April 2021 Book Reviews!
Birds of A Feather:A Maisie Dobbs Mystery by Jacqueline Winspear: this is the second book in Winspear's post-WWI detective Maisie Dobbs series. In this book, Maisie is hired to find the daughter of a rich grocery store mogul who has had a history of running away from home. Further investigations bring to light the dark side of recruitments for WWI. I remember really enjoying the first book in the series (the content, binding, feel of the book, etc.), but this installment had some New-Age meditation aspects that put my guard up. I did decide to finish the book, and was pleased to figure out part of the mystery before the conclusion, but I probably won't read another WInspear novel. I'll stick with Charles Todd, Louise Penny, and Agatha Christie books instead.
Narrative of My Captivity Among the Sioux Indians by Fanny Kelly: this is an autobiographical tale of Kelly's several month captivity among the Sioux Indians. Kelly and her husband along with a small band of fellow pioneers are on their way to Montana Territory when they are surrounded and attacked by the supposedly friendly Sioux. She, her daughter, and another woman and her child are taken captive. This is her detailed account of what became of the other captives, aspects of the Sioux way of life, her roles in the camps, and the ongoing deception the Sioux employed against the white soldiers' many attempts to rescue her. I found Kelly's tale incredibly interesting. She lived a hard life. Definitely pick this up if you love biographies, history, etc. I got it for free via Amazon Kindle.
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan: Nina is laid off from her position as a librarian in Birmingham in England. In the midst of a quarter-life crisis, she ends up buying a large van and opening a mobile library in a remote town in Scotland. I thought this book was charming! I would probably rate it PG-13 for some language and romantic scenes, but I did not think either took away from what a fun read this book was! I also really enjoyed the author's humor. I will be reading more of her books. Perhaps if travel ever reopens one of these days, our family may need to take a trip to the Scottish highlands!
Farmer Boy and On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder: my oldest is learning about US history in his homeschool curriculum, so I read aloud both of these novels to my boys. They loved them and paid much more attention to the stories than I thought they would. I remember thinking Farmer Boy was boring when I read it as a little girl but both my boys kept asking for 'one more chapter!' I plan to finish the rest of the Little House series with them. I assume most people have heard of this series, but if not, they are an autobiographical account of Laura's childhood in the 1800s as pioneers moving west. Farmer Boy follows Laura's future husband Almanzo Wilder as a boy growing up on a successful farm in New York. If you have never read them, pick these books up!
The Last Firehawk: The Ember Stone and The Crystal Caverns by Katrina Charman: an owl, a squirrel, and a newly hatched firehawk set out on a quest to find the lost ember stone and save their kingdom from the evil vulture, Thorn. This was a fun read-a-loud with my boys. My five-year-old especially loved it! There are several in this series, and we plan to finish them all. I am a fan of reading good versus evil quests with our boys. I want them to know that both evil and good exist in this world and, most importantly, to be able to tell the difference between them.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: this epic four-generation tale follows the family of impoverished Koreans who are displaced to Japan during the Japanese Imperial Army's conquest and occupation of Korea. It spans from 1910-1989. Sunja falls in love with an older man, gets pregnant, and then finds out he is already married. Her refusal to be his mistress leads her to accept marriage to a kind, sickly Christian pastor on his way to Japan. This book follows Sunja and her children as they struggle to survive and belong in a country that racially discriminates against them. I learned so much about Japanese-Korean relations from reading this book. I had no real idea of the lasting racism there. Overall, this is a masterfully written story, but it left me feeling depressed and disillusioned. I think part of my reason for this is the inaccurate way Lee portrays Christians. She does not seem to have, or at least does not represent within her novel, what it truly means to be a Christian. Every 'Christian' (other than the pastor) is portrayed as living very hypocritical, culturally Christian lives. And while it is true to a certain extent that every Christian is somewhat hypocritical, that is not what defines Christianity. True Christians are people who know that the greatness of their sin points them to a great Savior, Jesus Christ. Our love for our Savior leads us to want to obey His words in the Bible. So, while I do appreciate how well-written this novel was, I became so bogged down by Lee's portrayal of Christians that I ended up skimming the last few chapters.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger: set in the 1930s on the Gilead River in Minnesota, this book follows four kids fleeing the hateful conditions at the Lincoln Indian Training School after some terrible, life-altering events. You can definitely see inspiration from Homer's The Odyssey and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Within moments of reading the introduction, I knew this was going to be a compelling read. I dove right in and savored the whole book. The horrific way the kids were treated broke my heart. After finishing it, I could not help but think of all the kids worldwide who are being exploited. I have a feeling this book will stay with me for a long time. This book was one of my favorites I have read so far this year. I highly recommend it!
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala: Lila is stunned when her jerk of an ex-boyfriend drops dead while she is serving him at her family restaurant. Suddenly, she and her family's struggling business are the #1 suspects in his murder. Lila is determined to find the truth with the help of her best friend, Adeena. This is a cozy mystery with an edge and a little extra Filipino flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I learned a lot about Filipino American family structure, and the food descriptions made my mouth water. There are some bonus recipes at the end of the book. There was a bit of language, but it was clean in the romance department.
Things You Save in A Fire by Katherine Center: after an 'interpersonal work conflict', Cassie is transferred to a new Fire Department in Lillian, Massachusetts. She moves in with her estranged mother and takes to heart her former captain's advice--never date a fellow firefighter. Love is about to find her despite her best attempts to dissuade it. Center is one of my favorite authors. I have loved all her books, and this is no exception. Center does a great job interweaving humor with tragedy--something at which firefighters are adept. There are themes of abandonment, sexual assault, family drama, forgiveness, and addiction. I highly recommend all her books!