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.
Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who's often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he's also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can't rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)--and now she's dead.
Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can't rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family's life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat...and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he's the son of a trickster, that he isn't human. Mind you, ravens speak to him--even when he's not stoned.
You think you know Jared, but you don't.
This is not the book that I expected from the blurb. I expected urban fantasy with Jared finding out he’s supernatural in the beginning of the book and then he has adventures. That doesn’t happen. Instead this is a hard look at the life of a First Nations teenager who lives with his unreliable and violent drug dealer mother and her boyfriend. This book takes you up close and personal into a life of poverty and crime. There is almost no magic happening for the first 2/3 of the book.
It even has two of my automatic DNF plots. His dog dies of heartworm at the beginning of the book (with a very odd veterinary clinic scene that isn’t anything that would happen for real). There is also a scene of his mother killing a dog with her truck on purpose. Animal abuse is a DNF.
I also absolutely hate stories of teenagers who do nothing but drink and take drugs. I hate it in real life and I hate wasting my time on that type of plot in books.
So, knowing all that, why did I finish this book and think it was great?
The writing pulled me in and kept me engaged with the story. Jared looks like he has nothing going for him. His mother is an addict and dealer. He is doing some low-level dealing. But he is trying to keep his mother’s bills paid while also trying to keep his father and his new wife’s rent up to date. He even helps his elderly neighbors with their chores. None of the adult relatives in Jared’s life are responsible so he feels that he needs to be. The only person he feels like he may be able to rely on is his paternal grandmother but his mother has forbidden him to talk to her. He does anyway and he really wants to go live with her in order to finish school but he feels that it would be a betrayal of his mother, even when she is continuously betraying him. By the end you want to protect him from yet another person who lets him down.
As Jared starts to see manifestations of his traditional beliefs appearing before him, he decides that he has been doing too many drugs and decides to get clean. I love that that was his response to an invisible bear in the living room and cavemen in his bedroom. But the magic is real and has always been there even if it is just starting to get through to him.
The author did a good job depicting the charm vs the dangerous irresponsibility of a drug-involved parent. Jared’s mom obviously loves him and dotes on him but she also exposes him to men who hurt him and she will disappear without warning. She relies on him to get her through bad trips and lavishes presents on him when she is manic. She’s horrible but draws you into her self-absorbed world.
Jared’s friends feel real. They are a mix of popular and unpopular kids. Native and non-Native also. Each is well fleshed out and are unique characters.
Of course this book really started to pick up for me when the magic became more apparent. And then it was over. I feel like there wasn’t a resolution. This is part one of a series so I know that there will be more to the story but I would have liked to see more of an ending than this.
Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.
Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.
I chose to read this book because of the mystery surrounding her grandmother’s old cookbook. I wanted to see how it saved the family farm. You know, “living well is the best revenge” and all that.
This book is told in alternating time lines. In the present timeline, Annie has had an accident that put her in a coma. She’s been moved to back to her hometown in Vermont. She wakes up not remembering much about her previous life.
In the flashbacks, you get the story of her growing up on the farm and falling in love with the new kid in town. Then you find out how she became the producer of a hit TV cooking show and met her husband.
I found myself getting bored with the flashbacks. I was much more interested in her current situation than with how she got here. I was glad when the storylines converged and it was all in the present.
How was the foodie content?
You get the basics of how maple syrup is made
You get a brief look at distilling whisky
She did run a successful cooking show
She really likes to cook
But what about the mysterious cookbook that saves the farm? That gets into spoiler territory so I recorded some spoiler-full observations about the book if you are interested.
I would recommend this book to people who like romances with former partners. If you are most interested in the food portions of the book you might be a bit disappointed because it doesn’t play as major of a role as I would have thought.
Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she'll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire's greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.
This is a YA alternative history book that imagines that the British Empire is still alive and well. The decision that made the difference was that Queen Victoria named her eldest daughter heir and then married off all her other children to people in the Empire instead of other European royal families. Now, the Empire is predominately made up of mixed race people. Canada has a high percentage of people originally from Hong Kong. The Church of England consists mostly of a DNA database that chooses the best DNA match for people.
The Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret wants one summer away. She decides to make her debut in Canada while passing herself off as a cousin to one of the leading families there. She makes other friends though who aren’t in on her secret and this leads to romantic entanglements that aren’t what she expected.
I thought the world building was interesting in this book. It was intriguing to think about what might have happened if the British had treated their subjects as people worthy of respect. If you pick too much at the assumptions made in the book though it might all fall apart. My recommendation is just to enjoy it and go along for the ride.
At the end of the book the main characters are hatching a plot. It doesn’t seem very well thought out to me so I will be interested to see what happens in upcoming books.
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:
In this imaginative novel rooted in the rich soil of early-nineteenth-century German Romanticism, beloved New York Times bestselling author Gregory Maguire twins an origin legend of the famous Nutcracker with the life of Drosselmeier, the toymaker who carves him.
Gregory Maguire’s novels have been called "bewitching," "remarkable," "extraordinary," "engrossing," "amazing," and "delicious." Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked, Wonderland in After Alice and Dickensian London in Lost, Maguire now takes us to the Black Forest of Bavaria and Munich of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffman. Hiddensee recreates the backstory of the Nutcracker, reimaging how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how it magically guided an ailing little girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a snowy Christmas Eve. It also brings to life the mysterious godfather Drosselmeier—the ominous, canny, one-eyed toymaker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s ballet—who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.
But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism a migrating strain of a Hellenic mystery-cult, and ponders a profound question: how a person who is abused by life, short-changed and challenged, can access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless. Ultimately, Hiddensee, offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized on the eve of a winter holiday, has something precious to share.
I came at this book with no idea of the story of The Nutcracker. I’ve never seen it. I know there are mice and some soldiers. That’s all I know. I didn’t even know that there was a grandfather who made a nutcracker.
If you aren’t like me (several hundred years out of date with your pop culture), you may see more allusions to the story you know. For me this was just a series of vignettes in the life of a boy named Dirk. He was a foundling who seems to move randomly in and out of different people’s lives in Germany. My favorite part was the subtle, dry humor that is slid into the narrative.
For me this book didn’t stand up to the love that I have for Wicked. I keep waiting for a book from this author to reach those heights for me. Hoping for this level of love did decrease my enjoyment of this book somewhat. It is harder to let this book try to stand on its own without the expectations placed on it.
This would be a good book for fans of The Nutcracker who want to delve more deeply into the world.
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:
Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
I managed to avoid finding out exactly what this book was about before listening to it. I didn’t even read the full blurb. (I deleted the part I didn’t read in the synopsis above.) Not knowing what was going to happen let the emotional impact of the book hit me full force.
This is an amazing and necessary book. If any of you are thinking, “I read The Hate U Give, I don’t need to read this one,” get that out of your brain. While the subject matter is similar, these books are very, very different. Dear Martin depicts an attempt by an African-American teenager to move past an emotionally traumatizing incident with a police officer. He finds that that is harder than he expects though as his eyes are opened to what is going on around him.
I appreciated the way he struggles with different approaches to living in a racist society through his interactions with several adult African-American men in his life. Each discusses his struggles and his way of surviving, allowing Justyce to try to choose the best options for him.
The narration in this book was very well done by Dion Graham. It is a short audiobook at just four and a half hours. This is one that I will relisten to with my husband in the future.
I don’t want to say much more about the book. If you don’t already know the whole plot, I’d recommend just starting this story without finding out much more. This is a hard-hitting book that will move you. It is a must read for everyone.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.
I swear Dan Brown is my soul mate. I want the worlds that he describes in his books. That may be concerning to other people. The last few books have been dark and I love it that way.
I actually find his books to be frustrating to read the first time. I just want to know what the point is. I don’t have time for people beating around the bush. Hint – If you are talking to Robert Langdon just tell him what you have to say. If you hint and hem and haw and say that you’ll tell him the important point at a later time, you aren’t making it through the book.
If you haven’t read the book yet, I’ll just say that I appreciated the way this book played with the formulas of his previous books. If you have read it, I have a lot more to say but first we have to give all the spoiler warnings.
Ok, we’re going to be talking about EXACTLY what happens in the book so turn back now if you don’t want to know.
You’ve been warned…….
…….Still here? Ok.
First of all, let’s talk about how he upended the expectations that he built in the previous books.
The art doesn’t mean anything except for Winston’s self portrait.
The church isn’t involved at all at the end.
Seriously, I loved that. What seemed formulaic all through the book – “Here’s another bad priest manipulating a devout follower to kill people” – was all a red herring.
He’s on the run with a beautiful younger woman AND IT ISN’T ROMANTIC AT ALL. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am overthe idea of young women falling over themselves for the hero of every book.
I do have a question about Ambra’s story though. Her big secret is that she is infertile. Is this a nod to Inferno (in which case it shouldn’t be a surprise at all) or are we living in a universe where the events of Inferno didn’t happen? I loved the ending of Inferno. I actually stood up and cheered. I’m not talking about the ending of the movie version of Inferno which was an absolute abomination. I’m talking about a plague released on the whole world ending of the book. My love of the idea of (SPOILER) that a plague could be released that makes 1/3 of the world infertile leads into my appreciation for the ideas in this book. I’m not a fan of the idea of unlimited human growth nor of the idea that humans have to be the dominant species on Earth. Evolve away!
So, what do we think about the idea of life evolving as a way to control energy? I think it is a cool (no pun intended) idea but I don’t know how viable of an idea it is. As an agnostic/atheist person it doesn’t bother me theologically.
I am a fan of the idea of humans melding with artificial intelligence. Of course, the whole time I was thinking, “And then some fool drops an EMP…” because obviously, I’m a cynic. I would love to live in a utopia of high technology that saves the planet. I’m afraid to see I don’t see it happening though.
I loved him. I don’t even care if you are a murderous rampaging machine. Ok, I sort of care. I don’t mind that he killed his creator. That was probably kind seeing what kind of death he was facing. I’m a veterinarian. Euthanasia is a huge part of my life. I’m not happy about him killing the iman and the rabbi. That was unnecessary. Bad Winston! Somebody is going to have to come up with some laws to control AI that work a bit better than the ones in I, Robot. Maybe add in “humans are free to make their own decisions.” Of course, letting humans make decisions leads to a whole bunch of really bad decisions like Donald Trump. Somebody else needs to take a crack at making laws that don’t get us all locked up.
So what did you think? Do you want this world or not?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.
Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.
Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.
Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.
Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.
I was excited to try The Crows of Beara from the description of magical realism and environmental activism but I wasn’t immediately grabbed by the story. I put it aside for a while. Honestly, I probably would have DNFed it if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a book tour book for me and I had to read it. I knuckled down to read it and found myself drawn into the world. I finished it in two sittings. I’m glad that I didn’t pass on this one based on a snap judgement on a day when I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it.
This is a quiet character-based story. Daniel and Annie are both recovering alcoholics. Daniel has been sober for nine years but Annie is just recently out of rehab. Both are still dealing with the serious repercussions of the issues that drinking caused in their lives.
I appreciated the fact that the author showed them both still struggling. You see this from Annie’s point of view most. She is working hard to find AA meetings to attend while in Ireland. She is trying to avoid pub culture and alcohol during business meetings even though she really wants to drink.
The story of the mine versus the community takes a backseat to the story of two people trying to rebuild their lives after they ruined them while drinking. The story summons the quiet of a rural, mystical part of Ireland. The author does a wonderful job of evoking mist-covered cliffs and coastlines. Read this one on a rainy day while snuggled in a blanket with a mugful of hot chocolate.
About Julie Christine Johnson
Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in journals including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; and River Poets Journal. Her work has also appeared in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and psychology and a master’s in international affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.
Named a standout debut by Library Journal, very highly recommended by Historical Novels Review, and delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life (Sourcebooks) went into a second printing three days after its February 2016 release. A hiker, yogi, and swimmer, Julie makes her home in northwest Washington state.
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.
The Fire By Night tells the story of Jo and Kay, nurses who met while in training. Kay finished her training first and got the cushy assignment to Hawaii at the little known base of Pearl Harbor. Jo was so jealous.
Now, a few years later, Jo is in a field hospital in Europe. Their position is about to be overrun and they are trying to evacuate. She is left behind with the most difficult to transport patients to wait for the last truck to get to her. Suddenly she finds that they aren’t coming back for her and the Germans are only a few miles away.
Kay is in the Philippines in an underground bunker that is about to fall to the Japanese. After they are taken, the nurses are kept in a prisoner-of-war camp and used as propaganda while enduring starvation and disease.
The author uses these stories to highlight the role of women in wars. They were considered to not be real soldiers because in theory they didn’t get near the front lines. They made difficult choices to stay with wounded soldiers even when it jeopardized their own safety. They were disrespected when they came home because they were “only nurses.”
This book doesn’t hold back on the details of what these women went through. The fear of being left behind and the horrors of being captured are described in detail.
The ending of the book is not as strong as the rest. There is a bit of romance tacked on that I didn’t think fit with the rest of the book.
I would recommend this book for people interested in World War II stories and stories about women’s history.
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:
I’ve been reading. I’ve been reading a lot. But, I haven’t been writing reviews. Honestly, I got a bit bored with them and I know they aren’t favorites. It is especially hard when the book is entertaining but nothing mind-blowing. How many ways can you can up with to say, “It was good. I enjoyed it enough to read the whole thing. That is all.”
The thing is that I did enjoy these books. Most of them I haven’t heard much about so they need to get some exposure. I should stop slacking and write up some reviews.
So here are some books that I haven’t told you about from August. Seriously, August, people. Slacking.
Meet Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead.
After inheriting a highly specialised, and highly peculiar, medical practice, Dr Helsing spends her days treating London's undead for a host of ills: vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta's dreamed of since childhood.
But when a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human undead and alike, Greta must use all her unusual skills to keep her supernatural clients - and the rest of London - safe.
This is a great idea. A lot of the monsters from old horror stories are here. Dr. Helsing is trying to keep a practice afloat while having to keep her patients a secret.
I had a hard time remembering at points that this is a contemporary story. It kept feeling like it was a Victorian to me and then there would be modern technology.
It was well done. There are sequels planned and I will definitely read them.
In 90 A.D., following the Saturninus revolt in Germany, the Emperor Domitian has become more paranoid about traitors and dissenters around him. This leads to several senators and even provincial governors facing charges and being executed for supposed crimes of conspiracy and insulting the emperor. Wanting to root out all the supports of Saturninus from the Senate, one of Domitian’s men offers to hire Flavia Alba to do some intelligence work.
Flavia Alba, daughter and chip off the old block of Marcus Didius Falco, would rather avoid any and all court intrigue, thank you very much. But she’s in a bit of a bind. Her wedding is fast approaching, her fiancé is still recovering―slowly―from being hit by a lightning bolt, and she’s the sole support of their household. So with more than a few reservations, she agrees to “investigate.”
I’ve loved everything I’ve read by this author, which is over 20 books now. This one seemed to have a lot of historical backstory that needed to be explained in order to understand the significance of The Third (Fake) Nero. It wasn’t as well woven into the story as she usually does. It felt like a bit of slog to get through all that in order to get to the story.
That said, I continue to love this series and its take on everyday life in Ancient Rome.
“Top notch crime fiction.”
—Boston Globe American readers first met Icelandic lawyer and investigator Thóra Gudmundsdóttir in Last Rituals. In My Soul to Take, internationally acclaimed author Yrsa Sigurdardóttir plunges her intrepid heroine into even graver peril, in a riveting thriller set against the harsh landscape of Smila’s Sense of Snow territory. A darkly witty and continually surprising suspense tale that places Yrsa Sigurdardóttir firmly in the ranks of Sue Grafton, Tess Gerritsen, Faye Kellerman and other top mystery writers, My Soul to Take is ingenious Scandinavian noir on a par with the works of Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Indridason. Stieg Larsson (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) fans should also take note.
The heroine of this book is a lawyer who did a land purchase deal for a client who wanted to build a spa. Now he is claiming that the place is haunted and wants to sue the sellers. The lawyer heads to the spa for a weekend to try to calm him down and gets mixed up in the mystery of what happened on the land years before.
This book was good. It was the first Icelandic noir book I’ve read. I read it for Women in Translation month. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story more than the present. The lawyer was a bit too much of the pushy, “let’s hide things from the police” kind of mystery heroine for my liking.
Dana attends a school of magic with only one other student. She has a great love only she can see. And only she can unravel these mysteries and become mistress of the Valley of the Wolves.
Ever since Dana was a little girl, Kai has been her best friend and constant companion--even though she's the only one who can see him. Then the mysterious Maestro comes to her farm and offers her the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to study sorcery in the Valley of the Wolves. And Dana knows she must go, for the Maestro can see Kai too....
This was another Women in Translation month read for me. This book reads like a fairy tale. There is a boy that only the girl can see. Is he real or not?
A magician comes and takes her away because he says that she will be a great magic user someday. He trains her in his castle that is surrounded by vicious wolves who come out at night. After years of training she realizes that she may not be able to leave if she doesn’t figure out the secrets of the castle and the valley.
This book is all about growing up and seeing your life and the people in it for what they really are. It is a quick read with lots of fun fantasy and magical elements.
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.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
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:
World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.
Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town. But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.
Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.
None of the women in this story expected to live a life without their men. Now, after World War II, they are trying to adapt to what their lives have become.
Jeanne is a talented seamstress but making knock off dresses for rich women in her small town isn’t enough to make ends meet. Peggy is a good designer but with a small daughter she needs to find a way to make money. Thelma is Peggy’s mother in law. She owns the house they live in and is barely keeping them afloat.
Thelma was my favorite character in this book. She is portrayed as the matriarch but she is only in her mid-40s. She has a lot of secrets including lovers who will still do her some favors as the need arises. She is smart but always underestimated due to her gender and socioeconomic condition. She comes up with a plan to help them all based on secrets, blackmail, and her talents.
This is a good look at life for women who were forced to grow up quickly because of war. Peggy has a child that she probably wouldn’t have had so young if not for the war making things feel urgent. Jeanne is concerned about being a spinster forever because of the lack of men.
Overall, this is a grim book. Times were tough and the women had to be even tougher to get through it.
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: