Friday, May 30, 2014


Set in the near future, a cure has been found for common diseases. SymboGen Corporation has discovered a way to introduce a parasite to humans that boosts the immune system and greatly reduces the chance of disease. Within several years, almost every human has decided to have a tapeworm implanted in them. Everything seems perfect until the parasites decide they want to be in control. Suddenly, everyone who has a parasite inside them is in danger of being taken over by a tapeworm.

I had been looking forward to reading this book since I heard about it. Everyone kept telling me how good it was. I was thrilled to finally get a chance to read it. What a great read! It was an interesting blend of science fiction and medical mystery. I like it when a story is fascinating, but also makes you think. I got caught up in the plot and could not stop reading it. I liked the underlying points that people just accept whatever the latest trend in medicine is without allowing time for long term studies to be done, or understanding the details of what we do know. This book will make you think twice about just trusting what people tell you. You will also be even more wary of tapeworms after this.

The book was a little slower at some points, but that is because this is the first book in a series and it did not stop me from liking the book. Everything about the series was being set up here, and that is why some people complain that it lags in some spots. Overall, the book was interesting, so do not let a couple of people complaining about slow parts stop you from reading Parasite. Keep reading and you will understand how skillful the author is in creating this book. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

If you like science fiction or medical mysteries, I recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dear Abigail

Abigail Adams wrote to her sisters and other family members almost constantly during her lifetime. They were very close, and when they were apart from each other they maintained their close relationships by writing to each other often. Most of the letters in this book are between Abigail and her two sisters: Mary Cranch and Elizabeth Shaw. There are some from her husband John Adams and her children and nieces and nephews, but the author focuses on Abigail and her sisters. The letters provided them with comfort as they suffered illness, gave birth, lived through revolution, war, travel, and personal issues. The distinct personality of each sister comes through as you read their correspondence.

I thought this was a really interesting way to examine the life of such a notorious historical figure. Reading parts of their letters gives the reader such a personal view of Abigail and her family. I found it engaging to read what these women wrote to each other. I was particularly fond of a passage where Abigail writes her sister Mary that she discovered her husband(John Adams) reading one of Mary's letters without her permission. She castigates him, and extracts a promise that he will settle for what little Abigail deigns to share from these personal letters. I thought Jacobs did an excellent job giving new perspective to these historical figures, and showing what strong individuals they were.

At times I felt like I was reading something written by Jane Austen. Some of the phrasing or topics discussed put me in mind of many of Austen's books. I found it interesting to read about real people using similar phrases or topics that are discussed in some of Austen's books. As a fan of Austen, it only made me like the book more.

I really liked the way Jacobs used the letters to tell the story of Abigail Adams' life. It made the book much easier to engage with, and gave it such a personal feeling. I think it is a valuable resource for understanding life at that time, particularly for women.

If you are interested in American history, or want a different approach to reading history, I suggest reading this book.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Will Of The Empress

Lady Sandrilene(Sandry) has been invited to visit her lands in the Namorn Empire by her cousin--the Empress. Sandry decides she can no longer ignore the many invitations from her cousin when she starts to make political threats. Her three friends from the Winding Circle agree to accompany her as guards. Sandry is eager to get to spend time with her friends as they have all been traveling the last few years. Sandry is hoping to reconnect with them on this journey.

This was the first series I have read from Tamora Pierce, and I enjoyed it. I have not read The Circle Opens series which introduces these characters, but I found it easy enough to follow what was happening. The Will Of The Empress is the first book in The Circle Reforged series, that currently has three books. Although this one was written first, it is not the first if you follow the timeline of events.

I thought Pierce created a compelling world with interesting powers and ways to channel them. I liked the idea of a thread mage who uses a special sewing kit to channel her powers, a weather mage that has her powers braided in her hair, and a lot of other cool powers.

While the fantasy aspects of the story were interesting, I appreciate that Pierce addressed serious issues in this book as well. Her characters deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and relationship issues--friendship, family, and romantic. There is also discussion of political problems, blackmail, and responsibility of a landowner to their tenants. These issues are woven into the story in a compelling way, and makes for an intriguing story.

If you are looking for a fun fantasy read that also addresses some serious issues this is a good book to read. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Daring Ladies Of Lowell

Alice Barrow decides to become a mill girl in Lowell to gain independence from her father and from a life on the farm. She must work her looms all day, and as many looms as possible to make a worthwhile sum. She makes friends with other girls in her boarding house and at the looms. Alice finds herself joining the voices of the mill girls that want safer working conditions after witnessing several terrible accidents. She tries to convince the owners of the mills that it is in their best interest to have safe and healthy workers.

The other main plot of this novel is the murder of one of the mill girls. Her friends are determined to find justice for her. The people in charge struggle to find the perpetrator of this crime. This plot line is based on some newspaper articles from this time period that mention a murder of a mill girl. What actually happened is unknown, but the author gives her own version here that blends well with the other plots.

I really enjoyed this novel despite the dismal topics it covered. The struggle that is portrayed is based on what real mill girls endured, and is an important part of history to remember. It is not all sad. The friendships that are made in this book are beautiful and necessary to the survival of these women.

If you are interested in the mill girls or historical fiction I recommend reading this book.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Starting From Scratch

Written to introduce children to concepts about nutrition and cooking, Starting From Scratch begins with how taste influences the experience of food and continues on to basic recipes for the newly informed reader to try. It covers commonly used cooking terms and techniques to prepare you for the cooking process. It also explains recipes, replacing ingredients, and flavor combination. All important things to know if you plan to cook during your life.

I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads Program*. I thought it was a fun book for children. It explains concepts they will use for the rest of their lives. While the book is mostly introductory, it will help engage children not only in mixing food and cooking it, but in meal planning, budgeting, growing food, and nutrition. Each section is short enough that a child will be able to focus on that topic without being overwhelmed with information.

I also liked that the book briefly talked about issues regarding food and nutrition. Processed foods, Farmer's Markets, where your food comes from, and eating local are all mentioned as choices that each person must make about their food. It also mentions different dietary options such as: veganism, vegetarianism, or other choices. I thought the author did a decent job staying neutral on these topics and mostly just gave a brief explanation for each term. It is important for children to learn about different choices they have for nutrition.

The only problem I had with this book was there were a few times when words that were chosen seemed liked baby talk or dumbing it down too much. Words such as "thingy" for a kitchen utensil. It did only happen a few times in the whole book, so not a huge concern, but it did not seem to fit with the audience this book was geared for, or seem very professional.

I think that people trying to engage children in nutrition and cooking will find this a helpful book. It will provide basic ideas, and will help you decide what your child is interested in.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. Winners are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review. Winning this book does not change the nature of my review, it merely provides me with early access to this book.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fables: Animal Farm

Snow takes Rose Red to the farm, where the Fables that can't pass as human live. Snow is hoping to reconnect while Red finishes her community service at the farm. They find more than they bargain for when the walk in on a covert meeting in the barn. The next morning they discover one of the Fables has been murdered, and events rapidly spiral out of control. Snow must try to escape as Red turns on her and joins the revolution on the farm. The farm Fables have decided they are tired of being restricted to the farm, and are willing to do anything to escape. Will Snow be able to escape and warn the other Fables in the city?

I loved all of the references to different stories in this book. Both fairy tale and literary. I have not read all of Animal Farm yet, but I am familiar with the basic ideas that are clearly taken from it and used in this book. There are also Lord Of The Flies references. It is impressive the depth that this series has while still be an amusing retelling of the classic fairy tales.

This is the second volume in the series, and already we are learning a lot about the Fable world, the war they are fighting, and of course many new Fables enter into the series. We are introduced to how death effects some Fables differently than others and some of the politics of the Fables.

I recommend reading this series!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Lady Of The Bog

Xander Donne is an American anthropologist living in England. Xander begins work on a mysterious case to discover why a body has been found in a bog. It is determined that the woman in the bog was a sacrifice from 700 years ago. He removes the rune inscribed stakes that warn against this very action before learning what they say. Strange events begin to transpire as the case progresses, and Donne becomes obsessed with the lady in the bog.

I won a copy of this from the Goodreads First Reads Program*. I thought the idea of using a body buried in a bog for hundreds of years could be a really good mystery. I still think there is potential with that story line, but this book did not meet my expectations. When I began this book I thought it was a historical mystery. False. It is closer to a paranormal history. I did not care for the way the story was told, and it was presented in a confusing manner.

The characters were not consistent with the roles they had been given. This made their actions unbelievable, and consequently, I could not suspend my disbelief, and engage with the story. Combined with the confusing nature of the writing, it was difficult to care what happened. I lost interest in the characters and the story early on, and had to force myself to finish it.

I do not recommend reading this book.

*The Goodreads First Reads program does not require winners to give a review. Winners are encouraged to review the book, as the authors and publishers offering the books for free are trying to get the public interested in their book. If a review is given, it is not stipulated that it should be positive or negative, only an honest review. Winning this book does not change the nature of my review, it merely provides me with early access to this book.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Queen Of The Conqueror: The Life Of Matilda Wife Of William I

Matilda was the wife of William the Conqueror. She had initially refused William's marriage proposal, but it is said she agreed to marry him after he beat her publicly. It was the first of many conflicts in their life together. She tried to grab power as often as she could, and lived a life different than the typical woman of the time. There has been a lot written about William's life, but Matilda has been neglected. Here we can understand the strong woman that Matilda was, and how she greatly helped William conqueror England, and establish his rule.

Tracy Borman works to compile what little evidence we have of Matilda's life. Using artifacts and documents to piece together Matilda's life, Borman provides a new perspective on Queen Matilda. She also discusses later accounts of Matilda's life, and how accurate those portrayals are. I liked that each account was considered and explained why it was accurate or inaccurate, and what information we have to support those claims.

I was eager to read this book when I heard about it, and I am glad I did.This biography held my attention to the end. Borman portrays Matilda as an intriguing person, and I really enjoyed learning about her. I only wish we knew more about this fascinating person. The book did have a lot about William, but most of the documents we still have focus on him, so it was unavoidable. It was still an excellent book about Matilda.

If you are interested in medieval history or women in history I suggest reading this book.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Mirasol was trained as a Beekeeper. She recently was declared the Chalice--an important member of the Master's Circle. She is responsible for binding together the Circle and the land. She is at a serious disadvantage in her new role as she has received no training. The land and Circle are in turmoil after the bad management and death of the last Master. Mirasol must unite the new Master and the land before it is too late.

I am usually a fan of Robin Mckinley's books, and was very excited to read one of her original works that I had never heard of before. Although, it could be argued this is another retelling of Beauty and the Beast from her. I was disappointed in this book. It was very slow getting into the plot. It was also confusing the way the background information was inserted mid sentence or thought, and would suddenly pick up where it left off in the present paragraphs later.

This would have been a great story if it had been edited better, and was told in a clearer way. This should not stop readers from trying some of McKinley's other books. I would recommend starting with Beauty, Spindle's End, or Sunshine. Maybe try reading this one after you have read some of her other books.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Tin Ticket

This book tells the story of several women who were transported from the British Isles to Australia for crimes usually involving theft. Transporting the prisoners to a colony was viewed as a reasonable solution by the government to colonize an area few upstanding citizens seemed willing to settle. It also helped rid the cities of criminals that were overcrowding the prisons. The horrors of imprisonment, the transportation, forced labor, and the brutality the prisoners(often women) would face were related in this book.

I found it annoying that instead of using the name Agnes for one of the prisoners the book focuses on, often the author would use the phrase "the grey eyed girl". I understand using the phrase once or twice, but more than half the time was too much. It was a strange way to try to relate to the character.

The writing was very descriptive. There was a plethora of adjectives that were largely unnecessary to the story of these women. Although this improved slightly in the last half of the book when we left Agnes' story for the other women, it was still too much description. The story was over dramatized, and seemed biased. This made it difficult at some points to tell what was Swiss' opinion, and what actually happened. The over description and bias made it a disjointed book and difficult to read.

I was looking forward to reading this book because I had seen a documentary about women in prisons being sent to the colonies in Australia. I thought this book did not convey the story in a clear way. It did not hold my attention, and I had to push myself to finish it.

I would recommend reading a different book if you are interested in this topic.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Perfume Collector

Grace Monroe is living a life of privilege in London 1955. She receives a letter from France that changes her life. Eva d'Orsey has left her a substantial fortune. The only problem is, Grace has no idea who Eva was, and why she would leave her a fortune. Grace travels to France to receive her inheritance and to try to discover who this mysterious benefactor was. Her search leads her to an abandoned Perfume Shop. The perfumes in the shop help to slowly uncover Eva's story.

The story alternates between Grace and Eva's points of view, and their stories are woven together in an artful way. Telling both of their stories together did make the end more predictable, but I still enjoyed discovering how we would get to that end. Using the perfumes as prompts for the story was a unique method, and I liked the imagery that conveyed.

The plot itself is rather simple, but that should not deter readers. This makes Tessaro's writing style stand out more as she weaves simplicity into a gripping story that you want to continue reading, despite knowing how it must turn out in the end. With characters written so well, you feel you know them by the end, this was altogether a satisfying read. This was the first book I have read from this author, but I will be checking out her other work.

I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sappho: Poems And Fragments

This is a collection of Sappho's poems and fragments. It is organized into different topics that the translator divided them into. This is helpful particularly when trying to understand what some of the fragments would have been about. There is also an excellent introduction that is worth reading.

The introduction was very interesting to read. I liked that the translator: Josephine Balmer discussed some of the controversy surrounding Sappho, and what we actually know about her. Balmer also made some good comments about how people assume writers, particularly women authors, work is biographical. In reality we cannot know for certain most of the details of Sappho's life because we do not have the records.

Sappho's poetry is a quick read, largely because most of her work is fragmented. There is only one complete poem by Sappho that we have. I do like that Balmer does not try to insert her own interpretations into the poetry. If she seeks to clarify a section it is clearly marked in the text or in a footnote. For me, this makes reading this translation superior to many other versions.

Sappho's poetry is moving, and I can only wish that more of it had survived, and that what had survived was more of her finished work. This is a book I look forward to returning to. The danger with it being so easy to read is that you miss the beauty of what is there. I look forward to continuing to discover more when I read her poems again.

I would recommend reading Sappho's poems.