Unclaimed Baggage – Jen Doll

Unclaimed BaggageFrom the publisher, “Doris—a lone liberal in a conservative small town—has mostly kept to herself since the terrible waterslide incident a few years ago. Nell had to leave behind her best friends, perfect life, and too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Chicago to move to Alabama. Grant was the star quarterback and epitome of “Mr. Popular” whose drinking problem has all but destroyed his life. What do these three have in common? A summer job working in a store called Unclaimed Baggage cataloging and selling other people’s lost luggage. Together they find that through friendship, they can unpack some of their own emotional baggage and move on into the future.”

Full of quirky, yet stereotypical characters, this is a fun teen book.  It is about friendships, belonging, and sense of family while dealing with some serious subjects.  Doris, Nell, and Grant make the perfect trio of friends.  They each have their own strengths but together they are better.  They bring out the best in each other.  Doris and Nell stand by Grant when he confesses he is an alcoholic.  Grant defends Nell and her boyfriend.  Doris is the special glue who is so comfortable in her own skin.  Very mature and confident in herself – an old soul.  While the cute cover doesn’t have anything to do with the book, it conveys the humor and the voice of the story.  Witty and humorous, it is a feel-good book that wins.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                            Publication date 9.18.18

Posted in fiction, highly recommend, realistic fiction, Uncategorized

Eliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton – Tilar J. Mazzeo

Eliza HamiltonIt was the winter of 1779-80. Eliza was twenty-two and it was time for her to find a husband. Knowing that her old beau, Tench Tilghman, would be stationed at the army’s winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey, her father arranged for her to pass the winter with Aunt Gertrude and Uncle John, the camp surgeon. So Eliza came to look for a husband, and Alexander Hamilton was there looking for a wife. Eliza Hamilton was an amazing woman, a strong woman. She was born into the prominent New York Schuyler family and most of her childhood was spend on family lands in Saratoga, on the site of traditional Mohawk hunting grounds. She had eight children before she was forty. And her life didn’t end with the death of her husband. She was one of the founders of the first private orphanage in New York City, traveled by steamboat to the west to see her son in her eighties, and continued to be active until her death at ninety-seven. This was so easy to read, full of descriptions of daily life, full of interesting people, it reads like a novel. The author does take a few liberties describing Eliza’s reactions to events, but that’s just a small thing and it makes Eliza come to life. I enjoyed the book very much and highly recommend it.

eGalley review                                                            Publication date 9.18.18

Posted in adult, biography, highly recommend, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Through Darkest Europe – Harry Turtledove

Through Darkest EuropeThe world is turned around, with Africa and the Middle East being well educated, liberal, rich. Europe is the backwater, full of extremists waging “holy wars”. Khalid al-Zarzisi, is a senior investigator, sent with his assistant, Dawud ibn Musa, a Jew, to Rome to stop an uprising of the fanatic Aquinists. And they succeed. Sort of. OK. That’s the plot. The characters are paper cutouts, there are a lot of explosions, and a little romance. That’s it. I have enjoyed Harry Turtledove’s books for years and looked forward to this one. But I was quite disappointed. There is the comparison between the fanatic Christians and the educated, intelligent Muslims. But there is little history to explain how that happened, no unexpected turns of plot. I found it rather boring.

eGalley review                                                                 Publication date 9.18.18

Posted in adult, fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

Begone the Raggedy Witches – Celine Kiernan

Begone the Raggedy WitchesFrom the publisher, “On the night that Aunty dies the Raggedy Witches come for Mup’s mam. Pale, cold, relentless, they will do anything to coax Mam back to Witches Borough. When they kidnap Mup’s dad, Mup and her mam must leave the mundane world to rescue him. But Mam is strange on this side of the border – striding, powerful, and distant. Even if they can save Dad, Mup is not sure anything will ever be the same again…”

Yes, it’s another book about crossing into a hidden world to save a family member or discover powers. However, it is not the least bit tiresome.  It is an utter delight.  It’s the witty, no nonsense way the story is told.  It’s the characters.  Brave Mup who does what is right, stands up for what is right, and never really considers something horrible could happen.  Her baby brother, who for a baby in diapers has a surprisingly large vocabulary when in dog form, is a joy to read.  And poor Crow, an unwanted boy who just wants to be loved.  Then there is Crow’s mother who doesn’t want Crow yet helps but not fully as a mother should.  This was a breeze to read and so fun.  This first installment in The Wild Magic Trilogy ends on a will she, won’t she note.  Can Mam be content is this world or is she destined to rule the Witches?  I will eagerly read the next in the series!  Highly recommend

eGalley review                                                            Publication date 9.11.18

Posted in adventure, fantasy, highly recommend, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Saving Winslow – Sharon Creech

Saving WinslowFrom the publisher, “Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he’s determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

Written in the spirit of Creech favorites Moo and Love That Dog, this standout tale about love and friendship and letting go will tug at the heartstrings.”

This short book is a gentle read that is very appealing. Louie is so determined to ensure Winslow survives, he learns to feed him and to give him injections.  Nora is a bit stand-offish and hesitant to get attached to Winslow.  The reader can readily assume she recently lost a pet.  But when she does get attached to Winslow, she gives her heart wholly.  The author is such an expert that her writing exemplifies ‘less is more’. There is just enough description and just enough dialog and just enough plot arcs that the simple story is told eloquently.  It is a story about people, understanding, and doing what is best.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                             Publication date 9.11.18

Posted in gentle reader, highly recommend, realistic fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

A Spark of White Fire – Sangu Mandanna

Spark of White FireFrom the publisher: “The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabrahata.  When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to. 

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.”

This is a good political sci-fi romp with plenty of action, dialogue, with a variety of characters.  However, the characters needed more depth, more of a backstory to better explain their actions and to engage the reader.  Perhaps that would have made the first book a bit too long.  My favorite parts were the interaction of the characters with the gods.  There aren’t many twists and turns in the plot.   Then again, there may be something up with Max because he is far too good.  This first book in the planned series sets up the war that is to come, despite the efforts for peace.

eGalley review                                                        Publication date 9.4.18

Posted in science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

Mirage – Somaiya Daud

MirageFrom the publisher: “In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection . . . because one wrong move could lead to her death.”

There is nothing new here: conquered people, rebellion, cruel regime, body double, love triangle.  However, it was a fun read. The writing is well paced, the characters are clearly drawn yet complex.  Princess Maram softens a bit too quickly but does manage to snap back and that was appropriate to her character.  Odd though that fiancé, Idris, whose family was overthrown and conquered is not more closely watched when with her body double.  For Maram to show such naiveté might be due to her youth, but her advisers should know better.  I did enjoy the book and look forward to reading the sequel that should become more complex and with much higher stakes for all key players.

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 8.28.18

Posted in science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged