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17 Jul, 2018

The Vanished Child

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Vanished Child The Vanished Child (Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery #4) by M.J. Lee
on February 23, 2018
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Every childhood lasts a lifetime. On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and placing him in a children’s home. Seven years later she went back but he had vanished. What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go? Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets and one of the most shameful episodes in recent British history. Can she find the vanished child?

Goodreads

This is the fourth book in this series of mysteries solved by a genealogical researcher.  I hadn’t read the previous ones but I didn’t have any trouble following this book.  I do think this is an interesting angle for a mystery.  I love watching genealogy shows on TV and researching my own family history.

This book hits hard on one of my push button issues – the horrific treatment of unmarried women with children at the hands of Christian churches.  I spent my whole time reading this book muttering to myself about how abusive the church is and how it always seems to be coming up with new ways to be awful.  It was not unusual for unmarried women to be separated from their children because it was considered better for the children to be raised elsewhere away from their immoral mothers.  This book looks at the practice of shipping English children to Australia to be trained as domestics and laborers.  Yes, it was considered better for them to be raised as virtual slaves than to stay with their mothers.  People were told they were orphans and they wanted to believe that so they dismissed the children when they talked about having mothers at home in England.

The whole book is pretty heartbreaking but it highlights some British history that isn’t well known.  If you want to continue your outrage after this one, check out the movies Philomena or The Magdalene Sisters.  The first one is sad but has funny moments.  The second is just deeply horrifying.

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20 Apr, 2018

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May
on April 9th 2018
Pages: 364
Published by Nowell Publishing
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Praise for Nicola May’s books
‘This book will twang your funny bone & your heartstrings’ – Milly Johnson‘A fun and flighty read’ the Sun‘A funny and fast-paced romp – thoroughly enjoyable!’ Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy. While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he - or she - has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it. Rosa makes up her mind to give it a go: to put everything she has into getting the shop up and running again in the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed - and who among the following will work secretly to see her fail? There is a handsome rugby player, a sexy plumber, a charlatan reporter and a selection of meddling locals. Add in a hit and run incident and the disappearance of a valuable engraved necklace – and what you get is a journey of self-discovery and unpredictable events. With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, will slowly unravel the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also bring her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.

Goodreads

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay

It seems like I’m going with the unpopular opinion based on the reviews I’ve read from other people.  From the description I expected a light-hearted, funny read typical of the chick lit genre.  This book is not that.  It is surprisingly dark especially considering how it is being marketed.

The main character is self-destructive.  She drinks excessively and can’t keep a job.  Her main human contact is a series of one night sexual encounters.  She uses sex to help make up for the fact that she can’t always pay for the rent on her flat.  The only thing she loves at all is her dog, Hot.  Getting an inheritance is a way for her to get out of her current life and start fresh.

Usually in this type of book the small town the heroine goes to is full of lovely characters.  Here that isn’t the case.  In short order she is scammed, sexually assaulted, and her secret is outed against her express wishes.  Then she is threatened to provide someone with an alibi for a hit and run. 

She eventually finds some nicer people but they have secrets too.  Then people keep breaking into her house, she ends up with a pregnant teenager living with her, she gets scammed a few more times, she finds out about a decades old affair, and her dog gets hurt (but he’s ok).  This isn’t a bad book but I didn’t read it anything like the laugh a minute romp I’m seeing other people review it as.  I read it more as a cautionary tale about trying to keep secrets and the need to have someone who you can confide in.  Rosa is very damaged emotionally and trying to move past that in her own way isn’t easy.  Trying to open up and let other people in when you have learned over and over not to trust is hard.  When those people then repeatedly violate your tentative trust, what do you do?


I read an ARC so hopefully things have been cleaned up but there was an error in my copy.  She was reading letters about a person who was only referred to by an initial.  But when she thought about the person she thought of them by their full first name.  She had no way of knowing that.

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10 Apr, 2018

The Fox Hunt

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Fox Hunt The Fox Hunt: A Refugee’s Memoir of Coming to America by Mohammed Al Samawi
on April 10th 2018
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by William Morrow
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Yemen

A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.
Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.
Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.
Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.
The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.

Goodreads

I didn’t know much about the causes of the war in Yemen until I read this book.  It still doesn’t make much sense to me because it boils down to “Those people look different than us and think differently than us.”  It is that kind of mindset that Mohammed Al Samawi was working against prior to the war. 

The stars of this story of the activists around the world who play a high stakes game of Six Degrees of Separation.  Who do you know?  Who do they know?  Can you get one man from Aden to Africa?

What struck me while reading this is the problems that are caused by Yemen’s patriarchy/toxic combination of masculinity and religion:

  1. The whole conflict could be put down to this
  2. He was unable to shelter with his uncle’s family because his uncle wouldn’t let him in the house where his unmarried female cousins lived.  How messed up is that?  Your nephew is alone in an apartment in a war zone but you won’t take him in because you assume he wouldn’t be able to sexually control himself around his female relatives?
  3. Because he was male he was completely unprepared to live on his own without women to care for him.  He moved to Aden and was living alone.  He ate out daily since he didn’t cook so he had minimal food and supplies in the house when all the shops closed down.
  4. After he was out of Yemen due to the help of a group of interfaith activists he was still too afraid to tell him mother (still living in a war zone) that he had been talking to Jews.

 

I found the beginning of this book with his entry into interfaith dialogue more interesting than the story of his escape from Yemen.  I think that is partially because the writing is very plain.  It reads like “This happened and then this happened and then this happened…”  Secondly, I mostly just wanted to shake the guy.  This is not a heroic memoir.  Mohammed Al Samawi isn’t brave.  He isn’t very good at planning.  He moves from Sanaa to Aden but neglects to bring his passport even though he travels for work.  These things all make trying to flee the country harder.  He uses the distraction of a Northern man like himself being publicly tortured to death in the street by Al Qaeda to escape from his apartment while wondering why no one tries to help that man.  He even refers to himself occasionally as a man-child.  He was in his late 20s in 2015 when this happened.

In the end there were so many different lobbying efforts going on that it is not clear who succeeded in getting the order given to let him on the ship from Aden to Djibouti.  I wish this had been investigated.  It seems to be a very strange thing not to know who allowed his transport in a book about arranging his transport.  

In the absence of facts, he falls back on the idea that God arranged his rescue.  While comforting for religious people, this makes nonreligious people want to pull their hair out.  Basically he saying that his God ignored everyone else stuck in a war (about religion and power) to concentrate on giving him special attention.  It also diminishes all the hard work that people did on his behalf.

 

 

06 Apr, 2018

Spring at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Spring at the Little Duck Pond Cafe Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green, Berni Stevens, Cara Armstrong
on March 2018
Pages: 127
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie's prayers. It's only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating boyfriend Richard.

But is running away from your past ever really the answer?

Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zack Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer's block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there's Sylvia, who's clinging so hard to her past, she's in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether.

Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia's little Duck Pond Café from closure?

Goodreads

Spring at The Little Duck Pond Café

Books set in cafes in England are my favorites. This story features both a bakery and a cafe.

This is the first of a planned series of three books in this small town.  This section has the task of setting up all the characters and situations which is a lot to do in such a small space.  As a result it felt a bit like the author was ticking off the boxes of what is expected in this genre. 

  • A woman who just was dumped by her long term boyfriend for another woman
  • A conveniently single man at her new location complete with an adorable child
  • An aging proprietor of a failing cafe who wants to take in a total stranger

The story was enjoyable but it never rose above the predictable.  There wasn’t enough depth of emotion in the story to draw me in fully.  This may be a series read best when it is all completed so the characters have room to develop and grow. 

I’m most interested in seeing the development of some of the secondary characters like the secret baker who is learning to stand up for herself. 

 

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03 Apr, 2018

Lady Helena Investigates

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Lady Helena Investigates Lady Helena Investigates on March 14, 2018
Pages: 391
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery & Detective
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.

The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.

Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?

Goodreads

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

 


04_Lady Helena Investigates_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

I loved Helena.  At the beginning of the book she has just been widowed for the second time although she is only in her early 20s.  She is the youngest daughter in a large family.  Because of that she has always been treated as a child.  They even call her “Baby” although her brother is younger than her. 

Helena is shocked by the death of her husband and is starting to get angry about the way her family has swooped in assuming that she is a problem that needs to be managed again.  She declares that she is not going to be married off again.  She is going to manage her own estate.  She is not going to be pushed out of her own life any more. 

Then her late husband’s doctor tells her that he doesn’t believe his death was accidental but that the other men on the inquiry panel ruled against him.  Most of those men are related to her.  What are they trying to hide?

There are several plot lines in this book.

  • How did Helena’s husband actually die?
  • Helena standing up for herself with her family
  • A tenant farmer’s death

I enjoyed reading about Helena’s relationships with each of the people in her large family.  She’s always accepted the surface version of things but now that she’s starting to dig deeper into her life, things aren’t always as she assumed.  Her little brother is overbearing and too enamored of his status as the head of the family but he isn’t always wrong about what she should do with her life.  Her mother and father may not have had the idyllic marriage that Helena imagined.  There may be more to her free-spirited artist sister than she expects.  All these relationships set up storylines that can continue into other books in the series. 

The book dives into disability during this time period also.  Helena’s mother is in the late stages of dementia.  She has a full time nurse but the mental toll on family members and on Helena’s mother is discussed in ways appropriate to the time period.  Helena’s brother reads as autistic.  At this time, that wasn’t a described condition so he is mostly considered odd and sometimes offputting.  But, his wife loves him and understands him and helps him interact with his family and the rest of the world.  Helena has a physically disabled nephew who she loves but who is treated as feeble-minded by his parents even though he is not.  She helps him learn to stand up for himself as she learns it for herself.

I’m not a fan of books where lay people investigate crimes unless the story sets up a good reason why the authorities can’t be involved.  In this case the authorities of the area are all family members who may be involved.  The doctor is French and may be a spy.  You never know quite who you can trust. 

I will definitely read the next book in this series. 

 


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of Lady Helena Investigates by Jane Steen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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About the Author

Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British accent according to just about every American she meets.

Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.

Around the edges of her professional occupations and raising children, she stuck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she had the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author.

Jane has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.

For more information, please visit Jane Steen’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 12
Feature at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 13
Feature at To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, March 14
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, March 15
Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Friday, March 16
Interview at Let Them Read Books
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 20
Feature at Donna’s Book Blog

Wednesday, March 21
Review at Rachael’s Ramblings
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, March 27
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, March 28
Feature at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, March 30
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, April 3
Review at Based on a True Story

Wednesday, April 4
Review at SilverWood Sketches

Thursday, April 5
Feature at A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, April 11
Review at What Cathy Read Next
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 12
Feature at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Friday, April 13
Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past

 

22 Mar, 2018

Meet the Frugalwoods

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Meet the Frugalwoods Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living by Elizabeth Willard Thames
on March 6th 2018
Pages: 256
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by HarperBusiness
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

The deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.
In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.
In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to "the good life." Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums.
Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.

Goodreads

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Author Links: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Debt-free living is a topic that is very important to me so I jumped at the chance to review this book from TLC Book Tours.  (Free book – Look at me being frugal!)

This is a memoir of a couple who used frugality to save enough to retire to the country in their 30s. They have a blog called frugalwoods.com.  I hadn’t ever heard of this before so I went into this book with no preconceived notions about what their story was.

I appreciated the fact that the book starts with a discussion of privilege versus systemic causes of poverty in the United States.  She realizes that just by being born to married, educated white parents in the suburbs of the Midwest that she got a leg up towards being able to be debt-free in her 30s.  She points out that her frugality is elective instead of a requirement to be able to afford her rent. 

I wish this was more of a how-to book. It doesn’t really explain how they became debt-free.  She says things like she saved $2000 of the $10,000 she was given as an AmeriCorp stipend.  She was living in Brooklyn with roommates but how did she manage to do that?  I want charts and spreadsheets.  She talks later about merging living expenses by moving in with her fiance and living below their means by not trying to keep up with the standard of living of their peers.  She says that even before they really committed to saving a lot of money in order to retire early, they were saving 40-50% of their take home pay not including 401K and mortgage principal.  This is where I started to feel pretty inadequate reading this book.  We’re debt-free but we are not even close to that kind of savings.  (I know the problem.  I eat out too much.  If I cooked every meal at home, I’d be golden. I need to make myself a challenge or something.)

I feel like reader’s reactions to this book will be influenced by where they are on their financial journey.  I can see her story of giving up $120 hair cuts seeming flippant to someone who is struggling to buy groceries.  At the same time, I can see it being inspirational to people who have the ability to start saving money.  I could also see it being frustrating and making people feel like they haven’t been doing enough to secure their financial future.  I’d be interested to see how people respond to the message.

 

 
Tuesday, March 6th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, March 7th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, March 8th: Literary Quicksand
Friday, March 9th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Monday, March 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, March 15th: Man of La Book
Monday, March 19th: What Is That Book About
Tuesday, March 20th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 21st: Doing Dewey
Thursday, March 22nd: Based on a True Story
20 Mar, 2018

The Best Boomerville Hotel

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Best Boomerville Hotel The Best Boomerville Hotel by Caroline James
on March 13th 2018
Genres: Fiction
Published by Ruby Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Let the shenanigans begin at the Best Boomerville Hotel …
Jo Docherty and Hattie Contaldo have a vision – a holiday retreat in the heart of the Lake District exclusively for guests of ‘a certain age’ wishing to stimulate both mind and body with new creative experiences. One hotel refurbishment later and the Best Boomerville Hotel is open for business!
Perhaps not surprisingly Boomerville attracts more than its fair share of eccentric clientele: there’s fun-loving Sir Henry Mulberry and his brother Hugo; Lucinda Brown, an impoverished artist with more ego than talent; Andy Mack, a charming Porsche-driving James Bond lookalike, as well as Kate Simmons, a woman who made her fortune from an internet dating agency but still hasn’t found ‘the One’ herself.
With such an array of colourful individuals there’s bound to be laughs aplenty, but could there be tears and heartbreak too and will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?

Goodreads

This book wants to be a fun romp in the country with an eclectic group of people.  That’s a fun premise for a book.  I’m always on the look out for books with middle-aged or older protagonists. 

I got a bit thrown off right at the beginning of the book with her definition of Boomers.  She defines them as 50-69 which is a tad young for a book published this year.  She then makes her main character 50.  So this is supposed to be a book celebrating Baby Boomers yet she makes the lead as young as she possibly can.  Then there are several comments throughout the book about how they don’t want “elderly people” at the hotel.  Older women at the hotel are described as “ageing” in a disparaging way.  That all seemed odd for a book that is supposed to be celebrating Baby Boomers.

There is a party that is held at one point in the book.  They decide to have Indian food.  That’s fine.  Then they decide to make it a costume party where all these upper class white British people will be wearing saris, turbans, and other Indian styles of dress.  That’s pushing pretty far towards creepy and inappropriate.  Then they decide to make it a party celebrating the British Raj.  Yeah.  That’s pretty out of touch.

Then there is the Shaman.  He doesn’t have a name.  He isn’t seen often.  He has both a “gypsy caravan” and a teepee.  He does sessions of some kind in there.  They appear to involve getting people high.  Then he starts showing up and making mysterious pronouncements of doom while also healing people with a touch before disappearing from sight.  One time he turns up to do a Shamanistic wedding ceremony and the guest indulge it as “a cabaret with a difference.” 

So the guests are all rich white people who can take off for weeks at a time to stay at a hotel and putter about.  The entertainment is a mish mash of other people’s cultures for fun.  The “romances” in the book are pure insta-love.  Our main character had two men fall for her on the first day she was there.  They were just overtaken by her beauty.  Once people decide to look at each other as a potential romantic interest, that’s it they are getting ready to get married.  This is explained as people being old and not having much time left. I get not dawdling but this felt more like, “You’re breathing.  You’ll do.”

I’d love to see this idea with maybe fewer characters so each could be well developed as a person instead of a stereotype – flighty artist, dirty old man, etc. 

 

17 Mar, 2018

Ecstasy

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Ecstasy Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt
on April 10th 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era
Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time the center stage.
Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand-new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?
Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Goodreads

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Alma Mahler was a very interesting woman. She was ambitious in a time and place that did not reward that in upper class white women.  She wanted to be a composer but was told that she couldn’t if she wanted to marry the man she wanted.

This book does a good job of highlighting the mental cost of requiring a woman to be a wife and mother if that is not their desire. Her depression and their martial troubles in the face of his refusal to see her as a creative human being was well written.

I wish this book had pulled me deeper into the story emotionally.  Great historical fiction should immerse you in the time and place.  It should take a little effort to get your focus out of that world when you put the book aside. This reading experience felt very surface level which is a shame. Early 20th century Vienna and the artistic world there could be a very lush setting for a novel.

I enjoyed learning about this woman that I had not previous been aware of.

06 Mar, 2018

Love Unleashed

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Love Unleashed Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
on March 6th 2018
Pages: 160
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by National Geographic Society
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher


A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives.

In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend. Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man's best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.
Readers will be inspired by...* Extraordinary reunions: A dog is rescued from Aleppo, Syria, and reunited with his family in Canada, where they had relocated in 2015 after a missile destroyed their home.* Friendships meant to be: When a prosthetics clinic scheduled appointments for 9-year-old Avery and shelter puppy Hattie Mae on the same day, a fateful encounter leads to a lifelong friendship built on combatting disability. * Heroic acts: Shaya, a crime-fighting dog trained to track illegal poachers, hurt his leg chasing an injured rhino. The leg had to be amputated, but Shaya goes right back to work protecting animals.* True devotion: As he was participating in China's Four Deserts Gobi March, a six-day foot race, Dion Leonard met a dedicated pup who accompanied him for about 120 miles. Afterward, he decides to adopt the dog.

Goodreads

 


Of course I loved this book.  How could you not? This is a book filled with beautiful pictures of dogs as you’d expect from National Geographic. 

Each dog has a story that is 2-3 pages long. It describes how the dog was taken out of a shelter and found a job that they love to do.  There are therapy dogs, security dogs, actors, medical dogs, and anything else you could think of. There are probably dogs doing jobs that you’ve never even thought of before.

I’ll be taking this book to my office for people to look at in the waiting room.

24 Feb, 2018

A Spell in the Country

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading A Spell in the Country A Spell in the Country by Heide Goody, Iain Grant
on February 23rd 2018
Pages: 446
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Dee is a Good Witch but she wonders if she could be a better witch.
She wonders if there’s more to life than Disney movie marathons, eating a whole box of chocolates for dinner and brewing up potions in her bathtub. So when she’s offered a chance to go on a personal development course in the English countryside, she packs her bags, says goodbye to the Shelter for Unloved Animals charity shop and sets a course for self-improvement.

Caroline isn’t just a Good Witch, she’s a fricking awesome witch.
She likes to find the easy path through life: what her good looks can’t get for her, a few magic charms can. But she’s bored of being a waitress and needs something different in her life. So when a one night stand offers her a place on an all-expenses-paid residential course in a big old country house, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

Jenny is a Wicked Witch. She just wishes she wasn’t.
On her fifteenth birthday, she got her first wart, her own imp and a Celine Dion CD. She still has the imp. She also has a barely controllable urge to eat human children which is socially awkward to say the least and not made any easier when a teenager on the run turns to her for help. With gangsters and bent cops on their trail, Jenny needs to find a place outside the city where they can lay low for a while.

For very different reasons, three very different witches end up on the same training course and land in a whole lot of trouble when they discover that there’s a reason why their free country break sounds too good to be true. Foul-mouthed imps, wererats, naked gardeners, tree monsters, ghosts and stampeding donkeys abound in a tale about discovering your inner witch.

Goodreads

This book was absolutely ridiculous and I loved it.  I actually, honestly, literally laughed out loud a few times.  From surveys where the only right answer is commenting about the survey taker’s flaming hat to absolutely perverse imps to flying landscaping equipment, it took every stereotype about witches and twisted them delightfully. 

This is a book that you don’t try to hard to make perfect sense.  It is a madcap romp and you should just go along for the ride.  There are witches of all ages and abilities.  Some use herbs.  Some use whatever is laying around.  Others have a complete set of every type of mystical craft available in occult stores. 

My only complaint is that with all the action the characterization took a back seat.  Sometimes it was hard to keep track of which witch was which.  But that is a minor quibble.  Pick this one up for a light, silly story.

13 Feb, 2018

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe

/ posted in: Reading Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café by Richard Dee
on June 15th 2017
Pages: 234
Genres: Mystery & Detective, Science Fiction
Published by 4Star Scifi
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she's taken over a derelict cafe. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn! She's hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It's a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past. But the cafe holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn't help. The more you try to pretend that you know what's going on, the worse it gets. Andorra's plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands. In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

Goodreads

I’m not usually a cozy mystery fan because it always drives me crazy when people don’t report crimes to the police and decide to investigate themselves.  I decided to give this one a try though because of the twist on the genre.  This cafe owner who is investigating a crime is living on a space station.

Andorra and her friend Cyril moved to a space station near Saturn.  It is there to support mining in the rings of Saturn.  The previous owner of the cafe left suddenly.  When cleaning the cafe to reopen though, they find his body.  Not knowing who to trust on the station because they are new, they keep him in the freezer.

The book gets into issues of sexual harassment and infidelity because the previous owner was known for seducing many women on the station and then keeping records that could be used to blackmail them.  Anyone could be a suspect. I was reading this book just as all the accusations of sexual harassment in Hollywood were coming to light. It was a jarring juxtaposition to see this plotline at that time. It made it feel very timely and topical.

I liked the world building.  Andorra is taken all over the station to see how life on the space station works.  It was well thought out and logical.  I love that there is a farm.

The book takes place an unspecified time in the future when Mars has been colonized for a long time.  Unfortunately, there still is homophobia on the space station.  That surprised me because usually I don’t see that in sci-fi I read.  It made me uncomfortable because I kept thinking that we should be over that by then.

 Overall I did enjoy this story. I would be interested in reading more in this series.  Check this one out especially if you enjoy both cozy mysteries and sci-fi.

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe Full Banner

Blog tour through Rachel’s Random Resources

Linking up to Foodies Read

About Richard Dee

A native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.
He can be found at www.richarddeescifi.co.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RichardDeeAuthor
Twitter – https://twitter.com/@RichardDockett1

07 Feb, 2018

Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies by Evy Journey
on November 29, 2017
Pages: 181
Genres: Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Cooking a wonderful meal is an art. An act of love. An act of grace. A gift that affirms and gives life—not only does it nurture those who partake of the meal; it also feeds the soul of the creator. These are lessons Gina learns from her mother, daughter of an unfortunate French chef.

Gina is a young woman born to poor parents, a nobody keen to taste life outside the world she was born into. A world that exposes her to fascinating people gripped by dark motives. Her passion for cooking is all she has to help her navigate it.

She gets lucky when she’s chosen to cook at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where customers belong to a privileged class with money to spare for a dinner of inventive dishes costing hundreds of dollars. In this heady, scintillating atmosphere, she meets new friends and new challenges—pastry chef Marcia, filthy rich client Leon, and Brent, a brooding homicide detective. This new world, it turns out, is also one of unexpected danger.

Goodreads

 

The main character is working at a restaurant.  She has a chance to serve one of the dishes she created to a favored client.  He is there on a date with her childhood best friend.  He immediately, like while sitting in front of his date, starts talking about his interest in the main character.  That’s super creepy behavior.  Then he starts to stalk her in spite of her repeated requests for him to stop.

Apparently every time her friend’s boyfriends meet our main character they immediately fall for her without her doing anything at all to encourage them.

 

 

 
I actually checked several times to confirm that this was written by a woman. You usually don’t see the ‘vapid heroine who doesn’t do anything to attract men but they fall all over her just for existing storyline’ in books written by women. You especially don’t see it to the point where other women are physically attacking her – repeatedly. This book also doesn’t really seem to consider stalking to be a bad thing. It is just proof he loves you. If he won’t stop, you just haven’t said no hard enough and why are you wanting to say no anyway?

I thought our stalking dude was obviously the bad guy of the story but I was wrong.  Our MC decides to move in with her stalker because he’s rich and she wants to live that lifestyle until he gets tired of her and kicks her out.  That’s her plan. When her mother tells her that it is a completely stupid idea she is presented as out of touch.

I didn’t care about anyone in this story except maybe Christi, the main character’s childhood best friend.  Everyone else was only out for themselves and didn’t give you any reason to root for them.  I’m not a fan of books with amoral characters.  Books where everyone is just using each other with no concern about the right or wrong of their actions don’t usually work for me.  That’s definitely the case here.


Evy Journey, writer, wannabe artist, and flâneuse (feminine of flâneur), wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest  

I received a copy of the book from IRead Book Tours.

06 Feb, 2018

Deborah Calling

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Deborah Calling Deborah Calling by Avraham Azrieli
on July 25, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Jordan/Israel

Deborah’s father dreamed that, one day, she would become a prophet—a seemingly impossible dream for a woman in a patriarchal society. To see her father’s dream come true, Deborah made the cunning decision to become a man and sought out a mysterious elixirist who can turn women into men.
Under the elixirist Kassite’s tutelage and training, Deborah learns the essential traits of masculinity and steadily grows stronger, building muscle and willpower. But Kassite requests something in return: he needs Deborah's help to escape the tannery and return to his homeland. It is the beginning of another thrilling adventure through the desert—a cat and mouse chase between Deborah and her violent fiancé who still hunts her, a chance meeting with an ancient healer with a prophetic message, and a revelatory spiritual experience in an abandoned cave.
As she continues on the path God has laid before her, Deborah witnesses the darkness that can take hold in the hearts and souls of men—evil that causes her to reflect on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration she has gained from the women in her life. Will becoming a man truly help her become a prophetess, or might there be another path? Visionary dreams, a mysterious eagle, and an extraordinary band of ex-slaves will help Deborah find the answer . . . and ultimately her calling.

Goodreads

I haven’t read the first book in this series that imagines the life of Deborah from the biblical book of Judges.  I received this book as part of a blog tour but it was not difficult to understand what had come before.  We know in the bible Deborah is leading the tribes of Israel but how did a woman get to this position of authority?  This story posits that her father had a dream that said that she would be a prophet.  She can not imagine how this could happen as a woman so she decides to take a potion that would turn her into a man.  Obviously, hormone therapy wasn’t available then so she is getting scammed by the people who are supposedly helping her.

She has a lot of internalized misogyny.  This isn’t surprising given the thoughts about women in her time.  But the men who are supposedly helping her keep drilling it into her head.  Women are stupid and emotional.  Men are in all ways superior.  I started highlighting these comments as they came up in the book.

“Girls aren’t stupid.” “It is not a matter of stupidity, but of destiny. Women exist to keep the home—make food, sew clothes, bear children, care for infants. That is why the gods made women fit for domesticated submission—passive, temperamental, small-minded, and anxious.


Deborah’s face flushed with shame. The mere sight of someone resembling Zariz had caused her to cast off all masculine strength and posture, instantly regressing to the foolish girl she had once been.


Kassite might view it as yet another manifestation of feminine weakness.

 

There are more but that is the general idea.  They keep telling her that she needs to search inside herself to get the final inspiration to complete her transformation to a man.  I was hoping that this led to her realizing her strength as a woman and deciding that she didn’t need to change herself externally in order to be able to be a prophet.  The book could have easily had that be the outcome.  I thought that was what it was leading to.  Instead she decides to embrace her life as a woman because she has a magical dream where she sees herself dispensing justice as a woman.  What?

When she declares this to her “mentors”, they dismiss her ideas and no longer accord her the same respect as when she was trying to be masculine.

“I am disappointed,” Kassite said. “You still think like a girl.”

Obviously the constraints of the time and place restrict how “Smash the Patriarchy” the story can go but I wanted more realization of feminine strength than was seen in this book.

This is part of a continuing series.  You don’t know at the end how she rises in power.  This is a story that I would love to hear but I’m not sure that I will be satisfied with this author’s imagining of the story. This book works fine as an adventurous historical fiction tale but it was worrisome to read this much internalized misogyny that isn’t disputed in the text from a male author.

There are also some anachronisms in the story especially in regard to the horses.  I’m a horse history nerd so that might not bother anybody else.

 

12 Jan, 2018

Family Tree

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Family Tree Family Tree by Susan Wiggs
on January 9th 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Vermont

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.

Goodreads

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.

20180103_203913.jpg

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.

17 Nov, 2017

Hiddensee

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Hiddensee Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire, Tbd
on October 31st 2017
Genres: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Germany

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.

Goodreads

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:

  • Books Set in Europe
06 Nov, 2017

Psychobiotic

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Psychobiotic The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food, and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection by Scott C. Anderson, John F. Cryan, Ted Dinan
on November 7, 2017
Genres: Medical, Nonfiction
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Written by the leading researchers in the field, this information-rich guide to improving your mood explains how gut health drives psychological well-being, and how depression and anxiety can be relieved by adjusting your intestinal bacteria.

This groundbreaking book explains the revolutionary new science of psychobiotics and the discovery that your brain health and state of mind are intimately connected to your microbiome, that four-pound population of microbes living inside your intestines. Leading medical researchers John F. Cryan and Ted Dinan, working with veteran journalist Scott C. Anderson, explain how common mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety, can be improved by caring for the intestinal microbiome. Science is proving that a healthy gut means a healthy mind—and this book details the steps you can take to change your mood and improve your life by nurturing your microbiome.

Goodreads

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I love the discoveries that are being made about the role of the gut and the gut microbiome in all aspects of health.  I’ve been applying them in my practice with good success in GI disease.  That’s why I was excited to read this book about the connections between the flora in the GI tract and human brain health.

This book is written for a lay person.  It does a very good job of explaining some difficult concepts in a way that will be easily understood by people who don’t have any biology background without dumbing the subject matter down so much that people with more knowledge would cringe as they read it.  That’s a fine line to walk.

anatomy-160524_640

The main point of the research is that bacteria in the GI tract break down the food that we eat. They are also responsible for some defense against bad bacteria. They secrete substances that help stabilize our moods.

It is our job to make sure that we don’t harm the good bacteria (probiotics) that we have. In addition we need to give them the right types of food (prebiotics) to make sure that they thrive. There are suggestions in this book for all do help do all of these things.

My only criticism is that in their enthusiasm to tie together gut health and brain health, the authors made it seem like the whole key to everything is the microbiome. That leaves out the very real multifactoral issues that go into mental health problems. A proper and healthy microbiome can definitely help but it shouldn’t be thought to fix everything on its own.

I hope more people start to understand the correlation between probiotics and overall health – not just in GI disease. People seem to be getting more open to the idea. The only real pushback I’ve ever had when dispensing probiotics was actually from a human physician who told me that there was no evidence in humans that probiotics did anything beneficial. He allowed that maybe it was different in animals. I hope he reads a book like this someday and opens his mind to the possibilities.

 

Tour Stops

Wednesday, November 1st: Sapphire Ng

Thursday, November 2nd: Peppermint PhD

Monday, November 6th: Based on a True Story

Thursday, November 9th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, November 13th: Instagram: @caitlyn_block

Tuesday, November 14th: Literary Quicksand

Thursday, November 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, November 17th: Instagram: @leahbhealthy

Monday, November 20th: Instagram: @wellnesswithedie

Tuesday, November 21st: Dreams, Etc.

TBD: Instagram: @danidoeshealth

IG Story: Instagram: @sierranielsen

25 Oct, 2017

The Crows of Beara

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Crows of Beara The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson
on September 1st 2017
Genres: Fiction
Published by Ashland Creek Press
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Ireland

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.

Goodreads

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.

Find out more about Julie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Europe
18 Oct, 2017

Disrobed

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Disrobed Disrobed: How Clothing Predicts Economic Cycles, Saves Lives, and Determines the Future by Syl Tang
on October 16th 2017
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

We may not often think of our clothes as having a function beyond covering our naked bodies and keeping us a little safer from the elements. But to discount the enormous influence of clothing on anything from economic cycles to the future of water scarcity is to ignore the greater meaning of the garments we put on our backs. Disrobed vividly considers the role that clothing plays in everything from natural disasters to climate change to terrorism to geopolitics to agribusiness. Chapter by chapter, Tang takes the reader on an unusual journey, telling stories and asking questions that most consumers have never considered about their clothing. Why do banker's wives sell off their clothes and how does that presage a recession? How is clothing linked to ethanol and starvation on the African continent? Could RFID in clothing save the lives of millions of people in earthquakes around the world?
This book takes an everyday item and considers it in a way that readers may not have previously thought possible. It tackles topics relevant to today, everything from fakes in the museums to farm-to-table eating, and answers questions about how we can anticipate and change our world in areas as far-reaching as the environment, politics, and the clash of civilizations occurring between countries. Much like other pop economics books have done before, the stories are easily retold in water-cooler style, allowing them to be thoughtfully considered, argued, and discussed.

Goodreads

 


 
 This is a pop-economics book examining the impact of clothing on various aspects of life now and in the future.  The author is a futurist who uses clothing to help predict future trends.
 
How does that work?  For example, the rate of rich women reselling designer clothing goes up as they start to have financial concerns.  This shows up before some other indicators of impending recessions.  Likewise, the number of bankers wearing their “lucky clothing” increases with financial instability.
 
I thought this book was strongest in its first few chapters.  These discuss superstitious clothing trends, how museums fall for buying fakes, and predictors of recession.  In the later chapters on environmental impacts of clothing I felt that the ideas needed more development.  Yes, there are major problems with disposable clothing and its impact on water and agriculture.  But this book just seemed to rush to skim over the surface of many ideas instead of taking the time to develop a few ideas fully.  The ideas are intriguing but the discussion felt half-hearted and left me wanting more details and nuance.
 
This book would be best for people who have never considered these issues before.  It can serve as an introduction to the topics surrounding clothing and the economy and environment.  It may spur deeper research into the subject and a search for books that dive deeper into the cause and effect of the topics presented here.

About Syl Tang

Syl Tang is CEO and founder of the 19-year old HipGuide Inc. A futurist, her focus is how and why we consume, with an eye towards world events such as natural disasters, geo-political clashes, and pandemics. She has written hundreds of articles on the confluence of world events and soft goods for the Financial Times, predicting and documenting trends such as the Apple watch and other smart wearables, lab-made diamonds, the Department of Defense’s funding of Afghan jewelry companies, the effects of global warming on South Sea pearls, and the unsolved murder of tanzanite speculator Campbell Bridges.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • POC authors
12 Oct, 2017

The Fire By Night

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Fire By Night The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo
on January 17th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

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.

Goodreads
Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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. 


 
Tuesday, October 3rd: Girl Who Reads

Wednesday, October 4th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, October 5th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, October 6th: West Metro Mommy

Monday, October 9th: BookNAround

Tuesday, October 10th: Peppermint PhD

Wednesday, October 11th: Life By Kristen

Thursday, October 12th: Based on a True Story

Friday, October 13th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, October 16th: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, October 17th: Sara the Introvert

Wednesday, October 18th: Books and Bindings

Thursday, October 19th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 20th: ML’s Red House Reviews

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • Books Set in Europe
02 Aug, 2017

The Dress in the Window

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Dress in the Window The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant
on July 25th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Pennsylvania

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.

Goodreads

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:

  • Books Set in North America
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