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Friday, February 26, 2016

ASHES OF FIERY WEATHER by Kathleen Donoghoe



ASHES OF FIERY WEATHER  by Kathleen Donohoe
This novel of firemen and their families was hard to read. Not because many of the fireman died, but because the novel was constantly jumping from past to present then back to a different time in the past then back to present – all in the same chapter.  The writing is clear and even lyrical in places but the book jumped from character to character so often I was constantly turning back to the family diagram to see who and what time period the story had suddenly shifted to. 
After I finished the book, it felt as though there were so many stories there wasn’t one story.  Each of the various stories felt incomplete in some way.  Perhaps a winnowing of the characters and more depth for fewer would have felt more “finished. I enjoyed many of the mini-stories and liked most of the characters, but all in all, I was disappointed in the book.
3 of 5 stars

Saturday, February 13, 2016

SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys



SALT TO THE SEA  by Ruta Sepetys
Although a young adult novel, this tale of the end of World War II and the refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff will also appeal to all who like historical fiction.  Sepetys knows her subject well and is able to clearly voice each of the teens fleeing the fall of Germany. Each of the four teens tells their own story in alternating chapters, but the result is a devastatingly clear tale of desperation.
A nurse, a possible spy, a pregnant girl, a sailor aboard the doomed ship --  each adds their part as the story races to its conclusion. Sepetys is an excellent writer of atmosphere and character who is able to maintain tension throughout the novel.
Teens will love this book as will their elders. This would be a good book for a mother-daughter book group or any group interested in World War II and historical fiction.
5 of 5 stars

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CITY OF SHADOWS by Araina Franklin



CITY OF SHADOWS  by Ariana Franklin
What is not to like – the Grand Duchess Anastasia lives, a serial murderer is running amok, Hitler rises in a devastated Germany, an honest policeman is in a warren of corruption and a woman of mystery tries to survive. Although slow getting started, this thriller is truly a thriller.  There is enough actual history laced through the plot to give credence to the tale of murder, fraud and corruption amid a search for love, justice and honor.
Esther, who carries the plot, is the woman of mystery, scarred and scared. Nick is the flamboyant owner of the flashiest and finest cabarets in the world’s flashiest city, although a Berlin struggling under the crushing load of war debt. Anna, who may, or may not, be the Grand Duchess Anastasia,  survivor of the slaughter of her family and resident of an asylum for the mentally ill, is the center of the plotting and murder that swirls around her. Connecting them all is Inspector Schmidt trying to maintain honesty and humanity is a city devoid of both.
The writing is vivid and shows a city devastated by war and greed and slowly coming under the domination of Hitler and his coterie of murderous goons.  Ahh, the murders – the stripper, the good wife, the tale bearer, the innocent and more and more.  Who will survive, who will die, will justice prevail, will love triumph, is Anna really Anastasia, and if not, who is she?  All questions searching for answers.
5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper



Melody, eleven years old, is brilliant. She also has spastic bilateral quadriplegia (cerebral palsy), is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. When she gets a Medi-Talker that allows her to communicate, her life changes. 
OUT OF MY MIND tells Melody’s story of being confined in so many ways until her Medi-Talker arrives and the changes it makes in her life and the lives of those around her.  Told sensitively and with compassion, it also tells of the story of a “normal” pre-teen confined in a disability. Draper writes with clarity. Melody is a well-rounded character as are her mother and father, neighbor and mentor, personal assistant and, most importantly, the other fifth graders and teachers in both her “special” classes and her “inclusive” classes.
Book groups (adult, teen, mother-daughter) will all find many topics for discussion including disabilities, friendship, jealousy, cliques, “special” education and others. Many of the topics will resonate with all teens and pre-teens who struggle with image, self-confidence and differences.
5 of 5 stars