Book Review: Sleeping Beauty

Title: Sleeping Beauty, Timeless Fairy Tales #8

Author: K M Shea

Genre: clean Fairy Tale romance

Themes: Duty vs Desire, Nature Vs Nurture, True Love

I just can’t get enough of this series! In the latest one, featuring Briar Rose or Princess Rosalinda, we get a strong, clever, brave heroine who it’s easy to root for.

It starts pretty much like the traditional story. The royal family has a new baby girl but an unexpected guest decides to throw a death curse into the mix to liven up the party. But Shea likes to weave all these fairy tales together into the story of a land that has been cursed so that everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. This one was great because not only did we get a wonderful main character, but we got to learn more about Angelique, the “enchantress in training” who’s been on hand to save the day numerous times.

I’m hoping to cajole K M Shea into doing an interview or guest appearance on my blog, so if you haven’t checked out her books, do it now and if you get a chance tell her Speedy Reader sent you. Crossing my fingers!

 

Meet the Crew!

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Here’s the other thing I’ve been working on besides reading – sewing! I’m still working on quilts for the shelter, but I’ve also been working on soft toys. This picture is of my sewing machine table when my machine was in the shop. I took up crochet instead. As you can tell, I should have stuck to sewing! I like the birds though. The fish is a different story.

Update on Women’s History Challenge

I have not done very well with this challenge. For one thing, I can’t find many women’s history books that really sound interesting. And for another, one of the ones I was looking forward to, turned out to be a dud. I finally finished a YA book that I’m going to count, Ashes by Laurie Halse Andersen. (review to come)

Basically I’ve been busy reading other stuff. But I do have Kepler’s Witch and Passionate Minds to read as well and the month’s not over yet! What are you reading?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

shamrockHappy St. Paddy’s Day! I’m not Irish, even a little bit, but today is a great day to celebrate the contribution of the Irish to literature. In honor of the saint, here’s my list of 7 Great Irish Writers. (List is by no means comprehensive, just a few I wanted to mention.)

7 Great Irish Writers

  1. Oscar Wilde – honestly, can you mention Irish writers without mentioning him? I doubt it. Start with The Importance of Being Earnest, a play that makes his claims to brilliance justified.
  2. Bram Stoker – Dracula is one of the most iconic figures in all literature and film, and we owe it all to this guy.
  3. C. S. Lewis – Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Narnia. But I *LOVE, LOVE, LOVE* The Screwtape Letters. Like, so much. So just read that one.
  4. Eoin Colfer – Have you read Artemis Fowl? IMO the series declines a bit, but the first one is wildly imaginative and funny.
  5. Samuel Beckett – Have you read Waiting for Godot? Even better, have you seen it? So funny, and yet so much more than funny. It’s full of meaning too.
  6. Emma Donoghue – Famous for the searing Room. She has a new one out too, but I haven’t read it yet.
  7. Eugene O’Neill – As an Irish-American, I still think he belongs on this list. A Long Day’s Journey Into Night is my favorite of his works.

A lot of plays on here, I notice. Perhaps the Irish tradition calls for theater? I know there are also a lot of Irish poets, but I’m afraid I’m not really into poetry. I’m more of a genre reader. Anyhow, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Review of Two Vintage Crime Novels

(Above: Homicide squad, NYPD 1970s. Fashion was their true victim.)

Books:

Sick to Death by Douglas Clark

and

End of Chapter by Nicholas Blake

At the end of every month, my library takes all the book sale books and marks them down to $1/bag. At a price like that, it’s easy to just grab several, in the hope that one of them will be a real winner. Both of these books were in my latest haul. Neither was a real winner, but they weren’t a waste of time either.

The first book features a pair of English detectives who don’t like each other paired up to investigate the death of a pretty young diabetic girl. The second features a private gentlemanly type detective called in to find out who’s causing trouble at a English publishing house. Both were written and published in the 1970s.

One definite thing about these books – they are white. Really white. Kind of like that picture up there. Apparently people of color had not been invented in England in the 1970s. Neither had female cops. Women are around, but mostly as victims, secretaries, suspects, nurses, and even – wow – as a publishing executive. So Blake wins on that one, but not by much.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, although odds are small that anyone else will actually read these two. But the books are fairly predictable, and I spotted the murderers without any trouble. Our private eye gets attacked – shock! – but of course, he’s fine. The characters are also predictable, flat, and kinda dull. Motive and solution are pretty straightforward, with again, the edge given to Blake.

I have read some by Blake before – The Widow’s Cruise and Thou Shell of Death were both better than this one – but Clark was a new author. I won’t bother to seek out anything else by these two, but if I find something by them, I think I will read it too. There’s a nostalgic old-fashioned sort of mindlessness in reading books like this. It’s sort of like watching an old episode of Dragnet or something – fun just because it’s so foreign to a modern viewer. 2.75 stars for Clark, 3 for Blake.

 

 

Book Review: Allegedly

Title: Allegedly

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Challenge: Read Diverse Books

Setting: Modern day, not sure about place

Themes: Race, family, criminal justice system, mental illness – just wow, so much going on in here, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.

Story:

Mary is fresh out of prison, what she calls “baby jail.” She’s been stashed there since she was convicted of murder at 9 years old. Which makes no sense, because that’s not at all what would have happened, but this is a book about how messed up things can get. As soon as she’s out, she gets stuck in a group home and given a job working at a nursing home. That’s where she meets Ted, who’s also living in a group home. Now Mary’s pregnant, and if she doesn’t do something, the state will take her baby.

Because Mary was convicted not just of murder, but of murdering a baby. A white baby. And Mary is black.

My Reactions:

This is one messed up book. It’s also really good, so I was torn between wanting, needing to know what happened and having to take break from the horror of it all and where I thought it was going. Everything in this story is so messed up. Her mother is horrible. The workers at the group home don’t care about anyone. The other girls, wow, there’s some seriously bad stuff going on there. But what really made this book good was Mary. Just when you think you have her figured out, the author changes things up and you don’t know what to believe. By the time you get to the ending, you think nothing will surprise you. But you would be wrong.

Would I recommend it? It depends. I admit that I found it so tough to read that I skipped a big chunk in the middle. Then when I got to the ending, I had to go back and read more. But I know that a lot of my friends are not going to be interested in something so dark and grim. I tried to tell my kid about the book (they’re 21), and they found it very upsetting to even hear about it. What hooked me was the mystery aspect of the story – did she or didn’t she? But this is a murder of a BABY, and I should have been more prepared for the emotional impact of that.

Book Review: Revolution

You say you want a revolution, well you know

We all want to change the world.

 

Title: Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy, #2)

Author: Deborah Wiles

Challenge: Women’s History Month, Read Diverse Books

Setting: Mississippi, 1964 – Freedom Summer

Themes: Civil Rights, racial equality, social change, blended families, coming of age

It’s the year when everything changes for three young kids, Sunny, Gillette, and Raymond. It’s a year of revolution, of violence, of triumph, of fear and of hope.

Sunny can’t wait for summer to begin. Swimming at the pool with her friends, going to the movies, listening to The Beatles, visiting her grandma, and going to see A Hard Day’s Night. It’s going to be the best summer of her life.

Until a group of “invaders” come to town and suddenly, her perfect summer becomes something else. People Sunny has known her whole life start acting in new and unpredictable ways. Tempers flare. And the colored folks at the edge of town start showing up in places they’ve never been.

Gillette has a new family, a new father, and a new sister who he just can’t figure out. She doesn’t have any idea how good she’s had it. Meanwhile, he just want wants to play baseball.

Raymond lives in the colored part of town. His parents work at one of the cotton farms, and he helps out by picking cotton in the summer. Now a group of Northerners have come to town and are trying to get everyone riled up. His parents are worried about it, but Raymond figures it’s time for a change. He might be too young to register to vote, but he’s sure like to go to that nice air conditioned movie theater.

I moved around a lot as a kid, mostly living in the Midwest, but also in the South. Never in Mississippi. And as a white woman, I’ve directly experienced racism. But I’ve grown up with it around me, in my schools, in my communities, even in my home. My parents were not overtly racist, but they weren’t perfect either. But I’ve definitely never experienced anything like this.

I loved this book. Her previous book, Countdown, introduced me to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s the same style, combining news stories, photography, and storytelling. Don’t be intimidated by the size of these books. The extra content makes them look bigger than they really are, and both books are pretty fast reads. I would definitely recommend this for kids junior high age and up. I’m anxious to read the next one, which I think will be about the Vietnam War.

 

Book Review: The Spirit Thief

Title: The Spirit Thief (The Legend of Eli Monpress #1)

Author Rachel Aaron

Genre: fantasy with humor (my fave genre right now)

Source: Kindle

“Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.”

Sorry, but I had to start with that quote. It just sums up the book so well. If that description doesn’t make you smile and want to learn more, then this just isn’t the book for you.

Eli is conceited, crafty, and every bit as awesome as he thinks he is. That’s what makes this book so much fun. But I love his friends just as much. The author does a great job of turning your first impressions on their head. The world building is great. I love the explanation for how magic works in this world and the magical creatures that are created.

I tried this series because I enjoyed the Dragon series by Aaron, but I really like this one better. The Dragon series is more geared to teens but this one, while not inappropriate, is a little more grown up. Recommending this one. 4.2 stars

Book Review: Jane Steele

Title: Jane Steele

Author: Lyndsay Faye

Tagline: A Gothic version of Jane Eyre

Setting: Victorian England

Themes: Crime, Redemption, Love, Sacrifice, Justice, Revenge, Retribution

You’ve heard it before – Jane is an orphan. She’s tormented by a cousin and an aunt, then sent to a messed up boarding school, where they’re kept on short rations and tormented by a cruel schoolmaster. She leaves and gets a post as a governess in an unconventional household.

Sounds pretty familiar, right?  But the details are quite different. Her mother is alive at the beginning of the book, her best friend survives school, and oh yeah – Jane Steele kills people.

She starts by shoving her abusive cousin into a ravine. That was more an instinct than premeditated murder, and she was pretty young. But having gotten off to a violent start, Jane makes a habit of removing the obstacles in her life.

All this was very entertaining. I’m not saying I’d be thrilled to have her as a neighbor, but it was a fun story. Once Jane takes a job as a governess, though, things slow way down. The writer tries to keep things lively by throwing in the East India Company and missing jewels, but it still wound up way too slow compared to the first half.

[Spoiler]

The love story was a little incredible too. Sure, I can buy that he could love her governess persona, but when she confesses all? Doubtful.

Overall, I’d say it’s worth reading mostly for the first half. I also liked the writing and all the Jane Eyre quotes at each chapter. Give this one a try, but don’t feel you have to rush to find it.