Monday, August 31, 2015

LONG UPON THE LAND by Margaret Maron

LONG UPON THE LAND   by Margaret Maron
This last Deborah Knott book ties up some loss ends from other books in the series and tells us the love story of Deborah’s parents.  And, of course, being a Margaret Maron mystery, the present day murder has ties to the past.  Told in alternating chapters of the 1950’s love story and the present day murder, Maron succeeds in telling two interesting tales in one book.  I am sad to see Deborah’s story end.  I have grown to care for the family members who inhabit these tales.  The land is also an important player.
If you like Maron’s previous books, this one will be satisfying. If you are a new reader, this one will inspire you to search out the others starting with THE BOOTLEGGER”S DAUGHTER. Maron writes tightly plotted mysteries that also have breadth of character and place. This one is no exception.
5 of 5 stars

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins

So, when I started this book I could not understand what all the fuss was about.  I am still ambivalent.  This is a good thriller that keeps you guessing at what is REALLY happening.  It is well written. The characters are interesting and challenging to understand.  The plot keeps one turning the pages. BUT… Is it a great book? No. It reminded me of the movie THE SIXTH SENSE. Once you learn the twist at the end, it becomes an interesting book that never needs to be read again.  A GREAT book can be read several times, each reading adding more to the characters, story, plotting, etc.
If you are looking for a quick read that will keep you turning the pages and you can forget immediately after finishing – this is the book for you.
3 of 5 stars


UNDER THE SAME SKY   by Joseph Kim
What a harrowing tale Joseph tells in this, his story from early childhood in North Korea to young manhood in America. 
His father is a mid-level party worker and his family is comfortable in the 1980’s.  Kim, his father, mother and sister, Bong Sook, live with electricity, a TV and plenty of food and snacks.  Then the famine in North Korea takes all of that away.  His father and mother lose their jobs, then their furniture, TV and even clothing in order to eat.  Eventually they lose their home and are dependent upon their extended family for a roof and food.  Finally they have exhausted all options.  Kim’s mother sells his sister in South Korea, and disappears. Joseph is left on his own as a young boy.  The book details the heartrending life he leads as a homeless youth, descending into theft, lies and violence to survive. Written in simple, but graphic terms, he tells how he ultimately loses all hope and faith in communism and North Korea. He sneaks into South Korea at great risk, becoming a refugee from one the world’s most repressive regimes.
The book’s subtitle, FROM STARVATION IN NORTH KOREA TO SALVATION IN AMERICA, gives the story of his life in one sentence.  This is a book that will not leave you for many months.  You will learn about life in North Korea when things go well and how quickly plenty can turn to extreme want when a government is oblivious to the needs of the citizens – and how citizens continue to defend and love their country long after the country has abandoned them.
5 of 5 stars

Monday, August 10, 2015

THE SPYMISTRESS by Jennifer Chiaverini

THE SPYMISTRESS  by Jennifer Chiaverini
A Civil War story with very little about battles, soldiers or Generals. 
Elizabeth Van Lew is a Southern lady who owns slaves, is a secret abolitionist, supports the Union (secretly),  loves Virginia and is a Union spy.  Van Lew, a real person, was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1993.  Throughout the war she aided the cause of the Union at great risk to herself, her family and friends.  Her cleverness in remaining without suspicion is the conflict and plot of THE SPYMISTRESS.
Chiaverini has written a book that makes Van Lew live again.  The risks she took to aid Union prisoners held in deplorable Confederate prisons, especially Libby Prison, are clearly set forth.  The way she came to be one of the most useful spies for the Union Army is stated so well that the reader, like Van Lew herself, is completely involved before realizing exactly what a dangerous endeavor she has undertaken.  Those Virginians who supported the Union and were part of Van Lew’s network of spies are woven into the storyline.
Chiaverini has clearly done her research into the life and times of a heroic woman.  The book covers only the war years, but does include an author’s note to tell the reader what happened after the war.
5 of 5 stars


THE SECRET SISTER  by Brenda Novak

If you read the back of this book, you will think it is a mystery with perhaps a bit of romance thrown in.  You would be wrong!  This is a romance (if you consider a romance to consist of jumping into bed within 5 minutes of meeting a guy and repeating that quite often and quite explicitly) book with a very shallow, immediately solved, mystery that shows up only in the last few chapters.
The characters are pretty stock. The romance is mostly just sex.  The writing is grammatically correct.  The mystery is a snooze. The setting sounds like a lovely place to vacation. If you want a beach book to while away a few hours, the book is okay.
2 stars out of 5 (for good grammar)