Black Dove, White Raven – Elizabeth Wein

black dove white ravenTeo and Em are children of a female pilot and wing walker team, traveling the US after WWI as performers in air shows.  When Delia is killed, Rhoda raises Teo as her own.  So brother and sister, black and white, are unconventionally but lovingly raised by Rhoda.  It was Delia’s dream to raise her son in Ethiopia, the country of her late husband.  A place where she thought her son could be free from discrimination.  Intent on fulfilling Delia’s dream, Rhoda travels to Ethiopia and carves out a life working at a clinic and serving as pilot.  She sends for Teo and Em and that is when the story deepens to include the rising tensions between an Italy governed by Mussolini and fiercely independent Ethiopia.

The author conveys a deep understanding of Ethiopia, its history and culture.  While the story is embellished with enhancing detail of the landscape and natural beauty of Ethiopia, I needed photos to go with the mental imagery.  After reading the book, I found photos and read summaries of Ethiopian history.  I should have paused reading when the characters arrived in Ethiopia and did a bit of research then.  Despite the author’s brilliant explanation of events, I needed the background knowledge prior to reading.  I am not certain of the target audience.  While I appreciated the enlightenment regarding the historical elements, how many teens will gravitate toward this book?  The book is most definitely a worthwhile read and I hope it garners an audience.  It would make for a great adjunct reading to enhance any unit on WWI, WWII, or Ethiopia.  Well told historical fiction, as this book is, is one of the best ways to bring history alive and add meaning to past events.  I am left with another layer of knowledge regarding WWII and a newly found interest in Ethiopia.

eGalley review             Publication date 03.31.15

Posted in historical fiction | Tagged ,

A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction – Terry Pratchett, A. S. Byatt (Foreword by)

blink of the screenOh my.  This is a wonderful collection of Terry Pratchett’s short fiction starting with his first published work when he was only thirteen, through his time with Bucks Free press, and on to the Discworld.  The early works are very good, but rather conventional.  The off the wall humor starts in the mid-1970s and continues to get wilder and wilder.

I must admit that I have not read the whole book.  I eagerly dove in, happily greeting Merlin the wizard (oops, it’s Mervin, sorry) ,Cohen the Barbarian, the witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.  When I came up for air, I realized that these are too good to consume all at once.  When I get a box of chocolates, I make them last, eating one only when I feel that I must have it to get through the day.  So I decided to ration my Pratchetts, reading one only when I feel that I must have it to get through the day.   Highly recommended for anyone who needs a good laugh.

eGalley review                            Publication date 3.17.15

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend

Clash of Eagles – Alan Smale

clash of eaglesThe 33rd Legion under the command of Gaius Publius Marcellinus started to lose men as soon as they marched away from the Mare Chesapica, yet they had not engaged the enemy in a real battle.  An arrow flying from the trees, a knife in the back, the going was hard and the savages cowardly. Two months of ocean separated them from Rome.  The rumors of gold had better be true. By the Roman reckoning, it is the year 2100, but by the calendar of the Christ-Risen it is 1218 A.D. This is a history where Rome didn’t fall but extends west into the New World and east confronting the Chinese Empire.

At first this seemed like a rather generic alternative history . . . let’s teach the natives how to live properly and let’s have lots of blood and gore.  But it gradually became more thoughtful and interesting.  I began to believe that both civilizations, Cahokian and Roman, failed to decline and instead became strong.  The details of the Cahokian civilization were well researched, and characters emerged as individuals. By the end I was thoroughly hooked and am looking forward to the second book.

eGalley review            Publication date 3.17.15

Posted in adult | Tagged ,

The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man – Michael Tennesen

next speciesIf all the species now considered threatened are actually lost this century, and if this rate of extinction continues, a study in the magazine Nature determined that we are on track to lose three-quarters of all species within the next century.  And we are dependent upon these species for our own survival.  This book takes us from Guatemala to Las Vegas, from the Amazon to the Colorado River, to oceans and mountains, all with the same dire prediction.   It seems that we may be heading for the next mass extinction, and man will either evolve into a new species or join that extinction.

The author examines what happened in former mass extinctions and what might happen this time, how we might or might not evolve.  I found the book to be quite interesting and quite disturbing.  Naively, I had always assumed we could come up with a solution to any problem and that man would always endure.  I may have been greatly mistaken.

 

eGalley review                          Publication date 3.17.15

Posted in adult, nonfiction | Tagged , ,

The Thickety: The Whispering Trees – J.A. White

Thickety Whispering TreesKara and Taff escape into the dreaded Thickety where all things nightmarish reside.  Sure enough, they encounter deadly plants, weird rock formations that make deadly copies of objects, vicious animals and the infamous Mary Kettle who murdered countless children.  Has Mary reformed or is she still the heartless witch with evil intent in league with the uber evil Sordyr?  As in all good stories, things are not always what they seem, or are they?  In such a dark, foreboding book, evil has a tendency to twist most everything.

The Whispering Trees follows the classic plot lines of typical fantasy books where the characters learn about their powers as they journey along.  But that’s okay!  The story moved swiftly along and didn’t bog down at all with the description of the deliciously evil Thickety world that the author weaves.  Kara is a young heroine who has been through a great deal and has more evil to clean up in the next book.  Taff is an engaging character, still quite young, but might have a greater role in the next book.  I hope so.

eGalley review                 Publication date 3.10.15

Posted in fantasy

The Thickety: A Path Begins – J.A. White

Thickety Path BeginsThe story opens with a hanging.  Kara is dragged from her bed, accused of witchcraft, then is forced to watch as her mother is killed.  The same night Kara’s brother is born.  Her father is incapacitated with guilt and loss so it is up to Kara to raise Taff and take care of her father.  She finds she has a way with animals that intensifies after she is led to the magic book used by her mother.  The townspeople have long been vigilant against witches and see magic as evil, so Kara must keep her talents to herself or she will face the hanging tree as well.

The cutesy cover totally belies the horrific story of evil, cruelty and murder.  A dark gloom shades the story but I found the horrible creatures fascinating.  Kara is a heroine to root for and bully Grace, well, we all want to see her downfall.  I am ready for the sequel and rarely get to read the books back to back so the review of The Whispering Trees is next!

Posted in fantasy

The Winner’s Crime – Marie Rutkoski

winner's crimeThe sequel to The Winner’s Curse is almost what I’d hoped for.  I’d hope that Arin and Kestrel would have a future together, but that would make for a rather dull book.  Of course there are misunderstandings and hurt feelings and betrayals all around.  Attempted assassination attempts on Arin and an impending forced marriage for Kestrel punctuate the plot.  There is much to tell about this book, but I am reluctant to give away too much for those who did not read the first book.  The cruel Valorian dictator that knows exactly how to hurt and compromise the strongest individual, shades this book dark and almost brooding.  I am very much looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                            Publication date 3.3.15

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend | Tagged ,