Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular 'Raise' AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.
Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master's dream for the shop.
When Clara stops by Sal's shop for lunch, she doesn't expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…
This novella tells the story of a humanoid robot who is keeping her former owner’s beloved tea shop running almost 300 years after her death. Robots like her have since been outlawed. Robotics technician Clara is thrilled to meet Sal and offers to help fix up her ailing software. What does she want to have changed though? What makes her HER?
This book features a f/f romantic, asexual relationship.
Batter Upby Robyn Neeley on June 15th 2015 Pages: 172 Setting: New York
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret. A delicious premonition she shares every Monday evening with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls as they gather at the Sugar Spoon bakery for Batter Up night.
Investigative reporter Jason Levine just found himself as the man candy for a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Roped into attending the Vegas nuptials, was he hearing things when the groom shares that the only reason he’s getting married is because a small town baker conjured up the name of his soulmate in her cake batter?
Sparks fly when Jason tries to expose Emma as a fraud, but reality and logic go out the window as he begins to fall under her spell.
This is a fun read that works if you just suspend disbelief and embrace the magical realism of the idea. Emma knows one spell. There really isn't an explanation for that.
I also wondered how they have Batter Up night every week in this very small town and never run out of bachelors who want to commit.
It is a fluffy, light romance with fade to black sex scenes and magical cupcake batter so if you are looking for an escapist quick read this one might be for you.
Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption. When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known and on the woman who protected her with all her heart, a new one opened.
As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal,” Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost and having to adapt to a new reality while struggling with the traumas of her youth. When her world falls apart again as an adult, Christina returns to Brazil to finally confront her past and unlock the truth of what really happened to Christiana Mara Coelho.
This is a heartbreaking story of a child living in extreme poverty on the streets in Brazil. The things that happen to her are horrific including witnessing the murder of her best friend by the police, seeing numerous rapes, and killing another child in a fight over food.
Because this all happened as a child she didn’t clearly know or remember the reasons why they lived like they did. All she knew was that her mother loved her and her little brother but that there were also times when she wasn’t around. The children were taken to an orphanage where they were eventually not allowed to have contact with their mother and then were adopted by a couple from Sweden. Nothing that was going on was explained to her.
As an adult she decides to go back to Brazil to try to find her mother and to find out what really happened to make sense of her childhood memories.
She examines the disconnect she feels about being grateful for her good life in Sweden that wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t forcibly taken from her mother but also being angry about being separated from the person who loved her.
The book is very simply written or translated. That makes it a very stark read. It is very sad but I think it is necessary to know what is going on in the poorest parts of society. Once again in reading this book I was struck by how often male sexual violence towards women and children is considered to be an everyday thing. I hate knowing that there are women who have to submit to being raped because they are told that it is her or her child. Books like this just make me want to have a moratorium on men for a while.
‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’
As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.
When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.
Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.
One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.
What would you do if you had to leave your home in a few hours? Could you leave your animals behind knowing that animals left on other farms had been killed? That was one of the issues facing farmers in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe’s government instituted a series of land seizures.
The Retzlaff family didn’t leave Zimbabwe right away like many of the other white farmers they knew did. They moved farm to farm but the chaos followed them. As they moved across the country over a series of years, they collected animals. Eventually, they moved to the neighboring country of Mozambique.
I imagine that this is a book that could have a hard time finding an audience. Readers who care more deeply about people than animals might be offended by the effort and resources that went into moving and housing the horses when so many people were suffering. Horse lovers don’t like to read books where horses are mistreated. Horse lovers do need to be warned. Most of the horses you meet in this book don’t survive until the end. Many bad things happen to them regardless of the efforts of the Retzlaffs.
Another issue in this book is historical accuracy versus personal experience. Reading the book, the land reform movement seems to come on suddenly. I’ve been looking a bit more into the history because I assumed that there had to have been some colonial shenanigans that resulted in all these large landowners being white people. Yes, Rhodesia (the former name of Zimbabwe) had favored whites in land distribution. The black population was put onto the least productive land.
“Following Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, land legislation was again amended with the Rhodesian Land Tenure Act of 1969. The Land Tenure Act upended the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and was designed to rectify the issue of insufficient land available to the rapidly expanding black population. It reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 45 million acres and reserved another 45 million acres for black ownership, introducing parity in theory; however, the most fertile farmland in Regions I, II, and III continued to be included in the white enclave. Abuses of the system continued to abound; some white farmers took advantage of the legislation to shift their property boundaries into land formerly designated for black settlement, often without notifying the other landowners.”
“In 1977, the Land Tenure Act was amended by the Rhodesian parliament, which further reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 200,000 hectares, or 500,000 acres. Over 15 million hectares were thus opened to purchase by persons of any race.Two years later, as part of the Internal Settlement, Zimbabwe Rhodesia‘s incoming biracial government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa abolished the reservation of land according to race. White farmers continued to own 73.8% of the most fertile land suited for intensive cash crop cultivation and livestock grazing, in addition to generating 80% of the country’s total agricultural output.”
“The Lancaster House Agreement  stipulated that farms could only be taken from whites on a “willing buyer, willing seller” principle for at least ten years. White farmers were not to be placed under any pressure or intimidation, and if they decided to sell their farms they were allowed to determine their own asking prices”
“Between April 1980 and September 1987, the acreage of land occupied by white-owned commercial farms was reduced by about 20%.” – all quoted from Wikipedia
Ok, so they can’t say they didn’t know this was coming. They talk a little about the politics of it and how they weren’t paying any attention. They mention the vote on a referendum in 2000 only because their black workers asked to borrow transportation so they could all vote. It was the day before voting and they hadn’t really considered it?
“The government organised a referendum on the new constitution in February 2000, despite having a sufficiently large majority in parliament to pass any amendment it wished. Had it been approved, the new constitution would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation. Despite vast support in the media, the new constitution was defeated, 55% to 45%.” Wikipedia
It was after this failed that the government started to encourage mob violence to steal land without compensation. I understand that they were both born and raised in Africa and felt protected because they legally owned their land but the writing was on the wall. Things were about to get ugly and they were completely unprepared.
What happened as a result of the seizure of white-owned farms was a complete disaster. They were given as gifts to friends and family of powerful people who didn’t know the first thing about farming. Zimbabwe’s economy was based on farming and when the farms collapsed it collapsed. So no one is saying that this was a good and just plan but it couldn’t have been completely unexpected.
There are also some other statements that come across as very colonial. One time when they move to a new farm she discusses her family moving into the farm house and then talks about her workers settling into the huts around the property. She also has this quote – “John’s was a good old-fashioned cattle ranch of the kind the first pioneers in this part of the world had kept.” Sure, they were the first people in the area if you ignore millennia of existence before then. The author has commented negatively on reviews on Goodreads that bring up these aspects of the book. That’s never a good look.
As a horse person I wish there were more details. They talk about sometimes transporting horses in trucks. Where did the trucks come from? How many trips did you make? How many horses did you have at any given time? The synopsis refers to over 300 but the book doesn’t talk about that number. How are you affording all this?
What happened to this family is bad. But I can’t muster 100% sympathy for them. I would have liked to see a bit more self awareness. This book would have benefited from including the perspectives of the black workers who traveled with them. A few of these people are mentioned once or twice by name but generally they are described as a faceless group of grooms. That’s a big oversight in a book that describes many different white horse owners in detail.
Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie's prayers. It's only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating boyfriend Richard.
But is running away from your past ever really the answer?
Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zack Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer's block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there's Sylvia, who's clinging so hard to her past, she's in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether.
Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia's little Duck Pond Café from closure?
Books set in cafes in England are my favorites. This story features both a bakery and a cafe.
This is the first of a planned series of three books in this small town. This section has the task of setting up all the characters and situations which is a lot to do in such a small space. As a result it felt a bit like the author was ticking off the boxes of what is expected in this genre.
A woman who just was dumped by her long term boyfriend for another woman
A conveniently single man at her new location complete with an adorable child
An aging proprietor of a failing cafe who wants to take in a total stranger
The story was enjoyable but it never rose above the predictable. There wasn’t enough depth of emotion in the story to draw me in fully. This may be a series read best when it is all completed so the characters have room to develop and grow.
I’m most interested in seeing the development of some of the secondary characters like the secret baker who is learning to stand up for herself.
1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.
The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.
Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?
I loved Helena. At the beginning of the book she has just been widowed for the second time although she is only in her early 20s. She is the youngest daughter in a large family. Because of that she has always been treated as a child. They even call her “Baby” although her brother is younger than her.
Helena is shocked by the death of her husband and is starting to get angry about the way her family has swooped in assuming that she is a problem that needs to be managed again. She declares that she is not going to be married off again. She is going to manage her own estate. She is not going to be pushed out of her own life any more.
Then her late husband’s doctor tells her that he doesn’t believe his death was accidental but that the other men on the inquiry panel ruled against him. Most of those men are related to her. What are they trying to hide?
There are several plot lines in this book.
How did Helena’s husband actually die?
Helena standing up for herself with her family
A tenant farmer’s death
I enjoyed reading about Helena’s relationships with each of the people in her large family. She’s always accepted the surface version of things but now that she’s starting to dig deeper into her life, things aren’t always as she assumed. Her little brother is overbearing and too enamored of his status as the head of the family but he isn’t always wrong about what she should do with her life. Her mother and father may not have had the idyllic marriage that Helena imagined. There may be more to her free-spirited artist sister than she expects. All these relationships set up storylines that can continue into other books in the series.
The book dives into disability during this time period also. Helena’s mother is in the late stages of dementia. She has a full time nurse but the mental toll on family members and on Helena’s mother is discussed in ways appropriate to the time period. Helena’s brother reads as autistic. At this time, that wasn’t a described condition so he is mostly considered odd and sometimes offputting. But, his wife loves him and understands him and helps him interact with his family and the rest of the world. Helena has a physically disabled nephew who she loves but who is treated as feeble-minded by his parents even though he is not. She helps him learn to stand up for himself as she learns it for herself.
I’m not a fan of books where lay people investigate crimes unless the story sets up a good reason why the authorities can’t be involved. In this case the authorities of the area are all family members who may be involved. The doctor is French and may be a spy. You never know quite who you can trust.
I will definitely read the next book in this series.
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Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British accent according to just about every American she meets.
Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Around the edges of her professional occupations and raising children, she stuck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she had the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author.
Jane has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives. For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently? These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.
As soon as I heard about this book I knew that it was a book I needed to read. I turn into a tower of rage whenever I hear “Where were their parents?” in response to a teenager committing a crime. I feel this because I know that someday this accusation is going to leveled at me concerning my stepdaughter.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t read this book to get into the mind of a mass murderer. I wanted tips about what to do after a child commits a crime. Knowing that I wanted this felt awkward so while reading this book I broached the subject with my husband.
Me: “So…… I’m reading Sue Klebold’s book about the aftermath of Columbine. I sort of wanted to know what you do after a crime.”
Him: “Yeah. (long pause) So what did you find out?”
Me: “Lawyer up and grab the pets and go into hiding with relatives who don’t share your unusual last name.”
Him: Looks concerned at me while we contemplate our very unusual last name. We’re screwed.
The Klebolds had a very different experience than parents of mentally ill children do. She addresses this at one point.
“I have heard many terrible stories of good peoplestruggling to parent seriously ill, violent kids. I have nothing but compassion for them, and feel we must rehabilitate a health care system that too often leaves them out in the cold. If you want to feel sick to your stomach, listen to a mom tell you about the day her volatile ten-year-old narrowly missed stabbing her with the kitchen shears, and how it felt to call the police on him because she was worried the lock on his younger sister’s bedroom door wouldn’t hold against his rage. Too often, parents of seriously disturbed kids are forced to get the criminal justice system involved—even though it is drastically ill-equipped to manage brain illness—simply because there is nowhere else to turn.”
One thing I was surprisingly shocked to read was how many lawsuits were filed against the families of the shooters. It wasn’t like they helped their kids stockpile weapons and then drove them to the school. How were they at fault? I think it is a sad commentary on our society feeling like someone has to take the blame for anything that happens and if the people responsible are dead, then the victim’s families just wanted someone else to blame. There are excerpts of letters written to her by parents of the victims years later blaming her for not talking publicly so people could see if she was showing enough remorse. They talk about wanting to know if she has learned anything. This hounding from the victims’ families is part of the reason she wrote this book. The proceeds are all being donated to mental health research.
I found Sue Klebold’s descriptions of herself and her parenting to be an example of the type of parent that drives me to exasperation. It is the overinvolved yet absolutely clueless type. These are the perky women who tell you that they have a great family and will fight to the death to uphold their belief that their precious little munchkin would never do anything wrong while you know that their child is the local drug dealer. I’ve known a few of these types of mothers. They are exhausting. I switched halfway through the book from audio to ebook because listening to her talk about the time before the shooting was irritating. I understand it though. The parents’ letters ask if she ever hugged her child or had a sit down meal with him. People want to think that if they do everything “right” then their child will never commit a crime. She admits that she thought like this too until her son went on a rampage.
Few of these parents ever have their illusions shattered as horrifically as this author did. But she admits that she was able to shield herself from hearing anything about the crime for months so she was able to persist in her denial that her child did anything wrong. She convinced herself that he was drugged or kidnapped or really a victim or was being threatened with danger to his family. She was willing to believe anything except that he was a killer. She persisted in this belief until the police laid out their whole case for them about 4 months after the murders. Here is a horrible example of how she tried to justify her thinking.
“This wasn’t the drug-riddled inner city, or some supposedly godless corridor like New York or Los Angeles.“
Her solutions are jarring. They are based in the idea that parents should know everything about their children. She is obviously an extrovert who says that she loves to talk about issues. If only you could force your children to tell you everything, you could prevent problems. I can feel my poor little introvert soul shrinking when she talks about this.
“I’ve even imagined barricading myself in his room, refusing to leave until he tells me what he’s thinking.“
She advocates searching rooms to find hidden journals or papers. She says this knowing that her son hid weapons and bombs from her while she was actively searching his room. They hid things so well that the police didn’t even find some of the hiding spots until they watched videos Dylan and Eric had left behind explaining how they had hid everything. If a kid doesn’t want you to know something, you aren’t going to know it.
She brushes over the practical aftermath of the shootings for her family in one paragraph. Basically, they were sued over and over and over and lost their house and went bankrupt for a crime they didn’t commit. They also eventually divorced after 43 years of marriage because she is active in suicide prevention and he wanted to leave all of this in the past.
I think she dismisses the bullying that Dylan and Eric had at school too much. She doesn’t talk about it much at all. Other sources have talked about how toxic Columbine High School was. I did appreciate this statement in the book.
“Larkin also points to proselytizing and intimidation by evangelical Christian students, a self-appointed moral elite who perceived the kids who dressed differently as evil and targeted them.“
So much was made after Columbine in evangelical circles about the targeting of Christian kids. It was used as proof that the shooters were evil. Maybe the Christian community also needed to look at the behavior of their kids.
That’s ultimately the point of this story. Everyone wants to demonize the parents of murderous kids because if you find the thing they did wrong, then it won’t happen to your family. No one wants to admit that that isn’t the case. Until society admits that it could happen to anyone, real help won’t happen.
Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she's taken over a derelict cafe. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn! She's hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It's a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past. But the cafe holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn't help. The more you try to pretend that you know what's going on, the worse it gets. Andorra's plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands. In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?
I’m not usually a cozy mystery fan because it always drives me crazy when people don’t report crimes to the police and decide to investigate themselves. I decided to give this one a try though because of the twist on the genre. This cafe owner who is investigating a crime is living on a space station.
Andorra and her friend Cyril moved to a space station near Saturn. It is there to support mining in the rings of Saturn. The previous owner of the cafe left suddenly. When cleaning the cafe to reopen though, they find his body. Not knowing who to trust on the station because they are new, they keep him in the freezer.
The book gets into issues of sexual harassment and infidelity because the previous owner was known for seducing many women on the station and then keeping records that could be used to blackmail them. Anyone could be a suspect. I was reading this book just as all the accusations of sexual harassment in Hollywood were coming to light. It was a jarring juxtaposition to see this plotline at that time. It made it feel very timely and topical.
I liked the world building. Andorra is taken all over the station to see how life on the space station works. It was well thought out and logical. I love that there is a farm.
The book takes place an unspecified time in the future when Mars has been colonized for a long time. Unfortunately, there still is homophobia on the space station. That surprised me because usually I don’t see that in sci-fi I read. It made me uncomfortable because I kept thinking that we should be over that by then.
Overall I did enjoy this story. I would be interested in reading more in this series. Check this one out especially if you enjoy both cozy mysteries and sci-fi.
A native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.
He can be found at www.richarddeescifi.co.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RichardDeeAuthor
Twitter – https://twitter.com/@RichardDockett1
Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
Annie and Evie have been friends since Annie first stood up for Evie against some bullies in elementary school. Now as adults, Evie is Annie’s personal assistant. Annie is San Francisco’s only superhero Aveda Jupiter. She’s all about the glory. She dumps everything else on Evie who takes it because she feels like she owes Annie.
Annie/Aveda is truly abusive to Evie. Everyone sees it but her. When Evie is forced out of the shadows she needs to rely on her own powers to save the city and find a life for herself outside of Aveda Jupiter’s orbit.
Good things about this book:
Asian female superheroes – Annie is Chinese and Evie is half-Japanese
The menace is fairly lighthearted and fun. It starts with demons taking the form of cupcakes that bite and ends with demonic minions who complain about everything the boss demon does. I could imagine this whole book as a technicolor comic strip.
Evie learning to stand up for herself is wonderful.
Evie has been suppressing her emotions in order to keep her powers under control. When she starts to get in touch with her feelings, the first one that she notices is lust. She refers to her lack of lustful feelings as the Dead Inside-o-meter. The idea that she hasn’t had sex in three years is considered proof of emotional problems. I’m not a fan of stories that consider either asexuality or celibacy as the weirdest thing that ever happened.
Evie’s teenage sister is the worst person ever. Well, maybe second worse next to Aveda. It is hard to tell but then they start hanging out together and amplify each other’s behavior and it is everything horrible. They are selfish and childish but Evie is supposed to be seen as no fun for objecting to it all.
I didn’t like the romances in this book. They just seemed added because you have to have a sexual partner (see complaint 1). Suddenly, she has feelings for a person who annoys her all the time? The fact that someone annoys you is actually stated as proof that you probably deep down want to sleep with them. No, maybe they are just annoying and you have the good sense to stay away from them.
Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship...
Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding... it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.
Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.
This book was so good. Clem runs a boarding house that his half brother owns. He was born after an Earl raped an Indian nanny who accompanied his brother’s family home to England. Clem is seen as an embarrassment to his snobbish family and this is a way of keeping him out of sight. The only condition of his employment is that he has to keep a drunken ex-vicar in the house no matter what. Clem is a methodical person who needs to do one thing at a time. Other people think that he is slow and clumsy because he gets flustered with too much stimuli.
Rowley is a taxidermist who takes lodgings at the house after setting up shop next door. He prefers to be alone and can’t handle other people’s anger well after surviving an abusive childhood. His quietness settles Clem. The two of them gradually find enjoyment in each other’s company. They have a nightly cup of tea together. They are just starting to acknowledge feelings for each other when there is a robbery attempt and then a murder.
This is when homosexuality was still banned in England. There is a pub called the Jack and Knave that Clem frequents. It is open only to approved people brought by known clients. Inside the Jack, gay men and women are free to socialize openly. Many of the characters in this series are regulars there.
This book does a very good job on the romance portion of the book. There is sexual activity but it is loving and in context of a relationship. A mystery is introduced in this book but is not fully resolved until the series is over. It involves Clem’s half-brother and then inheritance of the earldom.
An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, #2)by K.J. Charles Pages: 250
In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.
Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.
Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.
But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.
Nathaniel is a regular at the Jack and Knave who is still grieving his partner’s death five years ago. He is a journalist and is assigned to debunk a medium. He starts his investigation with Justin Lazarus and finds himself intrigued. Nathaniel is surprised when investigating Clem’s mystery also leads him back to Justin who met one of the players in the saga one year ago. This is not a slow burn romance like the first book. This is hate/lust leading to sex leading to regret/embarrassment. Then they are forced back together and over time a relationship builds.
Justin had a rough upbringing and has major trust issues. He doesn’t feel bad at all about fleecing the rich and gullible. Nathaniel is firmly on the side of living a moral life and not hurting anyone. He has a hard time accepting the good in anyone in a dishonest profession. Nathaniel is also uncomfortable moving on and feeling attracted to another man for the first time. He especially doesn’t want to fall for someone so unlike his beloved partner. The book talks about how difficult it was grieve when no one in the outside world knew of the love between the men.
The mystery continues to be resolved. In each book a little bit is solved so it doesn’t feel like you are missing a conclusion even if you don’t have the whole picture yet.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
In this final book of the series, detective Mark finds the lost heir to the Earldom. He is a trapeze artist performing with his twin sister. Most people would jump at the chance to go from music hall performer to aristocrat but Pen Starling wants nothing to do with it. He is genderfluid and comfortable living in a world where he is able to dress in a costume that fits how he feels on each day. If he becomes an Earl, he would be forced to live as a man full time. As he says, if he had been raised to be an Earl he might have been able to pass himself off as an eccentric recluse but as a former commoner he would be watched. Information is given about court cases of the time regarding transgender people.
Mark is a Polish immigrant. He was born with one arm. He makes his way confidently through a world that makes no accommodations for people with disabilities. He is pansexual and has previously had relationships with both men and women. He embraces Pen’s genderfluidity as a wonderful aspect of him.
This is my favorite of the books. I loved Mark and Pen’s relationship. The resolution of the mystery was unexpected and very satisfying to all parties involved. I will definitely read this author again.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.
Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.
As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…
This is historical romance series with a fantasy twist. Once upon a time a fairy was helped by a woman. In exchange, she asked for each of her female descendants to be granted one wish when they are in their early twenties. This series covers a few of the descendants as they choose their gift and then deal with the consequences in their lives. I hadn’t read a series before that combined fantasy and Regency romance.
In the first book Charlotte decides to wish for the ability to shapeshift. She uses this gift to disguise herself as a man to attempt to live an independent life. This is a good opening for some social commentary about the restrictions on women. The book is also funny as Charlotte tries to control a male body with its over large hands and obvious responses to sexual attraction. Her employer (and eventual love interest) thinks he is taking a young, particularly naive man under his wing and teaching what life in London is like. As their friendship and attraction deepen, both need to comes to terms with their own understanding of what it means to be attracted to a personality no matter the shape of the body that it is in.
Sir Barnaby Ware made a mistake two and a half years ago. A massive mistake. The sort of mistake that can never be atoned for.
He knows himself to be irredeemable, but the captivating and unconventional Miss Merryweather is determined to prove him wrong…
The daughter of a dancing master and a noblewoman, Miss Merryweather had an unusual upbringing. She sees things no one else sees—and she says things no one else says.
Sir Barnaby knows he’s the villain in this piece, but Miss Merryweather thinks he’s the hero—and she is damnably hard to resist…
Barnaby Ware was introduced in book 1 as the man who broke up a marriage and a lifelong friendship by having an affair. When the wronged party attempts to reach out to him in forgiveness, he resists because he feels that what he did was unforgivable. When he visits his former friend he meets Miss Merryweather. Unbeknownst to him, she is due to receive her fairy gift in a few days.
This is a novella instead of a full length novel. It is also the most forgettable of these books for me. I was more interested in the friendship that was trying to be repaired instead of the romance that is supposed to be blossoming.
Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.
Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.
Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing—to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.
Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret—including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…
This is one of my favorites of the series. Lydia has been living with her gift – the ability to tell lies from truth – for several years. She has refused all offers of marriage because she knows that the men have only wanted her money and not her. She gets involved with an injured former soldier who hears about her ability (but not the magical reason). He wants her to help him find out what happened in the ambush where he was injured and all his companions were killed.
I liked the fact that this book had an older and wiser heroine. She’s seen it all moving through society with the ability to cut through all the games and polite phrases. The chance to do something new thrills her.
Icarus is suffering from severe PTSD. He’s suicidal and has nightmares every night. It is a good representation of this. As the wife of a veteran with PTSD, I appreciated the thoughtful portrayal.
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…
Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.
But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.
He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…
I did not like this book. I wanted to. This book focuses on two male characters who were important in the last book. I liked them. I wanted to find out more about their relationship. My problem with this one was the way the sex was handled. I’m not a huge fan of sex in books anyway. I much prefer slow burn romances and fade to black sex scenes. While the other books have had sex scenes there was enough romance and character development to balance them.
In this book, there is just sex. You don’t get the romantic parts that were seen in the other books. I think that the difference was here because it was switched to a m/m story instead of a male/virginal female story. I don’t think that is a good reason to leave out the romance and tenderness though. Relationship development is still important and that didn’t happen here.
Eleanor Wrotham has sworn off overbearing men, but she needs a man’s help—and the man who steps forward is as domineering as he is dangerous: the notorious Mordecai Black.
The illegitimate son of an earl, Mordecai is infamous for his skill with women. His affairs are legendary—but few people realize that Mordecai has rules, and one of them is: Never ruin a woman.
But if Mordecai helps Miss Wrotham, she will be ruined.
Eleanor is searching for her sister, who ran away to marry a soldier. Eleanor’s fiance ran off because of the scandal her sister caused. Her father and aunt kept her sister’s letters from her. Now she has found a several month old letter saying that her sister is in trouble. The only person willing to help her is a relative of the man who jilted her.
This ends up being a road trip story like book 3. I don’t think it is quite as strong as that one but is enjoyable nonetheless.
At the age of four Lord Vickery was stolen by gypsies and sold to a chimney sweep. At the age of five he was reunited with his father. His history is no secret—everyone in the ton knows of his miraculous rescue.
But when Vickery finds his father’s diaries, he discovers that there may be a secret buried in his past…
Georgiana Dalrymple knows all about secrets. She has several herself—and one of those secrets is her ability to find missing people.
When Lord Vickery turns to her for help, Georgiana sets out to discover just who he actually is…
Georgiana can find anything, including the answers to old mysteries if she just asks the right questions. But is uncovering the truth always for the best?
I liked this book a lot. It was nice to see the heroine trying to convince the hero that she would stand by him instead of the other other way around like it is common in a lot of historical romances. There is no meet-cute here. They have known each other all their lives and their relationship is formed out of their friendship. It was a nice end to the series.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this series if you like historical romances. Just skip the third book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Shelby Preston, a young single mother, is at a crossroads. She feels suffocated by her hardscrabble life in rural Georgia and dreams of becoming a professional chef. Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
In Atlanta, Mallory Lakes is reeling from a bad breakup. The newspaper food columnist is also bracing for major changes at work that could put her job at risk. Determined to find the perfect recipe for how to reinvent herself, she gets involved in the growing farm-to-table movement. But an emotional setback threatens to derail everything she’s worked for. Shelby and Mallory couldn’t be more different. But through their shared passion for food, they form an unlikely friendship—a bond that just might be their salvation.
This book has been sitting on my ereader for a long time. Now I’m upset that I didn’t read it sooner.
Shelby is a young single mother who follows food blogger Mallory and loves to make her recipes. She wants to be a chef but that would require her to leave her daughter with her mother in southern Georgia and move to Atlanta to work and go to school.
The newspaper Mallory writes for has just moved totally online and she has thrown herself into creating a new, indispensable, digital persona.
Shelby and Mallory cross paths at the grocery where Shelby gets a job. Their lives start to intersect more and more until the day when they are bound together by an accident.
The writing in this book was very beautifully done and pulled me in immediately. I loved the contrast between the poor, rural Shelby who dreams of a better life and urban Mallory. One of the themes in the book that haven’t seen written about much in foodie fiction was the accessibility of foodie culture. Shelby decides which of the meals that she will make based on what is available and affordable at her local grocery store. She talks about how she understands that Mallory feels that all the produce needs to be organic but that isn’t possible for her. When Shelby tries to get a job in a deli at the grocery store, she wears her best clothes for the interview but realizes that they are shabby compared to the affluent people she sees there. The grocery store in question just rebranded as an upscale store, losing some neighborhood clients in the process.
Overall, I wasn’t as invested in the story by the end as I was in the beginning. I wasn’t a fan of the romance angle for Mallory or of the accident plot that seemed like it wasn’t necessary. However, I think that the well done characterizations of Shelby and the secondary characters is still enough to recommend this book.
There are recipes in the back of this book like there are in a lot of books that feature food. But guys, I actually made one of the recipes. I know, shocking, right. I think that reading all the people who link up at the Foodies Read pages is getting to me.
There was a recipe for Pimento Cheese. I eat 99% vegan at home but back in time I really did love some pimento cheese. I decided to try to veganize it. I used vegan mayo and Daiya cheddar shreds. I love Just Mayo’s vegan mayo but I actually hate Daiya fake cheese. I think they taste like wax. There wasn’t another cheddar selection in the store though so I gave it a try.
It was amazing! Totally had the right taste and texture. I can’t take attractive food pictures to save my life and I contend that there is nothing that can make pimento cheese photogenic anyway, but here it is.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
When American writer Stephanie Saldana finds herself in an empty house at the beginning of Nablus Road, the dividing line between East and West Jerusalem, she is a new wife trying to navigate a fragile terrain, both within her marriage and throughout the country in which she has chosen to live.
Pregnant with her first child, Stephanie struggles to protect her family, their faith, and herself from the cracks of Middle Eastern conflict that threaten to shatter the world around her. But as her due date approaches, she must reconcile herself with her choice to bring a child into a dangerous world. Determined to piece together life from the brokenness, she sets out to uncover small instances of beauty to balance the delicate coexistence between love, motherhood, and a country so often at war.
In an urban valley in Jerusalem, A Country Between captures the fragile ecosystem of the Middle East and the difficult first years of motherhood in the midst of a conflict-torn city. What unfolds is a celebration of faith, language, family, and love that fills the space between what was shattered, leaving us whole once more.
This memoir is the story of an American woman who was considering becoming a nun in a Syrian monastery. She met a French novice monk there. Eventually, they left and married.
Through a series of unplanned events, they found themselves setting up their first household in Jerusalem. It was near the dividing line between Palestinian and Jewish areas near the Damascus Gate.
“The sun rose in the east speaking Arabic and set in the west speaking Hebrew, and we tried to find our way in between.”
This is the story of trying to make a marriage while dealing with your husband’s deep grief about leaving the monastery. It is worrying about what might happen every time you leave the house.
“…a great many of the dramas that happen in the Middle East begin with the simple intention of leaving the house to buy vegetables.”
This is a very lyrical memoir of their lives in this house. I think that it started too slowly. There was too much information about her childhood. It slowed down the pace of the book. Now I know that there was a first memoir about meeting her husband and the decision to leave the monastery. This was also covered here for those of us who didn’t read the first book.
There is some discussion of the larger political issues that affected their day to day lives but mostly she discusses the affect of policy on her street. She discusses roadblocks and violence. She talks about taking her kids to play in touristy areas. Her neighborhood is a microcosm of all the religions that call Jerusalem home.
It can also be funny.
“When the Franciscans came into view in their brown cassocks, Joseph’s face became overcome with wonder. He ran to them and quietly bowed his head. Then he whispered, in solemn greeting, “Heigh-ho. Heigh-ho.””
Ultimately I would have liked more politics to understand what was happening but that isn’t the point of this book. Read this one if you like beautifully written slice of life stories.
“If I can ask you to remember only one thing, then let it be this: keep watch. You have not been born into an easy world. But every now and then, in the midst of our daily lives, a miracle strikes.”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, Africa, a country plagued by AIDS and poverty. Like most people in his village, his family subsisted on the meager crops they could grow, living without the luxuries—consider necessities in the West—of electricity or running water. Already living on the edge, the situation became dire when, in 2002, Malawi experienced the worst famine in 50 years. Struggling to survive, 14-year-old William was forced to drop out of school because his family could not afford the $80-a-year tuition.Though he was not in a classroom, William continued to think, learn—and dream. Armed with curiosity, determination, and a library book he discovered in a nearby library, he embarked on a daring plan—to build a windmill that could bring his family the electricity only two percent of Malawians could afford. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and blue-gum trees, William forged a crude yet working windmill, an unlikely hand-built contraption that would successfully power four light bulbs and two radios in his family’s compound. Soon, news of his invention spread, attracting interest and offers of help from around the world. Not only did William return to school but he and was offered the opportunity to visit wind farms in the United States, much like the ones he hopes to build across Africa.
This story started slow for me. I’m not a fan of detailed description of childhood in memoirs unless you were doing something very interesting as a child. Most people aren’t.
The main point of this story started with a drought and subsequent famine that hit Malawi in the early 2000s. It was devastating. The author’s family was no longer able to afford his school fees so he had to drop out. He wanted to continue his education so he went to a library and started to read the books there. He applied what he learned in a basic physics book to build a windmill from spare parts. This allowed his family to have lights in their house for the first time. He went on to build other windmills to pump water for irrigation and personal use, freeing up hours a day that were otherwise spent going to and from wells. He even made cell phone charging stations.
“The dynamo had given me a small taste of electricity, and that made me want to figure out how to create my own. Only 2 percent of Malawians have electricity, and this is a huge problem. Having no electricity meant no lights, which meant I could never do anything at night, such as study or finish my radio repairs, much less see the roaches, mice, and spiders that crawled the walls and floors in the dark. Once the sun goes down, and if there’s no moon, everyone stops what they’re doing, brushes their teeth, and just goes to sleep. Not at 10:00 P.M., or even nine o’clock—but seven in the evening! Who goes to bed at seven in the evening? Well, I can tell you, most of Africa.“
This part of the story was interesting. He was dedicated to the idea of building his windmill but scavenging the parts took a long time. It showed a lot of ingenuity.
One strange section was about witchcraft. He reports it as fact.
“The previous famine had led to reports in the southern region that the government was banding with packs of vampires to steal people’s blood, then selling it to international aid groups.“
“Following the strange beast of Dowa, many people across Malawi reported having their private parts stolen in the night, many of them waking up in the morning with their sheets bloody. Men who’d been drinking in bars were the easiest targets. As they stumbled home in the darkness, an evil creature—perhaps a gang of witch children—would pull them behind a tree and remove their parts with a knife. It was later revealed that most of the victims had been virgins, and their parts had been sold to witches, Satan worshippers, and business tycoons.“
“This often happens while we sleep—the witch children can take our heads and return them before morning, all without us knowing. It’s a serious problem.“
He was accused of witchcraft for making electricity from the wind. A bad storm came and the windmill was spinning rapidly. People accused him of causing storms.
This book was published in 2009. Since then William has graduated from college. He has an NGO to support community based projects around his hometown. On his webpage you can even donate to the library where he found his physics book.
This is a great story of innovation and survival.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Michele's lack of focus in life hasn't bothered her, until the day she finds herself with mounting credit card debt, unable to afford her rent, and without a job. While her meddling family questions how she can end up in this predicament, at the age of 29, and single to boot, Michele doesn't want to admit the truth. All she wants to do is sew.
Faced with the prospect of moving back into her parents' house, Michele throws a Hail Mary pass and applies for a TV design contest, Made for Me. In order to win the contest, Michele will have to compete with nine other contestants to design the new wardrobe for Duchess Maryn Medrovovich, who's about to marry Prince Stephan of the United Republic of Montabago.
While in the seclusion of the show, Michele starts to realize where her focus in life should be, and what's truly important to her. However, a dashing competitor might just cause her to lose her focus once and for all. Can Michele keep her eye on the prize while being true to herself?
I’ve mostly been reviewing very serious books lately so I decided to throw in some lighter fare to prove that I haven’t lost my love of pink books.
Made for Me starts this series of related books. Each one features a secondary character from the previous books.
This book was pure fun. It is set on a Project Runway knock-off reality show called Made for Me. (The contestants aren’t allowed to mention Project Runway by name.) Every challenge is to make a look for a commoner who is about to marry into the royal family of an European country. The winner will win a job as her designer for a year.
The fun of this book is mixing in the competition aspect of the reality show with the chick lit standards of finding yourself and maybe finding love.
What I didn’t like was the attitude that the main character had about a bisexual contestant. She voiced a lot of stereotypical thoughts about him. She assumed that he would be unfaithful in an monogamous relationship purely because he was bisexual. That’s a stereotype that I thought we were all moving past but it still lives here. It is challenged lightly.
Besides that, this one was cute and fun. I’d recommend it.
As if it's not bad enough that I didn't win the reality design TV show I was on, try coming home to a one word note indicating that my ten-year marriage is over. So here I am, a suddenly single mother in my mid-thirties, doing what everyone advises me to do—have a fling. Except it doesn't go as planned, so I do the next best thing, which is sit on the couch and mope. But having to provide for a five-year-old doesn't let me stay home for too long. Before I know it, I'm back to dying my hair wild colors and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
Except Tony, the fling that wasn't, keeps popping up in the most unlikely places and won't leave me alone. I'd like to be strong—I'm way too old for him—but he's cute and funny and sexy and oh, my ex is getting married to a girl named Bambi. All I know is the way I'm doing things isn't working. If I want to be happy again, I'm going to need to get a new attitude.
This book follows another contestant from Made for Me when she goes home after the show. Her husband has left her and she needs to decide what to do with her life.
Starting out I liked this book more than the first one. Kira is older and has a child. She has to get herself together and act like a grown up. I appreciate that in a book.
I wasn’t thrilled about the end of this book. It took the plot to a place I’m not fond of. The book also seemed to treat the main character of Made for Me as more flightly and unprofessional than she was made out to be in the first book.
Ten years ago, the Sassy Cats were at the top of the charts until Callie Smalls walked away to pursue her career in fashion and television. The other four members—Angie, Tabitha, Mandy, and Daphne—were left to fend for themselves and continue on with their lives.That is, until the day when Callie decides to book a gig for the group at a major music festival, without talking to her former band mates. Scattered across the country, at different points in life, can they rekindle the magic in the music?A soccer mom who's husband doesn't know about her past. A fading star, sacrificing all to stay in the spotlight just one second more. A party girl, challenged with her most important role yet. A tiger mom, fighting for her son. A desperate woman, unhappy and alone. A lot can change in the course of a decade. Will it be harmony or hatred for the Sassy Cats?
This book looks at the life of the host from the Made for Me TV show. This was a more difficult book for me to get into because of the completely unlikeable main character.
I also wasn’t a fan of some of the romance here. It seemed very forced. The relationship was argumentative and somehow that was supposed to clue us all in that they loved each other. Not a story line that I’m very fond of.
The relationship that I did like was the mother of the autistic child. She had to let go of her attempts to control the situation and accept help from her husband. That felt very realistic to me.
Overall, I’d say read Made for Me and maybe skip the other two.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
You've heard the stories about the dark side of the internet-hackers, anonymous hoards attacking an unlucky target, and revenge porn-but they remain just that: stories. Surely these things would never happen to you.
Zoe Quinn used to feel the same way. Zoe is a video game developer whose ex-boyfriend published a crazed blog post cobbled together from private information, half-truths, and outright fictions, along with a rallying cry to the online hordes to go after her. The hordes answered in the form of a so-called movement known as #gamergate--they hacked her accounts, stole nude photos of her, harassed her family, friends and colleagues, and threatened to rape and murder her. But instead of shrinking into silence as the online mobs wanted her to, she has raised her voice and speaks out against this vicious online culture and for making the internet a safer place for everyone.
If you’ve been on Twitter any time at all you’re familiar with Gamergate. (Side note – Can we please stop naming everything -gate? It is so annoying.)
This is Zoe Quinn’s story from the day that she found out that her ex boyfriend had written a manifesto against her and the death threats started. They escalated and quickly included threatening items like pictures taken outside her apartment. Out of her frustration at not being better able to protect herself, she founded Crash Override to help others who have found themselves in similar situations.
This book is part memoir and part primer on how to better protect yourself online. It would benefit people who worry about online security and those who think that women are overreacting to online threats. It is a reminder of the lengths that people will go to to hurt strangers online. She also talks to former trolls to see what the mindset is behind that behavior.
From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Starsby Virginia Hanlon Grohl on April 25, 2017
While the Grohl family had always been musical—the family sang together on long car trips, harmonizing to Motown and David Bowie—Virginia never expected her son to become a musician, let alone a rock star. But when she saw him perform in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time, she knew that rock stardom was meant to be for her son. And as Virginia watched her son's star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children's fame? Did they worry about their children's livelihood and wellbeing in an industry fraught with drugs and other dangers? Did they encourage their children's passions despite the odds against success, or attempt to dissuade them from their grandiose dreams? Do they remind their kids to pack a warm coat when they go on tour?
Have you ever had your mother reminisce about spending time with your friends’/teammates’ moms while waiting for you to get done doing sports or plays or whatever you were into? Imagine instead of talking about what she did on the sidelines of your soccer game, she was talking about what she got up to with Kurt Cobain’s mom on the Nevermind tour. That’s the spirit of this book.
She interviews moms of musicians from all genres and at all stages of their careers. Some are still performing. Some have retired or moved into other aspects of the business. Others are moms of musicians who didn’t survive their fame. She asks what they remember, how they nurtured their kids, and what they wished they had done differently.
The book is fun because she still is enthusiastic about her son’s career and always talks about it like a proud mom. She talks about the kids getting back together when Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She always refers to her son as “David.” She still gets starstruck like when she got to meet Paul McCartney and her friends couldn’t get her to shut up about it.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
The world is complicated. Power is currency, lives are cheap. Hephzibah Euphrasia Joséphine d'Albret hates her name. She hates the life she comes from, the fourth daughter of a legendary family—and, perilously, the one with negligible magical potential. And that suits her fine. Fleeing the Authority allows her to choose her own path: software engineer and startup founder. Finally, Zizi’s found a life she loves. One that doesn’t care about the magic she doesn’t have. Unfortunately for her, Zizi is all Oakland has. With misfit allies and lethal enemies around every corner, an encyclopedic understanding of magic theory, and serious amounts of snark, can this Sorceress possibly survive the summer?
Zizi is used to being considered a failure. She’s the powerless youngest daughter of a powerful Sorceress. Sorceresses bond with cities and use their power to protect them. Zizi was trained for the role since birth just like her sisters. But she never was able to do much magic and she left that world behind. At least she did until that night a year ago with too much tequila when she bonded with the city of Oakland.
I heard about this book on Twitter. I was in as soon as I heard the author’s description of Oakland (and all the cities) as distinct sentient beings.
This book was great. Zizi hasn’t told anyone that she is bonded to Oakland. She knows that is going to bring down all kinds of bureaucratic nightmares down on her. No one suspects it because Oakland as been unbonded for thirty years. But now there are all kinds of weird things going on in Oakland and Zizi needs help. She needs an Arcana.
Arcanas are the groups of magical helpers that surround Sorceresses. Zizi doesn’t want one. Most Sorceresses use their power to bond their Arcana to them. They can compel their people to do what they want. The main way they do this is through Earth magic and sex. Zizi wants nothing to do with this and starts to assemble a team that wants out of the old ways of doing things too.
The characters in this book are fresh takes on many of the common types seen in urban fantasy books. The vampires are truly vicious but also do a lot of their business at Taco Tuesday/Cowboy Karaoke Night. (“Don’t do Dolly if you can’t stick the landing” might now be my favorite mixed metaphor ever.) There is a kraken in a lake raising an orphaned capricorn even though the baby is a vegetarian and the kraken is disturbed by that. There is a weretiger pack in Chinatown.
The book starts with Zizi having been the secret Sorceress for a year. Sometimes it can feel like maybe you missed a previous book when she refers to events in the past but this is the first one. I loved the combination of sassiness and smarts that Zizi has. She’s very smart and took her magical training seriously growing up so she has the theoretical knowledge she needs even if she doesn’t have the power that would help get everything done. She’s very funny. I found myself highlighting a lot of lines in the e-book. I liked the idea of a sex-positive bisexual heroine who is adamant that she is not going to use sex to get things done.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes in the future.
My only criticism is that there are a few typos, grammatical errors, and misspelled words in the book but I loved this book so much that I’m forgiving that.
About Renae Jones
Renae Jones is driven by an epic, multipart goal
Invent the most fascinating characters she can.
Put those characters in awe-inspiring science fiction or fantasy setting.
Fit those characters together like we’re playing personality Tetris.
And follow them through a complicated adventure of near-death experiences and self-discovery.
Bonus points if those characters are quirky, weird, cranky, neurotic, sassy or have anger management issues.
Beyond writing, she also loves her dog, over-ambitious home improvement projects, painting, doing weird things to her hair, and data analytics.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
In this grand saga of love, war, and magic set in the tenth century, young Sigrid is destined to be the mother of the king of the Nordic lands that would become Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and England.
A devout believer in the old Nordic gods, Sigrid is visited regularly in her dreams by the goddess Freya, who whispers to her of the future. Though Sigrid is beautiful, rich, arrogant, and matchlessly clever, her uncanny ability to foresee the future and manipulate the present guides her through dangerous politics as a bloody war between Vikings and Christians rages on.
Sigrid’s father wants her to marry Erik, a local king, to secure the peace between the Goths and the Swedes. Thinking she is doing Freya’s will, she accepts the marriage offer, only to find that her destiny lies not with Erik but with Sweyn, a warrior who dreams of dethroning Harald Bluetooth, the legendary ruler of Denmark. Will Sigrid sacrifice her will for the greatest Viking kingdom of all time, or will she follow her heart at the risk of losing everything?
I got this book for free through the Kindle First program for Amazon Prime members. That’s a great way to try out some translated books since usually at least one of the selections are translated.
This book 4 of a series published in Sweden but it is the first book available in English. The next book the series is going to be translated later in 2017. I’m not sure what the first few books cover but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by starting the story at this point.
This book is set during the time of the Vikings and everyone knows that they were awful. That aspect of Viking life is not sugar coated here. There is a lot of violence. There are graphic descriptions of multiple gang rapes.
Despite that, I did enjoy this story. I haven’t read much set during this time in Scandinavia when there was conflict between traditional Nordic beliefs and Christianity. True believers on both sides are coming across people who will switch religions for personal or political gain.
If you like Game of Thrones style fantasy or historical fiction you will probably enjoy this book.
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The Cost of Sugar is an intriguing history of those rabid times in Dutch Surinam between 1765-1779 when sugar was king.Told through the eyes of two Jewish step sisters, Eliza and Sarith, descendants of the settlers of 'New Jerusalem of the River' know today as Jodensvanne. The Cost of Sugar is a frank expose of the tragic toll on the lives of colonists and slaves alike.
This is the second novel that I have read by Cynthia McLeod. She is a hard author for me to review. On one hand I love the stories that she tells. She gives you a look into life in colonial Suriname, on the northeast coast of South America. She tells stories that I haven’t heard from any other author. The previous book I read of hers, The Free Negress Elisabeth, is a story that has stayed in my mind because it is the type of women’s history that is so often overlooked. I want to put her books in everyone’s hands and tell them they have to hear about this.
On the other hand though, the writing in the books just isn’t very good. Clunky is the word that keeps coming to mind. I’m reading an English translation from the Dutch but I don’t think that is the whole issue. She is so careful to have so much documented historical fact in the books that she info-dumps continuously. That doesn’t usually bother me in a story but these passages aren’t blended into the fictional story that she is telling well. She even has footnotes. I’m not sure what the footnotes were about because many of them weren’t translated. The untranslated ones appeared to be quotes.
I’ve had this book for a long time before reading it. I tried to start it a few times but the writing style made me stop after a few pages. I decided to knuckle down and read it for Women in Translation Month. Once I decided to power through, I read it in less than a day. The story carries you through.
One early wave of settlers to Suriname were Portuguese Jews who migrated from Brazil. They set up large plantations and did well for themselves. Subsequent waves of settlers from Holland though were anti-Semitic and over time the Jewish families found themselves not at the top of society anymore. This is the story of two half-sisters, one had two Jewish parents and one had only a Jewish father so was not considered Jewish herself. The story shows how their lives diverge as Suriname begins to deal with the effects of people living too far in debt for them to maintain.
White people in Suriname did nothing for themselves. There were so many more enslaved people than white people that whites gave all responsibilities for running their lives to the slaves. With nothing to do, they entertained themselves with lavish parties that lasted for weeks. Gossip was rampant. There wasn’t a single rich white person that I didn’t want to slap at some point in this book.
The Cost of Sugar refers to all the lives wasted in the plantation system – the enslaved people, the white landowners, the Dutch soldiers brought into protect the plantations, the escaped and free blacks living in the jungle. It was a system that hurt everyone.
“It now occurred to Elza that her family was in fact a model for all Suriname society. Wasn’t everyone and everything totally dependent on the slaves? Just as she felt so completely lost without Maisa, so the colony would be totally lost without its slaves. They did everything and knew everything, and the whites knew nothing and were incapable ofanything. The whites needed the negroes, but the negroes didn’t need a single white person”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.
Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.
I loved this story of a woman trying to get an education at Vassar before they accepted African-American students. Her life is compared and contrasted to the life of her brother who was enrolled as a Negro student at newly desegregated MIT. Where he is able to live relatively freely because the racists just ignored and/or avoided him, her attempts to keep from drawing attention to herself were thwarted by a roommate who is determined to be best friends. Lottie drags Anita into a high class social life and introduces her to people who she knows wouldn’t talk to her if they knew she was black.
The book addresses the pain of having to cut family members out of your life if you are passing.
The author did a good job of incorporating the views of many different types of people – black people who saw this as a practical way to get an education, black people who wanted her to be a vocal proponent for civil rights, white people both for and against desegregation, and white people who were against bigotry until events touched their lives.
What I found most remarkable about this story is that it is based on real events. I wasn’t surprised by a woman passing as white to attend a segregated college but I was surprised about some of the details that seemed a bit over the top that turned out to be based in reality. I can’t discuss it all because of spoilers but make sure to read the historical note at the end.
“Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and community. It was, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile, a separation from one racial identity and the leap into another. This revelatory history of passing explores the possibilities and challenges that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. It also tells a tale of loss.”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, producing the Alliance's finest therapists, psychiatric nurses and alien researchers. When Jahir, one of the rare and reclusive Eldritch espers, arrives on campus, he's unprepared for the challenges of a vast and multicultural society... but fortunately, second-year student Vasiht'h is willing to take him under his wing. Will the two win past their troubles and doubts and see the potential for a once-in-a-lifetime partnership?
M.C.A. Hogarth’s Pelted Universe is a place where humans genetically engineered human/animal hybrids. These “pelted people” eventually fled from the humans on Earth out into space. They set up a peaceful multicultural society across planets as life on Earth regressed. Once humans started exploring space again, they found the species that they created had developed a rich society.
That is the premise for several series that she has written in this universe. I read the series that starts with Earthrise last year so I was familiar with the world. That series has a lot more action than this one. I’m glad I started there to get a sense of the universe. This series is very different. It is a very quiet and sweet story two members of empathic species that form a deep bond.
The Eldrich are a mysterious humanoid species. They have chosen to self-isolate on their planet. They can read a person’s mind if they touch them so accidental touch is avoided at all cost. They are also very long lived. Their society is one of court intrigue and careful deception. Few leave the planet and those that do are forbidden to talk about the society.
Jahir is an Eldrich who is studying for a xenopsychology degree. He finds an unexpected roommate in Vasiht’h, a small centaur-like Galeash. The Galeash speak mostly mind to mind. They are aromantic and asexual-spectrum. Vasiht’h takes Jahir under his wing to show him around the university. They start to develop a bond that Vasiht’h has only heard about in stories – a mindline. It is a very deep platonic bond between two soul mate empaths. What will this mean for their lives? Should they let this form if Jahir is going to live for centuries after Vasiht’h dies?
This book reads like a sweet romance novel without the romance. Not much actually happens. They make friends, go to school, volunteer, bake cookies, and eat ice cream. I loved it though. I’ve never read a book that celebrates aromantic relationships. They are deciding if they are going to be life partners.
At the advice of Vasiht'h, his first and truest friend, Jahir Seni Galare has accepted one of the most coveted residencies in xenotherapy, even though doing so has severed him from all the relationships he's fostered since leaving his cloistered homeworld. But not all the simulations at school have prepared him for the reality of being an esper in a hospital large enough to serve the winter capital of the entire Alliance, and it's not long before he's questioning the wisdom of having left the university for the tumult of one of the largest port cities in the known worlds.
When Vasiht'h follows Jahir to Selnor, he's not sure whether his plan is to help his friend survive his residency, or to drag him back to Seersana University and into a less strenuous program. But a storm is coming to Heliocentrus, one they're uniquely positioned to address, and their nascent mental link is about to receive its first test in the crucible that will either forge their lifelong partnership—or kill them both.
This is the most action packed of the books. They have started to get an idea of what they can do to help mental health while working with dreaming patients. Now there is a series of comatose patients who present to the emergency department where Jahir is working. No medical intervention is helping and they all die. He is determined to help them but touching them when they are dying is draining the life from Jahir.
This book does a good job of addressing the need for self-care in healing professions. He is sick and working with these patients is harming him but what is his responsibility?
Jahir and Vasiht’h have earned their licenses as xenotherapists at last, and they have their hearts set on starting their practice in one of the Alliance’s most exciting and cosmopolitan destinations: a sector starbase. But dream therapy is a revolutionary treatment modality, and as esper practictioners they will have to work hard to win the trust of their community. Not only that, but they have a deadline: if they can’t prove themselves an asset to the starbase within six months, they’ll have to leave!
I hadn’t noticed until I wrote this review that this book was just published. I guess I picked the right time to binge read the series!
One cute touch in this book is a novel that Vasiht’h‘s sisters give him to read. It is supposedly a romance story between an Eldrich woman and a Pelted man. They make fun of it through the novel for being poorly written. The story was actually one of the first stories the author wrote as a teenager when she was imaging this universe. It was never published because of the all the huge problems that the characters make fun of. It was a funny touch.
More ice cream in this book and now there are scones in different flavors every day!
This is still a quiet series where not a lot happens but it is fun to just learn about these characters and the people who they help.
About M.C.A. Hogarth
Daughter of two Cuban political exiles, M.C.A. Hogarth was born a foreigner in the American melting pot and has had a fascination for the gaps in cultures and the bridges that span them ever since. She has been many things—-web database architect, product manager, technical writer and massage therapist—-but is currently a full-time parent, artist, writer and anthropologist to aliens, both human and otherwise.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: