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.
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.
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.
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...
I’m loving this urban fantasy series! The Price family fled to North America several generations ago after they broke away from the monster-hunting Covenant. The Covenant thinks the family died out. The Prices have worked hard to make it seem like they did.
Verity Price isn’t sure she wants to spend her life as a cryptozoologist. She has trained to be a professional ballroom dancer. Now she has one year in New York to try to make a living dancing as long as she uses her spare time to survey the local cryptid community. But her side job is taking up more time than her dancing.
There is so much great world building here. There are ultrareligious mice colonies that live with the Prices. There are telepathic cuckoos that can make humans give them things and not notice they did it. There are boogeymen who know all the secrets. Dragon princesses live to make money and gorgons have a hard time keeping their snakes happy under their wigs.
Verity comes face to face with a Covenant member. He was sent to see if New York needs to be purged of cryptids. Verity isn’t going to let that happen to her friends.
Cryptid, noun:1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.2. That thing that's getting ready to eat your head.3. See also: "monster."
Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...
But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.
Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done.
This is book two with Verity. Now the Covenant is coming. Dominic has to decide where his loyalities lie and Verity has to decide if she can trust anything he is saying to her.
This book does a good job of picking up where the last one left off without feeling like a filler book that you see so often with second novels in a series.
When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn't expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.
Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone...
The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.
Of course, so do the talking mice.
It can be a hard transition in a series to leave the previous main character behind and start with a new one. I’m always a little bit leery of these transitions but this was done well.
Alex is Verity’s older brother. He doesn’t work with large cryptids like she does. He works more with cryptid wildlife. He’s identifying ecological problems that are increasing the likelihood of someone realizing that there are feathered frogs in Ohio.
If that wasn’t enough, someone turned one of his assistants to stone and seems to targeting him.
I thought this book was really well done. I wasn’t crazy about the girlfriend. Her name was also Shelby Tanner. That seemed really familiar to me. Then I realized that I knew a person with dogs named Shelby and Tanner and then I couldn’t unsee that.
Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.
This book moves the action to Australia. It is nice to see how the author imagines a different ecosystem and what cryptids evolved there.
There was a lot of “Daddy threatens the boyfriend for sleeping with the daughter” trope which I absolutely hate. The characters try to diffuse it but it doesn’t work. I could have done without all that.
I did miss the rest of the Price family in this one. Hopefully they come back in the next books.
A few complaints about the series:
The names of the books have absolutely nothing to do with the books. You could call any one of them “Your Aunty Jane’s Peach Cobbler” and it would not change anything. The word Ragnarok does not appear in Half-Off Ragnarok for example. I don’t understand how they are named.
There are roughly a gazillion short stories in this universe. I’m sticking with only reading the integers – books #1, #2, etc. – for now.
About Seanan McGuire
“Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.
Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
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.
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:
Whether weaving family life and history into dark fiction or writing speculative Afrofuturism, American Book Award winner and Essence bestselling author Tananarive Due’s work is both riveting and enlightening.
Due takes us to Gracetown, a small Florida town that has both literal and figurative ghost; into future scenarios that seem all too real; and provides empathetic portraits of those whose lives are touched by Otherness. Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories—one of which has never been published before—Ghost Summer: Stories is sure to both haunt and delight.
Tananarive Due is an amazing writer. She puts her stories together so beautifully and smoothly that you get sucked into her world even knowing that she is a horror writer who is going to pull the rug out from under you soon.
This is a collection of short stories grouped by subject matter. It starts with stories set in a small Florida town where the local legends are something to be believed and feared. It starts with a story from the point of view of a monster and moves into the origins of a town full of ghost stories.
There is a group of five stories set after the onset of a plague. Several follow one woman at different points in her life as she lives in a world that has been destroyed.
What makes this collection different from other paranormal stories out there is that many of the heartbreaking moments are from real life playing out while there are monsters in the background. Just because the world is falling apart doesn’t mean that you can abandon your grandmother who is dying of cancer. The excitement of visiting your grandparents’ haunted town dims when you realize that you are there because your parents are splitting up. She does an excellent job of keeping the supernatural grounded in the real which makes these stories even creepier.
I particularly appreciated the notes after each story that tells a little bit about the origins of the story. I know authors always complain about being asked where they get their ideas but I find it fascinating to see what random thought developed into a story.
Even if scary stories aren’t what you normally read, consider picking up this book for the lyrical writing that isn’t always seen in this genre.
About Tananarive Due
“Due has a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Leeds, England, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar. In addition to VONA, Due has taught at the Hurston-Wright Foundation’s Writers’ Week and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. As a screenwriter, she is a member of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA).” – from her website
Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
This book…wow. Go get it and read it. Seriously.
I started out listening to this on audio. The narration by Bahni Turpin was incredible. She really brought the characters to life. I’m glad I had those voices in my head to help keep the characters straight. She made the adults in books seem even more vile than they were on the page. But about 1/3 of the way through I had to go to the library and get a hard copy. It was just too stressful to listen to the audiobook. There was such a sense of foreboding that I needed to know what happened at the end in order to be able to concentrate on what was going on in the middle.
I’m not even ashamed of grabbing the book and reading the last few chapters to settle my poor nerves.
Then I went back and read the rest of the book straight through from where I left off on the audio.
Mary’s life is absolutely tragic. She has been in jail since she was nine years old. Not juvenile detention. She was in adult prison. She couldn’t be with the general population so she was kept mostly in solitary confinement for years. Now she is on parole in a group home full of viscous teenage girls who hate her for the notoriety of her alleged crime.
No one is on Mary’s side in life. The story is told in part through transcripts from interviews and passages from books written about what a monster she is. There is always the racial subtext of a black girl killing a white baby. She’s had death threats from people who seem to think that the correct penalty for killing a child is killing yet another child.
Her mother is horrible. Oooh, I hated that woman. She needs to be the center of attention at all times. It isn’t surprising that Mary feels that it was her role in life to do whatever would be necessary to take care of her mother. It would have been nice if her mother felt the same way about her.
All the adults in her life judge her as a murderer and they seem to think it is worse than any other murder because she killed a baby. She is physically, mentally, and sexually abused in jail and/or the group home. No one cares except for her boyfriend, Ted.
Through all this you see her trying to better herself, especially now that she is pregnant. You root for her all through the book. She needs to learn to stand up for herself. That’s hard when you have never had any control of anything in your life.
This book will leave you emotionally wrung out over the way Mary was treated. I’m a huge fan of books that have just one more twist than you were expecting right at the end. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that absolutely hate that but it is one part of this book that made me think this is a masterpiece. I just had to sit a while and let everything sink in.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.
Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.
“My full height, my beloved husband never did see
Because the fool dared turn his back on me.”
This is a heartbreaking story about women’s lives in Afghanistan. In this book women feel more free and open in prison than they did at home. Zeba meets many women after the murder of her husband. Most of them are in prison for zina – sex outside of marriage. That can mean anything from a premarital sex to an affair to rape to just being rumored to be alone with a man. This book depicts a society that places so much value on a man’s honor but it measures that honor entirely by the behavior of woman instead of behavior of the man.
Everyone knows that Zeba’s husband was not a good man. However, now that he is dead, his honor (that he did not uphold in life) is of the most importance. The fact that Zeba was arrested when she is found sitting by his dead body and not murdered by her neighbors is seen as a very merciful act. No attempts are made to collect evidence. She was there so obviously she did it.
Yusef, an Afghani-born American-raised lawyer, has just come back to Afghanistan to work on cases like Zina’s. She drives him crazy by refusing to participate in her own defense.
The prison life in this story reminded me a lot of the South Korean prison that Sun in is in Sense8, if you’ve seen that show. The women come from backgrounds so dominated by men that many of them are finding life better in jail.
This book does drag a little in the middle while the mystery of Zeba’s husband’s death is being investigated and Yusef is trying a bunch of strategies to get Zeba free. I liked the inclusion of her mother who is considered to be able to do magic. Zeba uses what she learned from her mother to gain status in prison even though she is conflicted about it.
About Nadia Hashimi
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents
were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet
invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents.
She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs.
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
She had me at alternative history novella about feral hippos in the Mississippi River. I pre-ordered.
I didn’t read it the first day it came out because I wanted to wait until I could read it in one sitting.
There are feral hippos in a section of the Mississippi. They are penned in by a dam to the north and a large gate to the south. The lake in between in controlled by a criminal who runs the gambling boats. Having large predators in the lake around his establishments is an important natural asset. The government wants the hippos out of the way so they hire a former hippo rancher with a grudge.
Winslow Houndstooth, a pansexual man from England who rides an opinionated black hippo named Ruby, puts together a crew for the job.
Hero Shakleby- a nonbinary black person who is a demolition and poisoning expert. They ride a hippo named Abigail.
Regina Archambault (Archie) – a fat French conwoman who rides an albino hippo named Rosa. Rosa likes to get her teeth brushed and eats pastries even though the vet said she needs to cut back.
Cal Hotchkiss – He is a white man who burned down Winslow’s ranch. Winslow is planning to kill him but it helps to have a white man around to buy explosives. His hippo is named Betsy
Adelia Reyes – A very pregnant assassin with two hippos named Stasia and Zahra.
I loved the world that is created here. This reads like a wild west story with hippos instead of horses. Of course, the job doesn’t go as well as planned. The story is violent as fits the lawlessness of the time and place.
My only complaint about this story is that I wanted more. (That and I’m sad about Ruby eating a dog named Petunia. Bad Ruby! Note that I am not particularly sad about all the people who get eaten by hippos in this book because I like dogs better than I like most people.) This is a novella that has a fairly abrupt ending. I want to know what happens. When do we get more?
September 12th, it turns out. I’ve already pre-ordered.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…
I’m a big fan of Courtney Milan’s historical romances. I wanted to read another one of her books for AsianLitBingo but they don’t qualify because they don’t have Asian main characters. I decided to try one of her contemporary romances. Most contemporary romances don’t work for me. I like romances PG-13 or less and you don’t generally get that in a contemporary.
I chose this book instead of the first book in the series. The first book is about a billionaire. That’s one of my key NOPE words in descriptions. I don’t want to read about billionaires in romances. This one is billionaire-free although the said billionaire is lurking around as a secondary character.
a professor at a university in California
a frequent commenter on a website who moved to being an online friend of the creator of the website
an older undergrad at the same university
a self-proclaimed girly-girl
the creator of a blog that examines end-of-the-world scenarios
the sister of one of Jay’s friends
Jay takes an immediate dislike to Maria when they meet in person through her brother because he perceives her to be overly interested in shoes and makeup and girl stuff. He finds her shallow. He can’t even seem to make a connection between a woman he sees in front of him and the woman he has been flirting with through science and mathematics for two years. They aren’t even the same species in his mind.
I’m not a big fan of books that are all about mistaken identity. This book ends the mystery about halfway through. The rest of the book is about them trying to translate a two year online relationship into real life. Maria has some major abandonment issues that cause her to be very fearful of committing to a relationship. Jay needs to deal with his dismissals of women who appear very feminine. He considers himself to be a feminist but still thinks women in dresses and makeup must be dumb.
I thought these issues were handled well in the story. There was a lot going on. The author writes flirting very well. I wasn’t completely swept away with the romance here. I think that is more an issue of not being a huge fan of contemporaries instead of being completely the fault of the book. If you like contemporary romances that deal with issues and aren’t purely fluff, I’d recommend this one.
So well then after I read this one I had to go back and read another one of her historical romances, didn’t I? This one happened to be all about mathematical flirting too.
Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She’s a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper’s daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She’ll take obscurity, thank you very much.
All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He’s an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he’s also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t just a scandal waiting to happen. He’s waiting to happen to her…and if she’s not careful, she’ll give in to certain ruination.
This is a rare historical romance novella set in England that acknowledges that England at that time was not uniformly white. Rose is black. She is staying with her pregnant sister who is about to have her baby while her Naval Officer husband is at sea. They are dealing with the horrible racism of the doctor who is supposed to be helping. At the same time, a once in a lifetime astronomical event is about to take place. Because Rose is just a woman who does the calculation in the lab, she isn’t going to be allowed into the prime viewing space to watch it.
When she finds out that she has a suitor who is white, she is unimpressed by his assertions that everything will work out just fine. She knows that he has no idea of the prejudice that they will face as an interracial couple.
This is part of the Brothers Sinister series but it can be read alone. There is great dialogue between the characters. I like these stories because they feature women who know their worth (and it is based on something other than their money or their looks) and men who are actually nice and worth caring about.
About Courtney Milan
“C ourtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.
Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.
Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.” from her website
Scandal has derailed Journalist Kitty Logan's career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor's bedside, Kitty asks her—what is the one story she always wanted to write?
The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance's office—a list of 100 names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late.
Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, using her skills and savvy to track down each of the names on the list and uncover their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance's life. . . and starts to understand her own.
I was intrigued by the premise of a mysterious list of names that the protagonist has to find a connection between. I do love a mystery. Actually, that is a lie. I hate a mystery. I need to know the answer. That’s what kept me going through this story. I had to know the connection between the names.
Kitty Logan, a young journalist, is a horrible human. She’s the worst kind of horrible person. She thinks that there is nothing wrong with her at all. Other people call her out sometimes on her callousness but she gets mad at them for being mean to her.
Kitty falsely accused a man of fathering a child with a teenage student. He lost a lot of his friends and his marriage. She is being sued for libel. Don’t you know how hard this is in her life? Her overwhelming urge is to get him to forgive her. She centers herself in everything.
She is so clueless that she applies for a job teaching college level journalism soon after her libel trial. She’s hurt when they tell her that they are adding her case to the curriculum but don’t want to hire her.
Kitty doesn’t like sick people. She has avoided going to see her friend who is dying of cancer. Later she can’t even bring herself to look at a woman with cancer who is getting her hair done for her wedding.
It would be one thing if she was a bad character who Learns a Life Lesson but that is not what is going here. There is a character with a birthmark across her face who hides in her house cutting out pictures of models and putting them on her wall. That isn’t Kitty’s POV. That’s the author’s description of the character. There are racist/fetishizing comments made to a Chinese woman by a white man. Other Chinese people only speak in stereotypically broken English. There is a young man who repeatedly publicly proposes to a friend of his in order to scam venues into giving them free drinks even though she is embarrassed and repeatedly asks him to stop. There is also a casual anti-trans comment. None of this is challenged. I mentally subtitled this book White Folk Behaving Badly.
It is too bad. The overall message of the book is a good one. I guessed the answer to the mystery but it still was a satisfying conclusion. I just wish there hadn’t been so much tone deaf behavior written for the characters before you get to the pay off.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.
In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.
Reading this book was so stressful for me. I’m not a fan of books that depend on misunderstanding or lies as a plot device. I’m always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. That isn’t the fault of this book. It is one of the few books that I felt did a good job with this type of story line.
There is a lot going on in this novel. Jordan is a Chinese-American girl from a poor family in San Francisco. Her father is disabled and her mother is having a hard time keeping a job while caring for him. Jordan has a scholarship to this boarding school on the East coast but it doesn’t cover all her expenses. This is a hardship for her family. It also sets her apart from the other students who tend to be wealthy.
This story takes place at a high school. I had a hard time remembering that since it is a boarding school. It seems more like a college story until they discuss not being able to drive.
Jordan starts to live a double life – a girl during the day and Julian, the newest male member of the Sharps at night. This leads to a lot of thoughts on gender and sexuality. She gets a lot of advice on how to pass for male from websites for transgender people. She is uncomfortable with this. Is she using other people’s real lives for her own selfish gain? Later, members of the Sharps decide that she must be a gay man. She lets them think that instead of having them find out the truth. Again she has to think about what it means to appropriating another group’s identity.
I wasn’t a fan of the romance aspect of this book. It didn’t feel like it needed to be there. It seemed like since she had spent a lot of time with a group of guys than obviously she had to fall for one of them. I would have liked this more if it hadn’t happened.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.
Amidst the smells of chillies and garlic frying, Chye Hoon begins to appreciate the richness of her traditions, eventually marrying Wong Peng Choon, a Chinese man. Together, they have ten children. At last, she can pass on the stories she has heard—magical tales of men from the sea—and her warrior’s courage, along with her wonderful kueh (cakes).
But the cultural shift towards the West has begun. Chye Hoon finds herself afraid of losing the heritage she so prizes as her children move more and more into the modernising Western world.
This is an historical fiction novel set between the 1870s and the 1940s in Malaysia. In this area of Malaysia at the time it was common for people to be of mixed ethnic heritage. But now the British have started to establish a presence. Towns and cities are growing. Chye Hoon’s father decides to learn English and move the family to a larger city to get ahead. Although she is smart, she is not able to go to school. She is headstrong and not beautiful so stays unmarried for a long time before becoming a second wife to a Chinese man who left his family behind in China.
This story focuses on the way the world is changing around Chye Hoon. She is taken to a backwater town after her marriage. She watches Ipoh grow into a mining center. She sees her children grow up and learn English as their major language. Even her daughters are able to be educated. But her family traditions are very important. She longs to be able to pass on the stories that were told to her and the traditions of the families in her area. Her children are not interested.
What do we lose in the name of progress?
I had never heard of the Nyonyas and Babas. It took me a while to understand exactly what those terms meant. This is from Wikipedia.
Members of this community in Malaysia address themselves as “Baba Nyonya”. Nyonya is the term for the women and Baba for the men. It applies especially to the Han populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted Nusantara customs — partially or in full — to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. Many were the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca. They were usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa because they were mostly English educated. Because of this, they almost always had the ability to speak two or more languages.”
When you try to investigate Nyonya culture, the first things you see are food. Food played a big part in this story. Chye Hoon is widowed and has to make a living. She decides to sell traditional Nyonya food to the men working in the tin mines of Ipoh. Her specialties are cakes. Here is a video of a type of Nyonya cake.
I really enjoyed this book. I was immersed in her world that was changing so rapidly that by the time of her death it was unrecognizable. This series will be continuing and picking up with the story of her daughter-in-law in World War II. That book comes out in the few months. I’m glad for a bit of a break in between because I feel like a need to mourn a bit for amazing life of Chye Hoon before switching the main character of the story to the daughter-in-law.
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:
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
I started reading this book without really knowing what it was about. I may be one of the few people who enjoyed the story of Mercy’s time at school more than I liked the story after the earthquake.
This book is split into two sections by the earthquake. Before, Mercy is dealing with discrimination because of her sex, race, and class. She is a Chinese girl who has finished the limited amount of schooling available to her. She wants to be able to go to high school. She has a plan to win a scholarship to an elite private school. But once there she is disappointed to find it more interested in turning out proper young ladies than in the ladies increasing their knowledge. She is also put directly into a world of wealth that she has never known before.
The author does a great job of working in history lessons about treatment of Chinese people in California at the time. She discusses the exclusion laws that prevented people from coming from China. She talks about discriminatory housing laws that kept the Chinese population penned into a small area of the city.
I was really into this book when the earthquake occurs. Most of the girls at the school are boarding there from out of town so when the school is destroyed they have nowhere to go. They end up living in a tent city set up in a park. From here the book is a story of looting and cooking huge meals to try to feed everyone living in the park. There was limited disaster aid at the time. What help was available was out fighting the fires caused by the earthquake so survivors were mostly on their own.
The author notes that group cooking situations like the one in the book were set up in the aftermath of the earthquake. I’m glad she added that because I wouldn’t have believed it otherwise. It seemed a little too feel-good for everything that was going on before. I understand that the point was the discrimination can’t survive if everyone needs to work together when they have lost everything. But it seemed a little too easy in the book. No one seemed to really be grappling with the issues of loss and grief. Maybe they were supposed to be numb and just focusing on survival.
I’d recommend this book for a great look into life in 1906 San Francisco.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.
When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.
I loved the synopsis of this book. A religion professor finding out that she is a shamaness in the Chinese tradition and then meeting up with witches from another tradition? Yes, please.
It starts out delightfully creepy. She is starting to have visions of the spirit world. She meets a coven of witches who bring her into a ritual and abandon her naked the next day and she doesn’t remember what happened. A horse takes her for a ride to meet a mysterious sculptor.
But then it turns into a murder mystery. Yeah, didn’t see that coming.
I lost a lot of interest at this point. The weirdness was gone. She still talks to ghosts but they just want her solve the mystery. Also, suddenly every man is falling in love with her and wants to marry her the moment they meet her. This isn’t even based on romance or attraction or anything. They just suggest getting married.
I wish there had been a better sense of place. She went to a culture that is unfamiliar to her but she is conveniently fluent in Spanish so she has no communication difficulties. She doesn’t really explore the islands. She holes up in a castle and in an abandoned village that could have been set anywhere. I never read anything that I felt could only have happened in this setting.
Her exploration of her Chinese spiritual heritage was much better but I wish there had been more exploration of the witches she came to find.
About Mingmei Yip
Mingmei Yip was born in China, received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University in Hong Kong. She’s published five books in Chinese, written several columns for seven major Hong Kong newspapers, and has appeared on over forty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, and the U.S. She immigrated to the United States in 1992, where she now lives in New York City.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
For as long as she can remember, Kugy has loved to write. Whimsical stories are her passion, along with letters full of secret longings that she folds into paper boats and sets out to sea. Now that she’s older, she dreams of following her heart and becoming a true teller of tales, but she decides to get a “real job” instead and forget all about Keenan, the guy who makes her feel as if she’s living in one of her own fairy tales.
What do you have to sacrifice to be a “grown up”?
In 1999, Keenan and Kugy start university in Indonesia. Keenan is being forced to go by his father. Keenan wants to be an artist but his father wants him to take business courses in order to have a real career. Kugy wants to be a writer. She’s been writing fairy tales her whole life.
Kugy also writes notes to Neptune on paper boats and sends them out to sea.
Most of the translated fiction that I’ve read has been fairly serious. I surprised to find that is this a light hearted and fun book.
There were elements in this story that I generally don’t enjoy but that I didn’t mind here because they were well written. Keenan and Kugy are attracted to each other but there are always obstacles in the way of their relationship. Kugy has a boyfriend from home. Kugy’s friend sets up Keenan with her glamorous cousin who can help him get his paintings shown in a gallery. There are misunderstandings because people aren’t communicating with each other. I was even okay with that for a while although it usually has me pulling my hair out in frustration.
I liked the writing of the secondary characters as well. They are complete characters with their own story arcs who don’t exist just to serve the needs of the main characters. In fact, it sometimes seems like they are just stopping in this story occasionally when it intersects with their real storylines unlike some books where it seems secondary characters hibernate whenever the main characters aren’t around.
Eventually though the repeated missed opportunities and bungled communication between the main characters started to wear down my enthusiasm. Eventually someone just has to say what they are thinking. I wish the story had ended a bit sooner with less “maybe I’ll say what I’m feeling or maybe I’ll just wait until next time” on repeat.
There was also a lot of black and white thinking here. Either you can live a creative life or you can have a corporate job. You can’t do both.
This would be a good book for fans of New Adult fiction. Overall, I liked it and thought it was well written even if it overstayed its welcome for just a little bit.
About Dee Lestari
Dee Lestari, is one of the bestselling and critically acclaimed writers in Indonesia.
Born in January 20, 1976, she began her debut with a serial novel: Supernova in 2001.
Dee also has an extensive music career, producing four albums with her former vocal trio, and two solo albums. She has been writing songs for renowned Indonesian artists. Perahu Kertas (Paper Boat) was turned into a movie in 2009, marking Dee’s debut as a screenplay writer. The movie became one of the national’s block busters.
About Tiffany Tsao
Tiffany Tsao is a writer, translator, literary critic, editor, and human being.
She was born in San Diego, California, and lived in Singapore and Indonesia through her childhood and young adulthood. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a PhD in English, she has taught and researched literature at Berkeley, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Newcastle, Australia.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
It's 1943. As air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupiedTaiwan, eight-year-old Saburo walks through the peach forests of Taoyuan. The least favored son of a Taiwanese politician, Saburo is in no hurry to get home to the taunting and abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the forest he meets Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history — as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—The Third Son tells the story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.
This synopsis sort of made me cringe. I’ve read the whole “my brother is marrying the girl I want” story so many times. I’m over it. This isn’t that though. There was a delightful change.
Saburo gets the girl. Actually, even better, the girl makes up her own mind and chooses him over his brother. Yes, a female main character with agency. I love her. She’s tough and independent minded. She’s chafing under the demands of her time and place. She’s determined to change her life and basically pushes him to get them where they need to be. That isn’t the whole point of the book either. That happens partway through and the rest of the book is about their life.
I’d recommend this one to any historical fiction fans especially if they are looking for settings you don’t often see. I hadn’t read anything about Taiwan prior to these books. This is set during a period of a lot of unrest in Taiwan and did a great job explaining the history.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.
For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.
But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.
Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.
I’m a sucker for light fiction set in English cafes or tea shops or bakeries. I recently read these two fun romances that are perfect for Foodies Read.
Laura Walker has been a widow for two years and is just starting to emerge from the fog that she has been in. She needs a job and she wants to give her children a vacation this year. She combines the two into working for the summer at a cafe near a beach in Dorset.
This isn’t just any cafe. It stocks the favorite comfort foods of the regulars to make them feel at home.
Laura, her kids, and her dog Jimbo settle into the community. They are starting to make new good memories for the first time since the accident that took her husband’s life. This book is full of quirky characters. It also feels like it is really set in the present. Lizzie is documenting her summer on Instagram. Other people use Skype. So many of these books tend to ignore any technological details so that was a touch of realism that I appreciated.
The love interest’s name was Matt and he is a veterinarian. Now you know I’m gonna have to comment on this, right? Ok, two things. Of course he is described as being muscular and gorgeous. He has to be. That’s in the contract for romance book heroes. But, I know A LOT of vets. I don’t know any who fit the bill. (Send pictures if you know one.) We tend towards the nerdy side. I particularly don’t know any who are built like that and never work out. I’m not sure where his muscles come from. He never lifts a weight. Number two, he never really seems to go to work either. He’s always around. It is mentioned vaguely that he is “at work” a few times but it doesn’t seem like he is missing from the story very often. I’d like that schedule.
Anyway, this one is fun and sweet and made me a bit teary in one part that I can’t talk about without being spoilery.
Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tearoom they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!
There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.
Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy?
I read this one right after the first one. This is told in alternating voices of the two main characters. Amy is the third generation of her family to work in an historic trust building. She and her grandmother are able to live in the village at reduced rent because a family works at Monkpark. This wasn’t Amy’s goal in life but she can’t afford to keep her Gran at home any other way. She’s always been a bit of a doormat for people but figures that is her lot in life.
Josh loves his birds but is very uncomfortable around people. He doesn’t like to be in enclosed spaces, even inside houses. He’s never had a relationship with a woman. He likes Amy though because she seems to see him as a real person and not just that strange guy with the birds.
I liked the story of trying to keep a historic house profitable. Amy runs the tea shop and Josh does the falconry demonstrations.
This is an unusual romance. The characters both have back stories that make them think that they are unsuitable for love. I wish Amy’s had been a little deeper. I felt like she was written almost as a cliche at times. I haven’t seen a lot of male romance characters like Josh though. There was a lot of trauma in his background that made him stay away from people. Although the term is never used, he felt like a demi romantic/sexual character. He did not see people as potential love interests at all until he got to know Amy very well. I’m not sure if that was an innate orientation for him or if it was all secondary to psychological trauma though. He doesn’t magically overcome his problems just because he meets a love interest either. He still has issues that drastically affect his life and relationships. That’s a nice change from books where the hero or heroine’s entire life gets fixed when they get a lover.
I’d recommend both of these for fun reads. Of the two, the tea shop book is definitely darker. The Comfort Food Cafe book stays mostly upbeat except for a few emotional parts. There is a short story sequel to that one that I’ve downloaded already that is set at Christmas. I’ll report back on it soon.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she's sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.
For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she'll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble's disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.
Millie was a grad student in filmmaking at UCLA when a failed relationship led her to a suicide attempt. She survived but lost her legs. She has spent the last six months in an inpatient psychiatric facility learning to handle her borderline personality disorder.
“The symptoms of borderline personality disorder include: a recurring pattern of instability in relationships, efforts to avoid abandonment, identity disturbance, impulsivity, emotional instability, and chronic feelings of emptiness, among other symptoms.
The main feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. People with borderline personality disorder are also usually very impulsive, oftentimes demonstrating self-injurious behaviors.” – Steven Bressert Ph.D
That describes Millie. She is working with a therapist but she doesn’t think that it is going well. Then she is recruited for a job.
The Arcadia project manages human-fey interactions. The branch in Los Angeles works with the fey in Hollywood. The project is staffed by people who all have mental health issues. During her probationary period she just needs to live in a group house and find one missing fey. How hard can that be?
This is a fairly standard urban fantasy plot with a missing person that leads to a larger problem. It is the characters in the Arcadia Project that make it stand out. How many books have a disabled, mentally ill, bisexual main character who gets to be the hero?
Millie’s mental illness and her new life as a double amputee are huge factors in this book. Her mobility challenges are taken into account whenever she needs to go out. Even seemingly simple decisions like whether or not to take a shower have to be carefully considered. If she gets her legs wet then she can’t use the prostheses for several hours. If she needs to run she needs to get the hydraulics in her knee on the right setting and sometimes she messes that up. Even small things like should she take her wheelchair up to her second floor room (no elevator) or leave it downstairs in the living room where it will be in everyone’s way are considered. Trying to get to the house was hard by herself with a wheelchair, a cane, and all her bags.
Mental illness is a large part of this story. Millie feels like she hasn’t made any progress in therapy. Once she is out on her own though we see that she has learned how to help herself. She uses several different techniques that she was taught to help her deal with rage and insecurity. She isn’t perfect though. She still lashes out at people. She also clings to anyone who shows her kindness and feels incredibly insecure if she feels like they are pulling away.
Millie’s boss, Caryl, has been through extensive emotional trauma. She is a wizard and she is coping by splitting her rational and emotional mind. She keeps her emotional mind in an invisible dragon construct so she can be entirely rational while she is working. This is working for her but Millie comes to see that it isn’t healthy in the long term.
The author has spoken about being mentally ill. These are from her AMA on Reddit.
“I didn’t expect Borderline to get published. Honestly. It was the story I wrote because I needed to write a novel or I’d explode, and it was the only novel I could write at that point in my life. So I wrote it, and when it was finished I did what I did with the first four novels I’d written, and shopped it around. I was shocked when my first choice of agent offered to represent it. Slightly less shocked when he landed it with a big publisher (because that’s why he was my first choice agent). Extremely shocked when it got starred reviews, and the Nebula nomination just about broke my brain.
This is not false modesty. I actually spent a week in a psychiatric hospital for suicidal ideation in 2013, and a huge part of it was that I was 38 and had pretty much decided that I’d failed as a writer and was never going to make it, that I’d wasted my life. BORDERLINE was already out there. My agent was already reading it. That’s how little faith I had in it.”
“I was in a psych ward on October 1, 2013 because I thought my life was over.
I heard back from my agent with an offer of representation twenty-nine days later.
In a sense, the entire Arcadia Project series has become ABOUT this. About how we inevitably pick the stupidest, stupidest times to think our lives are “over.” What might we live on to do and accomplish if we give ourselves a second chance?”
I’ve already requested the sequel from the library. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes.
About Mishell Baker
When Mishell isn’t convention-hopping or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two changelings. When her offspring are older, she will probably remember what her hobbies are.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
On the shores of what is now northeastern Canada, a small group of intrepid settlers have landed, seeking freedom to worship and prosper far from the religious strife and political upheaval that plague a war-ridden Europe . . .
500 years before Columbus set sail.
While it has long been known that Viking ships explored the American coast, recent archaeological evidence suggests a far more vast and permanent settlement. It is from this evidence that archaeologists and early American history experts Kathy and Michael Gear weave their extraordinary tale.
I never know quite how to characterize the Gear books. Historical fiction with magic? Magical realism? Historical fantasy?
The authors are archeologists. They start with the archeological details of pre-Columbian American sites and build adventure stories from there. This book is set on the east coast of Canada during the time of the Vikings. A group of boats has sailed together from Greenland but were separated in a storm. They make landfall up and down the coast. The different groups have different experiences of contact with the Native Americans.
There have been Viking raids previously. The Native Americans are rightly hostile to any landing on the shore. Children have previously been taken as slaves. These slaves have taught a few Vikings the language so they have translators. One group talks to the Native Americans. Another sets off a massacre of a village.
Now one boat with a judge on board tries to convince the Native Americans to trust him to deliver justice to them for the crimes committed against them. Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed him either.
This isn’t my favorite of their books. There is so much going on that it is hard to focus on a main plot. There are political dealings in Scandinavia and England. There is a Danish witch and a Native American spirit worker getting together to fight the bad guys. There is fighting among the Vikings.
I think I would have liked this one more with a little more historical detail and less magic. Those aren’t words that I say very often. I was interested in how these groups of people interacted. With all the magic flying around I knew that it didn’t go like that in real life. No one was resurrecting people by riding into the afterlife on eight legged horses.
Read this one if you are in the mood for a historical fantasy that compares and contrasts Native American and Scandinavian spirituality and mythology. Look elsewhere if you want to know what really happened.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Three generations in an all-female Taiwanese family living near Los Angeles in 1980 are each guarding personal secrets. Grandmother Silk finds out that she has breast cancer, as daughter Lisa loses her job, while pre-teen granddaughter Abbey struggles with a school bully. When Silk’s mysterious past comes out—revealing a shocking historical event that left her widowed—the truth forces the family to reconnect emotionally and battle their problems together. A novel of cultural identity and long-standing secrets, The 228 Legacy weaves together multigenerational viewpoints, showing how heritage and history can influence individual behavior and family bonds.
I didn’t know anything about Taiwanese history until I read this post from Shenwei about the 228 Massacre. After World War II Japan ceded control of Taiwan to China. The government that was put in place on the island was hated for corruption. There were protests on February 28, 1947 that led to a violent crackdown from the government. Thousands of people died. It was not officially acknowledged or discussed until 1995.
Shenwei gave a list of books in her post that touch on the massacre. I decided to read The 228 Legacy.
This book is about three generations of Taiwanese-American women living in LA in the 1980s. The grandmother, Silk, came to the U.S. as a pregnant widow. She has never talked much about her life in Taiwan other than trying to pass on the language. Her daughter, Lisa, knows nothing about her father. She is struggling with keeping dead end jobs while caring for her mother and daughter. The granddaughter, Abbey, is trying to make friends with the popular people at school but this has disastrous consequences.
The heart of the story is Jack, a Chinese man who recently lost his wife. He lived at the nursing home that Lisa worked at. He recently ran away. Lisa gets involved in his life but when Silk meets him she reacts violently to having a Chinese man in her house. This is the beginning of finding out about Silk’s memories of the massacre.
I wish this book went deeper. There are several good storylines here but I didn’t feel like it did more than scratch the surface of each. There should have been more emotion in both Silk and Abbey’s stories. Both are traumatic but they feel like they are recounted matter of factly.
I liked Lisa’s story the best because it showed her growth as she discovers a career that she actually enjoys.
I may look into some other books on Shenwei’s list to learn more about Taiwanese history than I learned from this book.
About Jennifer J. Chow
Jennifer J. Chow, an Asian-American writer, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s in Social Welfare from UCLA. Her geriatric work experience has informed her stories. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?
Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.
On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.
Riley is a congressman’s child in a conservative part of California. The congressman is pushing for educational reform so Riley is taken out of private school and put in a public one for the first time. First day jitters are worse because Riley is gender fluid and is unsure of how to present on the first day of school. Within minutes of arriving at school, Riley overhears people guessing, “Is that a boy or a girl?” and one person decides to use “It” instead of any pronoun.
As part of Riley’s therapy after a suicide attempt, the psychologist recommends starting a blog. The second post goes viral. (Yeah, right.) Riley becomes an online star and eventually is outed publicly. It is a huge problem because Riley’s parents didn’t know.
An interesting aspect of the book is that the gender that Riley was assigned at birth is never stated. The author never uses any pronouns to refer to Riley. I’m extra impressed by this because it was hard to write this review without pronouns, let alone a whole book. (Some reviews I’ve read have taken issue with this because pronouns are a difficult part of life for some people.)
This is a very character driven novel. Riley and friends are the focus more than the plot. Bec is a new friend at school. She’s a social outcast and she’s in a band. She befriends Riley and becomes a potential love interest. Solo is a former outcast turned athlete who befriends Riley. This causes tension with his friends on the football team.
There is a lot of violence and abuse hurled at Riley in the book. Several characters have either committed suicide or have attempted.
Symptoms of Being Human does a great job of introducing gender fluidity to an audience who may not be familiar with the term. The author is not gender fluid but obviously did a lot of research into the subject. I’ve only seen one review by a person who identified as being gender fluid on Goodreads and that was a positive review for the book. The feel of this book reminds me a lot of None of the Above. The intent of the book is to educate on the subject. Large information dumps don’t bother me at all but some people get annoyed by it.
I think this book is a good one for people to read especially if they aren’t familiar with gender fluidity. Riley has a unique voice and perspective on the world.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: