Posted in Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Cartier’s Hope by M.J. Rose

Publication Info: Expected publication date January 28, 2020 by Atria Books. Kindle pre-pub edition courtesy of NetGalley.

Summary: Vera Garland’s family is very wealthy. Her father was the owner of Garland’s Emporium, a very prosperous department store in early New York. As the daughter of a socialite, Vera was raised to be a fine lady of leisure, but she wants more than her mother’s lifestyle. Vera works as a reporter and newspaper columnist under the pseudonym Vee Swann. As Vee, she disguises herself as a common woman, so she can write about the social issues of the day. Children are working long hours and women are marching to get the vote. Charlatans fleece customers in elaborate ruses during seances. Newspapers publish gossip and salacious stories to attract readers.

Women working in journalism in the early 1900’s were most frequently relegated to fashion and society columns. Vera is determined to write more serious articles and exposes. After her father dies, she discovers a huge, shocking secret about him and another close relative that lead to their deaths. She decides to seek revenge against the sleazy newspaper owner who threatened to expose the men.

Vera’s investigation into the stories Pierre Cartier is telling about Hope Diamond in his possession gives her an opportunity to kill two birds with one very expensive stone.

Comments: I was drawn to reading Cartier’s Hope because of the story line involving the Hope Diamond. I’ve seen the famous blue stone many times at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. I’m also a fan of early 20th century America historical fiction.

I actually liked this book a lot more than I expected to. First, it had more than one unexpected twist. Second, during the first incarnation of The Brown Bookloft about 12 years ago, I was sent a very early M.J. Rose novel. I didn’t care for it and haven’t read anything by her since then. She’s obviously honed her writing skills since those early days!

I acutely related with plucky Vera Garland. I had many fights with my own mother, who overly valued societal expectations. She tried in vain to “raise me to be a good housewife” (her own words). I wanted more for myself, too. The book also made me consider the issues that faced women one hundred years ago–some of which we still face today.

Recommended for readers of General Fiction, Women’s Fiction and Historical Fiction (especially early 20th Century New York.

My Rating: 4 STARS

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.