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02 Aug, 2017

The Dress in the Window

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Dress in the Window The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant
on July 25th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Pennsylvania

World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.
Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town. But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.
Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.

Goodreads

None of the women in this story expected to live a life without their men.  Now, after World War II, they are trying to adapt to what their lives have become. 

Jeanne is a talented seamstress but making knock off dresses for rich women in her small town isn’t enough to make ends meet.  Peggy is a good designer but with a small daughter she needs to find a way to make money.  Thelma is Peggy’s mother in law.  She owns the house they live in and is barely keeping them afloat.

Thelma was my favorite character in this book.  She is portrayed as the matriarch but she is only in her mid-40s.  She has a lot of secrets including lovers who will still do her some favors as the need arises.  She is smart but always underestimated due to her gender and socioeconomic condition.  She comes up with a plan to help them all based on secrets, blackmail, and her talents. 

This is a good look at life for women who were forced to grow up quickly because of war.  Peggy has a child that she probably wouldn’t have had so young if not for the war making things feel urgent.  Jeanne is concerned about being a spinster forever because of the lack of men. 

Overall, this is a grim book.  Times were tough and the women had to be even tougher to get through it. 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
05 Jul, 2017

Strange Contagion

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Strange Contagion Strange Contagion: The Suicide Cluster That Took Palo Alto's Children and What It Tells Us About Ourselves by Lee Daniel Kravetz
on June 27th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Harper Wave
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour

Picking up where The Tipping Point leaves off, respected journalist Lee Daniel Kravetz’s Strange Contagion is a provocative look at both the science and lived experience of social contagion.

In 2009, tragedy struck the town of Palo Alto: A student from the local high school had died by suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming train. Grief-stricken, the community mourned what they thought was an isolated loss. Until, a few weeks later, it happened again. And again. And again. In six months, the high school lost five students to suicide at those train tracks.

A recent transplant to the community and a new father himself, Lee Daniel Kravetz’s experience as a science journalist kicked in: what was causing this tragedy? More important, how was it possible that a suicide cluster could develop in a community of concerned, aware, hyper-vigilant adults?

The answer? Social contagion. We all know that ideas, emotions, and actions are communicable—from mirroring someone’s posture to mimicking their speech patterns, we are all driven by unconscious motivations triggered by our
environment. But when just the right physiological, psychological, and social factors come together, we get what Kravetz calls a "strange contagion:" a perfect storm of highly common social viruses that, combined, form a highly volatile condition.

Strange Contagion is simultaneously a moving account of one community’s tragedy and a rigorous investigation of social phenomenon, as Kravetz draws on research and insights from experts worldwide to unlock the mystery of how ideas spread, why they take hold, and offer thoughts on our responsibility to one another as citizens of a globally and perpetually connected world.

Goodreads

The most interesting part of this book to me was the social science of how people interact with each other in a work environment.  It seemed like scientific proof of the old adage “One bad apple ruins the barrel.”  It is important to get rid of people who are going to bring team morale down.  I’ve seen that a lot in different jobs.

The book doesn’t come to a conclusion about the suicide clusters in Palo Alto. He looks at this as an outsider.  He talks to a teacher and a principal but doesn’t talk much to the kids.  Whatever is going on in that school would be invisible to outsiders and may not have anything to do with too much homework or high societal pressure to achieve.

I did like the part of the book that discussed why Palo Alto schools have such high achievement rates.  The kids appear to be intrinsically motivated to succeed.  It would be great if this was not abnormal.  I’ve never understood why people aren’t intrinsically motivated.  It is in their best interest.  Being able to export a culture that creates motivated students would be amazing.

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins
| Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Lee Daniel Kravetz

Lee Daniel Kravetz has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a graduate of the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Journalism. He has written for Psychology Today, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times, among other publications. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and children.

Find out more about Lee at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
27 Jun, 2017

Kiss Carlo

/ posted in: Reading Kiss Carlo Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
on June 20th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by HarperCollins
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.
Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

Goodreads

Kiss Carlo is a meandering family story that takes place over a few years in post WWII Philadelphia.  The Palazzini family lives together in a large house containing Uncle Dom and Aunt Jo, their three sons and their wives, and a cousin, Nicky.  The men all work together also in the family cab company.

What no one knows is that Nicky has been moonlighting at a struggling Shakespeare theater.  He’s a stagehand but an emergency forces him onstage mid-play and makes him realize that he wants to act.  He also has a man die in his cab which forces the realization that he isn’t doing exactly what he wants with his life.  His actions shake up the whole Palazzini family when Nicky breaks off his engagement and moves out of the house.

The book is full of distinct and interesting characters.  With such a large cast it could have been hard to keep the characters separate, but the author did a very good job of writing each one as a individual with their own backstory, personality traits, and motivations.  There are no “generic sisters-in-law” here.

Hortense is the African-American dispatcher and telegraph operator at the cab company.  She’s no nonsense and proudly self-educated.  Her husband doesn’t appreciate her and demeans her.  She forges a friendship with a housebound Italian widow over a weekend who shares part of her way of making marinara sauce.  This leads to a business opportunity for Hortense because she’s savvy enough to see how a simple sauce fits into the need for convenience for the modern house wife.  Adding this character gives an outsider’s view of the Italian families and neighborhood of Philadelphia.

This is a long book that doesn’t have one distinct through story.  It is a book that you just need to settle into and let it take you along for the ride instead of trying to imagine where the journey is going to take you.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins
| Amazon | Barnes
& Noble

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Visit Adriana at her website: www.adrianatrigiani.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • Foodies Read 2017
06 Mar, 2017

A Great Reckoning

/ posted in: Reading A Great Reckoning A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
on August 30th 2016
Pages: 389
Genres: Crime & Mystery, Fiction
Published by Minotaur Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.
Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go but must.
And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Goodreads

I had never heard of this detective series until BEA 2016 when Louise Penny was one of the speakers at the adult breakfast.  This is the twelfth book in the series.  Normally I would never start a series in the middle but I had a copy of the book so I decided to try it.

This seems like a good place for new readers to start.  From what I gathered from the text, the detective at the heart of the story had investigated police corruption.  After this investigation, a lot of high ranking people were arrested.  The detective retired from the police.  Now he is taking an interim job as the director of the police academy.  He knows that a lot of students are coming out of the school predisposed to brutal conduct.  He wants to change the culture of the training.

You don’t need to know much about what happened before to enjoy this book.  What you need is explained in the text.  The detective lives in a small town that is not on any maps.  An old map of his town is found in a wall in a local shop.  It has a lot of strange pictures on it.  As an exercise, he gives a few cadets copies of the map and asks them to figure out the mystery behind it.  Then his major suspect for teaching police misconduct is murdered and a copy of the map is in his nightstand.  The detective thinks someone is trying to frame one of the students – a girl whom he admitted to the school after she was previously turned away.

There are several mysteries explored in this book. Who killed the professor? Why did the new director admit this girl to the school? Why isn’t the town of Three Pines on any official maps?  Who made the one map it is on?

This book is set in Quebec City and the surrounding countryside.  I haven’t read many books set in Quebec.  The author lives there and her love for the community and culture comes through.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who like police stories and mysteries.  It was interesting enough that I will pick up future books.  I probably won’t go backwards because reading this one does tell you what happened in the previous books.

 

About Louise Penny

She lives with her husband, Michael, and a golden retriever named Trudy, in a small village south of Montreal.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
10 Feb, 2017

The Littlest Bigfoot

/ posted in: Reading The Littlest Bigfoot The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published by Aladdin
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Setting: New York

Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.
But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.
Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else.

Goodreads

I picked up this book at BEA last year because I like Jennifer Weiner’s adult fiction.  I don’t read a lot of middle grade so I would have missed this one otherwise.

Alice is the neglected child of wealthy New Yorkers who don’t know what to do with her. She doesn’t fit into their vision of what a child of theirs should be.  She’s messy and clumsy and too big.  For some reason she never fits into the schools she’s attended.  Now she is being shipped off to boarding school in upstate New York.  The school is populated by other misfits who Alice keeps her distance from.  She knows they will eventually reject her too.

Millie is a Yare.  They are known as Bigfoot to No-Furs.  They are quiet and meek.  Millie is not.  She wants to meet a No-Fur so much.  Eventually Millie and Alice meet which brings the Yare tribe into danger from the local humans.

After I read this I thought that my stepdaughter would enjoy it.  She refused to even look at it so we read it out loud during a road trip.  She got mad and put her ear buds in so she didn’t have to hear a stupid story.  We did notice her listening every so often though.

Alice believes that she is fat and ugly and that her hair is a disaster.  She judges herself and everyone around her very harshly.  These judgements are presented as facts in the book.  She mocks people in her mind over any difference.  She learns to bully people to gain acceptance.

Eventually this all backfires on her and she is an outcast again.  She learns to accept people for their differences by the end of the book. But I can see people being uncomfortable with the mocking and harsh judging of other characters and viewpoints before this point.

Not all of the issues are resolved at the end so I hope this means that we will be reading more of Alice and Millie.

21 Sep, 2016

Saving Delaney

/ posted in: Reading Saving Delaney Saving Delaney by Andréa Ott-Dahl, Keston Ott-Dahl
on April 12th 2016
Pages: 320
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Cleis Press
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: California
Goodreads

“Saving Delaney is the heartwarming true story of a baby who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and the unconventional family who fought for her right to life. Andrea Ott-Dahl, who with her partner Keston Ott-Dahl has with two other children, agreed to act as a pregnancy surrogate for a wealthy Silicon Valley family. When pre-natal testing revealed the baby would be born with Down Syndrome, Andrea was urged to abort the child. Instead, the Ott-Dahls chose to keep and raise the daughter they would call Delaney, overcoming their fears while navigating legal, medical and emotional challenges.”


I’m not going to lie.  I read this book for the chocolate.

I was at BEA and the authors were signing right next to another author I was in line for.  When I finished they had a short line and the BEA worker said that they were handing out chocolate with the book.  That got my attention.  I hadn’t been interested in the book because I don’t like babies.  I’m also pro-choice and didn’t care to read a pro-life screed.  Turns out I’m really more pro-chocolate than anything.  I went up and got a copy of the book.  Delaney even signed it for me herself.

SavingDelaneysignature.jpg

Now I’m glad that I read this book.

The book is told from Keston’s viewpoint.  When her mother died when Keston was in her early 40s, she went through a bit of a wild time.  She broke up with her long term partner and decided to just have fun for a while.  She wasn’t planning on meeting a woman in her late 20s with two young children and falling in love.  She certainly wasn’t planning for her new girlfriend to decide that she needed to be a surrogate for another couple.

Keston had always had a phobia about people with disabilities.  This view was formed when she did some community service in a residential care facility.  Since that time she had actively avoided any contact.

Trying to get pregnant as a surrogate wasn’t easy for Andrea.  Tensions rose between the Ott-Dahls, the prospective mothers, and the sperm donors as months passed with no pregnancy.  Right when they were about to give up, Andrea got pregnant.

Routine prenatal testing showed abnormalities early.  Andrea was the biological mother.  An egg donor was not used.  Now the question was, could she be made to abort her biological child if she signed a contract stating that the prospective mothers got to decide about any health concerns to the child?  Should they keep a child with Down’s Syndrome knowing Keston’s issues with disabilities?

This book is the story of growing up and growing together.  It is standing up for your family in the face of pressures from all sides.  It is about learning to overcome your prejudices and convincing others to do the same.

Regardless of your personal opinions on abortion or surrogacy, I’d recommend reading this book.  It gives the perspective of people wrestling with the tough choices that come with assisted reproduction that aren’t usually heard.

 

29 Aug, 2016

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness

/ posted in: Reading Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness (Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency #1) by David Casarett
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: Crime & Mystery
Published by Redhook
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Thailand
Goodreads

“Two nights ago, a young woman brought her husband into the emergency room of the Sriphat Hospital in Thailand, where he passed away. A guard thinks she remembers her coming in before, but with a different husband – one who also died.
 Ladarat Patalung, for one, would have been happier without a serial murderer-if there is one — loose in her hospital. Then again, she never expected to be a detective in the first place.
 And now, Ladarat has no choice but to investigate…”


Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 12.31.12 PM

Ladarat Patalung is a nurse ethicist at a hospital in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. When a police detective asks for her help in searching records to see if this woman has brought other men to the hospital, she finds herself falling in love with the idea of being a detective.

Her life has been stagnant. She was widowed twelve years ago after just a few years of marriage. Her life revolves around her job and her cat. Now she is being proactive and getting involved in the lives of people around her.

It becomes obvious very quickly that this book is written by a Western man for an intended audience who is not familiar with Thai culture. Terms that would be easily recognized by a Thai audience are painstakingly defined. The author has spent a lot of time in Thailand and has done a lot of research but it does distance the reader from the story. He works all this detail in by having Ladarat contemplate everything around her very deeply. It makes her come off as a very cerebral and unemotional character who is always partially removed from the people and circumstances around her.

I love the premise of the main mystery. Why does a woman bring in a second dead husband a few months after her last one died? That’s what made me interested in the book. I also haven’t read many books set in Thailand. However, there are several other plots in this book and sometimes that mystery gets forgotten for a while. There is the story of an American man who is injured while on his honeymoon. This serves to set up discussions on American versus Thai responses to health care and crises. There is also a mystery man hanging out in the waiting room who never speaks to anyone. Ladarat is charged with getting rid of him because there is an inspection of her hospital in a few days and the administration doesn’t want homeless people hanging around.

I did learn about Thai culture and attitudes while reading this book.  I’d recommend this for people who like deliberately paced stories with plenty of slice of life details about places that they aren’t familiar with.  Another book that does this well is The Marriage Bureau for Rich People.

3s

17 Aug, 2016

Truffle Boy

/ posted in: Reading Truffle Boy Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha, Kevin West
on February 7th 2017
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Hachette Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
Goodreads

“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.
 The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”


 This book starts with the admission that it is weird for a 23 year old to be writing a memoir.  It’s good to get that out there early because it is a bit presumptious but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he’s only 23 while reading this.

While still in high school, Ian Purkayastha started an exotic foods club to make meals with strange ingredients for people in his Arkansas school and raise money for charity.  He used his vacation time to travel to trade shows and meet up with people in the exotic food community.  He set up his own business importing truffles from Italy for chefs in his area. This led to a job after high school graduation importing truffles in New York.  This is where he started to see the problems in the industry.  As he spends the next few years starting his own business, he travels around the world sourcing ingredients and meeting the people who hunt for mushrooms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Did you know:

  • A lot of “Italian” truffles come from eastern Europe
  • Truffle oil usually doesn’t have truffles in it
  • U.S. chefs prize the appearance of truffles so much that the vast majority of harvested truffles aren’t sent to the U.S. market because they aren’t the “correct” shape
  • There are attempts being made to raise truffles in specially planted orchards but it will take decades to see if it works

This book tries to dispel some of the snobbery around high end foods.  It shows the work involved in finding and harvesting.  It also points out how markets are kept artificially tight and how some countries become known as the best source of ingredients for reasons that may not be true.

This ARC of Truffle Boy is one of the prizes up for grabs this month for people who link up with Foodies Read.  If you like reading books featuring food, link up your reviews with us!

4flower

28 Jul, 2016

Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story

/ posted in: Reading Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story Vivian In Red by Kristina Riggle
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: 20th Century, Historical Fiction, Occult & Supernatural
Published by Polis Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
Goodreads

“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor— failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.”


In 1999 Milo is the recently widowed patriarch of a high achieving family.  He lives surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  He still goes into his production company even though his son is the running the place now.  The business isn’t doing as well as it used to and his son wants to do a revival of the last musical Milo wrote, The High Hat, along with commissioning a biography of Milo as a tie-in.  Milo is opposed to both.

He’s leaving the office after telling his son that when he sees a woman he knew in the 1930s.  She looks exactly like she did then.  She looks at him and he collapses.  When he wakes up he is unable to speak or use his right hand.  Robbed of ways to communicate, he has to figure out why Vivian Adair is haunting him without looking so confused that his family insists on a nursing home.

Now that Milo can’t voice his objections, the plans for the revival go ahead.  His granddaughter Eleanor is chosen to write the biography.  She is the only person who seems to understand that Milo is still lucid and aware and she doesn’t talk past him.  In her interviews with the son of his writing partner she hears the name Vivian and starts to investigate why that family thinks that this Vivian ruined everything.

I loved Milo and Eleanor! 

Milo’s mind is fast, as fits a lyricist, and he has a great sense of humor that comes through even when he is locked inside himself.  Eleanor has always been seen as the family misfit because she is quiet and she isn’t ambitious.  The rest of the family feels like they need to manage her life for her since she isn’t doing it up to their standards on her own.  She feels bad about being handed a book deal that is both a charity project for her and something that she knows her grandfather doesn’t want.  Now she’s gone and uncovered a scandal so everyone will be mad at her.

The author writes both time periods well.  There are little details from each era that anchor the writing firmly in that time.  Some of the social attitudes of the characters are jarring to modern thinking but seem accurate for the time and the place.

I stayed up past my bedtime to find out more about Vivian role in Milo’s past.  The mystery was well done with no easy easy to guess answers.

I would recommend this to any historical fiction fans even if you aren’t a fan of ghost stories.  The ghost aspect is just a way to get Milo to start focusing on this aspect of his past.  It isn’t written as a scary or horror-type story.  Ghost Vivian mostly just makes sarcastic comments that only Milo can hear.

4flower

freetogoodhome

 

17 Jun, 2016

IQ – Sherlock Holmes in East Long Beach

/ posted in: Reading IQ – Sherlock Holmes in East Long Beach IQ by Joe Ide
on October 18th 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Crime & Mystery, Fiction
Published by Mulholland Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in California

East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he's forced to take on clients that can pay. This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.

Goodreads

Isaiah Quintabe’s whole world fell apart when his brother Marcus died leaving teenaged Isaiah on his own.  In order to make his rent he gets a local drug dealer and petty criminal named Dodson as a room mate.  It changes both of their lives.

Now years later Dodson has a case that he thinks Isaiah would be interested in.  It has a huge paycheck attached and Dodson has decided to help out to get his cut – whether Isaiah wants him around or not.

This book reminded me a lot of a Carl Hiaasen novel.  The mystery is convoluted.  The characters are quirky and unexpected.  The book is laugh out loud funny at times.

  • IQ is a loner who is brilliant and who has trained himself to be observant and make deductions like Sherlock Holmes
  • Dodson is a drug dealer who wants to move on to crimes with a better class of criminals
  • Deronda is a woman from IQ and Dodson’s past who is looking to be become famous any way possible
  • Cal is a depressed rap superstar who has a greedy entourage
  • Add in a hit man with an obsession with breeding the perfect attack dogs

The story is told through dual time lines.

Present Day

Cal is too depressed to leave his house and go into the studio to record his contractually obligated next album.  Anything he writes is way too depressing to record anyway.  He is attacked in his house by a gigantic dog.  He only gets away by falling in the pool and making so much noise that the neighbor calls the police.  A man comes out of the woods to get the dog and lets Cal live.  Isaiah takes the case.

In the Past

Dodson has just moved in with a grieving Isaiah.  He realizes that he has a genius as a room mate and that genius is in need of money.  He decides to put Isaiah’s brain to use to think up better criminal activities.

It is interesting to see what happens in the past to make Isaiah the detective that he is today.  This is supposed to be the start of a series and I can’t wait to see what Isaiah gets up to next.

My only quibble is that at one point they rob a pet store and take feline epilepsy test strips.  I wish they would have gotten me some.  Those would be handy since nothing like that actually exists.  The author probably meant feline diabetes test strips.  Sorry, that’s my veterinarian side coming out.

freetogoodhome

First come first served and if you want to throw in a few dollars for shipping that would be great but not required.

 

15 Jun, 2016

Arabella of Mars

/ posted in: Reading Arabella of Mars Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
on July 12th 2016
Pages: 320
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Tor
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England and Mars

Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.
Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father's deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.
Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family's circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.

Goodreads

Arabella was born and raised on a plantation on Mars.  Her mother is from England and wants to take her daughters back to have them raised as proper ladies.  When Arabella’s father dies, she seizes the opportunity and takes them back to England, leaving Arabella’s brother in charge of the plantation.

Back on Earth, Arabella doesn’t fit in.  When a nasty cousin realizes that he will be heir to the plantation if her brother dies, he jumps on an airship to Mars to kill him.  Arabella realizes that she needs to get to Mars first to warn her brother.

This book felt a lot more like a sea-going novel like Horatio Hornblower than a space-traveling sci fi book.

The ships that travel to and from Mars are basically British naval vessels of the sailing era fitted with balloons.  Arabella disguises herself as a boy and gets a job on a ship.  Most of the book takes place on the ship on the way to Mars with aerial battles and possible strandings and mutinies.

I was interested to see how this wooden ship was going to be made able to withstand the rigors of space.  Were the balloons going to wrap around it and seal the ship?  Nope.  In this world science is different.

  • There is air in space so you don’t need oxygen.
  • There is wind in space to move the ship using the sails.
  • It isn’t cold.  You can wander about in normal clothes.
  • There’s no vacuum so you don’t explode.
  • The only thing different on Mars is lighter gravity.

Social issues discussed

  • The role of women in society
  • The captain of the ship Arabella works on is Indian and that doesn’t sit well with several of the white crewmembers
  • There are native inhabitants of Mars who the English treat as servants as they were wont to do when colonizing places.  The Martians are not pleased with this.

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14 Jun, 2016

My Underground American Dream

/ posted in: Reading My Underground American Dream My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive by Julissa Arce
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Center Street
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Mexico and Texas

For an undocumented immigrant, what is the true cost of the American Dream? Julissa Arce shares her story in a riveting memoir.
When she was 11 years old Julissa Arce left Mexico and came to the United States on a tourist visa to be reunited with her parents, who dreamed the journey would secure her a better life. When her visa expired at the age of 15, she became an undocumented immigrant. Thus began her underground existence, a decades long game of cat and mouse, tremendous family sacrifice, and fear of exposure. After the Texas Dream Act made a college degree possible, Julissa's top grades and leadership positions landed her an internship at Goldman Sachs, which led to a full time position--one of the most coveted jobs on Wall Street. Soon she was a Vice President, a rare Hispanic woman in a sea of suits and ties, yet still guarding her "underground" secret. In telling her personal story of separation, grief, and ultimate redemption, Arce shifts the immigrant conversation, and changes the perception of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant.

Goodreads

Julissa Arce’s parents were working legally in the United States while she and her older sisters lived with her extended family in Mexico.  Her younger brother was born in the United States.  When Julissa started acting out in school at age 11, her parents brought her to live with them.  She had no idea that it was illegal for her to go to school.  She didn’t know that she had outstayed her visa until her mother explained that she couldn’t go back to Mexico for her quinceanera because she wouldn’t be able to come back into the United States.

She was a star student but was not accepted to any colleges because she didn’t have a social security number.  At this point Texas passed a law that allowed undocumented students to go to college at Texas state schools.  This allowed her to be able to go to school.

I was conflicted when reading this book.  I think people should follow the rules of the country they live in.  I also think that it should be much, much easier for people to come to the United States from Latin America so people aren’t required to sneak into the country.  Julissa also buys fake documents as an adult to be able to get a job.  I can see that she was brought into the country by her parents and she had no intent to do anything wrong at that point, but now she was actively breaking the law because she felt she was entitled to stay here and get a very high paying job.  She talked a little bit about whether or not she should go back to Mexico because she would be able to get a very good job so it wasn’t like she didn’t have options.  She also marries specifically get to a green card.  The more unethical things she does, the less sympathy I retained for her.

This book made me understand the issues around children of undocumented immigrants.  They are stuck as they become adults.  I think there should be a way for these children to be able to be legally documented.

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10 Jun, 2016

Believing in Magic

/ posted in: Reading Believing in Magic Believing in Magic: My Story of Love, Overcoming Adversity, and Keeping the Faith by Cookie Johnson, Denene Millner
on September 20th 2016
Pages: 272
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Howard Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Michigan and California

In her new memoir, Cookie Johnson, wife of NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, shares details of her marriage, motherhood, faith, and how an HIV diagnosis twenty-five years ago changed the course of their lives forever.
On November 7, 1991, basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned the world with the news that he was HIV-positive. For the millions who watched, his announcement became a pivotal moment not only for the nation, but his family and wife. Twenty-five years later, Cookie Johnson shares her story and the emotional journey that started on that day—from life as a pregnant and joyous newlywed to one filled with the fear that her husband would die, she and her baby would be infected with the virus, and their family would be shunned. Believing in Magic is the story of her marriage to Earvin nearly four decades of loving each other, losing their way, and eventually finding a path they never imagined.
November 7, 2016 will mark a quarter-century since the announcement and Cookie’s survival and triumph as a wife, mother, and God-fearing woman.
Cookie has never shared her full account of the reasons that she stayed and her life with Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Believing in Magic is her story.

Goodreads

We all have had that friend.  You know the one.  She’s the one with the loser boyfriend who she insists is just the sweetest and kindest person ever to exist but he just doesn’t show that side of himself in public.  If you just knew him like she does, you’d understand.

 

This is what the first half of this book felt like to me. I felt like I needed to stage an intervention even though it all happened years ago.

While they were dating, Magic:

  • Publicly shunned her and then asked her if she learned her lesson when she didn’t follow his orders
  • Got upset when his friends teased him for calling her on an out of town trip so he broke up with her because she was “too controlling.”
  • Dated other women when they were supposed to be exclusively dating and then had the nerve to get mad at her for calling him out on it
  • Saw her with her new boyfriend during a 2 year breakup and then going out of his way to publicly humiliate the new boyfriend.
  • Repeatedly broke up with her for long periods and returned only when he found out she was dating someone else
  • Let her know that he had impregnated another woman during one of their breakups by bringing the now 3 year old offspring to a family party and introducing them to each other in front of his whole family
  • Proposed and then called off the wedding – TWICE

 

And just like your friend who keeps getting back with her jerk of a boyfriend, she keeps making excuses for him.

Now, I give her credit for not moving to LA with him and living the lifestyle of a basketball girlfriend. He wasn’t going to make a commitment so she stayed in Toledo and worked on her career. Good for her!

Eventually she did move because she felt that she had to prove to him that she could fit into his world.  She kept a job in her field though to maintain her independence.  Soon she had to choose between her career and the NBA finals.  She quit her job to stand by her man and what did he do?  Dumped her again.

This book is advertised as the story of a long and successful marriage in the public eye.  It doesn’t read that way at all.  To me it reads like a woman trying too hard to convince you that everything is ok.

I found the second half of the book more interesting mostly because Magic almost entirely disappears from the story once they got married.  She tells the story of raising her son, who she was pregnant with at the time of Magic’s HIV diagnosis.  She talks of coming to terms with the fact that their son was absolutely not athletic and over time realizing that he was gay.  She talks about the adoption of their daughter and the affect that adoption had on the life of her child.  She touches on the work they do in HIV education.  She does not discuss what it is like to have an HIV positive partner.

This is also advertised as a story of faith.  She talks about getting through the hard times when Magic would run off again by reading the Bible and discovering what God wanted her to do.  Amazingly, God always wanted her to do exactly what she wanted to do.  He would always lead her back to her emotionally abusive boyfriend.  Wow, thanks for looking out for me God!

 

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09 Jun, 2016

The Underground Railroad

/ posted in: Reading The Underground Railroad The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 320
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Published by Doubleday
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her of the Underground Railroad and they plot their escape.
Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds on each leg of her journey...Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors of black life in pre-Civil War America. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Goodreads

Georgia

Georgia functions like a typical slave state.  There are large plantations that house many slaves.  Cora was born here and has been on her own since her mother escaped when Cora was nine.  All she has of her own is a very small plot of land where she grows some vegetables.  After she violently defends her plot from an interloper, she is an outcast among the slaves.

When the master dies and the plantation is in the hands of his sadistic sons, an educated slave convinces Cora to escape with him.  He tells her about the Underground Railroad.  This is a literal railroad underground with stations under houses of abolitionists.  There aren’t many stations now.  Service is erratic at best and no trains may come at all.  They run and catch the train.

South Carolina

Slavery is illegal here.  Former slaves are educated and given places to live.  They have jobs and the ability to live a peaceful and productive life.  But there is a strange tension.  There is a feeling of something sinister under the surface of this utopia.

North Carolina

African-Americans are banned here.  Labor is done by immigrants from Europe.  The penalty for an African-American being in the state or a white person helping a black person is death.

Tennessee

Tennessee is dismal and bleak.  The slave catcher finds her here but she escapes with help from some other escapees.

Indiana

In this free state, black people live happily on a prosperous farm but will they be allowed to keep their enclave?


This book addresses a lot in a short space.

  • The hierarchy of slaves
  • Torture
  • Slave catchers
  • White people reluctant to help to free people
  • Black people helping to catch escaping slaves
  • What is an ideal society?

My only issue with this book is that there is a jarring change of story structure in Tennessee that took me completely out of the story.  I had to work to get back into it.  I’ve talked to other people who have read this and they agree that it was strange.  That’s the only reason why I’m going with 4.5 stars instead of 5.

I loved the idea of making it a literal train and exploring each state as a different form of government.  It lets him examine what might have been after emancipation if different ideas took hold.

 

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06 Jun, 2016

Ghost Talkers

/ posted in: Reading Ghost Talkers Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
on August 16th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Published by Tor Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in France

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

Goodreads

I loved the premise of the British Army using mediums to communicate with soldiers killed in battle in order to find out more about enemy troop movements.  This takes place in 1916 during World War I in France during the Battle of the Somme.

This book is a great historical fantasy/mystery but it also addresses issues of class and race in the British Army at the time.

  • Ginger is the American niece of the titular head of the Spirit Corps.  She attends all the briefings because she is better suited for that duty.  Her aunt is in charge though because she is a Lady.
  • The most powerful medium is a West Indian woman named Helen.  She isn’t known to be the mastermind behind the program because she is black and the army command won’t consider listening to her.
  • Indian soldiers aren’t trained on how to report in after death.  They feel that it is a slight stemming from the fact that the white officers don’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to report accurate information.
  • Married women regardless of their abilities are not allowed to participate until things get desperate.
  • The women of the Spirit Corp are thought to be there to help morale in clubs like USOs.  No one outside knows that they also spend time talking to the dead.  No one thinks of this because they are women so how could they be doing anything vital?

I can’t talk much about the actual plot without giving away some spoilers.  No men know how the Spirit Corp trains soldiers to report in.  Only a few know who the mediums are.  The Germans know that it is happening but want to find out how it all works.  There is a spy and Ginger goes to investigate because she is one of the few people who knows all parts of the operation.

I loved the first half of the book.  For me the story bogged down a little in the second half so I gave it 3.5 stars instead of 4.  I’d recommend this to any historical fiction or paranormal fans.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

I got this book at BEA this year.

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The ARC has been claimed.

 

03 Jun, 2016

How To Get Run Over By A Truck

/ posted in: Reading How To Get Run Over By A Truck How to Get Run Over by a Truck by Katie C McKenna
on October 4th 2016
Pages: 294
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Inkshares
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York

People often say, I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Katie actually was. On a sunny morning bike ride in Brooklyn, twenty-four-year-old Katie McKenna was forever changed when she was run over by an eighteen-wheeler. Being crushed under a massive semi wasn't something Katie should have survived. After ten hours of emergency surgery, she woke to find herself in a body and a life that would never be the same. In this brutally honest and surprisingly funny memoir, Katie recalls the pivotal event and the long, confusing road to recovery that followed. Between the unprepared nudity in front of her parents post-surgery, hospital happy hours, and the persistent fear that she would never walk again, Katie details the struggles she's faced navigating her new reality. This inspiring memoir follows Katie's remarkable journey to let go of her old life and fall in love with her new one.

Goodreads

This was the first book I read that I received at BEA.  It was handed to me when I was on my way off the floor one day so it didn’t get packed up with the rest of the books I was shipping home.  (I started it that night in a Jamaican restaurant that served me the most amazing avocado and plantain sandwich.)

 

Katie was riding in Brooklyn in the early morning. She pulled up next to a semi that did not signal that he was turning. When the light turned, the truck pulled into her lane, knocking her over and running over her abdomen with 8 wheels before stopping.

What I find amazing about this is that she never lost consciousness. It probably would have been better. She was able to tell witnesses her name and had them call her parents before the ambulance got there. Because she was talking, her parents didn’t realize the severity of her injuries until they got to the hospital.

In an instant she went from a healthy woman with no major issues in her life to a person completely dependent on other people for her every need. She was taken to a hospital well equipped to deal with major trauma. However, this hospital’s main purpose was treating prisoners so when she is recovered enough to get out of ICU, her quality of care falls dramatically. This is where this book is difficult to deal with at times. As a young white woman who is not in custody, with parents who are able to advocate for her, she is able to get out of this situation. She also causes problems for several doctors who give her straight answers to her questions without coddling her. She seems to only want to hear happy answers about her prognosis and anyone who doesn’t go along with this suddenly is getting the brunt of her family calling their supervisors and demanding that they never get to speak with her again. Several times while reading this I paused to be grateful once again that I don’t work in human medicine.

I would recommend this book for anyone who ever wondered what to say to someone dealing with a life changing diagnosis or injury.

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ARCs are meant to roam so if anyone would like to read this, leave a comment and I’ll send it to you. If you would like to send a few dollars to help cover shipping that would be appreciated.

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