Book Review

Songs in Ursa Major

Songs in Ursa Major
Emma Brodie
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
June 22, 2021

Publishers Summary:

“The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid’s intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show…

…Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry’s sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse’s music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time…”

My quirky review that I hope Emma Brodie reads:

Reading, in the dark with the crickets chirping, the moon blinking, and Ursa Major shining off into the distance. Songs in Ursa Major reads like a Rolling Stone Article featuring the band The Breakers, and musician Jesse Reid.

It’s the Summer of ’69 — Jane Quinn lives on Bayleen Island where she and her band The Breakers make it past obscurity when they play at the Bayleen Island Folk Fest. If it wasn’t for beloved folk musician Jesse Reid who doesn’t show up for the festival The Breakers wouldn’t have stepped on the stage in his place. Jane with her blonde hair and bare feet catches the eye of Rolling Stones reporter, Curtis Wilkes. Willy Lambert P&R man for Pegasus Records and manager for Jesse Reid seeks Jane out while she is working at her part-time job bartending at the local bar, The Carousel. Jane can’t believe he wants her to be a solo artist for Pegasus Records! However, her band The Breakers are her best friends, bandmates since Jr. High and she just can’t leave them, nor does she want to go solo, too many obstacles to hurdle mentally with that kind of move.

Throughout the book, you read the lyrics of the music that Jane and fellow bandmate Rich write. The Lyrics are so good that I starting searching for Janie and The Breakers music 🎼 Online and suddenly remembered it was a fictional band. Touché Emma Brodie you got me and I bet a lot of other readers too! I seriously would love to hear Janie’s, and Jesse Reid’s music! Do you have a song list you were listening to while writing? I’m dying to know.

In the middle of this whole saga of Jane and The Breakers evolving into a hot ticket to nothing once again, there is the backstory of Jane’s mother Charlotte, herself a songbird of a singer that disappears when Jane is small. The mystery of Charlotte’s disappearance is quite the story on its own and the damage that her disappearance it causes to Janie’s psyche helps you understand the lyrics to most of Janie’s music.

The “Mighty Quinn(s)” Family is filled with strong, independent women from Janie’s grandmother to her cousin, Maggie — these women step out of their comfort zone, do everything they need to to provide for each other monetarily and mentally, and sometimes shatter when no one is looking except for the reader.

Emma Brodie writes a compelling, true-as-life music fictional biography that will fill you with the desire to go out to your own festival and gaze at the stage wondering what each performer’s story is and loving the music every second of your attendance.

Thank you, NetGalley, Edelweiss+, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, and Emma Brodie for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review

Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship

Elizabeth and Monty
Charles Casillo
Kensington Books
May 25, 2021

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift were two sensational deep dimensional actors! This book by Charles Casillo is about not only about their acting careers together and separate, but also the foibles and trauma of having substance abuse illnesses. Elizabeth and Monty is filled with many stories of their love affair which Elizabeth wished would happen, unfortunately, Monty as much as he loved Elizabeth and found her his equal and sexy, he was attracted to men, even though he could never come out in the world of Hollywood during his career. If he had, there would be no career, even though it was not a secret, they pretended he wasn’t attracted to men and would patch him to his women friends.

Elizabeth and Monty is written like Hedda Hopper’s gossip column. I love Montgomery Clift, I haven’t watched all his movies, but as a child, I fell in love with him and Elizabeth’s movie — Raintree County. I know it isn’t their best movie but as a kid, I was just fascinated by this aloof teacher and his desperate and haunted wife, Susanna. It was good to learn the background of each person’s life while filming Raintree County. Such sad stuff.

My only complaint about this book is that I feel that the gossip of Monty’s same-sex attraction was repeated ad nauseam, not that I have a problem with him being gay, it just felt like Monty was marginalized down to a gay man with a drinking problem as if that was all that he was. He was a gay man, yes, and he had qualities that truly made him , he was brilliant, soft-hearted, a lover of people, and a teacher to those who were just starting out in Hollywood. I would have loved to have that celebrated more even with the heartache and struggles that he lived through until his dying day.

Elizabeth struggled with acceptance, love, and needed to have someone constantly around her, Monty was her person, the one that she could talk to, the one she wanted the most in her life, and he was there for her, until the day he died, even when they were across the nation from each other. Elizabeth and Monty did a good job of telling Elizabeth’s story, her relationship with her mother, her relationship with her 7 husbands (some of which were remarriages), and her relationship with the love of her life — Monty.

I give this book 3.5 stars as I don’t think I would read it again.

Book Review

Three Martinis at the Ritz by Gail Crowther

Three Martin Afternoons at the Ritz
Gail Crowther
June 2, 2021
Gallery Books

Three Martini Afternoons at the Ritz is like being a fly on the wall, or sitting at a table near by eavesdropping to two women chatting each week over Martinis about their lives, their feelings, and the absolute dread they had of their competition of doing the same thing for a living because these two women were Ann Sexton and Sylvia Plath confessional poetesses.

I enjoyed Three- Martin Afternoons at the Ritz, I’m not sure that’s the right word, because there was a lot of sadness in this book, Gail Crowther’s novel about Plath and Sexton. I learned a lot. I gained an understanding and empathy for what they both went through, how just like any other friendship they had highs and lows, love and hate.

The writing was companionable, confiding-chatter, and classic storytelling at it’s best.

My first experience, like many other readers, with Sylvia Plath would be her only book, some would say, biography The Bell Jar. It actually propelled me to read The Barbizon by Paulina Bren, the real setting for Plath’s hotel Amazon. Her husband Ted Hughes was also a favorite poet of mine.

I only read one poem by Anne Sexton, “Her Kind” so Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz was eye-opening to me of her life and her works.

It was fascinating that both Plath and Sexton died of Carbon Dioxide. It’s similar to me like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams dying on the same day within hours of each other.

Mental Health is tragic, this book shows that, however, it also shows how flawed diagnoses were back in their lifetimes and the extent that the illnesses were treated. Terror is what I felt reading about each woman’s treatment.

The intense parallel mental illness where they were both hospitalized, the poetry, and the support they gave each other makes this book a much-read novel.

Book Review

The Barbizon by Paulina Bren

The Barbizon
Paulina Bren
March 2, 2021
Simon and Schuster
Publisher's intro: 


Liberated from home and hearth by World War I, politically enfranchised and ready to work, women arrived to take their place in the dazzling new skyscrapers of Manhattan. But they did not want to stay in uncomfortable boarding houses. They wanted what men already had—exclusive residential hotels with daily maid service, cultural programs, workout rooms, and private dining.

Built in 1927 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was intended as a safe haven for the “Modern Woman” seeking a career in the arts. It became the place to stay for any ambitious young woman hoping for fame and fortune."

My Review
Growing up in New York I had heard of the Barbizon. Having read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, I knew that The Amazon was in honor of The Barbizon. So, you can imagine my excitement when I was approved for this book!  

Honestly, I had no idea how many famous people had resided at the all-women's hotel, or how long the hotel had been around.. I had always thought it stopped being an all-women's hotel in the '40s. So, I was pleasantly surprised by how long the hotel had resided in New York and the history it contained. 

Paulina Bren's research, her entertaining writing kept me interested in learning about the people of The Barbizon and the history of the early 1920s New York until the '80s. I've read some historical writings where it the books were so mundane with the "who's who" of a place that you just stop reading, but The Barbizon was not that book and I am thrilled it wasn't. I wanted to learn more about its fascinating history.

It's the Roaring '20s. The years of freedom for women! The idea of an all-women's hotel at the time of the first wave of female independence seems to me to be a little ironic, only because women weren't trusted to use their own common sense when it came to parents letting their daughters leave the nest and go out into the world to work. These parents thinking their daughters would fall prey to conniving men seems to be a lack of education from them to their daughters. Although The Barbizon gave these girls/women a place to go and live in New York with the "babysitting" of a house-mom and I am grateful for that, I wonder how much more independent and successful these ladies would've been had they had to learn from the experience of being out on their own completely, vs, being guarded as they were by hotel rules?

The greatest thing about The Barbizon is the idea that for the first time, the women had what the men had, a place to stay that was all their own, freer than say a boarding house stay. They learned to budget their money for food, rent, and miscellaneous items that were needed to live on their own. The friendships they made while staying at The Barbizon let them know they weren't alone in their drive for being more than what society wanted them to be. We all need friends like that. 

I appreciate the women who did go out on their own, show the world that it was okay to be single and not have to rush to marriage, and I am sure it was frustrating for those same women to notice that as the years went on women continued to be hampered by being pushed to get married, to give up their work, go back to the kitchens of the '50s. The Barbizon made me realize how strong you had to be to push back and continue to be out on your own when the world told you that your place belonged with someone else and not your own individuality.

Paulina Bren kept me wanting to learn more, to find out who these women that stayed at The Barbizon, worked at Ford's Modeling, went to work for the summer at Mademoiselle magazine, and learned to be a secretary at Katherine Gibb's secretarial school. I was fascinated by "The Women" those who stayed longer into their maturity or went to The Barbizon as an older woman, like Molly Brown. I am sure it kept the older women more youthful to be around the young ladies who were sent to New York to learn a trade, to refine themselves, and to become the person they were meant to be before getting married and running a household, or finally find the answer to their dream of becoming an artist, a musician, an actress, a writer, a famous model, or even the dream of just living life to your fullest on your own terms! 

They couldn't all be Grace Kelly become a famous actress and then a princess, but they could be the person they dream to be and The Barbizon helped them do that! 

Thank you, NetGalley, Simon and Schuster, and Paulina Bren for the opportunity to learn about this magnificent hotel and the history surrounding it so I can share it with my readers, and followers in exchange for an honest review. 

** I'm curious to find out why Ms. Bren decided to tell the story of The Barbizon, after all, it has been decades and no one had up until now. 
I am so glad she did!
For well researched, information and yet, entertaining novel

Book Review

The Girls From The Beach

The Girls From The Beach
Andie Newton
Aria and Aries Books
July 8, 2021

Kit, Red, Roxy, and Gail are nurses from different lived experiences stationed in France during WWII in the 45th Field Hospital. There are risks to being a nurse in war time, more risk than in peace time, and for these ladies those risks might be even more dangerous than most nurses faced. What happens when you are given a direct order by your Commanding Officer to follow an unknown soldier and no questions are allowed?! The Girls From The Beach is that vehicle to tell the nurses story.

There are few stories in the world that haven’t been told. The Girls From the Beach is one of those stories that I’ve never read before and they need to be told more often. We read about nurses, we read about WWII, and we read about the heroic actions of the soldiers, which is fantastic, but we never read of nurses who not only did their job in the field, but also risked the highest dangers behind enemy lines and are as heroic as the soldiers. I was pleased to find a place for those women to be celebrated here in Andie Newton’s The Girls From The Beach. This book would make an excellent television mini series or movie!

Kit, (Evelyn, as we find out her name in future pages,) is the type of woman who gets into trouble a lot because of her gumption and creative ways of looking at keeping life a little interesting while dealing with the sadness and stress of working on soldiers who have lost limbs, hope and more times than she wants to count — life. Red is the strong one, the instant best friend of Kit, she, in a lot of ways is the mother of the group. She is kind, caring and unselfish. Roxy, the tough one, the darling of the soldiers, the ones that can lift their spirits and help them leave the world feeling as if they are the most cared for person in the world. Gail, is the new nurse, freshly arrived from General in her starched Whites looking like a beauty queen. These are the women of The Girls From The Beach. Andie Newton’s woman are brave, strong, quirky, and one of them has a secret that she doesn’t want the others to find out. Could this secret cause more danger, is she the danger herself, or will the secret help during the war? A deeply emotional story ensues even in the early pages of her new novel. I suggest you keep the tissues close by. I know I did.

The supporting cast of characters are richly woven into the story adding to the drama, the realities that the nurses experience, and the darkness that they encounter are ones that I’ve always wanted to know how was dealt with during war times. I can’t go any further without spoiling the plot, so I won’t. I just know that if you love Historical Fiction, if you want to read a story not told of the women in war times and want a feeling of inspiration, introspection, and a little intense connection between people told through an intricately intriguing story telling, this is your book.

The Girls From The Beach is a deeply researched story one that you can tell the author poured her soul into and in-between the lines is empathy for the roller coaster emotions that war can leave behind when its all over and life gets intertwined into those haunting experiences.

Order this book from your local independent book store, or borrow it from your local library. I tell you, you won’t want to miss meeting these women!

4.5 Stars
for a unique angle to a story and the ability to reach into a readers soul and pull out every emotion imaginable!

I reached out to Andie Newton to get little more personal about The Girls From The Beach and was thrilled to be able to to ask six questions some of which are fun, interesting, personal tidbits about the author, herself. I hope you enjoy our little interaction. Read on….

1: What character did you feel closest to in The Girls on the Beach? 

That is tough question. I feel I’m close to all of them, especially since each woman has their own story and hurdles to overcome. I’d say Kit, if I had to choose. I really love Evelyn, the main character in the later years.

2: What drives you so that you can continue writing when you are at a stall? 

After I complete a book, I’m pretty much exhausted. I usually take a break, a week or two before I start with the edits. But while writing the book… well, that is always an emotional journey for me that includes days where I can’t write at all. That is my sign to step away and get a clear head. I run trail a lot. That helps.

3: What would you chose if you could pick the theme song for The Girls from the Beach??? 

There always seems to be a song I listen to the most while writing. With The Girls from the Beach, it was Time from the Inception soundtrack. When I listen to it now, while writing my current novel, I quickly change it because all I can think about are the girls from The Girls from the Beach.

4: Who or what inspires you? 

So many things. Movies mostly when it comes to different scenes (the car ride from hell in the 80’s flick The Sure Thing  inspired Adele and Marguerite’s car ride in The Girl from Vichy). But also articles I stumble upon. In regards to The Girls from the Beach, I read a lot of articles and diaries from the nurses who served, so that offered up a lot of inspiration.

5: Which Fictional Character would you like to meet in person? 

I love 80’s/90’s comedies. So, Charley’s mother from So, I Married and Axe Murderer.

6. Do you have a bestie that inspired you to write Red’s personality? 

All my friends, past and current have inspired the characters in The Girls from the Beach. With Red, I thought of my childhood friend Michelle. I’ve known her for over 30 years and she has Red’s strength. She’s also a caretaker, much like Red watches over the girls and takes care of them, worries about them. In many ways me and Michelle were Kit and Red to some degree when we were younger. I was always coming up with some adventure or scheme and she was always there taking the hit when my ideas blew up in our faces.

Dear Reader I have two Q’s for you too: Are you planning on reading The Girls From The Beach? And for fun: What fictional character would you like to meet in person? Leave a response if you’d like in the comments. I would really love to know who you would pick. 

Me, I would love to meet Sooky St. James from Gilmore Girls, or bookish character: Huck Finn, from Tom Sawyer. I find I would love to have his adventures more than Tom’s because Huck doesn’t manipulate people to do what he doesn’t want to do himself. Huck is quirky, fun loving and innocent in that trouble maker sort of way. I find him endearing. I would really love to know if he would be that way off the page. I guess it’s safe to say, I love quirkiness.

Book Review

The Heartbeat of Iran: Real Voices of a Country and Its People

The Heartbeat of Iran
Real Voices of a Country and Its People
Author Tara Kangarlou
IG Publishing
June 1, 2021

What Do you know about Iran?
I’m ashamed to say that the first time I ever heard of Iran was through a famous California song’s popular tune’s word change during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979 when I was ten years old, then through the first Persian Gulf War and a few years later during the Iran Contra Affair beginning in 1985 when I was a sophomore in high school, because of this news focused experiences my view of Iranians was a reaction of fear, not of similarity through humanity. 

However, during the summer of ’86 before my Junior year of high school, I started wondering about the poor people of Iran (and to be honest the rest of the Middle East), who were enduring so much war and terror in their country.  There was no way that all of them could be war mongering demons like the news made them out to be. They had to be LIKE ALL NATIONS: some horrible, horrible people and the rest kind, loving and just trying to make an existence out of what is handed them by their laws, religions and leaders. I mean, in a country where so much had happened to them there had to be people who were trying to make the country the best they could so that they could live in it and someday be a place that their children could raise their children in peace and through the prosperity of culture which enriches their lives. In other words Humanity at its best. 

The Heartbeat of Iran is proof of what I knew in my heart was true—the beauty of humanity in Iran: the truths the people encounter, the gorgeous weaving of words to tell stories of their lives so that others can better understand what their country is; how it has made them who they are and what Iran is becoming through perseverance and hope.  

Funny thing. I am one of those types of readers, and reviewers, that doesn’t read the introduction from an author until after I’ve read the book, or collection of stories as is this book. I want to gather my own thoughts through the experiences with the writing and get from it what I can to help me, first of all, be entertained, but most of all to understand the characters, the setting and the message of the book. I guess I haven’t dropped my inquisitive, critiquing ways that my English Professor liked to comment on so much (not always a good thing she said…) 

Like all the other readings in my life I didn’t read author Tara Kagarlou’s intro of The Heartbeat of Iran until right before I started writing this review.
I’m glad I waited. I am excited to say that what Ms. Kangarlou wanted the most from the reader is exactly what I received from this book!  To that I say, thank you Ms. Kangarlou for gathering stories that would fulfill your hopes. I definitely grew more empathy through the lyrical stories in your collection. Kangarlou bluntly, and rightly, states in her introduction what I had questioned in my mind and the misconception I’ve written about presented to me as a child and teen of her homeland.  I honestly wish I could just paste her whole intro this review and call it perfect, however, that would do more injustice by taking away her livelihood from this book’s earnings by giving it to you free so, I’ll just pull out a truthfully blunt quote: “it’s utterly frustrating to see how often Iranians are portrayed through the caricatures of what the west thinks of them and allows them to be. The harrowing tales of the hostage crisis, the imprisonment of journalists and Bahais, the crackdown on political activists as well as a host of mainstream movies made about Iran like 300, Argo, and of course Not Without My Daughter, are often the only stories about the country that most westerners are familiar with. Aa important as these issues and films are, they don’t complete the narrative, and certainly don’t come close to capturing the whole truth. Like many other isolated and heavily marginalized nations, the real Iran remains a mystery to much of the international community.” 

Many of the collected stories by author, Tara Kangarlou are stories about women. It is joyful to me that even with what I construe (and hopefully its a misconception on this westerner’s understanding) to be a lack of women rights in Iran that these stories are free to be expressed and told without the subjects themselves being in danger of breaking any laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These woman have told their fascination stories like race car driver Laleh Seddigh. To read the unfathomable story about 93 year old Hooriyeh Zeinsli who slowly over time lost so many freedoms in 1936 at the age of ten it was not being able to go to school if she wore the Hijab which was not only her religion but her culture, then after 1979 and the Iranian Revolution lost the freedoms she held so dearly disappear is even more poignant to me. I can’t imagine knowing what freedom is then losing it without any choices. I feel for her and the world changes she has seen in her 93 years of living.

Besides the Iranian women there are stories from other marginalized Iranian’s stories and I considered it a blessing that I was able to read these stories before the compilation was released. This book brought sadness and at the same time awe, happiness and pride that humans are able to pull themselves out of trying, harsh environments and continue to fight on to better other’s lives that might not be able to do the same for themselves. 

I’ve made it my goal throughout my life to read other country’s authors, other culture’s religious writings and non-familiar lifestyles near, and especially far from where I live. This book and others like it published by IG Publishing (and another publishing house I read books from often- Restless Books) are companies that gather authors that help make the world smaller by showing each reader that all of humanity has the same goals of love, compassion and aspirations of peace and hope even if we are different in dress, religions (or not), politics, and divided by waters and/or physical boundaries that separate us from each other. We all live on this great big revolving, colorful ball called Earth and we should get to know each other better even if we never meet each other face to face. Our souls are universal even if we are not globally one. 

Humanity at its realist.
Author’s compilation well written.
Didn’t feel like a Documentary. This is about the people in your neighborhood.

Book Review

The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik

The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik
April 6, 20201
Penguin Random House

Publisher’s summary:

In 1918, a young and bright-eyed Dorothea Lange steps off the train in San Francisco, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking Chinese American with a complicated past, gives Dorothea entrée into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of the city. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with the brilliant but troubled painter Maynard Dixon. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives.

The Bohemians captures a glittering and gritty 1920s San Francisco, with a cast of unforgettable characters, including cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence. A vivid and absorbing portrait of the past, it is also eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and a devastating pandemic bring tumult to the city—and the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.

As Dorothea sheds her innocence, her purpose is awakened and she grows into the figure we know from history—the artist whose iconic Depression-era photographs like “Migrant Mother” broke the hearts and opened the eyes of a nation.
” ~Penquin Random House

Everything I have ever loved that revolved around culture came from the magnificent inspirational topography of California into my New York-born, Utah-raised heart! I had wanted to live in California since I was a tween so that I could follow the footsteps of John Muir through Yosemite seeing the Fire Falls with my eyes instead of just through the print of an Ansel Adams B&W photograph. I wanted to wear black and white checkered Vans before stepping onto the pier and white sands of Newport Beach, or holding hands with Mickey Mouse walking through Main Street USA at Disneyland. The biggest influence though was a woman who took her camera snapping photos of the underprivileged in San Francisco. She also taught me empathy through the hardships of the migrants from Oklahoma to California, just to pick fruit to provide for their families after they were left with nothing in their own hometowns. Dorothea Lange and her iconic photographs were the reason that I searched out the adult classics like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Without Dorothea Lange I might not have ever cared about the experiences of the people, who to be honest lived 60+ years before I was even born, those poor, resilient people who had to leave Oklahoma and traveled to California just like the Joads.

All those childhood dreams came true, when as an adult, my husband and I moved to California.
So, when I accidentally happened upon a NetGalley advance readers copy of The Bohemians and found out it was a historical fiction (my favorite genre) about Dorothea Lange and her Chinese assistant I was hungry to read the book. My heart was elated with joy when I was given the chance to read it! I didn’t know much about Dorothea’s early life in San Francisco, just a lot of her life after her divorce from Maynard Dixon and living in Berkeley, so what a treat to be able to have a fleshed out story of Ay-yee (who is reimagined as Caroline Lee by author, Jasmin Darznik.)

The Bohemians is told through all the senses. I could see, the coastlines of the Bay, smell the eucalyptus and pine while driving with Dorothea and Maynard, to what I can only assume is Stinson Beach for their picnic. I can hear the sounds of China Town in the early morning while the community sets up their wares in their small store-fronts and smell the deliciousness of roasting chicken and duck at lunchtime. It would’ve been wonderful to witness the Bohemian life of Monkey Block, or Montgomery Block as it was called by those who weren’t familiar with the area, but reading about it is as good as it can get. Coppa’s in their original setting was something I would have also like to experience even though I have seen photos of Coppa’s when it moved to Pine Street. I could feel the pain that Caroline experiences after her attack by John Pharrell Jr.

Ms. Darznik’s research and imagination created the perfect mix of fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes, if you didn’t know, you would think all of the stories was a true story of two strong, independent women, who do everything in their power to become a success at running a business in a time where men had all the control. This story is timely in that it covers race, inequality, and the power of how people can change the world. Caroline might not have been but a blimp in Dorothea’s real-life since we don’t hear anything after Dorothea’s portrait studio shuts down, but what Caroline embodies is the real struggles that Chinese women and Chinese in California as a whole struggled with — the lack of respect, the lack of opportunity, the lack of identity. Honestly, without those Chinese Immigrants, the California elite wouldn’t have had a mode of transportation across the nation by train, nor the roads that took them through the Sierra Nevada’s to other states from Northern California. Those immigrants, just like the migrants from the midwest embodied the spirit of California- the resilience to push forward when all the world was trying to hold them back.

The Bohemians is the perfect book to read when you need adventure, but also want to learn how to see those who consider themselves invisible. Invisible isn’t good, especially when beauty, class, and ingenuity should be celebrated like the people in this book.

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Five Stars for beautiful writing
and a story that draws you in.

Book Review

Come Fly the World by Julia Cook

Come Fly the World
Julia Cooke
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
March 2, 2021

It started for me with those fabulous blue and white square travel bags… I was enamored with Pan Am Airlines. Sadly, I wasn’t old enough for their heyday of two-story flights with a lounge, bar, and warm meals at any given time of the day.

Come Fly The World is the epitome of those fabulous bags and more! I read this in March which in the United States is National Women’s History month — a perfect time to celebrate and read about the women who served customers, consoled Vietnam Soldiers, picked up war orphans in the middle of danger, fought for Women’s Rights, lived throughout the world learning about self-identity, strength, and even bravery all while wearing heels at heights unimaginable 50 years before when the Wright Brothers attempted their first flight.

Julia Cooke weaves world history, social construct, and fashion into this novel and does it while folding out a tale that not only educates but entertains.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the women who changed the world for generations of women (and men to be honest,) no matter their age, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, or relationship status. Pan Am was a great airline. It was very sad to have their company shut down before I was of an age to explore the world myself. “Stewardesses” lived large, lived how they wanted, and created a camaraderie that lasted beyond their work years.

As a teen, I dreamed of traveling the world by working up and down the aisle of a plane. This book makes me regret not achieving that dream.

Thank you, NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Julia Cook for the opportunity to read Come Fly the World in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing… or does she?

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing
Allison Winn Scotch
Lake Union Publishing
August 1, 2020

“Let’s break out a map. Not the old out-of-date one that shows where we’ve been, but a crisp new on that shows where we might go. Let’s embark on a new journey together, and see where it takes us.” Leslie Knope

Cleo McDougal had a list of regrets that spans 20 years. Most of these regrets are innocuous, however some are not, they are barnburners. For a Senator considering running for President this is a dangerous list. What happens if it gets out? This mad dash novel is exactly what you end up with — more regrets and fortunately some bridges being rebuilt.

This book isn’t about that curse word —Politics, even though people might assume it is, and to a point they might be right. The overall message of the book is the rendering of what happens to a strong woman who doesn’t show weakness, when she runs right into the slammed door of said regrets- her childhood best friend posts an Op-Ed about her that is less than stellar or lovingly reminiscent. Cleo has to decide whether she faces Marianne or leave all the regrets in the past.

The big lesson from this book is that to grow, you have to face the fears, and more than likely set the world on fire to rise stronger from the ashes… even when you don’t know you need to burn it all down.

There are a few places in the book that I got tired of the victimhood view of Cleo, or the bashing of a man in power just because she feels slighted by a decision of the senate leader based on the fallouts of one of the actions she takes to correct one of her regrets. This 30 something woman acts as if she is back in high school, not an accomplished member of one of the highest seats in the government.
Do women have to work harder to have mistakes accepted or overlooked, maybe, however, that isn’t my experience, but I am sure it is other women’s experiences. I just don’t love man-bashing especially when in the case of the books experience it isn’t based on whether she is a woman or not, but that her situation would take away from the point of the trip…

Overall, Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing is a good read filled with some fun and a whole lot of learning to become a better person. Regrets are strange bedfellows and to keep from letting them eat you up, you need to learn to love them or leave them.

3.5 Stars for a good read

Book Review

Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen, or how an author writes his best series finale.

Blood Sworn
Scott Reintgen
February 16, 2021
Random House Children’s Books

I am a huge Scott Reintgen book fan and Blood Sworn did not disappoint me at all! I believe it might be Mr. Reintgen’s best book yet! There were twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I am usually good at timing in my mind where the climax will be in a story while reading, however, low and behold Scott got me and turned my judgment of his writing skills to a higher plain.

Blood Sworn will draw you in with its gorgeous cover and the fact that you need to know what happened after we left Dividian Imelda, Ashlord Pippa, and Longhand Adrian at the end of book #1 Ashlords. There were so many scenes in the story that made me think wow, this would make a great movie! The action, the world-building of the Gods and their kingdoms in the dark and dreary underworld, the one place that you were curious about the most when it came to Ashlords and little Quinn, Pippa’s Gods-appointed helpmate in the Phoenix Races – the land she lived in. I felt as if it might be akin to Hoth – hotter than Hell, dryer than the Sahara, drearier than the Wombat creatures cave that the Millenium Falcon hid in while in the asteroid field, and full of creatures that you just can’t imagine, but Mr. Reintgen did.

The intriguing part of this book was the Blood Sworn alchemy mix Imelda found and reproduced into her own formula to go beyond just an amazing Phoenix Horse. Without it, this book would be very short, and very two-sided instead of a triangular point of view which makes this book very exciting, and of course the name of the book. Well done, Mr. Reintgen, well done!

This book is a lesson in writing entertainment, castes, races, and social injustice for any new writer or reader. The need to build new worlds when corruption is at its highest and the need to find light-heartedness even in the dark times make Blood Sworn, not only entertaining but also very worthy for the times we live.

This book is a most excellent read for young adults, (and us adults) that love to use their imagination, a gulp of danger, and a want to escape to another world altogether! I know that it will be recommended to those kids I know that love Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and unlike Marvel characters who bounce back from danger and the occasional bad wounds, not everyone gets out alive with your favorite characters.

My only negative comment would be that I would’ve liked more of a detailed taste of Quinn’s world when it came to the people who served the gods in the underworld. I would’ve loved a few pages on that. Nothing else comes to mind in critiquing Blood Sworn.

I was sad that this book is a duology and I let the author know I needed more! Whenever Mr. Reintgen wants to revisit his three Viceroy friends he needs to share it! I know I will be standing in line with the rest of his devoted, and hopefully so many more new readers.

Thank you, Netgalley, Random House Children’s Books, and Scott Reintgen for allowing me the privilege of reading the next chapter and sequel to Ashlords. Blood Sworn is my favorite read of the year thus far! The author’s Imagination Cable is thick with this one. 😉