Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas

Fiction/Literature

Ruby is a rebellious teenager who runs away from home in England to visit her grandmother in Cairo. She has basically no relationship with her grandmother, but is desperate to leave and try something new. Showing up on the doorstep of her grandmother, the manservent Mamdooh is none too pleased to see her. She eventually convinces her way in and finds Iris, her grandmother, who is old, ailing, and struggling to remember her past. Ruby offers to help Iris document her history so that it is not forgotten and Iris can't pass that up.

Iris came of age in Cairo during WWII. She fell in love with a soldier and got engaged, working as a secretary to the British government. It was times of high stress but lots of partying and lots of love. People did things quickly for fear that war would wipe out everything.

As Ruby pieces together her grandmother's past, she also finds her own love story in Cairo. She starts to fall for the brother of the taxi driver that took her from the airport to Iris' house. This boy shows her around the city and she starts to love both Cairo and him.

This was a great coming of age story from two different generation's perspective. We learn about Iris' journey to adulthood during the war and we see Ruby's as she grows up in Cairo. Ruby is a believable teenager, starting off a little annoying but coming in to her own. I'm not sure I ever really understand her relationship with her mom, or her mom's relationship with Iris. They tried to flush out the latter in the book but it was a fairly short conversation near the end of the book and not really sufficient for me to understand or believe it.

The event that finally brings everyone together seemed a bit drastic but I guess typical to a coming of age fictional story. I've been having bad luck with books recently, unable to get through a few of them before giving up, so I was happy to be able to easily get through this one.

First Line: "I remember"

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Historical Fiction

Allison Bannister has been tracking the history of Mary Seymour, daughter of Queen Katherine Parr. When she comes across a recently discovered portrait of Anne Boleyn, Allison knows better and that it's truly Mary. Allison knows this because she lived with Mary in Wolf Hall before she made the leap in time to current day. Allison was a teenager living in Wolf Hall when she fell in love with her cousin and steward of the house Edward Seymour. She ended up getting pregnant and sent away then her child was taken from her when she gave birth. She roomed with Mary and though they hated each other at first, they needed each other and grew to respect each other. Mary had special abilities to see the future so Allison looked to Mary to help her find her son Albert. Mary looks to Allison to save her from being tried as a witch.

The story is told from Allison and Mary's perspective. Allison is in current time to survive and see if she can't find her son through history. Mary is in the 1500s, after being pushed aside. Both struggle with similar problems despite the time gap and they never forget the promises they made to each other. Allison is not only searching for her son, but also her friend Mary to find out what happened to her.

Mary Seymour's story in real life is pretty mysterious, so Cornick takes what history knows and builds around that quite well. The magical/fantastical element makes this unrealistic but it's still a fun 'what if' story.

The historical fiction and character relationships were the best part of this book. Mary's story from the 1500s seemed well researched and flowed very well. The relationship between Mary and Allison, as well as any of the other characters was believable and endearing.

Where this book lacked was in the time travel element. Allison traveled forward in time by 500 years yet had no problem coping with any of the technical or cultural changes. She was driving a car (how?) and wearing modern clothes without issue. Characters had no problem believing that she was a time traveler. It was a tough pill to swallow and it nagged at me throughout the entire book.

Despite this, it's still worth picking up and reading!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour! If you're interested in purchasing the book you can do so here.

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Literature

This is a generational story of the Cleary family. With Irish roots, they settled in New Zealand and got in to sheep shearing. The family was large with many boys and one girl, Meggie, who just barely made ends meet. The eldest Cleary sister sends out a request for the rest of the family to join her on her huge farm in Australia. The family moves out there and learns life in the Australian outback. There are many ups and downs. Losses and births. The story focuses around Meggie as she grows up. As a girl, she looks up to the priest responsible for the local area. As Meggie grows up, she thinks there is an opportunity for her to pull the priest away from God but it's not meant to be. Love and heartbreak, this book has everything.

Being an older book, I find this book is very gentle and graceful. It's a pretty long one, and there were some things that probably didn't need to be in it, but the story developed the characters very well. Each character makes horrible decisions, but also good decisions. It's a pretty good representation of normal life.

Despite the gentle nature in which the story is tell, it's still pretty depressing overall. There's too much heartbreak for this poor Cleary family, it just doesn't seem fair to them.

This is true classical literature and I'm going to make sure I share my copy with others.

First Line: "On December 8th, 1915, Meggie Cleary had her fourth birthday."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

Fiction

Each year, Laura's family gathers at her parent's place to go to the town fair. It's been a family tradition forever and one that can't be missed. Before she heads there with her husband and two teens, she gets a call from her sister saying that she has something very important to discuss with Laura and their brother. The conversation doesn't get very far before their father has a stroke and heads to the hospital. Laura's sister Caroline can't wait. She has been seeing a therapist and the therapist has recommended she talks to her sibling about what happened in their childhood. Caroline states how her mother never gave her any love and treated her completely different from the other children. When Caroline was supposedly in summer camp, she was actually at a hospital recovering from her mother attacking her with a knife. Laura has a hard time reconciling this with the childhood she remembers.

I got sucked in to this book very quickly. None of the characters are perfect and I was questioning truth along with Laura as she was hearing Caroline's story. There's also guilt of not believing a victim's story. Oddly enough, most of the male characters in this book were pretty much absent from the story because they couldn't handle the discussion, which I found a bit odd. I was a bit disappointed at the ending but still not a bad read.

First Line: "It is a photograph of a staircase that I took with my Brownie camera over forty years ago."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann

Mystery

Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Priest Father Mateo are back for book 6 in the Shinobi series (this is my 3rd introduction to them). Carrying a message up Mount Koya, the two stop at a temple as the weather turns bad, seeking refuge. In this temple are a group of Buddhists that live there, as well a father and his boy also seeking refuge from the storm while they wait to spread ashes. Hattori knows the Buddhist responsible for the protection of the temple and asks him, on break of the weather, to carry a message outside the temple for him. As Hattori and Mateo go to sleep, they are woken in the middle of the night to find that this Buddhist is dead. Hattori suspects someone know that he was a messenger and killed him for it. But then a few hours later, there's another death. Who is killing these monks?

Hattori and Mateo offer to help solve the crime and start interviewing all of the suspects. In the previous books I've read, what I liked most about this series was the history of Japan it provides in the 1500s, how Hattori needs to teach Mateo the culture of Japan since he is an outsider, and the interactions between the two men. This book had the first. A temple in the mountains and descriptions of the different Buddhas and their meanings. However it lacked a bit in the other two categories. There were some concerns mentioned from Hattori on what he thought Mateo might say. Maybe Mateo is learned enough from Hattori on how to behave properly and this isn't needed as much anymore? It was always a fun part of previous books though, which also follows in to the last category of the banter between the two. Because of this, I feel like it would be difficult to pick up the series with this book. Overall, still a good book but my least favourite of the three in this series I've read.

Rating:
(3.5/5)

About the Author
Susan Spann began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.
Find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her website.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bloody Mary by J.A. Konrath

Genre of book

In the second book Lieutenant Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels, this book finds her hunting someone that is leaving body parts lying around the morgue attached to Jack's handcuffs. Since this person has access to the morgue and Jack's handcuffs, could they be a cop? While trying to solve the case, Jack is called away to Florida because her mother is in the hospital. Jack tries to convince her mom to move in with her in Chicago but mom wants nothing to do with it.

Between her personal life and this case that has a connection to her, Jack's life is a mess. These books are fun, but slightly more serious than the Evanovich number series. I remember really liking the first book, though it was a while ago that I read it, and this one was just as good.

I look forward to reading more about Jack - both her personal life and solving crimes.

First Line: "It would be so easy to kill you while you sleep."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll

Fantasy

Cullen James has come a long way. She has left behind a boyfriend that didn't truly love her and made the tough decision to abort her baby with that man. Still getting over it, her long time friend Danny comes back from Italy to console her. The two eventually get married, have a child, and that's when the dreams start.

Cullen has incredibly vivid dreams of Rondua, where animals take her and her son Pepsi around trying to find bones of the moon. Cullen vaguely remembers similar dreams when she was a child and now this land is back in her dreams. The dreams and Cullen's real life start to intersect, as her and Pepsi find more bones and need to prepare for a fight with the man running Rondua.

This dream work is incredibly imaginative and fantastically represented in the story. I felt like I was right there with Cullen and Pepsi in Rondua. The entire book sets up for an epic battle between Cullen and Pepsi and the villian of Rondua, but the ending falls rather flat with everything happening rather quickly and too cleanly. With a better ending, this book had the chance of being one of my top read for the year.

First Line: "The Axe Boy lived downstairs."

Rating:
(3.5/5)