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Becky1

Books, Books and More Books

Stop by and read a few sentences about the books I love and the books I hated. Leave a comment or two. I am a former librarian and a voracious reader.

India Gray

India Gray: Historical Fiction - Sujata Massey
INDIA GRAY by Sujata Massey
This collection consists of two novellas and two short stories. Both novellas, Outnumbered at Oxford and The Ayah’s Tale are peopled by well formed characters and have detailed and nuanced plots with introduction, plot development and conclusion. Outnumbered at Oxford introduces characters found in the full length novel, THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL. The two short stories are quite brief and include only one incident with little characterization. India Gray is the much more satisfying story for both character and plot. Bitter Tea simply leaves one wanting more.
Outnumbered at Oxford gives the reader of MALABAR HILL the back story of what transpired during Perveen’s banishment to England and introduces Alice, Perveen’s good friend, who has a role in MALABAR HILL. Both women find themselves bending the strict rules at St. Hilda’s College to solve the disappearance of a mathematical paper and a young man.
The Ayah’s Tale is a treatise on social class, including the vast social differences between Indians (in their own country) and English colonists during a time of growing desire for Indian independence. It leaves the reader wanting another tale to fill in the gap between the story and the epilogue.
The writing and research involved for all four tales is detailed and gives depth and interest to each story. A good introduction to an excellent writer.
5 of 5 stars

 

Things You Save in a Fire - Katherine Center
THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center
THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE is the first book I have read by Katherine Center. It wasn’t exactly what I assumed it would be, but was an interesting read even though it turned out to be a romance rather than a firefighter story. The tension author Center creates around Cassie’s determined “aloneness” is palpable from the very first lines. Cassie, Diana, the other firefighters and Diana’s friend Josie all speak and act like normal people. The two “villains” are known pretty quickly.
The romantic story line is actually quite interesting (this said by a person who doesn’t usually read romance novels). The pranking escalates rather quickly into real fright producing torment. That resolution is the weakest part of the novel. Cassie turns around socially because of fear for her mother and over a period of time – understandable.
The resolution of the out of control pranking is not so understandable, especially on the part of the villain who changes too quickly and too completely to be believable.
(No vulgar language except for a few damns, one sex scene, one alluded to violent sex scene, I received this book free from St Martin’s Press for my honest review)
4 of 5 stars
#ThingsYouSavebook

 

Two heroines

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter - Hazel Gaynor
THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Hazel Gaynor
Combining two stories to tell the life of lighthouse keeping and coming of age make this a charming and intelligent read of historical fiction. Grace Darling was also known as the Heroine of the Farne Isles because of her actions during the wreck of the Forfarshire where many lives were lost, but, because of Grace and her father, nine lives were saved. The companion story tells of Matilda Emmerson, a “disgraced” Irish nineteen year old escaping her family’s judgement to spend time with a distant relative who is a lighthouse keeper in America.
Well researched and written, both tales tell the hardships and joys of “keeping” over the space of a hundred years. Gaynor’s characters come to life as she exposes their lives and work. The terror and beauty of the raw power of the sea tell its own story in masterful hands. The dynamics of family and friendship are exposed as each woman’s story is revealed.
Book groups will enjoy the tales and learn a great deal about “keeping” and also the natural beauty and power of living seaside.
5 of 5 stars

 

Southern Charm and Skulduggery

I Still Dream About You - Fannie Flagg
I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU by Fannie Flagg
This fun read still has an emotional punch. Flagg is an expert at creating characters one cares about – even the ones that are not very nice! In this outing Flagg joins a “fat” African American, a midget, an ex-beauty queen, and a thoroughly detestable real estate agent to tell a tale of what might have been, what is and what may yet be.
Pathos and hilarity join forces for a romp in Southern charm and dirty deals. Flagg manages to tell a good story without stooping to vulgar language or explicit sex. Written for the adult female audience I STILL DREAM can be enjoyed by all audiences including teens.
There is enough here for an interesting book group discussion that might cover family dynamics, faith, integrity, racial harmony, interpersonal relations and much more. Similar in feel to FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, this book would also make a good movie.
5 of 5 stars

 

Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks

Death of a New American - Mariah Fredericks
DEATH OF A NEW AMERICAN by Mariah Fredericks
Jane Prescott, lady’s maid and mystery solver, becomes embroiled in labor disputes, the Black Hand and murder in this entertaining novel set in 1912 New York. Louise, Jane’s lady, is about to marry the son of a prestigious family.
When the Tyler’s nursemaid is murdered and notes are found threatening the infant child of Louise’s soon to be in laws, Jane and newspaperman Michael Behan spring into action. Between love and the criminal underworld, the tension is palpable.
Well written, with interesting situation and characters, this novel will be a welcome addition to book groups and individual readers alike.
4 of 5 stars

 

Murder with tea and jewels

The Satapur Moonstone - Sujata Massey
THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE by Sujata Massey
This the second mystery starring Purveen Mistry, a female Indian lawyer practicing in Bombay in 1921. (If you have not read the first, you might want to check it out first, so you know the backstory.) Purveen has been asked to determine if the children of a deceased Maharajah in princely India are being properly cared for and educated, and the royal succession maintained while the two remaining maharanis remain in purdah (seclusion).
 
Several mysterious incidents come to light as Purveen and an agent for the British Empire join forces to untangle the intricacies of Satapur’s royal aristocracy. Several deaths and more than several possible culprits appear along the way.
 
Massey’s care with the cultural differences observed by the various religions, political entities, and Indian versus British desires become part of the mystery. A bit of romance may even be hinted at if this entertaining series continues – and I hope it does.
 
Well written with strong characters and intricate plotting make this novel a great addition to the genre.
4 of 5 stars

 

Ultimately unsatisfying

Turbulence - David Szalay
TURBULENCE by David Szalay
This very short book is a collection of very loosely connected vignettes. Each tells of an incident in the life of the “main” character, a person who has interacted in some way with the main character of the preceding story. Although each vignette poses a problem or life changing incident,, there are no conclusions and there is no background information.
While each story is compelling in the moment, each is also dissatisfying in the lack of resolution. The writing is clear, the characters are distinct, the stories disparate.
Ultimately, the novel is unsatisfying. It would serve a literature class well, but as a read for enjoyment – choose something else.
3 of 5 stars

 

Haunting

The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek (Unabridged edition) - Katie Schorr, Kim Michele Richardson
THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim M Richardson
In the depths of the depression and hidden in the deep mountains of Kentucky was Troublesome Creek. The people were starving for both and learning. The WPA hired women to ride packhorses or mules and take “learning” in the form of books to the cabins hidden in the hills and hollows. Also hidden in those hollows were the “Blue’ people. Blues suffered from a genetic abnormality that caused their skin to range from pale blue to deep indigo. They were feared and ostracized even more than “normal” black skinned people. Cussy is both Blue and a Book Woman.
This is her story. Based on the real blue Fugate family of Kentucky, this novel ranges from terrifying to humorous to touching.
The writing paints the forests and hills in all their awe inspiring glory and all their fearful terrain. The closed away feeling of the miners and dirt farmers is clarified by the prose. The plot is engrossing. The people are sympathetic and haunting.
Readers will learn more than they anticipated and enjoy it. An excellent book for book groups. Appropriate for parent/middle ager (and up) groups
5 of 5 stars

 

Beirut Hellfire Society - Rawi Hage
BEIRUT HELLFIRE SOCIETY by Rawi Hage
This tale presents the raw outrage, fear, misery, and indelible sadness of a country at war. The writing is excellent. Unfortunately, it is so filled with sex and depravity that I can not recommend this book.
After having to force myself to read past the first few chapters, the book did offer some moments of humor (of the black variety) and the final pages did offer some version of hope after the devastation of hopelessness that war engenders. The feelings of the outcast (religion, societal, employment, mental illness, etc) are clearly shown.
I had hoped for a better read.
2 of 5 stars

 

Heart stopping finish

Blood Oath (Alexandra Cooper #20) - Linda Fairstein
BLOOD OATH by Linda Fairstein
 
This thriller by a master of the art starts a bit slow but by the time you get all the players straight the thrills a minute lead to a heart pounding conclusion.
 
Alexandra Cooper, back from a leave of absence, is the heroine of the tale. Lucy, a troubled young woman is the object of concern. Along the way a wide cast of characters, some good, some evil, come into play.
 
Tightly plotted and unerringly fleshed out, Fairstein’s novel is one of the best of the genre.
 
4 of 5 stars

 

A Death of No importance by Mariah Fredericks

A Death of No Importance - Mariah Fredericks
DEATH OF NO IMPORTANCE by Mariah Fredericks
The backstairs folk always see more than the upper class folks think. Lady’s maid Jane sees and thinks. The writing is good with great characterization, good atmosphere, a realistic portrayal of time and place.
Fredericks throws in some real people and real incidents to give breadth to her story. This is the first of a series with Jane as the sleuth in a tightly crafted mystery. The death is pretty gruesome but, for the squeamish, not dwelled upon. Also, no foul language or steamy sex, just a really good mystery with fully fleshed out characters.
5 of 5 stars

 

RUN AWAY by Harlan Coben

Run Away - Harlan Coben
RUN AWAY by Harlan Coben
This was my first Harlan Coben mystery. It was an interesting, well written tale about a dysfunctional family (Is there any other kind?).
Paige is the runaway. She fell in with a druggie boyfriend at college and is no longer the sweet innocent good girl her father is searching for. Elena is a former FBI agent on the trail of the missing 24 year old son of wealthy banker. Simon is Paige’s father trying to save her from herself.
Lots of action here: death, beatings, drug dealers, gun fights, DNA surprises, you name it. A fast read by good writer.
4 of 5 stars

 

THE FARM by Joanne Ramos

The Farm - Joanne Ramos
 

 

THE FARM by Joanne Ramos
An idea – pay poor women large sums to be the surrogate for busy, important, wealthy, lazy women who want their own child, but don’t want the bother, time commitment, inconvenience of actually bearing them.
 
Ramos has written a novel that presents that idea carried out to the fullest extent. The Farm is a lap of luxury prison for the surrogates. Reagan, an idealist asserting her independence from her father but controlling father, Jane, an impoverished Filipina eager for the large financial payout, and Lisa, a wild child with unknown needs, are the three surrogates.
 
The novel presents many topics for book groups to discuss and casual readers to ponder. Among them – attitudes toward money; styles of parenting; the poor; immigrants (legal or not); power vs weakness, education; exploitation by class, money, education, status, or race; crime and punishment; family; and of course, women. A question that is not addressed in the novel but should be: What did Reagan do with her bonus and why? Although there is an epilogue, several questions remain of the final outcome for each of the women presented in the novel.
4 of 5 stars
 
I received an ARC for my freely given opinion.


 

THE GILLESPIE COUNTY FAIR by Mark Hess

THE GILLESPIE COUNTY FAIR by Mark Hess
This book never quite caught me in its web. I didn’t like the characters. They all seemed shallow and grubby. The plot wandered about until the “secret sin” was revealed and then the secret didn’t seem to matter much at all.
Carel, the main character, just wandered about the story making or revealing mistake after mistake, not learning anything from his errors. His wife (current) and daughter do manage to have redeeming qualities of a sort.
The writing is okay, but there are too many German words that are not defined or explained. I read German, so I knew what was written, someone unfamiliar with the language would be frustrated .
I can’t really recommend this book. Maybe someone else will read it and love it, I don’t.
2 of 5 stars

 

Maud's Line by Margaret Verble

Maud's Line - Margaret Verble
MAUD’S LINE by Margaret Verble
Maud, her father and brother live on Maud’s mother’s allotment in the former Indian Territory. Her family is (mostly) Cherokee. Maud has a desire for better things. Electricity, a refrigerator, an inside toilet.It is 1928.
This tale of Cherokee families living in Oklahoma after enduring and surviving the Trail of Tears is filled with fully realized characters, Indian traits, hard scrabble lives on dirt farms, snakes galore, family and mean neighbors. Richly told, Verble has created a world complete. Maud is a captivating heroine. Her family is filled with abundant well-developed characters. The plot, while simple, is richly detailed.
An absorbing and thought-provoking novel, especially for a first novel. Very satisfying.
5 of 5 stars

 

Desolation Mountain

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger
DESOLATION MOUNTAIN by William Kent Krueger
I have not read any of Krueger’s Cork O’Conner mysteries, but I am a huge fan or Ordinary Grace. DESOLATION MOUNTAIN did not disappoint.
The characters were refined and true to character as the book progressed. The area of Minnesota was so clearly utilized it was almost a character.
The plight of the Ojibway Indians and their reservation was clear even though really not a pivotal part of the plot. The mystery leaked out slowly, just enough to keep my interest and the menacing terror growing.
Although there were many deaths, this was not a gruesome book. There is minimal foul language. The plot and all its permutations were neatly concluded in a satisfying way.
A very good mystery by a very good writer.
5 of 5 stars