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review 2019-09-16 03:29
Dragon Lady
Dragon Lady - Autumn Bardot
Xianggu is a teenager when she is sold into slavery by her father.  Xianggu is bought by Madame Xu, the Madame on a floating brothel.  Xianggu quickly learns the ways of the brothel and becomes indispensable to Madame Xu.  After years on the floating brothel, Xianggu is a prized flower girl and has trained to take over for Madame Xu.  However, the brothel is raided by pirates and Xianggu uses her skills to change her situation.  Soon, Xianggu is the wife of the Zheng Yi, the boss of the Red Flag pirate ship.  As Zheng Yi's wife, Xianggu does more than satisfy his needs, she learns everything about the ship, pirate hierarchy, how they conduct business and learns to battle.  Xianggu is determined to rise above the situation she was handed in life and piracy is the key to her success.
 
Dragon Lady is an amazing adventure about a real extraordinary woman who faced adversity, survived and made the best of every situation thrown her way.  The overwhelming theme of the story is "who is to say what is good or bad?" and using determination to change your own fate.  From the moment Xianggu is sold into slavery and uses the power of a story to calm the other girls with her, I knew Xianggu's character would prevail.  Xianggu used everyone as a stepping stone to her own growth, despite being in a position below them.  The writing carried me through Xianggu's life with wonder and amazement, showing both of Xianggu's sides of fierce determination and shrewd business sense as well as sincerity, compassion and fairness.  A great amount of research is evident when reading about Xianggu's time aboard the Red Flag, from the layout of the ship, to the food the pirate's ate and all of the crew to keep the ship running, the details are all precise and I could imagine the large ship clearly.  Xianggu's role and importance in history is also shown as she played a part in battle planning, money making schemes, doling out punishments and creating pirate code.  Overall, an absorbing story of Xianggu's rise to power and her ambition to lead on her own.  
 
This book was received for free in return for and honest review. 
 
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review 2019-09-14 00:50
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear - My Thoughts
Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear

I came across these books one day a couple of years ago and pointed them out to my good friend, Lainey, who loves anything to do with the Great War.  She picked the first one up and went on to read the others and raved about them!  *LOL*  Finally, a few weeks ago, there was a sale and I managed to pick up this book and books 3 & 4. 

I'm glad to say that I quite enjoyed it!

Now there are a lot of words in this book.  The author likes words.  But that's not a problem because it translates the setting and feel of the book perfectly, I thought. The book is set in 1929, ten years after the end of the First World War, but the Great War permeates every nook and cranny of the story.

Maisie is a great character.  VERY competent and quite brilliant, she does have her faults though.  Just not too many of them.  *LOL*   I enjoyed traveling with her as she sought to unravel the mystery of The Retreat and as well, her trips back into her youth and time during the war.  I'd say a good third if not more of the book is taken up with what one would term her 'backstory', but it worked. 

In conclusion, I quite enjoyed my read, despite thinking at the outset that it just might be a very pedantic read - it wasn't at all. I actually fell a little in love with the characters and I'm looking forward to my next read in Maisie's world!

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review 2019-09-11 15:09
And This is Where I Leave You...
Secrets of the Chocolate House (Found Things #2) - Paula Brackston

Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. 

 

I was hoping that this book could turn it around, but honestly I was just bored. You would think a book about time travel would be interesting, but it's really not. I think Brackston is hoping to set up Xanthe so have an epic nemesis like in her "The Witch's Daughter" series and I just cannot live through that mess again. This book doesn't hang together very well. Xanthe is not interesting at all. We have some pieces about her ability to "spin" through time, but no real information. We also have her talking to another character about this and my eyes glazed over. I wanted Xanthe to go back to Samuel and her protestations about her mother and her store just got annoying. We also have three love interests this time through and I just threw up my hands. The big bad was a laugh and a half and I just maybe snickered at the ending. Maybe next time Xanthe listens to someone. 

 

Xanthe is trying to stay focused on helping her mother run her antique business in the town of Marlborough. Xanthe still thinks about Samuel, the man she met back in the seventeenth century. However, Xanthe is determined to not travel back in time. She had a hard time lying to her mother and she knows that she can't say back in the past. However, on a shopping trip with her mother, a chocolate pot "sings" to Xanthe. She doesn't know why it's calling to her and why it seems so reluctant to show her it's story. When Xanthe gets a vision that Samuel is in danger, she travels back in time to find out that he is being held prisoner and soon to be hanged for a plot against the king. If this isn't enough, Xanthe's ex Marcus is running around Marlborough trying to get her to talk to him again. And of course we have Liam still wanting more from Xanthe though she's told him she's not ready for a relationship. 

 

I don't know, I should not have been hoping that Xanthe fail and stay back in the past. Her reasoning behind staying for her mother made me cringe a bit. I don't really see Xanthe doing what she loves, she's staying to take care of her mother and help her with her business. We hear how Xanthe is a really good singer, and I don't recall her singing that much this go round. Maybe once I think? It just seems as if all of her supposed passions are dried up. When Xanthe finally meets someone who knows about her abilities though she can't get information out of them. I started to get annoyed because it makes zero sense to me why it's not discussed. And then of course, Xanthe meets another spinner, or what I call a dark leaper (you Quantum Leap fans know what I am talking about). Honestly that is what jarred me a bit, I did start thinking about this book being a send up of Quantum Leap and then I started to see if I could find that series streaming anywhere. 

 

Image result for quantum leap gif

 

I can't even say much about other characters. The most interesting one to me is a woman that Xanthe meets in the past who won't tell her much. We sadly don't get enough scenes with her and Samuel. Liam bugs me and Marcus sucked. We have Xanthe revealing her powers to someone and I was so bored with that that I started looking up Quantum Leap gifs.

 

Image result for quantum leap gif

 

The writing read as forced to me a few times. I mean honestly this whole Samuel is in danger thing could have been tied up pretty fast. But nope, we have Xanthe jumping back and forth in time and dealing with nonsense from Marcus and going over her abilities with someone and then going back in time trying to deal with the evil leaper. Pick a story-line and stick with it please.


The flow was off and I kept going oh is she still on that with so and so? I just started to lose interest in this whole book by the 70 percent mark or so. It was a struggle to finish cause we have like 3 or 4 "endings" before we get to the dun dun dun one. 

 

The book jumps back and forth from our time to the 1600s in England again. The only reason why I am giving this book 2 stars though is that Brackston obviously did research on chocolate houses in that time and place and chocolate pots. I didn't even know that this was a real thing and got interested in reading about them and liked the details we are given. At times the book reads as a history book, but it didn't bother me at all. 

 

The ending is a cliffhanger and one wonders how Xanthe is going to get her way out of this one. 

 

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review 2019-09-08 18:40
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome - Cynthia Griffin Wolff,Edith Wharton

Despite the author’s literary skill, I didn't think much of this novella. In its brief page count, it chronicles the tragedy of Ethan Frome, a struggling young farmer hastily married to a cousin who constantly insists upon her unspecified ailments; while yearning for a better life, Ethan falls hard for his wife’s penniless young cousin, Mattie, who has joined them as a sort of servant.

There is merit here: the clear but artful language and descriptions of the New England countryside (where it is apparently always winter); the nuanced portrayals of everyday events and the characters’ emotional states; a story that moves relatively quickly and builds emotion as it goes. I suspect it’s a rare reader who doesn’t have an emotional reaction to the book, which is short enough and compelling enough to read in a single sitting.

But for many readers – myself included – the predominant emotional reaction is likely to be frustration. This is the second Wharton I’ve read, and both books follow characters who refuse to take available options to solve their problems, and finally conclude (or appear to conclude) that death is the only answer. These books are apparently meant to demonstrate how society limits the individual’s choices. But, to put it rather crudely, I think what this book really demonstrates is how being a pussy limits Ethan’s choices. Why doesn’t he stand up to his wife? Why doesn’t he abandon the farm to his creditors, go to the nearest city and get a job? Why does he feel he could only leave if he could afford to get to California, at a time when new immigrants were arriving and surviving on the East Coast every day? It’s hard for me to feel for a character whose real problem seems to be that he doesn’t have the spine to stand up for himself and the woman he claims to love. Mattie’s problems are somewhat more legitimate, but the story is told so much from Ethan’s perspective that we don’t quite know her; I was left wondering whether she in fact loved Ethan, or just saw him as her only protector; even she might not know the difference.

The other thing that rubs me the wrong way is Wharton’s introduction, in which she explains that the story is short because her poor rural characters are “simple” people with simple emotions: “but half-emerged from the soil, and scarcely more articulate.” This is so condescending and lacking in empathy that I wonder how qualified she really is to write about these characters. Just because someone is poor, half-educated and hasn’t been raised to consider their emotions worthy of analysis and discussion, doesn’t mean they don’t have complicated emotions, or that their life isn’t a long and complicated saga. This book is short because all of the set-up happens before it starts, leaving us to follow the characters only for some quick rising action up to the climax, and then we skip a couple of decades and get all the denouement in a quick retrospective. From a literary standpoint this works well. But the shortness and simplicity comes not from the fact that the characters are incapable of experiencing more, but because Wharton is incapable of imagining them doing so.

I don’t regret reading this: it’s short, well-known and an interesting story. But I definitely wouldn't recommend assigning it to teenagers; even as an adult, it’s a little hard to sympathize with these characters. And let’s keep in mind that while Wharton – without the benefit of today’s social science – fell for the common human fallacy of believing that members of out-groups have emotions less meaningful and complex than our own, we shouldn’t do the same.

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review 2019-09-08 10:00
Surf Smugglers Review and GIVEAWAY!
 
 

About the Book

 


Book: Surf Smugglers

Author: Melody Carlson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: August 15, 2019

In the summer of 1917, US troops join the allied forces in the Great War. Back in Sunset Cove, Oregon, other battles wage. Anna McDowell continues to fight old fashioned stereotypes as she runs a newspaper committed to truth. Despite opposition, she’s determined to expose ongoing rum-running and prohibition lawlessness.

Adding to Anna’s frustrations, her good friend Dr. Daniel seems to run hot and cold. He loves Oregon, and maybe Anna too, but he’s pulled by his East Coast family responsibilities. Even the lure of a new modern Sunset Cove hospital doesn’t seem enough to keep him in Sunset Cove.

Meanwhile, Anna’s strong-willed daughter Katy continues to develop her dress shop by inviting family friend Sarah Rose to help out. But the woman’s presence tests the small town’s tolerance. And Anna’s concern that her daughter is growing up too fast is confirmed when Katy’s romantic life takes an unexpected turn, which Anna fears is influenced by the pressure of a devastating war that is not only changing the entire world but Sunset Cove as well.

Click HERE to grab your copy.
 

About the Author

 

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women, and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, True Colors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including RT’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita, and the Gold medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.
 

More from Melody

 

My favorite way to learn history is through historical fiction—both by reading and by writing it. And I’ve discovered that World War 1 (previously known as the Great War, since WW2 had yet to happen) is quite fascinating. As well as incredibly sad. But I’m amazed at how science and technology evolved so quickly in this era. Whether it was advancement in automotive, communication, medicine . . . the culture was rapidly changing. And the war pushed it along at an even faster pace.
 
Another factor that makes this era interesting is prohibition. Oregon, my home state and where I set my series, was one of the earliest states to adopt prohibition of alcohol—in 1914. As a result, Oregon became ripe territory for bootlegging and rum-running along the coastline. And because my series involves a small town coastal newspaper that’s run (gasp!) by a woman, it gets even more interesting—and exciting!
 
Speaking of women, the suffrage movement was approved in Oregon in 1912—also well ahead of the rest of the nation (and the main reason that prohibition passed). My theory on why this happened is that the brave women who’d made the arduous journey West (via perilous wagon train or long hard voyages on clipper ships) were strong and opinionated and tough. And many of them were sick and tired of drunken slacker husbands. Also, thanks to Oregon’s amazing land donation act of 1850, many of these women were equal landowners to their husbands—and land equaled power.
 
Of course, what these suffragette-prohibition supporters didn’t realize is that banning alcohol would make matters worse because bootlegging and rum-running suddenly became a very lucrative business. The crime rate soared and the booze continued to flow freely. But all this makes for good newspaper stories, keeping our female editor in chief rather busy. In the first two books of the series, Anna McDowell has her hands full with trying to run her ailing father’s newspaper, restoring family relationships, and staying ahead of the growing crime element in Sunset Cove.
 
By book three, Surf Smugglers, Anna has her feet under her and doing a good job of standing up to the criminal element in their region. But by now the Great War is really heating up and the United States must get involved. Of course, this means that many young men, as well as Anna’s very good friend Dr. Daniel Hollister, are being shipped overseas to serve. Meanwhile, there is plenty of trouble at home. And the rum-runners, who despise the newspaper’s support of prohibition, target Anna’s good friend Sarah Rose because she’s a woman of color who’s sought refuge from the big city . . . and naturally things get dicey.
 
I’m currently finishing up the fourth and final book of the Legacy if Sunset Cove series, and I’m sad to think my ‘history lesson’ in this interesting era is drawing to an end. Not only have I learned a lot, I’ve really come to love the McDowell family . . . and I’m getting worried that not all the men from Sunset Cove will survive the brutal war. Of course, this is fiction . . . but the war was very real and the losses were great. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the war to end all wars like they’d hoped, but I appreciate the sentiment . . . and continue to pray for world peace.
 

My Review

 

Although this is likely not a series that I would necessarily gravitate toward on my own, I am glad that I have had the opportunity to read and review each of the three books thus far. Ordinarily, I prefer action and some mystery or suspense when reading fiction, and while there is arguably a bit of this in the Legacy of Sunset Cove series, the true foundation is built on relationships and people. In the first book, I admittedly had a somewhat difficult time connecting with and truly engaging with the characters. This improved in book two, and “Surf Smugglers” presents a blossoming and maturation of the central figures that is realistic and endearing.

If there is a single word that captures the spirit of “Surf Smugglers”, it is “change.” Melody Carlson draws credible parallels between the United States entering the war in 1917 and the battles that each character, as well as the town of Sunset Cove itself, likewise faces. There is a suspicion of continued rum-running, and with the war coming closer to home due to the draft, shortages of both employees and goods become more common. Even women’s fashion adapts, becoming more austere and less frilly. Developing a local Red Cross chapter and making other amendments to the town further highlight how war influences even more backwater locales.

Most compelling, however, is Carlson’s portrayal of the community. The people reflect the challenges and transformations of the time period, because “history did not change itself overnight.” In “Surf Smugglers”, I appreciated the inclusion of a colored woman as one of the important secondary characters, and the ensuing implications. Similarly, there is a theme of second chances and of not judging or forming an opinion too hastily. I know that I have struggled with this myself, and having it raised as an issue in the novel is a reminder of how we should model the redemption that our Savior has given us. One of the characters who matured the most is Katy. Her approach to life, “Take chances and make changes”, leads her to plenty of new experiences. The spiritual element in the narrative is light, and I think that this series would appeal to any readers who enjoy historical fiction, historical romance, and coming-of-age stories.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

 

Blog Stops

 

The Avid Reader, August 31

Connect in Fiction, August 31

Among the Reads, September 1

She Lives To Read, September 1

Through the Fire Blogs, September 1

For Him and My Family, September 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 2

Just the Write Escape, September 3

Patiently Waiting, September 3

Blogging With Carol , September 3

CarpeDiem, September 4

Betti Mace, September 4

Christian Bookaholic , September 4

Reflections From My Bookshelves, September 5

Wishful Endings, September 5

Remembrancy, September 5

Maureen’s Musings, September 6

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess , September 6

Bigreadersite , September 7

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 7

It’s Story Time With Van Daniker, September 7

Connie’s history classroom , September 8

For the Love of Literature, September 8

Hallie Reads, September 8

Moments, September 9

Simple Harvest Reads, September 9

FOR THE LOVE of Books , September 9

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 10

Pause for Tales, September 10

To Everything A Season, September 10

Retrospective Spines, September 11

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 11

Texas Book-aholic, September 11

Older & Smarter?, September 12

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, September 12

janicesbookreviews, September 13

A Reader’s Brain, September 13

Inklings and notions , September 13

 

Giveaway

 

 
To celebrate her tour, Melody is giving away the grand prize of three of her books: Harbor Secrets, Riptide Rumors, and Surf Smugglers!!
 
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
 

 

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