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review 2020-07-21 20:25
Mediocre regency novel
The Devil's Gift - Laura Landon

This book is intended for some people but I do not think I am one of them. I love regency historical romances so that is not the issue. The issue is in the worldbuilding and plenty of plot holes and loose ends that just leave me feeling slightly disappointed. If you can look past those issues then there is a good enough story there to at least finish the book.

I am not going to dwell too much upon this book because it didn't make me happy and it didn't make me angry, it was that middle mediocre feeling with which you know you are not going to remember this book for long and you really won't have any feelings about it few days later when it just evaporates from your mind.

The beginning is promising, there is a mystery there with the lady training some street girls to give them a chance at a better life, there is an assassination which then leads to a private investigation by the dead person's brother, there is an intrigue surrounding the household of the main female character and there is definitely enough to build the story upon. Those are all great points but from there onwards it somehow drags in certain places like the main male character's silly training in household chores and then it goes too fast skipping important details that we then just have to imagine have been explained like how her father was discovered because there was never an indication that that might happen, it happened just to propel the plot forwards and not because logic and reason were behind the event.

The writing is capable, the story is at least interesting enough for me to read to the end, the characters are just fine, nothing great but also nothing too bad. Everything feels like that honestly, everything is just fine enough to be read through but nothing stands out to make it memorable or entertaining enough to recommend to someone.

I have many issues with the plot and the missing pieces and the overall conspiracy is just too silly to be believable, also if the main villain was that easily triggered as we see in the end then there is no way he could have masterminded that ridiculous conspiracy. The characters also not fully developed. Main female lead starts off as different than other ladies because she cares about the common folk and helps the girls out but then that just disappears when it served the plot of getting the main male lead into the household in that way. There is no mention of the girls after that, it doesn't serve anything, it doesn't come back later... it's just there to give entrance to the main male lead. Speaking of him, it is also unreasonable that he as the new earl wouldn't have more people to help him with his investigation, that he would have that much time to spend playing house with the lady whilst all of his obligations are on hold and that no other woman would be interested in him and come to play as a misunderstanding or an obstacle at some point. Things seem to happen to serve the plot and are totally forgotten.

All of what I have mentioned just left me feeling meh, like shrugging my shoulders and saying ah, it was okayish enough to not consider it a waste of time. Which is not a compliment but also not the worst thing ever.

If you have the time and you just want to read a simple regency romance story then this can kill some time, but don't think too hard about the plot and the conspiracy and the female lead's father and his circumstances because the story will immediately crumble and you won't be able to immerse yourself into this world anymore.

It's good if you just don't think about it.

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review 2020-07-16 16:35
My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton - Stephanie Dray,Laura Croghan Kamoie

Boring. My apologies if this is one of your faves. I had to stop reading it. I couldn't stand it anymore. Alexander Hamilton is a much more interesting subject than Eliza. I'll read about him instead.  

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review 2020-07-01 18:01
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly,Laura Freeman ,Winifred Conkling

For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

A great story to share with young readers. These women's journeys are inspiring and show what hard work can accomplish. While it is unfortunate that they were unrecognized for so long, it is wonderful to see their stories told in a variety of formats (picture books, adult non-fiction, film) in recent years.

Overall, the book was well done. Any of the issues I had with it pretty much stem from taking a full chapter book for adults and trying to reduce it down to a short read understandable to children. That's a big task and overall it was done well.

The illustrations were lovely. There was nice detail and I really enjoyed the space-themed/math-themed backgrounds. It was also cool to have other important figures from the time period come up in the illustrations such as Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and Daisy Bates (although it might have been nice to label them somewhere since they were not explicitly mentioned in the text). These worked as a great point to branch off into discussions of the Civil Rights movements and a few important figures in African American history.

The book nicely incorporates definitions for tricky and unfamiliar works throughout the text. This is a great way to add in some extra teaching moments while still keeping the story going. There is also a glossary of terms at the end of the book.

I also thought the book did well setting the stage in describing segregation in a simple way that would be easy for children to understand. Throughout the book, it showed some of the changes made throughout time in a very simplified way. This worked well and allowed for expansion through discussion and explanation when reading with an adult.

I did find some of the narration choppy because of the time stretch and multiple women highlighted. It may have worked better to incorporate chapters for each woman instead of blurring them all together. Also, because it is so simplified, most of the women are reduced to "good at math. Really good." While this was obviously an important feature, I wish they were more developed and their other characteristics highlighted. One doesn't become NASA's first African-American supervisor or first female African-American aerospace engineer solely because one is good at math. It takes drive, passion, persuasion, persistence, bravery, determination, and a willingness to fight for what you want. I wanted more of these characteristics to come out, but again the small space dedicated to each woman didn't really allow for much elaboration.

At the end of the book are some additional resources for further information about the women. Besides the glossary, there is also a timeline of events including when each woman started and ended their work at NACA/NASA and a brief bio about each woman.

Overall, the book was well done. The short space only allowed for a very simplified version of events, but it is a great introduction to the contribution these women made as well as the history of segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.

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review 2020-06-24 04:03
A Charming Look at One Girl's Pursuit of Happiness
Anna - Laura Guthrie
I knew this should have been a happy thing. Maybe happiness just didn’t feel like how I thought it ought to feel. It certainly seemed a small reward for such a lot of chasing by so many people in so many different times and places. But if Dad seemed to think it was worth chasing as hard as he did, for as long as he did, and in the many different ways that he did, then there must be something to it.

Anna is a thirteen-year-old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (she identifies as Asperger's syndrome), we meet her on a bus bound for her mother's house in Scotland. Her father has recently died (under circumstances it takes us a while to learn), and after a brief period in Foster Care, she's on her way to live with her mother—a woman she has had no contact with for over a decade.


It takes no time at all for the reader to see that Mom wasn't ready to take custody—in any sense. Anna's confused by her new reality—as anyone would be, exasperated by ASD. She wanders around the neighborhood meeting people. There's a varied and colorful cast of characters that we're introduced to—of various ages, social levels, professions. Anna's interactions with them tell us plenty about her as well as them all.


Anna's a delightful girl with her own particular way of looking at the world. It's a pleasure to see things through her eyes and watch the way her mind works. The people she surrounds herself with—both by circumstance and choice—are almost as fun and rewarding to read about. For example, her mother learns how to be a mother—actually, she learns how to be Anna's mother—and finds some healing for the circumstances that led to her separation from Anna and her father.


Happiness is the theme—and not a subtle one—of the book. Anna's focus on it is one of the first things we encounter when we meet her and she doesn't let us lose sight of it. She sees a lot of different ways that happiness can be found/expressed, but her goal (something her father taught her) is to find it in all circumstances. This perspective is catching, and her new friends and family start to do it—I think I spent a bit more time looking for it while I read the book, too.


An unexpected highlight for me was the way Guthrie used Christians and Anna's mother's church in this book. This is not Christian Fiction—and bears none of its hallmarks. But it is filled with solid, believing, Church-going people. Not morally perfect, hypocritical or judgmental, or any of the too typical ways that Christians are generally depicted. But people of faith, who've made mistakes, sinned against each other, and have found/are finding restoration—and along the way, are aided by the others in the church. I also liked the church services—the way Anna's mother explains them to her brought a huge smile to my face. There's no preaching to the reader involved, but we get to see faith in action and its effects.


I have two, related, complaints with the book. The first is that the book is just too short—this is really more of a backhanded compliment. I think each member of her extended family could've used more time, more character development. Maybe it's just because I enjoyed spending time with all of them—and it's clear that we only get the highlights of the relationships in the novel. But I think it's a little more. If scenes had been given just a little more space to develop, I think it'd have been a little stronger of a novel.


The second complaint is along the same lines—it was too rushed, too compact. It felt like Guthrie knew where all the plotlines were supposed to resolve and didn't want the book to go beyond a certain page count. So, the material we get in the last 10% of the book feels like it should've been given at least twice (maybe three times) the number of pages.


This is a charming read, full of heart, humor and love. It's not what I typically read—but when I find this kind of book, it makes me happy. I hope this sounds like the compliment it's supposed to be, but Anna feels like it'd be the kind of thing to introduce to your older MG/younger YA reader if you want them to grow up into a Fredrik Backman reader—the same kind of collection of interesting characters, an idiosyncratic protagonist, and a heartwarming feel. Guthrie's not in Backman's league—yet—but I can see her getting there. I'd enjoy reading more by her in the future, and in the meantime, I'm glad I got to read this—and recommend it to anyone else.


My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the novel) they provided.

Love Books Group

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/06/23/anna-by-laura-guthrie-a-charming-look-at-one-girls-pursuit-of-happiness
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review 2020-06-23 22:39
Laura Bassi and Science in 18th Century Europe by Monique Frize
Laura Bassi and Science in 18th Century Europe: The Extraordinary Life and Role of Italy's Pioneering Female Professor - Monique Frize

This is a lazily researched, poorly-organized and poorly-written book, that nevertheless proved interesting to me by covering the biographies of 18th century female Italian scientists, which I have not found elsewhere. Biographies available in English are overwhelmingly Anglocentric and a historical biography of a non-English speaking woman without an adventurous sex life is a rare find indeed.

But unless you have a strong interest in that subject, you probably shouldn’t read this book. First of all, it’s poorly researched. The author apparently cribbed most of it from the dissertation of a researcher who died prematurely, and that researcher appears to have done much more work on it than this author, who regularly cites to Wikipedia (!). Second, she seems to run out of material about halfway through after already having covered Laura Bassi’s biography and some background on science at the time, so spends the rest of the book summarizing letters Bassi exchanged with various men (unclear why this isn’t simply incorporated into the biography portion) and providing mini-biographies of other Italian women active in science.

Third, the writing is just bad; I think the author is a science professor who is interested in the subject but very much not a writer. She struggles with appropriate prepositions, capitalization, and hyphenation, and there’s frequent awkward sentence structure and word use (words like “obtention” and “embracement”). She also frequently reminds readers of things we’ve already been told, going so far as to use Bassi’s full name and remind us of basic facts such as the city in which she lived well into the book, giving the impression that no final read-through was conducted to streamline the writing. Overall, it’s just rather awkward and jagged.

That said, it definitely is an interesting subject: Laura Bassi was a professor of science in 18th century Italy, which was quite an achievement for a woman at the time, and if the book doesn’t exactly bring her to life, it definitely introduces a lot of facts about her. As it turns out, Italy offered somewhat more opportunities for educated women in the 18th century than other European countries, largely based on the notion of the “exceptional woman,” whose brilliance reflected well on her family and city because since women were assumed to be less intelligent than men, if a woman was that smart, how brilliant must their men be? In general, these “exceptional women” were expected to adorn civic occasions rather than make actual careers, and to be very much the exceptions to the rule: the father of one of them, who had championed his own daughter’s advancement, argued successfully against the same university granting a degree to any other woman on the grounds that it would somehow cheapen his daughter’s achievement. Bassi managed to turn her degree into an actual career though, with some help from unexpected places, namely the Pope, an old friend of hers who wanted to improve the state of science in Bologna at the time.

I would love to see someone write biographies of the women discussed here for a general audience; there’s so much rich material that would be new to most English-speaking readers, and the information included here certainly expanded my understanding of history a little. That said, it is very difficult to recommend this particular book.

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