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11 Oct, 2016

Troublemaker

/ posted in: Reading Troublemaker Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini, Rebecca Paley
on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 228
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Ballantine Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: California
Goodreads

“Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.
That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.”


Leah Remini is the perfect person to write this tell all book about the inner workings of The Church of Scientology.  She was brought into the religion as a child when her mother joined.  She was taken out of school and moved to Florida in order to work at retreat center for Scientologists.  She progressed through the religion as she started her acting career.  As she became more famous, she was given more and more opportunities to promote her faith.

She knew that she was working to clear the planet.  She was part of saving the world.  If that meant that she needed to go to the center and do her courses for hours a day, she did it.  If it meant giving millions of dollars for church activities, she went along.  She faced interrogations based on reports that people wrote about her.  She was even thrown off a boat once.  It didn’t faze her.

Through it all she remained a true believer

Then she was invited to be part of the elite group of Scientologists who grouped around Tom Cruise.  That was when she started to see hypocrisy.  She saw people how weren’t behaving like the church demanded and nothing was being done about it.  She noticed that people were disappearing and no one would talk about it.  She decided that she needed to speak up to save her church — and they silenced her.  Eventually she was declared to be a Suppressive Person who no Scientologist is allowed to associate with.  This is a horrific punishment for a person whose entire life revolved around the church for thirty years and whose entire family are members.

That’s when she decided to speak out publicly.

I listened to the audio version of this book and I think that was a good choice.  She reads her own story and you can hear the emotions brought up.  There is sadness for her lost life and anger at the people who deceived her.  There is love for her family who decided to stand by her.

My only issue with the audio is that got slow in the middle.  She spends a lot of time detailing growing up in Scientology.  It was necessary information to have to understand what happened later but it didn’t keep my interest.  I actually put this audio down for several months and didn’t intend to go back to it.  I only listened again because I finished another book and didn’t have anything else with me while in the car.  I’m glad I picked it back up.  The last third of the book was very compelling.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about Scientology or anyone who is in the mood for a different look at a celebrity memoir.

 

10 Oct, 2016

Radio Girls

/ posted in: Reading Radio Girls Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford
on June 14th 2016
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction
Published by NAL
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: England
Goodreads

“London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity.
Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.”


I love historical fiction and especially British historical fiction.  I was thrilled to receive this book from my OTSP Secret Sister and had to read it immediately.

BBC radio was only allowed to broadcast during set hours and was not allowed to cover news.  One of their most popular departments was Talks, headed by Hilda Matheson.  It was unusual for a woman to be allowed to head a department.  The head of the BBC, John Reith, was a very conservative man who asked all (male) applicants for executive positions two questions – Are you a Christian? and Do you have any character flaws?

He thought that Miss Matheson was too liberal in topics she wanted to cover.  She also kept bringing in homosexuals to present topics.  He did not approve but did seem strangely up to date on who had rumors circulating around about their sexuality.  Their conflict was real and this novel examines their issues through the voice of Maisie, a secretary that they share.  Reith warns her about being too ambitious and being exposed to the wrong kinds of people while working in the Talks department.  Matheson encourages her to speak up and promote ideas for new shows.  Eventually Maisie is enlisted by Matheson to spy on some new backers of the BBC who have ties to an increasingly unstable Germany.

Hilda Matheson was a fascinating woman who I’d never heard of before.  She was a political secretary for Lady Astor, the first female Member of Parliament.  Then she went to the BBC and after that she worked on the Africa Survey.  She also became a radio critic and wrote a textbook on broadcasting. She was a lesbian who had relationships with several high society women in England.  A book on her alone would have been fascinating.

There is spying, burgeoning feminism, the evolution of new technology, and arguments about censorship.  What more could you want from one book?

28 Sep, 2016

AfroSF

/ posted in: Reading AfroSF AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers by Ivor W. Hartmann, Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Tendai Huchu, Cristy Zinn, Ashley Jacobs, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Uko Bendi Udo, Dave-Brendon de Burgh, Biram Mboob, Sally-Ann Murray, Mandisi Nkomo, Liam Kruger, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Joan De La Haye, Mia Arderne, Rafeeat Aliyu, Martin Stokes, Clifton Gachagua, Efe Okogu
on December 1st 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Published by StoryTime
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Africa
Goodreads

“AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only that was open to submissions of original (previously unpublished) works across Africa and abroad.”


Short story collections take me so long to read.  I’ve had this book on my iPad for years. Here are some of my favorites.

Moom by Nnedi Okorafor – This is the short story that was reworked into the opening of her novel Lagoon.  What if alien first contact on Earth was made by a swordfish?

Home Affairs by Sarah Lotz – I loved this story of a bureaucratic nightmare taking place in a modern city.  When I think of African sci fi I tend to think of monsters and countryside.  This turns those assumptions around and makes a nightmare out of the most annoying aspects of modern life – waiting in line.

The Sale by Tendai Huchu – Third world countries have been sold to corporations and citizens’ health is monitored at all times in these new perfect cities.  But what if you want to rebel?

Planet X by S.A. Partridge – A new alien society has made contact and the people of Earth are afraid.  One girl thinks that humans have more to fear from themselves than from the aliens.

Closing Time by Liam Kruger – Alcohol and time travel shouldn’t be taken together

 

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27 Sep, 2016

Smile As They Bow

/ posted in: Reading Smile As They Bow Smile As They Bow by Nu Nu Yi
on September 1st 2008
Pages: 146
Genres: Fiction
Published by Hachette Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Myanmar
Goodreads

“As the weeklong Taungbyon Festival draws near, thousands of villagers from all regions of Burma descend upon a tiny hamlet near Mandalay to pay respect to the spirits, known as nats, which are central to Burmese tradition. At the heart of these festivities is Daisy Bond, a gay, transvestite spiritual medium in his fifties. With his sharp tongue and vivid performances, he has long been revered as one of the festival’s most illustrious natkadaws. At his side is Min Min, his young assistant and lover, who endures unyielding taunts and abuse from his fiery boss. But when a young beggar girl named Pan Nyo threatens to steal Min Min’s heart, the outrageous Daisy finds himself face-to-face with his worst fears.”


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I bought this book several years ago when I was trying to read books set in as many countries as possible. I had never seen any other books written by a Burmese author. I never got around to reading it though. I finally decided to get to it during the #diverseathon readathon. I’m glad I did.

I didn’t know anything about nats or the Taungbyon festival to honor these spirits in Myanmar. Worshippers, mostly women, come to the festival to promise the nats favors and offerings if they help their family in the coming year. The book opens with beautiful descriptions of some of the people coming to the festival – a pickpocket lamenting the poor pickings this year, a poor woman, and a rich woman. Once the stage is set, the story moves to Daisy Bond and Min Min.

Daisy is a natkadaw or spirit medium. He pretends to be possessed by a spirit to bestow blessings in exchange for cash. The women around him will hear about it if they don’t offer him enough cash too.  Min Min is his “husband.”  He acts as a manager for both Daisy’s career and house as well as being his lover.  Daisy is very insecure about his relationship with Min Min.  Daisy is in his 50s and Min Min is a teenager.  Min Min also isn’t gay.  Daisy bought him from his mother to serve this role in Daisy’s life.  He knows Min Min isn’t happy and is afraid that he is planning on leaving.  His paranoia is serving to push Min Min farther and farther away until he does make plans to get away from Daisy.

Here’s a video that shows what the festival looks like now.

This book is beautifully written and draws you into the festival that you’ve probably never heard of.

22 Sep, 2016

Unicorn Tracks

/ posted in: Reading Unicorn Tracks Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember
on April 21st 2016
Pages: 180
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Published by Harmony Ink Press
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”


I loved the world building in this story!

A safari guide who lives surrounded by mythical creatures including unicorns?  Yes, please!

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People come to Tumelo’s safari camp to get close to the magical creatures. Mnemba is one of his best guides in addition to being his cousin.  She’s been working for Tumelo ever since she left her village.  She was raped by a popular solider and many people in the town were hostile to her after her rapist was arrested.

She has to go back to her village in the story.  I thought this was well done.  She has to confront her father, the leader of the village, who she feels didn’t support her enough in the aftermath of the attack and arrest.


I didn’t buy into the relationship between Mnemba and Kara though.  It was too insta-love for my tastes.  Kara seemed too predatory in her approaches to Mnemba, almost like she thought sleeping with Mnemba was a perk of the safari.  There didn’t seem to be any type of relationship building.  They didn’t know each other at all or have any conversations before they decided that they were in love.

Kara was also a poster child for poor decision making.  If you have a top safari guide who you also claim to be madly in love with and she is telling you to get out of an area right now because it isn’t safe, you should do that.  You shouldn’t stand in place and pout and complain that she is trying to boss you around.  Bossing you is her job.  I was rooting for Kara to get eaten by the carnivorous mermaids.  (Carnivorous mermaids!  Seriously great world building.) Over and over again she blows off wiser people’s advice and it always goes poorly for her.  I don’t have much tolerance for that personality type.

Just so we are clear – Kara is white.  Mnemba is black.  Let’s revisit that cover.

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Yeah.  Totally whitewashed.  This is an interracial lesbian love story with unicorns but you wouldn’t guess from the cover.

Bottom line

I loved the world.  I loved Mnemba.  She could do better than Kara.

 

 

 

 

 

12 Sep, 2016

If At Birth You Don’t Succeed

/ posted in: Reading If At Birth You Don’t Succeed If at Birth You Don't Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny by Zach Anner
on March 8th 2016
Pages: 338
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Texas, New York, California, Berlin
Goodreads

“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book,  If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)”


I have a confession.  I hate YouTube.  If I am forced to watch a video because of a deep interest in the subject, it better be captioned so I don’t have to turn the sound on my iPad on.  It is no wonder that I’d never heard of Zach Anner before reading this book.  It is also a testament to my love for his story that I’ve watched several of his YouTube videos and shared them with others.

Zach has cerebral palsy which causes him to have limited fine motor skills and poor balance.  He describes his legs as mostly decoration.  He has a lazy eye and his eyes don’t track which makes it difficult for him to read.  He also has a razor-sharp mind, a wild sense of humor, and the compulsive need to express himself through pop culture references.  This leads to a laugh out loud funny memoir about the unexpected turns his life has taken.

The book is not organized chronologically.  I appreciated that.  How many memoirs have you read where you know something interesting happens in the author’s twenties but first you have to suffer through the minutia of their childhood for many, many chapters?  Here we start on a high note.  He entered an online competition to win a spot on a reality show on OWN, Oprah’s network.  The prize? His own TV show on the network.

His video went viral when it was discovered on Reddit and adopted as the favorite by 4chan purely because of the spelling of his name.  He went on to win his own travel show on OWN.  From there you can only go downhill through cancellation and strangers asking, “Didn’t you used to be….?” in stores.  He describes how he moved to YouTube to make the realistic traveling with disabilities show that he wanted to make.

Along the way we learn about his attempts to find love, his love for music, his time working at Epcot policing other people’s disabilities, and his failures in adaptive P.E. class in 4th grade.  Each story is hysterical but ends with a life lesson that manages to be uplifting without being sappy.

This is best experienced by listening to the audiobook.  Zach narrates it himself.  I can’t imagine this book without his upbeat and charming narration or without listening to himself crack himself up retelling the adventures that he’s had.
One of the first videos Zach talks about making is this one where his friends torture him at a trampoline park. I had to look it up.


It is even funnier when you hear the background story of what went into making it.

I will be recommending this book to EVERYONE! Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook and step into Zach’s world.

06 Sep, 2016

Leftovers

/ posted in: Reading Leftovers Leftovers by Stella Newman
on April 25th 2013
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction, Great Britain
Published by Avon
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: England
Goodreads

“According to a magazine, Susie is a ‘Leftover’ – a post Bridget-Jones 30 something who has neither her dream man, job, nor home. She doesn’t even own six matching dinner plates.
According to her friend Rebecca, Susie needs to get over her ex, Jake, start online dating – or at least stop being so rude to every guy who tries to chat her up.
But Susie’s got a plan. If she can just make it the 307 days till her promotion and bonus, she can finally quit and pursue her dream career in food, then surely everything else will fall into place.”


Susie is a girl after my own heart.  She has a theory that every type of emotional turmoil can be cured by the application of just the right type of pasta.

She spends her days writing advertising copy for a company that doesn’t appreciate her.  She’s counting the days until her promised promotion is here.  With the bonus money she makes, she is leaving that job and going into food full time.  In the meantime she is muddling through and obsessively watching her ex’s new girlfriend’s Instagram feed.

This is chick lit at its finest.  The cover is even pink.  I love books that combine food and a hint of romance.

The ending is one that any blogger will find themselves laughing out loud over (because it is so delightfully improbable but fun to imagine.)

There are also recipes for lots of types of pasta to full any need in your life.

5bunny

05 Sep, 2016

The Polish Boxer

/ posted in: Reading The Polish Boxer The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon
on October 2nd 2012
Pages: 188
Genres: Fiction
Published by Bellevue Literary Press
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Guatemala and Serbia
Goodreads

Translated by Thomas Bunstead, Lisa Dillman, Daniel Hahn, Anne McLean, and Ollie Brock

“The Polish Boxer covers a vast landscape of human experience while enfolding a search for origins: a grandson tries to make sense of his Polish grandfather’s past and the story behind his numbered tattoo; a Serbian classical pianist longs for his forbidden heritage; a Mayan poet is torn between his studies and filial obligations; a striking young Israeli woman seeks answers in Central America; a university professor yearns for knowledge that he can’t find in books and discovers something unexpected at a Mark Twain conference. Drawn to what lies beyond the range of reason, they all reach for the beautiful and fleeting, whether through humor, music, poetry, or unspoken words. Across his encounters with each of them, the narrator—a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduardo Halfon—pursues his most enigmatic subject: himself.”


I look for books from different countries of origin and every year I find that I’m lacking in Latin American books.  I also am always on the lookout for books about Poland.  I was thrilled and intrigued when I found a book by a Guatemalan author that referenced Poland.

This books is a series of interconnected stories.  Like all short story collections, I felt like there was something that I was missing as I was reading this book.  Short stories feel like there is a level of symbolism or intent just under the surface that leaves the reader feeling like they missed something important.

Distant

A college professor in Guatemala starts his introductory literature class on short stories.  He doesn’t like his students because they don’t care about literature.  Then he realizes that there is one student who does care.  When that student drops out a few weeks later, he travels to his home in the country to find out why.

This story has little aside in it when a student named Ligia asks why all the writers were male.

“There are also no black writers, Ligia, or Asian writers, or midget writers, and as far as I’m aware, there’s only one gay writer.  I told her that my courses were politically incorrect, thank God.  In other words, Ligia, they’re honest.  Just like art.  Great short story writers, period.”

So, in other words, my habit of specifically looking for books outside of my English-speaking American existence which led me to find this book, is stupid.

Twaining

He goes to a seminar on Mark Twain where a real Mark Twain scholar makes fun of them all for overthinking.

Epistrophy

He meets a Serbian pianist performing in Guatemala.  The pianist is part Gypsy and admits that he’d rather be playing Gypsy music.

White Smoke

He meets an Israeli tourist in a bar.  He admits that he is Jewish.

The Polish Boxer

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How did his grandfather survive the camps?

Postcards

He gets postcards from around the world from the Serbian pianist explaining Gypsy music until he suddenly disappears.

Ghosts

He decides to go hunting for the pianist.

The Pirouette

He is in Serbia hunting for the pianist and trying to find out what does it mean when a Gypsy does a pirouette?

A Speech at Povoa

He needs to write a speech on literature tearing reality.

Sunsets

His grandfather dies and he finds out that maybe everything he thought he knew was a lie.


Did I like this book?  I’m not sure.  The writing was beautiful and could draw you in.  The stories had some interesting moments.  I liked The Polish Boxer and Postcards best.  The Pirouette bored me out of my mind.

This book would be good for people interested in Latin American literature who enjoy lyrical writing.

02 Sep, 2016

Neither Snow Nor Rain

/ posted in: Readingtravel Neither Snow Nor Rain Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service by Devin Leonard
on May 3rd 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Grove Press
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: United States
Goodreads

“The United States Postal Service is a wondrous American creation. Seven days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers delivers 513 million pieces of mail, forty percent of the world’s volume. It is far more efficient than any other mail service—more than twice as efficient as the Japanese and easily outpacing the Germans and British. And the USPS has a storied history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, it was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper. A first class stamp remains one of the greatest bargains of all time, and yet, the USPS is slowly vanishing. Critics say it is slow and archaic. Mail volume is down. The workforce is shrinking. Post offices are closing.”


I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the post office.

I’ve never understood how they can sort all that mail and get it to where it is going.  If you told me that this was involved, I’d believe you.

That why I was so excited to listen to this book about the workings of the post office. I also had just visited the Smithsonian’s Post Office museum in Washington D.C. when I started the book. In all my visits to D.C. I had never known about this museum. It is right next to the train station.

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Did you know?

  • Many of the major roads of the United States were laid out by mail carriers
  • Mail used to be delivered up to four times a day in U.S. cities
  • There have been a few times when mail volume got so high that the system collapsed
  • It was illegal for anyone other than the U.S. mail to deliver letters
  • The United States Postal Service is now an independent company that reports to the government instead of a government department

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The Post Office is required to deliver everywhere. At times that has required mule trains to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, sled dog teams, and even reindeer.  Mandatory rural delivery allowed farmers to get daily newspapers.  This kept them informed of the best time to sell crops for the highest profit.  It kept everyone in the country informed about events.  The United States mail has helped to hold the country together.

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I particularly liked learning about the mail trains. Specialist clerks rode these mobile sorting cars, picking up letters at high speed and getting them sorted before the next town. There was one of these mail cars in the museum and a video of former clerks showing their system of sorting. It was amazing. I also learned about Owney, the famous mail dog.

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Technological advances have helped the mail be delivered faster and faster. Optical scanners were developed to read printed labels of bulk mailers and now can even read handwriting. After a few passes through the scanners, mail can be sorted into the order in which each carrier will deliver it. I think that’s just magical.

One thing that wasn’t covered at the museum but was well covered in the book was the Comstock Era.  This is a time of strict censorship of the mail.  Items that were judged to be obscene were not allowed.  This included information on contraception.  There was a lot of entrapment by postal inspectors who would order an item and then arrest the person who sent it.

Also not covered in the museum but talked about in the book was the wave of violence at post offices in the 1980s and 90s leading to the phrase “Going Postal.”

We all know the Post Office is having problems. First class mail is down as most people send emails instead of letters. The Post Office is not allowed to get involved in electronic forms in the U.S. by law, unlike in other countries. Amazon’s new partnership with them to deliver mail on Sundays is helping as is a renegotiation of the labor contracts of Post Office employees.

Those of us who love getting mail hope that they will find a way to survive and thrive.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who love learning about how everyday things work. The audio narration was very well done. The story moved quickly enough to keep my listening interest.

 

24 Aug, 2016

Painted Hands

/ posted in: Reading Painted Hands Painted Hands: A Novel by Jennifer Zobair
on June 11th 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Massachusetts
Goodreads

“Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they’ve thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn’t count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms.”


Zainab is getting a lot of attention as the very stylish spokeswoman for a candidate known for speaking her mind without checking with her advisors first.  This makes her a perfect target for a rising star in conservative talk radio.  A Republican’s advisor is Muslim?  Chase Holland doesn’t even have to think hard to turn his audience’s outrage on.  He doesn’t count on liking Zainab when he meets her though.

Amra works long hours to secure her promised partnership at a law firm.  When her family surprises her with a reintroduction to a family friend’s son, she is outraged.  However they hit it off.  She hides her workaholic tendencies from him and this leads to difficulties as the relationship gets serious.

This book also features Hayden, a white woman who converts to Islam and is convinced that the South Asian Muslim women she knows aren’t following the religion correctly.  She is influenced by a very conservative Muslim woman and enters into an arranged marriage with that woman’s son.  The author is a convert too so it is interesting to get that perspective.

An attempted terrorist attack brings these women’s carefully balanced lives to the brink of chaos.  Zainab is feeling the political pressure of being forced to apologize for something she had nothing to do with.  Amra’s conflicted desires for her job and her family lead her to the breaking point.  Hayden realizes that she may have been lead astray by those who she has been modeling her new life on.

4bunny

 

29 Jun, 2016

How To Eat a Cupcake

/ posted in: Reading How To Eat a Cupcake How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
on March 13th 2012
Pages: 309
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in California
Goodreads

“Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls who know nothing of class differences and scholarships could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie is now a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. When a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, they must overcome past hurts and a mysterious saboteur or risk losing their fledgling business and any chance of healing their fractured friendship.”


There is a lot going on in this book.  There is a relationship between Annie and Julia.  There is the mystery of the vandalism.  There is tension between Julia and her fiance.  Annie is trying to find a recipe book of her mother’s.  It is a bit too much taken all together.  What stuck with me was this:

This book is the story of two people who were raised together but who see the world completely differently because of their racial and class backgrounds.

Annie is Hispanic and working class.  She lived in an upper class world but never was allowed to forget that she was the daughter of a servant.

Julia is white and upper class.  She can’t understand why Annie is still bitter from her experiences in high school.  She hasn’t thought about that in years.

Julia is looking for a diversion for a year and offers Annie the chance to open her dream bakery.  Despite her reservations Annie agrees because this is the only way she will ever receive funding.  They can’t even agree on where to open it.  Annie insists on the Mission but Julia is convinced that is a dangerous, lower class area.  When the bakery is vandalized repeatedly during construction it seems like Julia may have been right.

 


3bunny

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22 Jun, 2016

The Cosy Teashop in the Castle

/ posted in: Reading The Cosy Teashop in the Castle The Cosy Teashop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts
on February 25, 2016
Genres: Love & Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England
Goodreads

“When Ellie Hall lands her dream job running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy.
When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew.”


Ellie has always wanted to bake for a living but her parents have encouraged her to get a steady and reliable job.  Now she has a chance to run a seasonal tea shop in a castle in the northeast part of England.  She is even allowed to live in – a fact that horrifies her mother.  She doesn’t see how Ellie will survive in a remote area that is *gasp* over an hour drive from her parents’ house.  Ah, bless the British and their warped sense of distance.  It always makes me laugh in books when they discussed drives that Americans would do without thought to go to a restaurant as epic adventures requiring careful planning lest disaster fall upon them.

The owner of the castle isn’t a fan of business or of letting people come traipsing around his family home.  He needs the money to keep the place up though.  The castle isn’t a huge tourist attraction so keeping it afloat and learning how to make a small tea shop profitable isn’t easy.

Soon Ellie is scraping by and mostly eating left over pastries for every meal.  She doesn’t want to admit to her parents that things aren’t going well.  She determined to make a go of her little tea shop.

I couldn’t sleep one night and downloaded and read this book all in one sitting.  It was sweet and cute.  It was perfect for a light read. I would recommend this for any chick lit or light romance fans or anyone who ever dreamed of quitting their job and cooking for a living.

I’m jealous of British high tea. You can’t get anything like it around here. I torture myself by following Kelly Michelle on Twitter. She has gluten free high tea a lot. I just look at her pictures and drool. I’m going to Washington DC in July and you can get afternoon tea at a few of the fancy hotels. I’m taking the opportunity while I’m there.

02 Jun, 2016

Just Mercy

/ posted in: Reading Just Mercy Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
on October 21st 2014
Pages: 336
Genres: Civil Rights, Nonfiction, Political Science
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Alabama

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.  Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.  Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Goodreads

Just Mercy had been on my radar for a while but I didn’t decide to pick it up until it was the first pick for the social justice book club hosted by Entomology of a Bookworm.  I listened to the audiobook.  It was narrated by the author and he did a good job of telling his story.

The story begins with the author setting up a branch of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama.  The goal is to help people on death row have legal representation.

The case of Walter McMillan is used to explain to the readers how our justice system can go horribly wrong.

Walter McMillan was convicted of a murder even though he was far away from the murder scene with a large group of people, the person who accused him couldn’t identify him in a room, and the truck he was supposedly driving had its transmission rebuilt that day at the time of the murder.

Other cases are discussed throughout the book.  Another focus of the author’s is the plight of children who were tried as adults and received life sentences without the possibility of parole.  One of the people featured had been kept in solitary confinement for decades.  He was caught in a loop of self harming because he was isolated and every time he self harmed he had more time added in solitary.

Sometimes helping someone is making sure seemingly logical things are done like housing young children away from the adult prison population so they aren’t raped.

The author also does a good job of explaining how entire communities are involved in cases of wrongful convictions.  He talks a lot with the family and friends of the accused but I would have also been interested to see how finding out that the person in jail for a family member’s murder was innocent affected the victim’s family.  There was just one brief interaction about this.


Aside from any discussion of the ethics of capital punishment there is one thing that I just don’t understand.  How is it possible to mess up lethal injection as horribly as seems to be happening?  I guess I have an unusual perspective on this because euthanasia is an important part of my job.  It is easy to do without causing pain and suffering.  Why can’t people figure it out?  I guess a large part of the problem is that doctors aren’t allowed to be involved.  Changing that would probably solve the issue instead of letting untrained personnel do it.  But still, books and articles are published in the veterinary literature all the time.  Do some study.  Get it right if you are going to do it.  /rant

 

25 May, 2016

Why I Binged on Air Awakens Books 1-3

/ posted in: Reading Why I Binged on Air Awakens Books 1-3 Air Awakens (Air Awakens, #1) by Elise Kova
on August 27th 2015
Pages: 377
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Silver Wing Press
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond...
The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

Goodreads

I received Air Awakens from my OTSP Secret Sister.  I had heard that it was good but didn’t know much about it.  I figured this was a good time to start reading the series because I thought the last book was just released.  Turns out that book 4 was just released and there is a book 5 that is coming out in July.

I ended up binging on the first three books over the course of 2 days.  I finally made myself stop before reading book 4.  I loved this world and this story.  I was totally immersed in it.  You know how when you are deep in a story and you start thinking in the author’s style of writing.  That was me.  I had to force myself to come back to the real world for a while.

The books all end with cliff hangers too.  Actually in one case it is falling off of a cliff.  I knew that if I read book four and there was no option to find out what happened, I wasn’t going to be happy.  I had to make the decision to stop instead of it being made for me.

In the first book, Air Awakens, Vhalla is a library apprentice who more comfortable with books than people.  When she is called upon to help research a cure for a curse put on a prince it is discovered that she possesses magic.  Magic users are powerful but are shunned by most of society so she doesn’t want to be magical.  But now that her magic is starting to manifest itself she doesn’t have a choice.  She is trained by the Prince himself because he realizes that she has an affinity for working with Air.  There hasn’t been a sorcerer with that affinity since they were all slaughtered in a war one hundred years ago.  They were considered too dangerous and even now some powerful people aren’t sure that Vhalla should be allowed to live.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

Fire Falling (Air Awakens, #2)Fire Falling by Elise Kova

Ok, so I’m moving to the next book so this might get a little spoilery. You’ve been warned.

To contain Vhalla’s power she has been made property of the crown and is being sent into the war as a weapon of mass destruction. She doesn’t want to go to war. In her mind she’s still a librarian. But she needs to learn to use her power to survive and to protect her friends who are marching with her.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

Usually I hate, hate, hate romances in books. That goes double for romances in YA books. I think they are awful. This is one of the few romances that I actually love. The chemistry between the characters is incredible.

Earth's End (Air Awakens, #3)Earth’s End by Elise Kova

The Prince is greviously injured and Vhalla is the only one who will be able to save him. The lengths she goes to illustrates for everyone how much she loves him. His father is not having this so he tightens his control over Vhalla. Now she realizes that she will never be able to earn her freedom from him.

OMG, the ending! Nope. Nope. Nope. This is why I had to make a conscious decision to walk away after 2 days of nonstop reading. I needed to know what happened but if there is an ending like that in book 4 with no way to read book 5 yet, I would not be happy. Right now I’m telling myself that I used my will power to walk away.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

Seriously, if you are at all into fantasy, go read this series.

23 May, 2016

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

/ posted in: Reading Sofia Khan is Not Obliged Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
on September 3rd 2015
Pages: 456
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Great Britain
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

"Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?'
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?

Goodreads

Sofia Khan’s almost-fiance has told her that he expects them to live with his parents in side by side houses connected through a hole in the wall.  She breaks off the relationship.

Now she is forced to face her extended family again who can’t figure out what her problem is. She’s so old! She’s (gasp) 30! How will she ever find a husband at her advanced age?

Her mother says it is because she insists on wearing a hijab. Everyone else just thinks she is too picky.

When she makes a comment in a staff meeting about her dating life, her superiors decide that she should write a book about Muslim dating. She signs up for Muslim online dating sites to try to gain stories for the book. That’s in between dealing with crisis after crisis with her sister’s wedding and hiding her father’s cigarettes from her mother and trying to convince her friend not to marry a man who is already married.


I loved this book.  It was a perfect light read.  I actually stayed up way too late reading it while trying to convince myself that even though I was only 56% done I could finish it fairly soon.  The husband had to gently remind me that I had to go to work in the morning and I really should get some sleep.

Sofia had a great voice.  She’s a modern Londoner who takes her faith seriously which makes her a bit of an outsider to her coworkers and to her family.  She deals with racism on the streets of London.  She isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do when she grows up but she knows it isn’t being a live in slave to a demanding mother-in-law.  She isn’t particularly interested in learning to cook anyway.

This is Ayshia Malik’s first book.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

02 May, 2016

Small Shen – The Book I Wasn’t Allowed to Have!

/ posted in: Reading Small Shen – The Book I Wasn’t Allowed to Have! Small Shen by Kylie Chan, Queenie Chan
on December 1st 2012
Pages: 352
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Fantasy, Legends, Myths, Fables
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Australia
Format: Graphic
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

SMALL SHEN is the amazing story of Gold -- a stone spirit and a chronic troublemaker in the court of the great Gods of Chinese mythology.
A mix of Kylie Chan′s brilliant storytelling and Queenie Chan′s beautiful illustrations, SMALL SHEN is a fantastic treat for fans of WHITE TIGER. Readers will be thrilled to discover the events leading up to John Chen and Emma Donahoe′s story in this wonderful prequel.
Shown through Queenie Chan′s stunning illustrations and comics, the story follows the stone spirit Gold′s entertaining adventures throughout history. His escapades include seducing a dragon princess, attempting to steal one of the Tiger′s wives, making bets with demons, and working for the Blue Dragon of the East.
Eventually, as a result of his crimes against Heaven and his constant philandering, Gold is ordered to join the household of Xuan Wu, the Dark Lord of the Northern Heavens. Xuan Wu is also known as John Chen, a Hong Kong businessman.
The story then follows Gold and Jade -- the dragon princess - in contemporary Hong Kong. The two small shen must help guard John Chen′s beloved human wife and baby daughter from demon attack.

Goodreads

I’m a fan of Kylie Chan’s series about the Taoist Gods. The series starts with White Tiger.

White Tiger (Dark Heavens, #1)White Tiger by Kylie Chan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A young woman accepts a position as nanny to the young daughter of a handsome, wealthy, and mysterious Chinese businessman only to discover her new employer is really a god and every foul demon in creation is out to destroy him!”

This is a very complex world that is developed through a lot of books. I was excited to see that there was a standalone story about Gold. I wanted to get it to read for Weirdathon in March. So when March came around I went to try to find it. That’s when I discovered that I wasn’t allowed to have it.

This book is not available outside of Australia. Ok, but there is this thing called the Internet and you can buy anything… or not. It turned out to be surprisingly difficult. By this time I was determined. Nothing will make you want something like being told you can’t have it.

I finally found a store willing to sell me a copy and based on the cost of shipping they must have sent it on the back of a flying unicorn to get to my house.

It was worth it though. I love the style of having a written novel interspersed with sections of graphic novel. I want the rest of the series like this. For a series based on gods who have any different aspects and presentations this is a big help.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

The cover copy says that this is a good introduction to the series. I don’t think so. It does take place before the series starts but you don’t get the gentle introduction and world building that happens in the first book. If you feel like seeing a floating stone carrying towels to the human wives of a white tiger and then finding a snake and a turtle lounging in the pool would leave you with some questions, read the White Tiger first. For fans of the series this is a fun read about one of the essential secondary characters that you really don’t get to know much about.

18 Apr, 2016

The Shadow Speaker

/ posted in: Reading The Shadow Speaker The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor
on October 2nd 2007
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Niger

In West Africa in 2070, after fifteen-year-old "shadow speaker" Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, she embarks on a dangerous journey across the Sahara to find Jaa, her father's killer, and upon finding her, she also discovers a greater purpose to her life and to the mystical powers she possesses.

Goodreads

I’ve been having a sort of disappointing book year.  It isn’t unusual for me not to give out many 5 star ratings.  I just did 7/170 last year.  But so far this has been a solidly 3 star book year for me.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like them.  It means that I liked them enough to finish them but they aren’t going to stay with me.

The Shadow Speaker was such a breath of fresh air.  From the beginning it was wonderful to sink into the world of Nnedi Okorafor’s imagination.

“Kwàmfà, Ejii’s home, was a town of slim palm trees and sturdy gnarled monkey bread trees, old but upgraded satellite dishes, and sand brick houses with colorful Zulu designs.  It was noisy, too; its unpaved but flat roads always busy with motorbikes, camels, old cars and during certain parts of the year, even the occasional truck.  Kwàmfà was also known for its amazing carpets and after the Great Change, in the shadier parts of the market, its flying carpets.”

After a nuclear war, so called Peace Bombs were dropped by a militant environmental group.  They caused a lot of molecular changes to Earth including rapid forest growth and the development of metahumans with special skills.  It also opened passages to other planets with civilizations very different from Earth.  Ejii is a Shadow Speaker.  She can see long distances and see in the dark.  She can hear shadows talking to her but can’t understand what they are saying.  Shadow speakers get an urge to wander but it isn’t safe to travel now and most of them die young during their travels.

Ejii’s father was the chief of her village.  He made women cover and hide themselves and said it was for their own protection.  He was assassinated by Jaa, a female leader.  Life has been going well in Kwàmfà for the last five years but now Jaa is leaving.  Ejii knows that her father’s younger wives have a grudge against her mother and her half siblings are planning to move against Ejii because she is a metahuman.  When Jaa asks her to go with her to a meeting with representatives of other worlds she knows she has to go regardless of the risks of travel.


There is so much to love in this book.  One of the favorite parts of reading this author is seeing all the amazing and unique ideas she comes up with.

  • A talking camel who named himself Onion because onions are his favorite food
  • A planet whose technology is all based on plants
  • Ghosts that act as advisors in a conference room
  • Trickster gods who act as guardians of the passages between planets
  • Wild cats who debate with themselves whether or not to eat you
  • Guardian owls

I was excited to see that the planet that they visit for the meeting is the world from Zahrah the Windseeker.  I loved seeing the apes that made an appearance in that book show up in totally different circumstances here.

My only minor quibble is the ending.  The books ends with a character telling Ejii that she has to tell her a story about what has been happening while Ejii was on her journey.  I want to know that story!  I want more!

If you haven’t read this author yet, you need to.  It isn’t necessary to read Zahrah the Windseeker first to read this book.  Both of these books would be considered MG/YA so they are easy reads and a great entry point to her work before reading her adult novels.

 

14 Apr, 2016

Shadowshaper

/ posted in: Reading Shadowshaper Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
on June 30, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep . . . Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Goodreads

Sierra is an amazing artist.  She has been asked to paint a mural on an abandoned building in her neighborhood.  There is a lot of street art around her but lately she’s been noticing that they are starting to fade.  Then one day she sees a mural change in front of her and start to weep.

Her grandfather had a stroke soon after her grandmother died but now he is agitated and wants Sierra to know that he is sorry for… something.  Her mother seems to know what he means but shuts Sierra down every time she asks.  Some of her grandfather’s friends point her towards another artist at her school for answers before they start to disappear themselves.

The writing in this book was amazing.  Contemporary Brooklyn is a character as much as a setting of this book.  Older shows the joys of living in this neighborhood with dance clubs and vibrant art as well as the problems of street harassment of teenage girls and the specter of police brutality.  I’ve never been impressed by New York City at all but this book almost made me feel like it would be an interesting place to be.  Seriously, salsa thrash metal?  Yes, please.

The cast of characters was inclusive without it coming across as forced for the sake of inclusiveness.  There is a lesbian couple.  Most of the cast are Latina(o).  There are both male and female characters who are important parts of the story and the significant secondary characters range in age from teenagers to elderly.

There are discussions about racism in the community.  Sierra remembers a time when she surprised herself by apologizing for her dark skin.  Her aunt is tells her that she shouldn’t date a Haitian because you don’t want a boyfriend whose skin is darker than the bottom of your foot.

If this was a contemporary novel it would be nearly 5 stars.  But, this is a fantasy story and that aspect was not as strong for me.  The idea of being able to make your art come alive when necessary is good but the stakes of the conflict never felt high.  It felt like something bad was going to happen but it wasn’t clear what that was supposed to be.

If you like the idea of art featuring in urban YA fantasy you can also check out these titles.

The Summer PrinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

“The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”

Ink (Paper Gods, #1)Ink by Amanda Sun

“On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.”

Truthfully, this one was a little too “He’s SO DREAMY!!!!!” with no actual explanation of why so I DNFed it.

 

I received this book as a gift from my OTSP Secret Sister as part of my Easter box.  The cover is gorgeous.  I’m going to read more by this author because I love his writing.

My Easter box from my #otspsecretsister. I was just thinking about this book last night.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

13 Apr, 2016

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

/ posted in: Reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
on January 19th 2016
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Iowa

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.

Goodreads

This book is a love letter to books and authors.

Amy and Sara write to each other about their love of books.  They share favorite books from their respective countries – The United States and Sweden.  Sara plans a 2 month visit to Amy in Iowa but Amy dies while Sara is en route.  Unsure what to do now, she ends up opening a temporary book shop in an open store front in town to share Amy’s vast book collection.

The beginning of this book was amazing.  It was easily on track to be my first five star read of the year.

  • Reaching strangers in a dying town by pairing them with books that they would have never picked up on their own?  Yes, please.
  • A heroine who worried about only bringing 13 books on her trip because of the weight limit on her baggage?  Totally understandable.

But then the book took an unfortunate turn.  A silly romantic plot was attached to it between characters that had zero chemistry and a lot of the talk about books fell away.  I had a hard time finishing it because at that point I just didn’t care any more.  I dropped it down to 4 stars because of the silliness and only my love for the first half kept me from dropping it further.

So let’s pretend that part never happened and go back to the books.  I was interested in seeing how many books and authors were talked about which turned into a quiz.  There are about 65 authors discussed.  It is an overwhelming white list, I was disappointed to see, but it covers a lot of fiction genres.

*Update* Well the poll is being hateful and the vote button doesn’t work so tell me how many you have read in the comments. Stupid free internet poll makers…mutter mutter mutter . I got 21.


What books and authors have you read from The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend?

Louisa May Alcott0%
Harper Lee0%
Steig Larsson0%
Terry Pratchett0%
Ulla-Carin Lindqvist0%
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery0%
J.K. Rowling0%
Dan Brown0%
Camilla Lackberg0%
Kathryn Stockett (The Help)0%
Helen Fielding0%
Fannie Flagg0%
Annie Proulx0%
Jens Lapidus0%
Harriet Beecher Stowe0%
Jilly Cooper0%
Judith Krantz0%
Jane Austen0%
The Bronte Sisters0%
Paul Auster0%
Joyce Carol Oates0%
Toni Morrison0%
Oscar Wilde0%
Charles Dickens0%
Philip Roth0%
F. Scott Fitzgerald0%
John Grisham0%
Lee Child0%
Christopher Paolini0%
Mark Twain0%
Ernest Hemingway0%
Agatha Christie0%
Andre Maurois0%
Douglas Coupland0%
Henry David Thoreau0%
John Steinbeck0%
Erich Maria Remarque0%
Lauren Oliver0%
Louis de Bernieres0%
Jodi Picoult0%
Nicholas Sparks0%
Michael Connelly0%
Elizabeth Young0%
Marian Keyes0%
Dick Francis0%
Georgette Heyer0%
Marcel Proust0%
Sophie Kinsella0%
Nelson DeMille0%
Giovannino Guareschi0%
Dylan Thomas0%
Fyodor Dostoevsky0%
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe0%
Gabriel Garcia Marquez0%
Moa Martinson0%
Harry Martinson0%
James Joyce0%
Barbara Cartland0%
Gertrude Stein0%
Iris Murdoch0%
Helene Hanff0%
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)0%
Vicki Myron (Dewey the Library Cat)0%
Robert Waller (Bridges of Madison County)0%
Marion Ross and Sue Collier (The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing)0%


11 Apr, 2016

Fire Touched

/ posted in: Reading Fire Touched Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
on March 8th 2016
Pages: 352
Series: Mercy Thompson #9
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Urban
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Washington

Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head and when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.   Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

Goodreads

 

Can I just say how much I hate the covers of these books?  Look at that picture.  Mercy in the books has a Native American father.  I appreciate the fact that they aren’t whitewashing the cover but come on.  Long feather earrings and two braids?  On a mechanic?  And what is with the clothes?  She never, ever is described as dressing in shirts tied into improvised halter tops.  She doesn’t show skin at all.  She also is described as having one small coyote print tattoo but look at her arms.  Impressive collection of tattoos but way off the mark.

Anyway, in this book Mercy is still trying to make some members of the pack accept her as their Alpha’s mate.  That gives her status over them.  It hasn’t been going well.  She isn’t a werewolf and she keeps getting them into trouble.  Now she has made a proclamation that the pack with protect any supernaturals in their territory from the Fae.

I don’t know.  I just wasn’t a huge fan of this one.  I like the series but this one felt flat to me.  I’ve read several reviews that said that the readers felt like this was a big leap forward in the relationship between Mercy and Adam but I don’t get it.  He did stand up for her in the pack but their interactions together sounded distant and strained.  Maybe it is because I’ve gotten used to the warmth of the relationships in Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series that the more subdued relationship here seems odd.

Nothing really happened in the plot either.  It sounds like there is going to be a war.  The beginning with a fight with a troll is action packed but after that it is all political maneuvering and sitting around waiting for things to happen until the end.  This definitely didn’t have a “can’t put down” quality in the middle.  The ending did have an unexpectedly sad moment though.

One highlight of this book for me was Baba Yaga.

Bilibin. Baba Yaga

I love her. She is an old witch in Russian folklore who makes an appearance here to help in the fight with the Fae whether anyone wants her help or not. The book picked up whenever she appeared.

Bottom line:

This is a weak entry in a great series but it still worth reading or listening to if you have enjoyed the rest of the books.

 

About Patricia Briggs

“Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson series, lives in Washington State with her husband, children, and a small herd of horses. She has written 17 novels to date. Briggs began her career writing traditional fantasy novels, the first of which was published by Ace Books in 1993, and shifted gears in 2006 to write urban fantasy. ” from her website

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