I was recently contacted by a publisher to see if I would read and review a copy of “Sweet Song” by Terry Persun. I enjoy historical fiction of this time period (1870′s), so I said yes.
In “Sweet Song”, Leon, the mixed-race son of a landowner and his black servant, seeks to find (and create) his identity. A violent interaction causes him to run away from his home and he takes this opportunity to recreate himself. Leon, who looks and passes for white, decides to define himself as white, and this leads him to explore racism and views on society from a different perspective than he had before (when he had lived with his mother and black father in the tenant’s cabins on the property). Leon has many struggles and several things he is running from. His story is a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
To be honest, I really wanted to like this book, but I found it slow-moving; and Leon began to annoy me. I wanted to root for him, but instead I felt like he was passive and weak and things just happened to him (until the end – which I liked). I have to say there were some really disturbing things in this book (SPOILER ALERT!) which I’m still not sure why they were there. Leon is in a sexual relationship with his half-sister, which he is seduced into by her. Also Leon suffers for years as a child, being physically and sexually abused by his mother. I racked my brain and while I could say that the relationship with his sister would be the catalyst for him running away (but did it have to be his sister??), I found no literary reason for this horrible experience with his mother. I would have thought this could be a good YA book with good discussions on identity development and race, but I can’t recommend it for the younger set due to the (disturbing) sexual content.
See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. Thank you, Emily from Booktrope, for the chance to review!
Here is some information sent to me about Mr. Persun:
Terry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction / fantasy. His novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category. His novel Sweet Song received a Silver IPPY Award last summer. His latest novel is, Doublesight, the first book in an epic fantasy series. Find Terry online at TerryPersun.com and @tpersun.
I grabbed this book from the shelf at the children’s section of the library. I have read most of Lois Lowry’s works, and I did not know this one. It tells the story of Katy Thatcher, a precocious ten-year-old and daughter of the town doctor, growing up at the turn of the 20th century. Katy likes to accompany her father on his rounds and she wants to be a doctor herself when she grows up. She becomes intrigued with Jacob, the adolescent brother of their household help. Jacob is a gentle and shy boy, who doesn’t speak, but has a quiet relationship with animals and a fascination with how things work. Katy reaches out to Jacob to try to befriend him. In time, the book moves to a terrible and tragic conclusion.
I loved this story and the characters in it. One of Lowry’s strengths as a writer has always been character development and this is evident once again here. This book could open some good discussions with students on understanding differences. In the story, Jacob is referred to as “touched”. Today he would most likely be seen as on the spectrum for autism/PDD. Katy’s compassion for him is quite beautiful; however, due to the traumatic ending of this book, I would recommend it for older children, grades 5/6 and up.
See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:
I have really enjoyed the Maggie Hope cozy mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal and was thrilled to get the latest one through Net Galley. In this third installment (the previous two were reviewed earlier), expert mathematician and British spy Maggie is being dropped over enemy lines into WWII Germany. In a parallel story, her mother’s daughter (Maggie’s half-sister) is working as a nurse and discovers that children with developmental and physical disabilities are being secretly sent to gas chambers by the Nazi’s and vows to work against the Nazi’s (and her mother). In yet another storyline, Maggie’s dear friend David is being pressured by his parents to marry, but he is gay. And finally Maggie’s former fiance who everyone thinks is dead awakes and finds himself in a German hospital.
What will happen? Will Maggie survive behind enemy lines? Will Elise, her half-sister, save the children? Will Maggie and Elise meet? Will David have to renounce the man he loves and enter into a marriage of convenience? And will Maggie find herself in a love triangle with John, her lost love, and Hugh, her current flame? Of course, you need to read to find out!
I really enjoy this series. It’s a historical cozy, my favorite kind, and Ms. MacNeal certainly does her research! I have chatted with her on Twitter and Facebook and even asked if she time travelled in order to get the details so right (FYI – she doesn’t). The Maggie Hope books are fun to read and are one of my favorite genres (WWII). I particularly like how the story continues across books. I recommend them to those who like cozies, especially of this period. Looks like another book will be coming out next year!
Thank you to Net Galley and Bantam Publishers for my copy! You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (it publishes on 5.14.13):
Love, love, love.
I picked up this short mystery while at the library and read it on the plane to California two weeks ago. At first I was a bit skeptical – Willa Cather and Edith Lewis solving mysteries?? But I have to say, I really enjoyed this delightful delving into the personalities of Willa and Edith and the “Cottage Girls” of the early 20th century.
About fifteen years ago I went through a “Cather phase”, where I read all her writings and some biographies on her. I found her so interesting and such a gifted writer. Edith Lewis, for those who don’t know, was Willa’s partner and closest friend. This book made them come alive, along with their other female friends, a group of independent and educated women who summered on Grand Manan in the 1920′s and were known collectively as the “Cottage Girls”.
The mystery itself was enjoyable and well-plotted, I thought. In essence, Edith is painting one day when she witnesses a body plunging off a cliff to the rocks below. Is it an accident – or murder?
Highly recommended to those who enjoy this historical genre, and to fans of great women authors! I’ll be curious to see if Ms. Hallgarth has this as the start of a series or not. She is an expert on Cather and clearly “knows” her well.
See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:
I’ve read all of Tracy Chevalier’s books, so I was excited to get THE LAST RUNAWAY from Amazon as a treat for myself (SOME SPOILERS AHEAD). In this interesting take on the pre-Civil War experience, Honor Bright, an English Quaker, has come to Ohio with her sister who is to marry. Sadly her sister dies during the journey and Honor arrives alone, with few prospects and only knowing her was-once-to-be-brother-in-law. She first stays in town with a milliner, Belle, who is as saucy and tough as she is kind-hearted. Honor sews for her and rests up before the rest of her journey. However, Belle’s brother, Donovan, is lurking around. He’s a slave catcher and he is relentless in his job. Honor finds herself strangely drawn towards him, while she is at the same time repulsed by his heartless undertakings.
When Honor finally arrives at the was-once-to-be-brother-in-law’s house, his brother has also just died and the widow is keeping house with him. Since two’s company and three’s a crowd, Honor jumps at the chance of marrying a kind Quaker man (Jack Haymaker) and joins his family of dairy farmers: a surly mother and a quiet, unfriendly sister. But Honor is still thinking about the runaway slaves that she sees coming through Ohio, and she wants to help. This causes a huge conflict with her family, because of past difficulties they suffered for helping slaves escape. Will Honor follow her conscious? Or will she bend to the will of the Haymakers? And what will become of the tension between her and Donovan?
As mentioned before, I’ve read all of Chevalier’s books, but this one seems different to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but the writing seemed simpler (not that that’s a bad thing, just an observation). I liked this story and I certainly kept reading, but – to be honest – sometimes Honor Bright irritated me. She seemed to just go through the motions of life (until the end), while men regularly fall in love with her and women are jealous of her. She is meek and passive and then does what she wants. She retreats into silence for a while to basically punish her family. She leaves her husband and ultimately makes him chose the life he’s carved out for himself or life with her. I found her selfish and self-centered and immature. The ending held some brightness to it, and I had hope that Honor would go on and become more woman and less girl.
Fans of Chevalier or of mid-1800′s US historical fiction will most probably enjoy this novel!
You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:
I’ve been on a Kate Morton kick lately, started by “The Secret Keeper”. I also loved “The House at Riverton”, but had some problems getting through “The Distant Hours” (I found it too gothic and too much like “The House at Riverton”). Friends had suggested “The Forgotten Garden”, but it was always out at the library. I finally broke down and purchased it for my kindle. I think this may be my favorite of her books.
Similar to her other books, “The Forgotten Garden” moves back and forth in time as we learn the story of Nell, a little girl found on the Brisbane docks by a dock worker and taken home as raised as one of his own. Nell is much beloved by her family, but her father feels he must tell her the truth on her twenty-first birthday: she is not their biological child and she most probably has family in England. Nell is crushed by this news and becomes determined to figure out where she is from and how she ended up on a ship going to Australia. She has vague memories of being taken there as part of a game by “the authoress”, and waiting for her or her mother or father to return for her, but no one did. She also has distant memories of playing in a garden maze and going through to a little cottage where “the authoress” lived. Nell starts to piece together the story of her life, and travels to England to see where she is from and to see what she can learn. However, she unexpectantly ”inherits” her granddaughter, and her plans are put on hold. Eventually, time passes and Nell does not return to England; her granddaughter, Cassandra, grows up, and Nell decides, as she is dying, to tell Cassandra her secret so that she can figure out the rest of the story. Cassandra then travels to England to figure out the mystery of who her grandmother really was.
I loved reading this story, which switched viewpoint and time period often. At points we were with Nell in the 70′s. Some times we were in present day. Some times it was a young girl, Eliza’s, story from the turn of the century - or Eliza’s story when she was living at the manor in 1910. As the book progressed,though, the viewpoints and storylines converged into one, and at the end, all the questions were answered. Of course a forgotten garden plays a large role here – complete with all that symbolizes!
Highly recommended to fans of Morton. You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate and where I got mine:
I enjoyed Kate Morton’s “The Secret Keeper” so much I ordered “The House at Riverton” as a treat for myself from Amazon.
In current day, a young film maker approaches elderly Grace Bradley to interview her about Riverton House, where she went out to service at the age of fourteen. The book, which is told in flashback, follows Grace as she becomes close to the children of the house (who are about her age), particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. These are the years leading up to WWI and the world of the English aristocracy is about to change. Throughout the war and into the 1920′s, more changes come to society and to the family, who is rocked by their beloved son’s death. Then in 1924, a startling death occurs during a party at Riverton, and Grace holds the secret to what happened that fateful night – a secret she keeps for years.
As she is interviewed, a Pandora’s Box of emotions and memories opens for Grace, now in her nineties. Will secrets remain secret? What exactly did happen that summer night?
Read it to find out!
I loved this book, which weighed in at 473 pages. I could scarcely believe it was that long as I read it quickly and it never dragged. I didn’t want it to end. I’m also a HUGE Downton Abbey fan, and this book fed right into my passion!
See it on Amazon where I got mine:
The House at Riverton: A Novel
“The Midwife’s Revolt” was a Net Galley find for me. It tells the story of Lizzie Boylston, a young woman left widowed at the start of the Revolutionary War, as she struggles to get by, to deal with the war and her farm, and to basically survive in 1770′s Massachusetts. Lizzie is friends with Abigail Adams and holds their relationship quite dear. In time she is pulled into intrigue and acts as a spy (dressed as a boy). Lizzie is a strong character, and this book follows her daily life (she is a midwife), her trials and tribulations, her relationships with her family and friends, and even has a little romance, intrigue and mystery added in. I felt while reading it that I was reading a fictionalized account of a person’s diary for that time period. Daynard has done her research here in accurately depicting a detailed picture of everyday life in the 1770′s in New England. At 440 pages it took a bit to get through, but I felt I was travelling along with Lizzie through the war, and read a bit each day.
A great historical novel for those who like this period and genre!
Thanks, Net Galley and Opossum Press for my copy.
See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:
Another recent Net Galley find for me was “Garden of Stones” by Sophie Littlefield. This story starts with a murder in modern-day Los Angeles with an unlikely suspect (an elderly and humble Japanese American women) and then travels to the past.
Fourteen-year-old Lucy Takeda is taken with her mother to the Manzanar internment camp at the outbreak of WWII. Lucy has recently lost her father and has the huge adjustment of going from being a confident and pampered child of privilege to a camp resident. Lucy’s beautiful mother, whose emotions and moods are both vulnerable and unstable, suffers from the harshness of camp life and the unwanted attentions of the male camp guards. Lucy is determined to adapt and make the best of their situation and to continue her studies. She befriends Jesse, another young internee, and finds her feelings growing for him. Then tragedy strikes and Lucy must learn to cope and to survive in the ever-changing and harsh world.
I enjoyed reading this novel, though there were several story lines in it (which all eventually come together). The present day focus is on the murder and the suspicion of Lucy as the murderer. Her daughter Patty is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, but first she must come to learn about and discover her mother’s true self and her past. Then we have the camp storyline, with Jesse’s story and Lucy’s mother’s story and a murder woven in. Next there is the “after camp” storyline of Lucy making a way for herself as a chambermaid in a motel. Eventually all the storylines converge in the present and all the questions are answered.
I’ve read several stories of internment camps, most of them as first person memoirs and often written for YA readers. Ms. Littlefield has done her research here as many of the harsh aspects of the camps are included. To me, the story would have stood by itself with just the storyline of the camp, and Lucy’s journey from being a protected child, to a camp refugee, to remaking herself after the war. I really didn’t need the murders or mysteries included, though I’m sure many readers will enjoy them. It was enough for me to read of the resiliency of the people who lived through these times.
Due to themes of abuse I wouldn’t say this is one for the kids, but I think adults will enjoy it. I just have to say,too – I love, love, love the cover!
Thanks to Net Galley and Harlequin for my copy – you can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:
A few months ago I read “Princess Elizabeth’s Spy” by Susan Elia MacNeal (see my review here: http://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/quick-review-princess-elizabeths-spy-by-susan-elia-mcneal/ . I really enjoyed this period cozy mystery about Maggie Hope, a code breaker and typist to Churchill during WWII. I decided to go back and read the first book in this series: “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary”. I purchased the book from Amazon for my enjoyment (technically my husband purchased it for me because I ordered through his account while he was in Europe on business – lol).
This book introduces Maggie Hope, a British-born but American-raised twenty-something, living in London and working as a typist during WWII. Maggie has a host of friends, both male and female, all with their own subplots/developments. Her parents are deceased for many years and she has been raised by her aunt in Boston. Maggie is a math whiz, and she yearns to be a code breaker. Instead she is a typist. The more Maggie works, though, the more she uncovers. Is there a spy amongst them? What really happened to her father? And is there a coded German message right in front of their faces?
I really enjoyed this first story of the series! MacNeal is a strong writer and I enjoyed how much I learned from reading this novel. This is a cozy mystery in that it is not overly violent or graphic; however, there is a wealth of (what I presume is well-researched!) information about London during WWII, espionage, and life in the 1940′s.
I look forward to more Maggie Hope mysteries from Ms. MacNeal.
You can see this one on Amazon where I am an Associate: