Tag Archives For: fiction

On The Come Up
12 Feb, 2019

On The Come Up

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perception vs reality is the major theme here

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

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

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

About Angie Thomas

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

A Rebel at Pennington’s
08 Feb, 2019

A Rebel at Pennington’s

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

 


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

Any Old Diamonds
07 Feb, 2019

Any Old Diamonds

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Something Worth Saving
05 Feb, 2019

Something Worth Saving

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

Something Worth Saving

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


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

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

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

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

Praise for Sandi Ward's The Astonishing Thing

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


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

Goodreads

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


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

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

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

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


About Sandi Ward

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

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

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

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

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month
24 Jan, 2019

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading How Long ‘Til Black Future Month How Long 'til Black Future Month? on November 27, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Published by Orbit
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Goodreads

I loved this collection of short stories but it took me forever to read.  I felt like after each one I had to put the book down and let it sink in.  I couldn’t just go onto the next.  I absolutely love this cover.  I remember when this photo series came out.  This one makes a perfect book cover.  

I’ve posted before about the first story The Ones Who Stay and Fight.  That is still my favorite story but there are many other great ideas in this book.

There are children who get chosen to be a sacrifice based on their good grades.  But what happens to them?  Is this a punishment for the kids who have to excel despite the risks or a way to set them free?

Fans can freeze their favorite writers by killing them at the time of their greatest talent so they never disappoint.

Can humans who have escaped a dying Earth fix the environmental damage?  Should they be allowed to try no matter what humans who have remained behind think?

Making deals (and babies) with dragons might not turn out well for anyone but the dragons.  On the other hand, little dragons can help fight off even bigger evil.

There are tales of first contact with alien civilizations and visions of possibly imaginary women dancing in elevators.  There are gods that survive the death of humans.  How do they entertain themselves?

Wars can be fought or prevented with magic.  Maybe, someday, the tenuous connections between people on the internet will be all that there is left.  Then again, maybe if you look hard enough there is a train waiting that can take you anywhere you need to go.

There are stories here that I know Foodies Read participants would love. 

A chef unlocks her ability to make magic with food. 

A restaurant opens that can make the exact meal from any memory.  

 

Tony’s Wife
03 Jan, 2019

Tony’s Wife

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Tony’s Wife Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
on November 20, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by HarperAudio
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams

Shortly before World War II, Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore and fall in love. Both are talented and ambitious, and both share the dream of becoming singers for the legendary orchestras of the time: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman. They’re soon married, and it isn’t long before Chiara and Tony find that their careers are on the way up as they navigate the glamorous worlds of night clubs, radio and television. All goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career? And how will they cope with the impact that decision has on their lives and their marriage?

From the Jersey shore to Las Vegas to Hollywood, and all the dance halls in between, this multi-layered story is vivid with historical color and steeped in the popular music that serves as its score. Tony’s Wife is a magnificent epic of life in a traditional Italian family undergoing seismic change in a fast paced, modern world. Filled with vivid, funny and unforgettable characters, this richly human story showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a storyteller and her deep understanding of family, love and the pursuit of the American dream.

Goodreads

You know what you are getting into if you’ve read this author previously.  This is the story of an Italian family told from the time the protagonists are teenagers until their deaths.  The writing is sparse.  Small pieces of time will be discussed in detail and then years will pass between paragraphs.

I was intrigued by the premise, especially this line from the blurb – “Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career?”  I was hoping this was going to be a book that discussed the stereotypical gender roles of a post-WWII marriage and possibly subverted them.  My hopes were high as the beginning of the book shows Chi Chi was infinitely more talented and more ambitious than Tony.

All this was swept aside quickly though once the marriage happened.  I’m not even sure why it happened.  I found their “courtship” incredibly uncomfortable as he basically badgers her into giving up her dreams because he decided that he was in love with her when in her mind they were just old friends.  This is followed by affair after affair until a divorce and then she still supports him through several more marriages all the while closing herself off completely to the idea of finding love. 

“Duty-bound love is the Italian girl’s area of expertise.  The Italian woman is a master craftsman at the art of sacrifice.”

I don’t think that this is a good thing.  This story is about a woman who sacrificed everything that she was to a man who couldn’t be bothered to care.  I found it infuriating and ultimately depressing to read about.  I understand that this is much more likely to be historically accurate than a book about people supporting each other in their careers.  That is part of the reason why this book made me so angry.  This is about a time and attitudes that we have hopefully begun to move past. 

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Visit Adriana at her website: www.adrianatrigiani.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

30 Oct, 2018

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
on October 16th 2018
Pages: 368
Genres: Fiction
Published by Park Row
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Minnesota

A formidable matriarch learns the hard way that no family is perfect in this witty, sparkling debut novel

Dearest loved ones, far and near--evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!

Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she's going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet's carefully constructed world.

In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year's Baumgartner holiday letter...

Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces--and the unexpected way they put it all back together.

Goodreads

I loved this book because I know Violet, or rather I know several Violets.  These are women who will always tell you how their family is doing ever so well.  They have a story for each member of the family to illustrate their points.  If you know their offspring, you generally know that they are the local drug dealer and you are left wondering if their mother has ever met them at all.  The other side of Violet is the control freak.  She has the idea of her perfect family in her mind and you are NOT going to deviate from it.  I might be descended from a person like this but I know better than to say that out loud because I’ve been well trained.  She would vehemently deny being a control freak.  She just knows what she wants and will passive-aggressively move everyone around until she gets everyone where she wants them.  She can deny the existence of anything that mars this perfection.  (There is a week in my life that my Violet refuses to acknowledge.)  Yes, I know Violet and found even her most outrageous plans to be familiar.  It was fun to laugh at it happening to someone else. 

There are three mysteries in this book.  Violet is obsessed with finding out who is the father of her grandchild.  I found that mystery fairly easy to unravel.  There is also the mystery of some political sculptures appearing around town and a mystery of what Violet’s friend’s husband is doing when he disappears for days.  Those I didn’t figure out.  

I tend not to read a lot of literary type fiction but this one was funny enough to me to keep my interest.  Maybe you have to be Midwestern and know people like this to find it this funny.  If you don’t you might think it is pretty over the top.  

 

22 Oct, 2018

Castle Hangnail

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Castle Hangnail Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
on April 21st 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade
Published by Dial Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.

When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.

Goodreads

This book has everything I absolutely love about fantasy books.  It is chock full of imagination and whimsy.  There are also dragons.  You must have dragons.

Molly knows that she is going to be a Wicked Witch.  She can do some magic.  She has an over-the-top Good Twin.  So she steals an invitation to apply for the job of Master of Castle Hangnail.  Who cares that she is only 12?

The Guardian of the castle cares, for a start.  He knows the castle is in danger of being decommissioned if a new master isn’t found who can complete all the tasks assigned.  There needs to be proper blighting and smiting and defending of the castle and capturing the hearts of the villagers (probably literally if the new master is an Evil Sorceress or a Vampire).  Can a cheery 12 year old manage that?

I love the staff of the castle. 

  • The Guardian has served under many truly evil masters and knows how minions should be properly treated.  He isn’t prepared to be given an actual name and thanked for things.  It just isn’t right. 
  • Pins is a stuffed doll who can sew anything, including waterproof sweaters for his goldfish
  • The goldfish is a hypochondriac
  • Cook is a Minotaur who is very angry about the letter Q
  • Angus is Cook’s son and general helper
  • Edward is an enchanted suit of armor with rusty knees
  • There is a woman made of steam.  This happens when a djinn mates with a human woman who didn’t know she had mermaid ancestry.
  • There are clockwork bees and all kinds of bats including one insomniac bat who stays awake during the day and sleeps at night.

Molly is going to be Wicked but not Evil.  Wicked will punish a person to make them think about what they did.  Evil will hurt people for fun.  So she blights weeds and asks around to see who is being mean and is in need of a good smiting.  When she finds someone who is mean to his donkey, she uses a spell to turn the donkey temporarily into a dragon to scare the mean man.  After that all the animals want to take a turn being a dragon, of course!  

This book was absolutely delightful from beginning to end.  I read it in a day.  I was hoping that there was going to be a follow up to see what happens next at Castle Hangnail but so far, no luck.  

08 Oct, 2018

Right on the Monet

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Right on the Monet Right on the Monet by Malcolm Parnell
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

New York
Claude Monet painting is stolen
Mediterranean
Of all the things Harry Chase had imagined in his life, being a drummer on a cruise ship band was not one that would have occurred to him. And yet, there he was. Centre stage, behind a young female singer along with his mates, Dave, Tony and Steve.
Which meant that getting involved in a jewellery theft, an on-board massage parlour and the hunt for an Old Master was even further from his mind as he cracked the snare drum.
And yet, this was exactly how he found himself being questioned by Interpol …..

Goodreads

 


This is the third book in a series but enough context is given to allow you to pick up the story if you are starting with this book.

The story line was inventive.  The mystery was complicated enough with enough red herrings to sustain the whole book. There was a fairly large cast and I was able to keep the male characters straight because they each had distinct personalities and character traits.

It did drive me batty that every time they went into a new country on this cruise all they did was shop. Who does that? You are supposed to go sightseeing.  But that story choice leads into my main problem with this book — its lazy characterization of women.

At heart this is a male fantasy where all the women are attracted to the main character and try to get him to have sex with them even though they know his partner.

One of the first things I noticed about this book is how many breasts were in it.  I know this because they were pointed out every time they appeared in a scene. I sighed and reminded myself that I don’t read a lot of male fiction authors and sometimes these authors are distracted easily.  Also every female character was introduced not by her purpose in the narrative or her relationship to other characters but by her appearance and sexual desirability. Then I got to this line.

“Like Clem, Liz was blonde and although approaching her mid-forties was still a very attractive woman.”

 

No, sir. Nope. Done. Automatic DNF from this 45 year old hag. It puts me in mind of this:

733959447

But alas, this is not the real world, this is a review book so I soldiered on.

“I looked at the five women sitting around the table and realised that any man would give his eye teeth to spend a night with any one of them;”

 

At the time the people were having important conversations but that’s ok, ignore that and focus on reducing them to your sexual fantasies.

 

The resolution of the plot isn’t even allowed to escape.

“Within minutes two squad cars containing plane (sic) clothes detectives had arrived along with two cars carrying uniformed police; one of whom was a very attractive WPC, and I made a mental note to somehow get Cara a police uniform.”

 

At one point there is this description:

“The barman was small and effeminate, his head was shaved at the sides, and he wore a black ponytail tied up in a top knot. The badge on the lapel of his bright red waistcoat said Sam. He seemed vaguely familiar. “I haven’t seen you guys in here before,” he said holding out a limp wrist. His accent was either American or Canadian.

I shook his hand, and his fingers collapsed in my grip; a similar experience to squeezing a soft rubber ball. “No, first time,” I replied surreptitiously wiping my hand on my trouser leg.”

 

If that isn’t bad enough, he is referred to later in this conversation.

“It’s a good picture of that bloke’s arse,” Steve added, “maybe we could take it to Sam, the barman, he might recognise it.”

 

Contrast this to the treatment of one of the main characters who is a lesbian. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in this book, except for one character’s repeated attempts to sleep with her because all lesbians just need a man to show them what they are missing, right? /sarcasm.  Even she is interested in having the main character watch her have sex. (Sadly, not even joking.)

If you like your mysteries served with a large topping of sexist banter on top, then you might enjoy this one. 

Right on the Monet Full Tour Banner

25 Sep, 2018

Costa del Churros

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Costa del Churros Costa del Churros by Isabella May
on September 18, 2018
Genres: Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Spain

The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers? 
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again

Goodreads

This book tells the story of British people behaving badly in Spain.

  • Belinda is on the run with her husband Jez.  They are living on the yacht that is all they have left after their business collapsed in England, probably because of her husband’s shady dealings.
  • Julia lives with her husband and daughter.  She’s the type of ex-pat who refers to all other foreigners as immigrants and is angry that people in Spain want her to speak something other than English.
  • Laura lives in a super wealthy English enclave with her husband and mother and children.  She spends her time lunching with other wives and is bored out of her mind.
  • Georgina has been dumped in Spain after a bad breakup and an even worse rebound fling.  She’s working in a bar and has just learned that she is about to be kicked out of her housing.

These four end up joining an unorthodox flamenco class in a small town. The first lessons involve learning to step out of your comfort zone.  A lot of this happens around eating churros.  Most of these women are horrified at the idea of eating anything with so many fried carbs covered in chocolate sauce.  But each little act of rebellion against the lives that they are living leads to larger steps until their lives are changed forever.

There is an element of magical realism in this story.  The flamenco teacher Carmen is able to determine exactly what push each of them needs.  She’s a mysterious figure.  You never learn much about her.  She never even teaches them to dance.  They can just magically do it perfectly Costa del Churros Full Tour Banner .  This fits into the stereotype of the “exotic” person who teaches white people to fix themselves and then disappears, presumably to go help others.

I never really warmed up to the characters, except for Laura.  She realizes that she is living in Spain and not some English colony.  She starts to want to get out more and learn some Spanish and interact with the real country.  She moves away from the overwhelming fakeness of her life.  I wanted to back away slowly from the other characters.  Even as the story progresses and you are supposed to start to feel for them I couldn’t get over the horribleness of how they are first described.

 

 


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Author Bio –
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.

Social Media Links –
www.isabellamayauthor.com
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13 Sep, 2018

The Gin Shack on the Beach

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Gin Shack on the Beach The Gin Shack on the Beach by Catherine Miller
on June 5th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: England

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.

Goodreads

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!

06 Sep, 2018

Matrimonial Advertisements

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Matrimonial Advertisements The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews
on September 4, 2018
Series: Parish Orphans of Devon #1
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England


She Wanted Sanctuary...

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar's Abbey isn't the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill--though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome--is anything but a romantic hero.


He Needed Redemption...

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household--and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena's past threatens, will Justin's burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

Goodreads

I have pretty strict rules about the historical romances that I will read. Generally they need to be recommended by some trusted sources on Twitter.  When I pick them myself I tend to get horrible books that I DNF.  That’s why I’m so excited about this book.  I chose this one from the description on the book tour and I absolutely loved it!

Helena is on the run but she isn’t flighty or impetuous.  Her escape from her family has been well planned.  She needs to get married in order to wrest control of her inheritance from her relatives.  She is unable to control it herself because she is a woman so she is in desperate need of a husband.

Justin returned from being a prisoner of war in India and in an act of pure spite, managed to seize control of the largest house from its impoverished gentleman owner.  Now he is hated by the community and just wants to be left alone.  His secretary and a lawyer friend though have advertised for a bride for him.  He’s ignored them up to now when his friend in London sent him a woman who is obviously in trouble.

I loved that these were both sensible, no-nonsense people.  There was a real threat that Helena was running from based on newspaper accounts of the time.  This was a great way to get actual historical issues into the story. 

This book felt comfortable from the opening pages.  I was pulled directly into the story.  This is the type of historical romance that I love and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. 


Giveaway

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03 Sep, 2018

Mistress of Pennington’s

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mistress of Pennington’s The Mistress of Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
on July 1, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath's premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father's iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington's into a new decade, embracing woman's equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.

Goodreads

This book takes place in 1910 in Bath.  I read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t see many books set in this time period.  I was interested to read about a woman who is trying to take over her family business at a time when this was not an acceptable thing to do.  This is also a time of great changes in retail.  Ready to wear clothing is becoming more popular.  Being able to touch the merchandise without a clerk helping you is a new idea.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book.  In the beginning the writing was a bit clunky.  There was a whole lot more description of what people were thinking than showing their actions on the page.  I set the book aside for a while because of this.  I don’t know if I would have picked it back up if it wasn’t a review book for me and if I wasn’t really interested in the premise.

I’m not sure if the writing improved as I got into the story or if I just accepted it as I went along but it didn’t bother me as much as I got deeper into the book.  There are several conflicts here:

  1. The heroine who wants to run the store versus her father who wants her to marry and live the life of a rich housewife.
  2. The hero who wants to expand from a small family store to selling their merchandise in department stores over his father’s objections.
  3. There was conflict between the heroine and hero’s families in the past.
  4. Should department stores continue to cater to the wealthy or should they bring in lower price clothing for the new middle class customers?  Would the wealthy continue to shop there if you let lower classes in the same stores?

 

It was interesting to see the ideas that were considered so progressive (and potentially alarming) that are commonplace now. The anti-woman rhetoric was as expected. Women aren’t smart enough to be in business. Suffragettes are just rabble-rousers causing the downfall of society.

This is a good book for anyone who loves historical fiction where you learn a lot about a topic.

The Mistress of Penningtons Full Banner

21 Aug, 2018

Romance Reviews

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Romance Reviews A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
on July 31, 2018
Pages: 384
Series: Reluctant Royals #2
Genres: Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Scotland


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?

Goodreads

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.


Romance Reviews Primrose and the Dreadful Duke by Emily Larkin
on August 7, 2018
Pages: 355
Series: Garland Cousins,
Setting: England

He's inherited more than just a dukedom...

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!

Goodreads


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.

 

11 Aug, 2018

A Recipe for Disaster

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading A Recipe for Disaster A Recipe for Disaster by Belinda Missen
on August 7, 2018
Genres: Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Australia

Life’s not always a piece of cake…

Meet Lucy, master wedding cake baker, idealistic school canteen crusader, and someone whose broken heart just won’t seem to mend…

Lucy is quietly confident that she has made the right choices in life. Surrounded by friends and family in a small town by the sea, Lucy can easily suppress the feeling that something is missing from her life.

But when a blast from the past arrives in the form of her estranged husband, international celebrity chef Oliver Murray, Lucy’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble beneath her like overbaked meringue.

Is Oliver’s return all business or is it motivated by something more?

A Recipe for Disaster starts long after most love stories would have ended, proving it is never too late to offer someone a second slice of cake or a second chance.

Perfect for fans of Carole Mathews, Mhairi McFarlane and Carrie Hope Fletcher.

Goodreads

Second chance romance stories are not my favorites.  I figure if you broke up before there was probably a good reason.  Especially if you break up for the incredibly stupid reason that the couple in this book did.  They are both chefs.  She’s a pastry chef.  He gets a job offer in Paris.  She decides to stay at home in Australia because there is no work for her.  As a PASTRY CHEF.  IN FRANCE…

At this point I was muttering to myself about agreeing to review this book, but the book surprised me.  There wasn’t a magical fix to the relationship as soon as her estranged husband reappeared. She is still insanely jealous of what he’s been able to do.  He is still prone to running over everyone else’s thoughts and feelings in pursuit of what he wants.  They can’t communicate at all about anything other than food.

They both need to grow up and decide if their relationship is more important than their businesses.  Can they work together and have professional disagreements without it hurting their personal relationship?

This book turned out to be deeper than I expected from the first few chapters. It shows that life is messy and complicated and that you need to learn to work through it to get what you want.

 A Recipe For Disaster Full Tour Banner
 

02 Aug, 2018

The Daughter of the River Valley

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Daughter of the River Valley The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall
on July 17th 2018
Pages: 329
Series: Cornish Tales #3
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by Choc Lit
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Cornwall, 1861

Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she’s been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?

Goodreads

This novel explores the dynamics of people from different classes.  Beth Jago lives outside a mining town in an cabin in a valley.  She lived with her grandfather who recently died.  Since then she has been receiving eviction notices.  She is dealing with this by ignoring them until the threats become physical.

Many historical romances are about the English gentry but they don’t explore the often unsavory ways these people made and maintained their fortunes.  This book looks at the motivations of the men who own the mines that the area depends on to survive.  Closing a mine can look good on paper when you don’t care about the welfare of a town built around it.

I appreciated the fact that this heroine is allowed to make her own choices in this novel.  She is able to prove to herself and others that she is able to provide a living for herself.  It was important to her to know that she was going to choose to marry because she wanted to live with that man instead of marrying because it was an economic necessity.  I believe this is one of the few historical romances that include characters in such extreme poverty that going into a workhouse at several points in their life is required.   I’m finding that I like historical romances that feature working class main characters or other marginalized characters that don’t often feature in traditional historical romances.

There is a storyline about an adult mentally disabled man that will be disturbing to some readers.  I don’t think that it is unrealistic for the time but it will be upsetting to modern readers.

This is the third book of a series but works as a standalone novel.

The Daughter of River Valley Full Banner

26 Jul, 2018

Baker Thief

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Baker Thief Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault
on June 26, 2018
Pages: 424
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned

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!

Goodreads

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. 

 

24 Jul, 2018

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading A Gentleman Never Keeps Score A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian
on July 10th 2018
Pages: 384
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Published by Avon Impulse
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: England

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.

Goodreads

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.

18 Jul, 2018

Witchmark

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Witchmark Witchmark by C.L. Polk
on June 19th 2018
Pages: 272
Series: Witchmark #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Published by Tor.com
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Goodreads

I heard about this book on Twitter and was intrigued by its cover.  I didn’t really know what it was about when I picked it up.  I laughed when I realized that it is basically about treatment for war-induced PTSD.  I was reading this during a week when that was a frequent topic of conversation at my house and now my fantasy books were chiming in too.

The world building in this book is extraordinary.  It is vaguely steampunk.  Horses and bicycles are the main modes of transportation.  The super wealthy have some cars.  Just reading about the system of bicycle transportation was fascinating and shows how much the author thought about how the world would work.

In this world some of elite are mages who control the weather.  Other mages have different talents but they are bound against their will to weather mages to be used as an auxillary power supply for their magic.  Miles has healing magic.  He knew he was going to bound to his sister so he ran away and joined the army.  Now he is a psychiatrist working in a veteran’s hospital and dealing with his own PTSD and that of his patients.  He doesn’t want to use his powers because either:

  • He would be found by his powerful family and bound – or
  • People would think he was a low-born witch and he would be incarcerated in an asylum

His carefully planned secret life starts to unravel when a poisoned witch is brought to him by a stranger.  The witch knew who he was and now the stranger does too.

There is so much going on in this book. 

  • There is a very sweet m/m romance with fade to black sex scenes.  (Thank you very much!  I want more romance books without sex scenes please!) 
  • There is the mystery of what the dying witch knew and what he wanted Miles to do about it. 
  • There is the drama with Miles’ family. 
  • There is an usual increase in the number of veterans committing violent acts when they come home.  Can Miles figure out the cause of that?
  • There is hatred from Miles’ colleague who suspects he is a witch and is trying hard to prove it.

This is the start of a series.  I’m looking forward to reading future installments.  Come for the magic.  Stay for the unfortunately-too-realistic treatment of post-war veterans. 

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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