Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunrise at Kusatsu Harbor by Dan Maloney

Fiction

Mieko and Tori are young lovers, determined to spend the rest of their lives together when WWII starts. Mieko is sent off to work in a prisoner camp in Japan and come up with a weapon that the Japanese can use to end the war. While Mieko is at the camp, the bomb is dropped on his home of Hiroshima. He sneaks out of the camp so that he can go home to see if his family or Tori has survived. Tori did survive, and starts making her way to the camp to find Mieko as he's the only one she has left. The two end up missing each other and then the Nagasaki bomb is dropped, which severely injures and disfigures Tori. She decides she can never be with Mieko because he will only feel sorry for her and Mieko decides he must make the Americans pay for what they did and goes to the USA.

This book is a short one about love and forgiveness. It's a nice love story and the message of forgiveness is quite strong, on both the Japanese and American side. There's a twist at the end of the book that I didn't mind but can understand why some would not like it.

First Line: "I have always loved my wife."

Rating:
(4/5)

Friday, August 11, 2017

MonkeeWrench by P.J. Tracy

Mystery

A couple is killed in a church and when the officers arrive at their house to investigate, they find the house completely booby trapped. An officer dies trying to get in to the house and the police wonder why an elderly couple has a home rigged up so well. They soon find out that this family has moved from city to city, changing their name every time they moved.

At the same time, a jogger dies in a park with no evidence and then the next day a girl dies posed on a statue of an angel. The police are contacted by software company Monkeewrench, who have posed these exact crime scenes in a new video game of theirs. The problem is that there are many more murders in the game and at one a day, the cops need to figure out who is up to these before many more people are killed.

The cops in this book were good characters with interesting personal lives to transition between major plot points. It wasn't too hard to figure out who the murderer was as there were pretty limited options. There was also some unnecessary romantic tension that took a little away from the book. Overall a good debut though.

First Line: "The brandy had been absolutely essential."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned With the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson

Non-Fiction

At the start of WWII, Jewish families were doing anything and everything they could to get their children away from the Nazis. Families got split up as parents could tried to emigrate their children out of Germany and to safety. There were many boys that ended up in America, though mostly only one per family as there were rules about sponsoring immigrants. By this time, some of the boys had experienced a concentration camp, but all of them had experienced discrimination and possibly even violence as things got worse and worse in Germany.

Most of the boys had no idea what had happened to the rest of their family and by the time the US entered the war, all they could think about was getting back to Germany and helping fight against the Nazis. However, being citizens of a country the US was at war with, they weren't all warmly accepted in to service. Most of the boys ended up becoming American citizens, and they ended up at Camp Ritchie. The men from this book were brought to that training facility because they knew German and were taught interrogation techniques. The Ritchie Boys ended up being responsible for many important intelligence finds during the war that likely saved many lives.

This book takes a look a few individual men that were part of the Ritchie Boys. It explains what happened to their families to cause them to seek emigration to the USA, many of the times a heartbreaking story about how life changed under Nazi rule and then how they had to leave their family behind not knowing what would happen for safety. The short time they spend in the USA is described to show how well they integrated, and then the start of the war. Some struggled being German in the USA but they all eventually found their purpose in the Ritchie Boys. Much training was needed, and eventually they all ended up in Europe, at war.

The story of the Ritchie Boys is expertly told in a very compassionate way. You can tell this is a work of passion. It's obvious a lot of research went in to this, as well as trying to figure out how to tell the story of multiple boys in a coherent way without seeming disjointed. This book will appeal to those who are history buffs and those who just want to read a good story. It's very accessible from that way.

I really enjoyed this novel, both the subject and the writing. I'll be looking up other books by this author.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. Interested in purchasing this book? You can do so here.

First Line: "Loud banging at the front door jolted Martin Selling out of a sound sleep."

Rating:
(4.5/5)
About the Author
Bruce Henderson is the author or coauthor of more than twenty nonfiction books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller And the Sea Will Tell. He lives in Menlo Park, California.
Find out more at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Sister's Bone by Nuala Ellwood

Mystery

Kate is a war reporter who has just returned to her home town after her mother has passed away. She has a bad relationship with her sister, who is an alcoholic, so instead asks for her brother in law to pick her up. Taken to her home, Kate reminisces about her childhood in this house with loving mother, abusive alcoholic father, and younger sister who always sided with her father. She also can't put the images from the war in Syria out of her mind. In the middle of the night, Kate thinks she sees a young boy in the garden, but the neighbour next door says she has no children. Is Kate going crazy?

She ends up in custody with the police, as they run a psychiatric evaluation and we learn all about Kate's past. Anything horrible someone can endure, it seems that Kate has had to endure it. This is pieced together for us, interspersed with the events leading up to this evaluation.

We get the story from both Kate's side, and her younger sister Sally's side. There are lots of mysteries to solve in this one: what happened to Kate in Syria, what happened to Sally and Kate when they were children, and is there really a boy next door. This results in an absolutely thrilling read. I stayed up pretty late to finish this off so I could find out the answers to all of this mystery.

This book had a bit of everything: family drama, mystery, the consequences of war and living with post traumatic stress disorder, and telling the story in different states of time and from different points of view. I'll definitely be recommending this to friends.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. If you want to purchase this book, you can do so here.

First Line: "'Would you like me to repeat the question?'"

Rating:
(4.5/5)
About the Author
Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller. Learn more at her website or on twitter.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Reversal by Michael Connelly

Mystery

Mickey Haller is called in to the DA's office to take a case as an independent and prosecute a man who was released from prison due to a new DNA test, after being charged with killing as young girl. Mickey accepts, but on the promise of independence and the ability to bring in his ex-wife to help with the legal side and his half brother to help with the investigation. Haller's half brother is Harry Bosch, gritty LA homicide detective.

Bosch has to examine the case from 20-some years ago and determine if anything was missed and what was just noise. He has to track down all the people that should testify even though some have passed away. The defendant is released without bail and Bosch ensures to follow him 24/7, seeing some abnormal behaviour. Is it possible that he killed before?

With so many Bosch books in this series, you would think that things would start to get stale. The book before this, Nine Dragons was a bit off the path but this took us right back to it. I really enjoyed this and think it would make a great addition to the Amazon series Bosch; I'd love to see this played out on screen.

First Line: "The last time I'd eaten at the Water Grill I sat across the table from a client who had coldly and calculatedly murdered his wife and her lover, shooting both of them in the face."

Rating:
(4/5)

Betrayal at Iga by Susan Spann

Mystery

In book 5 of the Hiro Hattori/Father Mateo series, we see the two having just left Kyoto and heading back to Hiro's hometown. They arrive on the same day as a group from Koga, a rival clan that the Iga province is trying to create an alliance with. Due to customs, both the Koga group and Hiro and Father Mateo are to dine together in a welcome meal with the leader of the Iga province. In the middle of the meal, the leader of the Koga group falls over dead, looking like he's been poisoned. Of course, the assumption is that Iga poisoned Koga, but they agree to a neutral investigation from Hiro and Father Mateo so they can bring the murderer to justice.

This is a pretty short book, as the two only have a few days to find the murderer. Everyone is a suspect. Hiro tries not to get distracted when he realizes that his previous lover is also in Iga, and could also be a suspect. The two have a lot of history which ended badly. Can Hiro maintain his objectivity?

I started in this series at book four and thought that it was pretty newbie friendly. This still seems to be the case one book 5. You don't need to have read the previous books to understand this one.

This book was focused mostly around the mystery than the characters. Father Mateo was hardly developed at all, as the book was written from Hiro's perspective and focuses more on him since he's going back home. I think because of this, I enjoyed the fourth book slightly more than the fifth. I'm just a Father Mateo fan! But this is still a great read!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour! You should considering purchasing this book for yourself - here.

First Line: "Hiro Hattori leaned into the wind that swept down the hill and across his face."

Rating:
(4/5)
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.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Wisdom of Big Bird by Caroll Spinney

Memoir

Caroll Spinney is the man behind (or in?) Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. This novel is presented as life lessons learned from being Big Bird, but it's really a short look at how Spinney became Big Bird and the adventures he had as him. Sesame Street was a big part of my childhood. I watched it fairly frequently, enjoyed the muppets, and even had my own little version of Big Bird at home. This path down memory lane for Spinney was enjoyable to read as a grown up fan.

It gives you a bit of insight in to how Sesame Street was produced, how they came up with their characters, and how they hired new talent. I didn't learn any lessons or really have any wisdom imparted on me, but the story that Spinney told was interesting. I wish Spinney had spoken a bit more about his wife. It's obvious that he is deeply in love with her and we only got a few pages on how they met and got engaged in a quick period of time.

More detail could have been provided in many parts of this book, but it was a good overview of the man behind Big Bird.

First Line: "The alarm goes off."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Outlander by Gil Adamson

Historical Fiction

We first meet Mary, the widow, while she's just left her house and is on the run. She has killed her husband for reasons so far unknown and has left her home to escape her brothers-in-law. She has nothing to her name and must learn to survive in the wilderness, as this is 1903.

As Mary makes her way through the Canadian wilderness, she meets a few people that knowingly or unknowingly help her out. But her brothers-in-law are on her tail. She winds up in a mining town of mostly men, working with a priest to help him build his church.

For a book with little dialogue, the momentum was maintained quite well. We learn about how Mary came to be in her situation (justified or not, I'm still not certain), but we mostly read about her survival. This part of the book is the most satisfying. Mary's past was far less satisfying as it seems like there should have been a bigger and better reason for her to risk her life.

This book is an impressing debut novel.

First Line: "It was night, and dogs came through the trees, unleashed and howling."

Rating:
(3.5/5)