Book Review: Disability and the Tudors: All the King's Fools by Phillipa Vincent Connolly

Disability and the Tudors: All the King's Fools 
by Phillipa Vincent Connolly is a nonfiction book. Throughout history, how society treated its disabled and infirm can tell us a great deal about the period. Challenged with any impairment, disease or frailty was often a matter of life and death before the advent of modern medicine, so how did a society support the disabled among them? For centuries, disabled people and their history have been overlooked - hidden in plain sight. Very little on the infirm and mentally ill was written down during the renaissance period. The Tudor period is no exception and presents a complex, unparalleled story. The sixteenth century was far from exemplary in the treatment of its infirm, but a multifaceted and ambiguous story emerges, where society’s ‘natural fools’ were elevated as much as they were belittled.Meet characters like William Somer, Henry VIII’s fool at court, whom the king depended upon, and learn of how the dissolution of the monasteries contributed to forming an army of ‘sturdy beggars’ who roamed Tudor England without charitable support. From the nobility to the lowest of society, Phillipa Vincent-Connolly casts a light on the lives of disabled people in Tudor England and guides us through the social, religious, cultural, and ruling classes’ response to disability as it was then perceived.

Disability and the Tudors is a fascinating look at what we know of how disabled individuals were treated in the past, and how society has changed (or not) in that regard. I found the writing style to be engaging and the acknowledgement of how money and power effects everything past and present. I think that readers that enjoy history, and want to learn more about what did not make it into history lessons will find this read interesting. While many of us know large chunks of history have been forgotten (deliberately or not) to highlight the parts that make those in power look good- I often find the information we have to look harder for much more interesting. As a bonus- the author took the time to properly and thoroughly cite sources (with endnotes and all) which seems to be less common in nonfiction books than it should be these days. When this is done correctly it makes me extra happy with a book. 

Book Review: Adventures in Architecture for Kids: 30 Design Projects for STEAM Discovery and Learning by Vicky Chan

Adventures in Architecture for Kids: 30 Design Projects for STEAM Discovery and Learning by Vicky Chan offers readers a world of possibilities for learning math, engineering, history, social studies, planning, geography, art, and design. It includes hands-on projects that allow kids to experiment, design, build, succeed, fail, and try again. Complete building challenges with corrugated cardboard and geodesic forms. Look at how designers have solved impossible problems of gravity and space with creations such as suspension bridges, the Loretto helix staircase, and Brunelleschi’s dome. Explore how materials can be used in interesting ways—how paper can go from flimsy to structural, for instance. Participate in family game playing: client and design team—finding creative ways to meet a client’s wish list. Use games to test strength, balance, and structure. Engage in pure imaginative archi-doodling.Explain the why. Why did styles evolve as they did? What technology was available when?

Adventures in Architecture for Kids is a well organized and visually appealing book. I found the layout and instructions to be easy to understand and follow, and the images chosen to match the content and intent perfectly. I liked that the materials used in the activities were all things that were likely to already be in the home (or school) or easy and inexpensive to get. I also liked that the notes to adults were interesting, informative, and could easily lead to further instruction or discussion about the project, not just the mechanics of it but sometimes the practical history and application of the architecture involved. I did like that an index and glossary were included at the end of the book, but I would have loved to see a page of resources at the end of the book for further reading and research.

I think this book would be a fantastic addition to a home library for families with members that are interested in projects like this, and homeschooling families. I think it would be a valuable resource in school and public libraries as well.  

Book Review: Demon Riding Shotgun (Magicsmith) by L. R. Braden

Demon Riding Shotgun is part of the world from the Magicsmith series by L. R. Braden.  This book does refer to events in the previous books, and has characters returning readers will recognize, but new readers could pick up the story line here fairly easily. 

Possessed by a demon since she was eleven years old, Mira Fuentes maintains a fragile alliance with the snarky soul who shares her body. Together they hunt down unstable Rifters— demon-controlled humans bent on causing chaos in the mortal realm. But when a routine hunt leads to a powerful Rifter with plans for Baltimore, Mira quickly finds herself in over her head and at the top of the city's Most Wanted. Recently retired from the PTF after losing his partner, Ty Williams now works for the Baltimore PD and keeps his distance from cases involving magic. But when a person dies of clearly magical causes and the PTF doesn't have any agents to spare, Ty is the closest thing the department has to an expert. Saddled with a new partner he doesn't want and a mountain of self-doubt, it's his job to track down a suspect who looks suspiciously like the one-night-stand he brought home from the bar last night. Mira will have to set her trust issues aside and enlist the help of a man determined to uncover her secrets if she hopes to learn the identity of the demon's host and prevent the human race from becoming meat puppets for the denizens of the Rift.

Demon Riding Shotgun is a book that takes the Magicsmith universe and runs with great characters and a fresh angle. I enjoyed getting to see more of Mira, since she had peaked my curiosity in the previous books. I thought Mira, Ty, and the secondary characters were all dynamic and well crafted. The individual trauma and hang ups will be continuous factors and how they have been handled thus far has been fantastic, and I am eager to see how they shape the future of the characters and adventures to come.  I will admit that I saw a twist or two coming pretty far off, but I enjoyed the ride. I thought the balance of explaining the world to newcomers and refreshing details to returning readers was very well done, and I never really felt like there were information dumps to slog through, which can sometimes happen in fantasy. I like the direction this story arc is going and I can see great potential for  action, mystery, romance, and some serious character development as the series continues. I am intrigued by Mira and want to see so much more of here interacting with Ty- and how he copes with everything. 

Demon Riding Shotgun is a great start to a new story arc and I am excited to see where it takes me. 

Early Book Review: Soaring in Style: How Amelia Earhart Became a Fashion Icon by Jennifer Lane Wilson, Lissy Marlin

Soaring in Style: How Amelia Earhart Became a Fashion Icon, written by Jennifer Lane Wilson and illustrated by Lissy Marlin, is currently scheduled for release on February 1 2022. Long before Amelia Earhart became a superstar, she was a girl who longed to touch the stars. But the dresses women had to wear at the time made those dreams seem almost impossible. Amelia didn’t let that stop her. As a young aviator breaking records and expectations, she learned to fly her plane with flair. Later, she dared to create a trendsetting fashion line for active women like herself. Soaring in Style tells the groundbreaking story of how Amelia Earhart defied expectations in the air and on the ground to become America’s first celebrity fashion designer.
Soaring in Style is a well written, and beautifully illustrated, nonfiction book. I think the narrative style make for an engaging and accessible read. I was glad to see this book, and learn something new. Like most, I had heard plenty about Earhart's dedication to flying. I had not heard about her clothing designs, although her desire for clothes that are both functional and fashionable seems to be something many of us still seem to dealing with. I thought the text and illustrations matched well, and I loved the personality that seemed clear to me in all of the images of Earhart. I greatly enjoyed the read, and learned a few new things. 

Early Book Review: Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher

Not the Witch You Wed 
by April Asher is currently scheduled for release on February 8 2022. Magic-less witch Violet Maxwell wants nothing to do with alpha wolf shifter Lincoln Thorne, the man who broke her teenage heart. But when the two of them are forced by arcane Supernatural Laws to find mates, Violet and Lincoln agree to fake-date their way to a fake-mating in order to conjure themselves some time. When old feelings make a reappearance—along with Violet’s magic—they both realize there’s nothing fake about their feelings. But there are old secrets and looming threats that could snatch away their happily ever after, again. One thing’s for sure: magic doesn’t make dating and love any easier.

Not the Witch You Wed is a book that very much reels like the start of a series with a good blend of romance and paranormal politics.Violet and Thorne are the stars of this story. I liked the combination of second chance and fake dating  tropes, and thought the conflicts and groundwork laid for future books was well done. I really liked getting to understand the dynamic between Violet and her sisters, and the connection they have with their grandmother. I thought the balance of characters devoted to happiness and greater good versus power and prestige was on point and fairly realistic. There were points when I got frustrated with the characters or saw something coming well before it happened. However, there were also moments when I was pleasantly surprised by an action or reaction and found myself grinning. I think the balance of this read was well done, and I will keep up with the series if I see it on Netgalley or in the wild. 

Not the Witch You Wed is a second chance romance with a magic twist. 

Book Review: Scales and Sensibility (Regency Dragons) by Stephanie Burgis

Scales and Sensibility
 is the first book in the 
Regency Dragons series by Stephanie Burgis. 
Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into her aunt and uncle's house. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope's pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless - but surprisingly sweet - fortune hunter who came to court Penelope, either. And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters' futures. However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven't ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind, and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she's pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she'll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after, with the unpredictable and dangerous "help" of the magical creature who has adopted her.

Scales and Sensibility is a delightful read and my only disappointment is that I let it sit in my TBR pile for as long as I did. I loved the characters, and was thoroughly invested in Elinor's adventures from the beginning. Discovering the personalities and secrets of the characters along with her was a engaging journey, although I admit that there were a few times that I would have loved to have known what was going on in the minds of other characters on occasion. There were many times that I suspected certain twists and was glad to see them play out, but there were just as many points of the story that had me very concerned as to how it was all going to work out. I thought the dash of magic was just right, and drew me further into the world of the story, and eager to ferret out even more information. The secondary characters, story, and world building were well paced and balanced. The story came to a satisfying conclusion, but left me wanting more. The perfect blend of each for a series starter- and I will eagerly continue with this series. 

Scales and Sensibility is a charming start to a new series, and I cannot wait to see where the story goes from here.

Audio Book Review: Hot for You by Marie Harte, Narrated by Tatiana Sokolov

Hot for You, written by Marie Harte and narrated by Tatiana Sokolov , is a contemporary romance. Firefighter Reggie Morgan is done with love, done with relationships, and done with complications. But when he's called to the scene of a hit-and-run, he finds a scared little girl, a butt-ugly stray puppy, and an unconscious woman he can't get out of his mind. The girl and the puppy are a handful, but the girl's mother, Maggie, might just be the woman to melt his icy heart. He’s loved and lost before, and the pain nearly broke him. But when they can't ignore their unquenchable desire for each other, Maggie, a teacher by trade, is confident she can show him all about falling—and staying—in love.
Hot for You gave me exactly what I expect from this author. The characters are complex, each with flaws and an openness about them that I love. The secondary characters were just as complex and interesting as Maggie and Reggie. I thought the journey to HEA for Maggie and Reggie was well done, and I liked the frank and honest way they discussed problems, the past, and the work that could be involved in creating a future. I could tell that the book is part of or at least related to a series or maybe two- but while I have read several books by the author none of the characters were ones I remember. Newcomers to Harte will not miss anything by not knowing the characters either. I think fans of Harte and and new readers alike can really enjoy this read in their preferred format. The narrator did a great job and I enjoyed her tone and inflections. My only issue with the audio edition comes down to editing. I found the pauses between chapters to be slightly too long. I checked my phone and connection several times thinking something had gone wrong when it was simply a long pause.

Hot for You is a solid romance with great characters and a high heat factor. 

Early Book Review: Anyone Can Crochet Amigurumi Animals: 15 Adorable Crochet Patterns by Kristi Simpson

Anyone Can Crochet Amigurumi Animals: 15 Adorable Crochet Patterns by Kristi Simpson is currently scheduled for release on January 19 2022. With some simple stitches and a little stuffing, amigurumi is a charming style of crochet that’s great for beginners. A project guide for any crafter of any skill level, this book offers readers 15 crochet patterns, including a hippo, panda, unicorn, hedgehog, giraffe, and so many more. Opening with an introduction on the basics, each project that follows features easy-to-follow instructions, how-to crochet illustrations, photo step-outs for detail work, and other helpful tips and tricks. Also included are detailed sections on how to read an amigurumi pattern, as well as stitch guides. Have fun making the most charming plush toys, all while you fall in love with crochet!

Anyone Can Crochet Amigurumi Animals is a well written guide to crafters that are new to crochet, or just getting started in projects that require more small work than the scarf and blankets that most of us found our confidence and rhythm for crochet with. The instructions are clear and well written, and the tips and trick included will be helpful to many novice and beginner crocheters. I did not find the patterns to be terribly unique, but they did offer a good set of basic skills that will be useful as newcomers attempt more complex problems in the future. There was one formatting issue- that I have full faith with be rectified before final printing- that honestly made me smile as I read. All of the images in my electronic galley were upside down or sideways. Like I said, I am sure the final version will not be like this, but it made my read through just a bit more interesting and has no consideration in my review or number of stars granted to the book.

Early Book Review: How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan is the follow up to Ten Rules for Faking It, and is currently scheduled for release on January 18 2022. You do not need to read the books in order, but returning readers will be glad to see cameos and have a prior understanding of our hero and his brothers. 

Grace Travis definitely has it all figured out. In between finishing interior design school and working a million odd jobs, she’ll get her degree. She’ll have her dream job. And most importantly, she’ll have a place to belong, something her cold, manipulative mother could never make for her. When an opportunity to fix up—and live in—an adorable little house on the beach comes along, Grace is all in. Until her biggest roadblock moves in next door. Noah Jansen knows how to make a deal. A real estate developer with a knack for betting and winning big, he’s not one to let a good opportunity slip away. So when a beachside house with great bones is ripe for a remodel and flip, Noah doesn’t hesitate. Except in order to spruce it up properly (is it even a beach house if it doesn’t have a pool?), he’ll need to take over the house next door. The house with the willful and combative and way-too-intriguing woman living in it. With the rules for being neighborly going out the window, Grace and Noah are in an all-out feud. But sometimes, your nemesis can turn out to be the person who shows you that home is always where the heart is.

How to Love Your Neighbor is a romance that starts of with a favorite trope of mine, enemies to lovers, but quickly loses the enemies bit. Grace is an independent woman, working hard to make it on her own and with more than a little difficulty accepting help. All of that is something I can relate to. I liked her drive, and the way she looked for the silver lining in just about every situation. Noah is struggling with settling into a new place, figuring out what he wants from life, and getting out from his father's control. The battle between Noah and Grace over selling her house quickly sparks other fires, and the book quickly goes down that path. I did not really get the grumpy neighbor or bickering that I expected. However, their friendly banter and open communication was well done and fun to read. I liked the design descriptions and watching them grow closer, but I will admit to waiting for a big conflict to spur things into action, but when it all came to a head I was a little underwhelmed. For those interested in heat level, I will let you know while the chemistry between the pair is very well done and sizzling but all intimate moments are closed door or fade to black. 

How to Love Your Neighbor is a sweet book with some charming and humorous moments. Fans of the author will not want to miss it. 

Book Review: Not a Love Song by Veronica Albright

Not a Love Song by Veronica Albright is a contemporary, second chance romance. It is the debut novel from Veronica Albright, a pseudonym of Jess Michaels.

International pop star Bree Lane needs a break. After a wildly successful album release and a year of grieving, she just wants to spend the holiday by herself in a friend’s swanky penthouse in New York. But a blow up at a morning show brings up old pains and a topic no one can ever seem to leave alone: her actor ex-boyfriend, Colin Gabriel. Her angry reaction sends the internet wild and her into hiding. When Colin sees the interview, he can’t resist coming to check on Bree, telling himself it’s just about her welfare. But the results are explosive, passionate and utterly unexpected after hearing her talk about how little the relationship meant for the last eight years. But he’s never been able to resist her and he isn’t about to start now. Reunited lovers, exploring every desire together as they hide away in a secret world…only there are undercurrents of emotion that are always waiting to change everything…including their future together.

Not a Love Song is a solid romance, with a good set up. The characters are good, even if Colin seems a little too perfect at times. I love that consent, birth control, and if tastes have changed are brought up and discussed at several points. I find checking to and that kind of respect to be very sexy and something that should be the norm rather than something of note. The amount of caring between Bree and Colin, even when they wont admit it is nice and well written. I thought the emotional conflict and resolution as well done as well, and I liked the way it all come together. However, for some reason I just never connected with the characters and became invested. I cannot point to anything wring with the writing, it could very well be it just was not the right book at the right time for me. I think fans of honest, high heat romance will really enjoy this read. Particularly is second chances is a favorite trope. 

Not a Love Song is a sweet second chance romance with a nice balance of heat and emotion.