The first behind-the-scenes account of life with the legendary ravens at the world’s eeriest monument
The ravens at the Tower of London are of mighty importance: rumor has it that if a raven from the Tower should ever leave, the city will fall.
The title of Ravenmaster, therefore, is a serious title indeed, and after decades of serving the Queen, Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife took on the added responsibility of caring for the infamous ravens. In Ravenmaster, he lets us in on his life as he feeds his birds raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood, buys their food at Smithfield Market, and ensures that these unusual, misunderstood, and utterly brilliant corvids are healthy, happy, and ready to captivate the four million tourists who flock to the Tower every year.
A rewarding, intimate, and inspiring partnership has developed between the ravens and their charismatic and charming human, the Ravenmaster, who shares the folklore, history, and superstitions surrounding the ravens and the Tower. Shining a light on the behavior of the birds, their pecking order and social structure, and the tricks they play on us, Skaife shows who the Tower’s true guardians really are―and the result is a compelling and irreverent narrative that will surprise and enchant.
I’ve been following the author on Twitter for a while so I was familiar with his job and what it entails. Despite that, this is still a fascinating look at the care of the ravens at the Tower of London.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, there is a legend (which the author casts doubts on) that if the ravens leave the Tower of London, then England will fall. There are seven ravens who live in the Tower. They are free during the day to mingle with the tourists, steal food from the tourists, and observe the general hub bub. At night they have an enclosure to help protect them from the foxes who also live in the tower.
“In the past the Ravenmasters preferred to put the food out around the Tower, but the problem was that a seagull might take a nice juicy piece of ox liver, say, that was intended for a raven, have a little nibble on it and then casually drop it on a visitor from a great height.”
The ravens aren’t pets. They aren’t tame. They don’t work on your schedule. They don’t sit nicely on the bench when David Attenborough wants to film with them. They are prone to killing and eating pigeons (not always in that order) in front of the tourists. Most of the Ravenmaster’s time seems to be taken up with getting them where they are supposed to be and getting them out of places where they shouldn’t be.
“[m]ore than once I’ve seen a raven chasing the Tower’s many resident cats and dogs.”
Readers of this book will find out not only lots about ravens but about what it takes to be a Yeoman Warder. He discusses The Story – the official tour group talk that takes people about 6 months to learn perfectly before they can start to change it by adding in their own embellishments. The Story is standardized so any Yeoman Warder can step in and take over a tour if the original guide has to step away to help someone (like if they faint after watching ravens murder other birds.)
The book is written in short chapters in a very conversational style which makes it a very quick and entertaining read. I enjoyed this more since I have been to the Tower and could visualize most of the places that he is discussing. If you haven’t been there, looking at a map of the grounds would be helpful to understanding the story.
There are several stories of the deaths of some of the ravens from illness, accidents, and old age. They made me a little teary as did this last line of the acknowledgements about Munin, who hated him from day 1.
“A very special thank-you to Munin. During the publication of this book, sadly, Raven Munin passed away due to complications of old age. Her presence at the Tower will be greatly missed by her partner, Jubilee; by Team Raven; and by all staff at Historic Royal Palaces.”
When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.
Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.
I picked up this book because it is precisely a genre that I don’t think we can ever have enough of – old lady chick lit!
Give me stories of older women in charge of their own lives; finding new passions; doing whatever they want! I’ll read them all. Give me more old ladies defying their fussy children and skinny dipping at the beach.
This book also made me really, really want a beach hut even though I don’t live by the beach and even if I did, they aren’t a thing here.
Olive moves into a home where everyone cares about safety to the point of not allowing the residents to live. This is actually a huge problem for older people. If you can’t do anything other than what is super-safe, you don’t get to do anything fun.
I was intrigued by the gin combinations that are discussed here. I wish there were some recipes for the cocktails discussed. I don’t drink so I have no idea if I like gin or not but this book made me want to try some. I feel like I wouldn’t like a gin and tonic at all but the gin with violet syrup that tasted like candied violets sounded interesting. I’m not sure if the rhubarb one sounded good or not but they were fans of it in the book.
I didn’t care much for the bit of mystery in the book. I was just here for the characters and their adventures!
Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way…
New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.
Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice—and his attraction to her—but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.
Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?
Alyssa Cole is an autobuy author for me for both her contemporary and historical romances. This is book 2 of her contemporary Reluctant Royals series.
Do you have to read the first book to read this one?
Not really as long as you can just accept that her best friend is a Princess. (But you should read the first book because it was wonderful.)
Portia has always felt like she is a failure. She comes from a highly successful family. Her twin overcame a life threatening illness and now runs a very successful website. Her family is pushing her take a job with the family company just so she does something stable. Instead she took an internship with a Scottish sword maker, because that’s a practical life skill.
Her skills are a big help to the company though. She increases their social media profiles so they get more business. She redoes their website. It is in doing research for the website that she finds out about her boss’s relationship to a former Duke.
I liked that the conflict keeping them apart in the story was a logical one. He’s her boss and it is inappropriate and wrong to hit on interns. People should remember that.
This was a fun read that I finished in a few sittings. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
Oliver Dasenby is the most infuriating man Primrose Garland has ever known. He may be her brother’s best friend, but he has an atrocious sense of humor. Eight years in the cavalry hasn’t taught him solemnity, nor has the unexpected inheritance of a dukedom.
But when Oliver inherited his dukedom, it appears that he also inherited a murderer.
Oliver might be dreadfully annoying, but Primrose doesn’t want him dead. She’s going to make certain he survives his inheritance—and the only way to do that is to help him catch the murderer!
Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother books are also autobuys for me. This is the first book in a new series but it is set in the same world as her previous books.
Do you have to read the other books to read this one?
The premise of these books is that a long time ago a woman helped a fairy. In exchange all her female descendants are granted their choice of a magical power at some point in their mid-twenties. Each book can be read as a standalone.
Primrose’s power is teleportation. That’s a good choice. That’s the power I would choose. I like that she is first seen using it to go get a book she forgot at her house. However, her magic doesn’t really affect the story a lot. The same story could be told without it.
Oliver was an Army officer who came home after he inherited a title. He was far out of the line of succession but several relatives have died unexpectedly in the last year. Now someone seems to be trying to kill Oliver too. The mystery of who it is the main story of the book. It is quickly narrowed down to two suspects but the story twists and turns to keep you guessing.
All the action takes place at a house party where Oliver is the fresh meat being dangled in front of several marriageable ladies and their mothers. He is trying to stay out of their clutches but the marriage hunt is deadly serious.
Primrose and her brother are Oliver’s childhood friends who are trying to keep him safe. Their relationship develops because Primrose is the only woman who likes him for himself instead of his title.
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.
When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.
---------------BAKER THIEF is the first in a fantasy series meant to reframe romance tropes within non-romantic relationship and centering aromantic characters. Those who love enemies-to-lovers and superheroes should enjoy the story!
I picked this up because it combined a baker and a fantasy mystery. There really isn’t as much baking content as I would have liked because Claude the baker is off being a superhero and keeps needing to close the bakery.
What I Liked:
This is a fantasy world based in a French worldview. The author is from Quebec and it shows in the French blended into this story. I don’t know that I’ve seen another book where this is so well combined. Place names, official titles, etc are French.
There are witches in this world but they have been driven underground by persecution in the fairly recent past. Nonmagical people think they are safe now because witches are gone. Witches are not gone.
The main character is Claude/Claire. They are genderfluid. Generally, he is Claude during the day when he is baking and Claire at night when she is a thief. That schedule of genders was working well until recently when Claude is starting to regret not being comfortable working during the day as Claire or spending the night as Claude depending on which gender feels most comfortable at the time.
It tackles issues relating to aromanticism and asexuality. There are several characters at different places on the spectrum of aromanticism and asexuality so you don’t get a single point of view of these topics. It shows how aromantic people have relationships which is important if readers aren’t familiar with this aspect of queerness.
The rest of the cast is also very diverse. Many genders, sexualities, disabilities, and races are represented. It is also very good at body acceptance of various sizes of people.
Things that are slightly off:
This isn’t the author’s fault but there is a major part of the plot that is very similar to part of the plot of Witchmark. I loved that book so much and I read it first, so what should have felt like a surprising plot point felt like, “Oh, this again?” The books came out about just about the same time so it is just a coincidence but it decreased my enjoyment a bit.
Things that I’ll probably get yelled at on the internet for criticizing:
Sometimes the supporting characters were very awkwardly introduced. The author was working hard to include characters from many different backgrounds which is good but it turned every character introduction into a descriptive list. It is a case of telling the reader instead of showing the reader through the character’s actions. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily be told when being introduced to your new boss what her sexual orientation was or that she was polyamorous. Maybe you would see pictures on her desk or it would come up in conversation later.
Sometimes the plot seemed to be set aside in order for a lesson about identity. The worst instance of this was when Claire ran into a burning building, past a female-presenting witch who was setting the place on fire, and into a room where other witches were being held captive, in order to rescue them. The witches inside ask their friend is ok. Claire refers to her as “Fire girl” in her explanation. At that point, she is informed that the witch is agender and not a girl. My thought reading that passage was, “This is why conservatives laugh at us.” You are being rescued from a building that is literally on fire. You were trapped and needed a person with super strength to get you out. Now, while the fire is about to drop the whole ceiling on you, you take the time to admonish your rescuer for misgendering a person they literally saw in passing. Run first – then figure out the proper pronouns of strangers you’ve never spoken to. This book sometimes felt like an educational tome on identity more than a fantasy story. That’s fine if that was the author’s goal but I would have liked to see both aspects blended together more seamlessly.
When crusading lawyer Vikram Pandey sets out in search of a missing youth, his investigations take him to Holywell Street, London’s most notorious address. He expects to find a disgraceful array of sordid bookshops. He doesn’t expect one of them to be run by the long-lost friend whose disappearance and presumed death he’s been mourning for thirteen years.
Gil Lawless became a Holywell Street bookseller for his own reasons, and he’s damned if he’s going to apologise or listen to moralising from anyone. Not even Vikram; not even if the once-beloved boy has grown into a man who makes his mouth water.
Now the upright lawyer and the illicit bookseller need to work together to track down the missing youth. And on the way, they may even learn if there’s more than just memory and old affection binding them together...
I read this book immediately after A Gentleman Never Keeps Score. The two fit together nicely because they share the theme of sexual abuse/exploitation of teenage boys due to poverty.
Gil is a bastard child of a rich family. When his father died, his older half-brother cut off his education and funds. In order to survive he was a prostitute. Now he runs a bookstore that sells pornography, which is illegal.
Vikram is a lawyer who takes some pro bono cases in London’s Indian community. He knew Gil at school where they bonded over being the only dark-skinned people. He has always wondered what happened to his friend when he suddenly left school but no one would answer his questions. Vikram is investigating the disappearance of an Indian teen who worked as a prostitute. The only clue is a studio photo that the boy’s parents had. There is no way he could afford to have bought it. Vikram guesses he may have been modeling for erotic photographers and was given the formal portrait as partial payment.
There is a bit of over the top serendipity in the main characters meeting. It is like, “I’m searching for this lost boy because it reminds me of my former best friend who went missing. I’ll go to this bookstore. Oh, look! There is my missing best friend. Imagine that!”
Vikram wants to renew his friendship with Gil but has a very hard time accepting the world Gil lives in. He is uncomfortable with the life his friend was forced to lead while he continued his comfortable life in school and university. Gil is cynical about Vikram’s desire to help people because in his life he hasn’t seen many people with that motivation.
This is a novella but there is a good amount of character growth in it. It was interesting to find out all about the Victorian pornography trade. I haven’t seen that as a basis for a romance before.
Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.
Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.
Content Warning from Author: This book includes a main character who was sexually abused in the past; abuse happens off page but is alluded to.
It is not strictly necessary to read the first book in this series to understand this book but it helps to gain understanding of the family background. Hartley is the oldest brother. He tried to make a prosperous life for his brothers by attaching himself to a rich man who was interested in him. At the time Hartley was a teenager and the relationship was abusive. At the beginning of the book, he has inherited his abuser’s house in London. Relatives of the abuser let details of the relationship out and Hartley is now shunned in society. He is living in a house where most of the servants have left because of the scandal. He is dealing with the psychological aftermath of an abusive relationship.
I love Cat Sebastian’s writing. Her plots are original and include people and situations that aren’t often seen in traditional historical romances. Sam is a black man who formerly was a boxer. He is trying to make a living running a pub but he is being harassed by a policeman who is convinced that there are illegal boxing matches in the bar. His brother wants to marry a woman but she is stalling. She tells Sam that she once posed for a naked painting for a rich man. She doesn’t feel right marrying a respectable man when that painting is still out there somewhere. Sam decides to track down the painting to steal and destroy it. The trail leads him to Hartley’s house because it was painted for his abuser.
This book highlights found family. Hartley assembles a rag tag staff of people from London’s underworld who have nowhere else to go. His valet is a former male prostitute. The valet brings home a cook/maid who was thrown out of her house for being pregnant. Slowly he realizes that piecing his life back together doesn’t mean that it has to look the same as it did before. He looks to rebuild his ability to trust and love that was severely damaged in his previous relationship. He needs to deal with the anger he has about being forced to prostitute himself for his family, who are uncomfortable with him now because of it.
I love all the characters in this story. The author does a wonderful job of making them each well-drawn, three dimensional people. No one is just a side character there to advance the plot. I’m looking forward to the next installment of this series.
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
When most of the world flooded, the elders raised a magical wall around Diné land. The gods and mythological beings are back. Some people are manifesting clan powers. Maggie’s clan powers make her a powerful monster killer. She was taken in and trained by a mythological warrior after a tragedy until he left her a year ago. Now she is a deeply emotionally damaged monster hunter for hire.
Now she is on the trail of monsters that she has never seen before. They are wiping out whole towns.
This book reminds me a lot of the early seasons of the TV show Supernatural, if the lead was a no-nonsense Diné woman driving a 1972 pickup. There are different groups of monster hunters. There is even a safe house/bar/weapons depot/first aid station run by a older black woman and her children.
I loved a scene in a nightclub where Maggie is able to see the patrons as embodiments of their clan powers. That is the type of imagination that I love to see in books.
The ending is magnificent and just a little bit of a cliffhanger. I’m looking forward to the next book in 2019.
(There is a lot of graphic violence depicted including violence against children so if that bothers you a lot you might want to skip this one.)
Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption. When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known and on the woman who protected her with all her heart, a new one opened.
As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal,” Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost and having to adapt to a new reality while struggling with the traumas of her youth. When her world falls apart again as an adult, Christina returns to Brazil to finally confront her past and unlock the truth of what really happened to Christiana Mara Coelho.
This is a heartbreaking story of a child living in extreme poverty on the streets in Brazil. The things that happen to her are horrific including witnessing the murder of her best friend by the police, seeing numerous rapes, and killing another child in a fight over food.
Because this all happened as a child she didn’t clearly know or remember the reasons why they lived like they did. All she knew was that her mother loved her and her little brother but that there were also times when she wasn’t around. The children were taken to an orphanage where they were eventually not allowed to have contact with their mother and then were adopted by a couple from Sweden. Nothing that was going on was explained to her.
As an adult she decides to go back to Brazil to try to find her mother and to find out what really happened to make sense of her childhood memories.
She examines the disconnect she feels about being grateful for her good life in Sweden that wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t forcibly taken from her mother but also being angry about being separated from the person who loved her.
The book is very simply written or translated. That makes it a very stark read. It is very sad but I think it is necessary to know what is going on in the poorest parts of society. Once again in reading this book I was struck by how often male sexual violence towards women and children is considered to be an everyday thing. I hate knowing that there are women who have to submit to being raped because they are told that it is her or her child. Books like this just make me want to have a moratorium on men for a while.
‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’
As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.
When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.
Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.
One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.
What would you do if you had to leave your home in a few hours? Could you leave your animals behind knowing that animals left on other farms had been killed? That was one of the issues facing farmers in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe’s government instituted a series of land seizures.
The Retzlaff family didn’t leave Zimbabwe right away like many of the other white farmers they knew did. They moved farm to farm but the chaos followed them. As they moved across the country over a series of years, they collected animals. Eventually, they moved to the neighboring country of Mozambique.
I imagine that this is a book that could have a hard time finding an audience. Readers who care more deeply about people than animals might be offended by the effort and resources that went into moving and housing the horses when so many people were suffering. Horse lovers don’t like to read books where horses are mistreated. Horse lovers do need to be warned. Most of the horses you meet in this book don’t survive until the end. Many bad things happen to them regardless of the efforts of the Retzlaffs.
Another issue in this book is historical accuracy versus personal experience. Reading the book, the land reform movement seems to come on suddenly. I’ve been looking a bit more into the history because I assumed that there had to have been some colonial shenanigans that resulted in all these large landowners being white people. Yes, Rhodesia (the former name of Zimbabwe) had favored whites in land distribution. The black population was put onto the least productive land.
“Following Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, land legislation was again amended with the Rhodesian Land Tenure Act of 1969. The Land Tenure Act upended the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and was designed to rectify the issue of insufficient land available to the rapidly expanding black population. It reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 45 million acres and reserved another 45 million acres for black ownership, introducing parity in theory; however, the most fertile farmland in Regions I, II, and III continued to be included in the white enclave. Abuses of the system continued to abound; some white farmers took advantage of the legislation to shift their property boundaries into land formerly designated for black settlement, often without notifying the other landowners.”
“In 1977, the Land Tenure Act was amended by the Rhodesian parliament, which further reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 200,000 hectares, or 500,000 acres. Over 15 million hectares were thus opened to purchase by persons of any race.Two years later, as part of the Internal Settlement, Zimbabwe Rhodesia‘s incoming biracial government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa abolished the reservation of land according to race. White farmers continued to own 73.8% of the most fertile land suited for intensive cash crop cultivation and livestock grazing, in addition to generating 80% of the country’s total agricultural output.”
“The Lancaster House Agreement  stipulated that farms could only be taken from whites on a “willing buyer, willing seller” principle for at least ten years. White farmers were not to be placed under any pressure or intimidation, and if they decided to sell their farms they were allowed to determine their own asking prices”
“Between April 1980 and September 1987, the acreage of land occupied by white-owned commercial farms was reduced by about 20%.” – all quoted from Wikipedia
Ok, so they can’t say they didn’t know this was coming. They talk a little about the politics of it and how they weren’t paying any attention. They mention the vote on a referendum in 2000 only because their black workers asked to borrow transportation so they could all vote. It was the day before voting and they hadn’t really considered it?
“The government organised a referendum on the new constitution in February 2000, despite having a sufficiently large majority in parliament to pass any amendment it wished. Had it been approved, the new constitution would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation. Despite vast support in the media, the new constitution was defeated, 55% to 45%.” Wikipedia
It was after this failed that the government started to encourage mob violence to steal land without compensation. I understand that they were both born and raised in Africa and felt protected because they legally owned their land but the writing was on the wall. Things were about to get ugly and they were completely unprepared.
What happened as a result of the seizure of white-owned farms was a complete disaster. They were given as gifts to friends and family of powerful people who didn’t know the first thing about farming. Zimbabwe’s economy was based on farming and when the farms collapsed it collapsed. So no one is saying that this was a good and just plan but it couldn’t have been completely unexpected.
There are also some other statements that come across as very colonial. One time when they move to a new farm she discusses her family moving into the farm house and then talks about her workers settling into the huts around the property. She also has this quote – “John’s was a good old-fashioned cattle ranch of the kind the first pioneers in this part of the world had kept.” Sure, they were the first people in the area if you ignore millennia of existence before then. The author has commented negatively on reviews on Goodreads that bring up these aspects of the book. That’s never a good look.
As a horse person I wish there were more details. They talk about sometimes transporting horses in trucks. Where did the trucks come from? How many trips did you make? How many horses did you have at any given time? The synopsis refers to over 300 but the book doesn’t talk about that number. How are you affording all this?
What happened to this family is bad. But I can’t muster 100% sympathy for them. I would have liked to see a bit more self awareness. This book would have benefited from including the perspectives of the black workers who traveled with them. A few of these people are mentioned once or twice by name but generally they are described as a faceless group of grooms. That’s a big oversight in a book that describes many different white horse owners in detail.
On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.
Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of "flags of convenience." Infesting our waters, poisoning our air, and a prime culprit of acoustic pollution, shipping is environmentally indefensible. And then there are the pirates.
Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates the harm that ships inflict on endangered whales.
I’ve been intrigued by shipping ever since I heard a statistic in Moby Duck that said that 2 ships are lost weekly. I never knew whether I should believe that or not. That seemed like a lot of ships to lose without it being something everyone knows. This book didn’t tell me if that was true but it did say that over 2000 people a year die at sea.
This book follows a container ship journey from England to Singapore with side trips to investigate issues like piracy. You learn about shipwrecks and human smuggling. My favorite fact was that a container of broccoli will set off the radiation detectors at the shipyards. (I knew broccoli was bad for you.)
I was surprised by how horrible life as a sailor is. I knew it wasn’t a cushy job but the companies seem to go out of their way to make it worse. The amount allotted per day for meals keeps dropping. There is no internet even on ships built in the last few years. Fast turnaround at docks means that shore leave is pretty much a thing of the past. Some sailors she talks to haven’t been off the ship in 6 months. If your ship gets captured by pirates, you are pretty much on your own for a while. There is a set time that negotiations generally take. If your company tries to speed it up so it doesn’t take months, the pirates get suspicious and keep you longer.
I was interested to hear how the dockside churches are stepping up for sailors. Because they can’t leave the ships, chaplins come onto the boats to help them get things they need. They also try to help fix some of the horrible conditions by finding the right authorities for sailors to report complaints to.
Read this one to find out everything about an industry that is so pervasive but no one knows about.
I loved the narrator of this audiobook. She doesn’t sound like a typical nonfiction book narrator. She’s very posh and British. I looked up what else she has narrated because I was going to listen to them all. It turns out that she is mostly a narrator of Regency Romances. She sounds like she should be reading those. I want her to read more nonfiction because that’s mainly what I listen to on audio. Pearl Hewitt for narrator of every book!
Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
Annie and Evie have been friends since Annie first stood up for Evie against some bullies in elementary school. Now as adults, Evie is Annie’s personal assistant. Annie is San Francisco’s only superhero Aveda Jupiter. She’s all about the glory. She dumps everything else on Evie who takes it because she feels like she owes Annie.
Annie/Aveda is truly abusive to Evie. Everyone sees it but her. When Evie is forced out of the shadows she needs to rely on her own powers to save the city and find a life for herself outside of Aveda Jupiter’s orbit.
Good things about this book:
Asian female superheroes – Annie is Chinese and Evie is half-Japanese
The menace is fairly lighthearted and fun. It starts with demons taking the form of cupcakes that bite and ends with demonic minions who complain about everything the boss demon does. I could imagine this whole book as a technicolor comic strip.
Evie learning to stand up for herself is wonderful.
Evie has been suppressing her emotions in order to keep her powers under control. When she starts to get in touch with her feelings, the first one that she notices is lust. She refers to her lack of lustful feelings as the Dead Inside-o-meter. The idea that she hasn’t had sex in three years is considered proof of emotional problems. I’m not a fan of stories that consider either asexuality or celibacy as the weirdest thing that ever happened.
Evie’s teenage sister is the worst person ever. Well, maybe second worse next to Aveda. It is hard to tell but then they start hanging out together and amplify each other’s behavior and it is everything horrible. They are selfish and childish but Evie is supposed to be seen as no fun for objecting to it all.
I didn’t like the romances in this book. They just seemed added because you have to have a sexual partner (see complaint 1). Suddenly, she has feelings for a person who annoys her all the time? The fact that someone annoys you is actually stated as proof that you probably deep down want to sleep with them. No, maybe they are just annoying and you have the good sense to stay away from them.
Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship...
Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding... it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.
Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.
This book was so good. Clem runs a boarding house that his half brother owns. He was born after an Earl raped an Indian nanny who accompanied his brother’s family home to England. Clem is seen as an embarrassment to his snobbish family and this is a way of keeping him out of sight. The only condition of his employment is that he has to keep a drunken ex-vicar in the house no matter what. Clem is a methodical person who needs to do one thing at a time. Other people think that he is slow and clumsy because he gets flustered with too much stimuli.
Rowley is a taxidermist who takes lodgings at the house after setting up shop next door. He prefers to be alone and can’t handle other people’s anger well after surviving an abusive childhood. His quietness settles Clem. The two of them gradually find enjoyment in each other’s company. They have a nightly cup of tea together. They are just starting to acknowledge feelings for each other when there is a robbery attempt and then a murder.
This is when homosexuality was still banned in England. There is a pub called the Jack and Knave that Clem frequents. It is open only to approved people brought by known clients. Inside the Jack, gay men and women are free to socialize openly. Many of the characters in this series are regulars there.
This book does a very good job on the romance portion of the book. There is sexual activity but it is loving and in context of a relationship. A mystery is introduced in this book but is not fully resolved until the series is over. It involves Clem’s half-brother and then inheritance of the earldom.
An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, #2)by K.J. Charles Pages: 250
In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.
Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.
Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.
But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.
Nathaniel is a regular at the Jack and Knave who is still grieving his partner’s death five years ago. He is a journalist and is assigned to debunk a medium. He starts his investigation with Justin Lazarus and finds himself intrigued. Nathaniel is surprised when investigating Clem’s mystery also leads him back to Justin who met one of the players in the saga one year ago. This is not a slow burn romance like the first book. This is hate/lust leading to sex leading to regret/embarrassment. Then they are forced back together and over time a relationship builds.
Justin had a rough upbringing and has major trust issues. He doesn’t feel bad at all about fleecing the rich and gullible. Nathaniel is firmly on the side of living a moral life and not hurting anyone. He has a hard time accepting the good in anyone in a dishonest profession. Nathaniel is also uncomfortable moving on and feeling attracted to another man for the first time. He especially doesn’t want to fall for someone so unlike his beloved partner. The book talks about how difficult it was grieve when no one in the outside world knew of the love between the men.
The mystery continues to be resolved. In each book a little bit is solved so it doesn’t feel like you are missing a conclusion even if you don’t have the whole picture yet.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
In this final book of the series, detective Mark finds the lost heir to the Earldom. He is a trapeze artist performing with his twin sister. Most people would jump at the chance to go from music hall performer to aristocrat but Pen Starling wants nothing to do with it. He is genderfluid and comfortable living in a world where he is able to dress in a costume that fits how he feels on each day. If he becomes an Earl, he would be forced to live as a man full time. As he says, if he had been raised to be an Earl he might have been able to pass himself off as an eccentric recluse but as a former commoner he would be watched. Information is given about court cases of the time regarding transgender people.
Mark is a Polish immigrant. He was born with one arm. He makes his way confidently through a world that makes no accommodations for people with disabilities. He is pansexual and has previously had relationships with both men and women. He embraces Pen’s genderfluidity as a wonderful aspect of him.
This is my favorite of the books. I loved Mark and Pen’s relationship. The resolution of the mystery was unexpected and very satisfying to all parties involved. I will definitely read this author again.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.
Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.
As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…
This is historical romance series with a fantasy twist. Once upon a time a fairy was helped by a woman. In exchange, she asked for each of her female descendants to be granted one wish when they are in their early twenties. This series covers a few of the descendants as they choose their gift and then deal with the consequences in their lives. I hadn’t read a series before that combined fantasy and Regency romance.
In the first book Charlotte decides to wish for the ability to shapeshift. She uses this gift to disguise herself as a man to attempt to live an independent life. This is a good opening for some social commentary about the restrictions on women. The book is also funny as Charlotte tries to control a male body with its over large hands and obvious responses to sexual attraction. Her employer (and eventual love interest) thinks he is taking a young, particularly naive man under his wing and teaching what life in London is like. As their friendship and attraction deepen, both need to comes to terms with their own understanding of what it means to be attracted to a personality no matter the shape of the body that it is in.
Sir Barnaby Ware made a mistake two and a half years ago. A massive mistake. The sort of mistake that can never be atoned for.
He knows himself to be irredeemable, but the captivating and unconventional Miss Merryweather is determined to prove him wrong…
The daughter of a dancing master and a noblewoman, Miss Merryweather had an unusual upbringing. She sees things no one else sees—and she says things no one else says.
Sir Barnaby knows he’s the villain in this piece, but Miss Merryweather thinks he’s the hero—and she is damnably hard to resist…
Barnaby Ware was introduced in book 1 as the man who broke up a marriage and a lifelong friendship by having an affair. When the wronged party attempts to reach out to him in forgiveness, he resists because he feels that what he did was unforgivable. When he visits his former friend he meets Miss Merryweather. Unbeknownst to him, she is due to receive her fairy gift in a few days.
This is a novella instead of a full length novel. It is also the most forgettable of these books for me. I was more interested in the friendship that was trying to be repaired instead of the romance that is supposed to be blossoming.
Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.
Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.
Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing—to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.
Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret—including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…
This is one of my favorites of the series. Lydia has been living with her gift – the ability to tell lies from truth – for several years. She has refused all offers of marriage because she knows that the men have only wanted her money and not her. She gets involved with an injured former soldier who hears about her ability (but not the magical reason). He wants her to help him find out what happened in the ambush where he was injured and all his companions were killed.
I liked the fact that this book had an older and wiser heroine. She’s seen it all moving through society with the ability to cut through all the games and polite phrases. The chance to do something new thrills her.
Icarus is suffering from severe PTSD. He’s suicidal and has nightmares every night. It is a good representation of this. As the wife of a veteran with PTSD, I appreciated the thoughtful portrayal.
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…
Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.
But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.
He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…
I did not like this book. I wanted to. This book focuses on two male characters who were important in the last book. I liked them. I wanted to find out more about their relationship. My problem with this one was the way the sex was handled. I’m not a huge fan of sex in books anyway. I much prefer slow burn romances and fade to black sex scenes. While the other books have had sex scenes there was enough romance and character development to balance them.
In this book, there is just sex. You don’t get the romantic parts that were seen in the other books. I think that the difference was here because it was switched to a m/m story instead of a male/virginal female story. I don’t think that is a good reason to leave out the romance and tenderness though. Relationship development is still important and that didn’t happen here.
Eleanor Wrotham has sworn off overbearing men, but she needs a man’s help—and the man who steps forward is as domineering as he is dangerous: the notorious Mordecai Black.
The illegitimate son of an earl, Mordecai is infamous for his skill with women. His affairs are legendary—but few people realize that Mordecai has rules, and one of them is: Never ruin a woman.
But if Mordecai helps Miss Wrotham, she will be ruined.
Eleanor is searching for her sister, who ran away to marry a soldier. Eleanor’s fiance ran off because of the scandal her sister caused. Her father and aunt kept her sister’s letters from her. Now she has found a several month old letter saying that her sister is in trouble. The only person willing to help her is a relative of the man who jilted her.
This ends up being a road trip story like book 3. I don’t think it is quite as strong as that one but is enjoyable nonetheless.
At the age of four Lord Vickery was stolen by gypsies and sold to a chimney sweep. At the age of five he was reunited with his father. His history is no secret—everyone in the ton knows of his miraculous rescue.
But when Vickery finds his father’s diaries, he discovers that there may be a secret buried in his past…
Georgiana Dalrymple knows all about secrets. She has several herself—and one of those secrets is her ability to find missing people.
When Lord Vickery turns to her for help, Georgiana sets out to discover just who he actually is…
Georgiana can find anything, including the answers to old mysteries if she just asks the right questions. But is uncovering the truth always for the best?
I liked this book a lot. It was nice to see the heroine trying to convince the hero that she would stand by him instead of the other other way around like it is common in a lot of historical romances. There is no meet-cute here. They have known each other all their lives and their relationship is formed out of their friendship. It was a nice end to the series.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this series if you like historical romances. Just skip the third book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Shelby Preston, a young single mother, is at a crossroads. She feels suffocated by her hardscrabble life in rural Georgia and dreams of becoming a professional chef. Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
In Atlanta, Mallory Lakes is reeling from a bad breakup. The newspaper food columnist is also bracing for major changes at work that could put her job at risk. Determined to find the perfect recipe for how to reinvent herself, she gets involved in the growing farm-to-table movement. But an emotional setback threatens to derail everything she’s worked for. Shelby and Mallory couldn’t be more different. But through their shared passion for food, they form an unlikely friendship—a bond that just might be their salvation.
This book has been sitting on my ereader for a long time. Now I’m upset that I didn’t read it sooner.
Shelby is a young single mother who follows food blogger Mallory and loves to make her recipes. She wants to be a chef but that would require her to leave her daughter with her mother in southern Georgia and move to Atlanta to work and go to school.
The newspaper Mallory writes for has just moved totally online and she has thrown herself into creating a new, indispensable, digital persona.
Shelby and Mallory cross paths at the grocery where Shelby gets a job. Their lives start to intersect more and more until the day when they are bound together by an accident.
The writing in this book was very beautifully done and pulled me in immediately. I loved the contrast between the poor, rural Shelby who dreams of a better life and urban Mallory. One of the themes in the book that haven’t seen written about much in foodie fiction was the accessibility of foodie culture. Shelby decides which of the meals that she will make based on what is available and affordable at her local grocery store. She talks about how she understands that Mallory feels that all the produce needs to be organic but that isn’t possible for her. When Shelby tries to get a job in a deli at the grocery store, she wears her best clothes for the interview but realizes that they are shabby compared to the affluent people she sees there. The grocery store in question just rebranded as an upscale store, losing some neighborhood clients in the process.
Overall, I wasn’t as invested in the story by the end as I was in the beginning. I wasn’t a fan of the romance angle for Mallory or of the accident plot that seemed like it wasn’t necessary. However, I think that the well done characterizations of Shelby and the secondary characters is still enough to recommend this book.
There are recipes in the back of this book like there are in a lot of books that feature food. But guys, I actually made one of the recipes. I know, shocking, right. I think that reading all the people who link up at the Foodies Read pages is getting to me.
There was a recipe for Pimento Cheese. I eat 99% vegan at home but back in time I really did love some pimento cheese. I decided to try to veganize it. I used vegan mayo and Daiya cheddar shreds. I love Just Mayo’s vegan mayo but I actually hate Daiya fake cheese. I think they taste like wax. There wasn’t another cheddar selection in the store though so I gave it a try.
It was amazing! Totally had the right taste and texture. I can’t take attractive food pictures to save my life and I contend that there is nothing that can make pimento cheese photogenic anyway, but here it is.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, Africa, a country plagued by AIDS and poverty. Like most people in his village, his family subsisted on the meager crops they could grow, living without the luxuries—consider necessities in the West—of electricity or running water. Already living on the edge, the situation became dire when, in 2002, Malawi experienced the worst famine in 50 years. Struggling to survive, 14-year-old William was forced to drop out of school because his family could not afford the $80-a-year tuition.Though he was not in a classroom, William continued to think, learn—and dream. Armed with curiosity, determination, and a library book he discovered in a nearby library, he embarked on a daring plan—to build a windmill that could bring his family the electricity only two percent of Malawians could afford. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and blue-gum trees, William forged a crude yet working windmill, an unlikely hand-built contraption that would successfully power four light bulbs and two radios in his family’s compound. Soon, news of his invention spread, attracting interest and offers of help from around the world. Not only did William return to school but he and was offered the opportunity to visit wind farms in the United States, much like the ones he hopes to build across Africa.
This story started slow for me. I’m not a fan of detailed description of childhood in memoirs unless you were doing something very interesting as a child. Most people aren’t.
The main point of this story started with a drought and subsequent famine that hit Malawi in the early 2000s. It was devastating. The author’s family was no longer able to afford his school fees so he had to drop out. He wanted to continue his education so he went to a library and started to read the books there. He applied what he learned in a basic physics book to build a windmill from spare parts. This allowed his family to have lights in their house for the first time. He went on to build other windmills to pump water for irrigation and personal use, freeing up hours a day that were otherwise spent going to and from wells. He even made cell phone charging stations.
“The dynamo had given me a small taste of electricity, and that made me want to figure out how to create my own. Only 2 percent of Malawians have electricity, and this is a huge problem. Having no electricity meant no lights, which meant I could never do anything at night, such as study or finish my radio repairs, much less see the roaches, mice, and spiders that crawled the walls and floors in the dark. Once the sun goes down, and if there’s no moon, everyone stops what they’re doing, brushes their teeth, and just goes to sleep. Not at 10:00 P.M., or even nine o’clock—but seven in the evening! Who goes to bed at seven in the evening? Well, I can tell you, most of Africa.“
This part of the story was interesting. He was dedicated to the idea of building his windmill but scavenging the parts took a long time. It showed a lot of ingenuity.
One strange section was about witchcraft. He reports it as fact.
“The previous famine had led to reports in the southern region that the government was banding with packs of vampires to steal people’s blood, then selling it to international aid groups.“
“Following the strange beast of Dowa, many people across Malawi reported having their private parts stolen in the night, many of them waking up in the morning with their sheets bloody. Men who’d been drinking in bars were the easiest targets. As they stumbled home in the darkness, an evil creature—perhaps a gang of witch children—would pull them behind a tree and remove their parts with a knife. It was later revealed that most of the victims had been virgins, and their parts had been sold to witches, Satan worshippers, and business tycoons.“
“This often happens while we sleep—the witch children can take our heads and return them before morning, all without us knowing. It’s a serious problem.“
He was accused of witchcraft for making electricity from the wind. A bad storm came and the windmill was spinning rapidly. People accused him of causing storms.
This book was published in 2009. Since then William has graduated from college. He has an NGO to support community based projects around his hometown. On his webpage you can even donate to the library where he found his physics book.
This is a great story of innovation and survival.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Michele's lack of focus in life hasn't bothered her, until the day she finds herself with mounting credit card debt, unable to afford her rent, and without a job. While her meddling family questions how she can end up in this predicament, at the age of 29, and single to boot, Michele doesn't want to admit the truth. All she wants to do is sew.
Faced with the prospect of moving back into her parents' house, Michele throws a Hail Mary pass and applies for a TV design contest, Made for Me. In order to win the contest, Michele will have to compete with nine other contestants to design the new wardrobe for Duchess Maryn Medrovovich, who's about to marry Prince Stephan of the United Republic of Montabago.
While in the seclusion of the show, Michele starts to realize where her focus in life should be, and what's truly important to her. However, a dashing competitor might just cause her to lose her focus once and for all. Can Michele keep her eye on the prize while being true to herself?
I’ve mostly been reviewing very serious books lately so I decided to throw in some lighter fare to prove that I haven’t lost my love of pink books.
Made for Me starts this series of related books. Each one features a secondary character from the previous books.
This book was pure fun. It is set on a Project Runway knock-off reality show called Made for Me. (The contestants aren’t allowed to mention Project Runway by name.) Every challenge is to make a look for a commoner who is about to marry into the royal family of an European country. The winner will win a job as her designer for a year.
The fun of this book is mixing in the competition aspect of the reality show with the chick lit standards of finding yourself and maybe finding love.
What I didn’t like was the attitude that the main character had about a bisexual contestant. She voiced a lot of stereotypical thoughts about him. She assumed that he would be unfaithful in an monogamous relationship purely because he was bisexual. That’s a stereotype that I thought we were all moving past but it still lives here. It is challenged lightly.
Besides that, this one was cute and fun. I’d recommend it.
As if it's not bad enough that I didn't win the reality design TV show I was on, try coming home to a one word note indicating that my ten-year marriage is over. So here I am, a suddenly single mother in my mid-thirties, doing what everyone advises me to do—have a fling. Except it doesn't go as planned, so I do the next best thing, which is sit on the couch and mope. But having to provide for a five-year-old doesn't let me stay home for too long. Before I know it, I'm back to dying my hair wild colors and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
Except Tony, the fling that wasn't, keeps popping up in the most unlikely places and won't leave me alone. I'd like to be strong—I'm way too old for him—but he's cute and funny and sexy and oh, my ex is getting married to a girl named Bambi. All I know is the way I'm doing things isn't working. If I want to be happy again, I'm going to need to get a new attitude.
This book follows another contestant from Made for Me when she goes home after the show. Her husband has left her and she needs to decide what to do with her life.
Starting out I liked this book more than the first one. Kira is older and has a child. She has to get herself together and act like a grown up. I appreciate that in a book.
I wasn’t thrilled about the end of this book. It took the plot to a place I’m not fond of. The book also seemed to treat the main character of Made for Me as more flightly and unprofessional than she was made out to be in the first book.
Ten years ago, the Sassy Cats were at the top of the charts until Callie Smalls walked away to pursue her career in fashion and television. The other four members—Angie, Tabitha, Mandy, and Daphne—were left to fend for themselves and continue on with their lives.That is, until the day when Callie decides to book a gig for the group at a major music festival, without talking to her former band mates. Scattered across the country, at different points in life, can they rekindle the magic in the music?A soccer mom who's husband doesn't know about her past. A fading star, sacrificing all to stay in the spotlight just one second more. A party girl, challenged with her most important role yet. A tiger mom, fighting for her son. A desperate woman, unhappy and alone. A lot can change in the course of a decade. Will it be harmony or hatred for the Sassy Cats?
This book looks at the life of the host from the Made for Me TV show. This was a more difficult book for me to get into because of the completely unlikeable main character.
I also wasn’t a fan of some of the romance here. It seemed very forced. The relationship was argumentative and somehow that was supposed to clue us all in that they loved each other. Not a story line that I’m very fond of.
The relationship that I did like was the mother of the autistic child. She had to let go of her attempts to control the situation and accept help from her husband. That felt very realistic to me.
Overall, I’d say read Made for Me and maybe skip the other two.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
When American mom Lenora Chu moved to China with her little boy, she faced a tough decision. China produced some of the world’s top academic achievers, and just down the street from her home in Shanghai was THE school, as far as elite Chinese were concerned. Should Lenora entrust her rambunctious young son to the system?
So began Rainey’s immersion in one of the most radical school systems on the planet. Almost immediately, the three-year-old began to develop surprising powers of concentration, became proficient in early math, and learned to obey his teachers’ every command. Yet Lenora also noticed disturbing new behaviors: Where he used to scribble and explore, Rainey grew obsessed with staying inside the lines. He became fearful of authority figures, and also developed a habit of obeisance outside of school. “If you want me to do it, I’ll do it,” he told a stranger who’d asked whether he liked to sing.
What was happening behind closed classroom doors? Driven by parental anxiety, Lenora embarked on a journalistic mission to discover: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids? How hard should the rest of us work to stay ahead of the global curve? And, ultimately, is China’s school system one the West should emulate?
She pulls the curtain back on a military-like education system, in which even the youngest kids submit to high-stakes tests, and parents are crippled by the pressure to compete (and sometimes to pay bribes). Yet, as mother-and-son reach new milestones, Lenora uncovers surprising nuggets of wisdom, such as the upside of student shame, how competition can motivate achievement, and why a cultural belief in hard work over innate talent gives the Chinese an advantage.
Lively and intimate, beautifully written and reported, Little Soldiers challenges our assumptions and asks us to reconsider the true value and purpose of education.
The author is the first generation American daughter of Chinese immigrants. She had a hard time reconciling her parents’ attitude toward education with her American school experiences. Now she and her American husband moved to Shanghai just in time for their oldest child to join the Chinese school system at age 3. Should he go to the state school or should they send him to an international school?
The book follows the first few years of Rainey’s Chinese education. It both affirms and challenges what the author thought she knew about Chinese education. From the first days when the children are continually threatened by the teachers with arrest or not being allowed to see their parents again if they don’t sit still to the teenage years and the national obsession with the college entrance test, she examines the effect of authoritarian teaching. The results surprised her.
I come from a family of teachers. What I learned from this book is that being a teacher in China is way better than being a teacher in the U.S.
Teachers are to be highly respected. The proper response to a request by a teacher to a parent is, “Yes, teacher. You work so hard, teacher.”
Bribery and gift gifting to teachers are both expected and illegal. These aren’t little gifts either. Vacations, gift cards with a month’s salary on it, and luxury goods are considered appropriate.
She talks about the other downsides of Chinese teaching, besides the threats.
Force feeding children
No help for special needs kids
Crushing amounts of homework and additional classes with tutors that start as young as age 3
Indoctrination in Chinese nationalism and communism
Rote rule following and stifling of creatively
On the plus side, there is:
Well behaved children who respect their elders
Fluency in written and spoken Mandarin and English before high school age
Advanced math skills
She talks to migrant parents who have left children at home in the rural areas of China in order to be able to afford their education. She talks to teenagers who are preparing for the college entrance exams and have differing takes on how to get ahead.
Ultimately she decides to leave Rainey in Chinese school up until 6th grade if he is still doing well. He will learn Mandarin almost fully by then and be strong in math. He will escape the pressures of the high school and college entrance exams that can crush students. They will continue to preach thinking for himself at home.
I did enjoy this look at education across China. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in educational theory. The narration was very well done in both Chinese and English.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
The world is complicated. Power is currency, lives are cheap. Hephzibah Euphrasia Joséphine d'Albret hates her name. She hates the life she comes from, the fourth daughter of a legendary family—and, perilously, the one with negligible magical potential. And that suits her fine. Fleeing the Authority allows her to choose her own path: software engineer and startup founder. Finally, Zizi’s found a life she loves. One that doesn’t care about the magic she doesn’t have. Unfortunately for her, Zizi is all Oakland has. With misfit allies and lethal enemies around every corner, an encyclopedic understanding of magic theory, and serious amounts of snark, can this Sorceress possibly survive the summer?
Zizi is used to being considered a failure. She’s the powerless youngest daughter of a powerful Sorceress. Sorceresses bond with cities and use their power to protect them. Zizi was trained for the role since birth just like her sisters. But she never was able to do much magic and she left that world behind. At least she did until that night a year ago with too much tequila when she bonded with the city of Oakland.
I heard about this book on Twitter. I was in as soon as I heard the author’s description of Oakland (and all the cities) as distinct sentient beings.
This book was great. Zizi hasn’t told anyone that she is bonded to Oakland. She knows that is going to bring down all kinds of bureaucratic nightmares down on her. No one suspects it because Oakland as been unbonded for thirty years. But now there are all kinds of weird things going on in Oakland and Zizi needs help. She needs an Arcana.
Arcanas are the groups of magical helpers that surround Sorceresses. Zizi doesn’t want one. Most Sorceresses use their power to bond their Arcana to them. They can compel their people to do what they want. The main way they do this is through Earth magic and sex. Zizi wants nothing to do with this and starts to assemble a team that wants out of the old ways of doing things too.
The characters in this book are fresh takes on many of the common types seen in urban fantasy books. The vampires are truly vicious but also do a lot of their business at Taco Tuesday/Cowboy Karaoke Night. (“Don’t do Dolly if you can’t stick the landing” might now be my favorite mixed metaphor ever.) There is a kraken in a lake raising an orphaned capricorn even though the baby is a vegetarian and the kraken is disturbed by that. There is a weretiger pack in Chinatown.
The book starts with Zizi having been the secret Sorceress for a year. Sometimes it can feel like maybe you missed a previous book when she refers to events in the past but this is the first one. I loved the combination of sassiness and smarts that Zizi has. She’s very smart and took her magical training seriously growing up so she has the theoretical knowledge she needs even if she doesn’t have the power that would help get everything done. She’s very funny. I found myself highlighting a lot of lines in the e-book. I liked the idea of a sex-positive bisexual heroine who is adamant that she is not going to use sex to get things done.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes in the future.
My only criticism is that there are a few typos, grammatical errors, and misspelled words in the book but I loved this book so much that I’m forgiving that.
About Renae Jones
Renae Jones is driven by an epic, multipart goal
Invent the most fascinating characters she can.
Put those characters in awe-inspiring science fiction or fantasy setting.
Fit those characters together like we’re playing personality Tetris.
And follow them through a complicated adventure of near-death experiences and self-discovery.
Bonus points if those characters are quirky, weird, cranky, neurotic, sassy or have anger management issues.
Beyond writing, she also loves her dog, over-ambitious home improvement projects, painting, doing weird things to her hair, and data analytics.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
For Bill Fulton, being a soldier was his identity. He was called to protect and serve. So when the Army wanted to send him to Alaska, he went—they had never steered him wrong, after all.
After an involuntary medical discharge, Fulton was adrift until he started a military surplus store in Anchorage, where he also took on fugitive recovery missions. He was back on his feet, working with other badasses and misfits he considered brothers. He took pride in his business, with a wife and daughters at home. His life was happy and full.
But when a customer revealed he planned to attack a military recruiting station, Fulton had to make a choice: turn a blind eye and hope for the best or risk his safety, his reputation, and his business by establishing contact with his customers’ arch nemesis: the FBI.
He chose the latter, and his life changed forever.
The beginning of this book sounded familiar to me – like really, really familiar. Like the author, all my husband ever wanted to do was be a soldier until he was physically unable to do it any more. He was also in Alaska for a while. Their stories were so similar that I made him start listening to the audiobook too. He totally identified.
After the Army is where their paths diverged. The author opened a bouncing service that grew into a military surplus store and then a bounty hunting group while giving jobs to veterans who were having a hard time readjusting to civilian life. All of it came crashing down after he decided to help the FBI expose a militia in Fairbanks that had a plan to kill judges and their families. No good deed goes unpunished.
This book alternates between being really funny and being extremely horrifying.
It helps you get into the mindset of people who are convinced that the government is coming after them. There are people who think that hit squads have been sent after them so they have booby trapped their houses. None of them tend to be important enough for anyone to take notice of until they lay out their plans to “defend themselves” in paramilitary style. Even worse are those who are going to strike first before the government comes for them.
One of the most frustrating parts for me to read was when the author was being vilified by the left-leaning journalists he admired because of a run-in with an unidentified journalist while he was working security. Later when it became known that he was an FBI informant the media got his story all wrong again. He couldn’t defend himself either time. It has to be frustrating to be being talked about on TV when people have the basic facts and motivations for your actions wrong and make no attempt to talk to you and find out the facts. Hopefully, this book helps set the record straight.
Things I had confirmed while reading this book:
Living in Alaska isn’t for me
There are some really paranoid people out there and they have guns
Veterans need a welcoming, nonjudgmental space like his store became
Make sure you have your facts right before condemning people
This is a book that I would recommend for everyone. The topics discussed are important and aren’t covered enough.
Bill Fulton narrates his own story. He does a good job for an author-narrator.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
A new collected volume from the Nobel Prize–winning poet that includes, for the first time in English, all of the poems from her last Polish collection
One of Europe’s greatest recent poets is also its wisest, wittiest, and most accessible. Nobel Prize–winner Wislawa Szymborska draws us in with her unexpected, unassuming humor. Her elegant, precise poems pose questions we never thought to ask. “If you want the world in a nutshell,” a Polish critic remarks, “try Szymborska.” But the world held in these lapidary poems is larger than the one we thought we knew.
Carefully edited by her longtime, award-winning translator, Clare Cavanagh, the poems in Map trace Szymborska’s work until her death in 2012. Of the approximately two hundred and fifty poems included here, nearly forty are newly translated; thirteen represent the entirety of the poet’s last Polish collection, Enough, never before published in English.Map is the first English publication of Szymborska’s work since the acclaimed Here, and it offers her devoted readers a welcome return to her “ironic elegance” (The New Yorker).
I am not a fan of poetry. I think that is mostly because I am not a person who is in touch with my feelings or who wishes to have other people spilling their feelings all over me. I read poetry and if I understand it at all I end up mostly thinking, “Ugh, no one cares about your feelings.” I am Scrooge.
So why did I request this book of poetry? It was Women in Translation month. I heard about this collection somewhere on Twitter. I’m always on the lookout for books from or about Poland that aren’t mired in World War II. I’m 1/4 Polish and I want to learn more about it but it is hard to find anything that isn’t miserable. Granted they’ve had more than their fair share of trouble but there has to be some literature that isn’t just depressing, doesn’t there? Also, my library happened to have this book which I thought was a bit odd for some reason.
This collection starts in the 1940s and continues to the 2000s. I’m not going to pretend that I understand every poem but I do get most of them. A lot of them are about things that I haven’t seen written about in poetry before. They span a range of emotion from happy to sad.
One of my favorites is about talking to an uppity French woman who is dismissive of Poland as just a place where it is cold. The author spins a crazy fairy tale in her mind about freezing writers struggling against the elements while herding walruses but then realizes that she doesn’t have the French vocabulary to be insultingly sarcastic back to this woman so has to just say “Pas de tout (Not at all).”
This is a huge collection. I’ve renewed the book once but I’m not getting through it fast enough. To let you know how much I’m enjoying it I’ll say, I ordered a copy of myself. Yes, I bought a poetry book. I even thought about buying the hardcover because it seemed like it needed that kind of respect. Then my cheap side of my brain reasserted itself and I got the paperback.
I want the husband to read this too. He likes poetry. He’s into feelings. I’ll impress him by pretending to be classy and reading poetry. We’ll sneak the walrus herders up on him.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: