Monthly Archives: April 2016

April 2016 – Book Stats

In April:

I read 9 books –
Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death (eBook ARC supplied by the publisher), 4 stars
The ABCs of Yoga for Kids (NetGalley copy supplied by the publisher), 3 stars
Feathered (ARC supplied by the publisher), 4 stars
Terrible Virtue 2.5 stars, rounding up to 3 due to inability to award half stars (seriously, GoodReads, get on this)
Secret Histories: The Romans (ARC supplied by the publisher), 4 stars
Dear Daughter Once again, 2.5 stars, forced to round up to 3
First Comes Love (ARC supplied by the publisher), 4 stars
Eeny Meeny, 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3, blah blah blah
How to Lose a Bachelor 4 stars and a great way to close out the month!

Received 10 author/publisher supplied ARCs – physical copies, not eReader versions.

Discovered how much I enjoy what I’m dubbing “history’s mysteries”, specifically, mysteries that takes place inside a historical fiction novel — particularly those set in Victorian England. Haven’t quite taken the plunge to the Sherlock Holmes side of that sub-genre, but maybe soon? You never know as, previously, the idea of reading a mystery where modern forensics and DNA were nonexistent was a nonstarter in my mind.

 

Many thanks to all the publishers/authors who supplied copies of their books for review! Interested in me reviewing your book, on either here or Goodreads or both? Get in touch with me at shelfishbehavior at gmail dot com, send me a brief synopsis (or link to the book on Goodreads/Amazon),  and I’ll see if your title looks like something in my wheelhouse.

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Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman

Ohhhhh boy. This book.

I was so excited to read it. I even thought about pre-ordering it on Kindle just to be sure that I got a copy. Then, duh, I remembered those nifty places called “libraries” and I was able to get one of the first copies of it reserved. When it arrived – ahead of schedule – I cleared my reading queue to make room for it. The fact that I have to return it by a certain date notwithstanding…

Once again, the library saved my already bloated reading budget. I am so glad I didn’t purchase this title. The one word I’d use to describe it would be thus — underwhelming.

The first, oh, 25% of the book was good. It was very well paced and gave a good background to Margaret, her life, and some possible reasons why she because involved in the women’s movement, primarily birth control.

Then…It took a nose dive. Big time. And the way that Ms. Feldman chose to write Margaret turned her into an insufferable harpy. She became so myopic to the cause of birth control that very few were left unscathed in her wake; this included her family.

Add to that, it jumped around a lot and the injections of other people’s POV in the middle of chapters just left me with a serious case of reader’s whiplash. Were they letters? Journals? How did these other people find their way into the narrative? If you’re going to write a book in first person, keep it that way. And if you’re going to bring in other narrators, then at least give the reader some context as to how it is these characters are now talking to you.

Much has been written and reported on Margaret’s involvement in the eugenics movement. Now, keeping everything in context we, as modern readers, need to realize that, much like seances and psychics, eugenics was, unfortunately, a very real part of early 20th century culture. Was it right? No, not at all. However, we do ourselves and our grandparents/great grandparents generation a disservice when we try to view the good, the bad, and the ugly (of which eugenics was most definitely the bad and the ugly) from the lens of our perspective.

Having said that, this book treated that topic as a minor footnote. In fact, it was only in one of the shorter chapters towards the end of the books where anything was really said about it. (Again, first person narrative.)

My final gripe with this book is that it ended so quickly and abruptly that I was wondering if maybe the copy I’d gotten from the library was missing another couple of chapters. Nope. It just comes to s a screeching halt. Obviously, because this book is based on a person who was an actual living, breathing human being and who was born, lived, and died, of course the book had to come to an end. I just object to the fashion in which it just BAM! sort of happened. Some editor somewhere needs a stern talking to.

Would I recommend this book? Ehhh, hard to say. I did find myself looking for other titles on birth control, the suffrage movement, and feminism in general just because I think women nowadays take so much for granted. I’m a woman – and a millennial – and even though I have a bachelors degree in history, I *still* find myself pausing and taking a moment and realizing that women haven’t even had the right to vote for even 100 years yet.

But I digress. Read this at your own risk. I will say that this book inspired me to take the money I would have spent on it (thanks again, library!) and donate it to Planned Parenthood instead.

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Review – Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. Many thanks!

Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death by Sally Spencer

4 solid stars for the start of a series that shows great promise. If you’re a fan of the BBC’s Ripper Street or Copper (never mind its American location), you will love this book.

A member of an aristocratic family turns up dead in the guise of a beggar. Later, he is found to have had muckraker sensibilities that stretches into London’s various immigrant populations, namely the Russians.

Add to that Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and a world on the cusp of the 20th century and you have yourself a fascinating peek into late 19th century detective work.

Blackstone was an interesting character. Not much is revealed about him, personally speaking, in about the first half of the book. Then, by the 2nd half, you learn lots more. As I was first beginning this book and not seeing much character development, I wondered if perhaps this was a later book in the series. Nope, it’s just a matter of plot and how the author decided to sequence the story.

The one character who I did find to be a bit overwrought was that of Hannah. I won’t spoil anything but will just say, “aw, c’mon”.

I would have rated this at 5 stars but there were some grammatical errors that I just couldn’t overlook. In spite of those errors, I will definitely be continuing this series.

Highly recommended!

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Throwback Review – A Secret Hope

In an effort to bring all my reviews to heel, I’ll be re-posting some favorite past reviews of mine. Many were sent to me by either the author or publisher for review. I thank them for their generosity!

 

A Secret Hope (Sword and Spirit Series Book 1) by Renee Yancey

This isn’t the first fictionalized book about ancient Ireland that I have read (Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale, Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel, and Maire all spring to mind), but it is definitely one of the best ones that I have read.

Ciara is an Irish princess who has never felt quite content with the status quo. Raised by her widowed father, in her 15th year she is sent to live with relatives to learn the ways of the ancient Irish court and the even more ancient ways of the Druids. While there, she attracts the attention of 2 young warriors, Aedan and Seamus and, in return, is attracted to Aedan. It may seem like a love triangle waiting to happen but it becomes all the more complicated when, at a Lugnasa fair, she catches the eye of Lorcan, an old enemy of her father, who later exploits the weakness of her father’s kingdom to blackmail Ciara’s father into giving her hand in marriage.

To further complicate matters, even though Ciara is being tutored in the ways of the Druids, she still finds herself unable to fully embrace their belief system and draws the ire of Ronan, a very powerful Druid high priest. Ciara has the gift of prophecy and Ronan and the other high priests are itching at the chance to exploit this gift — especially when she foretells the arrival of a stranger who will spell the downfall of the Druids and their gods.

Some inconvenient missteps of the part of Ciara due to this gift if prophecy and inability to fully believe in the gods force her return to her father’s kingdom – much to the consternation of both Aedan and Seamus – and it is during this trip back that she is kidnapped by Lorcan who plans to enact his right to be betrothed to Ciara.

Lorcan was one of the most interesting characters in the book. At first glance, he is bad simply for the sake of being bad. However, as the story unfolds the true reason behind Lorcan’s wickedness is brought to light and was a twist that I didn’t see coming. He may have started out as a caricature but he ends up as a fully 3 dimensional – and reviled – character.

Ciara attempts to escape Lorcan’s clutches, and manages to, with the assistance of Aedan who has not stopped looking for her. The 2 manage to spend some time together (:wink wink nudge nudge:) until a powerful geis, or curse, is put upon Ciara by a Druid in Lorcan’s household. Because of Ciara’s second sight, she gets the message of the geis, return to Lorcan or Aedan will go insane, and decides to not tempt fate (as it were) and returns to Lorcan.

A number of months later, an unknowingly pregnant Ciara, who also studied healing while living at her relatives, has the chance to possibly end her suffering…permanently…and escape Lorcan’s clutches when she attends to his grievously injured self. However, she does not and this action serves to be a bit of a detente between the 2. However, how long the peace will last remains to be seen.

The time around the confirmation of Ciara’s pregnancy and subsequent of her son is one of upheaval. The prophecy of the foreigner – Patrick – who will spell the end of the old ways has a arrived and Ciara, along with her slave, Eleri, become converts to this new religion.

Lorcan is not amused.

However…what happens next? Well, that’s for you to read! I can’t go and spoil it all! Where’s the fun in that? Plus, you’d be missing out on reading this amazing book that has to be the next best thing to time travel!

Ms. Yancy’s love for the setting is abundantly apparent due to the amount of research that must have been done to capture a time and a place that is, to this modern day reader, otherworldly. Add to that the fact that the ceremonies and practices of the ancient Druids were all oral, and rarely, if ever, written down, and you have just upped the ante extraordinarily so.

One drawback, for me, was I did get a bit confused on the timing of everything. While the ancient Celts followed a very seasonal calendar and had holidays that reflected time for the harvest, time for spring, etc, I did find myself sometimes having to go back to exactly figure out what time of year it was supposed to be. However, that was just a minor inconvenience and in the grand scheme of the whole book and might have just been a case of me not fully paying attention when a rough timeline had been plotted out a few pages earlier. I was also left a little confused as to the Anglicization of Patrick’s name rather than him being called his Gaelic equivalent. Ms. Yancy also noted fully recognized that there were some grammatical errors so I do appreciate her forthrightness in regards to that. I don’t know if it was because I was reading a copy on my Kindle app – and not an actual Kindle – but towards the last few pages, the formatting got a bit wonky. Nothing major and none of the story appeared to be truncated. It was, at most, just a bit distracting. Again, these points did not take away from the overall story, but, grammatical issues and formatting aside, did have me scratching my head just a bit.

I do hope this is the beginning of a multi-book series! The fate of some pretty key supporting characters were left with big question marks so, if this is a series, perhaps they will be the stars of the upcoming books? Despite my confusion over his name, Ms. Yancy’s characterization of (St.) Patrick was also very fascinating and to see him also take the lead in some upcoming books would be very welcome as he didn’t show up until towards the end in this one.

As this point really didn’t fit in with any of my other paragraphs, the arch of the story that revolved around Ciara’s medical abilities was also very well researched and thoughtfully included in various parts of the story that called for a healer’s touch.

All in all, I am so glad I had the chance to read this book. If you are a fan of historical fiction, like your historical fiction faith-based, and/or have an itch to visit Ireland but find yourself not able to get there just yet, immerse yourself in this book. You will not be disappointed! What are you waiting for? Go download this to your Kindle!

Disclosure: Special thanks to Ms. Yancy for providing a gratis copy for me to read so I could offer an honest review in return. Sometimes, when an author provides a copy of their book to be read, quite frankly, you never know what you’re going to get. Thankfully, this is one I can completely and 100% recommend!

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The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. Thanks so much!

As a yoga instructor, I’m always on the lookout for books to enhance my teaching. I’ve never taught children but figure there’s no time like the present to start dipping my toes into that side of the yoga pool.

I can see where this book would be good for teachers who already run classes for children. Even more so, this book probably should be read after the main book, The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, as my hunch is that book has pictures and alignment points for each of the poses discussed in this book. Many of the poses mentioned in this book are not the same as what you hear in your typical adult class, so I was left wondering and assuming — and probably incorrectly so!

There were many cute ideas discussed as to how to make yoga accessible to children without them realize they’re doing yoga. Some instructors might like this approach while others might not. I’m reminded of something one of my teachers said to my class of yoga teacher trainees — “Yoga is really just one giant game of ‘Simon Says'”.

One thing I would have liked to see more of would be sources for the science behind some of their statements as to how and why yoga is beneficial for children. It made a lot of broad generalizations about certain health concerns for children (ADHD, etc) and, as instructors, we have to walk a very fine line with declaring yoga as a cure all without proper scientific backup.

One minor note is that the formatting was quite off on the copy I received for review. This made it a bit difficult to follow. There were also quite a few spelling and grammatical errors. Again, my hope is that these have been corrected in the final version.

The illustrations were adorable and I would have loved to seen more included.

Overall, I’d probably recommend this book only after reading The ABC of Yoga for Kids.

3 solid stars.

 

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