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18 Jul, 2017

When The Future Comes Too Soon

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading When The Future Comes Too Soon When the Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
on July 18, 2017
Series: Malayan #2
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Also in this series: The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

In Japanese-occupied Malaya, lives are shattered and a woman discovers her inner strength in a world ravaged by war.
Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight.
Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she never could have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attentions of another man.
Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.

Goodreads

 


I loved the first book in this series – The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds.  That was the story of a woman in Malaya who witnesses  the change of her area when the British colonize.  Her oldest son is educated in England and she has huge hopes for him that he fails to live up to.  He marries a Chinese girl to please his mother.  This book picks up immediately after the death of the protagonist of the first book.  Her Chinese daughter-in-law tells the story of how they survived the Japanese occupation of World War II.

I was a bit reluctant to pick this book up because of the time period.  I know that Japanese occupations in Asia were brutal.  This book does talk about one massacre but overall it keeps a much narrower focus.  It looks at how this one family survived the war.  They know people in the resistance but that isn’t talked about much.

One of the conflicts was knowing how to react to the Japanese.  They were invaders and they could be cruel but they also allowed Asian people into high ranking jobs that the British establishment would have never allowed.  Our narrator Mei Foong’s husband, Weng Yu is given a job that he has always wanted by the Japanese.  She has learned that her husband is a coward.  He would head to bomb shelters first before helping her or their children.  She has lost a lot of respect for him.  He is in turns indifferent and cruel to her.  Mei Foong learns to grow her own food and sells her mother’s jewelry in order for her family to be able to eat.  The family basically keeps their heads down and does what they have to do to survive unnoticed.

“If anyone had called me a collaborator to my face, I would have recoiled.  As far as I was concerned, we were only giving the Japs our unwilling cooperation.”

 

This is a shorter book than the first one.  It only covers the years of the war.  It mostly the story of the disintegration of a marriage and a woman’s finding strength in herself that she didn’t know she had set against a backdrop of war instead of a novel about the war.  It isn’t necessary to read the first book before picking this one up but it adds to your background knowledge of the area and the characters.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction.  Mei Foong is a great character.  She grows from a shy, pampered, upper class bride into a woman who knows her worth and is able to take care of herself.

About Selina Siak Chin Yoke

Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke (石清玉) grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • POC authors
19 Jun, 2017

Sweet Tea Tuesdays

/ posted in: Reading Sweet Tea Tuesdays Sweet Tea Tuesday by Ashley Farley
on February 22nd 2017
Genres: Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Setting: South Carolina

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.
From the author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series comes a novel of friendship, family, and hope.
When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia's porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn't have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o'clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that's only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Goodreads

This book was not what I was anticipating.  I expected a book about friendship.  This isn’t really about that.  The book starts with the friendship of the three women unraveling because one woman gets a job and asks to change their meeting time.  That seems like a reasonable request but it causes a major meltdown in Lulu who then refuses to speak to them anymore. 

We come to find out that Lulu is actually a horrible angry woman who hides it behind a mask of gentility.  She is thrilled to find out that her favorite daughter who lives in California is coming back for a visit. 

We find out that:

  • She went to California for college
  • She doesn’t visit
  • She cut her hair short

It is like the Holy Trinity of Lesbian Foreshadowing.  /sarcasm

When the prodigal daughter tells her mother that she is gay, the mother starts in on homophobic rants that are absolutely vicious.  I certainly didn’t expect this level of hatred spilling out of a book that appears to be marketed as a light read.  People may attempt to explain this character’s hatred away by saying that she is sick and not in her right frame of mind.  She may not really mean that.  I think that is negated by the fact that the older daughter had stayed away for years because she knew her mother would react poorly to finding out that she was a lesbian. 

She’s also racist.  When she is imaging that her daughter’s friend that is coming home with her is a man, she starts to worry about what will happen if she doesn’t like him.  In her list of concerns is, “What if he was a foreigner or a hog farmer?”  Excuse me, what?  She also reacts negatively to finding out that the name of the home care nurse she has been recommended is Gladys Guzman. 

It is ok to have a horrible character in a book.  But this book doesn’t limit the tone-deaf narrative to that character.  There is repeated use of the phrase “chosen lifestyle” to describe lesbianism from different characters.  Lula’s younger daughter has just graduated from college and lives in downtown Charleston.  Somehow she also doesn’t know anything about gay people?  “She asked herself if she approved of her sister’s chosen lifestyle and was surprised her answer was yes.”  Well, thank you for bestowing your seal of approval.

She also feels bad about thinking that her mother was bigot.  Nope, honey, your mother is a bigot.  Go with your gut on this one. 

Even though towards the end there is magical reconciliation in the family, you don’t see if she changes her mind about gay people or “foreigners”.  The people around her don’t call her out on it much.  If fact they use these phrases to describe her:

  • “Her faith is so strong.”
  • “She was ornery and set in her ways, but she had the kindest heart of them all.”

No.  This is a woman who told a doctor who called her out on her homophobia that she didn’t want to be treated by any LGBT doctors or nurses.  She did not have a kind heart. 

There are two other women in this story but their narratives took a back seat to Lulu’s.  They weren’t as hateful as she was which is good.  I actually liked Georgia who has spent her life as a doctor’s wife only to find out that he’s been cheating on her for years.  She doesn’t take his crap (much) when he tries to blame it all on her.  Midge is in a new relationship with a man that everyone assures her is rotten.  She doesn’t listen to her friends or her instincts and yet somehow it is all ok? 

I’ve never been a big proponent of trigger warnings but this book might change my mind.  The anti-homosexual hatred in this book is so intense and there is no mention of any discussion of homosexuality in the blurb so people would be unaware of it coming.  A mention in the description of conflict between a mother and her lesbian daughter might help people not be blindsided. 

 

 

About Ashley Farley

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • LBGTQ authors/characters
02 Nov, 2016

The Whole Town’s Talking

/ posted in: Reading The Whole Town’s Talking The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg
on November 29th 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction
Published by Random House
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Missouri
Goodreads

“Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening out at the cemetery. “Still Meadows,” as it’s called, is anything but still.”


I love Fannie Flagg’s books.  You know what you are going to get with them.  They will be funny and heartfelt stories of small towns.

This is the story of the founding of Elmwood Springs, Missouri.  It is settled by Swedish farmers who decide that they need to carve out a town to support their farms.  The first white settler in the area was named Lordor Nordstrom.  Eventually the women of the surrounding farms decide that he needs a wife.  He advertises for a bride and finds a nice Swedish woman in Chicago.  Their romance is sweet and charming.

The town grows through the years and eventually the founding settlers begin to die.  This is where the story takes a turn.  In Elmwood Springs the residents of the cemetery are still involved in town life.  They keep up on the local gossip from interviewing new arrivals and from listening to what visitors to the cemetery say.

I liked the beginning of the book but most of the cemetery section was less interesting for me.  The action skipped over years at a time.  It was hard to keep track of the family trees as time passed.  The epilogue of the book redeemed it for me though.  It ties together what appeared to be major plot holes in the story in a satisfying way.

This was a quick read. I read it in one setting.  This is a great book for a cozy night of comfort reading when you don’t want anything too challenging.

 

Book received from NetGalley in exchange for a review
03 Oct, 2016

Born A Crime

/ posted in: Reading Born A Crime Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
on November 15th 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Doubleday Canada
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: South Africa
Goodreads

“The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.  Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.”


This book is amazing.  That is all.  Go preorder it.

I was reading this on my Kindle app and was highlighting like crazy.  Trevor Noah has been an outsider all his life.  In South Africa under apartheid there were four racial categories – white, black, colored, and Indian.  Colored people were the descendants of interracial relationships in the past.  There was no category for 50/50 black/white children because it couldn’t legally happen.  He chose to identify as black because that’s what his mother was but he wasn’t accepted there either.

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Growing up both defined by and outside of such a strict racial hierarchy sharpened his insights.

“That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation.  My mother calls it “the black tax.” Because the generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use your skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero.”

 

“British racism said, “If the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man.”  Afrikaner racism said, “Why give a book to a monkey?”

He talks about history when describing why having a friend named Hitler wasn’t considered strange.

“Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that’s especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler.  If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium’s King Leopold would come way before Hitler.  If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson.”

“Holocaust victims count because Hitler counted them.  Six million people killed.  We can all look at that number and rightly be horrified.  But when you read through the history of atrocities against Africans, there are no numbers, only guesses.  It’s harder to be horrified by a guess.”

This is the story of growing up illegally because his mother fought to make a place for him even before the fall of apartheid.  She was a visionary.  However, even after apartheid there wasn’t a place for him to make a legal living as easily as it was to make an illegal one in the townships.  He talks about the saying about teaching a man to fish vs giving him a fish.  He points out that it doesn’t work if you don’t also help him get a fishing pole.

This isn’t the story of how he became a comedian or how he ended up taking over for Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show.  That all comes later.  This is the story of the world that shaped him into the person he is today.  It is funny.  It is horrifying.  It is necessary reading.

I received this book from NetGalley.

 

29 Sep, 2016

Seducing the Marquess

/ posted in: Reading Seducing the Marquess Seducing the Marquess by Callie Hutton
on October 17th 2016
Genres: Regency, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: England
Goodreads

“Richard, Marquess of Devon is satisfied with his ton marriage. His wife of five months, Lady Eugenia Devon, thought she was, too, until she found the book. Their marriage is one of respect and affection, with no messy entanglements such as love. Devon’s upbringing impressed upon him that gentlemen slake their baser needs on a mistress, not their gently bred wives. However, once married, he was no longer comfortable bedding a woman other Eugenia. When she stumbles onto a naughty book, she begins a campaign to change the rules.”


This book started with an interesting twist.  Instead of being all about the courtship like most Regency romances, this story starts after the couple has been married for five months.  Eugenia hears the news that her husband’s mistress has died in an accident and decides to take this opportunity to convince him to not find another one.  At the same time she comes across a sex manual in a book store.  (Let’s just set aside the unlikeliness of a sex manual in a Regency bookstore in a place where a lady could come across it, ok?)

Up until now their physical relationship has consisted of scheduled three nights a week sex mostly clothed in the dark in order to produce an heir.  She was told by her mother that she should just lie still and think about redecorating and it would be over soon.  He was told that you do you duty with your wife and keep a mistress on the side for any of your desires other than procreation.  All this advice has resulted in some people with some very mixed up ideas and hang ups about sex.

Eugenia’s attempt to spice up their marriage does not go well.  Her husband is horrified.  He starts to avoid her.  No more scheduled times.  Now she has to try to seduce him to get him back.  He is convinced that she has taken a lover because of her new found knowledge.  It is all an object lesson about why people should talk to each other when they are married instead of making assumptions.

I did enjoy this twist on a historical romance.  This book would be good for Regency fans who don’t mind a little bit of explicit sexual talk and activity.

 

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

 

26 Sep, 2016

Dancers After Dark

/ posted in: Reading Dancers After Dark Dancers After Dark by Jordan Matter
on September 28th 2016
Pages: 256
Genres: Photography, Subjects & Themes, Sports
Published by Workman Publishing
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“Dancers After Dark” is an amazing celebration of the human body and the human spirit, as dancers, photographed nude and at night, strike poses of fearless beauty. Without a permit or a plan, Jordan Matter led hundreds of the most exciting dancers in the world out of their comfort zones not to mention their clothes to explore the most compelling reaches of beauty and the human form. After all the risk and daring, the result is extraordinary: 300 dancers, 400 locations, more than 150 stunning photographs. And no clothes, no arrests, no regrets. Each image highlights the amazing abilities of these artists and presents a core message to the reader: Say yes rather than no, and embrace the risks and opportunities that life presents. “


It started with an offhand comment from a contortionist.  She’d be available for a photoshoot after her show.  It might be raining.  Maybe they should try nudes.

Jordan Matter had been photographing dancers and circus performers for years but now that work went in a new direction.  This is a book of photos of dancers naked in public at night.  There were no permits.  No closed sets.

The photographs in the book are beautiful.  Several of them I stared at just to try to figure out how they got into those positions.  I love one of a dancer balancing on pointe on top of a wine bottle.  Other times I could only imagine how incredibly cold they must have been. Here’s a behind the scenes video of one of the shots that made me freeze just looking at it.

The cover dancer is Michaela Prince, whose autobiography I reviewed.  Most of the rest are anonymous except for Alan Cumming.  At the end of the book there are some of the stories behind the pictures.  It wasn’t enough.  I wish there had been a story for every picture.  I wanted to know if the participants were ballet dancers or modern dancers.  Did they perform on Broadway or in circuses? Luckily there is video of the process that gives more background on his website.

15 Jul, 2016

Santa Muerte

/ posted in: Reading Santa Muerte Santa Muerte (The Daniela Story #1) by Lucina Stone
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Set in New York and Mexico
Goodreads

In 2030 college student Daniela Delgado decides to kill herself.  Instead of dying though, she is dropped through time to 1923 where her pixie cut and boy clothes convince people that she is a young colored boy.  Soon she is on the run with an abused farm girl posing as an aristocrat and her male servant.

Back in 2030 Daniela’s mother fears that the only way to find her daughter is to contact her mother.  They have been estranged ever since Emma came out as a lesbian.  She also didn’t want any part in her mother’s delusions that she was a witch.  But what if she wasn’t crazy and she is the only one who can help Daniela?


This is one of the more realistic time travel books that I’ve read.  Daniela doesn’t land among rich people who will help her.  She isn’t a history scholar who can fix past events.  She’s just a girl who knows that the 1920s aren’t a good time to be mistaken for a young colored man and she needs to get out.

Things get weird when her smartphone still works.  She is able to message another smartphone user in the area.  This turns out to be another time traveler who recognizes the significance of her last name.  The Delgados are family of powerful witches.  An unprotected Delgado is an opportunity to earn a big ransom.

In the future, Emma is getting a crash course in the magic that she has rejected all her life.  Can she embrace her family legacy and not destroy her relationship with her wife?

This is the first book in a series so things aren’t tied up at the end.  I like a little more ending than we got here.  I am interested to see what comes next in the series.

3flower

10 Apr, 2015

Learning the Secret Language of Cats by Carol Teed

/ posted in: Reading Learning the Secret Language of Cats by Carol Teed Learning the Secret Language of Cats by Carol Teed
on 2013
Pages: 234
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Exploring the mind of the cat, Dr. Teed describes what can be learned from understanding this most mysterious of creatures. She explores the body-mind-soul connection and notes that what feeds the mind and soul is often deficient in the modern world we have constructed for ourselves and our cats. These deficiencies then become written on the body. She feels a more integrated body-mind-soul approach to care for our felines is what is needed now for the modern cat. Describing cats as motivational or inspirational speakers who can teach us how to live a life worth living, Dr. Teed relates how she observed first-hand, time and time again, the positive power of the cat to affect change in small spheres. And she reflects on what an amazing thing it would be if we were all a bit more cat-like. In her words, every household can benefit from a cat.

Goodreads

One of the most frustrating parts of my job is trying to explain cats to people who don’t want to listen. People think that cats should be happy to live in a house with people and dogs and other cats just like dogs are. Cats are not like dogs.

My first line of questions when someone brings in a cat for urinating outside the litter box is – “Has anything changed in the house that might have upset him? Are there any other pets in the house? Do they get along?” The answers are always, “No. Yes. They get along great! Sometimes they play rough but other than that they love each other.” Then we start going deeper into what is going on in the house.

Stress is a major cause of illness in cats and people don’t recognize a stressed cat when they see one. That’s why I was excited to read this book written by a veterinarian about understanding cats.

This isn’t a “how to take care of your cat” book. It is written partially as a memoir of her experience in practice, using stories of patients she treated to illustrate points. It talks in a conversational tone about nutrition and behavior and illness. I also appreciated the section about how vets are not out to steal all your money.

I wish all cat owners would read this book to start to understand what their cat is trying to tell them. It would make the life of the cat and the humans they live with so much better.

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