Showing Posts From: Book Review

The Scoundrel’s Bartered Bride
01 Jul, 2020

The Scoundrel’s Bartered Bride

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Scoundrel’s Bartered Bride The Scoundrel's Bartered Bride by Virginia Heath
on July 1, 2020
Pages: 288
Genres: Historical, Romance
Published by Harlequin Historical
Format: eARC
Setting: England

Marriage…



To the highest bidder



Lady Lydia Barton cannot seem to avoid Owen Wolfe since he’s returned after being wrongly transported for stealing her family’s jewels! But Lydia has more pressing problems, like her impending arranged marriage. Until Owen makes her father a counteroffer for her hand. Is Owen purely after her society connections, or dare Lydia hope that the charming stable boy she once loved is still within her ruthless, wealthy new husband?

Goodreads

I don’t tend to agree to read historical romance books for book tours because I’m so picky.  I’m glad that this one worked out well for me.  

There is a little bit of suspension of disbelief that I had to do to make this story work though.  If someone’s family had had me arrested, sentenced, and transported across the globe to a penal colony for a crime I didn’t commit, I’m not so sure I would care what happened to her.  For that reason I would have loved to see a little more anger from Owen towards Lydia’s family.  He seemed to agree to help her (although it was against her will) a little too easily to be readily believable. 

Setting that aside, I did enjoy the story.  I agree with other reviewers that Owen was much easily to like and root for than Lydia.  She held onto her hurt feelings for way too long considering that she wasn’t the one that had had her whole life ruined.  

I will definitely check out more books by this author.

It’s Not You, It’s Me – Clap When You Land
29 Jun, 2020

It’s Not You, It’s Me – Clap When You Land

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading It’s Not You, It’s Me – Clap When You Land Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
on May 5, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Setting: Dominican Republic and U.S.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Goodreads

I have loved this author’s previous two books.  I was so excited to get to listen to this one as well.  However, I didn’t really enjoy this book.  I think this is an issue of having wrong expectations of what the book was going to be about.  

Reading that description, I expected to hear a story about two sisters who find out that they share a father.  I was interested in that.  Instead this book is a study of grief from several different viewpoints.  It does that very well but because that wasn’t the story that I thought I was signing up for I was frustrated through most of the book.  I just wanted them to get to the point where the girls meet each other.  That doesn’t happen until about 3/4 of the way through.  

The father in this story was just a horrible person as you find out the facts about his life.  It was hard for me to care about their grief for this man when he had been not good to the women around him.  There was also a subplot about a man trying to prey on Camino now that her father was dead that I’m sure was realistic but it was quite disturbing.  It added to the whole “women are forever being victimized by men and they have to just take it” feeling that the story had.  I just was not in the mood for it.  

So, great writing as expected from this author but it wasn’t for me.  I think if you know what the book is really about, you might enjoy it more when you are in the mood for something deep and sad.  

The Kat Holloway Mysteries
15 Jun, 2020

The Kat Holloway Mysteries

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Genres: Mystery & Detective
Format: eBook
Source: Library

Death Below Stairs
This series actually starts with a novella called Soupcon of Poison but Death Below Stairs is listed as the first book. It is confusing. I didn’t read the novella that introduces all the characters and that was fine. You can start right in with Death Below Stairs if you like.

Kat Holloway is a Victorian-age cook.  She’s young for the job since she isn’t yet 30 but she is very good.  She knows her worth and is willing to fight for her rights as a working woman.

She has just started at a new position as a cook in the household of Lord Rankin.  The household consists of Lord and Lady Rankin and Lady Rankin’s unmarried older sister, Cynthia.  There are a few rules she is going to have to lay down but overall she thinks it will be a good position until the next morning when she finds her young assistant dead in the larder.

I’m forever going on about hating mysteries where some busy body interferes in the police investigation.  I can’t appreciate a mystery book unless there is a legitimate reason for the main character to investigate.  The reason here comes in the form of Daniel McAdam.  He is some sort of undercover investigator.  Kat doesn’t know who he actually works for.  (SPOILERS FOR THE NOVELLA – They met in the first novella when Kat was accused of murder.  He helped her get free and they are tip toeing around the fact that they are attracted to each other.)  He is able to find place himself in the household as a stable helper and together they start investigating what happened.

The series is interesting because it is very much focused on the people in service’s perspective on the aristocracy.  Lady Cynthia is a spinster who loves to be outrageous by wearing men’s clothes in public and spending a lot of time with the servants.  She gets tapped to help with the investigation also because she can go places and question people who Kat can’t.

It is clear that the author did her research about how Victorian kitchens ran.  No matter what is going on with the plot Kat has to get all the meals on the table at the exact time every day.  The books describe how it was done every day and what meals were prepared.  It is a fascinating look at how these households actually ran.


In the second book Lady Cynthia recruits Kat to help her try to solve a mystery of some missing artwork.  One of her friends is being accused by her husband of stealing to cover her gambling debts.  Things get complicated when guests get ill and some die after a dinner party that Kat helped cook.  They can quickly prove that it wasn’t the food that killed them but who wanted to murder these people?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Kat is enlisted to help out with a neighbor’s household when the master of the house dies suddenly. Suspicion falls on a Chinese man who was seen in the area. Kat has talked to him and is convinced that he was not involved. She vows to prove his innocence as soon as anyone can find him.

 

I believe this series will be continuing.  There are a lot of overarching mysteries that haven’t been solved yet, such as Who exactly is Mr. McAdam and who does he work for?  What is going to happen to Lady Cynthia?  Is she going to have to marry to appease her relatives or does she have options?  

 

Heartstrikers/DFZ series
10 Jun, 2020

Heartstrikers/DFZ series

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

I totally read these series in the wrong order.  I didn’t know that they were in the same world.  It worked out ok.  I understood what was going on.  But the second series has MAJOR spoilers for the first series.

Reasons that was good:

  • Less stress when it looked like one character was going to die because he had a cameo in the second series
  • When the first series bogged down a bit in the middle, wondering how it got to the end that I knew had to happen kept me going
  • I actually audibly gasped when a character in the first books was suddenly revealed to be a major player in the second series.  If I didn’t know this new incarnation was going to be a huge deal it wouldn’t have been so momentous.

So, I guess sometimes reading out of order is ok.

The Heartstriker Series (the one that is supposed to go first)

Seventy years ago magic returned to the world.  This wasn’t necessarily a good thing for humans.  Algonquin, the spirit of the Great Lakes, rose up and flooded the coastal cities that she blamed for pollution.  She was really mad at Detroit.  She has maintained control of the city.  It is now known as the Detroit Free Zone.  There are no laws except for those that protect water and fish and the one that bans dragons.

Julius is the youngest member of the Heartstriker dragon clan.  The Heartstrikers are the dragons of North America, descendants of Quetzalcoatl through their mother Belinda.  Dragons don’t breed often but she has had 10 clutches.  She gave the first clutch names that started with A, the next one B names, and so on down to J clutch and Julius – the most useless dragon.

Julius is so useless that his mother just grabbed him in the middle of the night, bound him magically so he has to stay in human form, and put him on a plane to the DFZ.  Maybe he’ll survive.  Maybe not.

He meets up with a human who was in graduate school for magic when her father was killed.  She’s on the run from his killers now and hiding in the DFZ.  Now Julius and Marci are going to work together to try to figure out why her father was killed and decide what to do with their lives now.

The problem is that Julius is nice.  He had no cut throat tendencies at all.  This is very upsetting to proper dragons.  He wants to talk through their differences instead of just attacking someone.  It’s unnatural but sometimes that’s the only approach that is going to work when everything else has been tried.

 

 

 

Over time Julius manages to bumble and sweet talk his way into more and more authority in his clan. It doesn’t hurt that his big brother Bob the seer is manipulating everything behind the scenes. No one knows what Bob’s plan is or who he will be willing to sacrifice in service of it. Marci is coming into her own as possibly the most powerful mage the world has seen since magic reappeared. Not everyone is happy with that.

 

 

 

 

Eventually dragons from around the world are showing up to defend themselves against Algonquin. The Siberian dragons have been a part of the series from the beginning. Chinese dragons travel to America. They are much more powerful than the upstart American dragons so it up to Julius to broker an alliance.

 

 

 

 

I really loved this world. The magical system is complex. The story is big with unexpected twists and turns. Julius is delightful in his certainty that nonviolence and cooperation with other dragons is the best way forward. His relationship with Marci is sweet and romantic but she never becomes just a love interest. She has her own story as a fully realized character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The DFZ series

 

This series takes place decades after the Heartstriker series. Again, you can read it alone but it will give you spoilers for the first series.

Opal is a cleaner. She bids on homes, offices, and apartments where the tenant has been evicted. Her job is to go in and clean it out so it can be rented again. She can sell anything in the apartment to make money. She has a degree in art history and was making a good living at this until five months ago. Her luck changed then. Now she is close to defaulting on a loan backed by someone who you don’t default with. She’s found a dead body in her latest unit. Her Cleaning rival, Nik is a cybernetically enhanced human who is nosing around her buys for some reason. Now she has to figure out how to make money and not let Nik steal any of her potential profits.

 

 

She eventually figures out that she is under a curse. That is why she has such bad luck. In the second book she goes to extremes to try to get her curse lifted. She may even need to make a deal with a God.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Now Opal has to protect the man who had her cursed and held her financially under his thumb. She also has to free Nik who is being forced to fight in gladiator-style matches in the meanest section of the DFZ.

The Extraordinaries Series
26 May, 2020

The Extraordinaries Series

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Historical, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Owned

The Extraordinaries Series

 

This is an unusual series.  It uses the tropes of Regency Romance but places them in a world where some people have Talents.  I would describe these more as historical fantasies with romantic plots.

In Burning Bright, you find out about the world as a woman wakes up in a burning bed.  She has just manifested her ability as a Sorcher – she can set fires.  However, she is also able to put out fires which earns her the title on Extraordinar Sorcher.  She is the only one in England.

In this world, women with talents are awarded more freedom than ordinary women.  To escape her domineering father, Elinor offers herself for service in the Navy.  Her job is set enemy boats on fire.  Sorchers are common in naval battles but she is more powerful and she can also protect her ship from enemy fires.

Obviously, pirates and romance follow quickly.

 

 

 

 

 



Sophia is an Extraordinary Seer. She can see the past, present, and future. She was high in the War Office until a Lord that she accused of a crime convinces the powers that be that she falsely charged him. She is dismissed but is determined to prove that he is a criminal and restore her reputation.

“Sophia’s allies are few, but loyal. Cecy, her best friend, supports Sophia in her quest, while her cousin Lady Daphne, an irrepressible Extraordinary Bounder, is always ready for a challenge. And always watching her is the mysterious Mr. Rutledge, who claims to be interested in Sophia’s friendship—and possibly more than that—but who has an agenda of his own.

But as Sophia delves deeper into prophetic Dreams, Cecy and Daphne begin to fear for Sophia’s health and sanity. Driven to collapse by her frequent Dreaming, Sophia is forced to reevaluate her motives: does she want Lord Endicott brought to justice, or is it revenge she seeks? Sophia’s Dreams and Visions are leading her to just one place: the destruction of Lord Endicott. But the cost of her vengeance may be too high—and may demand the sacrifice of her own life.”

This book had a wonderful villian but didn’t really have a strong romance.  There is a romantic plot but it seems a bit tacked onto a good thriller/crime story.  The book didn’t really need it but I guess if these are being advertised as romances it had to be there.

 

 

 

 


“Calcutta, 1813. Lady Daphne St. Clair, who as an Extraordinary Bounder is capable of transporting herself anywhere in the world with a thought, has longed to serve in the Army for years. But an unexpected weakness at the sight of blood makes her responsible for a good man’s death in battle. Unable to serve on the battlefield, Daphne is sent to India to be transportation for the Governor-General’s wife and children. In disgrace, Daphne fears she will never achieve the fame and glory she has worked so hard for.

A chance encounter with Captain Phineas Fletcher, attached to the Honourable East India Company as a troubleshooter and investigator, leads to Daphne being given a new opportunity: help Captain Fletcher discover the truth behind a series of strange occurrences in the town of Madhyapatnam. Daphne is willing to do anything to restore her reputation, even something as small as Captain Fletcher’s investigation. As the days progress, her attachment to the members of the team grows deeper, as does her growing attraction to the captain.”

I would like this talent.  She can jump anywhere in the world as long as she can visualize the room where she is going to end up.  They are used a bit like evac helicopters.  They grab wounded people and jump them back to the hospital.  Her career falls apart when she faints that the sight of blood and isn’t able to transport a man who dies because of it.  She is sent to India to be a servant/transporter instead.  

Anytime you get get books set in the British Raj featuring British characters you are going to get some touchy storytelling.  Characters either feel superior to the Indian people or they are so excited to find out everything about them while objectifying them for being so different from British people.  That’s probably historically correct but can still feel off when reading it today.  Having more fully realized Indian characters might have helped.  

The story between the British characters was well done.  The romance was sweet and believable.  The logistics of a world where some people can teleport was well thought out.  

The Haberdashers
11 May, 2020

The Haberdashers

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

The Haberdashers Series

In the early 1800s a group of young female friends form a club that they named The Haberdashers.  They liked the sound of the name and found it fitting that Haberdashers make accessories for men.  They were just coming to the realization that “accessories for men” is all they were supposed to become.  They decided to teach themselves skills that the boys got to learn because it sounded like more fun.

Book 1 – Trials of Artemis

Jacqueline (Jack) hates balls so she sneaks into her host’s library because she’s heard that he has some wonderful volumes in Greek.  She is accosted by a man who was planning on meeting a wealthy widow there.  They are found and then forced to marry.  I hate the whole concept of women being compromised by being found alone with a man.  Who are these people who imagine that the first thing you do when you meet with a stranger is to tear off your clothes and have sex?  It annoys me.

The nice thing about this book is that it allows Jack to keep being herself even though she is thrown into a marriage that she doesn’t want.  Her background reading military history comes in handy when she has to fight against some smugglers.

 

Book 2 – Athena’s Ordeal

This series does a really good job of maintaining a story through all the books. Characters from each book seamlessly move into the next story.

In this book, another of the Haberdashers, Sabre, comes to her brother’s house. Her brother is a spymaster and fixer for the government. A Duke is coming to consult with her brother to fix a problem. He mistakes Sabre for her brother’s mistress and offers to pay her more than she is currently getting. Instead of being horribly insulted she schemes to follow him to his house and help him with his problems.

This is a pretty unrealistic story. She shows up at his house and just stays there. Jumping from book 1 where a few minutes in a library means marriage to book 2 where she just hangs out is jarring. It was entertaining though.

 

Book 3 – Fates for Apate

The third member of the Haberdashers, George, is supposedly visiting a sick aunt in Scotland. Instead she is in Vienna on a mission for Robert, Sabre’s spymaster brother. When she gets too close to a source in the Prussian delegation, she needs to run back to England with him in tow to save them. Events in this book overlap the end of book 2 so you get to see the same events play out from different points of view.

 

 

Book 4 – Saving Persephone

This book was a disappointment. The main character in this one is Robert the spymaster. He meets an American who is part of a shipping family. The problem is that Robert is just a horrible person. He’s awful in the other books but I figured in his own book you’d see some softer side. Nope. Still an unmitigated jerk. I didn’t buy the romance in this one at all.

 

 

 

 

Book 5 – Taming Chiron

This book features Sabre’s other brother Charlie. He’s nice. He likes horses. He’s such a nice guy that the hosts of a house party pair him with the least interesting woman there. He is supposed to be nice to her to make sure she has a good time. They end up liking each other of course.

 

 

 

 

 

Book 6 – Pheme’s Regret

This was a premise that I haven’t read before. The female main character started a rumor years ago that completely ruined the life of a man. He had to leave England and live with relatives in France. He started his whole life over. Now she has business in France and needs a lawyer. She doesn’t realize that the man she hired is the same person she once ruined. This book is about forgiveness. I feel like it might have been a bit too easy but it was still an entertaining read.

One thing that bothered me about this series is that the main characters of the first three books, especially Sabre, got a bit obnoxious and overbearing in the last three. They didn’t like people pushing them around and then they did it to other women. It seemed a bit out of character.

Wine Girl
06 May, 2020

Wine Girl

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Wine Girl Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier by Victoria James
on March 24, 2020
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

An affecting memoir from the country’s youngest sommelier, tracing her path through the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world

At just twenty-one, the age when most people are starting to drink (well, legally at least), Victoria James became the country’s youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colors, and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status, and a trip to the hospital emergency room.

It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud “wine girl” of her own Michelin-starred restaurant.

Exhilarating and inspiring, Wine Girl is the memoir of a young woman breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood on her own terms; an ethnography of the glittering, high-octane, but notoriously corrosive restaurant industry; and above all, a love letter to the restorative and life-changing effects of good wine and good hospitality.

Goodreads

I’ve always wanted to learn about wine.  I think the history of different vineyards and wines is fascinating.  That’s why I was interested in listening to Wine Girl.  What does it take to be an expert on wine, especially at a young age?

However, this book is more of a look at the sexism inherent in the restaurant and wine business than a primer on wines.  There is a lot of trauma discussed here.  There are descriptions of sexual harassment by patrons, forced sexual relationships by bosses and coworkers, and rapes by patrons.  She accepted these things as the price you need to pay to work in the industry.  By the end of the book, it was nice to see that she was using her new power as a restaurant owner to teach others that it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Even the nonviolent events show severe sexism in the world of high end fine dining.  There were restaurants where she was never allowed to set foot in the kitchen because the cooks were all male and didn’t want women in there.  (Yet these same people would probably consider cooking at home to be women’s work.)  There were restaurants where only men were hired as servers.  She was dismissed at sommelier competitions because women don’t compete.  They certainly don’t win.

There is a lot of information about her childhood here too.  I hate the inclusion of childhood details in memoirs.  I think authors tend to dwell too much on their formative years and it gets boring.  This story has echoes of Educated in the presentation of a dysfunctional childhood.  It should be noted that the author’s older sister, who doesn’t feature much in the book, has come out strongly against the book saying that her description of her childhood is not factual. 

 

Caffeine
12 Mar, 2020

Caffeine

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Caffeine Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World on 2020
Length: 6 hours
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Michael Pollan, known for his best-selling nonfiction audio, including The Omnivores Dilemma and How to Change Your Mind, conceived and wrote Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World as an Audible Original. In this controversial and exciting listen, Pollan explores caffeine's power as the most-used drug in the world - and the only one we give to children (in soda pop) as a treat.

Pollan takes us on a journey through the history of the drug, which was first discovered in a small part of East Africa and within a century became an addiction affecting most of the human species. Caffeine, it turns out, has changed the course of human history - won and lost wars, changed politics, dominated economies. What's more, the author shows that the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without it. The science of how the drug has evolved to addict us is no less fascinating. And caffeine has done all these things while hiding in plain sight! Percolated with Michael Pollan's unique ability to entertain, inform, and perform, Caffeine is essential listening in a world where an estimated two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.

Goodreads

This is a fairly short Audible original audiobook written and read by Michael Pollan.  Of course I had to listen to it!

It starts off with the author lamenting that to truly understand the affects of caffeine he had to go off of it for a while.  He procrastinated for a long time and then quit his fairly mild caffeine habit cold turkey.  This led him to believe that the whole idea of writing about caffeine was stupid and also that he would never write again.  He spiraled a bit until his brain got used to this new reality.  

I’ve never really been a person who absolutely needed caffeine to function.  I’ve always felt like it didn’t have a lot of affect on me.  Maybe I’m wrong about that.  It turns out even small doses can make major impacts on sleep quality.  I’m a good sleeper but who knows if I’m getting the best sleep I could be getting?

This audiobook covers a lot of ground in a short time.  There is the history of coffee and tea, the science of caffeine’s affects on the brain, and the affects of caffeine on Western civilization.  Did switching from beer to coffee drive the move out of the Middle Ages in Britain once everyone traded being mildly drunk all the time for being buzzed on caffeine?  

If you’re a Michael Pollan fan, this is a good addition to your library.

Roses of Marrakech
19 Feb, 2020

Roses of Marrakech

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Roses of Marrakech Roses of Marrakech by Rachel Clare
on June 2018
Pages: 330
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Roses of Marrakech is a breath-taking romantic fiction, set between 1944 and 2016. The story
follows 36-year-old primary school teacher, Ivy Fielding, who suffers from a lack of self-esteem due
to a facial birthmark. Her great-aunt Rose, who has always been her main source of emotional
support, has just died, leaving her a bequest as well as her Lavenham cottage to Ivy and her mother.
Ivy discovers tragedies in her family’s past while reading her late great-aunt’s diary, and this inspires
her to fulfil a childhood dream and she jets off to Marrakech for the summer holidays.
Set against the backdrop of wartime Suffolk and the present-day spice-scented souks of Morocco,
Ivy follows a trail of discovery that will change her life and those around her, forever.
But when uncomfortable secrets of the past begin to surface, can she find the courage to confront
them, or is it easier to walk away?

Goodreads

This is an engaging fiction novel that tells stories in two different timelines.  The first is the story of Ivy, an elementary school teacher who decides to take a trip to Morocco that she has always said that she’ll do “someday.”  Her great-aunt recently died and while cleaning out her house Ivy comes across a diary where her aunt has recorded detail of her life that Ivy did not know about including the lives of her sisters and a romance with an American GI during World War II.

The author did a good job of making the trip to Morocco come alive.  She gives a lot of details about walking around through the different sections of the city.  It makes you want to go and experience it yourself.

I thought that the past timeline was fairly predictable but it was still well written and entertaining.

I wasn’t as fond of the decisions that were made at the end of the story.  

Overall this is a good story about the consequences of secrets in a family.

 


Author Bio

Rachel gained a BA (Hons) in French/English at Liverpool Hope University and an MA in Modern Languages Research at Lancaster University before training to be a journalist. She now lives in Lancaster and teaches French in a primary school. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was a child and coming runner up in a Sunday Express story competition gave her the confidence to write her first novel, Roses of Marrakech.

Whenever I go on holiday, I always take my notebook with me. Visiting Morocco and Lavenham a few years ago, I made notes of my impressions of the places I visited and began writing the book when I returned”, comments Rachel. “In the book, Ivy’s struggles with coming to terms with her birthmark are based on my own experiences with cerebral palsy, whilst the characters, Violet and Eleanor are based on my great-aunts who both died of TB in the late 1920s”.

The Cake Fairies
16 Jan, 2020

The Cake Fairies

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading The Cake Fairies The Cake Fairies by Isabella May
Pages: 397
Genres: Fiction
Published by Independently Published
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

1960's Somerset is no fun for cousins Polly and Annabelle Williams. Mourning their non-existent love lives, and the mundanity of village life, their only pleasure is baking - until a chance encounter has them magically transported to the bright lights of London... in 2019!

Promised a chance of love, first they must teach the people of the future about the simpler pleasures of life by becoming Cake Fairies. Over the course of a year they set off on a delectable tour of the UK, dropping off cakes in the most unexpected of places and replacing the lure of technology with much sweeter temptations.

But will their philanthropical endeavours lead them to everlasting love? Or will they discover you can't have your cake and eat it?

The Cake Fairies is the fifth novel by fantastical foodie author, Isabella May.

Goodreads

I jumped on the chance to read this book because of the title.  I love books about food and books with fairies.  Why not combine them?

I loved the idea that Polly and Annabelle meet their fairy godmother who is frustrated with them.  She has set them up to meet many good husbands but their lack of adventurous spirits has derailed every plan.  Now it is time to do something drastic.  

They are good bakers who are brought forward to 2019 to spread joy through random gifts of cake.  I always like time travel books where people need to figure out a new time.  I especially like it when people move into the future since that is a rarer storyline.  This book did make me a bit salty though.  The problem that they are brought forward to combat is that people spend all their time on mobile devices instead of talking to the people around them.  The fairy godmother wants people to look away from their screens. 

Holy Introvert Nightmare!  I am old enough to remember when people didn’t have screens to occupy themselves.  People didn’t just go around talking to random strangers.  We just had books and newspapers to hide behind.  Besides, what do you think people are doing when they are typing on their phone?  Communicating!  Why would we ever want to go back to a world where I have to wait until we get home and can check the encyclopedia to prove to my husband that I was right about whatever we might be discussing when I can google it in the moment?  Oh, and by the way, I read this ebook on my iPad in part while sitting in a restaurant apparently being antisocial and contributing to the downfall of society.  /rant, maybe.

So anyway, the idea that this utopia that they thought they were building equals my idea of a crushing defeat of civilization may have altered my enjoyment of the book just a bit.  I was sassy while reading especially when there was a reveal that the reason one character wasn’t nice was because her mother used to make cake for her father and not for the children.  Her mother loved her father more than she loved her children.  That’s the way I always thought things were supposed to work.  I didn’t think it was cause for alarm.  /rant, seriously this time.

If you are ok with the premise, it could be a cute, light read with a little bit of romance.  

 

 

The Polo Diaries
14 Jan, 2020

The Polo Diaries

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Polo Diaries Single in Buenos Aires (The Polo Diaries, #1) by Roxana Valea
on July 2, 2019
Genres: Fiction
Published by RV Publications
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Argentina

Roxy plays polo… but dreams of love.

Forty-one-year-old polo player Roxy arrives in Argentina with a to-do list that includes healing from a polo injury and falling in love with a handsome Argentine. From polo boots to tango shoes, the adrenaline of riding horses to glamorous after-game parties, Roxy learns to navigate this unfamiliar landscape with the help of new friends who teach her to take life as it comes. But will she find true love? Over three months in Buenos Aires, nothing goes according to plan, and yet, all the items on her list mysteriously get ticked off in the end. Just not the way she had imagined.

Fans of the Bridget Jones series will love the blend of humor, travel, and romantic comedy at the heart of Single in Buenos Aires, all topped off with the unforgettable flavor of life in one of the most sensual and passionate cities in the world.

Goodreads

I was interested in this book for the adventure of living in a new country and trying to meet people with the bonus aspect of horses.  For a while the book works as Roxy moves to Argentina with several goals in mind.  She wants to rehab her wrists after breaking both arms in a polo match.  She is taking Spanish lessons.  She wants to start playing polo again.  She also wants to fall in love. 

I enjoyed the parts of this book that dealt with her learning about Argentinian customs.  I liked the women around her coaching her on how to date in South America and how it is different than in Europe.  However, there is a point towards the end where her love interest yells at her for being shallow and I agreed with him totally.  She doesn’t seem to know what she wants.  She flips between wanting a boyfriend and then not wanting to commit and then being mad when the person she has refused to commit to has to work or doesn’t help her move.  I was exhausted by it and I wasn’t in the relationship. 

This book is based on the author’s real life so it seems churlish to say that I wanted the main character to be a better person but I did.  She has a life that lets her move to foreign countries to play for half the year without working but she is so “woe is me” about it all.  There is also some strange vibes given off at times.  There are a few references to fat people in the book that struck me as judgemental without actually saying anything mean.  It is hard to explain but the fact that the person was fat was not relevant to the story but she would make sure to point it out.  Likewise she has some real hangups about disabilities.  She labels herself disabled when she has a broken arm.  She talks about how no one will date a disabled person like her.  She refuses to dance because of her “disability”.  Who cares?  It’s a broken arm. 

For a book that supposedly centers around polo, there is very little of it here.  I come into horse sports from the perspective of loving horses.  I don’t get that from her.  She never talks about the horses.  She never refers to any by name or acknowledges them at all.  During the time she can’t play polo she never does anything else with horses.  Most horse people would still be hanging out with them or riding around while their arm heals enough to play again.  She appears to have no interest in them.  Now, there is a sequel to this book called A Horse Named Bicycle so maybe that changes.

Cat Daddy
07 Jan, 2020

Cat Daddy

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Cat Daddy Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean by Jackson Galaxy, Joel Derfner
on May 10, 2012
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Tarcher
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Cat behaviorist and star of Animal Planet's hit television show My Cat from Hell, Jackson Galaxy, a.k.a. "Cat Daddy," isn't what you might expect for a cat expert. Yet Galaxy's ability to connect with even the most troubled felines -- not to mention the stressed-out humans living in their wake -- is awe-inspiring.

In this book, Galaxy tells the poignant story of his thirteen-year relationship with a petite gray-and-white short-haired cat named Benny, and gives singular advice for living with, caring for, and loving the feline in your home.

Goodreads

I am so disappointed in this book.  I’m a fan of Jackson Galaxy’s way of interacting with cats and his ability to work through their issues.  It always amazes me how clueless a lot of people are about what is going on in their cat’s mind.  I picked this book up to find some more inspiration about working with cats.  I did find that and I understood that a lot of this would also be about his life but I wasn’t expecting to also find that he seems to be a pretty awful human being.

Over half this memoir is dedicated to the story of his many addictions and how he dealt with them.  He acknowledges that he didn’t treat people well during these times but since this book is written afterwards you would hope that he would have gained some clarity.  Instead he is still quite a jerk when writing about people.  Perhaps I am a bit sensitive to this because the group he singles out for most of his abuse (besides his sexual partners) is veterinarians.  If he just hated us all that would be one thing.  I can deal with the conspiracy-theorist type client who thinks we are out to get their money and poison their cat.  He is a worse type of client.  He’s the type who bonds and likes you until an animal inevitably gets sick.  Then he turns on you viciously for either causing the problem or not fixing the problem or doing too much to fix the problem or usually all of these at once.  This happened several times in this book.  I also have a real problem with his using the names of the vets he did this too.  In some cases he only uses Dr. First Name which is better than the whole name but is still a jerk move to lash out at people who didn’t seem to do anything wrong even according to his own narrative.  He admits that he is a person who needs to place blame for everything.  Guess what, the blame very rarely lands on him.  He’s a victim in all these stories. 

In one case he had a diabetic cat.  He gets mad because no one talked to him about nutrition.  What?  Nutrition is the staple of treatment for diabetes in cats.  The goal is to get cats off insulin.  Even if the nutrition counseling wasn’t his preferred all natural diet, I can almost promise that nutrition was discussed at some point. 

In another case he had a dying cat.  He didn’t want to face that fact.  Then he gets mad because his cat is on a lot of meds.  Here’s what probably happened.  He went to the vet and didn’t want to hear about his cat dying.  He wanted to try everything.  Then when everything was tried he got mad because the miracle he expected didn’t occur.  Suddenly it is the vet’s fault for forcing all these meds on his cat.  Because it ALWAYS IS SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT!

He even got pissed off at a vet who he went into business with who had the audacity to get heart disease.  She had to cut back on how much she was working.  Is she ok?  Is she dead?  We don’t know because we only hear about how this was a hardship on him. 

So read this book for the tips on cat behavior and skim/skip the rest in order not to lose all respect for him. 

 

Dottir
13 Dec, 2019

Dottir

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Dottir Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion by Katrin Davidsdottir, Rory McKernan
on August 6, 2019
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by St. Martin's Press
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Setting: Iceland, U.S.

This is a memoir by two-time CrossFit Games champion, Katrin Davidsdottir.

Dottir is two-time consecutive CrossFit Games Champion Katrin Davidsdottir's inspiring and poignant memoir. As one of only two women in history to have won the title of “Fittest Woman on Earth” twice, Davidsdottir knows all about the importance of mental and physical strength. She won the title in 2015, backing it up with a second win in 2016, after starting CrossFit in just 2011.

A gymnast as a youth, Davidsdottir wanted to try new challenges and found a love of CrossFit. But it hasn't been a smooth rise to the top. In 2014, just one year before taking home the gold, she didn't qualify for the Games. She used that loss as motivation and fuel for training harder and smarter for the 2015 Games. She pushed herself and refocused her mental game. Her hard work and perseverance paid off with her return to the Games and subsequent victories in 2015 and 2016.

In Dottir, Davidsdottir shares her journey with readers. She details her focus on training, goal setting, nutrition, and mental toughness.

Goodreads

I’m a CrossFit Games junkie.  When I started CrossFit I just happened to wander into a class that included a reigning Games senior (60 years old and over) champion.  Every morning the first thing we did was a 1/4 mile run.  I suck at running.  I was always last.  One time she was talking to the coach when we started out running.  Part way through she ran up behind me, gave me a cheery “You are doing really well!”, and then kicked into some other gear that I just do not possess and then she was talking to the coach again when I got back inside.  Another time I had dropped a barbell that I was using for squats.  It was too heavy for me to pick up from the ground.  I was going to have to take the weights off of it, put the bar up on the rack, and put all the weights back on before I could do more squats.  I looked at it and sighed to myself.  Suddenly a blur of a tiny old lady appeared, grabbed my too-heavy bar off the floor, put it on the rack for me, and said, “There you go” before fluttering off again.  I’m aware of the super human abilities of Games participants and that was just the older people.  The things that the younger Games athletes do are flat out crazy.

Even though I don’t do CrossFit anymore I am still glued to the Games live feeds every summer.  That’s why I was interested in reading Katrin Davidsdottir’s memoir when I saw it on my library feed.  Icelandic women are famous in elite CrossFit competition.  Katrin is a two times Games winner.  This memoir discusses her approach to training with emphasis on the mental and emotional aspects.

I wish that she tried to make this more accessible for people who aren’t familiar with CrossFit.  I liked a suggestion I saw on another review to look up each event on YouTube when she talks about it to see what happened and then hear her recollection of it. 

This would be a interesting book for people interested in sports psychology in addition to CrossFit games junkies like me. 

White Is A State of Mind
28 Nov, 2019

White Is A State of Mind

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading White Is A State of Mind White Is a State of Mind by Melba Pattillo Beals
on March 15, 1999
Pages: 338
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Putnam Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

In 1957, while most teenage girls were listening to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue," watching Elvis gyrate, and having slumber parties, fifteen-year-old Melba Pattillo was escaping the hanging rope of a lynch mob, dodging lighted sticks of dynamite, and washing away the burning acid sprayed into her eyes by segregationists determined to prevent her from integrating Little Rock's Central High School - caught up in the center of a civil rights firestorm that stunned this nation and altered the course of history. Her critically acclaimed and award-winning memoir Warriors Don't Cry chronicled her junior year in high school, the year President Eisenhower took unprecedented, historic action by sending federal troops to escort Melba and her eight black classmates into a previously all-white school. Now, in answer to the often repeated question "What happened next?" Melba has written White Is a State of Mind. Compelled to flee the violent rage percolating in her hometown, young Melba was brought by the NAACP to a safe haven in Santa Rosa, California. This is the story of how she survived - healed from the wounds inflicted on her by an angry country. It is the inspirational story of how she overcame that anger with the love and support of the white family who took her in and taught her she didn't have to yearn for the freedom she assumed she could never really have because of the color of her skin. They taught her that white is a state of mind - that she could alter her state of mind to claim fully her own freedom and equality.

Goodreads

After reading Melba Patillo’s memoir of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School, I wanted to know more details about what happened next.  Instead of letting the black teenagers have a second year in Central High, the governor closed the high schools.  This lead to increasing anger towards the families that were involved in the integration from both white and black families.  Melba finally had to flee the state when a bounty was placed on her by Klan members.

Let’s talk about how she found out about this.  Her mother had a cousin who was passing as white.  That wasn’t that unusual at the time.  In fact, she had several relatives passing.  But this man was not only married to an unsuspecting white woman and had kids who thought they were all white, he was the sheriff of a small southern town and the head of the local KKK.  You read that right.  A black man was head of the local KKK.  He found out about the bounty on his little cousin and called the family to alert them (presumably before putting the word out to his members).  I want to know more about this.  I want a whole book about him and then I want that book turned into a miniseries.  Somebody make that happen.

She is taken to a safe house in California.  The NAACP there was mostly made up of white liberals.  It gets cringey.  They want so badly to be helpful but they can’t understand why she was terrified.  She came from an environment where she was only safe with (some) black people and now she is surrounded by white people.  It was complete culture shock for her.

She came from a world where survival consumed everyone’s thoughts.  She had never had the experience of planning to go do something just because it might be fun.  She couldn’t relate to teenagers with seemingly trivial concerns.  On the other hand, once she saw that a better life was possible, she couldn’t fit in with the survival mentality in Little Rock.  She also had to face discrimination from black people in California who looked down on her for being southern.  

She didn’t have an easy life but learned gradually to stand up for herself.  

The Rise of the Ultra Runners
27 Nov, 2019

The Rise of the Ultra Runners

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Rise of the Ultra Runners The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 304
Length: 11:09
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Pegasus Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Setting: England, U.S., South Africa, France, Spain, Italy, Oman

An electrifying look inside the wild world of extreme distance running.

Once the reserve of only the most hardcore enthusiasts, ultra running is now a thriving global industry, with hundreds of thousands of competitors each year. But is the rise of this most brutal and challenging sport―with races that extend into hundreds of miles, often in extreme environments―an antidote to modern life, or a symptom of a modern illness?

In The Rise of the Ultra Runners, award-winning author Adharanand Finn travels to the heart of the sport to investigate the reasons behind its rise and discover what it takes to join the ranks of these ultra athletes. Through encounters with the extreme and colorful characters of the ultramarathon world, and his own experiences of running ultras everywhere from the deserts of Oman to the Rocky Mountains, Finn offers a fascinating account of people testing the boundaries of human endeavor.

Goodreads

I’ve talked on this blog a lot about how I hate running with a passion that is only equal to how much I love reading about running.  This book was perfect for me.  

The author decides to learn about ultrarunning by getting a press pass to run the UTMB, a ultramarathon in the mountains in France.  In order to use his pass, he has to qualify by getting enough points in other ultramarathons around the world.  His journey to learn to love (and survive) ultrarunning and his interviews with the people he meets along the way are the heart of this book. 

He covers the different types of ultrarunning – running 50-100 + miles at once, running a marathon every day for several days in a row, and running a short stretch of trail or on a track for 24 hours.  Each has its own challenges.  

He meets up with some of the best competitors and realizes that their lifestyles help them with their training.  One person lives in a cabin 5 miles up Pike’s Peak.  There is no road.  You have to run in to get there and to leave.  Others travel the world racing the hardest trails and mountains they can find. 

He tries to talk top Kenyan marathoners into trying longer distances without a lot of success. 

He talks to coaches and health care providers about how to stay fit for this and whether all of this is ultimately healthy or not.

I loved this story.  I loved seeing what goes into pushing beyond marathon distance.   I would never do it but I liked reading other people’s adventures. 

Haben
08 Nov, 2019

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Haben:  The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
on August 6, 2019
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Twelve
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Setting: Eritrea, Mali, United States

The incredible life story of Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and her amazing journey from isolation to the world stage.

Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn't see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents' harrowing experiences during Eritrea's thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.

Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.

HABEN takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman's determination to find the keys to connection.

Goodreads

The thing that impressed me about this book was her sense that her disabilities, especially her blindness, really aren’t that big of a deal.  She repeatedly says that blindness is “just a lack of sight” like it is mostly inconsequential.  I think this is because there is more adaptive infrastructure for blind people than for Deafblind people.  She is able to use braille computers and books, cane skills, and her guide dog to get around the world.  Adaptation for deafness like sign language aren’t as accessible to her because of her blindness.

It amused me that she could never understand why her parents were so “overprotective.”  She couldn’t understand why they didn’t want her to go off and build a school in Africa.  Most parents wouldn’t say their teenager could go on a several month trip to Africa during the school year without thinking about it a bit.  That’s without adding in the additional issues raised when that teenager is Deafblind.

It was frustrating to read about people who wouldn’t inconvenience themselves a little bit to make adjustments that had huge impacts for her.  I would like to think that people would want to help others but I guess I’m being naive. 

This memoir is written as a series of essays on different points of her life so dwells for a while in one time period and then jumps ahead sometimes by several years.  I liked this format because a lot of memoirs get bogged down in minutia during the less interesting times of the subject’s life. 

I’d recommend this memoir to anyone who wonders what it is like to be Deafblind in a seeing and hearing world.

Christmas at Pennington’s
26 Oct, 2019

Christmas at Pennington’s

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Christmas at Pennington’s Christmas at Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Gripping drama as Pennington's department store prepares for a glittering Christmas in 1911, but a killer stalks the women of Bath.

Christmas sees Pennington's at its most glorious, thronged with shoppers, its grand staircase and balcony adorned with holly, mistletoe, tinsel and lights. It should be the happiest time, but dramas are seething beneath the surface.

For Cornelia Culford, in charge of jewellery, a divorce hearing looms, where she could lose custody of her young sons to her overbearing and unfaithful husband.

For Stephen Gower, being head of security at Pennington's is the perfect refuge from a tragic past at Scotland Yard. But soon the past will call him back, as Joseph Carter and Elizabeth Pennington beg him to help solve the murder of Joseph's first wife, now that it seems as if the killer has struck again.

For Joseph and Elizabeth, their marriage depends on exorcising the past. But can it ever be laid to rest?

Goodreads

This is the third book that I’ve read in this series set in an English department store. Each of the books focuses on a particular couple but because there is a larger mystery that moves through all of them, it is best to read them in order. 

Cornelia is a soon to be divorced woman who is working at the jewelry counter.  Stephen is a policeman on leave pending an investigation into his role in a case that went horribly wrong.  He’s working security at the store.  Several people find out that he is from Scotland Yard and decide to enlist him in solving problems of their own.  He doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s affairs but he finds himself being drawn in.

I like the setting of the books.  It is 1911.  That’s isn’t a time period I see represented a lot in historical fiction.  The backbone of this series is women who are trying to move themselves out of the domestic sphere that they have been pigeonholed in.  One is trying to run a business.  One is active in trying to get the vote.  One is trying to get away from an abusive husband.  I like seeing those perspectives.

I’m not a fan of the men in these books.  I really learned to despise the man who was the romantic lead of book one.  He’s obsessed with finding out who murdered his first wife.  That’s fine but it is turning him increasingly nasty which is an interesting story arc for a person who was supposed to be a hero.  He keeps saying that his first wife won’t be able to rest in peace if he doesn’t find her murderer.  I don’t think that is how it works.  She doesn’t care because she is dead.  You care, sir. 

I wasn’t a huge fan of the resolution of that story line either.  For the buildup it was over pretty quickly.  There was a connection between several victims that I have a hard time believing no one noticed.  “Oh, 50% of our group has been murdered?  Is that why we don’t need as many refreshments at meetings?”

But if you are willing to let that go, it is an interesting look at a time and place.

 


Author Bio –
Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. 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 Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018, A Rebel At
Pennington’s February 2019 and Christmas At Pennington’s September 2019.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. To sign up for her quarterly and new release newsletter, click here to go to her website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

 

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Warriors Don’t Cry
22 Oct, 2019

Warriors Don’t Cry

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Warriors Don’t Cry Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals
on February 1, 1995
Pages: 336
Genres: Historical, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Washington Square Press
Format: Audiobook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

The landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, brought the promise of integration to Little Rock, Arkansas, but it was hard-won for the nine black teenagers chosen to integrate Central High School in 1957. They ran the gauntlet between a rampaging mob and the heavily armed Arkansas National Guard, dispatched by Governor Orval Faubus to subvert federal law and bar them from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending in soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, the elite "Screaming Eagles" - and transformed Melba Pattillo and her eight friends into reluctant warriors on the battlefield of civil rights. May 17, 1994, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which was argued and won by Thurgood Marshall, whose passion and presence emboldened the Little Rock struggle. Melba Pattillo Beals commemorates the milestone decision in this first-person account of her ordeal at the center of the violent confrontation that helped shape the civil rights movement. Beals takes us from the lynch mob that greeted the terrified fifteen-year-old to a celebrity homecoming with her eight compatriots thirty years later, on October 23, 1987, hosted by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in the mansion that Faubus built. As they returned to tour the halls of the school, gathering from myriad professions and all corners of the country, they were greeted by the legacy of their courage - a bespectacled black teenager, the president of the student body at Central High. Beals chronicles her harrowing junior year at Central High, when she began each school day by polishing her saddle shoes and bracing herself for battle.

Goodreads

black-students-integrate-little-rocks-central-high-school-2

You’ve seen the pictures of the Little Rock Nine being escorted into the school by soldiers and the famous picture above of the angry mob around Elizabeth Eckford. What I never heard about or considered was what happened after they got into the school. I guess I thought that everything was fine once they got inside. It absolutely wasn’t. This is that story.

I listened to the audiobook of this story. It is brutal. Every day after listening I was completely disgusted with white people. I’d tell the white people I work with all about what I had learned that day so they could be mad at our fellow white people with us. I proposed a road trip to Arkansas to beat up some elderly white people but no one has taken me up on it so far. That’s only because they haven’t read the book. If they had, they’d get over their reservations and join me in giving some old people some well deserved whuppings.

All day long the white kids in the school tormented the black students. It was completely ignored by the adults. That’s what amazes me the most. The adults seemed to give up control of the school. I understand that most of them wanted the black students gone too but you’d think that they would at least try to keep some order during classes. They didn’t. It seems like the whole school was ruled by packs of students.

On the first day the teenagers were in school a mob was threatening the school. There was actually talk by the adults in charge of giving one of the students to the mob to be lynched in order to settle them down. They discussed this in front of the kids.

Beatings happened daily. They were kicked all the time. White kids tried to set Melba on fire several times and she had acid thrown in her face. Lit dynamite was thrown at them in the hallways. I don’t know how many textbooks they went through because white students destroyed them routinely. This went on EVERY DAY FOR A WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine living through it and I can’t imagine hating anyone or anything so much that I could keep that level of abuse up for a whole school year.

Melba credits her family with the strength to get through.  This is where I differ with her interpretation a bit.  Her grandmother was a very religious woman who kept saying that god was in control of everything.  As a non-Christian, this grated on me.  I think it would have been better for the adults in her life to help stand up for her in any way they could (which admittedly was very little) instead of spouting platitudes.  Melba did embrace these and gained strength from them so I’m glad it helped her.  As a reader though they made me grind my teeth in frustration.

At the end of the book she talks a little about her perspective on the experience in retrospect.  She says that she would have never put her own kids into that kind of abusive situation.  That was something I wondered about.  The cause was good and just but what they went through was child abuse.  They sacrificed their mental and physical health for integration.  There is a second book that discusses what happened in her life after this hell year.  I’m going to read that.  She was definitely damaged by the experience. 

I would also like to read about this from the perspective of some of the white people.  I kept trying to get into their minds and figure out how they were possibly justifying any of this.  I can’t make that mental leap.  I’d love to just be able to ask, “What the hell were you even thinking?” 

This is a book I want to put into the hands of everyone.  These teenagers were amazing.  They took unimaginable abuse from both the white and black community.  This is history that we can’t forget. 

Slay
11 Oct, 2019

Slay

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Slay Slay by Brittney Morris
on September 24, 2019
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man."

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination."

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Goodreads

Slay is a great book if you are capable of massive suspension of disbelief.

I love the description of the game.  The virtual reality world that this game exists in sounds absolutely amazing.  I’d love to see video games like this.  In the world of this book V.R. technology appears to be commonplace.  It is much more technologically advanced than we are now but everything else besides gaming seems to be about the same level of technology.

Slay is a virtual world where people duel using powers granted to them by cards that they draw from a deck.  The cards are based on aspects of black lives across the globe.  Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese makes the ground your opponent is standing on gooey so they get stuck.  The Afro card surrounds you in a protective bubble of hair.  Other cards on based on famous people.  I loved reading about the cards.  The world building here was so inventive and funny.  It was everything I love about fantastical worlds. 

In order to play Slay you need to have a passcode from another player.  It is understood but never explicitly stated that you have to be black to play.  When a top player is murdered in real life because of a dispute about the game, the media finds out about the exclusivity of Slay.  They start to debate about whether or not it is racist to limit play to black people. 

There are great discussions about harassment of black videogamers and the importance of having spaces where you can be yourself.  Who gets to decide what is black culture? 

This part of the story is all good.  The problems come if you think about the details too much.

Supposedly this game was built by a teenager.  It has 500,000 players using virtual reality.  Where is this being hosted?  How is it being paid for?  It is a free game with no apparent advertising.  The murder was over people pooling resources in the game.  It implies that there was money being spent on the game but she never seems to collect any money.  How would a minor be able to set up a company that could do that alone?  Somehow her family has never noticed that she is running a massive undertaking from her bedroom.  She doesn’t really seem to do much but moderate some large duels.  She talks about adding new features and about some glitches but she never seems to fix anything.  She goes to school full time, has a boyfriend, tutors, does her homework, and goes to bed early.  Nothing ever seems to crash or absolutely need her attention.  Games need teams of people to keep them going but she checks in for a few hours a day when she can get away from her family?  Not likely.

If you can let all that go and pretend that this is a totally self sustaining game, then you can enjoy the larger social issues brought up in the story. 

Barnabas Tew
18 Sep, 2019

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Enlightened Cow

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Enlightened Cow Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Enlightened Cow by Columbkill Noonan
on September 18, 2019
Pages: 205
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Darkstroke
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Rama, the Hindu god who maintains dharma, or the balance of all things, is in terrible trouble, and only Barnabas and Wilfred can save him!

Private detectives to the gods, Barnabas Tew and Wilfred Colby, believed they’d discovered the secret to taking charge of their destinies. Unfortunately, they’re about to be taught a hard lesson: nothing is as it seems and taking control is easier said than done.

Fresh off their most challenging case to date, the two detectives step into a cenote: an otherworldly portal that connects worlds and can take them anywhere if they know how to use it. Each is hoping to be reunited with someone he left behind, but they soon realize that something has gone terribly, disastrously wrong. Instead of being reunited with their lady-loves, they find themselves in a Hindu temple, together with Kamadeva, the Hindu god of desire.

Kamadeva asks them to save his friend Rama, who is in grave danger. It seems an innocent enough request, but Barnabas and Wilfred have learned that not everything is at it seems, and the right thing to do is not always so obvious. It doesn’t take long to discover that not all the gods want Rama saved, leaving the two detectives to make a terrible choice.

The detectives have faced dangerous deities before, but the Hindu gods are different. Otherworldly, wise, and full of shadowy motivations, they all seek to manipulate the hapless detectives to suit their purposes.

Can Barnabas and Wilfred see through the illusions and the lies to uncover the truth of the matter? Or will they fail, and choose the wrong side?

Goodreads

I loved the synopsis for this book.  The idea of a pair of detectives for the gods is right up my alley.  There have been several books in the series previous to this one but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by just reading this one.

They mistakenly end up with the Hindu gods after trying to use a portal in a cenote and failing miserably.  They spend the first several pages of the book arguing about this instead of interacting with the beings that they have appeared in front of.  That was one of my issues with this book.  I understood these to be British detectives who spend a lot of time ignoring or disparaging their surroundings.  When they are ignorantly mocking things like a group of people doing yoga with an attitude of their own superiority it gets a bit uncomfortable.

There isn’t really much a plot here.  They wander about interacting with some of the gods that they meet.  They never really know what is going on.  They discover things mostly by accident.  I did enjoy the part where they were turned into fish and had to figure out how to get from a moat to an ocean.  They were active participants in their own story for this – not just passive observers that events happened to.

 

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Columbkill Noonan is the author of the bestselling “Barnabas Tew” series, which features the bumbling-yet-lovable Victorian detective Barnabas and his trusty sidekick, Wilfred. Columbkill combines her love of mythology and her affinity for period fiction to craft unique cozy mysteries that will leave you guessing (and chuckling!) till the very end.

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