Monday, December 22, 2014

Midwinter Blood

This is a beautiful and haunting book that follows two doomed lovers throughout the courses of seven lifetimes. It opens with Eric Seven arriving on an island where the sun does not go down, there are no children, and he recognizes Merle, as an old friend, long forgotten, although he is just meeting her for the first time. The island, Blessed Island, is also believed to be home to the only surviving population of a very rare orchid: the Blessed Dragon Orchid. I have always been fascinated in the concept of reincarnation and this story increases my fascination as the mosaic of Eric and Merle's incarnations come together to form a beautiful and intricate pattern. They start out as husband and wife. In one life, they are siblings. In another life, mother and son. In yet another life, they come together in the form of an unlikely friendship between a young child and an embittered old man. They cycle throughout each other's lives in varying degrees of separation and closeness with varying degrees of memory until they reincarnate as the same ages where they can be possible lovers again. The ending is bittersweet. Not the kind of ending I had hoped for, but it fits the spirit of the story.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Invention of Wings

In the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, she tells the story of the Grimke' sisters, Sarah and Nina and Sarah's slave, Hetty. Sarah and Angelina (Nina) Grimke' are in fact, women of historical significance. They were the first female abolitionists and among the earliest feminist thinkers. Hetty is a completely fictional character, but Sue Monk Kidd uses the details of both of these characters' lives to show how they are limited by their circumstances. Of the two of them, Hetty is the most limited in freedom and has to deal with the most trouble and setbacks. But she remains resolute in her determination to not be defeated and to somehow get free. As she tells Sarah in the novel, "My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it's the other way round." The novel explores Sarah and Hetty's complex relationship. They can't truly be friends because of slavery, but they want to be friends. And the novel also takes us on Sarah's journey from a shy stuttering girl to a confident outspoken abolitionist. This book is a delight to read.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lost Lake

This book opens suddenly with a couple on their honeymoon in Paris who come across a girl who in an attempt to kill herself, jumps off a bridge. Eby and George save Lisette and then the novel moves forward several decades. During that time, Eby and George have started a vacation resort in southern Georgia, George has passed away, and Lisette remains faithfully by Eby's side as the resort has become unpopular and in need of renovation and repair. Eby has decided to sell the resort. This will be her last summer - or will it? An interesting cast of characters may change her mind. There's her long lost great-niece, Kate, recently widowed and trying to find her way both figuratively and literally. Selma, with a long string of husbands and a curious set of charms. Also, an alligator who may have once been a boy. Once again, Sarah Addison Allen delivers delightful magical realism.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

In the Museum of Extraordinary Things, once again Alice Hoffman does an excellent job of blending fantasy and realistic fiction. Set in Coney Island, Coralie is forced to appear as a "mermaid" in her father's museum of extraordinary things. Her father is in desperate need of an exhibit to compete with Dreamland and Luna Park in Coney Island. Eddie Cohen is a photographer. Before he was a photographer, he worked with Abraham Hochman, the famous Jewish mystic, to help find people who were lost. Eddie and Coralie meet in a chance encounter in the woods. However, they are destined to meet again. After Eddie takes pictures of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a gentleman hires him to find his missing daughter, Hannah. Could Hannah's disappearance have anything to do with Coralie's father's amazing new attraction for his museum? Read the Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman to find out.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Gilly Salt Sisters

If you like to read magical realism and/or Alice Hoffman, you will like The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker. Jo and Claire live on Salt Creek Farm in the isolated Cape Cod village of Prospect in New England. They are both feared and revered by their fellow villagers because of the custom of casting salt into the bonfire every December's Eve to tell the future of the village for the coming year. If the fire flashed blue, it meant the town would prosper. If it flashed yellow, some kind of change was on the horizon. If it flashed black, dire consequences would follow. Instead of being a comfort to each other, Jo and Claire become enemies when Claire marries Jo's sweetheart, Whit, after her first love, Ethan, joins the priesthood. Throughout the novel, loyalties shift, the boundaries of family are tested, and secrets are revealed. The novel is an entertaining read and I enjoyed it. All of the characters are multifaceted and I can relate to most of them, except for Claire and Whit. Claire and Whit seem to be unbelievably selfish and self-centered. Also, Claire has a very unhealthy fascination with fire. But it's hard to put this novel down and I recommend it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Selection

Every now and then, you read a book that is just like eating a box of chocolates, light and fluffy. The Selection by Kiera Cass is one of these books. America Singer lives in a future dystopian society where the United States is now Illea and run by royalty. Prince Maxon is selecting thirty five girls to live in the palace. He will choose his future wife and queen from these thirty five girls. Think a royal dystopian version of The Bachelor. America wants none of this. She just wants to marry her boyfriend, Aspen. Although Aspen loves her, he is reluctant to marry her because he is in a caste that is lower than hers and he is concerned that he wouldn't be able to provide for her. So, her persuades her to enter The Selection both for the money that it will bring to her family and to give her the chance at a better life. America's family, especially her mother, is very persuasive as well. Now will it surprise anybody when I say that America starts to develop feelings for Prince Maxon and he starts to develop feelings for her? Of course not. But this is a fun, good-hearted, light, escapist read and I literally couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, The Elite. I've already got it checked out of the library.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Valley of Amazement

How much does your culture and traditions determine your choices? This is the question that Amy Tan asks in her novel, The Valley of Amazement. The novel centers on the lives, loves, and betrayals of two women: Lucia and Violet. Lucia is a madam of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house, but that was not meant to be her destiny. Her blind faith and trust in loving the wrong man brought her there. When she falls in love with yet another wrong man, her daughter is kidnapped and sold to another courtesan house while Lucia sets sail for America. Violet cannot accept her fate and insists on her American rights. Her friend Magic Gourd chides her saying, "Only Americans think they have rights. What laws of heaven give you more rights and allow you to keep them? They are words on paper written by men who make them up and claim them. One day they can blow away, just like that." This is a riveting tale of love, life decisions, culture, and betrayal. Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors and once again she delivers an extremely entertaining and thoughtful tale.