Christmas at Pennington’s
26 Oct, 2019

Christmas at Pennington’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Author Bio –
Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.
In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018, A Rebel At
Pennington’s February 2019 and Christmas At Pennington’s September 2019.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. To sign up for her quarterly and new release newsletter, click here to go to her website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

 

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Slay
11 Oct, 2019

Slay

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife
27 Aug, 2019

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading The Chocolate Maker’s Wife The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks
on August 20, 2019
Pages: 608
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

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.

 

 

Goodreads

Purchase Links: 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

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.

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

 

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Tuesday, August 27th: Based on a True Story

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Confessions of a Traveler
26 Aug, 2019

Confessions of a Traveler

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Confessions of a Traveler CONFESSIONS OF A TRAVELER: The Observations of Alien 597 by Clara Molina
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

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.

Goodreads

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.

The Lost Vintage
16 Aug, 2019

The Lost Vintage

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


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

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

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

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

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

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


 

About Ann Mah

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

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


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Review Stops

Tuesday, August 6th: BookNAround

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Wednesday, August 14th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

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Friday, August 16th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, August 21st: Into the Hall of Books

Thursday, August 22nd: Always With a Book

Friday, August 23rd: Bookapotamus

 

 

Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance
08 Aug, 2019

Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance

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

She’s played Cupid for others

Now she’s met her own unlikely match!

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

 

America for Beginners
06 Aug, 2019

America for Beginners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Priyam Dhar

About Leah Franqui

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

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

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Law and Addiction
05 Aug, 2019

Law and Addiction

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Undertaker’s Assistant
02 Aug, 2019

The Undertaker’s Assistant

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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


About the Author

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

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

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

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

Thursday, July 25
Review at Jennifer Tar Heel Reader
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Friday, July 26
Review at Orange County Readers

Saturday, July 27
Feature at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, July 29
Review at Macsbooks
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, July 30
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Melissa Reads

Wednesday, July 31
Review at McCombs on Main
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 1
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, August 2
Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, August 3
Feature at Mama’s Reading Corner

Monday, August 5
Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Tuesday, August 6
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at LadyJ’s Bookish Nook

Wednesday, August 7
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, August 8
Review at Comet Readings

Saturday, August 10
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, August 12
Review at Cover To Cover Cafe

Tuesday, August 13
Review at Reader then Blogger
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, August 14
Review at Amy’s Booket List

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

Giveaway

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

Giveaway Rules

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

The Undertaker’s Assistant

 

Cormoran Strike Series
10 Jul, 2019

Cormoran Strike Series

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

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

Great Characters

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

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

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

Detailed Stories

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

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

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

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

Everything you ever wanted to know about London transportation

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

What I’d like to see next

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

 

 

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

Resistance Women
28 May, 2019

Resistance Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


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

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

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


About Jennifer Chiaverini

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

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

Westside
13 May, 2019

Westside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


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

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

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

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


Photo by W. M. Akers

About W.M. Akers

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

A Modest Independence
03 May, 2019

A Modest Independence

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


He Needed Peace…

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


She Wanted Adventure…

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

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

Goodreads

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | ITUNES | KOBO

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Author

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

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

Blog Tour Schedule Through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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

Thursday, May 2
Interview at Bookish Rantings

Friday, May 3
Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, May 4
Feature at What Is That Book About

Sunday, May 5
Feature at Comet Readings

Monday, May 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 7
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

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

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

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

Romance Mini Reviews
02 Apr, 2019

Romance Mini Reviews

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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


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

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

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

Goodreads


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Goodreads


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

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

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

Internment
27 Mar, 2019

Internment

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

Rebellions are built on hope.

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

InkInk by Sabrina Vourvoulias
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure
26 Mar, 2019

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

I highlighted so many amazing bits of dialogue. 

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

 

This might be my favorite.

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

“But why would you do that?”

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

 

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

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

 

About Courtney Milan

“C ourtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.

Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.

Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.” from her website

On The Come Up
12 Feb, 2019

On The Come Up

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perception vs reality is the major theme here

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

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

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

About Angie Thomas

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

A Rebel at Pennington’s
08 Feb, 2019

A Rebel at Pennington’s

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

 


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

Any Old Diamonds
07 Feb, 2019

Any Old Diamonds

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Something Worth Saving
05 Feb, 2019

Something Worth Saving

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

Something Worth Saving

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


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

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

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

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

Praise for Sandi Ward's The Astonishing Thing

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


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

Goodreads

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


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

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

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

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


About Sandi Ward

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

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

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

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

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