Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Charitable Hatred: Puritan Preaching Leads To Murder in The Harlot's Tale

The Harlot’s Tale is the second book in a historical mystery series that takes place in 17th century England whose protagonist is the midwife Bridget Hodgson.  She is a widow from a noble family who is accustomed to wielding authority, but she is also highly principled.  When I started reading the first book in this series, The Midwife’s Tale, I thought she was arrogant, self-righteous and intolerant.   I almost gave up on the book because I found her too unsympathetic.   

Fortunately, I became interested in Martha Hawkins, her new maid.  The very fact that Bridget gave Martha a chance despite her background showed that Bridget had more compassion than I had imagined.  I continued reading because of Martha.  She is clever, courageous and resourceful. She also has some very interesting skills that make her useful for crime investigation in both books.


In this second book, I think that Martha has influenced Bridget for the better.  She seems more open to new ideas and approaches.  She has become more supportive toward women in unfortunate circumstances which also puts her on the wrong side of the law. As a midwife, Bridget is supposed to report all women giving birth to children out of wedlock so that they can be publicly whipped.  In Puritan dominated York, the city where this series takes place, Bridget’s newfound sympathy can be dangerous to her.

The case in The Harlot’s Tale involves a series of murders of prostitutes.  The killer leaves Biblical verses in the hands of the victims.  This leads Bridget to suspect that some fanatical Puritan is the perpetrator, but this gives her a great many suspects.  The religious zeitgeist had become increasingly fanatical.  There is a popular Puritan preacher in York who calls for “charitable hatred” toward individuals that Puritans consider immoral.  This phrase is never explained.  How can hatred ever be charitable?  It sounds like war for peace or freedom within slavery.   When I analyze it from a Puritan perspective, I imagine that a Puritan might consider it merciful to kill someone who is sinful so that they will sin no more, and won’t enrage God any further.  From a modern secular viewpoint that kind of thinking seems bizarre.  

 This is the sort of environment that leads to witchcraft hysterias.  So it’s fairly predictable that this is the subject of the third book, The Witch Hunter’s Tale in which I imagine that Bridget is in some serious jeopardy.  Midwives have often been suspected of witchcraft during witchcraft hysterias.   I will be reviewing The Witch Hunter’s Tale for a blog tour in February.

Although the situation in The Harlot's Tale is scarcely unexpected during this period of England’s history, there are some plot twists that made for a good mystery.  The plot complications and character growth caused me to consider this novel an enjoyable read.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I am Sophie Tucker: A Fictional Memoir by Susan Ecker, Lloyd Ecker

I am Sophie Tucker: A Fictional MemoirMama made her way across the bustling road without getting killed by a speeding horse cart, but picked up the phrase "F*ck you!" from a driver who came within inches of running her over. She wrote it down phonetically in Yiddish in a little black notebook she kept in her pocket. She thought it might come in handy someday.

I'd never heard of Sophie Tucker before, but after reading this book, I'll never forget the name or the woman behind it. She was a Vaudeville star with an incredible sense of humor and zest for life. This fictional autobiography takes us from the time she was in the womb and her parents left Russia to come to the States through her first marriage and into the early days of Vaudeville and the Follies.

And everything is told in a humorous manner, with Sohie Tucker wit. The laughs, smiles, and chuckles were endless for me.

Mr. Elliot patiently explained each foreign term, like "marquee." Thankfully that was different than the Marky who sat next to me in grammar school. The only show he could headline was the Breaking Wind Spectacular. 

I enjoyed reading about Sophie and her mother. Her mother was something else. I can see where Sophie gets her "balls". I think one of my favorite scenes in the book was when her mother set a ball of soup in front of her boss and had a few interesting choice words for him.

Sophie is fun and amazing too, as she goes from kitchen slave to singing in a house of ill repute to the stage, as she toes the line between "wholesome" and what sells, as she persistently writes funny letters to important people asking for a chance, as she survives stage rivalry and jealous divas, struggles to fit in dresses, and even becomes friends with Al Capone.

There was one thing in the book that had me frowning at Sophie and it turned out I was wrong about the situation all along. In the end Sophie is a true heroine, selfless, loving, and there for those who need her.

I loved every word of this story. The only thing that bothered me at times was how very often Sophie makes fun of her weight. She acts like she's an elephant. And looking at pictures of her back then, in her early Vaudeville days, I don't see such a large woman. I guess women were smaller then.

This was a fun read and I realize some of it is probably fictional or exaggerated but the authors did a fabulous job in the telling of it. I appreciate this story and the heroines at its heart--Sophie and her mother, two very strong Jewish women. Oh--it even has a murder mystery in a brief bit. A hotel, a dead Russian, and a wedding band. That's all I'm saying.

I received this via Netgalley.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Forty Days Without Shadow: A French Thriller Dramatizes The Issues of the Sami of Lapland

When I was a child my favorite book was Lapland Outlaw by Arthur Catherall which I got from the Weekly Reader Book Club.  Catherall’s children’s book may have involved some inaccuracies, but it taught me that people in other cultures have different values which need to be respected.   The sixteen year old Sami boy who was the central character had grown up as a nomadic herder of reindeer.  He felt panicked by being enclosed within four walls and fought to maintain his ancestral way of life. 

I haven’t visited with the Sami through the pages of a book for a great many years, but it was my memory of Lapland Outlaw that caused me to obtain Forty Days Without Shadow which is an English translation of the French thriller Le Dernier Lapin by Olivier Truc. 


The protagonists are Klemet Nango and Nina Nansen who are officers of the Reindeer Police. Klemet Nango is a Sami who feels cut off from his culture because he was forced to attend boarding school where his language and cultural practices were forbidden.  This is similar to the experiences of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.  Nina Nansen is a Norwegian woman who is a recent graduate of police academy.  She insists on being respected by other male law enforcement officers.  The Sami are very alien to her, but she makes an effort to learn their customs. The Reindeer Police are responsible for enforcing regulations regarding reindeer herding, but Klemet knows the local herders.  This is probably why he and Nina are assigned to investigate when an antique Sami drum goes missing from the museum, and a herder is stabbed to death.    

I was very interested in finding out more about the Sami.  I found it especially intriguing that the roofs of traditional Sami tents were covered with interlaced antlers that were supposed to be arranged so that you could see the sky through them.  This is similar to the huts that are constructed for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.  My Jewish ancestors were also once nomadic herders.  Perhaps this is why I feel a connection to the Sami. 

I also found out from this novel why the situation for the Sami and reindeer in Finland is so different from Norway and Sweden.  I located additional information about Reindeer Herding in Finland from a website on the Sami maintained by the University of Texas.  The events of this novel take place in Norway where ethnic Sami still have the exclusive right to herd reindeer.   Some of the Sami depicted in this book have definitely modernized.  I got a kick out of Klemet’s uncle writing songs in the Sami language and performing them on You Tube.  Here’s a Modernized Example of a Sami Song on You Tube  and here is a More Traditional Example .

Sami drums were used in shamanistic ceremonies.  The old traditional drums that had belonged to shamans are very rare.  The drums are usually covered with symbols which have been studied by anthropologists who may or may not be mistaken in their interpretations.  Each drum is unique and the symbols may have had personal meaning for the shamans who owned them.   I found an artist’s rendering of a Sami shaman displaying his drum on Wikipedia which is in the public domain because the artist created it in the 18th century.   I wanted readers to see how amazing these drums are, so I have included the image in this review below. 

I thought the characters were well drawn and well-motivated.  I found both of the protagonists sympathetic, and although the villains weren’t at all sympathetic, they were very credible.  I appreciated the fact that Nina played an active role in the case.  Since she knew French, she went to France to interview the French collector who had donated the drum to the museum to find out more about the stolen drum and the circumstances in which he acquired it.  She also brought about a major break in the case due to her rapport with a female Sami who trusted her.   

This was an excellent novel from the thriller perspective.  There were issues involving party politics in Norway, racism, World War II and predatory behavior by mining companies.  It was a suspenseful and involving story line from start to finish.  I loved Forty Days Without Shadow.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Reading Radar 1/24/2015

Spotted on Amazon whilst doing my periodic "women in aviation" search, Blackbird by Dave Lowell hit the wishlist. I've been hoping someone would novelize Bessie Coleman for a while now.

BlackbirdA vivid story of a young woman's quest to overcome poverty, racism, and sexual abuse, only to rise above the odds to become America's first black woman licensed pilot. Her spirit of adventure, courage and pride, mixed with romance and personal tragedy, serves as a model to all humanity, and exemplifies the importance of following a dream when all seems hopeless. The novel was inspired by the life of Bessie Coleman.


The Salt CovenantsThe Salt Covenants by Sylvia Bambola caught my eye on Goodreads Giveaways. The whole "woman on board Christopher Columbus's second voyage" thing sounds intriguing.

Spain 1493: Isabel has broken her mother's heart by becoming a sincere convert to Christianity. But when she is noticed by Friar Alonso at La Casa Santa, the Holy House, she is forced to flee the Inquisition by entering into a loveless marriage and sailing with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World. But all too soon Isabel is forced to struggle alone in her new life and new faith. With all the risks and hardships how is she to survive? And will she ever find love in this strange land? And what of the dangerous Enrique Vivar? Will his hidden agenda cost her her life?


On Shomeret's wishlist: The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday.

The Last Flight of Poxl West: A NovelAll his life, Elijah Goldstein has idolized his charismatic Uncle Poxl. Intensely magnetic, cultured and brilliant, Poxl takes Elijah under his wing, introducing him to opera and art and literature. But when Poxl publishes a memoir of how he was forced to leave his home north of Prague at the start of WWII and then avenged the deaths of his parents by flying RAF bombers over Germany during the war, killing thousands of German citizens, Elijah watches as the carefully constructed world his uncle has created begins to unravel. As Elijah discovers the darker truth of Poxl’s past, he comes to understand that the fearless war hero he always revered is in fact a broken and devastated man who suffered unimaginable losses from which he has never recovered.


Maggie Bright: A Novel of DunkirkCaught my eye and my list after seeing it on Edelweiss. Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot.

"England, 1940." Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the "Maggie Bright"--a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she's counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler's darkest schemes and prompt America to action.Across the Channel, Hitler's "Blitzkrieg" has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows "Maggie Bright" must answer the call--piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Girl Who Can See the Ghosts That Were murdered by a Serial Killer - The Ghost Files by Apryl Baker

I picked up the first book in this series for 3 reasons. One, I just signed with the publisher and I wanted to check out some of their books. Two, it looked different and I needed a little change. Three, it was FREE. Who doesn't like free?

I loved this book. It sucked me in and I had to find out what happened. The heroine of the story, Mattie, is a foster kid who can see ghosts. After a near death experience as a child (her mom tried to kill her by stabbing), she has the ability to see ghosts, but she pretends they aren't there until her foster sister comes to her.

No one wants to believe her when she tells people her sister has been kidnapped because the girl has run away from foster homes before. One adult officer named Dan does believe Mattie, and together they begin to solve the crime of what happened to her foster sister and the other kids that have been coming to her. Turns out, there is a serial killer on the loose.

This is a young adult book and there is no romance in it. There is a lot of suspense, and you'll be flipping the pages to see what comes next. I will say, I had a pretty good idea who the killer was from the beginning. It could be that I'm a writer myself, so I can get into an authors head and know where they are going. The book is being made into a movie and I can see why. The author, Apryl Baker, tells a very good story. Her writing flows well. I will definitely be picking up the next in the series to see what kind of adventure Mattie has next.

Lacey's Rating:

About The Book:

Cherry blossom lipstick: check
Smokey eyes: check
Skinny jeans: check
Dead kid in the mirror: check

For sixteen year old Mattie Hathaway, this is her normal everyday routine. She’s been able to see ghosts since her mother tried to murder her when she was five years old. No way does she want anyone to know she can talk to spooks. Being a foster kid is hard enough without being labeled a freak too.

Normally, she just ignores the ghosts and they go away. That is until she see’s the ghost of her foster sister… Sally.

Everyone thinks Sally’s just another runaway, but Mattie knows the truth—she’s dead. Murdered. Mattie feels like she has to help Sally, but she can’t do it alone. Against her better judgment, she teams up with a young policeman, Officer Dan, and together they set out to discover the real truth behind Sally’s disappearance.

Only to find out she’s dealing with a much bigger problem, a serial killer, and she may be the next victim…

Will Mattie be able to find out the truth before the killer finds her?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls ClubThe worst part about being a fat woman isn't that people look at you with judgment in their eyes. It's that most don't look at you at all. You case to be a person for whom they need to account. They look over your shoulder, or at the ground in front of you, or they glaze their eyes and look directly through you. It's like being a ghost, but with none of the fun of haunting.

This not just a chick lit story. While full of LOL moments and humor, it has a serious theme/moral at its heart. Whether your fat or thin, tall or short, rich or poor, your heart should determine where you "fit", nothing else. And prejudice goes both ways...

The 411: Four women who attend Slimming Zone (Made me think of Weight Watchers or Curves for Women) finally decide that the meetings aren't really helping them lose weight. It has helped them make friends though...and why not start doing something with these friends besides meet at SZ, talk about their fat, weigh themselves, and leave bummed?

The Curvy Girls ClubOne theater visit later and the Curvy Girls Club is born. At its heart is the right idea: a club for the larger woman, a group of people who get together and don't judge, and even better, an organizer who takes the time to make sure the seats are big enough and all that, that every curvy girl will be comfortable.

Katie is the heroine of the tale. Katie has a lot going on, not just being president of the club. With Katie, we experience workplace drama, stress of being redundant, an office affair, weight loss, health problems, and personal growth. She discovers that being thin doesn't change much. People still judge and it still hurts. Losing weight comes with its own set of heartaches as the people around her react to it and change their attitudes toward her as a result.

I felt like this story really put into perspective just how much--too much--emphasis we put on ours and everyone else's bodies. It seems like fat or skinny, someone is judging, so we really have no choice but to just love ourselves regardless.

And oh, this was full of laughs, from "sharting" to side effects...

Jane was no stranger to unpleasant side effects. When she was on the cabbage soup diet none of us could be in the car with her unless the windows were down.

I recommend this book to all women--fat or skinny--who have ever felt self conscious or not accepted because of their body.

I loved it, all except for Pixie. I had a serious dislike for Pixie and I'd have liked the story resolved a bit different as far as that character was concerned.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Youngest F-35 Pilot Straps Into the Cockpit...And SHE Finds Love

Call Sign KarmaI had tits in a testosterone world and showing any sign of weakness was not an option.

I have some seriously good things to say about this story and some not so great. It's one of those tales that you could say has me on the fence.

First, the good: we have a totally kick-ass, feisty, strong heroine here. She's a fighter pilot--a good one--and she stands her own against all the guys and earns their respect. She must be bright too, because at just 22 years of age, the Air Force is letting her fly the brand new F35.

The group chatter/ribbing among the pilots is awesome. As a woman in a male-dominated profession, I work with guys like Mojo and the author captured this lifestyle to a T. I laughed and smiled and felt like I was there, among this easy camaraderie. I took a real liking to Ash and Mojo and Stitch.

As an aircraft mechanic who has worked on a variety of planes, I very much appreciate the little details the author put in the story about the faulty environmental systems. There were some instances I found myself nodding my head in agreement over some little technical thing.

However, the story never gets overly technical, just in case anyone doesn't like that stuff. It's "layman" speak, nothing that won't be easily understood. You don't have to be an aircraft mechanic to get it.

I also absolutely love how the heroine gets her call sign. That was probably my favorite part of the story.

What I didn't like was quickly the heroine and the hero sleep together, before 8%, before he even knows her name. And I do realize this was necessary for the rest of the storyline, for the awkward situation between them to exist, but I'd rather it have gone differently. This situation also made me dislike the hero from the very get-go because the heroine was a bit drunk. He should have known better.

I also didn't like the lack of detail about the heroine's flight history. The USAF isn't going to just let a 22 year old go straight from simulator to million-dollar jet. What did she fly before? What was her training like? Pilots must have a college degree. She did four years of college and flight school/private pilot's license by 22? Doable? Yes. But lemme have the data, 'cause I like that stuff and it would help with her background.

And hey--everyone throws up the first time. She can't be that perfect. LOL

It's a good romance if romance is what you're looking for. I just would have preferred she hook up with Ash. LOL But we're left in enough suspense that we begin to doubt that HEA will come. Good job with that! I also appreciated the theme about hurting before healing, especially in regards to the loss of a loved one.

I have a feeling this may be the first in a series.

Def an author to keep an eye on.

I received this via Netgalley.