Tag Archives For: Reading

08 Jun, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

Reviews posted this week:

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton 3 stars

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
4 stars

Book Stuff:

Have you seen the Summer Library Challenge? Check out my library survey.

The Girl Who Saved the King of SwedenThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fact:  In June 2007 the King and the Prime Minister of Sweden both went missing from a banquet at the castle.

Fact:  South Africa developed six nuclear weapons in the 1980s and voluntarily dismantled them in 1994.

But what if they had actually made 7 bombs? 

The Cast:

Nombeko – An unusually intelligent girl born in a Soweto slum during the height of apartheid.  Manages to steal 19.6 million in diamonds and ends up locked up in a secure nuclear facility (but not because of the theft).  Finally escapes but accidentally takes the seventh bomb with her.

Holger One – A Swedish man who was raised by his father to bring down the monarchy.  Too bad he really isn’t smart enough to figure out how.

Holger Two – Holger One’s unexpected identical twin brother who was never registered at birth and officially does not exist.  He’s smart enough to know that his father and brother are crazy.

Celestine – Holger One’s very angry girlfriend.  She wants to fight the power but unfortunately the power keeps ignoring her.

This author’s previous book The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared was my introduction to his absurdist writing style.  There is internal logic to this book but don’t expect it to be realistic.  The fun is going along for the ride.

I gave this three stars only because I thought it bogged down a little in the middle but then picked up again at the end.  I really recommend this book for anyone who is willing to suspend disbelief for a witty and entertaining read.

07 Jun, 2014

Summer Library Challenge – Survey

/ posted in: Reading


Welcome to the first week of the Summer Library Challenge! Check out the Summer Library Challenge page for all details of this awesome event.

Library Survey

1. What’s the name of your library and how close is it to where you live?

I go to the Akron-Summit County Library. I pass a branch in order to go to the main library about 4 miles away.

2. How frequently do you go to the library?

At least once a week

3. What is the first section you normally go to when you get to the library?

New adult fiction

4. Share a link to your library’s webpage. How often do you use it and what for?

I use this website all the time. Whenever I hear about an interesting book I check to see if they have it. I reserve books through here too.

5. Does your library have a summer reading program for your age group? Do you participate and why or why not?

They have Mind, Body, and Sole. You need to read 26 books and walk 26 miles during the summer. It ends the weekend of the local marathon. I’ve done it for the free shirt since it is something I would be doing anyway.

6. What is one thing you can think of that would make your library better?

Rant ahead – The first time I came here I was so confused. I couldn’t figure out where the books were. They don’t use library or book terminology. It is a three story library. I enter on floor two from the parking garage. Floor two is labeled Popular Culture. That’s code for fiction.

Non-fiction is split between floors one and three. It is entirely illogical and near to impossible to find anything. You look up a book on the catalog and get the Dewey Decimal number. (By the way, you need to look that up on the website on your phone. There are gazillions of computers in this library but only one on each floor accesses the library catalog and a lot of times that one’s not working.) Now you need to guess what floor it is on. There is no diagram of what is where. Roughly, business and science are on floor one and everything else is on three. In Terry Pratchett’s books, the library at Unseen University has flying books and this library does too. If you track down where the number should be it is not unusual to find a small card that says that those numbers have been moved. Then you go to the other floor whilst cussing under your breath. To add variety, biographies and travel books are on the fiction floor which I think is some kind of social commentary.

I’m not the only one confused. To save time I’ve been asking library employees to find nonfiction books with me. This always involves a group discussion of where the book might be, an educated guess being made, and then a hike to see if we were right.

Fiction, excuse me, Popular Culture, isn’t easy either. It is shelved not by the last name of the author only but is broken out into all kinds of genres. Inspirational, scifi, black fiction, mystery,etc with anything left over being in general fiction. If you look a book up in the catalog to see if they have it it doesn’t list what section it might be in. You need to think like the person who shelved it.

7. Does your library have a self checkout station and do you use it more than the circulation clerks?

Nope, this library doesn’t even have a drop box for returns inside the library. You need to hand your books to a clerk.

8. What programs have you attended or thought of attending at your library?

I don’t go to any programs because they are always when I’m working.

9. Do you have family that utilizes the library with you? Who is your “library buddy”?

Just me. My husband has me get him books sometimes.

10. What is the best thing about your library?

For all my frustration with their insane organizing, I love this library. They have a huge collection so I can get about 95% of the books I see on blogs that I want to read. I read too much to be able buy all the books I want and free is always better than buying!

06 Jun, 2014

Pirate Latitudes

/ posted in: Reading

Pirate LatitudesPirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction

In the 17th century Jamaica was a lonely English outpost in the Caribbean surrounded by Spanish territory. To help defend the territory the governor invited privateers to use Port Royal as a base. It was conveniently located to the safest passage for ship traveling from Spanish territories back to Spain. English privateers were encouraged to raid any Spanish ship that they could find.


The Pirate Latitudes takes place in 1665. A Spanish treasure ship was rumored to have been damaged in a storm. When an unknown ship is spotted in the harbor of a fortified Spanish island speculation runs rampant that this is the missing ship awaiting repairs and another escort ship to Spain. Captain Charles Hunter is sent by the governor to get the ship. An attack from the harbor is impossible because of the fort. They decide to land on the back of the island and make a hazardous journey across the mountains to attack the fort from behind. But, if they get the ship will they be able to get back to Jamaica?

In the meantime the Governor has a new Lieutenant Governor straight from England who is horrified that the representatives of the Crown work directly with criminals. He’s intent on ridding Port Royal of these bad influences.

This book was found on Michael Crichton’s computer after his death. It is well researched but never felt as exciting to me as his novels that dealt more with medical issues. Maybe that’s more telling about my interests than a critique of the writing. The story never really felt like a page turner to me but it was an interesting look at a very distinctive place and time.

01 Jun, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

In the midst of all the Armchair BEA doings (which was a blast!) I managed to get a few books read and reviews posted.

Devotion and Defiance by Humaira Awais Shahid is the memoir of a female member of the legislature in Pakistan who worked for women’s rights.

Honolulu by Alan Brennert is the story of Korean “picture brides” in the early 1900s who came to Hawaii in hopes of a better life.

Click on the titles for the reviews.

Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief JusticeBelle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Dido Elizabeth Belle was the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy captain and an African slave.  She was sent to live with her white great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield, who was a powerful judge and ruled on many of the most important cases leading up to the abolishment of slavery in England. 

Dido was raised with her cousin, whose mother had died when she was 5.  When the Earl commissioned a portrait of his two wards together as equals it was shocking to London society.


This book was written as a companion to the movie about their life called Belle that is coming out soon.  As an American I didn’t know a lot of details about the Abolitionist movement in England.  This was a quick overview of that period in time.

01 Jun, 2014


/ posted in: Reading

HonoluluHonolulu by Alan Brennert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical fiction

“In Korea in those days, newborn girls were not deemed important enough to be graced with formal names, but were instead given nicknames, which often reflected the parents’ feelings on the birth of a daughter: I knew a girl named Anger, and another called Pity. As for me, my parents named me Regret.”

Honolulu is the story of Regret who learns to read and wants to go to school.  Punished for this by her father, she decides to make a new life in Hawaii as a picture bride.  These are women who are chosen to marry Korean bachelors in Hawaii on the basis of their photos.

These marriage provide a means of escape from Korea but not happiness for the women involved.  A group of them bind together in an economic collective to try to improve the life of all of them.

In this book you learn about the evolution of Honolulu from a company town for the pineapple growers to a tourist mecca. The growing tension between the white community and the native Hawaiian and Asian communities is highlighted.  The ability of women to overcome discrimination and make their own lives is a major theme.


31 May, 2014

Devotion and Defiance

/ posted in: Reading

Devotion and Defiance: My Fight for Justice for WomenDevotion and Defiance: My Fight for Justice for Women by Humaira Awais Shahid

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Humaira Awais Shahid had just finished her graduate work in literature when she met Ednan, the son of an influential Pakistani newspaper owner.  They married and eventually she was brought into the newspaper business to transform the “woman’s pages.”  When the opportunity came to take one of the reserved seats for women in her local Parliament she took the chance to do more of substance for women in her area.  Little did she know that the women of the reserved seats were supposed to be ornamental and not be insisting on writing laws.

She had three goals:

  1. To eliminate vani, the practice of giving women  in marriage or to be raped as repayment for a slight on family honor.
  2. To make it illegal to burn a person with acid
  3. To eliminate private moneylending which resulted often in violence when people could not repay the huge interest

The story covers the time until her five years in the legislature were finished.  The book ended fairly abruptly which made me want to know more about what she had done in the last few years.

She does talk about the poor women she wrote about in the papers but overall she seems to have a more positive outlook on women in Pakistan than we generally hear about in the West.  She is also full of praise for President Musharraf as a reformer which also doesn’t fit with stories we hear here.



29 May, 2014

Armchair BEA – Bookish Pet Peeves

/ posted in: Reading

ArmchairBEA LogoExample

This is an anything goes day for Armchair BEA so I’m going to talk about my pet peeves in books.

1.  Series that start book 2 (or 3 or 6) right up with no recap of the previous story

Dear authors,

I know that you have been living this story in your mind for years.  I know that you know these characters inside and out.  But, I’ve read a whole lot of books since the last time I encountered these characters and I don’t remember the names of the minor characters or what the major characters were talking about at the end of the last book.  I’m feeling good if I remember the major characters’ names.

A little recap would be nice.  You have options.  You could have a prologue to recap.  You could work major details into conversation in the first chapter.  You could have a character list before the story starts with a quick sum up of who they are and why they are important.  I’ve seen them all done well and unobtrusively.

This seems to be mostly a YA issue.  I read urban fantasy series and they do a great job with this.  With YA if I haven’t just read the previous book, I’m off to Wikipedia to figure out who these people are.

2.  Spoilers in the book

Everyone knows to look out for spoilers when reading about books but lately I’ve been blindsided twice by spoilers INSIDE the books.  These have both been nonfiction.

In one the pictures in the middle of the boom gave away the death of a major character.   I know that is the easiest place to put pictures but if you are going to do that then maybe put the at the end.

The other book was about a midwife in Africa.  In the first few pages it actually said this story was above her life until she died in childbirth.  That’s a huge thing to giveaway at the start of the story.  I never read the whole book.

What about you?  What makes you crazy about books?

29 May, 2014

Armchair BEA – Beyond Borders

/ posted in: Reading

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Beyond the Borders 
It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!

Every year I use the Goodreads group Around the World in 80 Books to challenge myself to read more broadly. I keep a list of books I read that are set in different countries.  I find that it makes me pick up books that I might not have looked at previously if they will fill a gap in my list.

So far this year I’ve read books from:

Canada – Newfoundland
Saudi Arabia
South Africa

My recommendations of these are:

South Africa – The story of the relationship of a white immigrant woman and her African servant and her daughter in early 20th century South Africa.

The Housemaid's Daughter

The Housemaid’s Daughter by Barbara Mutch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars





Italy – The story of a gondola maker in 16th century Venice.

The Gondola MakerThe Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars






India and England – On her 100th birthday an Indian matriarch starts to tell her family about her life as a companion to an Indian princess and what happened to her and her son in England.

The Midnight RoseThe Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars







Greece – The story of a leper colony on an island and the relationship with the people of the village that overlooks it on the mainland.

The IslandThe Island by Victoria Hislop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


27 May, 2014

Armchair BEA – More than just words

/ posted in: Reading

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More Than Just Words 
There are so many mediums that feature more than just words and enhance a story in a multitude of ways. Examples may include graphic novels and comics, audiobooks, or even multimedia novels. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just the words and use other ways to experience a story. Which books stand out to you in these different formats?


One word – DIGGER.

This is an online graphic novel that won a Hugo Award.

It is the only graphic novel I’ve never read.

A wombat.  A dead god.  A very peculiar epic.

Really that’s all you need to know.  You know you need more wombat literature in your life.  When was the last time you read a book about a wombat?  Don’t you think you need to fix that right now?  Go check out Digger.


Updating because I totally forgot about audio.

I love audiobooks but I have to pick the right ones.  They have to be fast moving and plot driven. Nothing is worse than listening to someone drone on with endless descriptions of scenery.

I also turn to audio if I want the book to slow down.  I’ve done this with The Dresden Files books.  If I read them I do it in a day.  I want to savor them more so I listen to the audio.  I think I’m going to have to do this for The Iron Druid series too.  I’m going through them too quickly.

Best audio ever – READY PLAYER ONE read by Wil Wheaton.

27 May, 2014

Armchair BEA – Author Interaction

/ posted in: Reading

ArmchairBEA LogoExample

Author Interaction 
Let’s talk interacting with authors IRL (in real life) or online. This is your opportunity to talk about your favorite author readings that you have attended.

Yeah, so here’s the thing.  I don’t want to talk to authors in real life.

It isn’t (entirely) because I’m antisocial.  I just can’t think of anything that I would want to say to them.  I’m sure they are nice people but whenever I think of talking to someone who lots of other people want to talk to I can’t think of anything remotely interesting to ask.  I just envision mobs of people wanting to ask me questions (which is my real life actually) and it makes me want to go home and lie down.  I start to feel sorry for the authors so I don’t want to bother them.

That’s the introvert in me coming out.

I have two almost meeting people in real life stories.  I went to a reading by Jennifer Chiaverini.  I bought the book.  Then afterwards I looked at the long line and figured I could be home by the time I got to the front to get it signed.  Yep, I’m a party animal.


Another time I was in the same building with James Marsters.  I loved him on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and I love his audiobook performances.  I’ve listened to a whole series just because he was narrating.  He does most of the Dresden File books too and they are wonderful.

Did I go to his signing or to get a picture with him?  Nope.  I took a picture from a distance -Yay for superzoom cameras – and left.  I couldn’t think of anything I really needed to say to him or that he really needed to hear from me.  It wasn’t like I had a message from God for him.  And, it turns out that he is fairly little and if I got my picture taken with him I was going to look like a whale because no one thinks he is that small and I wasn’t going to be happy with that.


Seriously, if you are in any way introverted you have to read Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  You will embrace your solitary ways like never before.

I do follow some authors’ blogs but I have a horrible secret about that too.  I don’t read their books.  I’ve followed some for years.  I love the blogs.  But as much as I like the blogs I don’t like these particular author’s books.  I’ve tried.  I feel like I should like them.  It is a bad feeling.

There is one exception though.  I had followed Rachael Lucas’ blog for a long time.  We both had totally different lives when I started following her.  Then she wrote a book.  I didn’t read it because of my horrible track record.  Eventually I got a copy on a day it was free on Amazon and figured I had nothing to lose.  How’s that for confidence?  It was really good!  It is called Sealed With A Kiss.


26 May, 2014

Armchair BEA – Introduction

/ posted in: Reading

ArmchairBEA LogoExample

Welcome to Armchair BEA 2014. This is a week of bookish blogging fun for all those people who aren’t at Book Expo America.

My 5 questions:

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online.

I am reading and exercise and quilting with pets thrown in until someone somewhere does something stupid and then I go on a rant.

On Instagram and Twitter I’m @dvmheather. I check Instagram daily but I always forget about Twitter.

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ .

I read a lot of urban fantasy and historical fiction. I like the escapism of fantasy. I love history so historical fiction is an easy way to learn about different eras. If the book blurb uses the words “funny” or “witty”, I’m in.

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year?

My favorite so far this year is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Last year’s favorite was Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King. That was a nonfiction book about a court case in Florida that was so outrageous that you had to keep reminding yourself that it was true.

Share your favorite book or reading related quote.



My favorite quote from a book



What book would you love to see as a movie?

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett


Want to see who else is playing this week?  Here’s the list!

19 May, 2014


/ posted in: Reading

HypocrisyHypocrisy by D.M. Annechino

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dr. Lauren Crawford is a brilliant research scientist who discovers a revolutionary treatment for cancer that not only extends life, but much improves the quality of life for terminal cancer patients. The treatment, in some instances, can even cure certain cancers. On the evening before Dr. Crawford holds a press conference to announce that the FDA has given preliminary approval of her new cancer treatment, somebody follows her to her car and puts three bullets in her head. Was it a planned murder with a motive, a mugging gone badly, or merely a random act of violence?

Two New York City homicide detectives, Amaris Dupree and T.J. Brown, are assigned to the investigation. The detectives evaluate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Crawford’s death, and follow a trail of clues that exposes a sequence of startling facts. One by one, the detectives carefully examine each suspect and piece together a puzzle with unimaginable implications. As the investigation gets more intense, and the detectives get closer to solving the murder mystery, someone threatens Dupree’s life. The detectives now realize that Dr. Crawford’s murder was much more than a homicide. And if they don’t arrest the murderer soon, Dupree might be the next victim.

I have a copy of this book to giveaway if you are intrigued by the premise.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thoughts – This book confused me.  In the early part of the book there is so much discussion of the main character’s breasts that for a while I was wondering if this was supposed to be satire and I was just missing the humor. 

The other thing that is almost completely left out is what this cure that everyone is fighting over is.  There is a page that gives a cursory discussion of it but really doesn’t even attempt to make a scientific case.  It is mostly –  There’s a cure.  We have it.  Moving on.

There are attempts at character development that just drop into the story at weird times.  The characters go off on long discussions about their deepest darkest secrets that seemed totally irrelevant to the story.  These are interesting but stop the forward progress of the story cold.

The idea is interesting but could have been better executed.

I received this book from IRead Book Tours to review.  Here is the rest of the tour to see if they agree with my assessment or if I totally missed the charm of the book.

May 12 – Peeking Between the Pages – review / giveaway
May 13 – Every Free Chance Book Reviews – review / giveaway
May 14 – Bound 4 Escape – review
May 15 – Reviews From The Heart – review
May 16 – Omnimystery News – guest post
May 19 – Based on a True Story… – review / giveaway
May 20 – Back Porchervations – review
May 21 – Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks – review
May 22 – A Blue Million Books – book spotlight / author interview
May 23 – The Pen and Muse Book Reviews – author interview
May 26 – Bookaholics Must Read – review
May 27 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review
May 28 – Let’s Talk About Books – review
May 29 – The Things We Read – review
May 30 – Views From the Countryside – review
June 2 – A Nook of Blankets and Books – review
June 3 – Omnimystery News – author interview
June 4 – By Book or By Crook – review
June 5 – All Things Bookie – review
June 6 – Lizzie in Wonderland – review
June 9 – Brooke Blogs – review / author interview
June 10 – Book Loving Hippo – review / guest post
June 11 – Peggy Ann’s Post – review / giveaway
June 12 – Back Porchervations – guest post



16 May, 2014

The Gondola Maker

/ posted in: Reading

The Gondola MakerThe Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical fiction

In 16th century Venice, gondola making is a proud profession.  Each boatyard is run by a family who passes down their style of craftsmanship to their sons.  Luca is learning the trade from his father but chafes under his domineering manner.  When the tension flares into violence, Luca is forced to flee and try to make a life away from the only business that he knows.

I loved this book from the first page.  The author set the scene and the mood so well that I was immediately caught up in the story and the time.  This is very well researched historical fiction where the plot isn’t the most important thing that you’ll take away from reading the book.  The history of Venice, the role of the gondoliers in society, and the prestige of the artists and costumers all come alive.

I was given a copy of this book to review as part of a book tour.  I also am able to give away a copy so another reader can discover this wonderful world.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like to read more reviews of this book, you can follow the book tour.
April 28 –The Written WorldHistorical Tapestry – review / guest post
April 28 – Chronicles – review
April 30 – The YA Lit Chick – review
May 1 –  Pix Me! Photography – review
May 5 –  Reading, Writing, Working, Playing – review / giveaway
May 6 –  View From the Birdhouse – review / giveaway
May 7 –  Peeking Between the Pages – review / giveaway
May 7 –  Paulette’s Papers – book spotlight
May 8 –  She Reads Novels – review
May 9 –  Book Dilettante – review / interview
May 9 –  Reviews by Molly – review / giveaway
May 12 – Savings in Seconds – review / giveaway
May 13 – Library of Clean Reads – review / author interview
May 13 – Historical Tapestry – book spotlight / guest post
May 14 – The 1000th Voice – review
May 14 – Bless Their Hearts Mom – book spotlight / giveaway
May 15 – All Things Bookie – review
May 16 – Based on a True Story… – review / giveaway
May 19 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review / spotlight
May 20 – FLY HIGH! – guest post / giveaway
May 20 – Views From the Countryside – review
May 21 – Tales of the Marvelous – review
May 22 – Musings from Sri Lanka – review
May 23 – In This World of Books – review
May 23 – Griperang’s Bookmarks – review
May 26 – Every Free Chance Reader – review / giveaway
May 27 – Rose & Beps Blog – book spotlight
May 28 – Ivory Owl Reviews – review / author interview
May 28 – Black’n Gold Girl’s Book Spot – review / giveaway
May 29 – PageCravings – review
May 30 – 2 Kids and Tired Books – review


11 May, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

What I’m Listening to Now

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #1)Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Dr. Maxwell is a historian specializing in ancient civilizations.  When she is recruited for a position with the St. Mary’s Institute, she notices that it is a bit odd for a historical institution.  Not many of those have a bunker named after Stephen Hawking.

Historians at St. Mary’s travel back in time to witness what really happens.  But sometimes history fights back.

I’m about halfway through this book on audio and it is quite good.  I’m looking forward to the rest.

I was on vacation last week and spent most of it lounging around and reading.  I finished three books and started some others.  It was fun.

04 May, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

My reviews for the last week.

The Midnight RoseThe Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anahita was a companion to an Indian Princess in pre-WWI India. On her 100th birthday she decides it is time for her family to know the true story of what happened to her during time she and Princess Indira spent in England.

Full review here.

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic RootsUnorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the memoir of a girl who rebelled from her Hasidic Jewish upbringing.

Read full review here.

I’m on vacation this week! There will be lots of book reading but probably not much posting until I get back. I’m soaking as much sun and sand as I can to make up for this winter.

27 Apr, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

My reviews for the last week.

Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #3)Hammered by Kevin Hearne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Atticus, the last living Druid, has made some deals and promises in the past to other magical creatures and now the time has come to pay up.

Promise number 1 was made to a very powerful witch.  He promised to go to Asgard, the land of the Norse gods, and steal a magical apple.  No problem.  All he has to do is sneak up the World Tree while avoiding a gigantic squirrel, sneak past all the gods, steal an apple, and get back.  What could go wrong?

Finish reading the review here.

The Secret of MagicThe Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1946, on his way home from serving in Europe in World War II, Joe Howard Wilson refuses to give up his seat on a bus to a German POW.  He is removed from the bus and lynched.  Several months later, an envelope with clippings about the case arrives in the office of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  It ends up on the desk of Regina Robichard, a young lawyer eager to prove herself.

Finish reading the review here.

What’s new this week?  We are going on vacation at the end of the week and today was the only day I had to stock up on vacation books.  I loaded myself up.  In addition to a few more Kevin Hearne books I grabbed:

Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street's Post-Crash RecruitsYoung Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits by Kevin Roose


I loved this author’s book on spending a semester at Liberty University.


The Midnight RoseThe Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley


I’m reading this now. It is the story of an Indian girl in 1911 who is chosen to be a companion for a princess.



The Shadow QueenThe Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland


This historical fiction book is about a woman who becomes a confidante to the mistress of the Sun King in France.


Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic RootsUnorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
A memoir about a woman leaving Hasidic Judaism.



Vienna Nocturne: A NovelVienna Nocturne: A Novel by Vivien Shotwell


More historical fiction – this time about an opera singer that Mozart composed for.

25 Apr, 2014

The Secret of Magic

/ posted in: Reading

The Secret of MagicThe Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In 1946, on his way home from serving in Europe in World War II, Joe Howard Wilson refuses to give up his seat on a bus to a German POW.  He is removed from the bus and lynched.  Several months later, an envelope with clippings about the case arrives in the office of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  It ends up on the desk of Regina Robichard, a young lawyer eager to prove herself.

Regina is fascinated by the case and by the fact that the envelope was sent by M.P. Calhoun.  As a child Regina was obsessed with a book written by M.P. Calhoun called The Secret of Magic that involved two white children and a black child playing together in a magical forest outside a witch’s cottage.  There was a mystery in the book about what happened to the witch’s brother but it was never explained.  Regina has always wondered about that.

She gets permission to go investigate.  She finds out that M.P. Calhoun is a wealthy white woman who employs Joe Howard Wilson’s father and who is mostly comfortable with the racism of her town.  As Regina investigates Joe Howard’s murder she starts to meet the real people that The Secret of Magic is based on and realize that there is still an unsolved mystery at the heart of that story.

This book would appeal to several types of readers – those who are interested in the racial conflicts of the early 20th century South and those who have always wanted to corner their favorite author and make them explain what happened.  (A little The Fault in Our Stars anyone?)

There are no easy answers here.  This is a town where everyone knows who did it because the murderer has been bragging about it.  He knows that no one gets punished for a lynching.  The mystery here is unraveling the complex histories and relationships between the people in the town to see who is protecting who and why.

21 Apr, 2014

Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

/ posted in: Reading

Mrs. Lincoln's RivalMrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the 1850s Kate Chase was a political powerhouse.  Her goal was the election of her widowed father, Salmon Chase, to the Presidency of the United States.  She would serve as his First Lady.  After he loses the Republican nomination to a relatively unknown man named Abraham Lincoln, Kate spends the war years advising her father in the Senate. 


Kate Chase was a political strategist at a time when women weren’t considered to have any aptitude for such things.  She was also a glamorous socialite and hostess in Washington D.C.  This earned her the contempt of Mary Lincoln, who felt that Kate snubbed her when she was did not appear at the Lincoln stop in Ohio.  No amount of explaining that the Chases were in Washington at the time would appease Mrs. Lincoln.  This started a social rivalry for the duration of the Lincoln presidency.  Kate’s marriage was the social event to attend in Washington for everyone but Mrs. Lincoln who refused to appear.

Jennifer Chiaverini wrote about Mary Lincoln in her previous book, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.  Like that book, this one looks at an unknown story during a famous time in history.  The story was interesting but I give the book 3 stars instead of 4 because the writing is not the greatest.  She gets the story told which is important to me but it is clunky in places.

I enjoyed learning about a woman who was politically hungry and who pushed her father possibly harder than he would have done himself.


21 Apr, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

I’m currently listening to:

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history.”

I love David McCullough’s books and this one is narrated by Edward Hermann.  I’m learning a lot about French history and art and medicine and politics.

This week I also posted a review for a book that ties right in with my audio book.  I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira is a fictionalized version of the story of the Impressionist painters Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

My review of Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini is up.  It tells the story of Kate Chase, the political force behind her father, Salmon Chase’s, ambition to be president.

18 Apr, 2014

I Always Loved You

/ posted in: Reading

I Always Loved YouI Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical fiction

Aspiring American artist Mary Cassatt is living in France in the 1870s trying to make a name for herself as an artist.  After some initial success she finds her latest work rejected from the all-powerful Salon, which controls which art is considered good and worthy and which is not.  Fortunately for her, Mlle. Cassatt’s  work has been noticed by other painters who want to reject the stranglehold of the Salon and paint in a new style.  She is invited to exhibit with them next year by their mercurial member, Edgar Degas.

Mary Cassatt aspired to be a traditional painter in the style admired at the time.  She had been admitted to the Salon previously but as her style began to change she was rejected.

An example of her early work:

One of her first Impressionist paintings.


By the mid 1870s she was the only American and one of 3 women who was exhibiting with the Impressionists.  Her specialty became painting women and children.

Her parents and chronically ill sister Lydia lived with her in Paris and their care took a lot of her time.  She had an on-again/off-again relationship with Edgar Degas but never married.  He painted this portrait of her.


I like historical fiction that looks at the stories behind works of art.  This book is ultimately frustrating because it is a real story and doesn’t follow a fictional, happy ever after plot line.