Well, when I left off at the end of August I had hardly read anything at all. Something happened though as September rolled around.
I started reading again. Seriously reading. As in I read 5 books by September 2. Once again romance novels paved the way out of a reading slump.
I read 18 books in September.
The books I read were:
0 finished audiobooks – I kept starting and abandoning them.
Set in the U.S., England, and Haiti
What were my favorites?
These two were some of the best plotted romance novels I think I’ve ever read. They both have twists in them that kept the romance formula from getting routine. I love both authors from other works and these books reminded me of why.
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?
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.
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.
LOVE IS . . . A MYTH?
That's the belief of Frida McKenzie, devoted member of The Love Delusion movement, determined to cure humans of our ridiculous obsession with love.
But there's something she's forgotten...
When Frida finds a mysterious picture of herself with a man she barely knows, the certainties she has about her world begin to unravel.
What are the sinister roots of the cult that seems to have gripped humanity? Why can't she remember anything about her life before - including the strange(ly attractive) man in that picture? And just when exactly did she take up fantasy role play?
As a battle approaches that's been millennia in the making, it's beginning to look like there's only one question that really matters: if love conquers all, what happens when it's gone?
This is the second book in a series where I didn’t read the first. Usually that is a problem but this series is perfect for this situation. The book opens with two people being captured. You don’t know why they are running. The next chapter is two years later and their memories have been wiped. If you didn’t read the first book you get to figure out what is going on right along with the characters. It worked really well. I’m sure reading this book is a totally different experience if you read the first book and know everything that they have forgotten.
Frida is active in a group that aims to support and protect the rights of single people. They are changing the culture. No more requirements to pay double occupancy rates on trips if only one person is going. No social shaming for not having a date. The group is growing rapidly. People are figuring out that love is a delusion and they don’t have to fall for it. Frida enjoys her life until she meets a protestor on her way to a meeting. She feels drawn to him but she doesn’t know why. Then she finds a picture that she doesn’t remember of the two of them together.
I read this a long time after I signed up for the book tour so I didn’t remember anything about the synopsis. I was totally surprised by everything that happened just like the characters. I think I was expecting something along the chick lit/romance line but this is more of a light fantasy book. There is magic all around.
I quite enjoyed this book. It would be perfect for anyone looking for a fun, fast paced story with twists and turns that you might not expect.
Author Bio – Nicola was born and lives in Manchester. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature and has spent more time immersed in the works of Philip Larkin than is strictly healthy. Her inspirations are Stephen King, Tina Fey and Joss Whedon and as such she’s a big fan of the funny – both ha ha and peculiar. Her debut, The Gods of Love, was shortlisted for The Writers’ Guild Best first novel. The Love Delusion is the companion novel. As well as writing novels, she works as a creativity coach and has written a non-fiction book for aspiring writers, Seven Creative Gremlins. For more about Nicola visit www.nicolamostyn.com Social Media Links – Twitter – @nicolamostyn Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/nicolamostynauthor/ Insta: @NicolaMostyn http://nicolamostyn.com https://linktr.ee/nicolamostyn
Australian bestselling novelist Karen Brooks rewrites women back into history with this breathtaking novel set in 17th century London—a lush, fascinating story of the beautiful woman who is drawn into a world of riches, power, intrigue…and chocolate.
Damnation has never been so sweet...
Rosamund Tomkins, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, spends most of her young life in drudgery at a country inn. To her, the Restoration under Charles II, is but a distant threat as she works under the watchful eye of her brutal, abusive stepfather . . . until the day she is nearly run over by the coach of Sir Everard Blithman.
Sir Everard, a canny merchant, offers Rosamund an “opportunity like no other,” allowing her to escape into a very different life, becoming the linchpin that will drive the success of his fledgling business: a luxurious London chocolate house where wealthy and well-connected men come to see and be seen, to gossip and plot, while indulging in the sweet and heady drink.
Rosamund adapts and thrives in her new surroundings, quickly becoming the most talked-about woman in society, desired and respected in equal measure.
But Sir Everard’s plans for Rosamund and the chocolate house involve family secrets that span the Atlantic Ocean, and which have already brought death and dishonor to the Blithman name. Rosamund knows nothing of the mortal peril that comes with her new title, nor of the forces spinning a web of conspiracy buried in the past, until she meets a man whose return tightens their grip upon her, threatening to destroy everything she loves and damn her to a dire fate.
As she fights for her life and those she loves through the ravages of the Plague and London’s Great Fire, Rosamund’s breathtaking tale is one marked by cruelty and revenge; passion and redemption—and the sinfully sweet temptation of chocolate.
Let me just start this review by saying that I really liked this book. It was over 600 pages but it flew by. I felt fully immersed in the world of 1660s London. However, this book also really made me angry. The reason for that is the treatment of the female characters.
The story starts with Rosamund, as a teenager, working as a serving girl in the inn that her mother and stepfather own. You quickly find out that her stepfather and two stepbrothers have been sexually abusing her since she moved in with them years earlier. This is not spelled out in detail but is made clear from their interactions.
In an attempt to run away from her brothers to avoid being raped again, she meets a wealthy man. He offers to take her to London with him for reasons that he doesn’t make clear. Her mother sees this as an opportunity to get her daughter away from the men in her life and get her a better life. She arranges a fast marriage ceremony and then sends Rosamund away with orders never to return.
Her new husband turns out to be a controlling man who owns slaves and who tells her that he doesn’t want to her any opinions or ideas from her. Her job is to learn to make chocolate. Her husband is going to be opening a chocolate house and he wants her to serve the chocolate.
You learn a lot of chocolate at this time in England. It is just being introduced. It is considered a very racy drink. The English are started to add sugar and milk and herbs to it to fit their tastes instead of drinking it straight like Central Americans and Spaniards.
Rosamund is an anomaly. She is in the chocolate house. She is seen in public. So of course in the minds of the men in the area she is up for grabs. There are more attempted rape just because she is on the street. In the chocolate house she is molested and called all kinds of names just for existing in public. The attitude of the men of the era is completely repulsive. I want to shove this book into the hands of everyone who tells me that women had it better when they lived at home and were protected. This is what it was like to have zero rights even as a noblewoman. It is even worse for the few other female characters. There is a widow who cleans the chocolate house, there is a young girl who starts working there, and there is a female slave in the household of Rosamund’s new husband. Add the sexism into the hatred of the poor and into the racism of the time and these women were just hanging on.
Real events of the time period like outbreaks of plague and the Great Fire are detailed to show how this affected people living in London at the time. I really did learn a lot in this book. I appreciate a book that can make me angry at the injustices that fictional characters are faced with. So, read this book – just don’t be surprised if you feel like yelling at men afterwards.
About Karen Brooks
Karen Brooks is the author of twelve books, an academic of more than twenty years’ experience, a newspaper columnist and social commentator, and has appeared regularly on national TV and radio. Before turning to academia, she was an army officer for five years, and prior to that dabbled in acting.
She lives in Hobart, Tasmania, in a beautiful stone house with its own marvellous history. When she’s not writing, she’s helping her husband Stephen in his brewery, Captain Bligh’s Ale and Cider, or cooking for family and friends, travelling, cuddling and walking her dogs, stroking her cats, or curled up with a great book and dreaming of more stories.
Confessions of a Traveler: The Observations of Alien 597
Grotesque insect looking beasts, which burst out of your chest, and have acid for blood. Grey and short aliens with big eyes, who want to take over your mind, and they do horrible experiments with instruments that go up your anus. They’ve come to take over the world, and make you into a zombie or dinner. If they ever land in full view, they would either be worshiped and a new religion would form, or murdered immediately, and their ship parts sold to the highest bidder. Alien 597 read her report about aliens that humans had encountered.
A short story about an alien visiting Earth.
Alien 597 didn’t want to grow up to be a traveler. But now her species has found out about humans and she is going to go and observe life on Earth.
I love fish out of water stories about people (or aliens) finding new cultures. This is a very quick read since it is a short story. She makes many mistakes trying to understand how humans are interacting with her.
Author Bio – Clara L Molina writes Science Fiction books most of the time, dabbles in comic drawings occasionally, and writes to laugh at herself all the time. She has a computer science degree, but has been a lifelong writer. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, and enjoys fresh air and days where her hair is not frizzy.
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?
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.com, Washingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.
It’s been a few years since I’ve any Picoult. I was previously a fan. This book, though… It gave me some agita.
First of all, there is a family of three that are sort of the center of the book. I hate them all with the passion of a thousand suns.
There is a 15 year old girl, Wren, who is in the clinic to get birth control. Her aunt is with her. Her father is the hostage negotiator. They are all horrible.
Wren is the absolute center of everyone’s universe and it shows. She’s so infantilized by her family that she can’t do anything for herself. When the shooting starts a person realizes that she has a cell phone on her and they tell her to call 911. She does not. She texts her father. He doesn’t answer because he’s busy but instead of then calling 911 she proceeds to leave him over 50 text messages. Not a helper. She endangers people over and over and does in fact get people killed.
The father is an arrogant jerk. Once he realizes that he has family in the building he doesn’t tell anyone. He knows that he is required to do this and to step aside as negotiator for very good reasons. He does not because he feels that this shouldn’t apply to him.
Also, (I feel the need to shout this part)
YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR DAUGHTER’S SEXUALITY!
I got no tolerance left for this trope. I don’t want to hear about how you wanted to beat up a three year old boy who held hands with your daughter in preschool. I don’t want to hear about how you want to know who your daughter’s boyfriend is so you can intimidate him.
Then this fool is talking to his ex-wife on the phone and says, “Take care of yourself” when he gets done. He’s all proud of himself because he considers this a horrible insult to say to a woman because it implies that her man can’t provide for her. First of all, there is no human in the universe who would interpret that statement that way. Second?
Take it away, Emma.
He can get out of my sight until he can act right.
The aunt thinks she has some huge secret that is obvious from the first few chapters. She gets shot (not a spoiler for reasons we will discuss) but all she can do while she is laying on the floor bleeding into her chest is mouth Wren’s name because Wren is a pretty, fragile princess who is the center of the universe in case you forgot. (Don’t worry, they will discuss this ad nauseum in the book. You won’t forget for long.)
Personally, I was driving my car around listening to the audiobook, yelling, “Someone needs to shoot Wren!” for days. But, no one shoots Wren. I did not have any hope whatsoever because of the warped structure of the book. It starts a few hours after the shooting when all the hostages are released except for Wren. The father then trades places with her so he is the only remaining hostage. (In case you didn’t know, she is the center of his universe.) From here it jumps back and hour in time and tells the story. Then it jumps back another hour. You literally start out knowing who lives and who dies and then meet them all as you move backwards in time. I keep trying to figure out why this choice was made. It doesn’t make sense to me. If you took the chapters as written and just rearranged them you’d have a much more powerful story. You would meet all the characters. The author does a good job of making you care about everyone else (except Wren and her family). If she had built up all this care and empathy for the characters and then they were killed unexpectedly it would have been much more effective. You would have the suspense of hoping that the characters were going to make it. Now you find out about people and think, “She was a nice lady. Too bad people have been stepping over body since chapter 1.”
“From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.”
I finished this one already. It was pretty good even though I felt like it dragged a little in the middle.
“Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son―the last of their line―is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away…”
This one just came in from the library.
This next one is my current audiobook. I know that it isn’t written by a woman but it is a translation so I’m mentioning it because you should read it.
“The postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the Devil appears to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, our narrator will get one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week…”
I’m always on the lookout for fun translated books. I feel like most of what gets translated is Very Serious Literature and isn’t what I want to read. Where are the urban fantasy, light sci-fi, chick lit, romance?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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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.
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.
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.
“Bill Cosby’s decades-long career as a sweater-wearing, wholesome TV dad came to a swift and stunning end on April 26, 2018, when he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. The mounting allegations against Bill Cosby–more than 60 women have come forward to accuse him of similar crimes–and his ultimate conviction were a shock to Americans, who wanted to cleave to their image of Cosby as a pudding-pop hero.
Award-winning journalist and former People magazine senior writer Nicki Weisensee Egan was the first reporter to dig into the story when Constand went to the police in 2005. Other news organizations looked away, but Egan doggedly investigated the case, developing ties with entrenched sources and discovering incriminating details that would ultimately come to influence the prosecution.”
I picked up this one because I need a physical book to read while at the beach. I can’t take my iPad there. This was sitting on the counter.
“As the novel opens, a threat looms. Enemies are planning an attack of unprecedented scale on America. Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself becomes a suspect, and then goes missing…”
I’m still listening to this because I need it to finish off a bingo card square but it is painful. The narrator is a famous actor but his voice work is not strong. Specifically, his female voices are robotic.
““Food writing is stepping out,” legendary food writer Ruth Reichl declares at the start of this, the inaugural edition of Best American Food Writing. “It’s about time…Food is, in a very real sense, redesigning the world.” Indeed, the twenty-eight pieces in this volume touch on every pillar of society: from the sense memories that connect a family through food, to the scientific tinkering that gives us new snacks to share, to the intersections of culinary culture with some of our most significant political issues. At times a celebration, at times a critique, at times a wondrous reverie, the Best American Food Writing 2018 is brimming with delights both circumspect and sensuous. Dig in!”
I’m still working my way through this one. The husband has picked it up too. We’re leaving it in the bathroom so we don’t fight over who gets to read it when.
I’m needing to reboot my reading life. I have to take everything back to the library and start over. I’m scared to even look and see what my fines are at. In theory I want to read all the books I have out but realistically I keep picking up other books instead. Time to let these ones go.
I have a lot of book tour reviews coming up so I need to get started on these books. Here’s what I hope to get to this week.
“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.”
“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 .”
“Icons of Mexican cultural identity and America’s melting pot ideal, taco trucks have transformed cityscapes from coast to coast. The taco truck radiates Mexican culture within non-Mexican spaces with a presence–sometimes desired, sometimes resented–that turns a public street corner into a bustling business. Drawing on interviews with taco truck workers and his own skills as a geographer, Robert Lemon illuminates new truths about foodways, community, and the unexpected places where ethnicity, class, and culture meet. Lemon focuses on the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Columbus, Ohio, to show how the arrival of taco trucks challenge preconceived ideas of urban planning even as cities use them to reinvent whole neighborhoods. As Lemon charts the relationships between food practices and city spaces, he uncovers the many ways residents and politicians alike contest, celebrate, and influence not only where your favorite truck parks, but what’s on the menu.”