Lamarck’s Revenge : A Review

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Title: Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present

Author: Peter Ward

I was very pleased to receive this one for review. I am a big science nerd, and learning about epigenetics sounded fascinating. Unfortunately, the writing was not as good as the concept. Much of the data was repetitive, and the book was organized in a very strange way. It wasn’t until I was almost 1/3 of the way through that the book got down to specific examples of epigenetics in action that it really became interesting for me. If you are really interested in the subject, this might appeal to you, but I would bet there are better books out there.

Thanks you to Library Thing and the publisher for giving the me the chance to read this one. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My opinions remain my own.

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Book Quote

“Jez stood on the edge of the small landing pad, wrapped up in pelts, holding a cup of cocoa between her furred mittens. She’d bought her new arctic attire soon after arriving. Her meager possessions had been left behind in a room at the lodging house in Scarwater. Truth be told, despite the temperature, she didn’t need to wear anything at all. The cold didn’t seem to affect her nowadays. But it was essential to keep up appearances: her safety depended on it. Anyone in their right mind would kill her if they knew what she was.”

 

 Retribution Falls, by Chris Wooding

Book Club 2019!

Last night was my first book club meeting of the year. This year I thought it would be fun to share our reads so that you could read along, if you are interested. Or if any of these books catch your attention – on your TBR or ones you’ve already read – be sure to let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you want to find out more about the books, the pictures will take you to the Goodreads page.

Bookends 2019 – by Category this year

January – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyami, my pick! New Author

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February – Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King, Biography

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March – The Rent Collector by Camron Wright, Fiction

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April – Where the Crawdad Sing by Delia Owens, Historical Fiction

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May – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Teens

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June – Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, Self-Help

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July – Web of Deceit by Susan Sleeman, Mystery/Thriller

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August – Educated by Tara Westover, Memoir

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September – Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg, Humor

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October – The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, Children’s book

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November – Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden, Romance

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December – The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing, Classic

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I’m also in another book club, and I’m the one in charge of picking ALL the books! No pressure, right? They need to be appropriate for a church book club but still good reads that will appeal to the group. So far we’ve only had two meetings. We read Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Both were very popular. Our next book is going to be Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley and I’m not sure what we’re reading after that! I need to get organized on that one. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Until next time, happy reading!

Murder at the Mill: a review

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Iris Grey needs a quiet place to work on her art and decide what to do about her failing marriage. She finds just what she needs in Mill Cottage, deep in Hampshire and even featuring a picturesque stream nearby. Things are going pretty well until Christmas time. That’s when the neighbors plan a big holiday party that ends with a body being found floating in the previously mentioned stream.

Iris is right in the middle of events. She was present at the holiday party and has been drawn deep into the neighbors secrets. Now she has to figure out what’s going on before she dies too.

I liked this mystery, but from the description I was imagining a 1930s style house party with servants and sleuths and all. However, this is set in present day. The overall feel of the book is quite different as well. I think the description was rather misleading. I did enjoy this story and I quite like Iris. However the mystery wasn’t all that hard to solve and I’m not sure I would feel compelled to read another in this series.

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

The Bird King: A Review

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. My views remain my own.

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The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Synopsis:

From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

My review:

I was drawn to this one because I have enjoyed some of Wilson’s previous books. This one sounded intriguing, both for the historical aspect and the fantastical element. It took me a little while, but it wasn’t long before I was truly hooked.  I feel like I learned so much from this book. I don’t know much about medieval Spain. This has got the beginning of the Inquisition, and the threat to both our main characters is truly terrifying.

The strongest part of the book is definitely the characters. Both Fatima and Hassan were clearly drawn, fully dimensional characters with believable motives and flaws. I loved their relationship. Then there was the jinn. I liked that he was so untrustworthy, and yet so appealing.

If there was one thing that made this a little bit hard to stick with I think it was the pacing. It seemed a little uneven. But I would recommend it for those who want to try a mix of historical fiction and magical realism.

 

 

To Catch the Conscience of the King: a Review

Disclaimer: I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My views,  however, remain my own.
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To Catch the Conscience of the King: A Novel by Martin White

Trigger Warning: sexual assault and torture.

Synopsis:

“To Catch the Conscience of the King” is set against the background of King Edward II’s downfall and is told from the perspective of Brother Stephen, who, as the king’s confessor, sets out to save the royal soul, but instead places his own in jeopardy.

Set just after the downfall of Edward of Carnarvon in 1327, this story centers around young Brother Stephen who is caught up in the final days of the former king. Brother Stephen witnesses the execution of the king’s reputed lover, Hugh de Spencer. Reeling from the violent spectacle, Brother Stephen becomes ill and is slowly nursed back to health by a lay brother named Jerome.  When Jerome becomes a little obsessive, the abbot decides a separation is the best idea and send Stephen off on a secret mission. Stephen becomes confessor to the imprisoned former king. It’s his job to save the king’s soul.

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Edward II receiving the crown

Review:

I had a hard time getting into this book. It starts with a crowd awaiting the execution of Hugh DeSpencer and then goes into excruciating detail on being assaulted by a crowd, mutilated, then hung until unconscious, disembowelled, and finally pulled apart. It is beyond gruesome, but having gone that far, I decided to finish the book. The story moves at a brisk pace at first. I was a little confused about who was who and what they wanted, but I’m familiar enough with English history to have a basic idea of what’s going on. It felt like so much to keep track of though.

At its heart, this is really a story about the tension between romantic love and love of God. Like Edward, whose doomed love affairs with two young men turned England and the Church against him, Brother Stephen is a homosexual. He has repented and wants to bring the former king the same peace. But Edward refuses to tell the whole story. This tension between the two of the goes on for quite some time in the book.

Although the book wasn’t perfect, I did enjoy it – until it came to the very ending. And that’s when the the book took an unexpected turn that I didn’t expect and didn’t really like. Of course, I can’t tell you more without spoiling it, and it didn’t ruin the book, but I felt it weakened the story quite a bit.

I’m not sure who I would recommend this book for. I did enjoy it, but the complex historical details are not for everyone. This is a debut by this author and I’m curious to see if he writes more.

I’m Back!

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Hello again! It’s been a LONG time – like six months! – but I am finally back. I didn’t mean to be gone so long, but things have been crazy around here and I just couldn’t find the energy to blog.

Here’s the tea: I blog because I want to connect with other readers about the stories we love. It keeps me going. My love for books and getting to talk with others as passionate as I am – that helps me feel less alone.

But i have to balance that with real life, just like everyone does. And when my real life gets too stressful, I just can’t spend time online. Which is unfortunate, because that connection is what helps me get through the stress. But that’s how it goes.

So what was going on that was so important that I couldn’t be here? My daughter almost died. She took an overdose of benzos and wound up in a coma for three weeks. During that time we just waited, waiting to see if she would wake up at all, if she would wake up and recognize us, if she would remember anything, if she would have organ failure, or brain damage, or some other terrible consequence.

The good news is that she did wake up, and she has recovered about 95% from before the overdose. The bad news is that her emotional state remains fragile. I expect another attempt this year. I hope I am wrong. I pray that I’m wrong. But this is not her first attempt, and I don’t think it will be her last.

I had a really hard time sharing that. I have loved having this blog be just about me and the books. It’s simple and clean. But I am not ashamed of mental illness and I know that it festers in darkness and in secret. So I’m being open and vulnerable, in the hopes that someone else will read this and take comfort in knowing that they are not alone. I would love to have a happy ending here, but I don’t have that. Life is messy. It hurts. But it’s very impermanence is what makes it valuable. Fragile things are precious.

So that’s my dramatic story, but the bottom line is that I’m back, I’m reading, I have more stuff to say. If you do want to talk about the mental health stuff, feel free to send me a message or a DM over on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cindy_bohn. We can chat there and I’m happy to listen. Otherwise, I have a back log of books to review and I will be back!

Problematic Books in YA; The Ones that Romanticize Abuse — Reader Fox and a Box of Books

I don’t think I’d normally do this for many books, but something about this one just really bugged me. And I’ve been planning to write a detailed in-depth post series about books like this that exist in YA (mainly) or were inspired by YA (I’m sure everyone can name this book) where abusive relationships are […]

via Problematic Books in YA; The Ones that Romanticize Abuse — Reader Fox and a Box of Books

Weekend reading📓

Hey, it’s Speedy Reader. It’s been an intense week, for lots of reasons, but I have had the chance to start an awesome new nonfiction book. It’s called Life and Death in the Andes by Kim MacQuarrie. It’s a collection of stories, arranged more or less geographically, that cover crime, history, religion, and culture. It really makes me want to visit South America. I’m loving this on audio. Enthusiastic recommendation here! What are you reading?

Limelight: a review

Limelight by Emily Organ (Penny Green #1)

Synopsis

How did an actress die twice?

London, 1883. Actress Lizzie Dixie drowned in the River Thames, so how was she murdered five years later in Highgate Cemetery?

Intrepid Fleet Street reporter Penny Green was a friend of Lizzie’s and Scotland Yard needs her help. Does Penny unwittingly hold clues to Lizzie’s mysterious death? Penny must work with Inspector James Blakely to investigate the worlds of theatre, showmen and politicians in search of the truth.

But who is following her? And who is sending her threatening letters?

Penny is about to discover that Lizzie’s life was more complicated, and dangerous, than she could ever have imagined.

Review

I finished this one yesterday and found myself trying to figure out how I felt about the book. I mean, I didn’t HATE it, but I didn’t like it either. Penny, our MC, has an interesting back story, but I still thought her actions didn’t make a lot of sense.

In the end, I think it was just that writing was pretty – well, average. We only got to really know 2 characters in the book, and they were still a little flat. The pacing was off, all the action occurs in the beginning and the very end. There was a lot of telling, a lot of dialogue, but not much to hint at what characters were actually feeling.

I do enjoy this time period, and I admit to being intrigued by the female reporter angle. But really, there are better Victorian era mysteries out there. I would not recommend this one and I don’t plan on reading more by this author. However, it is a first novel, so it’s possible the series gets better as it goes on. I won’t be bothered to find out.