Monday, May 16, 2022

What to Read This Spring

 

 What to Read this Winter

Are you stuck at home on a cold and rainy day and want to curl up with a good book?

An Ominous Explosion (Beatrice Hyde-Clare Mysteries #10)An Ominous Explosion by Lynn Messina--Regency Mystery/Romance


Thank you NetGalley for the advanced reading copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not affected by the giveaway.


When Aunt Vera offers to accompany the Dowager Duchess of Kesgrave to the Duke's uncle's funeral, Bea is shocked. Of course Vera asks Bea to look in on the family to make sure they're not doing anything she doesn't approve of and to make sure the dining room isn't overcome by mold. Bea finds her uncle and cousins heading for an outing to view a steam engine demonstration. Bea knows Aunt Vera wouldn't approve but Uncle Horace insists he's just looking and not investing and would Bea like to join them? Bea hesitates until Uncle Horace tells her that her mother was interested in and invested in steam engines. Naturally Bea must go. The demonstration is crowded with people eager to see Peter Huzza's new high pressure steam engine. No one is prepared for an explosion that sends Bea off into a trance contemplating life as a Sphinx. By the time she arrives home, with her hearing restored, she's pondering what caused the explosion and what happened to poor Mr. Huzza who was tending the furnace. If only she could have gotten a look at the remains of the engine. Oh wait, she's a Duchess and her beloved husband opens doors, in this case quite literally as they enter into a new investigation together. Bea is certain someone sabotaged the engine and murdered Mr. Huzza. Damien is certain whoever it was is going to come after his precious wife! If only he would buy her a pair of boots she could run more efficiently!

I love this series but the charm has worn off now Bea and Damien are married. I liked it better when shy spinster Bea came up with madcap schemes and the Duke of Kesgrave was so besotted, he fell in line with whatever she planned. Now everyone knows her propensity for fancying herself a Lady Runner. Damien wishes she would NOT investigate murders and wants to keep her safe. He tags along on her investigation this time mainly to keep her safe.

The plot is not the most interesting. I worked at a mill museum that had a steam engine in Bea's time- as a backup power source for the water wheel and later as the main power source. I read the Poldark stories so I got the history of steam engines from Winston Graham. Steam engines don't interest me that much. This story would have bored me to tears before I took the job at the museum and learned about the hometown ironworker turned inventor who owned it. This story may not be the most popular one of the series. There's just too much history dumped on the reader even if it comes from the characters. The mystery has very few suspects but I still never guessed who, if anyone, sabotaged the engine. It sure sounded to me like the typical overfed engine that will blow up on boats and trains all the time later in the century but of course Bea is correct as always. I was starting to find her technique a little annoying as she went around accusing people of murder willy nilly without proof. She acknowledges her usual technique and everyone knows about it LOL!  This novel didn't have that edge of your seat feeling. I was able to put it down and go to sleep and pick it up again the next morning.

Bea has really come into her own. She's almost overconfident now and acknowledges that. After only 6 weeks of marriage and 6 months of investigating murders, she's become notorious and her success has somewhat gone to her head. She's less in her head, less insecure now. Bea is super observant and sharp. She sees things no one else sees or that a murderer doesn't want seen. Her instincts are sound even if she doesn't have proof. Because she's been nearly killed so many times, now she's taking fencing lessons. She longs for a pair of leather boots from Hoby so she can run more easily but even her husband draws the line asking his bootmaker for a pair. Hoby would expire on the spot! This desire is the source of some of the witty banter between Bea and her beloved husband. Damien is still swoony. He does try to distract Bea with sex, which normally I hate, but it doesn't work with her and he knows it doesn't work but he loves her and wants her to be safe and if he can distract her and please her with someone ELSE she enjoys, all the better. (All off page of course). He will give Bea anything she desires - aside from a pair of Hoby boots. Damien is also a loving grandson. Bea helps him understand how his grandmother is feeling and how best to deal with her. Damien's instinct is to protect those he loves by worrying and wrapping them in cotton wool. Bea knows the Dowager still feels independent in spite of her great age and minor infirmities. She doesn't need him to smother her with worry just yet. I can see why the Dowager reacts badly to his worry and I would feel the same way but I know she loves her grandson. She shows it by her approval of Bea and everything Bea does.

Aunt Vera is still unintelligent and unable to handle the change in her niece's situation without nearly fainting but she's trying to make amends, or so the Duke thinks anyway. I think Aunt Vera is much kinder than Aunt Petunia Dursley but she did treat Bea pretty much the same way as Aunt Petunia treated Harry Potter. Aunt Vera can't really openly admit her mistakes based on misassumptions and to be fair, why wouldn't she believe the stories she was told? She wasn't there when Bea's parents died, she wasn't close to them to know about Bea's mother's activities. She only knows the morals she was brought up with and Bea's mother didn't fit the mold. Aunt Vera also knows how cruel the world can be to a young lady of unconventional parents. She did her best and she's trying to please her niece and nephew-in-law now. Uncle Horace seems indifferent to his wife's nagging but he's really not. He knows how much his marriage is worth and isn't about to rock the boat. He cared deeply for his only brother and is trying to make up for lost time with Bea. Flora manages not to be super annoying. She misses her beau and fights with her brother. Russell, on the other hand, really mans up! He's becoming a man and when his mother isn't around he actually acts like one. I feel bad for him now. He's trying to be a young gentleman of the ton and spread his wings. I really appreciate him more now and I think Bea does too.

The mystery involves a new high pressure steam engine invented by Mr. Peter Huzza. He builds on the concept of Trevithick's steam carriage that had exploded when the valve was left on. This engine has a melting valve that will disintegrate if the boiler gets too hot. It has a carriage that runs on tracks with gears which he envisions bringing people to the seaside (a tram, a sort of early train). I can picture the engine because of the museum I worked at but I'm not sure others will be able to. Mr. Huzza is very eager to show off his invention and play to the crowd. He's kind of a show off and even goes so far as to feed his own engine with coal while wearing white clothes. The more he plays to the crowd, the more excited people will be and will invest in his invention, I guess. He seems kind of egotistical though. Still, he doesn't deserve to be blown to smithereens. Did he make a mistake and put in too much coal? It seems unlikely because he was feeding it by hand without gloves so that limits how much coal one can place in the boiler at any given time. DID someone deliberately kill Huzza? It seems risky because there was no way of knowing he would be feeding the boiler and no way of knowing if he would be in the boiler hut at the time it exploded.

The Hyde-Clares make the acquaintance of a Mr. Grimes, a macaroni who loves steam engines and is eager to invest in one for his mill. Yet he strongly discourages everyone from investing. Could it be he wants all the shares for himself? Or is there something else going on? I think he's a paid spokesperson. He's a little too enthusiastic and discouraging people will only make them want to invest more. Reverse psychology?

Leopold Lynch, a manufacturer and partner in Huzza's business surely has no reason to kill his partner. They stand to make a fortune on the new invention. With it gone and people afraid of steam power once again, he'll lose a lot of money. When Bea and Damien show up, indeed he thinks they are creditors come to ruin him. He's also extremely drunk. I don't think he's faking it. I think he's upset at losing money and less upset at losing his partner but then some clues do point in his direction. Martin Rhodes also helped with the design of the engine. He made the valve plug and is highly regarded by both Huzza and Lynch. He too is very drunk when Bea and Damien come to ask questions. He seems sincerely upset and blames himself for Huzza's death. How awful! I don't think he has it in him to murder someone.

It was DEFINATELY the lying liar Garfield/Garrow. He lies about his name, his identity-everything. A middle class businessman, he works for a rival steam company, one that uses low pressure steam. Low pressure steam is deemed safer and his firm stands to make a bundle off the misfortune of Huzza if they play their cards right. He seems sleazy and feeds false information to the press to enhance his own business interests. Mr. Tarwich, his younger business partner, is the public face of the company. He doesn't seem to know much about anything. Mr. Tarwich seems nice enough but he could be in league with Garrow to sink another man's business to build their own. I think one or both men were involved in the murder. What about their clerk, Mr. Heath, is he involved? He seems passionate about the company and eager to please. He's dedicated to his work. But... he was in the army and he would know how to make a bomb! He has a powerful motive- to help his employers. I don't want it to be him. He seems nice and has a large family to feed. That would be terrible for them if Mr. Heath was a murderer.

Or was it Waugh? He's a shrewd businessman who lives to make money. He claims he just wants to develop properties and he doesn't seem interested in steam power at all. Is he lying? Mr. Waugh certainly seems ruthless enough to stop at nothing to get what he wants. Mr. Huzza's heirs were the widows and orphans of soldiers killed in the war. Would the board of governors murdered their benefactor to get their hands on the money sooner before he changed his mind? Oh Bea! This makes no sense. Why would they do that when they could potentially inherit MORE money later on down the line? If Huzza dies with the engine, what money does he have left to leave?

A more likely suspect is Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Flexmore. He works for the military ensuring supplies get to where they need to go on time. He's very rude and keeps issuing the Regency version of "no comment" but his comments give Damien enough information to realize they've stumbled across the truth. The questions he won't answer is whether he sabotaged the engine. He had the means and opportunity but what about motive? This guy is a piece of work and he threatens Bea so he must be a villain! It must be a personal motive against Huzza.

Which one is the real murderer and why? Or does Bea see murder everywhere and it was really just a tragic accident?

This book needs a historical note for those who are unaware of the history of steam engines.
Richard Trevithick Tragedy at Greenwich
James Watt
Matthew Boulton
Fusible Plugs

May 3 1830: Robert Stephenson's Invicta powers the first regular passenger service in the world, linking Canterbury to the seaside town of Whitstable six miles away.

One typo: Madam instead of Madame and one anachronism: Hello was not used until the telephone. And stealing business information may be done "all the time" but it was illegal in Britain or else the American Industrial Revolution would never have gotten started in 1793!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

What To Read This Winter

 What to Read this Winter

Are you STILL snowed in or rained it? Are you tired of the terrifying news? I have just the book to take you on an escape from the crazy world we live in. Another gem from Regina Scott! 




N
ever Court a Count by Regina Scott-- Traditional Regency Romance 


Thank you to Regina Scott for the advanced copy of the e-book. All opinions expressed in this review are all my own and not affected by the giveaway.


Lady Calantha Dryden, middle daughter of the Duke of Wey, feels invisible. A shy wallflower, she has no interest in fulfilling the vow she made with her sister and friend to find suitable and loving husbands by harvest. It's her third season Out and no one even seems to know she's alive. This leads to Callie spending a great deal of time behind potted palms and even people holding private conversations right in front of her! On one such occasion, as she's hiding behind a plant, Callie overhears two men plotting to threaten to the Batavarian King's plans to regain his lands. As Callie's sister Larissa is engaged to the Crown Prince, this directly concerns her family! Fritz, Count Montalban, younger son (by 15 minutes) of the King of Batavaria enjoyed being the Captain of the Guard, the invisble younger son. Now he has been elevated, he's perusued by young misses and matchmaking mamas- the horror! If only he could make himself invisible again! When Callie reveals what she overheard, Fritz wants to jump into action but he needs Callie to help him identify the suspects. Unfortunately for Callie, her father comes upon her speaking privately with Fritz and demands Fritz call on him the next day. Gulp! Neither wants to marry but for Callie to discover the men behind the plot, she needs to be able to hear them. For Fritz to stop the threat, he needs to identify the men and for that he needs Callie. They agree on a sham engagement as long as it takes to find the villains and stop the threat. It should take only days or weeks, right? Then they can go their separate ways once the Season ends. Fritz is determined to support Callie in her efforts even if she is unsuccessful and soon, his feelings for Callie begin to deepen. How can he marry with no money, no home and dark secrets in his past? Callie soon realizes finding a villain is harder than she thought, especially as she is not allowed in all male bastions like the House of Commons. Then someone starts nasty rumors about Fritz and even the King believes them! Can Callie summon her inner strength to protect those she loves? Loves?! Surely not! Even so, why would a strong, active man like Fritz want to marry a shy, invisible wallflower like her?

This is another winner from Regina Scott! The slow burn romance is very sweet and builds nicely. I didn't roll my eyes once or think feelings were developing too quickly. Nor do their feelings come on suddenly at the end or the plot conclude with a kiss. This story is more romance than Georgette Heyer style Traditional Regency romances. The mystery of the villains is secondary to the romance but it still kept me turning pages. I had to take a break to charge my laptop and run Windows update but that worked out for the best because I was able to finish this before going to sleep at night and dream happy dreams. The story does not stand on its own and readers must read at least Never Pursue a Prince and preferably Never Doubt a Duke.

Callie is the best heroine! She's shy, socially awkward, says what she thinks- sometimes to the point of awkwardness, prefers animals to people and has exceptional verbal recall. If she were a young lady of today, she would be diagnosed with non-verbal learning disorder. I can say this for a fact because's she a younger, 19th-century version of me. My world is much larger so I can not recall voices after only hearing them once (for example, right now the radio is on in the basement and I can hear voices but can't distinguish them). Callie, on the other hand, is fortunate enough not to have distractions in the form of radios and TVs and too many people talking to her. She remembers EVERYTHING she hears. EVERYTHING! I thought she was charming when she was little and blurted out everything she heard. I certainly cringe to think about doing that so she probably wouldn't want me to mention it. Callie's memory is a curse and a blessing. Because she's so shy, people say things around her she isn't meant to hear. Once she hears something, she can't unhear it. It's also a blessing because she remembers important things too, like threats to her family and friends. As the story goes on, Callie grows so much! She starts to come out of her shell with Fritz to support her. By the end, she's willing to stand up for those she cares about even if it means not being invisible anymore. I love her character growth and think it was done exceptionally well. It's not an overnight thing or even a day or two. Her growing is done throughout the novel as she gains confidence in herself and her abilities. Identifying a villain helps too.

At first I wasn't sure about Friz. Fortune didn't like him so that seemed to be that. However, Fortune came around and so did I. Callie liked Fritz from the moment they met. They sparred but that means he SAW her and she didn't fade into the background eclipsed by Larissa and Belle. They had discussions on books and shared a passion for animal welfare. Getting to know Fritz in his own story, he is a more well-rounded man than as seen from his brother's point-of-view. Fritz is fiercely devoted to his country and his family. He's Batavarian in his heart and is frustrated and unhappy being an exile. Yes he's a man of action, quick to jump in and protect his family but in his heart, he's as much as a wallflower as Callie. He craves calm and quiet, open spaces and animals. Fritz has a big secret he hasn't even shared with his twin. It's given him PTSD which he considers a shameful secret. Callie is good for him and helps him when he needs it, just as Fritz helps Callie grow and blossom. His secret is not shameful. It's understandable but as a soldier, he feels he let down his family and his country. Callie helps him become the hero everyone thinks he is.

We see more of Callie's family in this book. Larissa doesn't have a large role. She seems to be letting Callie do her thing without interference. Belle, on the other hand, still clings to their silly vow. An extrovert, Belle doesn't understand Callie's feelings and Callie, an introvert, can't bring herself to let down her younger sister. The Duke of Wey appears more in this novel than ever before. He is a very strict father. His daughters' behavior reflects on the whole family and as he is a Duke, everyone must be beyond reproach. He can't see how damaging that is to his children. Larissa felt too much pressure to live up to expectations and Callie can't socialize in groups because of her crippling shyness. Callie is happier socializing one on one but because of the ridiculous rules of Society, there's a lot she can't do, like be alone with a male friend of the family even if he will soon be her sister's brother-in-law. The Duke comes down too hard on Callie, especially the second time. He should have more faith in Callie and trust that Callie has faith in Fritz. She's a very good judge of character and even Fortune approves of Fritz- now. Thank goodness for Jane. Jane is a lovely breath of fresh air. Formerly a soldier's wife, Jane is practical but she's not no-nonsense. She's an amazing mother and all the scenes with her playing games with her children are so wonderful and unlike anything else in any other Regency novel I've read. Jane has the ability to soothe Alaric's temper and help him see reason. She doesn't care for silly rules and understands the art of compromise. Young Thal has the heart of a typical mischievous schoolboy but feels the pressure of being the heir to the Dukedom and the frustration of being smothered by doting family who see him as sickly. Only Callie understands Thal's frustration and knows enough not to fuss over him. Her quiet personality leads her to observe things and when she has her own children, she can use that skill wisely, along with the love and laughter and open door policy Jane brought into their home. Peter is still very young and unaware of his sisters' activities but has strong opinions about kissing- as most 8 year old boys do LOL!

Not family but just as close as are Tuny Bateman and Julian and Meredith, now Lord and Lady Belfort. Tuny is wise beyond her years most of the time but inexperienced in love. I think she protests too much about a certain gentleman. The art auction is very telling and I do believe Belle is right. She could be right about the motivation behind the auction battle but have the wrong motive. I can't wait for Matthew to hear about THAT! Hopefully Charlotte can keep him from going ballistic and scaring away Tuny's would-be suitors. Julian has grown on me now he's less obsessed with the advancement of his career. Meredith is still pretty cool and detached, much like a cat. Fortune may be old but she still knows her due and woe betide anyone who doesn't appreciate her as they ought to. The old girl still knows a good man from a bad one. The Dryden family butler is also a good friend. He's almost like a grandfather to the girls and rooting for Callie.

Fritz's family doesn't have much to do here. Leo pops in and out but doesn't do anything. The King os off trying to get his country back. Instead of family, Leo is surrounded by his Guardsmen and the Lord Chamberlain. Lawrence, the Lord Chamberlain, is an overly fussy man. He's agasht at Fritz's unorthodox behavior. Turn down vouchers to Almacks? The horror! He doesn't share Fritz's feelings for animals. Someone is leaking rumors to the gossip columns and it HAS to be Lawrence! Who else knows they spurned Almacks and who else would complain about the treatment of servants? Is he a traitor too? Wyss, second in command to Fritz, is funny. He's almost like a brother to Fritz. While he's willing to lay down his life for his country, but not so much a petty duel. Even though he's technically subservient to Fritz, he can still tell it like it is. Wyss sees Callie's worth. Tanner is a character. All the guardsmen at least see Callie as a beautiful woman and Wyss understands she's clever.

Who are the enemies threatening to destroy the Batavarian royals plans for regaining their country? Mr. von Mandelsoh, from one of the embassies, is a sneaky, oily sort of man. He does not seem trustworthy. Jane can sense it, Callie sees it but is he the man they're after? What about Lord Wellmanton? He seems suspicious but claims not to know anything about any plots. He may be lying but I think he's innocent of wrongdoing. He doesn't seem very clever and as he points out, he doesn't have much motive. His wife, on the other hand, has reason to hate Callie and want revenge. I'd be looking more closely at her. What of their son, Robert? He's evasive and when we finally meet him, he seems like a typical young man about town who thinks highly of himself but isn't very worthwhile. He comes across as stupid and lazy. I think Callie is chasing the wrong men. The MASTER might be LADY Wellmanton, hiding behind her husband or son. Or is the villain Herr von Grub who the ladies suspected all along? My money is on Lady Wellmanton. She's the biggest gossip in London, has the motive to want to ruin Callie and possibly the Batavarians as well. Her family has the means and opportunity too. Never trust a gossippy older woman to behave fair and square.

Meredith, Julian and Fortune all play a secondary role in this story so probably begin with Always Kiss at Christmas. The other Fortunes' Brides characters are mentioned with only Matthew Bates (Never Vie for a Viscount, Never Kneel to a Knight) having a walk-on role. You might also want to read Secrets and Sensibilities, Art and Artifice and The Artist's Healer but it isn't necessary. Characters from those books make an appearance through their artwork instead of in person. I was happy to see Lady Emily (now married, happily I assume) get the recognition for her battle painting she so deserved. Hannah, too, gets the success she deserves. Abigail is unknown to me.

I loved this story so much! I appreciate seeing a heroine with my exact learning disability. It's rare and no one ever talks about it because verbal=high funtioning in terms of school. Poor math skills? Oh she just doesn't like math because it doesn't come easy. Clumsy? She needs to pay more attention. Can't dance/modern day equiavlent? She just needs to practice. I feel for Callie and I know as she matures socializing will become easier but she'll still need to go home to the country with her books, her pets and her husband to recharge. The story is interesting and sweet as well. It's just the right sort of soothing story to read before bedtime on a winter's day when the world outside has gone crazy! Historically correct police may nitpick some of the details and one major action scene but I enjoy this series for what it is- nice escapism from reality. I bet Callie would agree that Sir Walter Scott's books are the same for her.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

What to Read In Quarantine

 What to Read in Quarantine

Are you sick and self-isolating or keeping your distance from others (please?!)? I have just the book to take you on an escape from the crazy world we live in. Another gem from Regina Scott! 

Never Pursue a Prince (The Wedding Vow, #1)Never Pursue a Prince by Regina Scott-- Traditional Regency Romance 

Thank you to Regina Scott for the advanced copy of the e-book. All opinions expressed in this review are all my own and not affected by the giveaway.


Lady Larissa Dreyden, eldest daughter of the Duke of Wey, her little sisters Lady Calantha and Lady Belle and their friend Petunia Bateman have made a vow to marry before the fall harvest. After a delayed comeout and three Seasons, Larissa is no closer to finding the prince she insisted she would marry. It was a silly vow, made when she was younger but her sisters and friend won't let it go. Hence the reason they are attending a reception to meet the King of Batavaria and unmarried sons, Crown Prince Otto and Frederic Archambault. As she waits in line to meet the foreign royals, Larissa meets a charming, handsome Batavarian guardsman. He entertains Larissa with an anecdote about the king but then his behavior changes and he whisks Larissa into a dark corner! The guardsman insists there was danger afoot and sends Larissa for help. When she finally meets the king and his son, Crown Prince Otto, she's dismayed to see her guardsman lied to her. He's actually the crown prince. She's furious and cold to the prince. Crown Prince Otto Leopold Augustus, Leo to his friends, has his reasons for the deception. His brother, Fitz, the actual Captain of the Guards, fears for Leo's safety and feels he can better handle a threat by switching places. Leo relishes the chance to do something worthwhile for a change. He's captivated by the lovely Lady Larissa and refuses to believe his brother's suspicions that the Duke of Wey's family may be enemies of the Batavarian court. He'll just have to call on the ladies to get to know them better to make sure... Soon the threat to the Batavarian crown becomes all too real and Leo must trust Larissa and her sisters to help him figure out who is behind the threats. As they work together, they come to know one another better but what will she do when she finds out he lied? What does he have to offer without a country, a home, an income? First he must uncover the dangerous enemy and win back his family's land before he can think of marriage. However, if he is successful in earning the sympathy of King George and regains his country, he will have to do his duty and marry according to his station. What is he going to do about his feelings for Larissa when and if it comes to that?

This is another winner from Regina Scott! I loved her early Regencies, I really liked her Fortune's Brides series and was eager to stay with the characters and see what happens to the young girls as they grow up. The plot has everything worthy of a Hallmark mystery movie. There is intrigue and romance aplenty to please any traditional Regency romance lover. It's not at the level of Georgette Heyer of course but if you like the old school style of Regency romance Heyer's copycats in the 70s-early 2000s published by the dozens under Signet and Zebra's Regency romance lines then you will enjoy this one too. The romance is naturally predictable but that's not why we read them is it? We read them for the journey and this journey was what I needed at the moment. I loved the intrigue and just when it was time to shut down my computer for the night, it got exciting. I was good and shut down until the next day. I was dismayed by the ending and can't wait for the next one!

When I read Never Doubt a Duke I did not care for the 10-year-old Larissa. She was haughty, snooty and rude to Jane. Now she's a young adult she's better able to express her thoughts and the reader gets to know her better. She's far more empathetic at 23 than 10. At 10 she merely echoed what she had been taught by her mother and grandmother. At 23 she's old enough to think for herself. She's confused because she feels she must live up to the expectations her mother and grandmother had for her, especially since they're both gone. As the daughter of a Duke, Larissa's mother married a Duke and nothing less than that would do for her daughter. When Jane arrived, she brought a different way of thinking and brought the love and light into their lives. (a la Maria Von Trapp-cue "Edleweiss") Wirh adulthood and the age of reason, Larissa is torn between duty and a longing for happiness. Can both be accomplished if she marries a prince? So far, the answer is no. She also feels pressure to look after her little sisters, especially Callie. That's a lot of weight on her shoulders and I completely understand how it feels to be the oldest and have all the expectations placed on your shoulders. Larissa grows and matures as the story goes on. She gains self-confidence and learns when and how to use her father's title as a weapon. She uses it to deflect unwanted attention and to gain attention. I liked watching her change personalities when she needed to but she's not a good actress! If she's going to stay involved in intrigue she better learn some new skills.

Larissa's relationship with her sisters and their friend Tuny is heartwarming. Callie and Belle were so young when their mother died they don't even remember her. To Callie and Belle Jane is their mother. They don't feel the weight of expectations Larissa feels which is a good thing because Callie is a shy introvert. She loves to read, hates large crowds of people, prefers staying home to going out, is a champion of animals and is very observant. I think we could be best friends since we're pretty much the same person. Callie is socially awkward and dreams more of books than romance. She still has the adorable habit of blurting out whatever comes into her head, usually when she's nervous. I can relate to that too LOL! Belle is now the awful sister. She's flirtatious and all she thinks about is marriage. She's young, 18, and hasn't yet had the benefit of more than one Season to give her wisdom. Tuny is more like a companion than a sister. No one pays any attention to her other than Larissa, Callie and Belle. She doesn't even go with them everywhere. She seems content with that and understands her place. She's a good friend and offers wise advice. How heartbreaking that she likes a man who doesn't return her regard. Tuny deserves happiness after all she's been through. I can't wait to find out what happened to her stepmother and how Tuny fared living with her brother and Charlotte and their daughters after Ivy married. I loved it when she threatened a prince with her brother! 

Meredith and Fortune are still around, chaperoning the Duke of Wey's daughters. Alaric and Jane are in the country with their eldest son who is sickly and trust Meredith with the girls. There are still some who don't accept Meredith but she is just as cool and haughty as ever. Fortune is getting older (how old IS she after 13 years? The Dowager Duchess of Wey has died but not the cat?) and still discerning. She's a little more fussy now she's old and doesn't have the patience for nonsense. In this novel we see her do something she's never done before! How shocking! Julian plays a larger role in this novel. He's less of a jerk since he ditched his boss and chose Meredith. He's tough like his old boss but not rude. Julian is willing to help the Batavarian royals because Fortune and Larissa want him to. Fortune's tail is law! Jane and Alaric show up towards the end. She's great! Watching her grill Larissa's suitor was so much fun! She's still not very ducal and admits she hasn't yet got the hang of being a Duchess but no one cares. She's refreshing and fun. Alaric is a loving father now and wants his girls to be happy just as he and Jane are. New to the family since we last saw them is Thal, eldest son of Jane and the Duke of Wey. He's a typical schoolboy and a good ally for his sisters. We haven't yet met Peter, the youngest child, who is only 8. Other characters from the Fortune's Brides series have cameos and those who aren't here are mentioned by name.

Newcomers to the series and to England are the Batavarian royals. King Frederick of Batavaria was the big loser at the Congress of Vienna. His kingdom was swallowed up by Würtemburg and he wants it back. Determined to gain the ear of King George, he will use any means within his power. He's arrogant and not a very good father. Only the eldest son can be named prince and therefore, the youngest must work for a living. Leo, the crown prince, is masquerading as the captain of the guard for his own safety. He's bored with diplomacy and talk, talk, talk all the time. He's eager for some action but gets more than he bargained for on this trip. He also meets an intriguing daughter of a duke who seems to take his brother into aversion! Leo is a sweetheart. He's devoted to his family and his kingdom. He truly wants to help the people and isn't motivated by power and prestige. He's kind and caring with Larissa and her sisters. Leo even treats Tuny well. I liked watching him investigate with Larissa. He respects her knowledge and allows her to take the lead role in their investigations because he knows she knows more about the social life of London than he does. He doesn't go all arrogant prince on her and insist on being in command. Nor does he feel like he has to fall on his sword for her. He grows and changes throughout the story as Larissa does. His only fault is ... he's lying and that I can't countenance. I hate stories based on deception even if it's for a noble cause. It's a good thing he's such a nice person otherwise or I wouldn't have enjoyed this story as much as I did. I would have liked more talking to Larissa about the problem and more fallout. Not drama, but just more discussion. Maybe off page? Fritz is the dark to Leo's light. Fritz, as a guard, is suspicious of everyone but seems especially suspicious of Larissa. Why is that? Could it be because she repeatedly snubs him? He's an arrogant jerk who thinks he's God's gift and Larissa sees right through it. He might even be behind some of the mysterious events happening around the Batavarian royals. Callie, usually so observant, seems to see a different side of him. He does support the RSPCA so maybe he's not so bad after all?

At the end there is a preview of Callie's story and I am dying to read it NOW! I highly recommend this new series to traditional Regency romance lovers.



Wednesday, December 8, 2021

What to Read This Winter

 What to Read This Winter
While staying safe at home...

How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1)How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1) by Cynthia Kuhn--Cozy Mystery




Thank you to Crooked Lane and NetGalley for an e-ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed in my review are my own and not affected by the giveaway.
2.5 stars


Emma Starrs has returned to her hometown in Colorado to help her sister Lucy run their family's bookstore, Starlit books. When Emma learns the store is experiencing financial difficulty and may be forced to close, she's heartbroken. Her parents put so much of their lives and love into the store before their retirement and untimely deaths. She would hate to see it close. Quickly, Emma starts brainstorming ways to save the store from ruin and settles on using her event planning expertise from graduate school to help bring more people into the store. Her first client is her high school mean girl, Tabitha Louise Saxton Lyme Harmon Gladstone Baxter (she's been through a lot of husbands) who needs an event planner for a murder mystery party she and her husband are throwing the next day. Emma readily agrees to Tabitha's terms in spite of the woman's animosity and unreasonable demands. Then the murder mystery party turns all too real when Emma discovers Tabitha's husband's dead body lying on a chaise lounge at the end of the party. When Emma's Aunt Nora's fingerprints are found on the chair and her long running feud with Trip, the Dean of Arts and Humanities at the college where Nora teaches writing, becomes known, Tabitha starts accusing Nora and Emma of murder. Tabitha will stop at nothing to ruin Emma and Emma refuses to allow it. She wants to search for clues but another party awaits. Another writing professor, the eccentric Calliope demands Emma plan her an Edgar Allen Poe party for her in-store reading of her latest book. Calliope turns out to be as demanding as Tabitha! Then a newcomer to the space next door makes trouble and Emma finds herself in the thick of another murder investigation. She has an alibi but senses the police don't believe her. It's up to Emma to clear her name and save her family's store.

This book is nothing like Jenn McKinlay's. It lacks the warmth and humor of her novels. The only thing it has in common is books, book-related events and of course it's a cozy mystery. I'm not familiar with Kate Carlisle to speak to any similarities there. This story didn't appeal to me all that much. I wanted to like it, being a bibliophile, a former English major and a former Poe fan. The plot fell short of the mark for me. First I couldn't stand all the mean girl drama. I'm so over that. These women are 30 years old and still act like they're in high school. It's never fully explained exactly WHY Tabitha hates Emma so much. Perhaps because Emma stands up for herself and has accomplished her goals but chosen a different path? For some reason Tabitha is a vindictive *itch to Emma and I got super tired of her and her wannabes. I was also not able to follow the academic side of the mystery. There were too many people involved and they were all suspects in the murder investigation. Finally, I felt the creep factor was too high. Why is this book set at Halloween for a December release and did it have to feature a scary haunted house? There's a REASON I don't go to those things, watch horror movies and read ONLY cozy mysteries. I don't need horror in a cozy mystery. It's not what I would expect either. The body count was too high with no remorse or pause for reflection. It's just mentioned kind of offhand these people were dead. The murderer attempts murder on even more people which is nuts!

A few minor tweaks would make this book stronger. Memo to author and editor: It isn't polite to describe someone by their race or ethnicity. ONE character is referred to as African American, which by the way, should be Black or state the country she immigrated from. NONE of the characters are described as European or Caucasian in any way. How about the woman with the deep chocolate skin and tiny braids? The woman with the blond chingon? for trite descriptions.

I like Emma well enough but she isn't really the most warm person. She's private about her feelings and her business but friendly an outgoing enough to people she feels comfortable with. She's very kind to her sister Lucy. I admire how Emma stands up for herself and doesn't let the mean girls get to her. She knows they must feel insecure about themselves to put down others but she never tries to figure out why Tabitha is such a *itch to her. It's also not entirely explained why she sees Jake as a nemesis. I think he's supposed to be her Gilbert Blythe? Mr. Darcy? (She claims their mother read them L.M. Montgomery's books over and over but any true fan would say Lucy Maud Montgomery and not L.M. or even Maud. Their shop cat's name is Anne Shirley but it's not enough to make me like cats). Lucy is a total sweetheart. She's more shy and more easily overwhelmed than Emma. Lucy didn't have the opportunity to have the life experiences Emma has had. Lucy is an angel for running the shop after their parents were killed but she doesn't seem to have the business experience necessary or the energy needed to do everything by herself. Their Aunt Nora pays the mortgage for them. As a successful mystery writer and a faculty member at Silvercrest College, she seems to have money but isn't wealthy enough to float the store. I wish it was explained better why the store was in trouble. E-books? People moving out of the area? Competition from a big box store in Denver? Amazon?

Tabitha of many names is a world class you know what as I've mentioned before. She seems to think she's living in 19th-century England where she's a Duchess and treats Emma like Emma is a lowly maid. Emma is doing Tabitha a huge favor and the woman doesn't even say thank you! Tabitha doesn't like books so I knew right off the bat she was not going to be a likable character. Also she keeps her dog in her purse and then the dog is dropped from the plot until the final scene. That is NOT someone I'd even want to work for no matter how much the money was needed. Her minions aren't any better. They look and dress just like Tabitha and parrot everything she says. None of them have personalities. Melody's husband, Bruce, is a boor. Ainsley seems OK. She sells scented soap on Etsy (a-choo) and I feel sorry for her because her husband ignores her. I don't think any of them are happily married. Felicity is a one-woman echo but is sadly the nicest of them all. She might be OK if she could grow a brain. Tabitha's husband Trip seemed nice, if a bit of a lush but he may have been up to something shady at the college. Still, he didn't deserve to be murdered. Tabitha doesn't seem to be mourning him one bit. I think she killed him. Ian Gladstone, Tabitha's ex, is a selfish twit stuck in his teen years. He isn't respectful or thoughtful in any way. I suspect he may still be into Tabitha and she has something to do with his appearing on the scene next door. I think he killed Tip to get what he wanted.

Other chief suspects are from the college. Nora's colleagues are on some sort of a committee which isn't explained until later. They're sharply divided on some plan and Tip was in favor of the side opposing Nora's faction. Able Holley is annoying, snippy and always unhappy about something. I don't think he likes change. ANY change, even positive. Why is that? Tip was on his side but something could have changed. Dodd Simpson is just as bad. I think he likes to stir up trouble by being deliberately obtuse. Nora's side includes Bethany Manzano, the department chair, a nice older woman. She's a bit eccentric but DOLLS ARE NOT CREEPY! Some of hers seem a little creepy but on the whole dolls are not creepy and doll lovers don't give away their beloved friends. That part of her personality didn't ring true to me. Because she's a fellow doll lover, I don't suspect her of murder. Katrina Andrews and Farley Jennings are also on Nora's side but neither of them have much to say for themselves. Farley seems nice enough. Prescott and Cornelia Abernathy are married but have opposite personalities. She seems nice and not "woo woo" just because she likes yoga. Prescott is type-A and likes hard facts and figures- data. That's not a bad thing either but he's whiny about it. I don't seem him smothering anyone with a pillow though.

Calliope Nightfall is the most eccentric of the college writing faculty. A goth and Poe enthusiast, her latest book is inspired by Poe's Annabel Lee. At first I liked her. She's eccentric and quirky and seemed fun. Then she turned into author-zilla and was as bad as Tabitha in the way she treated Emma. Her horror-Poe themed event sounds too creepy for my taste.

Caterer Vivi Yang is a lot of fun. She's a whirlwind of energy and has so many creative ideas. Vivi is a big help to Emma but I can't help but be suspicious. She was at the murder mystery party and Tabitha wasn't very nice to her either. A writing group meets at the bookstore and invites Emma to join. Tevo Akina and Alyssa Clarkston seem nice and like positive people but not super reliable. Jake Hollister, their leader, is a successful crime writer, a detective AND Emma's high school writing rival. As her critique partner, he was always critical and made her feel unworthy. She isn't sure how she should feel about him now. He seems a bit egotistical and like he could go on a power trip slashing through manuscripts with a red pen. His new career as a detective comes out of nowhere and he's sneaky about it. Mr. egomaniac dismisses Emma's concerns and thoughts about something that may be connected to the murder. I sense he's going to be Emma's future love interest. Lucy's love interest, Ryan, a theatrical lighting guy, is much nicer. He's kind, listens and is very helpful. Plus he's willing to dress up in Regency costume! Detective Trujillo seems fair. He listens to Emma and listens when Tabitha is rude. Yes he suspects Emma and Nora but the evidence DOES point to Nora and Emma.

I would be open to another book in the series because the conflicts I disliked seem to be resolved. If the author can dial back the body count and creep factor a lot more. How about a nice Jane Austen party for Lucy?
 


Monday, October 4, 2021

A New Book Worth Reading or What to Read While STILL Social Distancing

A New Book Worth Reading 
or 
What to Read While STILL Social Distancing 

A View Most Glorious by Regina Scott--Inspirational Historical Romance

Thanks to Revell publishing and Regina Scott for the advanced review copy of the book. All opinions expressed in my review are entirely my own and not affected by the giveaway


Coraline Baxter is one of the most sought after socialites in all of Tacoma, Washington and wants nothing to do with marriage or dependency on a man. It's 1893 and in spite of a nationwide Panic (recession), she attended college and holds a job at her stepfather's bank, something she's proud of. Cora's mother, on the other hand, feels the overwhelming need to marry Cora off to a wealthy bachelor ASAP! Which is why Cora is standing in a seedy tavern searching for a man who can lead her up a mountain safely. Cora intends to climb Mount Rainer to promote women's suffrage and if she makes it to the summit, she has a deal with her mother to remain unmarried. Nathan Hardee has been through with society since they turned their backs on him after his father took his own life during a financial setback. He's seen spoiled debutantes before and he assumes Cora is no different so he refuses her request to take her to the top of the mountain. However, when he learns of her mother's plan to wed Cora to Cash Kincaid, Nathan relents. He'd rather lead Cora up a mountain than see her (or anyone) married to that scoundrel Kincaid. However, when Nathan demands Cora obey him in all things during the trip, she refuses. Cora, having seen how her mother struggled to support them and relied on men for help, Cora knows that life is not for her. She won't OBEY anyone. Does she have it in her to allow Nathan to guide her safely up the mountain? Can he accept her headstrong nature and still guide her up the mountain?




At over 350 pages this story is LONG! The exciting mountain climbing part only accounts for about 20 pages plus a few more before and after. The rest is more romance heavy. The beginning of the novel starts off slow. The characters annoyed me and I had a hard time getting into it. I read about 100 pages in one night and put the book down just fine. I picked it up the next night and read 100 more pages and felt let down because the action was over. The third night I pushed to finish the book. It didn't make me smile or clap or feel anything special but I enjoyed the story anyway. I especially like how the historical and geographical details are woven seamlessly into the story. Scott never steps out of her story to explain why there's a recession (Panic of 1893). She skillfully shows us Tacoma. We get to see both the glittering society and the out of work laborers agitating for their rights. I appreciate seeing both sides of the recession. We also get to see humble folks who live in the shadow of the mountain and truly love it. The geographical details are outstanding, helped along by the gorgeous promotional materials sent by the publisher. I've been to the Alps in Switzerland so I kind of have an idea of what it feels like to sit in the hot springs looking up at the mountains and how it looks and feels to stand on top of a glacier. (Fortunately no climbing is necessary today!) I loved the part of the book set in what's now Mount Rainier National Park and wished there was MORE of that and LESS romantic drama. I really enjoyed learning about the mountain. It is awesome in the true sense of the word! It was fun learning about another part of the country that feels like a totally different planet from my sea level east coast home.




The romance was predictable and unnecessarily long. It's a romance novel- we know what's going to happen LOL! There's a villain though and I had to skip to the end to see how the villain was vanquished or if, because this is an inspirational novel, the villain had to be redeemed. Fortunately for me, the "inspirational" bits seemed shoehorned in. They weren't necessary to the plot and I didn't really understand the point. Cora's revelation seemed out of character and pointless. I skimmed right over all that and the story worked out just fine without it.

The characters are well done for the most part. At first I didn't like Cora very much. Even though I'm in total agreement with her I found her personality abrasive. She's very cool and analytical at times and completely independent, which I admire, but she lacked empathy for others, particularly her mother. I must be getting old if I feel bad for the MOTHER who is one of the "villains" of the piece. Cora's mother is unyielding, Cora takes after her, but Mrs. Winston is the complete opposite of Cora in her approach to life. Mrs. Winston has had a really tough life. I would have liked more background information. Who is she that she had to marry two scoundrels and raise her daughter on her own before finding a wealthy man to take care of her. Mrs. Winston comes from a different generation. Her only options in life were marriage or teaching/spinsterhood. In the 1890s, there are more opportunities for women thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the emerging women's rights movement. Mrs. Winston doesn't quite understand this and Cora never tries to explain. Mrs. Winston thinks - because that's all she knows- marriage to a wealthy man is the only way for a woman to survive. She doesn't seem to be a good judge of character based on her first two husbands. She doesn't know anything about anyone except the superficial and people see what others let them see. Cora and her mother both have the same goal in mind, they just approach it different ways and don't see eye to eye. I relate to Cora butting heads with her mother and when my mom gets like that, I just tune her out and zone out. I wanted a little more understanding between them. What happened was pretty simplistic.

Cora's stubbornness didn't endear her to me either, at first. When your professional mountain climbing guide tells you he's going to order you about to SAVE YOUR LIFE you don't argue. I'm stubborn and independent too but even I wouldn't turn down a guide who promised to order me around. Yeesh. She improves upon acquaintance though once she fully understands the magnitude of the climb. It was pretty shocking to read how simple she seemed to think mountain climbing was. Once her adventure got underway she settled down and allowed Nathan to guide her. She knew she had to in order to reach the summit and achieve her goal. The whole time she starts to unbend. I like how sweet she is with her stepfather. He's more like a grandfather in the way he dotes on her. Their relationship is touching and I like watching it grow. I do wish Mr. Winston would stand up to his wife though.

Nathan Hardee is a good guy. I liked him right away. He's a little bit rough around the edges but I appreciate that. He chose to leave society behind and move out to the wilderness. He's happier there and more at peace. I appreciate how he tells it like it is and how he refuses to change who he is for someone else. I don't think the romantic journey in the last third was necessary for him at all. The first third was fine. I wasn't crazy about his thoughts on Cora's beauty at first but he soon comes to know her better and realize she isn't just a pretty face. She's kindhearted, passionate, determined (yes stubborn and independent). They're actually a lot alike! They come from the same background with similar backstories. Their mothers are essentially the same person but Nathan has come to accept friends among the Indians, farmers and other people in the wilderness. He rejects all society has to offer. Cora isn't quite there yet but I felt she should have been by the time she came down from the mountain. Nathan's compassion for others and his sense of honor really make him a standout hero. Like his friend Waldo, I was rooting for him to win over Cora. However, Waldo, as kind as he is, is meddling and I don't appreciate meddling. He needs to let Nathan and Cora work things out on their own. He's so sweet and humble he doesn't understand that marriage among society people is complicated. It's not about love, at least not entirely. Nathan understands this. Cora is trying to accept it but still dreams of love.

Cash Kincaid is Cora's suitor and her mother's choice for perfect husband. He's charming and a wealthy businessman. He claims to support Cora's cause but she knows him better than he thinks she does. He's a typical wrong suitor in a period romance and the perfect villain for this sort of story. There's more to him than meets the eye. Cora's mother naturally adores him because she can't see past his good looks and good manners. She loathes Nathan just because he chooses to dress like a backwoodsman and doesn't stay at hotels along the trail. Cash loathes Nathan for personal reasons and probably because he can see Nathan is becoming a threat to his pursuit of Cora.

Nathan's friends are lovely. Henry So-To-Lick and his wife Sally are awesome. Henry is wise and loving. I adore him and Sally together. They're so comfortable together and so happy. She's brave, strong and wholeheartedly supports women's suffrage. (Sadly, as an indigenous woman, she won't be allowed to vote in her lifetime). Their sons, Wickersham and Thomas, know their dad's feelings on the name of the mountain but rather than roll their eyes or make excuses to change the topic, they just laugh. I like a family that can laugh with each other. At the least the "Bostons" TRIED to have the mountain named after an indigenous word even if it was inaccurate. It's better than naming it after some random friend of the British explorer who chose the English name for the mountain. Henry and his family have different opinions and they respect each other's opinions and respect the conversation. It was refreshing to read about a debate that didn't get heated and end in shouting. Imagine that!

The Longmire clan are equally lovely. James and Virinda and their huge family take in travelers and basically invented the air bnb. Elcaine, the oldest son, is serious and literal minded. He's quick to take action when needed and a loving family man. Susan Longmire already climbed the mountain, proving women can do it. I bet she did it more easily than most men too. She's a hardy farm woman and lives on the land. Cora's friend Mimi is a delight. Intelligent and fiercely pro-women's suffrage, she runs circles around everyone, especially the brainless men who don't even know when they're being insulted. I love her and want to be her friend!

I'm glad I took a chance on this book and recommend it to those who like "sweet" romantic adventure stories and want to learn more about another place and time in American history.




The publisher sent these gorgeous promotional materials! If you would like a vintage style postcard, please leave a message in the comments with an e-mail address so I can contact you. I have two of each style to give away!

Banned Books Week 2021

 Banned Books Week 2021




Jump Ship to FreedomJump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier--Older Middle Grades Historical Fiction

Daniel Arabus and his Mum are enslaved by Captain and Mrs. Ivers of Stratford, Connecticut colony and wishing to be free. They SHOULD be free as Daniel's Daddy served in the Revolutionary War and earned the money to buy his freedom. Instead of being grateful Daniel's dad served in his place, Captain Ivers seizes the soldiers' promissory notes given to those who served to be exchanged for paper money soon... eventually... maybe once the Congress in Philadelphia gets around to deciding what they're going to do now they're free from British rule. Daniel and his mother can't wait for the white men to decide. They want to be free, deserve to be free, ARE free but Mrs. Ivers is hiding the money and carrying on as usual. When Daniel steals back the notes, he puts into action a sequence of events that could end with him being dead at the bottom of the ocean or sold into slavery in the West Indies to be worked into an early grave. He's determined not to let that happen for the sake of his mother. She deserves her freedom after the heartache of losing her man to war and finally death. Daniel vows to escape to New York where his family has friends but what will happen once he arrives? What if his journey is all for naught?

This book is one of the top banned books of the 1990s. Published in 1981, written by history scholars, it must have been one of the earliest children's historical fiction novels to honestly portray slavery and racism in the years following the Revolutionary War. The fact this book is set so early and set in New England makes it unusual even today. As a result of much scholarship and debate, the authors modernized most of the language with the exception of the word used to describe Daniel and other people of African descent. They actually DO go there and use THAT word- the mother of all banned words - "n____." Daniel even uses it to describe himself because that's all he's ever heard. Daniel also continually thinks and says White people are smarter than he is. Therefore, lazy parents who don't bother to read the whole book, want this one banned. I didn't like Daniel's lack of self-esteem and the way he kept putting himself down. I do agree that it could be damaging to the self-esteem of young Black students, but it's not a reason not to read the book. We can't know if that's the way enslaved people in the 1770s thought of themselves. Given that many like Daniel's father, fought and died for the new Republic, some probably didn't but Daniel is just out of childhood at 14. He's been told and retold his whole life how White people know more, know better than him. Not even his friendship with the nephew of his enslaver shows Daniel the value of his own thoughts.

Other parents might object to the way Daniel continually lies and breaks the law but if they bother to read the book, Daniel lies to save his life! Slavery in the Caribbean was an automatic death sentence. Work in the sugarcane fields was grueling and hot. The life expectancy of an enslaved person was extremely short. Plus Daniel has his mother to worry about.

This is a coming of age story about a young enslaved boy. As he goes on his journey towards freedom he learns a lot. He learns valuable life skills involved in being a sailor when he had assumed it was mostly standing around singing sea shanties. He learns about the new government forming and what that means for him. He discovers while some Whites are not as horrendous as his enslaver, most really don't care enough to end slavery right now. The Constitution was a COMPROMISE -and a bad one- favoring the southern states. Without them, we would be a loose collection of states, like Europe but tiny, each with their own laws. That would be problematic for many reasons and not to mention the fact the northerners really didn't care about ending slavery any more than the southerners did. It was mainly only Quakers and other fringe religious fanatics like Mr. Fatherscreft.

Some Black readers may object to the character of Tom, a Black man who is nasty and vindictive towards his own race. He wants to be important to Captain Ivers and the White crew so he capitulates and does what they want in order to be respected. I think it's implied he also goes behind their back and helps himself to cargo to sell but is smart enough not to get caught because they trust him.

As the story goes on, Daniel grows in confidence. He learns not to denigrate himself and his race. He STOPS using the very bad n_ word and switches to "negro" which is not so acceptable nowadays either but is more respectful. Daniel learns how to be a man, how to think for himself and make concessions in order to get what he wants in the long run.

I thought the plot started off a little slow and I had a hard time getting past Daniel's constant thoughts about "What do I know? I'm just a ___?" and "White peoples is smarter than us. Once Daniel is on board the ship, the story picks up and it becomes difficult to put down. The writing style is a little stilted and boring. It's not the BEST book about slavery at this time I've ever read and I'd say The Seeds of America Trilogy: Chains / Forge / Ashes is much better written but for the time, this book must have been groundbreaking and shocking. I actually can't think of any other books besides Seeds of America and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons that even tackle the subject of slavery. I have a feeling this one is going to end up on the banned anti-Critical Race Theory book list if it's still in schools. It's not there yet.Central York (Pa.) Banned Book Club

No, the book offers no redemption for Captain Ivers. He was arrogant and greedy and nearly lost everything but he still will stop at nothing to get his "PROPERTY" back. That's all Daniel is to him. That's the way it was folks. Even the most ardent supporters of the Revolution were ardent supporters of slavery and considered enslaved people property. The authors' note at the end is very good.

A word of caution to devoted fans of the musical Hamilton. Our beloved hero makes a cameo at the end of the novel and let me warn you that he is in no way an admirable or nice man. It was quite a shock but probably more realistic than Lin Manuel Miranda portrays him. He comes across as one of the villains.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Banned Books Week 2021

 Banned Books Week 2021

In this post I will be focusing on Central York Banned Book List. (See below)

My Hair is a GardenMy Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera--picture book

A young Black girl named Mackenzie runs to her neighbor, Miss Tillie for hair help after being teased one too many times at school. Miss Tillie tells Mackzenie how she nurtured the beautiful garden in the backyard and explains how to care for Black hair to keep it healthy and beautiful. The back matter contains tips on how to care for Black hair.

I liked the metaphor of the garden and the beautiful illustrations but this book didn't hit the mark for me. I'm not the intended audience. I also didn't understand why Mackenzie's mother doesn't know what to do with Mackenzie's hair. That's never fully explained. The journey towards healthy hair Miss Tillie takes with Mackenzie provides good lessons for anyone, not just girls with hair like Mackenzie's.

Banned because.....? This book affirms the identity of Black girls and gives them confidence to wear their hair naturally. Is that a bad thing?


Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie GermainNothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe--picture book

I've never heard of her! What a formidable team she would have made with Ada Lovelace if she had lived a little longer. Sophie Germain was a self-taught mathematician at the time of the French Revolution and Napoleonic France. She figured out how math can explain vibrations and her discovery has led to the building of modern skyscrapers and bridges. She was truly remarkable. I enjoyed the story a lot.

The illustrations are kind of old-fashioned and I like them that way. They're not computer generated or collage style or cartoony. The way the numbers swirl and loop around really adds to the story and emphasizes Sophie's genius. I don't know what they mean though and neither does the illustrator. This book is a good read for all curious minds probably school age and above.

Contains author's note: More about Sophie, "Is this math or science?", Discover the effects of vibration yourself and selected bibliography.

Banned because....? Yes sexist attitudes existed in the 18th and 19th-centuries continuing today. Banning this book is sexist!


Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine DressMorris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino--picture book


Little Morris Micklewhite is a young boy who chooses this tangerine colored dress from the dress-up box at school because of the color. The color reminds him of the sunset, his mom's hair and his cat! He loves the way the dress swishes and his heeled shoes click click across the floor. Other kids at school are mean to him and tell him he can't wear dresses because he's a boy. That makes Morris sad and he gets a tummy ache. While he's recovering at home, his Mommy makes sure he knows she loves him and lets him wear the dress. When he goes back to school he has a fun adventure in his imagination and other kids are jealous. When they come along they see how much fun it is to play with Morris in his imagination and how cool the color of his dress is.

In 2016 a dad in Michigan tried to ban this book because it was 'promoting another life' and may give boys the idea to wear dresses. This dad said his son’s 'right to his freedom of religion wasn’t addressed at all and instead another way of life is just put right in front of him.'

In 2019 this book and three others were challenged by public petition in Orange City, IA's public library. Some conservative and evangelical community members were worried the library was giving away LGBTQIA+ materials to pre-K kids using tax dollars. These people wanted the four books to be shelved separately from other library materials. One local religious activist checked out the four books, then burned them live on Facebook!

I honestly don't understand the fuss. The author doesn't include anything about gender identity or sexuality. Morris is a little boy, like preschool age and has a lovely and lively imagination. We could all learn a lot from Morris about the power of imagination and being true to who we are. He's very sweet and the young reader will feel bad because Morris is being bullied and learn to have empathy for him. The young reader will then learn not to judge others by what they choose to wear. Morris is a good friend to have because he knows how to have fun and that's the only takeaway from the story. Some people need to actually READ the book before they start objecting to it.

Alma and How She Got Her NameAlma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal--Picture Book

Aww this book is so sweet! A young Latina girl, Alma, dislikes her name because it's so long and doesn't fit on a page. Her dad explains how she got her name. She's named after several ancestors and as her dad tells her the family stories, she sees connections between her past ancestors (and her dad) and herself. The story is based on the author's childhood experience of hating her name but learning to love it and embrace it once she immigrated to the U.S. from Peru.

This is the CUTEST, loveliest simple story. Any kid can relate to Alma and family stories are so important. I love that the text is in English (there's also a Spanish language version) but the text within the illustrations is in Spanish so readers have a chance to learn Spanish. Alma's family is from Peru. I enjoyed how the illustrator drew the pictures from a child's perspective. They really look like a kid took crayons and drew her own interpretation of the stories her dad was telling her. They're simplistic but sweet.

I'm stumped to find a reason as to why this one is on the banned list!