Review: The Hundredth Queen

Book Review: The Hundredth Queen, Book 1

Author: Emily R. King

Kalinda is an orphan, hoping to pass her trials and stay at the temple and train forever. Unfortunately in her world, benefactors of the temple can come select girls at any time to join their households as servants, as concubines, or as wives. Kalinda is sickly and repeatedly told she is ugly, so she figures her only chance at leaving the temple is as a servant. But when she is chosen to leave, it is as a wife to the rajah. His 100th wife. This is important because the 100th wife has religious significance and the cruel rajah plans to use his marriage to force the other wives and concubines to fight for his favor and win his approval. Such a fight is always to the death.

This book was free as a member of Amazon prime and I was excited because they never have genre fiction. Unfortunately, I was left only confused and unsatisfied. Kalinda is about to be forced into marriage with a cruel man she just met. She’s been raised in a virtual convent. You’d expect there to be some lesbian relationships, even if it’s only hints. But there’s nothing like that. You’d expect her to have some questions about physical relationships with a man, about sex, about, let’s spell it out, rape. There’s not much mention of that either. Her best friend is also forced into marriage with a man against her will and she’s beaten. That gets slight mention, but the sexual assault that the reader knows must be going on? Nothing.

Kalinda is such a special snowflake in this that Captain Deven, her bodyguard, falls in love with her at first sight, and she’s reckless enough to be seen talking to him intimately all the time. Then she’s surprised when he’s caught and punished. The only reason I finished this book is because I was curious about the magical aspect, and that wound up being a little confusing. I will admit that I was sick when I read it, so it might have made more sense and I  might have enjoyed it more on another day. But then again, I might have been more critical, so who can say. All I know is that I wouldn’t recommend it. I got it free and I would have been grumpy if I had paid for it. 2/5 stars.

Standalone Sunday: Into the Heart of Tasmania

Review: Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity

Author: Rebe Taylor

Themes: race, anthropology, class, human evolution, culture

In 1908 it was widely accepted that the last Aboriginal in Tasmania was dead.  Enter Englishman Ernest Westlake, who planned to write about Stone Age implements and tools. Instead he wound up in the middle of a controversy he did not appreciate as he found living history all around him.

I have to admit that I really struggled with this book at first. If I hadn’t agreed to read it for Net Galley, I would have given it up. But I stuck with it, and somewhere around 10% I found it getting interesting. Westlake is not a sympathetic character. He struck me as a rather typical stuffy, pigheaded Victorian gentleman of the time. But the author, Rebe Taylor, was much more engaging when she allowed her personality to come through.

I think this could have been a more interesting book, but as it was I found it difficult to follow and rather dull. I’m not sure who the was intended for, but I doubt it was for average readers like myself. Thanks for the chance to read it.

Top 10 Tuesday

Inspired my recent read, A Lady in the Smoke, which features a railway doctor, I thought I would give my Top 10 Books on Medicine that I would recommend. These are mostly non-fiction, but include some fiction as well.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This one is about cancer, and it’s a truly impressive book from start to finish. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this. I read it after my dad passed away from cancer, and yet I found it an inspiration to read about all the people who are working so hard to find treatments and one day, even a cure.
  2. In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse. If the last book inspired me, this one enraged me. Eugenics was a big movement for a shockingly long time which culminated in Nazi experiments in the prison camps. But it was big here in the US as well, and could have become law if not for a landmark court case.
  3. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I’ve read a lot of epidemic books, and this is my favorite on yellow fever. I tell you, you’ll be swatting mosquitoes a lot harder after this book!
  4. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury. This is another great one to read this summer when you’re sweltering in the heat. Read about the race through blizzards to get a diphtheria antidote to an isolated community in Alaska and you’ll feel so thankful for vaccines and for air conditioning both.
  5. Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys. From its discovery to Bayer’s shameful Nazi connections to modern research, this covers everything.
  6. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. I really liked the way this book organized, a chapter for every pair of chromosomes, and a gene from every chromosome. It’s not even a little comprehensive, but it was compelling reading.
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of cancer, but her cells live on in research that has saved hundreds of lives. However, that raises questions about the rights of patients in this book that’s now a movie.
  8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but this one is my favorite in the series. Not only is the mystery compelling, but the description of the nursing among the lepers in England, of the disease and its effects is truly moving.
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. This one is big. But it’s my favorite look at 17th century medicine. It was a time of great discovery, but also a time of superstition and prejudice. Told from multiple POV, it makes the story more complex.
  10. The Physician by Noah Gordon. An orphan is driven by an urgent need to know how the body works. He makes his way to medieval Palestine so he can study medicine and learn what there is to know.

Review: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point

Title: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point (Angela Marchmont, #3)

Author: Clara Benson

After solving two cases in close succession, Angela Marchmont is struck with a nasty case of pneumonia. Her doctor has ordered a rest cure at the sea side, so she’s headed to Cornwall. She’s barely unpacked when her impulsive goddaughter has shown up and discovered a local story of buried treasure.

Naturally, young Barbara has decided that would be the perfect project for their summer holiday. Angela is reluctant at first, but she gets caught up in the lives of the local residents. There’s a sweet old lady and her nephew, a quarrelsome married couple, an odd scientist, and an attractive Scotland Yard detective all involved in the events nearby.

The lighthearted treasure hunt takes a deadly turn when someone takes a shot at Angela and Barbara goes missing.

This one was my favorite in the series so far. The others were rather predictable, but not in a terrible way. This one I was actually caught off guard more than once. I thought I had it figured it out, but there were several surprises in there. I have already downloaded the next one in this series. If you like the British mysteries, this series is so much fun.

Review: London Road

Title: London Road, Linked Stories Volume 1

Author: Tessa Smith McGovern

Setting: London, present day

Theme: second chances, family, mental health, love

This little book starts with Janice, recently released from prison for manslaughter with no plans and no friends. She’s heard vaguely about a boarding house that will take in people like her, so she heads that way. It turn out to be a lucky break.

All these stories are short, each focusing on just one person, and just little glimpses into one day of the life of the residents of the London Road boarding house. But together, those glimpses add up to a complex picture. I quite liked this book and I would love to read more by this author.

Stand Alone Sunday: Mars One

Title: Mars One

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Themes: Space, love, terrorism, family, engineering, friends/teamworks

Setting: Near future Wisconsin then space

I really liked Mayberry’s zombie series, the Rot & Ruin series with teen Benny Imura. When I heard he had a new book out, a science fiction one  which was getting great reviews, I couldn’t wait to read it, and then the library had a copy just sitting there with the new books. It was meant for me.

Tristan is a typical high school guy. He has a best friend, he’s kind of a nerd, he’s crazy about his girlfriend Izzy. But maybe he’s not entirely typical. He’s a brainiac, has an entire assembly dedicated to him plus a reality TV show, he has terrorists trying to kill him, he has two bodyguards who go everywhere with him, and oh yeah, he’s going to Mars. His whole family is going. His dad is a botanist and Tristan and his mom are both mechanical engineers.

His family was accepted a couple of years ago, but time is running out and they’re finally ready to leave earth. Now he has to say goodbye to his girlfriend Izzy, then say goodbye again for the cameras, and make his way to mission control. It’s time to leave for Mars.

I really liked this book, so much that I finished it in a day. I keep saying I’m done with YA, but books like this are the reason I read it. It takes all the same issues that an adult book would have but condenses them down to the essentials so that what’s left is the central story, no political subplots, no sex (usually), no gloomy angles, just the story. And it’s a good story.

My family has actually discussed this–would you go to Mars, knowing that for now at least, it’s a one way trip? Knowing that you’d never see your family again, that life would be completely unpredictable and that you’d die on an alien planet? Knowing that you’d be doing something no one else in the history of life has ever done? We’re divided. I wouldn’t do it, but I have one kid who absolutely would. (That one is also the hugest Star Trek fan, which is no coincidence, I think.)

Reading this book would make you think about what choices you would make and why. It’s a fast read and a compelling one. I’m giving it an easy 4.3 stars and I recommend it for anyone who likes space or well-written YA.

Review: The Murder at Sissingham Hall

question-mark-1750942_960_720Titles: The Murder at Sissingham Hall and The Mystery at Underwood House, Angela Marchmont books 1 & 2

Author: Clara Benson

Setting: England, 1920s

Looking for a mystery along the lines of Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey or Albert Campion? These might just be right up your alley. They have the fun of the Lady Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

Our sleuth is Angela Marchmont, a charming divorcee who has a bit of a past with British espionage, although this is disappointingly vague. The first book involves the murder of a wealthy gentleman during a house party, just when his wife’s former beau has returned to England from making his fortune in Africa. The second book is about a mysterious family curse that’s wiping out the members of the Haynes family once per year and the family reunion has struck again. Angela is on the scene, with a little obliging help from Scotland Yard, but I found it much too obvious who the culprit was in each case.

These are the kind of comforting reads that I gravitate towards when I need something soothing and light, something where it all works out in the end and my brain doesn’t have to work too hard. It’s the literary equivalent of chicken soup and crackers, or a nice bowl of ice cream. Maybe that’s not fair, but sometimes that’s just what I want. These are available through Kindle Unlimited too, so they’re worth trying.

20 Days to Enter!

20170527_153836Want to win free books? Dumb question, of course you do. My giveaway is dying for lack of interest, so let me remind you. You must like the ORIGINAL POST and follow my blog to win. You can like this post too, if you want, but that doesn’t count as an extra entry.

If you want extra entries, follow me on Twitter, mention the giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, and then send me a link that you did so. That’s up to 3 extra entries.

4820And these are all good books, but just in case that’s not enough, I’m going to throw in this. Here’s my review. So that FOUR free books that you could win. And hey, if you don’t pay enough attention to me, I may add more books!!! Heaven knows there’s plenty around here to choose from. 🙂

So please, spread the word. I’d really like to see my blog grow so I can reach more readers. Thanks! You’re all great!

Cool Reads

It’s been really hot here in Utah and I’m not enjoying it much! Summer is just getting started really and it’s already nearing 100. You know what I need? Some nice frozen reads! Here are a few I can recommend.

Arctic Blasts for Summer Fun

  1. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Gerard. Our hero with the amazing name went along to the Antarctic where he hung out with penguins. LOTS of penguins.
  2. The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt. OK, it’s kind of a downer in spots, but I guarantee that you will feel happy to be nice and warm and scurvy-free when you read it. (At least, I hope you’re scurvy-free. Eat an orange, just to be safe.)
  3. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. There are a lot of books about Shackleton, but this one has some of the best photographs from the actual expedition. No matter how hot it is, it will make you shiver.
  4. Tisha: A Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness by Robert Specht. I really liked this one.
  5. Daniel Plainway: The Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League by Van Reid. Hilarious Christmas story.
  6. Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. His account of Valley Forge is amazing and miserable.
  7. HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean. This is an account of submarine warfare during World War II.

This list ought to keep you cool for a bit. I’m going to check the air conditioning now!