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Thursday, January 3, 2019

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING  by Delia Owens
WOW! Just WOW! This is a great book.  Murder, abandoned child, growing up alone, nature, young love, sex, ecology, love, poetry, betrayal, education, redemption, forgiveness, treachery -- it is all here. Well written with strong characters and even stronger biology, Owens debut novel is clearly a winner.
The North Carolina coastal region and the animals, birds, flowers, grasses, etc. are as much a character as the human in this book. Kya, Chase, Jumpin’, Mabel and Tate are the main humans in this beautiful elegy to nature and the human spirit. 
Saying too much more will spoil the “mystery” in the book, so just know that is a book that should not be missed.  Book groups will find much to discuss and ponder. Biologists and sportsmen/women will appreciate the accuracy of the science.
5 of 5 stars 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

PAPER WIFE by Laila Ibrahim

PAPER WIFE by Laila Ibrahim Mei Ling is the younger daughter in a newly impoverished family. When her sister is betrothed to a complete stranger, Mei is happy it is not her and unhappy to see her sister leving China for the United States. Very quickly, everything changes when Mei Ling’s sister becomes ill and Mei Ling is forced to impersonate her sister and marry the stranger. Well written and researched, this novel tells of “wives,” “daughters,” “sons and cousins” paid for and brought to the US as “paper relatives” in the early 1920’s. It has become impossible to emigrate to the US and China is suffering greatly. This subterfuge to bring impoverished Chinese to the US often results in prostitution and servitude. Mei Lings fears are not unfounded. Ibrahim has written an engrossing tale of one such “paper wife.” Her characters are clearly drawn, the sights, smells and inhabitants of San Francisco’s Chinatown are related in intimate detail. A mesmerizing tale that book groups will love. 5 of 5 stars

A RAY OF PITCH BLACK by Katherine Hayton


A RAY OF PITCH BLACK  by Katherine Hayton

This fun middle grade tale about three 13 year-olds who find a book of magic spells and manage to conjure up several ghosts is a quick read.  The three girls are typical teens who show a lot of resourcefulness, empathy and genuine friendship.

The tale is implausible but well written. The plot is interesting and has several quirks that will keep you guessing. Parents (who aren’t put off by magic) can rest easy with this tale of murder, friendship and empathy.

4 of 5 stars

WHEN WINTER COMES by V A Shannon

WHEN WINTER COMES by V A Shannon The fictional narrator of this account of the doomed Donner Party is never named, but is a good scribe as she records the events that lead up to the fateful decision to take the “shortcut” that will leave them stranded for the winter in the high Sierras. The author notes at the end detail the facts of that winter. Well researched and well written, this novel is a good addition to the many accounts of the Donner Party. This one has the benefit of relating the feelings, decisions and character of those unfortunate enough to be part of the group. The narrator is one of the few to survive. She relates some incidents that other accounts gloss over or leave out. 5 of 5 stars

VOX by Christina Dalcher

VOX by Christina Dalcher The United States has been taken over in an election by seriously ultra conservative politicians. Laws have been passed restricting females to just 100 words per day and enforce this directive with punishing electric shocks for every word beyond the allotment. The novel starts with this interesting premise and then has a rather boring first 100 pages as we learn about the wife who is quite an acclaimed scientist and feminist but is married to a go-along, get-along politician husband high up in the conservative government. The plot finally gets going when she is coerced by the government to restart her science project and discovers a sinister plot against women all over the world. The last two thirds of the book is an interesting and well plotted thriller. Overall, readers who are looking for another “Handmaids Tale” will be disappointed. Readers looking for a thriller and make it through the first third will be pleased. The characters are clearly defined and remain in character for the entire book. The premise and resulting government action is full of holes but with a suspension of reality, the novel as a whole is satisfying. 3 of 5 stars

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR by Susan Meissner Well written and well researched this book is one that should not be missed. Mariko and Elise, both American citizens, meet at an internment camp for aliens suspected of being Nazi or Japanese sympathizers because their fathers have been wrongly accused. Although one is German and one Japanese, they forge a friendship across the divide. The teens and their families are believable and fully developed. The atmosphere of the camp in hot, dusty Texas has a climate that reflects both the weather and the resentment and resignation of those interned. Both families are involuntarily “repatriated” to countries under siege during the final terrifying days of the war. The interning of American citizens is clearly shown as is the fear the war wreaks upon ordinary citizens in a war zone. In light of the current debates on immigration, this book sheds light on an aspect most American never consider – what happens to ordinary people caught in untenable situations. Book groups will find much to ponder here. Parent/child book groups might find a companion book in a YA book by Monica Hesse. THE WAR OUTSIDE covers the same camp and some of the same incidents in a manner more appropriate for middle graders. 5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

THE WAR OUTSIDE by Monica Hesse

THE WAR OUTSIDE by Monica Hesse Texas was the site of Crystal City – an internment camp for “Enemy Aliens” during World War II. Crystal City was for those people of German, Japanese or Italian ancestry that the government believed might be spies. Haruku and Margot both accompanied fathers who were suspects. They lived on opposite sides of the camp but became friends – sort of. This story gives a glimpse into the reality of their lives and that of the others interned at Crystal City. They were American teenagers, but because someone in their family was suspect, they had been uprooted and sent to a hot, dusty, ill equipped prison. They were enemies to each other and to their country. Hesse writes clearly of young people confused and conflicted and does it extremely well. Margot and Haruku live and breathe. They become friends - and enemies. They trust each other - and break that trust. We learn of their families – their love, their politics, their fears, their coping – and their NOT coping. Engrossing, terrifying, moving, sweet and bittersweet – all these and more. Ultimately a story of betrayal and forgiveness, THE WAR OUTSIDE is thought provoking and well worth reading. 5 of 5 stars