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 British, Crime Fiction, Mystery, Police Procedural

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

Publication Info: Published January 8th 2019 by Random House. E-book pre-pub edition courtesy of NetGalley. Other editions available since publication including Kindle and Hardcover. This is the debut of a new mystery series, DCI Jonah Sheens #1.She Lies in Wait

Summary:  At the start of this book, a young girl exploring in the woods finds a finger bone in a hollowed out area by a beech tree. It turns out to be part of the skeleton of Aurora Jackson, a 14 year old girl who went missing thirty years ago.

When Aurora went missing, she was camping with a group of older teenagers, one of whom was her sister. The teens were questioned at the time of the disappearance, but they all stated they didn’t know anything. It was obvious that something went on in the woods that night, but with the teens all sticking to the same story and no body, the case went cold.

Although he didn’t know them well, Jonah went to school with all of the campers. He has momentary thoughts of taking himself off the case, but decides there isn’t any conflict of interest. However, as secrets start to emerge, Jonah finds himself hoping that some things never come to light.

Comments: I liked She Lies in Wait. I thought the main storyline was tightly plotted with a believable ending. There were enough clues dropped about Jonah’s past and present life to give some options for character development in future books in the series. There were some side plot-lines that I found distracting because they weren’t fully resolved and I wondered why they were even in the book, but all in all, this was a good start to a new mystery-detective series.

As a side note, I thought the author had some very astute observations about bullies and abusers.

 

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 British, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction, World War I

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Publication Info: Published February 12th 2019 by Lake Union Publishing . Hardcover. Other editions available. The Victory Garden

Summary: Emily Bryce chafes at the restrictions placed on her by her very proper British parents. She wants to work as a nurse like her best friend, Clarice. But with the WWI battlefield death of her brother, Freddie, her parents are now overly protective of their only daughter. Besides, her upwardly mobile mother feels it isn’t proper for a young lady to do anything to help the war effort besides visiting injured soldiers in the convalescent home next door. Nothing short of someone with a title or at the very least “one of their own kind”, is good enough for Emily.

On one of these sanctioned visits to the convalescent home, Emily meets Lieutenant Robbie Kerr, a member of the Australian Royal Flying Corps. Although from very different backgrounds, Emily and Robbie fall in love. After Emily turns 21, she is free to make her own choices. With Robbie back flying in the war, she decides to volunteer as a Land Girl, working the farms in Britain to help on the home front.

With a genteel upbringing, Emily is totally unprepared to be a Land Girl, but she is young, strong, healthy and willing to work. She soon befriends the girls she works with, women of completely different stations and backgrounds. After assignments picking potatoes and sowing hay, she ends up working for Lady Charleston, tending her large garden. She and two other women live in the tumble-down cottage on the estate.

After she learns that Robbie was killed in a plane crash, she discovers she is pregnant. Remembering her mother’s sharp criticism of another unwed mother, Emily decides to remain with Lady Charleston as companion, gardener and library organizer, rather than return home.  Emily blossoms as she continues to gain independence and learn skills in herbalism from an old book she found in the cottage.

But someone doesn’t like Emily and is determined to see her gone.

Comments: I’m a huge Rhys Bowen fan and I particularly like her stand-alone novels. I recently reviewed The Tuscan Child. I liked that book, but I like The Victory Garden better. Like her other historical fiction, the author uses the time period as a backdrop to the lives of her characters and doesn’t spend a lot of time on specific historical details. In The Victory Garden, the author does a credible job of describing English countryside life during WWI. But for me, it is the characters that shine, which is what I like most in her writing.

I absolutely devour Rhys Bowen’s books. She can’t write them fast enough for me to read them. I look forward to whatever she’s publishing next!

Highly recommended for fans of Historical Fiction, General Fiction or Women’s 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.

Posted in Best Sellers, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, India, Multi-Cultural Fiction, Women's Fiction

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

Publication Info: Published September 1, 2018 by Brilliance Audio. Other editions available. (I listened to the book from Audible.com).

The Storyteller's Secret

The Storyteller’s Secret is a novel about obligation, family duty,  and love in it’s many forms. Although the story takes place in India, the themes are universal.

Jaya, an American woman of Indian descent, travels to India to discover her past and heal some deep hurts from her childhood as well as recover emotionally from three miscarriages. In India, she meets Ravi, her grandmother Amisha’s servant and dear friend. He tells her a story that helps explain Jaya’s mother’s odd behavior. The story also puts Jaya’s troubles in perspective and helps her to heal.

I was deeply drawn into this novel, spending too much time lying awake listening to it instead of sleeping! The author did a credible job of describing rural India in the waning days of British rule. The characters were sympathetic and came to life on the pages. Although I could see one plot line coming from a long way off, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. Indeed, I was compelled to keep reading to see how it would play out and affect the outcome for the characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it for fans of general fiction, historical fiction and multi-cultural fiction.

Posted in Cultural, Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Korea, Multi-Cultural Fiction

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

Publicaton Info: November 6th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of Eidelweiss+ by Above the Treeline.

Summary: Four-year-old Inja lives with her uncle, aunt, grandparents and a small household staff in Korea. Rumors of an invasion, of impending war, swirl around. Her Uncle is concerned and follows the news and — the much more accurate — rumors closely. But Inja’s head is full of dreamy visions of her mysterious family in America. Inja knows she has a mother, father and a sister who live far away. They regularly send her packages with toys, food and clothing. She has heard all her life that someday she will go live with her family in America, but there is always another reason for a delay.The Kinship of Secrets

Nearly five-year-old Miran lives with her parents in America. Her father, Calvin, works as Korean translator and does Voice of America broadcasts. He is also a minister at the Korean church. Her mother, Najin, doesn’t speak English well, so Miran communicates for her when they run errands. She helps her mother assemble and mail the boxes to her mysterious “sister in Korea”.

The novel continues in alternating chapters about the lives of both families. Inja grows up in war-torn Korea in a loving, but impoverished home. Miran’s family lives in typical post-WWII middle-class America. On the surface, the lives of the two girls have little in common. But as Inja matures and learns more about her family’s hidden history, she realizes that sometimes secrets don’t tear people apart; sometimes they are a powerful force that can bind people together.

Comments: Overall, I liked this book and enjoyed reading it. At first, I found the writing and observations to be simplistic, but the story’s voice matured as the main narrator, Inja, did. The novel spans several decades and sometimes short-changes periods in the character’s lives. I realize this was done to keep the book to a manageable length, but it just felt awkward.

The real depth of the book, obviously the most emotional part for the author, comes toward the end of the story and in the author’s notes. These sections bumped the book up a few notches for me. The author draws inspiration for The Kinship of Secrets from her own family.

Recommended for readers of general, multi-cultural and historical fiction.

Posted in British, Psychological Suspense, Thrillers

Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly

Publication Info: Pre-pub ARC provided by Eidelweiss+ by Above the Treeline. Expected publication Date, Oct 9, 2018 by Grove Press. Other editions available.

Summary: Novelist Leon Campbell has several mid-list best selling novels to his name. To all appearances, he is happy and successful. His wife, Jane, is a creative writing teacher and aspiring author. They live in a middle-class neighborhood with their young son, Jack.Open your Eyes

The family just gotten in the car to go to Leon’s mother’s house for his birthday when their neighbor, Lawrence accosted them. Lawrence’s wife was upset once again about the Campbell’s cat getting into her flower beds. This was not the first time they’d had problems with their neighbors over minor things. As the argument between Lawrence and Leon heats up, Jane goes into the house to grab some beer for the birthday party and get away from the fracas. Jack, in the back seat with his iPad and headphones, seems oblivious to what the adults are doing.

When Jane comes back out a few minutes later, Lawrence is gone. She speaks to Leon, but he doesn’t answer. She soon realizes something is very wrong. Later at the hospital, they tell her that Leon was shot in the head with a nail gun.

Jane’s life begins to unravel. She discovers that her husband has been keeping huge secrets from her. Leon has lost his memories and may never get them back. The police suspect her of trying to murder him. For Jane to prove her innocence, she must try to figure out exactly why someone wanted Leon dead.

Comments: Open Your Eyes is a fast-paced thriller. From the unusual murder weapon to unexpected motives, this novel of revenge gone deadly wrong will keep you turning the pages to the very end.

Recommended for readers of psychological thrillers and crime novels.

Posted in Europe, Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction, World War I

House of Gold by Natasha Solomons

Publication Information: Pre-Pub Kindle edition, October 23, 2018 by G.P. Putnam sons. Pre-pub courtesy of First to Read. Originally published by Cornerstone Books, May 3, 2018.

Summary: Nicknamed the House of Gold, the Goldbaum’s Palace in Vienna, Austria in the early 20th century is an extraordinary display of wealth. The white limestone edifice trimmed in gold gilt, inside and out, gleams in the sunlight. At night, electric lights, a fairly new innovation, shine through the windows like beacons. The Goldbaums eat the finest foods and throw opulent parties. Beggars and street urchins feed themselves from the Goldbaums’ scraps.

The Goldbaums are a family of powerful bankers. With offices in the major cities in Europe, they hold enormous power and wealth. Governments come to them for loans. And yet, they are not completely trusted by other powerful banking families. The Goldbaums are outsiders because they are Jewish.House of Gold

The patriarch of the Vienna family needs an heir to continue the family name and tradition. He has two children; a son, Otto, and a daughter, Greta. Otto is expected to learn and take over the business. Greta is expected to provide the heir. An arrangement is made for her to marry Albert Goldbaum, a distant cousin.

Greta chafes at this. An impetuous, impish free spirit from early girlhood, Greta refuses to fit the mold of societal expectations. Albert, much more conservative, doesn’t know what to do with his wife and simply ignores her with barely concealed distaste.

As the world starts changing around them and the foundations of the old ways of life begin cracking and shifting, Greta and Albert begin to find common ground.  But war breaks out and they are once again pulled apart, their lives irrevocably changed.

Comments: House of Gold is a gentle, genteel family saga with memorable, fully-realized characters. It also drives home the harsh realities of poverty, war and anti-Semitism. I became increasingly emotionally involved in the book as I read—much more than I expected at its beginning.

Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction and family sagas. I think this book would also make a great period piece film or a Masterpiece-style mini-series.

Posted in China, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction, World War II, Young Adult

Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang

Publication Date: May 2018 by Open Books

Summary: Jasmine Bai, a university student, leaves the relative security of her uncle’s house in Chungking to find her parents in Nanking. It is 1937 and the Japanese are reported near the Republic of China’s capital. Having already ravaged Peking and Shanghai, the Japanese army is headed to Nanking. Jasmine fears for the safety of her parents, both esteemed educators. Her father, Professor Bai, with his fluency in Japanese, is confident that he could help communicate with the invaders and protect the university.Wings of a Flying Tiger

When Jasmine arrives at her parents’ home, it is too late. Her parents are dead, and Nanking is in complete chaos. She takes refuge in a safety zone, a church, directed by Father John, a priest from the United States. But safety zones mean little to the Japanese and she is forced to flee again…and again. The Japanese are constantly looking for soldiers in hiding and “prostitutes”—basically any very pretty, young woman. The first they kill; the second they capture and rape.

Father John arranges for a disguise for Jasmine and gets her out of the city. It is believed to be safer in the countryside. But when an American airman, a Flying Tiger, crashes near the remote village where she is staying, the Japanese are determined to find him—and will destroy anyone they believe to be even remotely involved in his survival.

Comments: Wings of a Flying Tiger is much more than Jasmine’s story. Told with a direct, sympathetic style, it is an agonizing depiction of the Japanese atrocities in China during World War II. Personally, I never knew much about this part of the war. My childhood studies focused on the United States’ war with Japan, but barely mentioned China. I am grateful to the author for educating me about this period of China’s history. The horrors tore at my soul, now more than 80 years distanced. It is good to never forget what human beings can do to each other in war.

The author was born and raised in China and drew from her parents’ and grandmother’s experiences in the war. An interview with the author can be found here.

Highly recommended.  This book is suitable for adults and older young adults.