Bound to Trust by Jaci Burton (Chains of Love #1)

Synopsis:

8238593Several Earth women have disappeared, their trail leading to Xarta, a BDSM planet. Marina, Earth intergalactic investigator, knows that solving this case means a long-awaited promotion. But in order to find the missing women, she’ll have to go undercover as a bondage slave on Xarta, something the strong, capable woman wants no part of.

Kaden is a Dom and a native of Xarta. He’s also an Intergalactic Marshall, sworn to break up the slave trading ring. His job is to take Marina as his submissive and train her while they’re working undercover to expose the slavers and rescue the women.Reluctantly, Marina agrees to act as a submissive, vowing to both herself and to Kaden that her relationship with him is nothing but an act. Until Kaden shows her a side of life that calls to her in ways she didn’t expect.

Review:

The day I read this a migraine tried to set its claws into my brain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate so I settled in with tea, meds, and the wackiest book I could find. I mean, it’s set on a BDSM planet! An Intergalactic Marshall goes undercover and takes a cop as his sub! I was so ready for some craycray. Continue reading “Bound to Trust by Jaci Burton (Chains of Love #1)”

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey #1)

Synopsis:

18006728Lord Peter Wimsey spends his days tracking down rare books, and his nights hunting killers. Though the Great War has left his nerves frayed with shellshock, Wimsey continues to be London’s greatest sleuth—and he’s about to encounter his oddest case yet.

A strange corpse has appeared in a suburban architect’s bathroom, stark naked save for an incongruous pince-nez. When Wimsey arrives on the scene, he is confronted with a once-in-a-lifetime puzzle. The police suspect that the bathtub’s owner is the murderer, but Wimsey’s investigation quickly reveals that the case is much stranger than anyone could have predicted.

Review:

I knew I would love Sayers as soon as I read the dedication:

Dear Jim: This book is your fault.

Then add in the awesome Lord Peter Wimsey, about whom everything has already been said by people more eloquent than I, and I was in love. Continue reading “Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey #1)”

Contact Sport by J.K. George

Synopsis:

26113411In the woods of Massachusetts, pairs of contestants huddle in tents filled with communications equipment. Their voices soar through the air, riding waves into the atmosphere, as they comb through static and noise for a response from the other side of the world. They’re searching for loot—in the form of other voices in the sky. The rarer their contact, the more valuable their treasure.

Joining them in their quest is author J. K. George, an experienced radio operator himself, who guides the reader through the exciting world of amateur radio competition and the intriguing characters of the 2014 World Radiosport Team Championship. The competitors hail from across the planet—from youthful challengers to veterans with decades of radiosporting experience.

They battle computer malfunctions, getting lost, and staying at the top of their game for 24 hours in a hot, stuffy tent. The final scores bring surprises, disappointments, even a recount, and decades-long friendships will be damaged in the fight for the crown of amateur radio—the ultimate “contact” sport.

Review:

I’m a sucker for championships. If you gather the world’s elite in almost anything I’ll tune in, from soccer and the Olympics to competitive crossword puzzle solving and Starcraft. I figure it gives each sport (define as you will) a fair shot – if I don’t like watching the best of the best it’s obviously not for me.

So I jumped on this book when I saw it – radiosport! Who knew there’s such a thing? And complete with a World Championship, where teams have 24 hours to contact as many people in as many different locations as possible via shortwave radio. To do so they set up low-power radio stations with standard equipment at assigned sites like a state forest, an abandoned mental hospital, or next to a military runway. Generators set up in the woods, what could go wrong?
Continue reading “Contact Sport by J.K. George”

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy

Synopsis:

9537951The depression of the 1930s led people to desperate measures to survive. The marathon dance craze, which flourished at that time, seemed a simple way for people to earn extra money dancing the hours away for cash, for weeks at a time. But the underside of that craze was filled with a competition and violence unknown to most ballrooms.

Review:

In the back of my head I knew that they had dance marathons back in the Depression. Back in the old days equals tame, right? Nope.

Continue reading “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy”

The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Synopsis:

86145Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to home-school their children, and that book is now the premier resource for home-schoolers. In this new book, Bauer takes the same elements and techniques and adapts them to the use of adult readers who want both enjoyment and self-improvement from the time they spend reading.

The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres—fiction, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry—accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The annotated lists at the end of each chapter—ranging from Cervantes to A. S. Byatt, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich—preview recommended reading and encourage readers to make vital connections between ancient traditions and contemporary writing.

Review:

I think a lot of readers, myself included, have a nagging voice running through their heads – you still haven’t read War and Peace. You haven’t touched any Greek drama since high school. You always meant to study Shakespeare’s sonnets… why aren’t you doing that?

The Well-Educated Mind is a starting point for anyone interesting in tackling the “great books” of the Western canon. Bauer breaks the books into five categories – fiction, plays, history, autobiography, and poetry – and provides a mini-history and study guide for each. Twenty plus works are listed for each category, to be read in chronological order.

If you were to sit down and follow her plan to the letter it would take a long time, even for just one of the areas. You would have a notebook filled with timelines and chapter summaries and family trees. And you would know someone, preferably in the flesh, that would be doing the same thing at roughly the same time so you could discuss each work in detail and debate the finer points.

Needless to say the thought of all this gave me hives. A list of things I “ought” to read, answering questions a la middle school, the need for a friend just as crazy to join me.

Nope, not happening.

That being said I learned a lot from this book – how autobiographies evolved over time, questions to keep in mind when evaluating an argument, books I’ve never heard of that I’m now interested in. But I also felt a lot of guilt, as I’ve only read a few of the many titles she lists. Does that make me a bad reader? Am I lacking?

No, of course not. But it’s a hard feeling to shake. I self-justified – This is the sort of thing to tackle once I’m retired. I work in a science-y field so my time would be better spent reading journals than classics. And if I did read classics it would make more sense for me to read from the Eastern tradition because I live in Japan. So on, and so forth.

What I need to do is get over myself and own the fact that I will never read most of these books, and that’s okay. I will be partly read in the classics and more deeply read in romance, Japanese literature, and medical non-fiction. I will tackle the Russian greats and British poets if, and only if, the mood strikes.

And that will be enough.

Slightly Married by Mary Balogh (Bedwyn Saga #1)

Synopsis:

110295Like all the Bedwyn men, Aidan has a reputation for cool arrogance. But this proud nobleman also possesses a loyal, passionate heart—and it is this fierce loyalty that has brought Colonel Lord Aidan to Ringwood Manor to honor a dying soldier’s request. Having promised to comfort and protect the man’s sister, Aidan never expected to find a headstrong, fiercely independent woman who wants no part of his protection…nor did he expect the feelings this beguiling creature would ignite in his guarded heart. And when a relative threatens to turn Eve out of her home, Aidan gallantly makes her an offer she can’t refuse: marry him…if only to save her home. And now, as all of London breathlessly awaits the transformation of the new Lady Aidan Bedwyn, the strangest thing happens: With one touch, one searing embrace, Aidan and Eve’s “business arrangement” is about to be transformed into something slightly surprising.

Review:

While this plot should have grabbed me (marriages of convenience, how I love thee!) I had a lot of trouble getting into the book. There isn’t a large overarching conflict or a big bad, just two people that love each other but can’t bring themselves to talk about said love. Grah.

There are some awesome parts, especially when Eve heads to London, but they don’t make up for the chapters that drag. Oh, the captain has decided to stay for one more day? And yet another? Okaay.

That being said I give Balogh major brownie points for having the heroine be happy without biological children of her own. All too often a heroine’s like, “I’m fine with how things are, really,” but the epilogue reads, “I ended up pregnant! Thank god.” Eve wants kids but she’s not hinging her entire life’s happiness on them. Smart.

I won’t be running to get the next book of the series but I’ll keep it in mind for a rainy day.

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Synopsis:

251665In the novel that won her the Booker Prize and established her international reputation, Anita Brookner finds a new vocabulary for framing the eternal question “Why love?” It tells the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a psudonym. When her life begins to resemble the plots of her own novels, however, Edith flees to Switzerland, where the quiet luxury of the Hotel du Lac promises to resore her to her senses.

But instead of peace and rest, Edith finds herself sequestered at the hotel with an assortment of love’s casualties and exiles. She also attracts the attention of a worldly man determined to release her unused capacity for mischief and pleasure. Beautifully observed, witheringly funny, Hotel du Lac is Brookner at her most stylish and potently subversive.

Review:

From the first chapter I wanted to like this book – there’s some beautiful prose in here.

It was to be supposed that beyond the grey garden… lay the vast grey lake, spreading like an anesthetic towards the invisible further shore.

Sometimes it bordered on comical:

Edith Hope, a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name…

The sad thing is that I had a hard time fully connecting to the story. It all felt hollow, which may be partly intentional as Edith is feeling a bit gutted herself. The plot is very slow, nearly nonexistent, and while the characters are kind of interesting they feel like shells, too.

In my head literary fiction equals “white people sitting around talking” and sadly Hotel du Lac fits that bill. There are parts I appreciate (how Edith’s past is unspun) and parts I could have done without (yet another round of tea or coffee with so-and-so). I guess I’m rating this a big, “Hmm. Enh.”

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

Synopsis:

17707738A novel is a story transmitted from the novelist to the reader. It offers distraction, entertainment, and an opportunity to unwind or focus. But it can also be something more powerful—a way to learn about how to live. Read at the right moment in your life, a novel can—quite literally—change it.

The Novel Cure is a reminder of that power. To create this apothecary, the authors have trawled two thousand years of literature for novels that effectively promote happiness, health, and sanity, written by brilliant minds who knew what it meant to be human and wrote their life lessons into their fiction. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote. Whatever your condition, the prescription is simple: a novel (or two), to be read at regular intervals and in nice long chunks until you finish. Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will offer solace, showing that you’re not the first to experience these emotions.

Review:

The idea of a book curing your ills feels far fetched, I know. Don’t think of novels as a magic elixir or cure all but as a way to examine a problem from a different point of view. Conquer Flying, Fear of by reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Night Flight – see how much worse it can be? That turbulence was nothing! Feeling lonely? The gang at 28 Barbary Lane in Tales of the City will take you in as one of their own.

This book can be read equally well straight through or as the mood strikes you. Even if you aren’t suffering from the particular ailment you will still find interesting recommendations to add to your TBR.

The selection of novels covers a wide swath of literary history, from classics to more contemporary works and everything inbetween. I was pleased to see that there were a decent number of books in translation that go beyond the usual Murakami and Russian greats. I especially liked the ten best lists, including the best books for each decade of your life (from teens through 100+), the best novels for when you have a cold, and the best audiobooks for road rage. Genres are hit and miss – fantasy and sci fi are lovingly covered while horror, thrillers, mystery and romance fall by the wayside. Le sigh.

The introductions to each book go me interested in titles but I became annoyed when Berthoud and Elderkin give away major plot points and spoilers. I get that they are eager to say why the book is such a good cure for xyz ailment, but I’d rather they said “trust us” more often. I found myself skimming when they talked about titles already on my TBR just to make sure nothing was ruined for me.

As the authors point out novels are not a substitute for sound medical advice. But when you’re coping with a problem, be it mental or physical (or metaphysical), sometimes a well-chosen book is just the thing you need.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (Scandal & Scoundrel #1)

Synopsis:

23617709When she finds herself the target of very public aristocratic scorn, Sophie Talbot does what she must to escape the city and its judgment—she flees on the back of a carriage, vowing never to return to London…or to society. But the carriage isn’t saving her from ruin. It’s filled with it.

Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, a quality that results in a reputation far worse than the truth, a furious summons home, and a long, boring trip to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the trip becomes anything but boring.

Review:

I love MacLean but her books can be hit or miss for me. When I love them I adore them, and when they don’t work I’m left mightily disappointed. The Rogue Not Taken started off fine but by the end I was no longer on board with the couple or the situation or the… anything. Continue reading “The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (Scandal & Scoundrel #1)”