Iced by Felix Francis

Iced by Felix Francis
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Seven years ago, Miles Pussett was a steeplechase jockey, loving the rush of the race. But after an unfortunate event, he left horseracing behind and swore he would never return. Now he gets his adrenaline rush from riding headfirst down the Cresta Run, a three-quarter-mile Swiss ice chute, reaching speeds of up to eighty miles per hour.

Finding himself in St Moritz during the same weekend as White Turf, when high-class horseracing takes place on the frozen lake, he gets talked into helping out with the horses. Against his better judgement, he decides to assist, but things aren’t as innocent as they seemed.

When he discovers something suspicious is going on in the races, something that may have a profound impact on his future, Miles begins a search for answers. But someone is adamant about stopping him—and they’ll go to any length to do it.

Miles Prussett is a former steeplechase jockey but now gets his adrenaline rushing shooting head first on a toboggan down a Swiss ice chute reaching speeds in excess of eighty miles per hour. While he swore seven years ago never to return to horse racing, he finds himself inexplicably helping out with the White Turf, a high-class racing event that takes place once a year on a frozen lake. Miles uncovers suspicious activity around the horse racing, and against his better instincts he starts to look into it. It’s only too late when he realizes his questions might have consequences and someone is determined to stop him no matter the cost.

I was really pleased to find I enjoyed this book right from the beginning. I am a little hit and miss with Felix Francis so it was a pleasure to find I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a little surprised that most of the book delves back and forth in time, the story both explaining how Miles comes to be assisting in the horse race out on the ice, but also how he rose – and then left – the horse racing community from his younger teenage years. I found the author did an excellent job balancing the two timelines, weaving them together to both culminate on the ice in the Championships under the freezing conditions and to where Miles presently was. I feel this back and forth from the past to the present could have gone very badly and Francis did some exceptional writing to make it both well paced and retain my interest throughout.

About a third of the way into the book the mystery aspect to the story really picked up and I feel most readers should thoroughly enjoy both the different setting to the story as well as the more usual mystery aspects to the plot. I felt this was quite a different outlook both on a more regular Dick Francis/Felix Francis horse-racing based mystery book and I really enjoyed the fresher perspective to the story as a whole.

Readers who enjoy any of the Francis previous books should find they can appreciate this story to an equal degree, and readers who simply enjoy a well plotted and paced mystery should find this story really suits them.

Mo : A Woman’s View of Watergate by Maureen Dean

Mo : A Woman’s View of Watergate by Maureen Dean
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Political
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Maureen Dean’s experience of Watergate centers on what clothing to wear according to the configurations of the stars (though she says she doesn’t exactly believe in astrology), and how a woman can spend time alone with her increasingly preoccupied, sleepless, and near-alcoholic husband. It is the extreme “”Penelope”” view. One she regrets in hindsight, for Maureen thinks the Watergate cover-up could never have become so dense if only the Nixon men had confided in their–presumably more moral–wives. As it was, what else was there for her to do but worry about knit dresses as she followed the incommunicado John Dean from Key Biscayne to San Clemente to Las Vegas to Camp David on the peregrinations that were supposed to save a government but finally toppled it? No one in politics talked to her, except politely, as a duty, or crudely, as a tomato; the power sincerely bores her; she thinks the pomp is childish–she’d rather be alone with her husband. Her book is actually a love paean to John Dean whom Mo sees as witty, supportive, loving and principled (we have to take it on faith since in this busy period he was rarely around); the “”collapsing world”” she is forever talking about is her home and expectations, not the country which she’s glad is purged of Nixon. It is a sentimental book by the unliberated housewife, but then, bourgeois sentiment may be a better emotion than the lust for power among those who ran the country: we cannot depend on nightwatchmen with astute eyes to catch all our criminals.

One woman’s view of the whole Watergate ‘thing’ and how it affected her life.

I call Watergate a ‘thing’ because it’s more like a moving, crawling being in this book. It’s a looming monster and it takes a strong person to withstand such events. Maureen Dean is one of those people. I blew through this book in the matter of a few hours and loved every second. It was like reading a book by a dear friend or reading their diary. It flowed well and kept me captivated.

Maureen Dean is the wife of John Dean, the man who (among others) blew the lid off the Watergate scandal and helped bring down President Richard Nixon. This book isn’t so much about the case itself, but rather her dealings with the peripherals. How she helped her husband with testimony prep, the fear of being attacked, the confusion over what happened (and what she didn’t know about), and how it all made her life a bit miserable, but she still persevered.

I liked that this wasn’t a strictly political book. There is raw emotion there. She’s not a perfect person, either, and that shines through. That’s what I liked the most about it, her realism and personality.

If you’re looking for a book that’s part politics, part historical but mostly emotional, then this might be the book for you.

Fuddles by Frans Vischer

Fuddles by Frans Vischer
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Fuddles is a fat, lazy housecat who’s never experienced the Great Outdoors. One day, his family leaves the door open a crack and Fuddles seizes the chance to slip out, but things aren’t quite as he expected. In a series of hilarious mishaps, including a run-in with the neighborhood dog, Fuddles realizes that life indoors was actually pretty good. Told with deadpan humor and charming art, Fuddles is sure to steal readers’ hearts.

Adorable and fun, but with a lesson.

I picked this book up because it had a chonky cat on the front and his name is Fuddles. How can you go wrong with that? You can’t. The writing is fun, but it teaches a lesson, and the illustrations are great.

The theme of the book is respecting what you already have, and that theme shined right through. Children will love the illustrations of Fuddles trying to figure out where he belongs and will be able to understand sometimes being where you are is the best. I liked Fuddles because he’s like many animals that want the thrill of being outside, until they get it, then they don’t want it any longer.

If you want an adorable book, with a good message, then this book is a must.

Big Wig by Jonathan Hillman and Levi Hastings

Big Wig by Jonathan Hillman and Levi Hastings
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Childrens (Ages 7-10)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In the spirit of Julián Is a Mermaid, this irrepressible picture book celebrates drag kids, individuality, and self-confidence from the perspective of a fabulous wig!

When a child dresses in drag to compete in a neighborhood costume competition, he becomes B. B. Bedazzle! A key part of B.B. Bedazzle’s ensemble is a wig called Wig. Together they are an unstoppable drag queen team! But Wig feels inadequate compared to the other, bigger wigs. When Wig flies off B. B.’s head, she goes from kid to kid instilling confidence and inspiring dreams in those who wear her:

Wig remembers what wigs can do.
Wig brushes the world,
Wig hears whispered wishes…
and turns them into
something true.
The bigger their dreams,
the bigger Wig seems.

This wonderful read aloud celebrates the universal childhood experience of dressing up and the confidence that comes with putting on a costume. And it goes further than that, acknowledging that sometimes dressing differently from what might be expected is how we become our truest and best selves.

A wig that’s got some magical powers that aren’t so magical, but they’re just as dynamic after all.

Everyone has that one garment that makes them feel bigger or bolder. That special sweater that makes them feel like a million bucks or a dress that’s THE dress. In the case of BB Bedazzle, it’s their wig. The writing in this story is good and it’s easy to understand. It’s cute and the illustrations are colorful, which should bring children right in. The story shows the very important need for children to understand that being different isn’t bad and it’s wonderful.

Some will read this book and say it’s not for children because the little boy is dressing in drag. The thing I took away from the story wasn’t so much that the boy dressed in drag, but that the boy was able to explore different ways of dressing. He could use the wig and his clothes for his imagination and to explore who he is. Every child needs the chance to figure out for themselves who they are and if they can do it, like this little boy, in a place that’s safe and where they are loved, then that’s what matters.

If you’re looking for a children’s book that shows being different isn’t bad, but rather fabulous and that being true to yourself is important, then this book is for you.

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Celebrated NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg delivers an extraordinary memoir of her personal successes, struggles, and life-affirming relationships, including her beautiful friendship of nearly fifty years with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Four years before Nina Totenberg was hired at NPR, where she cemented her legacy as a prizewinning reporter, and nearly twenty-two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, Nina called Ruth. A reporter for The National Observer, Nina was curious about Ruth’s legal brief, asking the Supreme Court to do something revolutionary: declare a law that discriminated “on the basis of sex” to be unconstitutional. In a time when women were fired for becoming pregnant, often could not apply for credit cards or get a mortgage in their own names, Ruth patiently explained her argument. That call launched a remarkable, nearly fifty-year friendship.

Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story’s heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. During the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina’s first husband, Ruth drew her out of grief; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth’s beloved husband died. They shared not only a love of opera, but also of shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth’s last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were “reserved for Ruth” in Nina’s house.

Dinners with Ruth also weaves together compelling, personal portraits of other fascinating women and men from Nina’s life, including her cherished NPR colleagues Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer; her beloved husbands; her friendships with multiple Supreme Court Justices, including Lewis Powell, William Brennan, and Antonin Scalia, and Nina’s own family—her father, the legendary violinist Roman Totenberg, and her “best friends,” her sisters. Inspiring and revelatory, Dinners with Ruth is a moving story of the joy and true meaning of friendship.

Two people and a remarkable friendship. Everyone should be so lucky.

When seeing the title of this book, one might think it’s political, but it’s not. Truly. This is the story of two friends and their times together. There’s quite a bit about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but also a lot about the author, too. Through the author’s writing, the luck of having a good friend shines right through.

This isn’t just about dinners, as the title might suggest. It shows the strength of women and how we can be together–strong and supportive. I liked how Ginsburg was shown, not only as a judge, but as a person. The reader gets to know her on a more personal level–her love of opera, her need for the collars and her stubbornness to stand up for what she saw was right. It also showed her struggle with cancer and the inevitability of old age.

The author shows the same struggle–not with old age per se, but with seeing her friends and loved ones go ahead of her. The author writes about her first husband dying and his many mishaps, then about Ginsburg’s passing and it did bring a tear to the eye. I felt like I was there with them.

If you’re looking for a biography that’s not just another bland story, give this one a try.

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, YA, 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Armed with a one-way ticket to New York City, small-town theater geek Nate is off to start rehearsals for E.T.: The Broadway Musical. It’s everything he ever practiced his autograph for! But as thrilling as Broadway is, rehearsals are nothing like Nate expects: full of intimidating child stars, cut-throat understudies, and a director who can’t even remember Nate’s name.

Now, as the countdown to opening night is starting to feel more like a time bomb, Nate is going to need more than his lucky rabbit’s foot if he ever wants to see his name in lights. He may even need a showbiz miracle.

Cute, sweet and a little unbelievable but fun!

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! follows the book Better Nate Than Ever is a cute, sweet read about a young man, Nate, who wants to become a star on the stage. He’s got big dreams and even bigger pressure to produce.

I liked this book because it showed a young man, Nate, who is trying to come to terms with what he wants–fame–and who he is. He’s coming out and finding he rather likes being true to himself. It’s a sweet thing to read about.

There are also a lot of nearly impossible things happening in this book. He’s a small town kid about to make it big, he’s already on the stage, he’s in an improbable situation…but it’s fun. It’s cute and quirky.

If you’re looking for a story that’s a little about coming out, a lot about the stage and a lot about life, then give it a try. It’s funny and worth the read.

Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton

Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton
Publisher: A Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

From a rediscovered collection of autobiographical accounts written by hundreds of Kansas pioneer women in the early twentieth century, Joanna Stratton has created a collection hailed by Newsweek as “uncommonly interesting” and “a remarkable distillation of primary sources.”

Never before has there been such a detailed record of women’s courage, such a living portrait of the women who civilized the American frontier. Here are their stories: wilderness mothers, schoolmarms, Indian squaws, immigrants, homesteaders, and circuit riders. Their personal recollections of prairie fires, locust plagues, cowboy shootouts, Indian raids, and blizzards on the plains vividly reveal the drama, danger and excitement of the pioneer experience.

These were women of relentless determination, whose tenacity helped them to conquer loneliness and privation. Their work was the work of survival, it demanded as much from them as from their men—and at last that partnership has been recognized.

Joanna L. Stratton has taken first-hand accounts of the experiences of hundreds of women of courage making their way to and living in rough territory. The lives of these women were dangerous and exciting. One never knew what would happen.

This book is filled with adventure and unknowns. The people these women encounter were sometimes friendly and sometimes wild and meaning to do harm. Younger and older women lent their voices here.

How could one survive in such risky circumstances? This book brings to life a time when women lacked all modern conveniences. Becoming complacent wasn’t an option.

Reading from the point-of-view of those who were in Kansas at such a wild time is enlightening. This book is worth a look at for those who are interested in Western history or women’s history—an interesting inside view.