The Blossom and the Firefly – Sherri L. Smith

Blossom and the FireflyFrom the publisher, “From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war, perfect for fans of Salt to the Sea, Lovely War, and Code Name Verity.

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country…until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day…until she meets Taro.  A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?”

Eloquently written, the story of two souls whose lives are directed by the war.  Who they could have been and who they became.  The author captures the culture, the history, and the waste involved in the war from a perspective we often do not glimpse.  The stories of Taro and Hana are seamlessly woven by an expert storyteller.  I am a huge fan of the author and eagerly read everything she writes.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                 Publication date 2.18.20

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

A Castle in the Clouds – Kerstin Gier, Romy Fursland (translated by)

Castle in the CloudsFrom the publisher, “Witty and charming, this contemporary young adult novel follows a girl as she navigates secrets, romance, and danger in an aging grand hotel.  Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.  Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure—and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.  The holiday romance of Love Actually meets the playful mystery of Clue in this captivating novel for teens.”

The majority of the book is about the operations of a grand old luxury hotel nestled in the Swiss Alps.  We meet and quickly come to love Sophie, the young intern, and the multitude of hotel employees and guests.  Sophie is tasked with many jobs and during the festive winter holidays, assists in child care.  She is kind, cute, witty, and has a delightful sense of humor.  The wealthy guests arrive for the holidays and the possible crimes are introduced: burglary or kidnapping.  The story builds slowly but that’s just fine.  I could feel the hotel and get to know the characters.  The last part of the book is action-packed, moving quickly and invoking a few twists.  Best for readers who prefer a story that develops with richness, a story that may inadvertently cause a yearning for the Swiss Alps full of old character hotels.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                      Publication date 1.28.20

Posted in fiction, highly recommend, suspense, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Washington’s End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle – Jonathan Horn

Washington's EndWhen he left office in 1797, George Washington planned to stay busy with “rural amusements.” But it was not to be. He was in debt. The farm was a money pit. He needed to rid himself of his many slaves, but could not because they belonged to the estate of Martha’s first husband. He found himself in the midst of quarrels between the Federalists and Republicans. Then, when the relationship with France became ugly, John Adams decided the country needed an army and it needed Washington as commander in chief. So much for his plans for a quiet, rural retirement.

This was an interesting look at the personal Washington, not General, not President. Using many primary sources, including letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, it tells of his relationships with friends and family, of struggles with problems on the plantation. It shows us the man with all his flaws. I enjoyed the book and recommend it.

eGalley review                                                                  Publication date 2.11.20

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

Scavenge the Stars – Tara Sims

Scavange the StarsAmaya was sold to a debtor ship filled with children conscripted to pay off familial debts.  She spent 10 years diving for pearls, gutting fish, beaten and starved until she escaped.  With the help of Boon, a man she saved from drowning and who later saved her, they plot revenge to those that wronged them.  A primary target is the wealthy merchant and owner of the debtor ship whose son, Cayo, is to be used in the plot to destroy that family.  The plot gets a bit twisty.  We delve into Cayo’s backstory and of course discover he’s a likable though troubled sort.  This first book in the planned duology wraps a few things up, but all the players are in place for the next book.

Maybe I’m just drawn to books about plotting and revenge but it seems there are lots out there.  This one is good, the writing is well done, briskly paced, never plodding.  The bad guys are bad while the good guys are often in a state of puzzlement.  This reinvention of Count of Monte Christo is an engaging read and I look forward to reading the sequel.

eGalley review                                                      Publication date 1.7.20

Posted in adventure, fiction, suspense, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys who Grew Up to Change a Nation – Anna Mae Duane

Educated for FreedomIn the 1820s most Americans did not see a need to educate black children. Reading, writing and a bit of math would do very well. After all, these children were seen as inferior. But the people who established the New York African Free School system saw things differently. This is the story of two boys who became friends at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School: James McCune Smith (1813-1865) and Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882). Smith became a physician, graduating from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, becoming the first African American to hold a medical degree. He worked for the abolitionist movement from within, quietly using his medical education to show that blacks were not at all inferior. Garnet became a minister and an eloquent passionate speaker who was able to move hearts and minds. The two friends disagreed, often violently, on the best way for blacks to attain true freedom. In an era where most saw only two options for freed slaves, continued subjugation or return to Africa, these two childhood friends sought a better solution.  This is an amazing story.  That the sons of enslaved mothers could become well-educated and successful in influencing public opinion through writing books, speaking before adoring crowds, even speaking before Congress, during this time period is a monumental achievement.  I highly recommend this book.

eGalley review                                                           Publication date 1.14.2020

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

The Journey to the Mayflower: God’s Outlaws and the Invention of Freedom – Stephen Tomkins

Journey to the MayflowerThis year, 2020, marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. That’s usually the beginning of the story. But the story begins in 1553 with Queen Mary’s cleansing of the church. No, it really begins several hundred years before that. This story encompasses the beginnings of the Church of England, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and of course the Puritans. It is a history of oppression and intolerance.  This is a difficult book to read, quoting many early tracts and books. There is way too much information, too many sects with too many rules, too many preachers, too many people who died for their faith. It would be useful for scholars, but it is not for the casual reader.

eGalley review                                         Publication date 1.7.2020

Posted in adult, history, nonfiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Fireborne – Rosaria Munda

FireborneFrom the publisher, “Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders. Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet. But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city. With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves…or step up to be the champion her city needs. 

From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.”

This extremely well written political fantasy offers a study of regimes.  When one regime is overthrown, will the next one be any better?  Is the new government really for the people or is it creating a whole new set of class struggles?  The characters of Annie and Lee are fantastic.  Annie begins rather timid, lacking confidence and we see her grow into leadership.  Lee begins with royal confidence, despite witnessing his family slaughtered.  As his beliefs falter due to conflicts between lineage and the present, we see his confidence diminish.  Engaging, thought provoking, true characters – all of them, this book has it all! AND DRAGONS! I am eager to read more from this author.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                            Publication date 10.15.19

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