During the wee hours of the morning, May 13, 1862, the 147-foot sidewheel steamer Planter made its way out of the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The Confederate fortifications assumed the ship to be on its usual errands. It never occurred to them that an illiterate, enslaved man could pilot a steamer and escape with a ship full of slaves, and to cap it off, deliver the Planter to the Union forces. But Robert Smalls took the Confederates by surprise, did just that, and won freedom for himself, his crew, his wife and his children.
This little-known story is amazing. Told with great detail, it follows Smalls from his childhood through his rise to become one of the most famous African American men in America, honored and admired in the North, hated in the South. He met with Abraham Lincoln, lectured in Northern cities, learned to read and write, became a man of means and served as a U.S. Congressman. He even bought and lived in the home of his former master. His story deserves to be remembered, not only for his brave escape but for the accomplishments he made throughout his life. The book is highly recommended reading for everyone.
eGalley review Publication date 6.20.17
In a world where music enchants everyday objects with the Song, Chester is a gifted musician but not licensed to connect to the Song. Only licensed Songshapers trained at the elite Conservatorium can legally connect to the Song. Chester’s father vanished and Chester goes town to town making inquiries and playing at taverns to earn his way. When his music illegally connects to the Song, he finds himself arrested with his head on the chopping block. Saved by the Nightfall Gang, he is recruited for a special job. The Nightfall Gang can go into and out of The Hush, sort of an alternate reality, hidden in the folds of the world they know. Filled with all sorts of creepy beings that can kill with a touch, the Hush is a dangerous place to enter. The odds are stacked against their ultimate heist because they intend to break into the Conservatorium and Chester is key to their success.
Originally published in Australia, the book is finally coming to the States! The author succeeds in world building and creating rich and complex characters, each with their own backstory. Full of adventure, death-defying escapes, and a small gang intent to help those in need from a corrupt society. The Hush is fabulous! Highly recommend.
eGalley review Publication date 6.6.17
The Unquiet Grave – Sharyn McCrumb
You have to admit that Zona and Trout made a beautiful couple. She with her hazel eyes and strawberry blond hair, him with his crinkly black hair and sculptured face. But their hasty marriage was doomed from the start. Zona didn’t care a whit about cooking or house cleaning, and Trout loved to eat, and expected a neat and tidy place to live in. Sounds like not much that couldn’t be fixed, but in Greenbrier County, West Virginia in 1897, those were major problems. You wouldn’t think they’d be so major as to provoke him to kill her. But that’s just what happened. He’d of gotten away with it, too, if Zona’s ghost hadn’t interfered.
Sharyn McCrumb has once again written a compelling story, mixing historical events with fiction. This time she uses extensive genealogical research to retell the folk story of the Greenbrier Ghost, a well known mountain folk tale. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. It would be fine for older teens and I highly recommend it.
eGalley review Publication date 6.20.17
“Nine on an island, orphans all, Any more, the sky might fall.”
An idyllic island is home to nine orphans, each one year apart in age. Every year, a boat delivers a small child who is about 5 years old. Then the oldest on the island is expected to hop in the boat to leave the island. This ensures there will always be nine on the island. The new oldest is the Elder and takes charge of the new arrival. Jinny’s close friend, Deen, is the recent Elder who leaves the island despite her pleas for him to stay. Jenny is now the Elder and takes small Ess under her wing to teach her the ways of the island. She has a year with her Charge to teach her how to read, swim, hunt, prepare food, and all the tasks required to survive on the peaceful island.
The children all get along quite nicely and they thrive. They don’t question why they are there or ponder life beyond the island. However, during Jinny’s Elder year, she does begin to question the meaning of it all. As her time draws close to leave the island, the boat arrives with a screaming young boy, Loo. But Jinny refuses to get in the boat and decides to stay and continue her reign as Elder depriving Ben, next in line, of the role.
A lyrical book for the thoughtful reader, Orphan Island describes an island that would be a lovely place to visit. The island cares and provides for the children – as long as all is in balance. When Jinny decides to stay, she makes the self-absorbed and head strong decision that affects all of them. We see her change and question her actions and by doing so, grow as a person. An excellent read for the gentle reader. Highly recommend.
eGalley review Publication date 5.30.17
Following the death of Sage’s peasant father, a fowler who taught Sage all he knew, Sage is taken in by her noble uncle. She is a natural teacher and tutors his children until she reaches the age for marriage. Arranged marriages are the norm for the noble class. Sage tried to play the role of the obedient, helpless, young lady. Alas, it was clear she did not meet the qualifications to be matched. Sage is too independent, too outdoorsy, too inquisitive to be matched. Instead, she apprentices with the aging matchmaker. The matchmaker for the kingdom strives to make matches that best suit the temperament of the available noble men and women while also making the political matches that best suit their families. Sage is to observe the girls the matchmaker has chosen as they all caravan across the kingdom to the big marriage ceremony.
Captain Quinn is a career military officer. His father is the General. Even his little brother is in the army. Quinn is also protective of his cousin, the Crown Prince who is in his unit. Quinn’s unit is assigned to escort the matchmaker’s brides to the ceremony, stopping along the way at the fortress of a noble suspected of rebellious activity. Quinn suspects a plot to create an alliance with a neighboring kingdom and to kidnap the Crown Prince. Quinn uses Sage as a spy when things get tricky. Plots and scheming abound as Quinn and Sage work to thwart a violent rebellion.
The author shows the differences of the social classes and how noble families use women as pawns to gain political strength. Sage is a strong protagonist: smart, inquisitive, adaptable, instigator. She is instantly likeable as is Captain Quinn. Quinn is the duty-bound career soldier, loyal to his kingdom and his family. The story moves at a brisk pace and never bogs down. Just enough character introspection to flesh out the characters and draw the reader in. A bit of romance dots the action sequences and the character plot twists are excellent. The political strategizing is well conceived and executed. For the reader who enjoys the political maneuvering in a kingdom, this is a very good read. It had my attention the entire length of the novel. The first in a planned trilogy, I hope to read more about all the characters. Even the secondary characters are interesting. Well done!
eGalley review Publication date 5.9.17
It is 1944, the Manhattan Project has been underway for several years, and the goal is finally in sight. Little Boy is ready to be dropped on the enemy. With any luck, Berlin will soon be rubble and Hitler turned to ashes. Yes, I said Berlin, Hitler, 1944. I have long associated Gregory Benford with events that happen in a galaxy far, far away. This alternative history is a welcome treat. Benford skillfully mixes true accounts of members of the Manhattan Project with what might have been, what might have happened if the bomb had been produced more quickly, had been used against Germany. The players are real, Urey, Fermi, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Teller. The science is real, much of the story is real. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it.
eGalley review Publication date 5.9.17
Mariko knew her purpose as the daughter of a prominent Samurai was to be pawn in political maneuvering by being given as a bride to a family of higher standing. She is being delivered to her fiancé, the second son of the Emperor, when her caravan is attacked. Hidden by the dead body of her servant, she is the only survivor of the slaughter that was ordered to kill her. Who wants her dead and why? Mariko believes it is the Black Clan that was hired to do the deed. For once she decides to take control of her future and rather than make her way home, she disguises herself as a boy and journeys deep into the forest to find the Black Clan. She is impressed with the leader, Ranmaru, who is deeply respected by his loyal outlaws. She thinks very little of Okami, until she sees his fighting prowess. Ranmaru accepts her into the group and orders her training. In truth, the Black Clan is a Japanese Robin Hood type outfit. Despite their honor and overall compassionate behavior, Mariko persists in believing the Black Clan attacked her caravan. Meanwhile, Mariko’s fierce twin brother, Samurai Kenshin is tracking her and does not believe she was killed. Lots of inward thinking leads her to revelation that the Black Clan acts more like a family than her true family.
While formulaic – the pampered noble who must quickly adapt; forbidden love; Robin Hood; revenge; family honor, political manipulation – the story works. The writing is descriptive so that the feel of the forest is ever present and the characters are clearly drawn. However, one thing that is bothering me is that the conversations between Okami and Mariko when she was disguised as a boy, were rather flirtatious when Mariko tried to converse as a man. I tended to lose track of names and the abundant insertion of Japanese words is a bit annoying but I happily read it all and am eager to go back and read her other books. Great for readers eager for adventure, bloodshed and political maneuvering set in feudal Japan – oh yes, a bit of romance too.
eGalley review Publication date 5.16.17