Thursday, May 31, 2018

My Real Children

Fiction by Jo Walton.

This was rather a strange book. An old lady named Patricia is in a ursing home and she is having memory trouble. That, of course, is nothing unusual. But Patricia (or is she Pat, or Patsy, or Trish?) remembers too much instead of too little. Somehow she has the memory of two different lives, each beginning with a decision she made as a young woman on the late forties: should she quit teaching and get married, or not?

Destiny is a concept that fascinates me: do our choices shape our lives, or is everything fated to happen? Or could it be both? This novel explores the idea that one choice can change everything. In one life, Pat marries Mark, who is really a wretched husband, and she becomes a housewife with four children. Alternatively, she declines Mark's proposal and continues her teaching job, becoming her own woman and eventually marrying for love. In that life she has three children, who are of course completely different people from the other life.

Which ones are her real children? And why are both worlds so far apart from each other? In one life the world is on the brink of nuclear war, and the world in the other life is a more peaceful place. Neither world is our own reality. Did this one person's choice change the whole world somehow?

While this was an interesting story and I love these kinds of questions, I do wish that the book had a few more answers. I did not like the general unresolvedness of the novel, but it was still a good read.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Secret Refuge Series

Fiction by Lauraine Snelling.

Daughter of Twin Oaks (Secret Refuge Series #1)
Sisters of the Confederacy (A Secret Refuge Book #2)The Long Way Home (Secret Refuge Series #3)

This series is a set of three books that take place during the Civil War. I read this all in one volume from a library edition. This is the way I prefer to read a trilogy: all at one time!

Together, these made one good story with memorable characters.

I also read recently by this author: Reunion

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Fiction by Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

I have read everything I can find by Lisa See, and loved it, so I was excited to get this new book. It's as good as I expected, a story about a girl born in modern (late-twentieth-century) China but in a hill village so remote that she might have been born hundreds of years ago.

There are many different Chinese minorities, apparently, and they all have their own customs and ways. I did not realize how diverse a country China really is, although it should have been obvious, just based on how huge it is. Even the appearance that we think of as "Chinese" is only representative of one kind of ethnicity, called "Han majority" in this book. One of the ideas explored in this story is the difficulty of maintaining these small authentic cultures in the modern world.

Another thing the book talks about that I hadn't really thought about has to do with all this Chinese girls adopted by Americans in the past thirty years or so. How do these girls feel about all of this? Not to mention all of the young men growing up as only sons in China with no suitable wives around.  The One Child policy doesn't seem to have turned out as well as it could have. It is a lot to think about.

All of that aside, this is a great story about mothers and daughters that is worth reading.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Edge of Eternity

Fiction by Ken Follett.

Edge of Eternity: Book Three of the Century Trilogy

This is the final book in the Century Trilogy, which began with Fall of Giants and continued with Winter of the World . This story begins in 1961 and continues until the end of the twentieth century. . The main focus is the Cold War, so the narrative pretty much ends in 1989.

It was a well-written, character-driven story, as I expected, and I was particularly interested to read about "historical" events that actually happened within my lifetime, since I was born around 1970. Reading this definitely helped me understand things that were going on as I was growing up, although I will note that the author's political leanings definitely colored his view of the events. I suppose all of history is like that; it depends on who is telling the story.

As always, Ken Follett does a wonderful job of showing all the characters in the story as multi-dimensional and fully human, despite their nationality or political leanings. Except Nixon. Apparently Richard Nixon is right up there with Adolf Hilter as Pure Evil in this author's view.

But I'll forgive him that; it's still a great book and a great ending to the Century Trilogy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Never Again Goodbye

Fiction by Terri Blackstock.

Never Again Good-Bye (Second Chances Series #1)

This is a straight romance with a pretty predictable but kind of implausible plot. It's okay but I just couldn't get interested in the characters for some reason. It's one of Terri Blackstock's very early works. She's improved quite a bit since then.

I also read by this author: Downfall, Twisted Innocence, and If I Live

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Boy is Back

Fiction by Meg Cabot.

Meg Cabot is a entertaining writer! This story is written in the form of text messages and emails, and it's really funny. This is a great little lighthearted straight romance.

I recommend anything by this author for fun reading!

I also read recently by this author: Sanctuary

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Masterpiece

Fiction by Francine Rivers.

The Masterpiece (Signed Book)

This is a good straight romance, about a couple of interesting characters from troubled backgrounds.

I also read recently by this author: An Echo in Darkness

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Alternate Side

Fiction by Anna Quindlen.

Alternate Side

I love all of Anna Quindlen's books. The characters are so engaging; you really believe in them and want to know what happens to them.

This story is about a couple who live in a privileged Manhattan neighborhood on a dead-end street. (That's apparently a big deal by NYC standards.) The wife is a die-hard New-Yorker who never wants to live anywhere else, and the husband is not, and some of the neighbors have issues.

I'm not describing the plot very well, but trust me: it's really good.

I also read recently by this author: Black and Blue

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Blue Asylum

Fiction by Kathy Hepinstall.

Blue Asylum

In this story, set during the American civil war, a woman is sent to a private mental asylum after being declared crazy by her husband (who was believed unquestioningly by a judge and the admitting doctor). It's astonishing that men used to have that kind of power. The question is whether she can ever convince anyone she is actually sane.

It's a good book.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Prayers for Sale

Fiction by Sandra Dallas.

Prayers for Sale

I thought this book had an odd title, because who would sell prayers? It doesn't really mean that though; it's explained on the story that at one point the main character says she's so happy that it seems like all her prayers are answered and so her husband puts up a sign for a joke that says, "Prayers for Sale."

Anyways, this is a really good character story about a mining town during the depression where a very old widow and a very young wife become friends.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Like A River From Its Course

Fiction by Kelli Stuart.

Like a River from Its Course

Set in the Ukraine during the second world war, this was a really good story about recovering from the terrible things that can happen, especially during a war.

The characters were very believable. I especially liked how they were not stereotyped as Bad Nazi and Good Oppressed Person, but instead were multidimensional, as real people are.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

If I Live

Fiction by Terri Blackstock.

If I Live (Signed Book) (If I Run Series #3)

This is the final book in the If I Run trilogy, the sequel to If I'm Found.

It's a really good thriller, and a good ending to the series. I recommend getting all three books at once time and reading them together. Exciting!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Passing Strangers

Fiction by Angela Hunt

Passing Strangers

In this story, three different people are taking a train trip. All of them are trying to escape something and they meet each other and learn something.

That's not the best explanation, but this was a good book!

I also read by this author: The Note