The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneLi-yan often helps her mother, the village midwife. As tradition dictates, she will fill the role someday. High in the mountains of Yunnan, the Akha, an ethnic minority, seem to be living in an earlier century, not in 1988. Their lives revolve around tea. Planting, growing, picking, selling, tea is their life. And tradition is very important in their life. But some traditions seem cruel to Li-yan, especially those designed to keep them pure. The traditions that require ‘human rejects’ to be killed at birth. Children that are different: twins, club foot, cleft palate, too many fingers or toes, children too small to survive, children born out of wedlock. All must be killed at birth. When Li-yan finds herself pregnant, with her lover far away and unable to wed, she decides her baby cannot die. The baby girl is bundled into a blanket with a tea cake and left at an orphanage. Constance and Dan Davis are thrilled to adopt the tiny, sick baby from the orphanage in China, even though her first year was filled with hospital stays. As Haley grew up, they made sure she knew about her Chinese heritage. And as Haley grew up, she wanted to find her Chinese mother, she needed to search for her.

This amazing book weaves three story lines: the longing for a lost daughter, the struggles of a teen trying to find her identity, and the growing, buying and selling of rare and expensive tea. Each of these stories alone would have made an interesting book. Together they make a powerful novel that will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommend.   Author interview link 

eGalley review                         Publication date 3.21.17

Posted in adult, highly recommend, historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

The Moon and the Other – John Kessel

Moon and the OtherAgainst all odds, Erno lands on his feet. He’s been exiled from his home in the Society of Cousins. He’s been living at the bottom of his new society. And suddenly, he is offered success beyond his wildest dreams. The daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Persepolis has proposed a business arrangement that happens to include marriage.  In the twenty-second century three million people live in underground cities on the moon. Each has its own view of a proper society. The Society of Cousins is a matriarchy where men are treated as pampered pets, but have few rights and cannot vote. Persepolis is a colony based on Persian heritage, a patriarchy. This novel follows Erno’s difficulties, as he cannot adjust to either.

I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the moon colonies and their politics. The characters were well defined and believable, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get into the book, just couldn’t care about the individuals.

eGalley review                       Publication date 4.4.17

Posted in adult, science fiction, Uncategorized

Shadow Run – AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

Shadow RunAt 17, Qole is the youngest starship captain from the frozen planet of Alaxak.  She and her unique crew fish the systems for Shadow – sort of described as radiation.  It is a hazardous job and those working closely with Shadow die young.  Qole is unique in that she can actually harness the power of Shadow and use it as a weapon.  Nevarian Dracorte is a prince and heir to a huge part of the galaxy.  He is in disguise and on a mission to convince Qole to come with him to his home planet so they can better understand and exploit her abilities with Shadow.  Rival royal families also want Qole and are not above human experimentation to further their studies.  Capture, torture, escape . . . happens a lot in the story.

There is nothing new here.  The theme, plot, setting, and characters are all quite familiar to the avid reader.  Every crew member that Qole has gathered has hidden abilities and a mysterious past and are all quite likeable.  The reader will likely root for Nev as the well-meaning hero, but will shake their head at his naiveté and manipulation.  Chock full of fighting – hand to hand and all out war, this is best for readers eager for destructive action.

eGalley review                                Publication date 3.21.17

Posted in adventure, science fiction, Uncategorized

In This Grave Hour: A Maisie Dobbs Novel – Jacqueline Winspear

In this grave hourAs the wireless crackled to life, conversation stopped and tension mounted. Maisie waited in the drawing room with her best friend, Priscilla, and Priscilla’s husband and boys. It was Sunday, September 3, 1939, and they were all prepared for what the Prime Minister was going to say. Even so, the announcement that the country was at war with Germany hurt deeply. Memories of the last war were still too fresh. And to cap a miserable day, Maisie returned home to find that the secret service once again wanted her to work for them. She was asked to find the killer of a man who fled Belgium as a boy during the First World War.

Jacqueline Winspear is masterful in setting the scene, recreating the atmosphere of England in 1939. The plot was interesting, with enough twists and turn to keep me turning pages. But it was the fear, the uncertainty, surrounding the reader that captivated me. I begin to understand the turmoil of the people.  Although this is part of a series, it can be read as a stand alone.

eGalley review                                  Publication date 3.14.17

Posted in adult, historical fiction, mystery, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Traitor to the Throne – Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the ThroneThe sequel to Rebel of the Sands picks up with the rebellion somewhat stagnant.  For every push forward, the Sultan’s army fights back.  Amani, aka the Blue-Eyed Bandit, was gravely injured.  When she recovered, Jin was not by her side and she felt betrayed.  The story opens with another rescue mission that leads to Amani’s betrayal at the hands of her aunt.  She is sold to the Sultan.  The rebellion has wanted to plant a spy within the palace and here she is.  However, the Sultan has discovered a method to control the Djinni.  Her power is taken away and she must obey the Sultan’s every word.  Despite the Sultan’s cruelty, he shows Amani small kindnesses and includes her in his counsel.  He explains his strategies and his love for the country.  Seeing how a leader must be decisive, she doubts the Rebel Prince has the necessary qualities to rule a war-torn country.  Nothing and no one is quite what they seem.

The writing is close to perfection.  The characters are richly drawn, full of flaws, and incredibly complex.  The feel of the desert, the Sultan’s palace and the harem, steeped in petty bickering that disguises each person’s fight for survival, are all cleverly described so that the reader is fully absorbed into the story.  The characters ring true.  Childhood friend, Tamid, does not forgive Amani leaving him for dead.  While Amani has all the clever, tough, brave traits of a hero, this story allows the true heroine to be Shira.  Amani and Shira are cousins who despised each other.  Raised in the same home in Dustwalk, both girls were desperate to get away from Dustwalk and both are cunning, ruthless and are survivors.  A true hero sacrifices for others and this go around, it is Shira who makes the ultimate sacrifice for her child, Amani, and the rebellion. Then there’s Sam – divertingly glib – but has a story all his own and we get a bit of a glimpse into his past.  This series is nothing short of brilliant!  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                     Publication date 3.7.17

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History – Rebecca Romney, J. P. Romney

Printer's ErrorWho knew that the history of printing could be so much fun. In the introduction we are reminded that humankind is full of idiots and this book reinforces the idea. Rebecca Romney is a rare book expert often called upon for her expertise on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars. She and her husband take us on an eclectic trip with this collection of strange, humorous, and bizarre stories.  Among the anecdotes you will find Dickens, William Blake, Thomas Moore, Shakespeare. Take Shakespeare – did you know that there was an early “bad” version of Hamlet, with less than inspiring lines, leading to much controversy?  And there are several other early “bad” versions of his plays. Were the later, more familiar, versions written by Shakespeare or someone else? Or have centuries of editing fine tuned the plays, with even publishers, printers, typesetters, having an effect?  Sometimes nonfiction, while providing excellent information, can be dull and tedious. That surely wasn’t the case this time. I learned a lot while thoroughly enjoying the book.

eGalley review                                Publication date 3.14.17

Posted in adult, nonfiction, Uncategorized

See You in the Cosmos – Jack Cheng

see-you-in-the-cosmosAlex loves astronomy, rockets, and the idea of intelligent life in other galaxies.  He makes plans to travel to a rocket launch event with his dog, Carl Sagan.  Alex’s older brother left their Colorado home years before and now is making a life for himself in Los Angeles, leaving Alex to fend for himself.  Alex’s father died when Alex was 3.  His mother suffers from mental illness and often leaves Alex for days at a time.  Alex takes this all in stride and assumes responsibility for his mother and his dog.  But what keeps him going is his goal to launch his rocket with his iPod of recordings into space so aliens can listen to his recording of life on Earth.  The trip to the rocket launch turns into a series of misadventures, new friends, and life-changing discoveries.

The story is told as though listening to the recordings on Alex’s iPod.  Some of the characters seemed a bit too quirky to be real.  It is easy to feel compassion for Alex and also brother Ronnie, but something is missing in this road trip novel of discovery.

eGalley review                                                          Publication date 2.28.2017

Posted in realistic fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged