Posted in Asian, Best Sellers, Contemporary Fiction, Cultural, Fiction

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Publication Info: Published September 12, 2017 by Penguin Press. I read the Book of the Month Club hardcover edition. Other editions available.

Summary: Elena Richardson’s guiding life principle is that everything will be just fine if you live by the rules. She grew up in Shaker Heights, a well-ordered town, went away to college briefly, and came right back with a new husband in tow. Of Elena’s four children, three of them more or less adhered to her guidelines for life, but the youngest, Izzy, rebelled from birth.

The Richardsons live in a large house in the most prosperous part of town, but they also own a rental duplex. Elena likes to make herself feel like she’s doing a good deed by renting it to people who seem like they need a boost in life. The bottom floor is occupied by a quiet school bus driver. The top floor is rented to an artist/photographer named Mia and her teenage daughter, Pearl. Elena thought they seemed like nice quiet people, but Elena would come to regret her choice of upstairs occupants.

Mia and Pearl lived an itinerant lifestyle until moving to Shaker Heights. Mia wandered the country, looking for artistic inspiration (as well as running from a deep secret in her past), dragging her daughter along with her. In Shaker Hights, Mia feels that her secret is far enough in the past to allow Pearl to make friends and live a semi-normal life.

But when Elena, who is a reporter for the local paper, gets on her high horse about events that are none of her business, it sets off a chain of events that change several families’ lives forever.

Comments: I’m not sure why I didn’t pick this book up when it first came out, but I’m very glad I finally did. Two things prompted me to take a closer look at Little Fires Everywhere. The first is that it is now a TV show on Hulu and I wanted to read the book before seeing the show. The second is that I had a free credit to use on my Book of the Month club subscription and this title was one of the options.

I have to say that the book exceeded my expectations. I was impressed with the depth and insight into the realistic characters. The issues of cultural identity were dealt with deftly, teaching me something about my own thinking in the process.

Highly recommended for readers of General Fiction and Multi-Cultural fiction.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Asian, Cultural, India, Legal Fiction, Legal Mystery, Mystery

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey (Perveen Mistry #2)

Publication Info: Published May 14th 2019 by Soho Crime. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: The Kholhapur Agency, which has jurisdiction over twenty-five states in Western India, hires Perveen to mediate in a situation that requires a woman. As one of the few female lawyers in India, Perveen once again is called upon to visit women in purdah–seclusion from any men–who are stuck in an argument that affects the future of their state of Satapur.The Satapur Moonstone

The women, both widowed, are the grandmother and mother of a future Maharajah, a boy named Prince Jiva Rao. The argument is over the boy’s education. The grandmother, the ruling dowager Majarani, wants the boy educated at home by the long-standing family tutor, an elderly man. His mother, a more worldly and educated woman, wants the boy sent away to be educated in England.

Both women agree on one thing: they fear for the boy’s safety. Jiva Rao’s father was killed by cholera and his brother in a hunting accident. Both deaths were within a short time of each other. The women disagree on how to keep the boy safe–keep him at home or send him to another country.

Perveen must get the women to agree on a course of action. But more forces are in play than are described to her in her mission objectives. As Perveen gets to know the family and the people nearest to them, she realizes that someone is possibly a murderer–and her own life may be in danger.

Comments: I really looked forward to reading The Satapur Moonstone after devouring the first one in the series. While I enjoyed it, the characters didn’t quite grab me this time. I like the main character, Perveen Mistry,  but other than her attraction to a man whom she cannot have (due to her personal circumstances), there were few further insights into her life. Other than the man she was attracted to (no spoilers here) I found most, but not all, of the other characters to be unlikable and without much depth.

I like the setting of the novels in India and learning about the cultural differences within the country. I am looking forward to reading the next installment in the series, but perhaps with a bit less eagerness.

Recommended for mystery readers and those who like multi-cultural fiction. I highly recommend that readers start with book number one in the series, The Widows of Malabar Hill.

Posted in 20th Century, Asian, Cultural, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction, World War II

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Publication Info: Published February 19th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press. E-book edition provided by NetGalley. Other editions available.Daughter of Molokai

Summary: In the Kapi’olani Home for Girls on O’ahu, three-year-old Ruth is a lively handful. Ruth loves animals and wants a pet of her own. But as loving as the nuns in the Catholic orphanage are, they must maintain the strict rules and can’t allow Ruth to be an exception.

But Ruth is already an exception in the Hawaiian orphanage. While all the other girls are also children of lepers, they are of pure Hawaiian heritage.  Ruth is different. She is hapa, someone of mixed heritage. Ruth is half Japanese, born to her parents who met in the leper colony on Moloka’i. When potential adoptive parents meet her, they turn away, not wanting to take on a child who not only carries the stigma of leprosy but is also hapa.

Finally, a Japanese couple adopts Ruth. She becomes Ruth Dai Watanabe and lives with her two brothers and new parents in Chinatown. She learns to speak Japanese and is taught their customs. Ruth thrives in the love of her adoptive family, but she is still hapa.

The novel follows Ruth as her family moves to California. There she grows up and has a family of her own. But after the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Ruth and all the other people of Japanese descent on the west coast are rounded up in concentration camps or sent back to Japan. After the camps are closed, Ruth and her family return to California to try to put their lives back together. It is after going through all this that Ruth gets a surprise and finally learns to accept her heritage.

Comments: I absolutely loved the first Moloka’i book and wasn’t disappointed by this sequel, Daughter of Moloka’i. While the first takes place almost exclusively on the island, this one reflects the changes in the treatment of lepers, both socially and medically, and moves to the greater world. A large portion of the book takes place in the Japanese internment camps and from the resources listed in the back of the book, I know the descriptions and details were well researched. In writing about Ruth’s mixed heritage and the atrocity of rounding up the Japanese Americans (and not rounding up the German Americans, for example), the author makes some profound observations of what it’s like to be non-white in America. What happened to the Japanese is not “in the past”. It happened and continues to happen to Native Americans, Blacks and currently to Hispanics and others. Fear and ignorance are powerful forces that destroy people’s lives.

Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction, General Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction and Literary Fiction.

Posted in 20th Century, Asian, China, Cultural, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction

Will of a Tiger by Iris Yang

Publication Info: Published January 28, 2019 by Open Books. Paperback or Kindle editions available.

Summary:  Birch Bai, a Chinese Air Force Pilot and Danny Hardy, an American Flying Tiger, are engaged in a fierce air battle with the Japanese when their plane is shot down. Both men are captured and sent to a POW camp.  At the camp, they and their fellow prisoners continue to suffer at the hands of their cruel, tormenting captors. The war is coming to an end; the Americans have just dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. But this just spurs one Japanese officer, a man they call the Jackal, to further atrocities. The men in the camp are just starting to bond with each other when the Jackal culls the group, telling him they must choose which seven of the fourteen will die. Will of a Tiger

Danny and Birch argue over which of them will make the sacrifice. In an act of supreme sacrifice and courage, Danny ensures it is Birch who will survive.

After the war, Birch must not only wrestle with the result of his physical injuries but the emotional pain of losing his best friend. He feels he is to blame for Danny’s death. As he recovers and gains strength, he faces new enemies as his country splits in two over Communism.

Comments: Iris Yang poured her heart into Will of a Tiger and breathed life into the characters. As a result, I got so caught up in their lives that I cried toward the end of the book–something I don’t do often with a novel. I have read other accounts of how China was torn apart during the Communist takeover, but none from this point of view. National heroes turned into enemies overnight because of politics. Reading this outstanding spotlight on one man’s life also gave me new insights into China today. With her second novel, the author has once again raised my awareness and knowledge. As I wrote in my review of  Wings of a Flying Tiger, “It is good to never forget what human beings can do to each other….”

Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction, General Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction, Asian Fiction and anyone with a heart.

I wish to thank the Open Books Book Reviewer Program for the opportunity to read this book. They publish some absolutely wonderful novels and non-fiction.