Monday, June 27, 2022

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

This was a tale that takes place in the country of Gilead, though that wasn't what it had always been called. The country had started out as a democracy, but over time many in power had turned to extreme religion, turning the country into a theocracy where women had no rights, their possessions were taken from them and turned over to male relatives, they were no longer allowed to hold any job outside the home, and many other changes began to take place as well.  It started out as a slow decline that many didn’t see coming in the beginning, but soon spiraled out of control as the religious extremists took control.

In the end, women who were capable of bearing children were forced to become surrogates & bear children for those who could not get pregnant to raise as their own. Little choice was given to these women, and the other options should they continue to refuse were far worse.

I decided to read this book because of the many parallels between this fictional story and much of what is happening in the real world today. It is a story that seems as if it should be impossible, but there are many women who have just been stripped of some of their rights by those in power, and there is a clear path from that to many other rights being stripped away as well in the name of religion. For a fictional story, the parallels between what happened in this book and the world today are uncomfortably real and painfully clear.

I believe that this is a book that should be read at least once in your life, especially now, though I'm sure many will not agree. Beyond that, I will only say that I found this to be a very powerful cautionary tale of what can potentially happen even in a world where so many are still fighting to hold on their rights and to improve their lives and the lives of others. It may be a fictional tale, but I could see it could very easily become reality under the right circumstances.

Monday, June 20, 2022

“Blades and Bridesmaids” by Trixie Silvertale

In this most recent addition to the Mitzy Moon series, Mitzy is missing Sheriff Harper who is away at an extensive FBI training session (or as Mitzy calls it “FBI sleepaway camp.” But never fear, Acting Sheriff Pauly Paulson, who doesn’t exactly get along with Mitzy, is filling in for him while he is gone. Now, Mitzy and Paulson are forced to work together when Odell’s niece and her bridal party are being stalked in the woods while on a bridal party camping trip. Camping is not something that Mitzy is familiar with, and she and Acting Sheriff Paulson need to be able to work together well enough to rescue the missing girls before they wind up dead. Can the two of them manage it?

I really enjoyed reading this story. (I read it in one day.) There is a lot going on, and watching Mitzy and Acting Sheriff Paulson learn to work together and rely on each other in the woods was a very interesting story. We got to learn a lot more about this secondary character and her history and motivations that we haven’t gotten to see before, and it truly adds to the enjoyment and understanding of the character. And while this may be Mitzy’s mission to rescue the girls, this time she isn’t the only one who gets to be the hero of the story.

There is also a secondary plot in this one involving Mitzy and her “Sheriff too hot to handle.” I don’t want to say too much about that story since it is just, if not more entertaining and enlightening as the main part of this book. It is definitely just as much, if not more fun to see the trouble this plot twist causes the two characters as well as the lessons learned from it. And I am definitely looking forward to seeing what trouble they will all get into for the next book in this series. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

"The Academy of Beasts" by Becca Fanning

Fiona was rescued from a fire that killed her family. The rescuers believe that she is a shifter who simply hasn't experienced her first shift yet. If she is, it's news to her as she believed herself to be, like those who raised her, completely human. Now, she's in some mysterious academy full of various animal shifters and feeling completely lost. 

This was an interesting little short story that I picked up while it was free on Amazon, believing it to be a full book. (It turned out to be only 63 pages.) The story was interesting, but ended on a cliff hanger and far too soon. While I will admit to being curious as to what happens next, I probably won't continue on with the series as I expect that the other books are also far too short for me to feel they're worth the expense for me to buy them. (I finished this one in a couple of hours at most & was left feeling like there should have been much more.) 

The series has 40 books in it and it appears that each book is $3.99. If each of those books is also only about 63 pages, it's not worth it for me to want to buy the rest of this series, no matter how much I respect how hard the author may have worked on it. I'm happy to pay more for a full length novel, but not for something that feels more like a sample or a teaser to me. 

But I'll keep my eyes open in case the series ever goes on sale. The concept was interesting, though there were a few dropped words here & there. It just wasn't interesting enough for me to want to buy 39 more sets 63 pages for almost $4 each. As much as I love a good story, I'd rather buy a $10+ novel than a $4 short story.

Monday, June 6, 2022

"The Bride's Shame and her Miracle Baby"
by Florence Linnington

On her way to the train station, Maribelle runs across an abandoned infant. She knows the man she is leaving town to meet and marry does not want any children, but there isn't time to take the baby to an orphanage without missing her train, and just leaving it would mean certain death for the poor thing.  So she does the only thing she can do & takes him with her, deciding to raise him as her own.

As expected, when seeing an unmarried young woman with a baby, most people assume the worst about her. Even her potential husband seems to believe her a liar at first. But he does need someone to help keep his homestead running, which means either hiring help or getting married, so Edward gives Maribelle a chance to prove herself useful before deciding whether to send her back east or not.

Like Ms. Linnington’s other books, there is a common theme running through this one as well…assumptions cause more problems than being honest with one another from the beginning, and if not resolved soon enough can ruin potential relationships as well as reputations or even lives.

I enjoyed reading this one. Maribelle is a strong character, and given what she both has been through & will face in this story, she needed to be. Anyone who enjoys mail order bride stories, historical fiction with a bit of romance, or any of Ms. Linnington's other books is sure to love this one as well.

Monday, May 30, 2022

"The Dead of Autumn" by Jean Rabe

Halloween night always seems to get unusual 911 calls, but most of them don't amount to much more than minor disturbances, loud parties that might have gotten out of hand, or silly and generally harmless pranks. But a girl murdered on her way to a costume party is anything but usual.

Once again, Sheriff Piper Blackwell has her hands full trying to discover who killed the teenage girl dressed as Steampunk Tinkerbell and why.  And this one is definitely not a simple murder mystery. There are a lot of twists and turns involved, as well as quite a few surprises along the way.

From the moment I started reading, I honestly couldn't put this book down. It held me completely captivated from beginning to end as I tried to figure it out before the end of the story. And the secondary mystery (that had nothing to do with this murder) was just as interesting and entertaining. And watching that mystery get solved gives quite a bit of insight into some of the secondary characters and their lives, adding extra dimensions to the overall story.

I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you enjoy murder mysteries, any of the other books in this series, or are just looking for a very well written tale that will keep you guessing until the end. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Ms. Rabe is definitely a master storyteller who never disappoints her readers. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll read through this one almost nonstop & be waiting as patiently as possible for the next one in the series.

Monday, May 23, 2022

"The Admiral's wife" by M.K. Tod

This is the story of two women, separated by about a century in time, who share a similar tale. Both were born and raised elsewhere, but have come to live in Hong Kong. One in the 1900s when her husband was given a position there in the British Navy, and the other in more modern times to get to spend time with her family & to learn more about her Chinese heritage. 

I enjoyed this book a great deal. I loved the parallels between the lives of the two women. Both felt very out of place when they first arrived. There was a great deal that was unfamiliar to each that they needed to adjust to in their new lives.  Yet despite the difference in the time period in which each lived, there were quite a few similarities and a kind of parallel between them as well.

And the way that their stories were so interwoven made it clear that this was one story rather than two separate tales. It was very well brought together so that it seemed to come around full circle in the end in a way that made perfect sense. Yes, their lives were quite different from each other and obviously they’d never met, but there was a connection between them just the same. There is a lot more going on in each woman's story than first meets the eye, and that, as well as the choices they made, brings a great deal of depth to this book and made it a very enjoyable book for me to read. I would definitely recommend that others give this one a try. In my opinion, it’s worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook”
by America’s Test Kitchen

Recently, my husband checked this cookbook out from the library for us to look through to see if it might work for us. We often find that while one or two recipes in a cookbook work well for our family, there’s rarely more than that. But this book was different. We found quite a few recipes that we could use with only minor alterations of substitutions of ingredients. 

I was really impressed by the format of this book. It discussed not only ingredients, but storage options for leftovers as well as foods that had not yet been cooked, simple methods of cooking various foods, what changes to make if you are using dried ingredients rather than fresh ones, and it divided things into weekly meal plans that utilized a lot of the same ingredients in different ways so that you could reduce the number of shopping trips/ amount of items needed to purchase for the meals on that week’s recommended dishes.

The book also provides grocery lists for the various dishes, including either the full week’s meal plans as suggested as well as separated by individual dishes if you don’t intend to make all of the items listed in any of the weekly menu plans they’ve suggested. That made it really convenient for us as quite often we’ll like a dish from one grouping but not the others for the rest of that week.

The book provides complete and easy to follow, step by step cooking instructions on how to make the various dishes that have been thoroughly tested out by America’s Test Kitchen so that they will be easy enough for those of us with little or no cooking experience to follow. And for me, that alone was a huge plus over other cookbooks that are not designed for new or inexperienced home cooks to be able to easily follow & end up with a delicious meal. 

I also like that at the back of the book it includes nutritional information on each dish so that anyone watching what they eat can clearly see the information they might want or need in one location, as well as a chart for conversions and equivalents for ingredient portions and an index to make it nice and easy to find a dish without needing to know which meal grouping it was in. 

I found this book very well organized and extremely helpful. And after having made a few of the meals for ourselves & loved them, we ordered a copy of this book to keep in our home library as we will soon need to return this one to the library. If you think this book sounds like it might be a good one for you as well, I recommend starting out by borrowing it from your local library to test out a few of the dishes yourself. I suspect you’ll also wind up finding it a good one to buy for yourself as well, but this way you’re not out any money if it turns out not to be right for you.

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

This was a tale that takes place in the country of Gilead, though that wasn't what it had always been called. The country had started ou...