown in Vermont. She wakes up not remembering much about her previous life.
In the flashbacks, you get the story of her growing up on the farm and falling in love with the new kid in town. Then you find out how she became the producer of a hit TV cooking show and met her husband.
I found myself getting bored with the flashbacks. I was much more interested in her current situation than with how she got here. I was glad when the storylines converged and it was all in the present.
How was the foodie content?
You get the basics of how maple syrup is made
You get a brief look at distilling whisky
She did run a successful cooking show
She really likes to cook
But what about the mysterious cookbook that saves the farm? That gets into spoiler territory so I recorded some spoiler-full observations about the book if you are interested.
I would recommend this book to people who like romances with former partners. If you are most interested in the food portions of the book you might be a bit disappointed because it doesn’t play as major of a role as I would have thought.
Carolyn Jourdan had it all: the Mercedes Benz, the fancy soirees, the best clothes. She moved in the most exclusive circles in Washington, D.C., rubbed elbows with big politicians, and worked on Capitol Hill. As far as she was concerned, she was changing the world.
And then her mother had a heart attack. Carolyn came home to help her father with his rural medical practice in the Tennessee mountains. She'd fill in for a few days as the receptionist until her mother could return to work. Or so she thought. But days turned into weeks.
Her job now included following hazmat regulations for cleaning up bodily fluids; maintaining composure when confronted with a splinter the size of a steak knife; distinguishing between a "pain," a "strain," and a "sprain" on indecipherable Medicare forms; and tending to the loquacious Miss Hiawatha, whose daily doctor visits were never billed.
At first glance this is a funny memoir of life in a small town medical office. Stories of men who try to operate on themselves or get injured doing ill advised things abound. There are also heart breaking stories of the deaths of beloved patients and friends. If you like stories full of small town characters, this would be a great read for you.
On a deeper level though, I found it quite disturbing. The author’s father is a doctor. He has a practice with one nurse and his wife is the receptionist/office manager. His wife is unpaid for this more than full time job. She also has a doctorate but has spent her life doing unpaid work to support her husband’s job. When she gets sick her daughter comes home to take over her job. Her daughter is a lawyer working for a Senator and is an expert on U.S. nuclear policy. She gives up that job to become her father’s unpaid helper. The reason they can’t hire anyone else is that the practice doesn’t make enough money to support a paid receptionist. So now you have two highly educated women who have given up their careers to support this practice and you are denying a job to a person in the community who could be a fine receptionist if the job was paid.
The reason the practice isn’t making any money is because the patients are too poor to pay for healthcare. Now we get into the failures of the U.S. health care system. Unfortunately, that isn’t what people tend to take from memoirs like this. They see a fine doctor who cares enough not to charge for services if people can’t pay. That’s admirable but not sustainable. If you can’t pay to keep the electric on, then the community loses its only health provider.
(This is a touchy subject for me. I work in a low cost, walk in veterinary clinic in a poor area. I am basically living this doctor’s life in the veterinary world but with better staffing and hours. People come in and regale us with tales of TV shows they’ve seen where the vet cares so much about animals that they don’t charge people. The implication being that if we do charge, then we don’t care. We just nod because no one wants an economics lesson or to hear about my massive pay cut to work here or the fact that the owner isn’t getting paid yet because the clinic just opened…)
The answer for communities like this is to find a better way for people to afford health care, not to emulate this model. It isn’t possible moving forward. Student debt is too high for newer doctors to be able to afford to live on what a practice like this makes. I looked at buying a practice like this once. The vet was making about $100,000 a year being on call 24/7. I wasn’t willing to do that because that type of stress will kill you and once you figured in paying back a loan to buy the practice and doing some way past due maintenance to the building, I would have almost been paying to work there. I had been out of school long enough not to have any student loans left. If I had had the debt of today’s graduates, I could never have even considered it.
So, yeah, the book is cute and funny and sweet as long as you don’t look too closely at why a practice like this is needed.
Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she'll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire's greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.
This is a YA alternative history book that imagines that the British Empire is still alive and well. The decision that made the difference was that Queen Victoria named her eldest daughter heir and then married off all her other children to people in the Empire instead of other European royal families. Now, the Empire is predominately made up of mixed race people. Canada has a high percentage of people originally from Hong Kong. The Church of England consists mostly of a DNA database that chooses the best DNA match for people.
The Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret wants one summer away. She decides to make her debut in Canada while passing herself off as a cousin to one of the leading families there. She makes other friends though who aren’t in on her secret and this leads to romantic entanglements that aren’t what she expected.
I thought the world building was interesting in this book. It was intriguing to think about what might have happened if the British had treated their subjects as people worthy of respect. If you pick too much at the assumptions made in the book though it might all fall apart. My recommendation is just to enjoy it and go along for the ride.
At the end of the book the main characters are hatching a plot. It doesn’t seem very well thought out to me so I will be interested to see what happens in upcoming books.
Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship...
Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding... it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.
Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.
This book was so good. Clem runs a boarding house that his half brother owns. He was born after an Earl raped an Indian nanny who accompanied his brother’s family home to England. Clem is seen as an embarrassment to his snobbish family and this is a way of keeping him out of sight. The only condition of his employment is that he has to keep a drunken ex-vicar in the house no matter what. Clem is a methodical person who needs to do one thing at a time. Other people think that he is slow and clumsy because he gets flustered with too much stimuli.
Rowley is a taxidermist who takes lodgings at the house after setting up shop next door. He prefers to be alone and can’t handle other people’s anger well after surviving an abusive childhood. His quietness settles Clem. The two of them gradually find enjoyment in each other’s company. They have a nightly cup of tea together. They are just starting to acknowledge feelings for each other when there is a robbery attempt and then a murder.
This is when homosexuality was still banned in England. There is a pub called the Jack and Knave that Clem frequents. It is open only to approved people brought by known clients. Inside the Jack, gay men and women are free to socialize openly. Many of the characters in this series are regulars there.
This book does a very good job on the romance portion of the book. There is sexual activity but it is loving and in context of a relationship. A mystery is introduced in this book but is not fully resolved until the series is over. It involves Clem’s half-brother and then inheritance of the earldom.
An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, #2)by K.J. Charles Pages: 250
In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.
Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.
Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.
But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.
Nathaniel is a regular at the Jack and Knave who is still grieving his partner’s death five years ago. He is a journalist and is assigned to debunk a medium. He starts his investigation with Justin Lazarus and finds himself intrigued. Nathaniel is surprised when investigating Clem’s mystery also leads him back to Justin who met one of the players in the saga one year ago. This is not a slow burn romance like the first book. This is hate/lust leading to sex leading to regret/embarrassment. Then they are forced back together and over time a relationship builds.
Justin had a rough upbringing and has major trust issues. He doesn’t feel bad at all about fleecing the rich and gullible. Nathaniel is firmly on the side of living a moral life and not hurting anyone. He has a hard time accepting the good in anyone in a dishonest profession. Nathaniel is also uncomfortable moving on and feeling attracted to another man for the first time. He especially doesn’t want to fall for someone so unlike his beloved partner. The book talks about how difficult it was grieve when no one in the outside world knew of the love between the men.
The mystery continues to be resolved. In each book a little bit is solved so it doesn’t feel like you are missing a conclusion even if you don’t have the whole picture yet.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
In this final book of the series, detective Mark finds the lost heir to the Earldom. He is a trapeze artist performing with his twin sister. Most people would jump at the chance to go from music hall performer to aristocrat but Pen Starling wants nothing to do with it. He is genderfluid and comfortable living in a world where he is able to dress in a costume that fits how he feels on each day. If he becomes an Earl, he would be forced to live as a man full time. As he says, if he had been raised to be an Earl he might have been able to pass himself off as an eccentric recluse but as a former commoner he would be watched. Information is given about court cases of the time regarding transgender people.
Mark is a Polish immigrant. He was born with one arm. He makes his way confidently through a world that makes no accommodations for people with disabilities. He is pansexual and has previously had relationships with both men and women. He embraces Pen’s genderfluidity as a wonderful aspect of him.
This is my favorite of the books. I loved Mark and Pen’s relationship. The resolution of the mystery was unexpected and very satisfying to all parties involved. I will definitely read this author again.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Offering a nuanced and transformative take on immigration, multiculturalism, and America's role on the global stage, The Newcomers follows and reflects on the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers throughout the course of their 2015-2016 school year at Denver's South High School. Unfamiliar with American culture or the English language, the students range from the age of fourteen to nineteen and come from nations struggling with drought, famine, or war. Many come directly from refugee camps, and some arrive alone, having left or lost every other member of their family. Their stories are poignant and remarkable, and at the center of their combined story is Mr. Williams: the dedicated and endlessly resourceful teacher of their English Language Acquisition class-a class which was created specifically for them and which will provide them with the foundation they need to face the enormous challenges of adapting to life in America.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to move to the U.S. from a non-English speaking country and have to learn to survive here. This is a book that answers those questions. I think this should be required reading for anyone who wants to talk intelligently about the immigration debate in the U.S.
The author spends 18 months with a group of teenagers who are in a Newcomers class in a Denver high school. All of them are recent immigrants and have tested at the bottom level of English language proficiency. They represent most of the major conflict zones on the planet – The Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, Burma, Central America, Eritrea. The school year starts with learning how to introduce yourself in English. Most of the kids are stumped.
One of the things I found interesting in this book was the transparency of the author’s process. She is writing about minors who have all experienced a great deal of upheaval and trauma in their lives. She explains how she approaches the kids with a translator in their home language to ask if she can include their stories in the book. There are kids who say no at this point and she respects that. If they agreed, she sent home a letter written in their language to their parents that requested permission to interview the children and requested to interview them. If permission is given, then home visits are started with an interpreter. In spite of all these precautions, there are still communication errors and just the plain inability of an American to truly understand the lives that refugees have led. She discusses her thought process about what questions to ask about their backgrounds. When does reporting the story just become an excuse to pry into things for the sake of the sensational details? She talks about when she chose to walk away from lines of questioning that are relevant to the story but would lead to retraumatizing the people being interviewed.
For the families that agreed to participate, it opens a window in to the lives in war zones. Hearing what they had to endure before fleeing their homes was heartbreaking. There are Iraqis who worked with the U.S. Army and then were left behind. A Central American female police officer was targeted for murder after arresting gang members and when they couldn’t get to her they starting threatening her children. A family with 10 children had to walk out of the DRC to avoid repeated violence. Some of the kids were born in refugee camps. Most are already multi-lingual.
Life in the U.S. isn’t easy. Resettlement agencies help but families are required to be self-supporting within 4 months of arrival. That’s hard when you don’t speak the language and can’t get a good job. I’m surprised how many families did it. Other families’ stories show how one small setback can upset their whole resettlement journey.
The importance of this story is underscored by the fact that it takes place from September 2015 to December 2016. Reading about the rise of Donald Trump as it relates to these families was stressful all over again. Incidents of racism rise on public transport as the election takes place. Court cases to receive asylum for Central American children are suddenly in doubt. Family members scheduled to arrive from Somalia are suddenly turned back at the airport.
The author does go to the DRC to see where the family that she knew from Denver came from. She traces their route to refugee camp and meets friends and family members who have been left behind.
This is an ultimately hopeful book as you see how far the kids come in 18 months. Some go from silent observers on day 1 to being a part of the student government a year later. Others are still struggling with English but are able to have full conversations. No one who reads about these families would think they are lazy and trying to work the system. This is a book I’d love to force all Trump fans to listen to in order to see if these people’s realities align with their idea of what immigrants are.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.
Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.
As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…
This is historical romance series with a fantasy twist. Once upon a time a fairy was helped by a woman. In exchange, she asked for each of her female descendants to be granted one wish when they are in their early twenties. This series covers a few of the descendants as they choose their gift and then deal with the consequences in their lives. I hadn’t read a series before that combined fantasy and Regency romance.
In the first book Charlotte decides to wish for the ability to shapeshift. She uses this gift to disguise herself as a man to attempt to live an independent life. This is a good opening for some social commentary about the restrictions on women. The book is also funny as Charlotte tries to control a male body with its over large hands and obvious responses to sexual attraction. Her employer (and eventual love interest) thinks he is taking a young, particularly naive man under his wing and teaching what life in London is like. As their friendship and attraction deepen, both need to comes to terms with their own understanding of what it means to be attracted to a personality no matter the shape of the body that it is in.
Sir Barnaby Ware made a mistake two and a half years ago. A massive mistake. The sort of mistake that can never be atoned for.
He knows himself to be irredeemable, but the captivating and unconventional Miss Merryweather is determined to prove him wrong…
The daughter of a dancing master and a noblewoman, Miss Merryweather had an unusual upbringing. She sees things no one else sees—and she says things no one else says.
Sir Barnaby knows he’s the villain in this piece, but Miss Merryweather thinks he’s the hero—and she is damnably hard to resist…
Barnaby Ware was introduced in book 1 as the man who broke up a marriage and a lifelong friendship by having an affair. When the wronged party attempts to reach out to him in forgiveness, he resists because he feels that what he did was unforgivable. When he visits his former friend he meets Miss Merryweather. Unbeknownst to him, she is due to receive her fairy gift in a few days.
This is a novella instead of a full length novel. It is also the most forgettable of these books for me. I was more interested in the friendship that was trying to be repaired instead of the romance that is supposed to be blossoming.
Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.
Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.
Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing—to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.
Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret—including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…
This is one of my favorites of the series. Lydia has been living with her gift – the ability to tell lies from truth – for several years. She has refused all offers of marriage because she knows that the men have only wanted her money and not her. She gets involved with an injured former soldier who hears about her ability (but not the magical reason). He wants her to help him find out what happened in the ambush where he was injured and all his companions were killed.
I liked the fact that this book had an older and wiser heroine. She’s seen it all moving through society with the ability to cut through all the games and polite phrases. The chance to do something new thrills her.
Icarus is suffering from severe PTSD. He’s suicidal and has nightmares every night. It is a good representation of this. As the wife of a veteran with PTSD, I appreciated the thoughtful portrayal.
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…
Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.
But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.
He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…
I did not like this book. I wanted to. This book focuses on two male characters who were important in the last book. I liked them. I wanted to find out more about their relationship. My problem with this one was the way the sex was handled. I’m not a huge fan of sex in books anyway. I much prefer slow burn romances and fade to black sex scenes. While the other books have had sex scenes there was enough romance and character development to balance them.
In this book, there is just sex. You don’t get the romantic parts that were seen in the other books. I think that the difference was here because it was switched to a m/m story instead of a male/virginal female story. I don’t think that is a good reason to leave out the romance and tenderness though. Relationship development is still important and that didn’t happen here.
Eleanor Wrotham has sworn off overbearing men, but she needs a man’s help—and the man who steps forward is as domineering as he is dangerous: the notorious Mordecai Black.
The illegitimate son of an earl, Mordecai is infamous for his skill with women. His affairs are legendary—but few people realize that Mordecai has rules, and one of them is: Never ruin a woman.
But if Mordecai helps Miss Wrotham, she will be ruined.
Eleanor is searching for her sister, who ran away to marry a soldier. Eleanor’s fiance ran off because of the scandal her sister caused. Her father and aunt kept her sister’s letters from her. Now she has found a several month old letter saying that her sister is in trouble. The only person willing to help her is a relative of the man who jilted her.
This ends up being a road trip story like book 3. I don’t think it is quite as strong as that one but is enjoyable nonetheless.
At the age of four Lord Vickery was stolen by gypsies and sold to a chimney sweep. At the age of five he was reunited with his father. His history is no secret—everyone in the ton knows of his miraculous rescue.
But when Vickery finds his father’s diaries, he discovers that there may be a secret buried in his past…
Georgiana Dalrymple knows all about secrets. She has several herself—and one of those secrets is her ability to find missing people.
When Lord Vickery turns to her for help, Georgiana sets out to discover just who he actually is…
Georgiana can find anything, including the answers to old mysteries if she just asks the right questions. But is uncovering the truth always for the best?
I liked this book a lot. It was nice to see the heroine trying to convince the hero that she would stand by him instead of the other other way around like it is common in a lot of historical romances. There is no meet-cute here. They have known each other all their lives and their relationship is formed out of their friendship. It was a nice end to the series.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this series if you like historical romances. Just skip the third book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
In this imaginative novel rooted in the rich soil of early-nineteenth-century German Romanticism, beloved New York Times bestselling author Gregory Maguire twins an origin legend of the famous Nutcracker with the life of Drosselmeier, the toymaker who carves him.
Gregory Maguire’s novels have been called "bewitching," "remarkable," "extraordinary," "engrossing," "amazing," and "delicious." Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked, Wonderland in After Alice and Dickensian London in Lost, Maguire now takes us to the Black Forest of Bavaria and Munich of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffman. Hiddensee recreates the backstory of the Nutcracker, reimaging how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how it magically guided an ailing little girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a snowy Christmas Eve. It also brings to life the mysterious godfather Drosselmeier—the ominous, canny, one-eyed toymaker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s ballet—who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.
But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism a migrating strain of a Hellenic mystery-cult, and ponders a profound question: how a person who is abused by life, short-changed and challenged, can access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless. Ultimately, Hiddensee, offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized on the eve of a winter holiday, has something precious to share.
I came at this book with no idea of the story of The Nutcracker. I’ve never seen it. I know there are mice and some soldiers. That’s all I know. I didn’t even know that there was a grandfather who made a nutcracker.
If you aren’t like me (several hundred years out of date with your pop culture), you may see more allusions to the story you know. For me this was just a series of vignettes in the life of a boy named Dirk. He was a foundling who seems to move randomly in and out of different people’s lives in Germany. My favorite part was the subtle, dry humor that is slid into the narrative.
For me this book didn’t stand up to the love that I have for Wicked. I keep waiting for a book from this author to reach those heights for me. Hoping for this level of love did decrease my enjoyment of this book somewhat. It is harder to let this book try to stand on its own without the expectations placed on it.
This would be a good book for fans of The Nutcracker who want to delve more deeply into the world.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
When American writer Stephanie Saldana finds herself in an empty house at the beginning of Nablus Road, the dividing line between East and West Jerusalem, she is a new wife trying to navigate a fragile terrain, both within her marriage and throughout the country in which she has chosen to live.
Pregnant with her first child, Stephanie struggles to protect her family, their faith, and herself from the cracks of Middle Eastern conflict that threaten to shatter the world around her. But as her due date approaches, she must reconcile herself with her choice to bring a child into a dangerous world. Determined to piece together life from the brokenness, she sets out to uncover small instances of beauty to balance the delicate coexistence between love, motherhood, and a country so often at war.
In an urban valley in Jerusalem, A Country Between captures the fragile ecosystem of the Middle East and the difficult first years of motherhood in the midst of a conflict-torn city. What unfolds is a celebration of faith, language, family, and love that fills the space between what was shattered, leaving us whole once more.
This memoir is the story of an American woman who was considering becoming a nun in a Syrian monastery. She met a French novice monk there. Eventually, they left and married.
Through a series of unplanned events, they found themselves setting up their first household in Jerusalem. It was near the dividing line between Palestinian and Jewish areas near the Damascus Gate.
“The sun rose in the east speaking Arabic and set in the west speaking Hebrew, and we tried to find our way in between.”
This is the story of trying to make a marriage while dealing with your husband’s deep grief about leaving the monastery. It is worrying about what might happen every time you leave the house.
“…a great many of the dramas that happen in the Middle East begin with the simple intention of leaving the house to buy vegetables.”
This is a very lyrical memoir of their lives in this house. I think that it started too slowly. There was too much information about her childhood. It slowed down the pace of the book. Now I know that there was a first memoir about meeting her husband and the decision to leave the monastery. This was also covered here for those of us who didn’t read the first book.
There is some discussion of the larger political issues that affected their day to day lives but mostly she discusses the affect of policy on her street. She discusses roadblocks and violence. She talks about taking her kids to play in touristy areas. Her neighborhood is a microcosm of all the religions that call Jerusalem home.
It can also be funny.
“When the Franciscans came into view in their brown cassocks, Joseph’s face became overcome with wonder. He ran to them and quietly bowed his head. Then he whispered, in solemn greeting, “Heigh-ho. Heigh-ho.””
Ultimately I would have liked more politics to understand what was happening but that isn’t the point of this book. Read this one if you like beautifully written slice of life stories.
“If I can ask you to remember only one thing, then let it be this: keep watch. You have not been born into an easy world. But every now and then, in the midst of our daily lives, a miracle strikes.”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Van Jones burst into the American consciousness during the 2016 presidential campaign with an unscripted, truth-telling style and an already established history ofbridge-building across party lines. His election night commentary became a viral sensation. A longtime progressive activist with deep roots in the conservative South, Jones has made it his mission to challenge voters and viewers to stand in one another's shoes and disagree constructively.
Now, in Beyond the Messy Truth, Jones offers a blueprint for transforming our collective anxiety into meaningful change. Tough on Donald Trump but showing respect and empathy for his supporters, Jones takes aim at the failures of both parties before and after Trump's victory. Heurges both sides to abandon the politics of accusation and focus on real solutions. Calling us to a deeper patriotism, he shows us how to get down to the vital business of solving, together, some of our toughest problems.
"The entire national conversation today can be reduced to a simple statement--'I'm right, and you're wrong, '" Jones has said. But the truth is messier; both sides have flaws. Both parties have strayed from their highest principles and let down their core constituencies. Rejecting today's political tribalism, Jones issues a stirring call for a new "bipartisanship from below." Recognizing that tough challenges require the best wisdom from both liberals and conservatives, he points us toward practical answers to problems that affect us all regardless of region or ideology: rural and inner-city poverty, unemployment, addiction, unfair incarceration, and the devastating effects of the pollution-based economy on both coal country and our urban centers.
In explaining how he arrived at his views, Jones shares behind-the-scenes memories from his decades spent marching and protesting on behalf of working people, inspiring stories of ordinary citizens who became champions of their communities, and little-known examples of cooperation that have risen from the fog of partisan conflict. In his quest for positive solutions, Van Jones encourages us to set fire to our old ways of thinking about politics and come together where the pain is greatest.
I could identify with Van Jones. He is a liberal who grew up in a conservative area. He can understand where people on both sides of the political divide are coming from. He tries to offer insights to both sides in this book.
He points out that many people in this situation end up moving away from rural conservative areas which makes the isolation from people with differing viewpoints get worse and worse. He talks about the problems of trying to go home and convert your friends and relatives to your point of view.
He also gives real life examples of how he has worked with bipartisan groups on issues like green energy and prison reform. He specifically talks about working with Newt Gingrich. He was a fan of how he built a huge conservative movement (but not of his politics). He had read all of his books when he found himself working with him on CNN. They have some interesting joint projects.
I thought that the chapter on Prince was amazing. Prince attempted to donate to one of his projects anonymously. He refused the money because he didn’t take donations that he couldn’t trace. Eventually Prince introduced himself and they started working together. He uses examples from Prince’s philanthropy to show how people can be creative and make a difference in the world. As he says, Prince’s thinking wasn’t “red or blue. He was Purple.”
It is rare to have a book that discusses all these serious issues be ultimately hopeful but this one manages.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, Africa, a country plagued by AIDS and poverty. Like most people in his village, his family subsisted on the meager crops they could grow, living without the luxuries—consider necessities in the West—of electricity or running water. Already living on the edge, the situation became dire when, in 2002, Malawi experienced the worst famine in 50 years. Struggling to survive, 14-year-old William was forced to drop out of school because his family could not afford the $80-a-year tuition.Though he was not in a classroom, William continued to think, learn—and dream. Armed with curiosity, determination, and a library book he discovered in a nearby library, he embarked on a daring plan—to build a windmill that could bring his family the electricity only two percent of Malawians could afford. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and blue-gum trees, William forged a crude yet working windmill, an unlikely hand-built contraption that would successfully power four light bulbs and two radios in his family’s compound. Soon, news of his invention spread, attracting interest and offers of help from around the world. Not only did William return to school but he and was offered the opportunity to visit wind farms in the United States, much like the ones he hopes to build across Africa.
This story started slow for me. I’m not a fan of detailed description of childhood in memoirs unless you were doing something very interesting as a child. Most people aren’t.
The main point of this story started with a drought and subsequent famine that hit Malawi in the early 2000s. It was devastating. The author’s family was no longer able to afford his school fees so he had to drop out. He wanted to continue his education so he went to a library and started to read the books there. He applied what he learned in a basic physics book to build a windmill from spare parts. This allowed his family to have lights in their house for the first time. He went on to build other windmills to pump water for irrigation and personal use, freeing up hours a day that were otherwise spent going to and from wells. He even made cell phone charging stations.
“The dynamo had given me a small taste of electricity, and that made me want to figure out how to create my own. Only 2 percent of Malawians have electricity, and this is a huge problem. Having no electricity meant no lights, which meant I could never do anything at night, such as study or finish my radio repairs, much less see the roaches, mice, and spiders that crawled the walls and floors in the dark. Once the sun goes down, and if there’s no moon, everyone stops what they’re doing, brushes their teeth, and just goes to sleep. Not at 10:00 P.M., or even nine o’clock—but seven in the evening! Who goes to bed at seven in the evening? Well, I can tell you, most of Africa.“
This part of the story was interesting. He was dedicated to the idea of building his windmill but scavenging the parts took a long time. It showed a lot of ingenuity.
One strange section was about witchcraft. He reports it as fact.
“The previous famine had led to reports in the southern region that the government was banding with packs of vampires to steal people’s blood, then selling it to international aid groups.“
“Following the strange beast of Dowa, many people across Malawi reported having their private parts stolen in the night, many of them waking up in the morning with their sheets bloody. Men who’d been drinking in bars were the easiest targets. As they stumbled home in the darkness, an evil creature—perhaps a gang of witch children—would pull them behind a tree and remove their parts with a knife. It was later revealed that most of the victims had been virgins, and their parts had been sold to witches, Satan worshippers, and business tycoons.“
“This often happens while we sleep—the witch children can take our heads and return them before morning, all without us knowing. It’s a serious problem.“
He was accused of witchcraft for making electricity from the wind. A bad storm came and the windmill was spinning rapidly. People accused him of causing storms.
This book was published in 2009. Since then William has graduated from college. He has an NGO to support community based projects around his hometown. On his webpage you can even donate to the library where he found his physics book.
This is a great story of innovation and survival.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Michele's lack of focus in life hasn't bothered her, until the day she finds herself with mounting credit card debt, unable to afford her rent, and without a job. While her meddling family questions how she can end up in this predicament, at the age of 29, and single to boot, Michele doesn't want to admit the truth. All she wants to do is sew.
Faced with the prospect of moving back into her parents' house, Michele throws a Hail Mary pass and applies for a TV design contest, Made for Me. In order to win the contest, Michele will have to compete with nine other contestants to design the new wardrobe for Duchess Maryn Medrovovich, who's about to marry Prince Stephan of the United Republic of Montabago.
While in the seclusion of the show, Michele starts to realize where her focus in life should be, and what's truly important to her. However, a dashing competitor might just cause her to lose her focus once and for all. Can Michele keep her eye on the prize while being true to herself?
I’ve mostly been reviewing very serious books lately so I decided to throw in some lighter fare to prove that I haven’t lost my love of pink books.
Made for Me starts this series of related books. Each one features a secondary character from the previous books.
This book was pure fun. It is set on a Project Runway knock-off reality show called Made for Me. (The contestants aren’t allowed to mention Project Runway by name.) Every challenge is to make a look for a commoner who is about to marry into the royal family of an European country. The winner will win a job as her designer for a year.
The fun of this book is mixing in the competition aspect of the reality show with the chick lit standards of finding yourself and maybe finding love.
What I didn’t like was the attitude that the main character had about a bisexual contestant. She voiced a lot of stereotypical thoughts about him. She assumed that he would be unfaithful in an monogamous relationship purely because he was bisexual. That’s a stereotype that I thought we were all moving past but it still lives here. It is challenged lightly.
Besides that, this one was cute and fun. I’d recommend it.
As if it's not bad enough that I didn't win the reality design TV show I was on, try coming home to a one word note indicating that my ten-year marriage is over. So here I am, a suddenly single mother in my mid-thirties, doing what everyone advises me to do—have a fling. Except it doesn't go as planned, so I do the next best thing, which is sit on the couch and mope. But having to provide for a five-year-old doesn't let me stay home for too long. Before I know it, I'm back to dying my hair wild colors and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
Except Tony, the fling that wasn't, keeps popping up in the most unlikely places and won't leave me alone. I'd like to be strong—I'm way too old for him—but he's cute and funny and sexy and oh, my ex is getting married to a girl named Bambi. All I know is the way I'm doing things isn't working. If I want to be happy again, I'm going to need to get a new attitude.
This book follows another contestant from Made for Me when she goes home after the show. Her husband has left her and she needs to decide what to do with her life.
Starting out I liked this book more than the first one. Kira is older and has a child. She has to get herself together and act like a grown up. I appreciate that in a book.
I wasn’t thrilled about the end of this book. It took the plot to a place I’m not fond of. The book also seemed to treat the main character of Made for Me as more flightly and unprofessional than she was made out to be in the first book.
Ten years ago, the Sassy Cats were at the top of the charts until Callie Smalls walked away to pursue her career in fashion and television. The other four members—Angie, Tabitha, Mandy, and Daphne—were left to fend for themselves and continue on with their lives.That is, until the day when Callie decides to book a gig for the group at a major music festival, without talking to her former band mates. Scattered across the country, at different points in life, can they rekindle the magic in the music?A soccer mom who's husband doesn't know about her past. A fading star, sacrificing all to stay in the spotlight just one second more. A party girl, challenged with her most important role yet. A tiger mom, fighting for her son. A desperate woman, unhappy and alone. A lot can change in the course of a decade. Will it be harmony or hatred for the Sassy Cats?
This book looks at the life of the host from the Made for Me TV show. This was a more difficult book for me to get into because of the completely unlikeable main character.
I also wasn’t a fan of some of the romance here. It seemed very forced. The relationship was argumentative and somehow that was supposed to clue us all in that they loved each other. Not a story line that I’m very fond of.
The relationship that I did like was the mother of the autistic child. She had to let go of her attempts to control the situation and accept help from her husband. That felt very realistic to me.
Overall, I’d say read Made for Me and maybe skip the other two.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Written by the leading researchers in the field, this information-rich guide to improving your mood explains how gut health drives psychological well-being, and how depression and anxiety can be relieved by adjusting your intestinal bacteria.
This groundbreaking book explains the revolutionary new science of psychobiotics and the discovery that your brain health and state of mind are intimately connected to your microbiome, that four-pound population of microbes living inside your intestines. Leading medical researchers John F. Cryan and Ted Dinan, working with veteran journalist Scott C. Anderson, explain how common mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety, can be improved by caring for the intestinal microbiome. Science is proving that a healthy gut means a healthy mindand this book details the steps you can take to change your mood and improve your life by nurturing your microbiome.
I love the discoveries that are being made about the role of the gut and the gut microbiome in all aspects of health. I’ve been applying them in my practice with good success in GI disease. That’s why I was excited to read this book about the connections between the flora in the GI tract and human brain health.
This book is written for a lay person. It does a very good job of explaining some difficult concepts in a way that will be easily understood by people who don’t have any biology background without dumbing the subject matter down so much that people with more knowledge would cringe as they read it. That’s a fine line to walk.
The main point of the research is that bacteria in the GI tract break down the food that we eat. They are also responsible for some defense against bad bacteria. They secrete substances that help stabilize our moods.
It is our job to make sure that we don’t harm the good bacteria (probiotics) that we have. In addition we need to give them the right types of food (prebiotics) to make sure that they thrive. There are suggestions in this book for all do help do all of these things.
My only criticism is that in their enthusiasm to tie together gut health and brain health, the authors made it seem like the whole key to everything is the microbiome. That leaves out the very real multifactoral issues that go into mental health problems. A proper and healthy microbiome can definitely help but it shouldn’t be thought to fix everything on its own.
I hope more people start to understand the correlation between probiotics and overall health – not just in GI disease. People seem to be getting more open to the idea. The only real pushback I’ve ever had when dispensing probiotics was actually from a human physician who told me that there was no evidence in humans that probiotics did anything beneficial. He allowed that maybe it was different in animals. I hope he reads a book like this someday and opens his mind to the possibilities.
Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
I managed to avoid finding out exactly what this book was about before listening to it. I didn’t even read the full blurb. (I deleted the part I didn’t read in the synopsis above.) Not knowing what was going to happen let the emotional impact of the book hit me full force.
This is an amazing and necessary book. If any of you are thinking, “I read The Hate U Give, I don’t need to read this one,” get that out of your brain. While the subject matter is similar, these books are very, very different. Dear Martin depicts an attempt by an African-American teenager to move past an emotionally traumatizing incident with a police officer. He finds that that is harder than he expects though as his eyes are opened to what is going on around him.
I appreciated the way he struggles with different approaches to living in a racist society through his interactions with several adult African-American men in his life. Each discusses his struggles and his way of surviving, allowing Justyce to try to choose the best options for him.
The narration in this book was very well done by Dion Graham. It is a short audiobook at just four and a half hours. This is one that I will relisten to with my husband in the future.
I don’t want to say much more about the book. If you don’t already know the whole plot, I’d recommend just starting this story without finding out much more. This is a hard-hitting book that will move you. It is a must read for everyone.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.
I swear Dan Brown is my soul mate. I want the worlds that he describes in his books. That may be concerning to other people. The last few books have been dark and I love it that way.
I actually find his books to be frustrating to read the first time. I just want to know what the point is. I don’t have time for people beating around the bush. Hint – If you are talking to Robert Langdon just tell him what you have to say. If you hint and hem and haw and say that you’ll tell him the important point at a later time, you aren’t making it through the book.
If you haven’t read the book yet, I’ll just say that I appreciated the way this book played with the formulas of his previous books. If you have read it, I have a lot more to say but first we have to give all the spoiler warnings.
Ok, we’re going to be talking about EXACTLY what happens in the book so turn back now if you don’t want to know.
You’ve been warned…….
…….Still here? Ok.
First of all, let’s talk about how he upended the expectations that he built in the previous books.
The art doesn’t mean anything except for Winston’s self portrait.
The church isn’t involved at all at the end.
Seriously, I loved that. What seemed formulaic all through the book – “Here’s another bad priest manipulating a devout follower to kill people” – was all a red herring.
He’s on the run with a beautiful younger woman AND IT ISN’T ROMANTIC AT ALL. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am overthe idea of young women falling over themselves for the hero of every book.
I do have a question about Ambra’s story though. Her big secret is that she is infertile. Is this a nod to Inferno (in which case it shouldn’t be a surprise at all) or are we living in a universe where the events of Inferno didn’t happen? I loved the ending of Inferno. I actually stood up and cheered. I’m not talking about the ending of the movie version of Inferno which was an absolute abomination. I’m talking about a plague released on the whole world ending of the book. My love of the idea of (SPOILER) that a plague could be released that makes 1/3 of the world infertile leads into my appreciation for the ideas in this book. I’m not a fan of the idea of unlimited human growth nor of the idea that humans have to be the dominant species on Earth. Evolve away!
So, what do we think about the idea of life evolving as a way to control energy? I think it is a cool (no pun intended) idea but I don’t know how viable of an idea it is. As an agnostic/atheist person it doesn’t bother me theologically.
I am a fan of the idea of humans melding with artificial intelligence. Of course, the whole time I was thinking, “And then some fool drops an EMP…” because obviously, I’m a cynic. I would love to live in a utopia of high technology that saves the planet. I’m afraid to see I don’t see it happening though.
I loved him. I don’t even care if you are a murderous rampaging machine. Ok, I sort of care. I don’t mind that he killed his creator. That was probably kind seeing what kind of death he was facing. I’m a veterinarian. Euthanasia is a huge part of my life. I’m not happy about him killing the iman and the rabbi. That was unnecessary. Bad Winston! Somebody is going to have to come up with some laws to control AI that work a bit better than the ones in I, Robot. Maybe add in “humans are free to make their own decisions.” Of course, letting humans make decisions leads to a whole bunch of really bad decisions like Donald Trump. Somebody else needs to take a crack at making laws that don’t get us all locked up.
So what did you think? Do you want this world or not?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.
Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.
Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.
Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.
Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.
I was excited to try The Crows of Beara from the description of magical realism and environmental activism but I wasn’t immediately grabbed by the story. I put it aside for a while. Honestly, I probably would have DNFed it if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a book tour book for me and I had to read it. I knuckled down to read it and found myself drawn into the world. I finished it in two sittings. I’m glad that I didn’t pass on this one based on a snap judgement on a day when I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it.
This is a quiet character-based story. Daniel and Annie are both recovering alcoholics. Daniel has been sober for nine years but Annie is just recently out of rehab. Both are still dealing with the serious repercussions of the issues that drinking caused in their lives.
I appreciated the fact that the author showed them both still struggling. You see this from Annie’s point of view most. She is working hard to find AA meetings to attend while in Ireland. She is trying to avoid pub culture and alcohol during business meetings even though she really wants to drink.
The story of the mine versus the community takes a backseat to the story of two people trying to rebuild their lives after they ruined them while drinking. The story summons the quiet of a rural, mystical part of Ireland. The author does a wonderful job of evoking mist-covered cliffs and coastlines. Read this one on a rainy day while snuggled in a blanket with a mugful of hot chocolate.
About Julie Christine Johnson
Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in journals including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; and River Poets Journal. Her work has also appeared in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and psychology and a master’s in international affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.
Named a standout debut by Library Journal, very highly recommended by Historical Novels Review, and delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life (Sourcebooks) went into a second printing three days after its February 2016 release. A hiker, yogi, and swimmer, Julie makes her home in northwest Washington state.
When American mom Lenora Chu moved to China with her little boy, she faced a tough decision. China produced some of the world’s top academic achievers, and just down the street from her home in Shanghai was THE school, as far as elite Chinese were concerned. Should Lenora entrust her rambunctious young son to the system?
So began Rainey’s immersion in one of the most radical school systems on the planet. Almost immediately, the three-year-old began to develop surprising powers of concentration, became proficient in early math, and learned to obey his teachers’ every command. Yet Lenora also noticed disturbing new behaviors: Where he used to scribble and explore, Rainey grew obsessed with staying inside the lines. He became fearful of authority figures, and also developed a habit of obeisance outside of school. “If you want me to do it, I’ll do it,” he told a stranger who’d asked whether he liked to sing.
What was happening behind closed classroom doors? Driven by parental anxiety, Lenora embarked on a journalistic mission to discover: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids? How hard should the rest of us work to stay ahead of the global curve? And, ultimately, is China’s school system one the West should emulate?
She pulls the curtain back on a military-like education system, in which even the youngest kids submit to high-stakes tests, and parents are crippled by the pressure to compete (and sometimes to pay bribes). Yet, as mother-and-son reach new milestones, Lenora uncovers surprising nuggets of wisdom, such as the upside of student shame, how competition can motivate achievement, and why a cultural belief in hard work over innate talent gives the Chinese an advantage.
Lively and intimate, beautifully written and reported, Little Soldiers challenges our assumptions and asks us to reconsider the true value and purpose of education.
The author is the first generation American daughter of Chinese immigrants. She had a hard time reconciling her parents’ attitude toward education with her American school experiences. Now she and her American husband moved to Shanghai just in time for their oldest child to join the Chinese school system at age 3. Should he go to the state school or should they send him to an international school?
The book follows the first few years of Rainey’s Chinese education. It both affirms and challenges what the author thought she knew about Chinese education. From the first days when the children are continually threatened by the teachers with arrest or not being allowed to see their parents again if they don’t sit still to the teenage years and the national obsession with the college entrance test, she examines the effect of authoritarian teaching. The results surprised her.
I come from a family of teachers. What I learned from this book is that being a teacher in China is way better than being a teacher in the U.S.
Teachers are to be highly respected. The proper response to a request by a teacher to a parent is, “Yes, teacher. You work so hard, teacher.”
Bribery and gift gifting to teachers are both expected and illegal. These aren’t little gifts either. Vacations, gift cards with a month’s salary on it, and luxury goods are considered appropriate.
She talks about the other downsides of Chinese teaching, besides the threats.
Force feeding children
No help for special needs kids
Crushing amounts of homework and additional classes with tutors that start as young as age 3
Indoctrination in Chinese nationalism and communism
Rote rule following and stifling of creatively
On the plus side, there is:
Well behaved children who respect their elders
Fluency in written and spoken Mandarin and English before high school age
Advanced math skills
She talks to migrant parents who have left children at home in the rural areas of China in order to be able to afford their education. She talks to teenagers who are preparing for the college entrance exams and have differing takes on how to get ahead.
Ultimately she decides to leave Rainey in Chinese school up until 6th grade if he is still doing well. He will learn Mandarin almost fully by then and be strong in math. He will escape the pressures of the high school and college entrance exams that can crush students. They will continue to preach thinking for himself at home.
I did enjoy this look at education across China. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in educational theory. The narration was very well done in both Chinese and English.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
We may not often think of our clothes as having a function beyond covering our naked bodies and keeping us a little safer from the elements. But to discount the enormous influence of clothing on anything from economic cycles to the future of water scarcity is to ignore the greater meaning of the garments we put on our backs. Disrobed vividly considers the role that clothing plays in everything from natural disasters to climate change to terrorism to geopolitics to agribusiness. Chapter by chapter, Tang takes the reader on an unusual journey, telling stories and asking questions that most consumers have never considered about their clothing. Why do banker's wives sell off their clothes and how does that presage a recession? How is clothing linked to ethanol and starvation on the African continent? Could RFID in clothing save the lives of millions of people in earthquakes around the world?
This book takes an everyday item and considers it in a way that readers may not have previously thought possible. It tackles topics relevant to today, everything from fakes in the museums to farm-to-table eating, and answers questions about how we can anticipate and change our world in areas as far-reaching as the environment, politics, and the clash of civilizations occurring between countries. Much like other pop economics books have done before, the stories are easily retold in water-cooler style, allowing them to be thoughtfully considered, argued, and discussed.
This is a pop-economics book examining the impact of clothing on various aspects of life now and in the future. The author is a futurist who uses clothing to help predict future trends.
How does that work? For example, the rate of rich women reselling designer clothing goes up as they start to have financial concerns. This shows up before some other indicators of impending recessions. Likewise, the number of bankers wearing their “lucky clothing” increases with financial instability.
I thought this book was strongest in its first few chapters. These discuss superstitious clothing trends, how museums fall for buying fakes, and predictors of recession. In the later chapters on environmental impacts of clothing I felt that the ideas needed more development. Yes, there are major problems with disposable clothing and its impact on water and agriculture. But this book just seemed to rush to skim over the surface of many ideas instead of taking the time to develop a few ideas fully. The ideas are intriguing but the discussion felt half-hearted and left me wanting more details and nuance.
This book would be best for people who have never considered these issues before. It can serve as an introduction to the topics surrounding clothing and the economy and environment. It may spur deeper research into the subject and a search for books that dive deeper into the cause and effect of the topics presented here.
About Syl Tang
Syl Tang is CEO and founder of the 19-year old HipGuide Inc. A futurist, her focus is how and why we consume, with an eye towards world events such as natural disasters, geo-political clashes, and pandemics. She has written hundreds of articles on the confluence of world events and soft goods for the Financial Times, predicting and documenting trends such as the Apple watch and other smart wearables, lab-made diamonds, the Department of Defense’s funding of Afghan jewelry companies, the effects of global warming on South Sea pearls, and the unsolved murder of tanzanite speculator Campbell Bridges.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Barber explores the evolution of American food from the 'first plate,' or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the 'second plate' of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the 'third plate,' a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, natural livestock rhythms, whole-grains, and small portions of free-range meat
This is the kind of book that I absolutely love. It is a detailed look at ways of growing food with environmental sustainability in mind. It gave me warm fuzzies every time I picked it up.
The author runs a restaurant on a farm in New York. You would think that would be great for the environment but he starts to realize that they plant want he wants to use instead of him using what it is best for the farm to grow. For example, there are cover crops that are ground to help fix nitrogen or add other nutrients to the soil that are just plowed under because they don’t have a commercial use. Why shouldn’t he try to use those crops because it is part of what his farm needs to grow to survive instead of forcing the farm to grow the few things that he wants?
He visits a community of organic farmers in a small town in New York. They are doing extensive work on their soils by using crop rotation. They grew from one family doing this work who spread the word around the town. I loved this part. There is something about reading about building healthy soil that thrills me every time. I accept that I might be weird.
Then he visits the area of Spain famous for jamon iberico. This is a ham made from free-range pigs that ate a lot of acorns. There is a farmer here who is trying to do the same thing with geese to make fois gras without force feeding his ducks. Also in Spain he visits a fish farm next to a national park that is helping to rebuild an estuary to house their fish. Birds use the area as a stop over in migration. The fish farmers consider losing fish to avian predation a sign of a healthy farm ecosystem.
These were stories were interesting to me but I kept thinking about how unnecessary they are. If you really want to get into environmentally healthy eating, why eat meat at all?
At the end the book went back to plants and I was so happy. It discusses heirloom vegetable raising versus breeding for better varieties. So much of the plant breeding going on is for durability. Flavor isn’t considered. This section covers some people who are trying to fix that.
This book reminded me a lot of Omnivore’s Dilemma, especially the section on Joel Saladin. If you loved that book, you’ll love this one.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: