Showing Posts From: Book Review

Mercy for Animals
18 Apr, 2019

Mercy for Animals

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Mercy for Animals Mercy for Animals: One Man's Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals by Nathan Runkle, Gene Stone
on September 12, 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Avery Publishing Group
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned

A compelling look at animal welfare and factory farming in the United States from Mercy For Animals, the leading international force in preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

Nathan Runkle would have been a fifth-generation farmer in his small midwestern town. Instead, he founded our nation's leading nonprofit organization for protecting factory farmed animals. In Mercy For Animals, Nathan brings us into the trenches of his organization's work; from MFA's early days in grassroots activism, to dangerous and dramatic experiences doing undercover investigations, to the organization's current large-scale efforts at making sweeping legislative change to protect factory farmed animals and encourage compassionate food choices.

But this isn't just Nathan's story. Mercy For Animals examines how our country moved from a network of small, local farms with more than 50 percent of Americans involved in agriculture to a massive coast-to-coast industrial complex controlled by a mere 1 percent of our population--and the consequences of this drastic change on animals as well as our global and local environments. We also learn how MFA strives to protect farmed animals in behind-the-scenes negotiations with companies like Nestle and other brand names--conglomerates whose policy changes can save countless lives and strengthen our planet. Alongside this unflinching snapshot of our current food system, readers are also offered hope and solutions--big and small--for ending mistreatment of factory farmed animals. From simple diet modifications to a clear explanation of how to contact corporations and legislators efficiently, Mercy For Animals proves that you don't have to be a hardcore vegan or an animal-rights activist to make a powerful difference in the lives of animals.

Goodreads

I’ve had this book on my Audible wishlist for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it.  I’m glad I finally started to listen to it.  I was surprised when it opened with a story of a stealth rescue of chickens from Buckeye Egg Farm in Croton Ohio.  At the time of the story I was living in the area and driving past there a lot.  The place was hugely hated because of its affects on the people living around it.  There would be hoards of flies every summer.  The smell was awful and all the groundwater was contaminated from the feces.  

Mercy for Animals was started by Nathan Runkle as a teenager and has grown into a huge voice in the animal welfare community.  They have sponsored a lot of undercover investigations into abuses at factory farms.  The undercover investigators are tough.  I couldn’t work in slaughterhouses or factory farms for months on end to document abuses.  Sadly, it is getting harder to do this kind of work because of agriculture protection laws that punish investigators more than the people perpetrating the abuse.  

This was a tough book to listen to because of the abuse that it details.  I took a few breaks from it to listen to other books for a day or two.  

The last section of the book discusses how technology might help solve the problems.  Companies that make plant-based meat substitutes like Beyond Beef are profiled in addition to companies making meat out of animal stem cells.  This will allow people to eat meat with any animals being slaughtered.  It was nice that this book ended on an uplifting note after all the horrors that came before.  

Romance Mini Reviews
02 Apr, 2019

Romance Mini Reviews

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Romance Mini Reviews Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder
on November 3, 2018
Pages: 72
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Published by Avon Impulse
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant. On the surface, nothing about Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover’s instant, incendiary, attraction makes sense. But when they peel away the layers and the assumptions—and their clothes—everything falls into place. The need. The want. The light. The laughter. They have more in common than they ever could’ve guessed. Is it enough? They won’t know until they take a chance on each other—and on love.

Goodreads

I’d heard good things about this novella on Twitter and it seemed to be perfect for Foodies Read so I had to pick it up.

Pinky got out of her small hometown but had to return to help out in the family restaurant when her mom got sick.  She’s frustrated at the turn her life has taken.  Trucker is the leader of a local biker gang that regularly comes into the restaurant.  They are attracted to each other but know that they have absolutely nothing in common.  Pinky doesn’t want anything to do with the trouble that accompanies the gang.  But a few encounters outside the restaurant lead Pinky to believe that they more have more in common than she thought.

I liked this story even though it had way more sex in it than I generally like in my romances.  The author managed to bring in some good character development in such a short space.


Romance Mini Reviews Can't Escape Love (Reluctant Royals, #3.5) by Alyssa Cole
on March 19, 2019
Pages: 128
Published by Avon Impulse

Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She's finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.

Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?

Goodreads


This novella takes place at the same time as A Duke in Disguise, which features Reggie’s sister.  You don’t really need to have read that book in order to understand this novella but it does reference the events in the novel.

I love this whole series so I liked reading Reggie’s story.  No one is royal in this one.  Reggie is considered to be “the good twin” by her parents especially since she had a brain infection that left her disabled.  She is tired of hearing how proud her parents are of her for managing to do the most basic of things while at the same time they nag her sister for not meeting their standards.  She’s stopped working for their company and has built a successful online business but they don’t understand what she does.

Gus is autistic.  He used his livestream to try to find other people as interested in puzzles as he is and to practice speaking.  Reggie was his only follower.  He quit after a while and then deleted his archives.  He didn’t know that Reggie still listened to his soothing voice to fall asleep.

Both characters are a bit prickly because they are used to being misunderstood.  Despite the slightly contrived circumstances of their meeting, I really liked this story.


Romance Mini Reviews Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland
on May 8, 2018
Setting: South Carolina

Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.

Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

Goodreads


I really enjoyed this book too.  This is the story of a British man living in South Carolina who is suspected of having anti-slavery views.  His home is burned because of this and his wife and child die in the fire. 

Three years later, an old friend from England who has fallen on hard times asks him to take in one of his daughters.  She is uncomfortable with this change in her circumstances but realizes that there is more going on with her new guardian than she suspected. 

This delves more deeply into the time and events than the romance.  It is straddling the line between historical fiction and romance. 

How to Know the Birds
29 Mar, 2019

How to Know the Birds

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading How to Know the Birds How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding by Ted Floyd
on March 12, 2019
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by National Geographic Society
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching.

How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd's charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.

Goodreads

This winter I finally got birds to come to my bird feeders after years of trying.  I was excited to see this book on a book tour. I’m not good at identifying any species other than the ones children would know.  

I was surprised to see that this book isn’t a field guide like I assumed it would be.  Instead, this book teaches you through a series of essays how to be a birder.  

It starts with a description of a day hike the author and his son take to watch birds.  He explains how birding has changed over the years.  While it may annoy traditionalists, today’s bird watcher generally considers uploading photos and song recording to social media and apps like EBird to be essential parts of the experience.  I think that this is a logical extension of the practice of journaling what birds you see that has been practiced forever.  (I put the book down to download the apps he discussed to help identify birds and to log where and when they were seen.  Technology helps.  There are apps that let you upload pictures and help you identify what you are seeing.) 

The next part of the book teaches you what to look for when you are seeing birds.  It starts with birds that are likely familiar to anyone in the U.S. – robins, cardinals, etc.  There is a one-page essay on each that illustrates a concept in birding such as variations in plumage due to season, age, or sex.  As you move through each of the essays you learn about the science and ecology around bird life.  You see how birders think and how they approach the hobby.  

This is a book that should be savored over time more than read straight through like a novel.  It is formatted to take place over a year.  The simpler lessons are in the beginning of the book/year and get more complex as they go on and the reader has more practice identifying birds.  This book would be best for a beginner birder but experienced birders may enjoy the stories that go along with the descriptions of the birds. 

Internment
27 Mar, 2019

Internment

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Internment Internment by Samira Ahmed
on March 19, 2019
Pages: 386
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Atom
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Goodreads

I was really looking forward to reading this book.  I preordered it as soon as I heard about it.  I was interested in a book about Muslim internment from a Muslim author.

The book starts out well.  She captures the fear and suspicion rampant in the main characters community.  She makes a logical case for how the United States would start to round up Muslims.  The early scene where the family is taken out of their house is very realistic and because of that it is very scary.

After they get to the internment camp though, the whole story starts to fall apart.  I think a lot of the problem in my reading of this is that this is a YA book that is trying to celebrate the power of young people to make a difference.  I understand that because of the category it is going to be focused more on action than character development but these characters are particularly weak.   The main character:

  • Has a boyfriend who she loves so very, very much that she can’t think about anything else
  • Except when she is super angry and has ALL THE FEELINGS and is angry at everyone
  • Somehow she is only one in the camp who comes up with ideas to do something

YA books can tell stories of teenage bravery well.  The Hunger Games comes to mind.  This one just doesn’t ever come together.

It really annoyed me that this book painted all the Muslim adults as passive and weak and unwilling to protest.  They were just sitting around waiting to be rallied to action by a teenager?  (I decided to read that as the self-centeredness of a child who couldn’t see what was going on around her.  I’m sure that is not the reading that the author meant but it kept me from hissing at the page when I was reading.)

The villain of the story is an absolute joke.  He reads like a cartoon character.  He is the director of the camp and he stomps around and threatens people until his face turns colors.  Apparently just the sight of the main character makes him sputter and rage and be unable to form coherent thoughts.  In reality the director of a camp like this would more likely be a stone-cold sadist and/or a very efficient bureaucrat who wouldn’t be the least bit flustered by a whiny teenager.

***SPOILERS *** For all his rage every time he sees her he never really does anything about her.  The nastiest he gets is hitting her.  He hides her parents from her for a bit but he gives them back almost immediately when he is confronted.  Also there is almost unlimited surveillance but he never seems to notice any of the guards helping her all the time?  It is explained by the fact that he trusts the guards.  Yeah, not buying it.

I did like the fact that people protesting outside the camp and acting as observers of what was going on inside the camp was a big part of the story.  I think that in these scenarios that will be a major part of the resistance.  I did like some of the resistance ideas from inside the camp, like fasting to protest in front of visitors as well.

Overall, I think this was a wasted opportunity to tell a really important story.  If you want to read a book on a similar subject that I think did a great job with the storyline, pick up Ink. 

InkInk by Sabrina Vourvoulias
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was scarily prescient when it was published a few years ago.  It was just rereleased because events in the U.S. seem to be moving along just like she predicted. 

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure
26 Mar, 2019

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure (The Worth Saga) by Courtney Milan
on March 26, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Setting: England

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew.

Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of nine and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone.

Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time.

If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.

Author’s Note: Sometimes I write villains who are subtle and nuanced. This is not one of those times. The Terrible Nephew is terrible, and terrible things happen to him. Sometime villains really are bad and wrong, and sometimes, we want them to suffer a lot of consequences.

Goodreads

Any Courtney Milan book is going to be a delight but I was especially excited to hear that this novella was going to feature older women.  I’m a huge fan of stories that feature older heroines.  Why should we stop getting stories when we are over 30?

Miss Violetta Beauchamps has been fired by her employer just prior to being able to collect her pension.  He used her inability to collect rent from a boarder as an excuse even though he told her not to try because the boarder had a surety signed by his wealthy aunt.  Violetta needs money to live on so she decides to go collect the rent from the aunt herself.  She isn’t going to give it to her ex-employer.  It is going to fund her modest lifestyle through her old age.  It is just a little lie.

Mrs. Bertrice Martin was not what she was expecting.  She hates her Terrible Nephew.  She won’t even utter his name.  She isn’t going to pay his debts – not when he couldn’t even bother to spell her name right on the surety he forged.  She will pay Miss Beauchamps to help her make the Terrible Nephew’s life miserable though.

There is a time for well characterized, morally ambiguous villains and there is a time for just letting the world burn to annoy a horrible person.  This story is the latter and it is a glorious romp.  Bertrice knows that everything wrong in the world is the fault of men.  Even if she can’t really do anything systemically about it, she isn’t going to make it easy for them.  Sometimes you just need to hire a group of off-key carolers to follow a fellow around all day to make yourself feel better.

Bertrice appears to hold all the power with her wealth but it doesn’t make her safe.  Men still have all the legal power and her nephew can get her declared insane.  Her recent antics might just make his case for him.  Violetta can’t fight back against her unfair firing in a society that doesn’t give women any legal rights. 

I highlighted so many amazing bits of dialogue. 

“Fear at seventy years of age was different than fear at seventeen. At seventeen, Bertrice had been walking down the so-called correct path, trying not to stray with all her might. Her fears had not been her own; they had been gifts from her elders. They won’t think you’re proper if you do that. You might never find a match. Do you want to live in a garret alone for the rest of your life?

 

This might be my favorite.

“My husband, God rot his soul, used to bring prostitutes home all the time. After he’d finished with them, I’d serve them tea and double whatever he was paying them.”

“But why would you do that?”

“Why not? It’s good sense to be kind to people who are doing work for you.” Bertrice didn’t think that was so strange a proposition. “It was hard work fucking my husband. Trust me, I should know. I certainly didn’t want to do it.”

 

Bertrice respects the neighborhood prostitutes all through the story.  (I really want to read a story about Molly, the lace-worker turned prostitute turned philanthropist.)

This story is an absolute delight for anyone who has ever wanted to rage against the privilege given to men in society just for being born.  It is cathartic and will bring a smile to your face long after you finish reading.

 

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

North
19 Mar, 2019

North

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading North North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek
on April 10, 2018
Pages: 292
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library

From the author of the bestseller Eat and Run, a thrilling new memoir about his grueling, exhilarating, and immensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

Scott Jurek is one of the world's best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he's finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning's elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.

When he set out in the spring of 2015, Jurek anticipated punishing terrain, forbidding weather, and inevitable injuries. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, every day, for almost seven weeks. He knew he would be pushing himself to the limit, that comfort and rest would be in short supply -- but he couldn't have imagined the physical and emotional toll the trip would exact, nor the rewards it would offer.

With his wife, Jenny, friends, and the kindness of strangers supporting him, Jurek ran, hiked, and stumbled his way north, one white blaze at a time. A stunning narrative of perseverance and personal transformation, North is a portrait of a man stripped bare on the most demanding and transcendent effort of his life. It will inspire runners and non-runners alike to keep striving for their personal best.

Goodreads

I’ve been interested in Scott Jurek’s career because he is known for doing ultraendurance events as a vegan.  A lot of people were of the opinion that it couldn’t be done when he started.  I’ve read his other book and enjoyed it so when I saw this one I was excited to read it.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints – Scott’s experience on the trail and Jenny’s experience heading up the support crew.  They were at a crossroads in their lives and envisioned the run as a personal adventure.  They underestimated the amount of help that they would require for it to happen. 

People show up to run sections with Scott.  Friends come from all over to coach Scott through hard sections.  Some of them have held the record previously.  Others are planning their own attempts to break the record.

The run is brutal.  I don’t know why anyone would want to run 30-50 miles a day or more for 46 days in a row.  I really don’t know why they’d want to keep doing it when they are injured or when it won’t stop raining or when they are too far behind pace to be able to stop and sleep.  Ultrarunning is definitely not for me but I do enjoy reading about it.

The epilogue talks about the next year when Scott goes back to the trail to be on the support crew for one of his friends who crewed for him.  There is a documentary on U.S. Netflix now called Broken.  It is about that attempt to break Scott’s speed record.  The film isn’t that great on its own but a lot of the same people crew (expect for Jenny Jurek) so you get to see the people you read about in the Jureks’ book.  You can also see sections of the trail to understand exactly how challenging it is. 

I am linking this review up with the Year of the Asian reading challenge.

 

You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right
08 Mar, 2019

You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right You Can't Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World by Robert J. Brown
on January 15, 2019
Pages: 256
Genres: Civil Rights, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Convergent Books
Format: eBook
Source: Library

An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an impressive array of the famous and powerful, including every American president since John F. Kennedy. But as a child born into poverty in the 1930s, Robert was raised by his grandmother to think differently about success. For example, "The best way to influence others is to be helpful," she told him. And, "You can't go wrong by doing right."

Fueled by these lessons on humble, principled service, Brown went on to play a pivotal, mostly unseen role alongside the great and the powerful of our time: trailing the mob in 1950s Harlem with a young Robert F. Kennedy; helping the white corporate leadership at Woolworth integrate their lunch counters; channeling money from American businesses to the Civil Rights movement; accompanying Coretta Scott King, at her request, to Memphis the day after her husband had been shot; advising Richard Nixon on how to support black entrepreneurship; becoming the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town.

Full of unbelievable moments and reminders that the path to influence runs through a life of generosity, YOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT blends a heartwarming, historically fascinating account with memorable lessons that will speak to the dreamer in all of us.

Goodreads

My first thought reading this book was, “Why have I never heard of this man?”  My second was, “This is like real-life Forrest Gump.”  The man popped up at many of the major events of the 20th century in two countries.

When I finished I had to take a minute to review how this had happened.

  1. He was born in poverty in the south but was able to get an education over time.
  2. He took the police test for research but ended up scoring really high.  He became one of the first black officers in his area.
  3. He started doing undercover drug work which led to him getting hired by the FBI to do that kind of work in New York City.
  4. That got dicey so he quit to go back to North Carolina to start a public relations firm.  That was rough going.
  5. When students were protesting in Woolworth’s because of segregation at the lunch counters, he went to Woolworth’s and told them that he could negotiate a settlement.
  6. He became a fixer for companies that had racial issues.
  7. This led to him meeting and getting to know all the big civil rights leaders in the 1960s and helping them with corporate funding from the clients he had.
  8. He decided getting stuff done from the inside was more effective so he went to work for the Republicans in the Nixon White House to increase business funding to black people.
  9. Along the way he hired Stedman Graham who introduced him to his girlfriend Oprah Winfrey who was getting into television.
  10. He paid for the Mandela children to come to the U.S. for college.
  11. He ended up talking to the President of South Africa about whether or not to release Nelson Mandela.

I probably forgot some stuff in the middle.  It was a wild ride.

It was interesting perspective to read about.  At many points he was considered to be working for “the wrong side” by the black community.  He worked for companies being protested against.  He worked for Republicans.  But he was able to work behind the scenes to potentially make more actual progress that he might have been able to in more traditional civil right roles.


This is a long video but you can listen for a bit to hear him tell his story.

The Class
06 Mar, 2019

The Class

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Class The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America by Heather Won Tesoriero
on September 4, 2018
Pages: 448
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Ballantine Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

An unforgettable year in the life of a visionary high school science teacher and his award-winning students, as they try to get into college, land a date for the prom . . . and possibly change the world.

Andy Bramante left his successful career as a corporate scientist to teach public high school--and now helms one of the most remarkable classrooms in America. Bramante's unconventional class at Connecticut's prestigious yet diverse Greenwich High School has no curriculum, tests, textbooks, or lectures, and is equal parts elite research lab, student counseling office, and teenage hangout spot. United by a passion to learn, Mr. B.'s band of whiz kids set out every year to conquer the brutally competitive science fair circuit. They have won the top prize at the Google Science Fair, made discoveries that eluded scientists three times their age, and been invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.

A former Emmy-winning producer for CBS News, Heather Won Tesoriero embeds in this dynamic class to bring Andy and his gifted, all-too-human kids to life--including William, a prodigy so driven that he's trying to invent diagnostics for artery blockage and Alzheimer's (but can't quite figure out how to order a bagel); Ethan, who essentially outgrows high school in his junior year and founds his own company to commercialize a discovery he made in the class; Sophia, a Lyme disease patient whose ambitious work is dedicated to curing her own debilitating ailment; Romano, a football player who hangs up his helmet to pursue his secret science expertise and develop a "smart" liquid bandage; and Olivia, whose invention of a fast test for Ebola brought her science fair fame and an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

We experience the thrill of discovery, the heartbreak of failed endeavors, and perhaps the ultimate high: a yes from Harvard. Moving, funny, and utterly engrossing, The Class is a superb account of hard work and high spirits, a stirring tribute to how essential science is in our schools and our lives, and a heartfelt testament to the power of a great teacher to help kids realize their unlimited potential.

Goodreads

Descriptions of this class made me a bit twitchy. Basically, anything goes. The kids do self-directed projects, maybe. If they don’t get started working on anything, ok. If they start working on something and then wander off and ignore their project for months on end, ok. If they ignore their project and then have to work nights and weekends to get it done on time, then the teacher has the lab open for them to do that. I would not be a very understanding teacher if these kids were wanting me to give up my personal time because they couldn’t be bothered to do their work in a timely manner in class. Your lack of preparation is not my emergency, etc.

I didn’t realize that science fairs were this big of a business. There are huge amounts of prize money on the line. Add this into pressure over getting into the “right” colleges and these kids are getting pushed hard sometimes by their parents. You know that parents are the biggest source of trouble in a class like this.

Greenwich is known as a super rich area even though there are students at all economic levels. This has added some tension around the program. Other schools think “Of course the rich school can produce fancy projects”. The book goes into a lot of detail about how the class is run on a shoe string budget but they do have a lot of contacts. Kids can go to professional labs and use a scanning electron microscope for free. The teacher gets a lot of used fancy lab equipment that other schools wouldn’t have access to. Some parents can pay for projects that others can’t.

The book follows several students through the year to see how they do with their projects and what life is like for them outside of class.  Who goes to prom?  Who gets into what college?  (Those college acceptances seem incredibly random.)  How do they decide what school to go to?  Should you even worry about finishing high school if you have a company producing what you invented in Science Research class and you’re in the running for a 7 million dollar prize?


Hero Dogs
20 Feb, 2019

Hero Dogs

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Hero Dogs Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners by Wilma Melville, Paul Lobo
on January 8, 2019
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by St. Martin's Press
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

Lola was a buckshot-riddled stray, lost on a Memphis highway. Cody was rejected from seven different homes. Ace had been sprayed with mace and left for dead on a train track. They were deemed unadoptable. Untrainable. Unsalvageable. These would become the same dogs America relied on when its worst disasters hit.

In 1995, Wilma Melville volunteered as a canine search-and-rescue (SAR) handler with her Black Labrador Murphy in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, there were only fifteen FEMA certified SAR dogs in the United States. Believing in the value of these remarkable animals to help save lives, Wilma knew many more were needed in the event of future major disasters. She made a vow to help 168 dogs receive search-and-rescue training in her lifetime—one for every Oklahoma City victim.

Wilma singlehandedly established the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to meet this challenge. The first canine candidates—Ana, Dusty, and Harley—were a trio of golden retrievers with behavioral problems so severe the dogs were considered irredeemable and unadoptable. But with patience, discipline, and love applied during training, they proved to have the ability, agility, and stamina to graduate as SARs. Paired with a trio of firefighters, they were among the first responders searching the ruins of the World Trade Center following 9/11—setting the standard for the more than 168 of the SDF’s search-and-rescue dogs that followed. Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Hero Dogs is the story of one woman’s dream brought to fruition by dedicated volunteers and firefighters—and the bonds they forged with the incredible rescued-turned-rescuer dogs to create one of America’s most vital resources in disaster response.

Goodreads

Once upon a time, I was a puppy raiser for a service dog organization so I have had a glimpse of what it takes to make a working dog.  So many of the trials and tribulations of the search dog scene in the 1990s sound familiar.  

It is hard to believe now but at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, there were only 15 FEMA certified search dogs in the United States.  Search dog training at the time was a volunteer effort.  People trained their personal dogs in their spare time so it took years to get a dog with enough skills to pass the national tests.  Wilma Melville had a FEMA certified dog and was deployed to Oklahoma City.  She decided afterwards that there needed to be a way to get more dog teams ready.  She started a foundation to train stray dogs (because they were cheap/free) full time to try to turn them into search dogs in less than a year.  She decided to pair them with firefighters because they were already trained in disaster response.  

The dogs needed to have high prey drive to want to find people.  They had to be athletic to climb over rubble.  They had to be smart.  She found it all in her first rescue dog, Ana, who was failing out of service dog school for being too active.  When Wilma pulled in the driveway to meet her, Ana the Golden Retriever was standing up in the tree she had climbed.  

Reading about deployments is frustrating.  They don’t find a lot of people buried because they often don’t reach the scene for a day or more.   More teams in more areas could decrease mobilization times.  

This book is both sad and funny.  Stories of fruitless searches and the abuse some of the dogs endured before coming to the school are heartbreaking.  On the other hand, they are still dogs despite all their training and sometimes escape or just refuse to behave at exhibitions.  I loved the story of the dog searching at Ground Zero in New York who found an intact wall of Beanie Babies (his absolutely favorite toy) in a ruined store and had to be taken off the deployment for the day because he was too awe-struck to move on.  

This is a great book for all dog lovers.  

Buttermilk Graffiti
13 Feb, 2019

Buttermilk Graffiti

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Buttermilk Graffiti Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee
on April 17, 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Artisan
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

There is a new American culinary landscape developing around us, and it’s one that chef Edward Lee is proud to represent. In a nation of immigrants who bring their own culinary backgrounds to this country, what happens one or even two generations later? What does their cuisine become? It turns into a cuisine uniquely its own and one that Lee argues makes America the most interesting place to eat on earth. Lee illustrates this through his own life story of being a Korean immigrant and a New Yorker and now a Southerner. In Off the Menu, he shows how we each have a unique food memoir that is worthy of exploration. To Lee, recipes are narratives and a conduit to learn about a person, a place, or a point in time. He says that the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food they eat. Each chapter shares a personal tale of growth and self-discovery through the foods Lee eats and the foods of the people he interacts with—whether it’s the Korean budae jjigae of his father or the mustard beer cheese he learns to make from his wife’s German-American family. Each chapter is written in narrative form and punctuated with two recipes to highlight the story, including Green Tea Beignets, Cornbread Pancakes with Rhubarb Jam, and Butternut Squash Schnitzel. Each recipe tells a story, but when taken together, they form the arc of the narrative and contribute to the story we call the new American food.

Goodreads

Edward Lee is fascinated by what happens to food when people move to a new country.  For example, what happens when Korean immigrants move to an area where they can’t get the types of peppers that they are used to using and have to substitute South American varieties instead?  What new types of cuisines emerge?

He traveled around America to areas where new immigrant communities have grown up to sample the food.  Along the way he tries to ingratiate himself in restaurants to find the best food.  It doesn’t always go well. 

This book challenges a lot of deeply held beliefs in the foodie world.

  • What does it mean to call a food “authentic”?
  • If authentic means “the way it was made at a certain time in the past in a certain place”, does that imply that that culture’s food scene can’t evolve?  Must it stay stagnant so rich American people feel it is worth eating?
  • Who gets to be the judge of authenticity anyway?
  • Why is he looked at strangely if he decides to open a restaurant serving anything but Korean food?  Should he be limited to cooking the food of his ancestors?  Isn’t he allowed to evolve too?

There are a lot of recipes in this book.  I actually made a few which is really unusual for me.  I know now that I don’t like anything pickled except cucumbers.  I was making coleslaw at the same time I was reading this and he had a basic coleslaw recipe.  It was good. 

On The Come Up
12 Feb, 2019

On The Come Up

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading On The Come Up On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
on February 5, 2019
Pages: 464
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

Goodreads

I’ve been mildly worried about this book.  Second books are always hard but how do you follow up a phenomenon like The Hate U Give?  I didn’t want to hear a lot of snide talk about, “It’s good but it isn’t The Hate U Give.”  I was lucky enough to be able to get a copy from the library on release day.  I stayed up past my bedtime to read it all in one sitting.  Good sign.  What do I think?

It’s good but it isn’t The Hate U Give.

The good thing is that it isn’t trying to be.  This is a much smaller, more personal story.  It is set in Garden Heights a year after the events in THUG.  It is referenced a few times as ‘when that kid got killed last year’.  They are still dealing with increased police presence in the neighborhood that she says is meant to look friendly but really means that they are being watched.

Bri is the younger child of an up and coming rapper who was killed by a gang outside her house.  Her mother got addicted to drugs following the murder.  Bri and her older brother Trey lived with her father’s parents until her mother got clean.  Their grandmother and mother still have a very contentious relationship because of this. Trey just graduated from college but can’t find a job in his field and is home working at a pizza place.

Bri’s mom loses her job as a church secretary because the church can’t afford to fix the damage from the riots a year ago and pay her too.  Their financial situation was precarious before but now they need to decide which bills to pay.  They even have to accept from help from Aunt Pooh, a gang member and drug dealer.  Bri decides she needs to start making money from her music to help out.

She writes a song called On The Come Up.  It references an incident where Bri got thrown on the ground by some security guards at school.  She writes that no matter what she is actually doing she is perceived as a thug and as a gang member who is selling drugs and starting fights.  The song is catchy and gets popular in the neighborhood.  The problem is that the catchy parts that people sing along with are all about guns and being a gang member.  People miss the “I’m not like this but people think it” beginning part.  “Claiming to be into gang life” causes even more problems for Bri because that’s not her and she doesn’t know how to get out of the trouble it is causing.  People are even using the song to justify what the security guards did at school.  “See, she was a gang member..”

Perception vs reality is the major theme here

  • When Bri gets publicly angry that people are misinterpreting her song and making assumptions about her, she gets praised by her manager for perfectly “playing the role of a ghetto hood rat”.
  • Aunt Pooh is a major supportive part of Bri’s life but she is also a gang member who will disappear for days at a time to avenge some slight from another gang leaving people wondering if she is alive or dead.
  • As a female rapper, it is assumed that Bri has someone writing her words for her instead of her speaking for herself.

I love all the interactions in this book.  They feel so real.  You can feel the bitterness and resentment between her mother and grandmother.  I love the descriptions of church services.  It is like a full contact sport of what you say vs what you actually mean. 

This gets deep into what it is like day to day to be very financially insecure.  Which bill gets paid?  How long can you go with heat or electric?  What is it like to have to go to a food giveaway at Christmas?  Bri’s mom was taking college classes but she can’t do that and be eligible for food stamps so she has to drop out.  That puts her even farther away from getting a better job to help out their situation. 

About Angie Thomas

“Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.”   from Goodreads

A Rebel at Pennington’s
08 Feb, 2019

A Rebel at Pennington’s

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading A Rebel at Pennington’s A Rebel at Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
on February 5, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

One woman's journey to find herself and help secure the vote. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

1911 Bath. Banished from her ancestral home, passionate suffrage campaigner, Esther Stanbury works as a window dresser in Pennington's Department Store. She has hopes and dreams for women's progression and will do anything to help secure the vote. Owner of the prestigious Phoenix Hotel, Lawrence Culford has what most would view as a successful life. But Lawrence is harbouring shame, resentment and an anger that threatens his future happiness.

When Esther and Lawrence meet their mutual understanding of life's challenges unites them and they are drawn to the possibility of a life of love that neither thought existed. With the Coronation of King-Emperor George V looming, the atmosphere in Bath is building to fever pitch, as is the suffragists' determination to secure the vote.

Will Esther's rebellious nature lead her to ruin or can they overcome their pasts and look to build a future together?

Goodreads

This is the second book in an historical fiction series about a department store in Bath in the early 1900s.  The story from the first book continues in the background of this book so while it may not be absolutely necessary to read them in order, it will add to your understanding.

Esther is a young woman who is focusing on her career and her political activism.  She feels strongly that she is going to be unable to do this and have a marriage because she can’t conceive of a marriage where her activities would be well tolerated, let alone encouraged.  She meets a widower with two young children who has his own hang ups about introducing a new woman in his life.  How do these two stubborn and emotionally damaged people work out their issues?

I am enjoying this series.  It is interesting to see what is considered the height of modernity at this time period.  This book especially deals with the fallout of the suffrage movement in England which became much more violent than it did in the United States.  How did people choose how to align themselves?  How did it affect businesses?

This is a great book for people who love historical fiction because it covers a lot on the suffrage movement as well as the excitement over the coronation of a new King. 

 


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Author Bio – Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.
In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.
She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

Any Old Diamonds
07 Feb, 2019

Any Old Diamonds

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Any Old Diamonds Any Old Diamonds (Lilywhite Boys #1) by K.J. Charles
on January 30, 2019
Pages: 320
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance, Romance
Published by KJC Books
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes is the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, with a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.

The Duke's remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he'll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec's new best friend.

But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.

Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what's between them...all without getting caught.

Goodreads

K.J. Charles is one of the romance authors that I found out about on Twitter and now is an autobuy for me.  I was thrilled when she offered ARCs of this book to readers.

A lot of her books that I’ve read previously have focused on people who aren’t part of the gentry.  That has been a major part of the appeal for me.  This one crosses class lines into upper crust society and I think that wasn’t as enjoyable for me as her previous books.  Still, the premise is inventive.

An upper class man has abandoned his children because they vocally opposed his second marriage.  The children are adults and they are living in poverty with some terrible consequences.  Alec decides to get back at his father by hiring thieves to steal the showy anniversary present that his father plans to give his wife.  However, to get close to his father he’ll have to pretend to abandon his principles to get back to a life of leisure.  This is going to alienate him from his siblings who don’t know that he has another motive.

This conflict between what he believes and the pretense that he needs to keep up tears at him.  He has no practice or talent at being underhanded at all.  For help he’s reliant on the con man he hired to coach him and who he is very drawn to.

I like more slow burn and not much sex on the page in my romance books.  That’s definitely not what you get in these books.  This relationship has a dominance-submission aspect to it.  It is handled well and respectfully to both parties.  I would recommend this book if you like historical romances that aren’t just ladies looking for dukes.

Something Worth Saving
05 Feb, 2019

Something Worth Saving

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

Something Worth Saving

Something Worth Saving Something Worth Saving by Sandi Ward
on December 18, 2018
Pages: 309
Genres: Fiction
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher


Sandi Ward's shrewdly observed, funny, and wonderfully touching novel tells of a fractured family, a teenage boy, and a remarkable cat whose loyalty knows no bounds . . .

A boy and his cat. It's an unconventional friendship, perhaps, but for Charlie and Lily, it works beautifully. It was Charlie who chose Lily from among all the cats in the shelter. He didn't frown, the way other humans did, when he saw her injured back leg, the legacy of a cruel previous owner. Instead, Charlie insisted on rescuing her. Now Lily wants to do the same for Charlie.

She's the only one who's seen the bruises on Charlie's body. If she knew who was hurting him, she'd scratch their eyes out. But she can't fix this by herself. Lily needs to get the rest of the family to focus on Charlie--not easy when they're wrapped up in their own problems. Charlie's mother kicked his father out weeks ago and has a new boyfriend who seems charming, but is still a stranger. Oldest son Kevin misses his father desperately. Victoria, Charlie's sister, also has someone new in her life, and Lily is decidedly suspicious. Even Charlie's father, who Lily loves dearly, is behaving strangely.

Lily knows what it's like to feel helpless. But she also knows that you don't always have to be the biggest or the strongest to fight fiercely for the ones you love . . .

Praise for Sandi Ward's The Astonishing Thing

"A beautiful and touching look into the intricacies of marriage and family life, all seen through the loving and unique perspective of the family pet."
--Modern Cat


"The Astonishing Thing feels like a bit of a miracle and we all could use a miracle." --Holly Chamberlin, author of The Summer Nanny

Goodreads

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


 This story about a family in crisis isn’t something that I would normally be drawn to without the twist of having it narrated by the family cat.  

This isn’t a cutesy cat story.  Lily doesn’t have magical powers to be able to solve problems or talk to the dog or send messages to humans.  She is just observant and knows what anyone who is truly watching what is going on would know.  The problem is that her humans just aren’t paying attention to each other enough.  

This is a simple read that compels you to keep reading to find out what is going to happen.  I read it in a day because I wanted to know what was going on in this family.  I can’t say that I’m thrilled with all the choices the humans make at the end of the book but that’s humans for you.  Sometimes they should listen more to their pets.

Because I know this is a major concern with animal characters in books, I’ll let you know that nothing bad happens to either Lily or Gretel the dog during the book.  Both of them have previously had human-inflicted injuries that they have recovered from at the start of the book.  


About Sandi Ward

Sandi Ward writes books about love, family, forgiveness…and cats.

Sandi grew up in Manchester-by-the-sea, Massachusetts, and received her MA in Creative Writing at New York University. She’s the author of book club novels published by Kensington Books, stories of dysfunctional families told from the point of view of the family cat. She’s also a medical copywriter at an advertising agency. She lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, teenagers, dog and a large black cat named Winnie.

On December 18, 2018 her latest novel, SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, will be on sale (available now for pre-order) in trade paperback, e-book and audio book.

Find out more about Sandi at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Weather Menders
04 Feb, 2019

Weather Menders

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Weather Menders Weather Menders by Debra Denker
on November 7, 2017
Pages: 290
Genres: Fiction
Published by Catalyst Artistic Productions
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

What if Time Travel were real? What if Time Travelers from 300 years in the future told you that there was a chance that you could prevent catastrophic climate change, plagues, and wars by going back in time to key Pivot Points and ethically altering the outcome of rigged elections? What if failure would result in the destruction of the biosphere? Would you go?

In post-plague 2050 Britain, palm trees tower over the rice paddies of Stonehenge. Tara MacFarlane, a weary 96-year-old anthropologist originally from Taos, New Mexico, longs only to finish out her life in peaceful Buddhist meditation, and rejoin the great love of her later years, the humanitarian Scottish-Afghan doctor Xander, in a future incarnation. Suddenly one stifling autumn day Tara, her great-granddaughter Leona, and Leona’s boyfriend Janus are faced with a trio of Time Travelers from a future alternate Timeline where humanity and the eco-system survived and thrived.

The fate of Earth’s biosphere falls squarely on the shoulders of Tara, Leona, Janus, and Tara’s small gray cat, Georgie, who shows a surprising aptitude for telepathy. Time is short to reverse catastrophe that will bleed through into the alternate Timeline, and the Time Travelers must first determine the ideal Pivot Points by reading Time Code vibrations off the great standing stones of Avebury. Unexpectedly joined by the brave and wise cat Georgie, the six plunge into the Time Circle of Stonehenge on their mission. Where and when will they go, and will they succeed in restoring the Earth and humanity to balance?

Goodreads

 

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


There is a lot going on in this book.  The Earth has lost most of its population due to plagues and climate change.  A group of humans living in the now-tropical area of Stonehenge are suddenly visited by people claiming to be from the future.

The story is told in flashbacks and in the current timeline to show how humans managed to destroy the planet in such a short period of time.  The main characters are Buddhists who have invested a lot of their lives into meditation and spiritual practice.  They apply what they have learned through that to help try to heal the planet.  A lot of this isn’t explained in much detail, if at all.  The visitors from the future have a lot of special powers that they are unable to explain.  They explain it as using readily available technology in their world but it can come across as sort of lazy story telling like, “Oh, look, she can project holograms of different timelines from her head.  How, you ask?  Um, technology…”  

The group needs to go back to key points in history to change things.  (They basically need to prevent the 1980s.) 

There is a cat who plays a vital part in the story and is able to speak mind to mind with his people.  He is known forever as Georgie, the first Time Traveling cat.  I approve of cats with good communication skills. 

This book reminds me so much of The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk.  Both books feature a very elderly woman as the main protagonist.  She joins forces with her chosen family to prevent a disaster through spiritual/magical means.  

 


About the Author

Debra Denker has been writing stories since she learned to read. Although novels and poetry were her first loves, she turned her talent to journalism in the ‘70s and ‘80s, writing about Afghanistan and the refugee situation in Pakistan for National Geographic and many leading newspapers. She has specialized in social documentation utilizing journalism, photography, and film to convey the experiences of people in war torn areas, with the intention of stimulating the empathy necessary for humans to stop violence against people and planet.

Denker is the author of two published books, the non-fiction literary memoir Sisters on the Bridge of Fire: One Woman’s Journeys in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and the novel War in the Land of Cain—a story of love, war, and moral choices set during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980’s.

Denker now writes for the award-winning conservation media website, Voices for Biodiversity, raising consciousness to help ward off the Sixth Great Extinction.

She currently lives in Santa Fe with her family of cats, Dorjee Purr-ba, Yeshe Gyalpo, and Samadhi Timewalker, but travels frequently in earthly space, and hopes to travel in time and galactic space.

The novel’s website is www.weathermenders.com.

Her personal blog www.mysticresistance.com explores a range of spiritual, social, and political issues and their intersection with sacred activism.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Friday, January 25
Review at Locks, Hooks, and Books

Tuesday, January 29
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, January 30
Feature at Broken Teepee

Friday, February 1
Guest Post at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, February 4
Review at Based on a True Story

Tuesday, February 5
Interview at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, February 6
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, February 7
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, February 8
Feature at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, February 11
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, February 12
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, February 14
Review at A Book Geek

Friday, February 15
Review at Umut Reviews
Feature at Coffee and Ink

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two paperback copies of Weather Menders! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Only one entry per household.
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Click HERE to enter giveaway.

 

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man
29 Jan, 2019

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson, Rachel Willson-Broyles
on January 15, 2019
Pages: 448
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

The hysterical, clever, and unforgettable sequel to Jonas Jonasson’s international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

What's next for Allan Karlsson? Turns out this centenarian has a few more adventures in store . . .

It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!

Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.

Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson that will have readers howling out-loud at the escapades and misfortunes of its beloved hundred-year-old hero Allan Karlsson and his irresistible sidekick Julius.

 

 

Goodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I read the previous book, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared several years ago. I would sum it up as sort of Swedish Forrest Gump. Allan Karlsson managed to be a part of most of the major events in the 20th century. I don’t remember much more that that.

That didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. In fact, I think you really don’t have to have read the first book in order to pick up this one. All you need to know is that Allan escaped his nursing home in Sweden and through a series of adventures has found himself in Bali accompanied by a petty thief named Julius and a suitcase full of money that is rapidly running out due to the rate at which they are spending it.

This book focuses on Allan and Julius and their interaction with current events.  My husband wandered in at one point when I was reading and asked what the book was about.  That’s a hard question.  Here’s what I told him.

“A hot air balloon ride goes wrong which leads to them being picked up by a North Korean ship smuggling uranium.  They convince the captain they have the ability to fix the North Korean nuclear program but actually escape with the uranium and head to New York.  There they meet Donald Trump but decide not to give him the uranium because he seems unhinged.  So they give it to the German ambassador under false pretenses along with a note to Angela Merkel written on three napkins telling her not to be too mad that they tricked the ambassador.”

He just nodded and walked away.

That was before they started dealing in coffins caskets.  If you like books full of absurdity, this is for you.  If you like books that work in lots of anti-Trump rhetoric, you’ll love this one extra.  There is a joke very early on about how polar bears should start walking south to stay ahead of the ice caps melting but not all the way to the U.S. because although they are white, they are still foreigners.  That made me laugh hard and settle in for the ride.


About Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson is the author of the international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, now a major motion picture. Prior to his success as a novelist, Jonas was a journalist for the Swedish newspaper Expressen for many years, and later became a media consultant and founded a production company specializing in sporting events for Swedish television, which he sold before moving abroad to work on his first novel. He is the author of the internationally successful novels The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All. He lives on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

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

 

 
Tuesday, January 15th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, January 16th: Instagram: @rendezvous_with_reading
Thursday, January 17th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Friday, January 18th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Monday, January 21st: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @mrsmurphyreads

Tuesday, January 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Wednesday, January 23rd: What Is That Book About

Thursday, January 24th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, January 28th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, January 29th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, January 30th: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, January 31st: Man of La Book
Monday, February 4th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, February 5th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf
Wednesday, February 6th: Write – Read – Life
Thursday, February 7th: Stacy’s Books
Friday, February 8th: Read Till Dawn
Friday, February 8th: Lit and Life
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month
24 Jan, 2019

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading How Long ‘Til Black Future Month How Long 'til Black Future Month? on November 27, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Published by Orbit
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Goodreads

I loved this collection of short stories but it took me forever to read.  I felt like after each one I had to put the book down and let it sink in.  I couldn’t just go onto the next.  I absolutely love this cover.  I remember when this photo series came out.  This one makes a perfect book cover.  

I’ve posted before about the first story The Ones Who Stay and Fight.  That is still my favorite story but there are many other great ideas in this book.

There are children who get chosen to be a sacrifice based on their good grades.  But what happens to them?  Is this a punishment for the kids who have to excel despite the risks or a way to set them free?

Fans can freeze their favorite writers by killing them at the time of their greatest talent so they never disappoint.

Can humans who have escaped a dying Earth fix the environmental damage?  Should they be allowed to try no matter what humans who have remained behind think?

Making deals (and babies) with dragons might not turn out well for anyone but the dragons.  On the other hand, little dragons can help fight off even bigger evil.

There are tales of first contact with alien civilizations and visions of possibly imaginary women dancing in elevators.  There are gods that survive the death of humans.  How do they entertain themselves?

Wars can be fought or prevented with magic.  Maybe, someday, the tenuous connections between people on the internet will be all that there is left.  Then again, maybe if you look hard enough there is a train waiting that can take you anywhere you need to go.

There are stories here that I know Foodies Read participants would love. 

A chef unlocks her ability to make magic with food. 

A restaurant opens that can make the exact meal from any memory.  

 

The Gown
15 Jan, 2019

The Gown

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

The Gown

The Gown The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
on December 31, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

Goodreads

I love historical fiction that pulls you in from the beginning. This is the story of two women from very different backgrounds who meet in the embroidery workshop of a dress designer in London immediately after World War II.

Ann is English. She lost her parents before the war and her brother during the Blitz.  She lives with her sister-in-law, trying to scrape by.

Miriam is a French Jew who was in a concentration camp for part of the war.  No one in England knows about this part of her life.  All they know is that she is a skilled embroiderer who worked in a design house in Paris. 

Fast forward to 2016 and a woman in Toronto gets a box of pictures and embroidery from her recently deceased grandmother.  She knew her grandmother was from England but she never talked about her life there.  She also didn’t know how to sew as far as her granddaughter knew.  Why does she have all this?

This is a great story of female friendship and support.  It also shows you the amazing amount of handwork that goes into couture dresses.  I like stories based on unknown women who have had a part, however small, in historical events. 

I had never really looked at the dress before.  It is so detailed with both embroidery and applique.  I can’t imagine doing that day in and day out.  (I hurt my hands just trying to hand sew one quilt.)  They only had a few weeks to get that all finished.  It is amazing. 


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Natalie Brown/Tangerine Photo

About Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight Over Paris. She holds a doctorate from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto with her husband and young children.

Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

 

Blog Tour

Monday, December 31st: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Monday, December 31st: Reading Reality

Wednesday, January 2nd: Instagram: @my_book_journey_

Wednesday, January 2nd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, January 3rd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Friday, January 4th: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, January 7th: BookNAround

Monday, January 7th: InkyMoments

Tuesday, January 8th: Jessicamap Reviews

Wednesday, January 9th: Instagram: @giuliland

Thursday, January 10th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 14th: Instagram: @ciannereads

Tuesday, January 15th: Instagram: @sjwonderlandz

Tuesday, January 15th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, January 16th: Always With a Book

Wednesday, January 16th: Instagram: @tbretc

Thursday, January 17th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Thursday, January 17th: Doing Dewey

Thursday, January 17th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf

Friday, January 18th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, January 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, January 25th: As I turn the pages

 

The Convalescent Corpse
11 Jan, 2019

The Convalescent Corpse

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Convalescent Corpse The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade
on November 20, 2018
Pages: 223
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.

Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters.

Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all.

And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.

Goodreads

I adored the characters in this story.

  • Granny is a titled lady who was a failed debutante.  (What she did to Queen Victoria sealed her fate.) However, she is an excellent poacher and that has been most useful in keeping the family going during World War I rationing.
  • Mother is a reclusive author who doesn’t function well in the real world so keeping her out of it is the best course of action.
  • Alix is the oldest daughter.  Her twin brother died in the war a few months ago.  She volunteers at the neighboring hospital to get a look at any potential husbands but she hasn’t been impressed yet.
  • Christy is the responsible one who works out a plan to take in lodgers without her mother knowing about it.  She also publishes stories that no one knows she writes. 
  • Addy is a genius who has been kicked out of school again for talking back to the teachers.
  • Father was a con man who came in and out of their lives until he had the decency to sink with the Lusitania three years ago but now it seems that that might have been a con too.

 Even the secondary and background characters are well developed.  I especially liked the detail of the woman who named her children names that she’d seen in the newspaper but never heard pronounced so Nigel is called Niggle and Penelope is Penny-lope.  

When I started reading this book, I didn’t remember what it was supposed to be about and I found that I didn’t really care.  I enjoyed spending time with this family as they navigated the grief over their brother’s death that is just starting to lift a bit and as they find ways to support themselves.  The book is funny and warm with a mystery or two thrown into the mix.  I will definitely look into more books by this author.  


Author Bio – Nicola Slade lives in Hampshire where she writes historical and contemporary mysteries and women’s fiction. While her three children were growing up she wrote stories for children and for women’s magazines before her first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published in 2005. Among other jobs, Nicola has been an antiques dealer and a Brown Owl! She loves travelling and at one time, lived in Egypt for a year. The Convalescent Corpse is Nicola’s 9th novel. Nicola is also a member of a crime writers’ panel, The Deadly Dames 
Social Media Links – www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com www.nicolaslade.com
Twitter: @nicolasladeuk
https://www.facebook.com/nicolasladeuk/ https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703 (I have a board for each book)


Giveaway – Win a paperback copy of The House of Ladywell (Open Internationally)
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Tony’s Wife
03 Jan, 2019

Tony’s Wife

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Tony’s Wife Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
on November 20, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by HarperAudio
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams

Shortly before World War II, Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore and fall in love. Both are talented and ambitious, and both share the dream of becoming singers for the legendary orchestras of the time: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman. They’re soon married, and it isn’t long before Chiara and Tony find that their careers are on the way up as they navigate the glamorous worlds of night clubs, radio and television. All goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career? And how will they cope with the impact that decision has on their lives and their marriage?

From the Jersey shore to Las Vegas to Hollywood, and all the dance halls in between, this multi-layered story is vivid with historical color and steeped in the popular music that serves as its score. Tony’s Wife is a magnificent epic of life in a traditional Italian family undergoing seismic change in a fast paced, modern world. Filled with vivid, funny and unforgettable characters, this richly human story showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a storyteller and her deep understanding of family, love and the pursuit of the American dream.

Goodreads

You know what you are getting into if you’ve read this author previously.  This is the story of an Italian family told from the time the protagonists are teenagers until their deaths.  The writing is sparse.  Small pieces of time will be discussed in detail and then years will pass between paragraphs.

I was intrigued by the premise, especially this line from the blurb – “Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career?”  I was hoping this was going to be a book that discussed the stereotypical gender roles of a post-WWII marriage and possibly subverted them.  My hopes were high as the beginning of the book shows Chi Chi was infinitely more talented and more ambitious than Tony.

All this was swept aside quickly though once the marriage happened.  I’m not even sure why it happened.  I found their “courtship” incredibly uncomfortable as he basically badgers her into giving up her dreams because he decided that he was in love with her when in her mind they were just old friends.  This is followed by affair after affair until a divorce and then she still supports him through several more marriages all the while closing herself off completely to the idea of finding love. 

“Duty-bound love is the Italian girl’s area of expertise.  The Italian woman is a master craftsman at the art of sacrifice.”

I don’t think that this is a good thing.  This story is about a woman who sacrificed everything that she was to a man who couldn’t be bothered to care.  I found it infuriating and ultimately depressing to read about.  I understand that this is much more likely to be historically accurate than a book about people supporting each other in their careers.  That is part of the reason why this book made me so angry.  This is about a time and attitudes that we have hopefully begun to move past. 

About Adriana Trigiani

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

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

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