Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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
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 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 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