Showing Posts From: Book Review

The Lost Vintage
16 Aug, 2019

The Lost Vintage

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Lost Vintage The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
on June 19, 2018
Pages: 384
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: France

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine Examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy, to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife Heather, who now oversee the grapes’ day-to-day management. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a neighbor vintner and her first love.

At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousins clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of the Second World War and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great half-aunt who was teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between Resistance and Collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

Goodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I’ve read Ann Mah’s nonfiction about french food while traveling through France, so I jumped at a chance to read her fiction about a vineyard in Burgundy.

This book was inspired by stories of what happened to French women following D-Day.  Many were treated as traitors for having collaborated with the Germans.  This was mob justice so no investigations were done to see who was innocent and who wasn’t.  No distinctions were made for women who willingly were sleeping with German soldiers and those who were raped.  Women who had nothing to do with the Germans were turned in as collaborators by angry neighbors. 

There is a lot going on in this book.  The present day story involves a woman who is studying for a wine test.  She goes to a family vineyard where the current generation is trying to modernize against the will of the older generation.  There is an ex-fiance next door.  There is a potential new love interest who may be up to no good.  (I felt like that was a story line that could have been taken out.)  She finds a hidden area in the wine caves with evidence of a relative that no young people have heard of and no older people will discuss.

I found the historical fiction aspect of the story more interesting.  Helene-Marie’s story is told mainly through her journal.  They find out that she was denounced as a collaborator after D Day.  This causes some issues in the family because no one wants to think of their family helping the Nazis.  Do they want to dig deeper into what really happened?

This is an interesting point to raise.  We all want to think that we (and by extension our families)would be on the right side of history but that obviously isn’t true.  I think about this a lot.  I want to be on the morally correct side of conflicts, not just a bystander who let things happen because they weren’t affecting me directly. 

Using a journal as a story telling device lets the author dive deeply into what life was like in occupied France.  It shows clearly how much there was to gain by collaborating with the Germans.  Do you starve with your morals intact or do you live through actions that you might have previously disapproved of?  Do you let your family starve?  What were the risks of working with the Resistance? 


 

About Ann Mah

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue.com, BonAppetit.comWashingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.

Find out more about Ann at her website, and connect with her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest.


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Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance
08 Aug, 2019

Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance Mrs. Sommersby's Second Chance (The Sommersby Brides #3) by Laurie Benson
on July 16, 2019
Pages: 288
Genres: Fiction, Love & Romance
Published by Harlequin Historical
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

She’s played Cupid for others

Now she’s met her own unlikely match!

Widowed society matchmaker Mrs. Clara Sommersby thinks handsome, self-made businessman Mr. William Lane is just the man for her neighbor’s overlooked daughter. He’s successful and confident, if somewhat emotionally distant, until suddenly—shockingly—his attention turns to Clara herself! She thought her days of romance were over, but is this younger man intent on giving her a second chance?

Goodreads

I’m an absolute sucker for older female protagonists in fiction.  As soon as I saw the description of this book, I was all in even though she is only in her 40s. Bring me all the older ladies!

Clara entertains herself but selecting a young woman each season in Bath and working as her matchmaker.  She’s not looking for romance for herself.  She is a widow and honestly, she’s doing quite fine on her own, thank you very much.  Her husband wasn’t much of a business man.  He never listened to her ideas.  When he died she bought a hotel for gentleman that she had had her eyes on.  She set up a male relative as the supposed owner but she actually runs the business. 

She meets a man in the pump room and gently flirts with him.  What she doesn’t know is that he just bought the property next door to her hotel and is looking to buy her property also if he can just figure out who owns it.

I loved this book for its description of all the locations in Bath. I visited there a few years ago and could visualize most of the places they discuss.  It added to the story to have all these famous places as background. 

This was a great storyline that you don’t often see in romances.  This woman isn’t pinning all her hopes on finding the right man.  She is living an independent life and she needs to consider the real risks to her freedom of allowing another man in her life.  She will lose all her legal rights if she remarries.  Is it worth it?

 

America for Beginners
06 Aug, 2019

America for Beginners

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading America for Beginners America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
on July 24, 2018
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Recalling contemporary classics such as Americanah, Behold the Dreamers, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel that explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American Dream through meaningful and unlikely friendships forged in unusual circumstances.

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkata to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week “working” vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

A bittersweet and bighearted tale of forgiveness, hope, and acceptance, America for Beginners illuminates the unexpected enchantments life can hold, and reminds us that our most precious connections aren’t always the ones we seek.

Goodreads

I loved this book that brought together several people who are new to America.  I love reading books that give you a new perspective of America.

Mrs. Sengupta is newly widowed.  She has lived a sheltered life in Kolkata, constrained by what was expected by her husband’s traditional family.  Now her husband is gone and she is going to take this opportunity to do what she wants to do and no one will stop her.  Her only child moved to America.  He called home and told her husband that he was gay.  Soon afterwards her husband told her their child had died.  She never knew if he was lying or not.  Now she is going to go see the country that her son loved and find out for sure what happened.

Ronnie Munshi is a Bangladeshi man who runs a tour company catering to high class Bengali tourists.  He doesn’t want anyone to know that he and all his tour guides are just pretending to be Bengali. 

Satya is his newest hire.  He’s never seen anything outside of New York but he has his guide books.  What could go wrong escorting one widow on a country-wide tour?

Rebecca is an American struggling actress who is hired to be a companion to Mrs. Sengupta.  She knows when Satya is making things up.  Is she going to bring the whole scheme down?

Mrs. Sengupta, Satya, and Rebecca take off across the country enduring bad Indian food, multiple tourist traps, and subpar hotels all while each is confronting their ingrained biases and attitudes.  They rub against each other’s sharp edge and find themselves reshaped into people they didn’t imagine that they could be.

This is a character driven novel that is beautifully written.  Suspense comes from wondering what she is going to find when she gets to Los Angeles and the last known address of her son. 

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Priyam Dhar

About Leah Franqui

Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award (aftereverafterwebseries.com). A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS is her first novel.

Find out more about Franqui at her website, and connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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Law and Addiction
05 Aug, 2019

Law and Addiction

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Law and Addiction Law and Addiction by Mike Papantonio
Genres: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: West Virginia

One week before Jake Rutledge is scheduled to graduate from law school, he receives the devastating news of the death of his fraternal twin, Blake. What makes this death even more terrible for Jake is that his brother died of a drug overdose. Until hearing of his death, Jake had no idea his brother was even using drugs.

When Jake returns home to Oakley, West Virginia, he takes a hard look at the circumstances of his brother's death. In the five years Jake has been away for his schooling, his hometown has drastically changed. Because of the opioid epidemic, and the blight it has brought, many now call Oakley Zombieland. Jake can see how his town's demise parallels his brother's.

Undeterred, the newly minted lawyer takes on the entrenched powers by filing two lawsuits. Jake quickly learns what happens when you upset a hornet's nest. The young attorney might be wet behind the ears, but is sure there is no lawyer that could help him more than Nick Deke Deketomis and his law firm of Bergman/Deketomis. Deke is a legendary lawyer. When he was Jake's age he was making his name fighting Big Tobacco. Against all odds, Jake gets Nick and his firm to sign on to his case before it's too late.

Goodreads

I was interested in reading Law and Addiction because I work in a town that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.  Every week I read the local paper purely for the police blotter.  In between the entertaining tales of some really stupid criminals there is report after report of officers treating overdoses.  I find it interesting to see how many dose of naloxone they need for each person.  The record I’ve seen so far is 14 doses.  (That person then woke up and refused all other medical treatment.)  So when this book describes the cost to towns of treating all these addicts and overdoses I understand what it is talking about.

I’ve also had a few people bring their dogs in who they claim are on mega doses of tramadol for their arthritis.  Usually an in-depth conversation about alternatives to controlled medication and a discussion of the dispensing schedule we will have them on to make sure they aren’t getting too many means we never see those people again. 

In the middle of reading this book I actually had to put it down to go pick up some opiates from a pharmacy.  The husband had had surgery and was prescribed opiates even though it was fairly minor.  He took some prescription NSAIDS and iced the area and did well.  Opiates were a bit of overkill in this instance.  (He asked how we were going to get rid of them.  I said I’d take them to work.  He slowly questioned again, “What are you going to do with them?”  Yeah, he knows the town I work in.  “Getting rid of them” there can be interpreted a few ways.  For the record, I am going to put them in the Drug Destroyer solution.)

On the other hand, my doctor side comes out and I don’t really want more regulation on access to them by doctors for people (and animals) who really need them.  They have a place in medical care.  Proper dosing and monitoring are the key. 

Down the street from my house there is a place with a chalkboard in the front lawn with a running total of people who died from overdose in the city since they started keeping count.  I think they are in the 600s. 

All of that means that I can relate to the setting for this story.  Jake is a new lawyer who has lost his twin brother to an overdose.  He decides to try to get local governments to let him sue pharmacy companies on their behalf for the cost of treating the addiction crisis. 

The book does a good job explaining the various causes and effects of the problem.  Some of them I hadn’t thought of before.  I hadn’t tied together economic collapse due to decreased business in affected communities with the ability for other people to buy up real estate cheaply potentially leading to gentrification and large profits. 

A lot of this book consists of lawyers sitting around and discussing how they are going to build their case.  It is a lot of exposition.  That is interesting if you want to see how people put these kinds of large cases together.  It is also how you get the information about how opiates came into these towns and what it causes.  I think this book works as an educational piece but it doesn’t really work as a thriller for me.  There is a bit of mystery but it never really gets intense and “can’t put it down.”  Use this as primer on opiate addiction and the economic effect on towns more than a nail biting story.

 

The Undertaker’s Assistant
02 Aug, 2019

The Undertaker’s Assistant

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Undertaker’s Assistant The Undertaker's Assistant by Amanda Skenandore
on July 30, 2019
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker's Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience--and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments.

"The dead can't hurt you. Only the living can." Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies--and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer's shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters--with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline--introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . . .

Goodreads

The Reconstruction period after the Civil War was a time when the hopes of the newly freed African-Americans were built up and then dashed by the resurgence of white supremacy.  This book looks the life of a black woman during that period.

Effie is a fish out of water.  She escaped slavery as a child.  Her first memory is being taken in by a Union army camp.  She was cared for by an Army doctor who took her home with him to Indiana after the war.  She was raised as his ward and trained to help him with his new career as an undertaker.  Now as an adult she is drawn back to New Orleans to try to find out more about her life.  Did she have family?  Can she find them?

Her instinct is to stay to herself.  She has an introduction from her guardian to an undertaker who was a Union officer in the war.  She gets a job that takes up most of her time but she slowly starts to meet new people.  She gets involved in Republican politics after developing a crush on a black state senator.  This exposes her to the ambitions of people who were formerly enslaved.  She also meets a Creole woman and her mother.  They are biracial upper class women who mourn the loss of status and wealth that has come about because of the war.  These two groups of people allow the author to explore the effects of the end of slavery on several different classes of black and mixed race people.

I would have liked to known more about her employer.  He was a southerner who chose to fight the for Union and then came back south to his hometown.  Stress from the war and his unwelcome reception back in town have started him drinking.  Over the course of the book he works on acclimating back into upper class white society.  He needs to abandon the beliefs that would have led him to fight for the north to do this.  Because we don’t see his point of view, it appears very random and arbitrary.  I would have like to have seen this change explored more deeply.  

I loved this book.  It shows how historical fiction can be used to explore many points of view and experiences in the same time frame.  Using Effie as an outsider to all of them is a good device to see everyone clearly.  


About the Author

Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. Between Earth and Sky was her first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Readers can visit her website at www.amandaskenandore.com.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 23
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, July 24
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Reading the Past
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Review at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

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Review at Jennifer Tar Heel Reader
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Review at Orange County Readers

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Feature at Donna’s Book Blog

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Review at Macsbooks
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

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Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Melissa Reads

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Review at McCombs on Main
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Review at A Chick Who Reads
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Review at Based on a True Story

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Feature at Mama’s Reading Corner

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Review at Bibliophile Reviews

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Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at LadyJ’s Bookish Nook

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Review at A Bookish Affair

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Review at Comet Readings

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Feature at What Is That Book About

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Review at Cover To Cover Cafe

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Review at Reader then Blogger
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, August 14
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 15
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two signed copies of The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Undertaker’s Assistant

 

Becoming Superman
30 Jul, 2019

Becoming Superman

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Becoming Superman Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
on July 23, 2019
Pages: 480
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Published by Harper Voyager
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5, Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.

For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.

Joe's early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past. 

To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.

Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Goodreads

I’ve seen a lot of J. Michael Straczynski’s work.  I watched He-Man and She-Ra in the 1980s.  I’m a huge fan of Sense8.  But I didn’t know who he was until I read this book. 

Becoming Superman refers to many things in the author’s life.  He eventually was able to write the Superman comic which fulfilled a lifelong dream.  More importantly, it refers to his ability to survive and then thrive despite of his chaotic home life. 

He was raised by very manipulative people.  His family tree is a list of people who did what they wanted in order to get ahead with no thoughts to how their actions would impact anyone else.  Content warnings for this book would include genocide, rape, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence, and animal abuse – and that is just talking about his father.  Michael built his life on the simple premise that he was going to do the exact opposite of what he believed anyone in his family would do.  It has served him well.  He was able to build a successful career (or four) as a writer in journalism, television, movies, and comics.  He deliberately distanced himself from his family but curiosity about the secrets that he knew his family was keeping made him dig a little deeper.  What he found out shocked even him. 

This isn’t an easy book to read but it is worthwhile.  Pick it up if you like stories of people overcoming horrible childhoods or if you just like some of the shows that he was written.  You’ll be amazed.


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

About J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.

Follow him on Twitter.

 
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Cormoran Strike Series
10 Jul, 2019

Cormoran Strike Series

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading by J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith
Genres: Crime & Mystery, Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible

I’d been low key wanting to read the Robert Galbraith mystery books ever since it was revealed that they were written by J.K. Rowling.  I finally started them and then I couldn’t stop.  I’ve listened to the four books on audio one after the other.  Here’s why I think you should read them.

Great Characters

Cormoran is an ex-Army investigator who lost a leg in an IED explosion.  He is now a private investigator whose firm is failing.  When the first book starts he is breaking up with his toxic on again off again girlfriend of 16 years.  He’s also the illegitimate (and unrecognized) son of a major rock star and a famous groupie.  He grew up shuttling between a stable life with his aunt and uncle and a peripatetic life with his drug addicted mother.

Robin is new to London and newly engaged.  She is working at a temp agency who sends her to Cormoran’s firm for a week.  He forgot he signed up for a temp and can’t afford her but she makes herself too useful to get rid of.

Rowling is also still great at secondary characters.  Each person is unique and has a well thought out backstory.  They aren’t just a stock bad guy or witness.

Detailed Stories

Much like the Harry Potter books there is way more detail in these books than you actually need.  I think this is a good thing but I’ve seen some people complain about it.  I think if you are used to very spare mystery writing this will seem excessive.  There are definitely lots of red herrings and clues that never develop into anything just like it would be in real life.  Not everything is important to the story line.  That makes these books pretty long but I like that.  I like exploring the world that she is making and I don’t want them to be over quickly.

There is a TV show (if you like that sort of thing)

There is a film adaptation of the first three books.  The first book is three one hour episodes and the rest are two episodes.  I find them frustrating.  I think the main characters are well done but everything is so condensed.  Secondary characters are dropped.  Secrets that are hours in the teasing out on the audiobook are dropped casually in exposition.

I watched The Cuckoo’s Calling and the first hour of The Silkworm.

Everything you ever wanted to know about London transportation

Transportation is a major consideration in these stories.  That amuses me for some reason.  They are always running around the city but instead of just saying they went here and suddenly they are there, transportation problems are factored in.  The Underground is always used because they can’t afford cabs.  The time it takes to get anywhere is always discussed.  Having to walk far between public transit stops is a problem because Cormoran’s stump hurts and he has multiple untreated injuries during the series that make walking more and more problematic. 

What I’d like to see next

I’d love to see his father need his help.  Cormoran has met his famous father twice and neither time went well.  He has a little bit of a relationship with his father’s other children.  I want to see someone in the family get into trouble and need to come to him to sort it out.  Then he’d have to dive into all the family secrets and relationships whether they want him to or not.

 

 

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?

The Day The World Came to Town
05 Jul, 2019

The Day The World Came to Town

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Day The World Came to Town The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
Genres: Historical, Nonfiction
Published by HarperCollins
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Newfoundland, Canada

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.

Goodreads

I had heard the story of a small town in Canada where many airplanes had to land on 9/11 but I didn’t know the details.  

The reason all the planes went there was because Gander used to be a major airport.  When planes had to refuel before crossing the Atlantic, they went to Gander.  Private planes still do.  The U.S. military had a lot of planes here.  Because of the history of military use, the runways are long.  This allows it to be listed as a secondary landing area for the space shuttle in case of trouble on takeoff.  

This book details the lengths that people went to when they needed to suddenly accommodate an influx of people on an island.  They weren’t allowed to get their luggage off the planes so medications had to be found.  Clothes and toiletries were in short supply.  Bedding was collected from houses all around the island.  People opened their homes to let travelers take showers.  

All kinds of people were stranded.  There were government and military officials who needed to help coordinate emergency response so they needed to get out of Gander.  An executive for the clothing company Hugo Boss was horrified to have to buy new underwear at WalMart.  Refugees settling in the U.S. were confused to find themselves in a whole different country.  

I was particularly interested in the stories of the animals on the planes.  There were two bonobo apes moving to a new zoo.  They weren’t allowed out of their transport cages but they helped out by cleaning their own cages for the handlers and entertaining themselves by watching the dogs and cats near them.  

I’d recommend reading this book to take a glance at a little known slice of history.


Next week I’m going to see the musical Come From Away which is based on this story.  I wanted to make sure I finished this book ahead of time so I could be properly obnoxious with stories of, “Well, actually, what had happened was…”  I’ll report back with how close the musical is to the real story.

I Have the Right To
21 Jun, 2019

I Have the Right To

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading I Have the Right To I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson
on March 6, 2018
Pages: 416
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs, Young Adult
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching memoir.

The numbers are staggering: nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This is the true story of one of those girls.

In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice.

This memoir is more than an account of a horrific event. It takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators. Chessy’s story offers real, powerful solutions to upend rape culture as we know it today. Prepare to be inspired by this remarkable young woman and her story of survival, advocacy, and hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.

Goodreads

I heard of this story last week in a news article about her rapist seeking a new trial.  In the article it mentioned her by name which is not usual for a sexual assault case and especially one where the person was a minor.  Later in the article it said that she had gone public to bring awareness to her case so I was interested in reading the book.

Don’t pick this one up unless you are in the head space to get good and angry.  At this boarding school it was pretty much considered normal for the girls to be assaulted.  They were taught during orientation that if they needed to discuss anything with an adult that they should always say it was a hypothetical situation.  This was specifically to get the faculty around the mandatory reporting that would be required if they knew that a crime had taken place.  Sexual conquests were tracked publicly.  This was done so openly that a guide to the terminology used was published in the school newspaper. 

Chessy’s assault took place right before graduation weekend when she was a freshman.  She knew she was basically being hunted but he offered to take her to a forbidden location and she wanted to get a good Instagram picture there.  She didn’t think he would do anything to her.  She was 15 and stupid.  She admits this. 

Even after the rape she kept trying to keep up a good front even to the point of not trying to upset her rapist.  It took her a long time to realize that this wasn’t her fault.  The story of how she and her family were ostracized from the community once she went to the police is maddening. 

She pointed out a lot of ways that the system is stacked against survivors.  One that I hadn’t thought of was regarding news coverage.  Her rapist was 18.  He was always described as something like, “Prep school athlete so and so….” with a nice picture while she was “a 15 year old accuser”.  The stories were always about him because she was a minor and a rape victim so they wouldn’t publish her name.  That’s good most of the time but it lead to sympathetic coverage for him.  That’s one of the reasons that she came out publicly.  She was able to put a face to her story.

Another aspect of this story is the reaction of the school.  All of these activities were protected by the school under the guise of “tradition.”  Alumni paid for her rapist’s lawyer to defend the reputation of the school.  How do you make a school a safe place if no one cares?

 

Instant Indian
11 Jun, 2019

Instant Indian

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Instant Indian Instant Indian: Classic Foods from Every Region of India Made Easy in the Instant Pot by Rinku Bhattacharya
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 240
Genres: Cooking
Published by Hippocrene Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher


Discover favorite foods from all over India with the first regional Indian cookbook authorized by Instant Pot!

Rinku Bhattacharya -- cookbook author and founder of Spice Chronicles -- has put together a collection of 100 authentic recipes that showcase the diversity and range of the foods of India, where every state and region boasts its own unique dishes. Whether you crave takeout favorites or want to be introduced to lesser-known specialties, this cookbook brings the best of India to your table in an instant!

The Instant Pot(R) lends itself perfectly to Indian recipes, making flavorful, nutritious Indian fare (like simmering-all-day dals, legumes and all manner of curries) in minutes instead of hours.
Instant Indian
features numerous vegetarian and vegan options, and nearly all recipes are gluten-free.

With step-by-step instructions and color photos throughout, Instant Indian makes Indian cooking easy and fool-proof using all the functions of this popular appliance.

Sample recipes:

Chicken Korma Kofta Pulao (Saffron Rice Pilaf with Chicken Meatballs) Goan Pork Ribs Vindaloo No-Knead Naan Kerala Shrimp Curry Parsee Steamed Fish with Coconut-Mint Chutney Cucumber Raita with Homemade (Instant Pot) Yogurt Hakka Noodles Tamatar Masala Anda (Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

Goodreads

I received this book and Spices and Seasons by the same author for book tours.  I got Instant Indian first which sort of ruined me for a lot of the recipes in Spices and Seasons.  In my mind all I was thinking was, “Ok, but can you make it in an Instapot?”

I love Indian food but I don’t get to eat it much anymore.  My husband has developed an allergy to some ingredient in Indian food.  From process of elimination I think it might be fenugeek but the only way to test that is to feed it to him and see what happens.  He only broke out in hives from eating Indian food before but since he has another anaphylactic allergy I’m not inclined to push it.  So, I either need to eat Indian food when he isn’t around or cook it myself for solo meals.

I’ve been having fun making different flavors of rice.  I love making rice in the instapot anyway so getting combination of spices to mix in is an easy way to dress up otherwise simple meals.  

Another recipe I want to try is the version of channa masala that is in here.  I love chickpeas and tomatoes and this simple enough to make on a weeknight after work. 

This book contains full color pictures of every dish.  That’s something I want to see in all cookbooks. 

If you aren’t familiar with the different spices or ingredients used in Indian cooking, there are explanations of the purpose of and helpful hints of sourcing things that you might not already have in your pantry. 

This is a great book for anyone wanting to start making simple Indian dishes at home.

 

With The Fire on High
04 Jun, 2019

With The Fire on High

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading With The Fire on High With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 400
Genres: Young Adult
Published by HarperTeen
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Setting: Pennsylvania

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Goodreads

This is the follow up to Elizabeth Acevedo’s extraordinary debut, The Poet X.  I was thrilled to see that this book was coming out and extra excited to see that the story was about food.

Emoni is a senior in high school who loves to cook.  She wants to go to culinary school, which wouldn’t normally be a problem except that Emoni got pregnant as a freshman and now has a daughter to raise.  That limits her choices because she needs to work to support herself and her daughter. When she gets a chance to be in a culinary program at school she has to decide if she is able to fit it into her life.

Emoni is a character who I haven’t read often.  Usually stories with teen mothers tell the story of the pregnancy.  This is several years later when she is trying to juggle school, work, and a child.  It doesn’t make any of these seem easy or glamorous.  She has problems with the father of the child and his parents. She works when her classmates only have school to worry about. She knows that classmates make assumptions about anyone who found herself in her situation.  She’s pushing through and ignoring what anyone else thinks.

Emoni was raised by her abuela after her mother died and her father moved back to Puerto Rico.  I loved Abuela.  She is a woman who keeps getting pulled back into child rearing when she is ready to live an independent life.  First her son all but abandoned his daughter on her doorstep and then when she gets her granddaughter mostly raised, her granddaughter gets pregnant and now Abuela needs to help raise her great-grandchild.  I found her very realistic.  She’s doing what she has to do to make her family work but she’s starting to spread her own wings too as Emoni gets ready to graduate. 

Even if YA isn’t normally your cup of tea, I’d encourage you to pick up Elizabeth Acevedo’s books.  They are powerful. 

Resistance Women
28 May, 2019

Resistance Women

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Resistance Women Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
on May 14, 2019
Pages: 608
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Germany

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

Goodreads

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


This book chronicles the lives of different women living in Germany who find their lives and liberties slowly constricted as the Nazis seize control. They include an American expatriate married to a German man, the daughter of the American ambassador, a German woman trying to finish her doctorate, and a Jewish woman from a prominent family.

The author does a great job showing how people adapted to worse and worse conditions. It shows how people were squeezed out of their jobs. It reviews how the Nazis lied over and over to make people believe their propaganda.  This book could be hard to read and a few times I had to put it down to process it.  It could then be hard to pick back up because you knew that it was just going to get worse for the characters.

I’ve read almost all of Jennifer Chiaverini’s books to date but this is the first one that has strongly emotionally affected me. Reading this historical fiction account of the rise of the Nazi party and the descent of Germany into totalitarianism constantly reminds the reader of recent events in the US.   I hope that this book opens the eyes of people who may not be aware of the parallels between the history and current events. I think that is the wonderful power of historical fiction. It can draw in readers who may not be interested in reading a history book.  I was disappointed to read other reviews who are downgrading this book because they feel that she draws too many parallels between Trump and Hitler.  I’m writing this prior to reading the author’s note but I don’t feel that the text of the actual story does this at all.  She points out things that happened in Germany.  If your brain lights up because it sounds really familiar then maybe that should be a wake up call and not a reason to decide that she added things to try to make unwarranted comparisons.


About Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

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

Spices and Seasons
23 May, 2019

Spices and Seasons

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Spices and Seasons Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors by Rinku Bhattacharya, Suvir Saran
on May 1, 2014
Pages: 373
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Hippocrene Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves--Indian cooking and sustainable living--to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You'll find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps," "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney," "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub," "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree," and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens," to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.

Goodreads

 

This book is more than merely a collection of recipes.  It is a beautiful reference book for anyone interested in Indian cuisine. 

Types of commonly used spices are discussed.  Learn about the types of vegetables and beans that are valued in Indian cooking.  Find out the differences and similarities between regional cuisines.  Chapters are devoted to appetizers, soups, pastas/rice, vegetables, and meats.  Usually in a book that isn’t strictly vegetarian I feel lucky to find one or two recipes that I would be interested in making.  This book has many that I plan to make.  That almost never happens. 

The book is wonderfully illustrated with full color pictures of each dish.  I appreciate that in a cookbook.  It would be particularly useful if you aren’t familiar enough with Indian cuisine to know what each dish is supposed to look like. 

I was inspired by this book to add some spices especially for Indian cooking to my garden this year.  I have a pot full of mint and am waiting for my cilantro to sprout.  The author uses these herbs most in her cooking.  I look forward to making many of the recipes in here with fresh vegetables from my garden. 

 

Westside
13 May, 2019

Westside

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Westside Westside by W.M. Akers
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Historical
Published by Harper Voyager
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: New York

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.

Introducing a truly remarkable female detective, Westside is a mystery steeped in the supernatural and shot through with gunfights, rotgut whiskey, and sizzling Dixieland jazz. Full of dazzling color, delightful twists, and truly thrilling action, it announces the arrival of a remarkable talent.

Goodreads

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I was pulled in by the world building of this book from the first page.  The Westside of Manhattan has fallen under some type of spell or curse or something.  No one is sure what it is but people are disappearing.  A wall is built to keep the darkness out of the east.  The west is left to be reclaimed by nature and the darkness.

Gilda is a detective who only works on tiny mysteries.  She watched her father get obsessed by the big mystery of what was happening to the Westside and she isn’t going to let that happen to her.  She’s on the hunt for a missing glove when her whole world starts to unravel – literally and figuratively.  Now she is going to have to figure out what is happening to her city before everything is taken from her.

I loved the city and the factions that run the different parts of the Westside.  I would have totally moved to the Upper West.  It was much nicer there.  I liked the idea of little mysteries that are annoying enough to need solved.  I liked the characters who aren’t always what they seemed.

I wasn’t completely enamored of the big mystery though.  That was a disappointment for me since I loved all the components.  I wish it would have stayed with the small things.


Photo by W. M. Akers

About W.M. Akers

W. M. Akers is an award-winning playwright,†Narratively†editor, and the creator of the bestselling game†Deadball: Baseball With Dice.†Westside†is his debut novel. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about his work at wmakers.net.

The Pale-Faced Lie
07 May, 2019

The Pale-Faced Lie

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Pale-Faced Lie The Pale-Faced Lie by David Crow
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 352
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Sandra Jonas Publishing
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: United States

Growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation, David Crow and his siblings idolized their dad. Tall, strong, smart, and brave, the self-taught Cherokee regaled his family with stories of his World War II feats. But as time passed, David discovered the other side of Thurston Crow, the ex-con with his own code of ethics that justified cruelty, violence, lies—even murder.

A shrewd con artist with a genius IQ, Thurston intimidated David with beatings to coerce him into doing his criminal bidding. David's mom, too mentally ill to care for her children, couldn't protect him. One day, Thurston packed up the house and took the kids, leaving her nothing. Soon he remarried, and David learned that his stepmother was just as vicious and abusive as his father.

Through sheer determination, and with the help of a few angels along the way, David managed to get into college and achieve professional success. When he finally found the courage to stop helping his father with his criminal activities, he unwittingly triggered a plot of revenge that would force him into a showdown with Thurston Crow.

With lives at stake, including his own, David would have only twenty-four hours to outsmart his father—the brilliant, psychotic man who bragged that the three years he spent in the notorious San Quentin State Prison had been the easiest time of his life.

The Pale-Faced Lie is a searing, raw, palpable memoir that reminds us what an important role our parents play in our lives. Most of all, it's an inspirational story about the power of forgiveness and the ability of the human spirit to rise above adversity, no matter the cost.

Goodreads

David Crow survived a chaotic childhood led by parents who definitely did not have their children’s best interests at heart.  His father was an ex-con who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  On the side he stole items from the Bureau to sell.  He was also involved in many other illegal activities including murder.  His mother was mentally ill and tormented by his father.  His father went to extremes of gaslighting her and getting the children to terrorize her.  They went along with it because they were so scared of him. 

Besides the cruelty at home, David was brutalized at school and in his neighborhood on the Navajo reservation.  The book recounts the horrific poverty and the effects of alcoholism on the community.  It isn’t a sympathetic recounting.  He was a child who considered the Navajo men as people to be humiliated and scorned and hurt if possible.  He was lashing out at people who were in a worse position than he was. 

His father was very threatened by the success of his children.  Some people might read that as strange but I know people like that.  They are very resentful of their children being more successful than them.  These families have generations of abuse in common.  The parents go on and on about how they could have been as successful as their children if they had the idyllic childhood they gave their kids instead of the poor and abusive childhood they had – even when they were also highly abusive to their children.  I don’t understand why the children of these families stay in contact as adults.  That played out here.  He tried to make normal relations with both his mother and father. 

The showdown that was discussed in the blurb was a bit of a let down.  I was anticipating a thriller-ready battle of wits that ended with one person left standing.  It really wasn’t that at all. 

I was intrigued by the beginning of the book but felt like the description of his childhood went on too long.  He didn’t give his transformation to a successful adult enough coverage.  How did he go from a dyslexic kid with poor eyesight who didn’t really pass his classes to being successful in college?  Was the dyslexia ever treated?  How did he manage to have the basic knowledge needed for his classes?  It isn’t ever fully discussed.  He just did fine in college. 

This is an uncomfortable book because everyone does horrible things in it.  If it was fiction, it would be considered too unbelievable. I wish it would have focused more on how he worked to break the cycle of abuse and self-centeredness endemic in his family and how that led him to do the charitable works listed in his author bio.  This isn’t discussed in the book at all.


To read reviews, please visit David Crow’s page on iRead Book Tours. 

Buy the Book:

 

 

 

 
Meet the Author: ​ 

​David Crow spent his early years on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Through grit, resilience, and a thirst for learning, he managed to escape his abusive childhood, graduate from college, and build a successful lobbyist business in Washington. Today, David is a sought-after speaker, giving talks to various businesses and trade organizations around the world.

Throughout the years, he has mentored over 200 college interns, performed pro bono service for the charitable organization Save the Children, and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. An advocate for women, he will donate 10 percent of his book royalties to Barrett House, a homeless shelter for women in Albuquerque. David and his wife, Patty, live in the suburbs of DC.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ LinkedIn

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 25, 2019

 


 

A Modest Independence
03 May, 2019

A Modest Independence

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading A Modest Independence A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews
on April 23, 2019
Pages: 400
Series: Parish Orphans of Devon,
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Published by Perfectly Proper Press
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England, India
Also in this series: The Matrimonial Advertisement


He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.


She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Goodreads

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | ITUNES | KOBO

I loved the first book in this series that is centered around four men who lived in the same brutal orphanage as children.  One went into the Army.  One became a lawyer.  One is living with the effects of a debilitating head injury.  The last one disappeared.  Book one was about the soldier.  This book is about the lawyer.

The book heavily references events in book one.  I am horrible at remembering what happened in romance novels but it started to come back to me.  I think if you read this book without reading the first one you could understand this story but would be lost at some of the events in the larger story.

Jenny was the distant relative-companion to the heroine in book 1.  She is given a sum of money to live on.  Control of it is held by Thomas Finchley the lawyer because of course it is.  Can’t have ladies running around with their own money.  She plans to go to India for an adventure and to see if she can find out what really happened to her cousin in a battle there.  She and Thomas had met before and had a bit of flirting.  Now he decides that he really likes her and so he is going to accompany her to India.  Yeah, he decides this and doesn’t tell her. 

This is a bit of a pattern in this book. She clearly expresses her wishes and then he runs right over them because he feels that he knows better and he wants to help her.  She calls him out on it.  The book is about him trying to learn how to deal with a woman who wants adventure and romance but doesn’t want marriage because of the restrictions that it will place on her in that time and place.  

I thought this was a believable conflict between the protagonists.  They fall in love with each other but want very different lives.  How much should each person give up?  Will it lead to resentment over time?

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. 


About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and BeautyThe Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule Through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Wednesday, May 1
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 2
Interview at Bookish Rantings

Friday, May 3
Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, May 4
Feature at What Is That Book About

Sunday, May 5
Feature at Comet Readings

Monday, May 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 7
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 8
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Thursday, May 9
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, May 10
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Bringing Columbia Home
25 Apr, 2019

Bringing Columbia Home

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Bringing Columbia Home Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach, Jonathan H. Ward
on January 2, 2018
Genres: Historical, Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

Mike Leinbach was the launch director of the space shuttle program when Columbia disintegrated on reentry before a nation’s eyes on February 1, 2003. And it would be Mike Leinbach who would be a key leader in the search and recovery effort as NASA, FEMA, the FBI, the US Forest Service, and dozens more federal, state, and local agencies combed an area of rural east Texas the size of Rhode Island for every piece of the shuttle and her crew they could find. Assisted by hundreds of volunteers, it would become the largest ground search operation in US history.

For the first time, here is the definitive inside story of the Columbia disaster and recovery and the inspiring message it ultimately holds. In the aftermath of tragedy, people and communities came together to help bring home the remains of the crew and nearly 40 percent of shuttle, an effort that was instrumental in piecing together what happened so the shuttle program could return to flight and complete the International Space Station. Bringing Columbia Home shares the deeply personal stories that emerged as NASA employees looked for lost colleagues and searchers overcame immense physical, logistical, and emotional challenges and worked together to accomplish the impossible.

Featuring a foreword and epilogue by astronauts Robert Crippen and Eileen Collins, this is an incredible narrative about best of humanity in the darkest of times and about how a failure at the pinnacle of human achievement became a story of cooperation and hope.

Goodreads

I clearly remember aimlessly watching the news that included in passing a brief mention of the landing of Columbia.  There was a pause and then the notification that they had lost contact with the shuttle.  I remember my then husband coming out of the bedroom and telling him about it.  What I don’t remember is any stories about the aftermath.  The Iraq War started and drowned out the findings. 

I found this book for sale on BookBub and decided to give it a try.  It was wonderfully done. It was informative while being extremely respectful of the astronauts who died that day.  It communicates the deep grief everyone at NASA felt for the loss of the crew and also for the loss of the shuttle.  Columbia was over 20 years old. Many of the people who maintained her had been with her for their entire careers.

The author was in charge of the launch.  The book covers that and the immediate concern that something was seen falling and hitting the shuttle.  It doesn’t shy away from talking about how safety concerns were dismissed during the mission.  He was on hand when Columbia was supposed to land.  He describes what it was like to wait for the shuttle to appear in the sky and the gradual realization that it wasn’t coming.

“Our emergency plans assumed that a landing problem would happen within sight of the runway, where a failed landing attempt would be immediately obvious to everyone. Today, there was nothing to see, nothing to hear. We had no idea what to do.”

 

Columbia broke up over rural east Texas.  They were in no way prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.  No one was.  It took a while for people there to figure out what was happening when debris started falling from the sky.  The communities rallied though to host and feed the hoards of recovery workers who came in, to walk through brush and briars looking for the crew and debris, and to mislead the press about where the astronauts were being found.  Even two carpenters who were in the town jail got put to work building cubicles for the recovery team.  I hope they got time off their sentences for community service.

The book tells the story of the many people who came to help in Texas and then switches to sections on laying out the debris to determine the cause of the accident and what that meant for the space program as a whole.  

There was a lot of discussion about what the crew knew.  There was video of them happy in the cabin that stops about a minute and half before the accident.  I personally wouldn’t want my loved one to know that they were about to die.  A lot of NASA people felt that it was better if they did know there was a problem and they were attempting to fix it because that would mean that they weren’t helpless passengers.  I don’t see how that would be comforting for anyone to think about. 

Even if you aren’t into the space program, this is an interesting book about accident recovery and investigation and the toll it takes on people involved. It brings up a lot of issues I never considered like what do you do with a destroyed space shuttle.  I didn’t know that Challenger was sealed in a silo.  Columbia is available for researchers. NASA personnel are instructed to visit her to remember the responsibility they have to the crews that fly.

It is sobering and sad but also funny in parts and ultimately uplifting.

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. 

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