Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez gives us a fictional glimpse into lives of immigrants whether legal or illegal, who come to the U.S. looking for a better life.

The Hispanic group, whose lives Ms. Henriquez covers, is living in an apartment block in Delaware. The families are from Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. One family came here from Mexico because their daughter was brain damaged due to an accident and they were encouraged to seek out a specialized American school. One family escaped the fighting in Panama after the American Invasion, a father from Guatemala arrived in the U.S. to work and send money to his children who were living with friends in Mexico, another from Puerto Rico had dreams of life on the stage in New York quashed, and opened a theater in Delaware.

My thoughts:
I was surprised to hear there is such a heavy Hispanic population in Delaware, but apparently many came to work in the mushroom farms and others who had once been illegal, brought their families here after Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to those who had arrived in the U.S. illegally before 1982. While I didn't come to the U.S. from an oppressed country (unless you count the pre-Thatcher years with Trade Union control of England in the 1970s) I do understand how difficult it can be to move to another country and how you crave familiar surroundings, but I've found that many immigrants choose not to "fit in" as it were. 
At one non-profit company I volunteered for, a Hispanic woman, after struggling to talk to me, told me I should learn Spanish! 
And there appear to be so many free services offered to immigrants (whether legal or illegal), free schooling, free classes to learn English, free translaters. Many, like Gustavo Milhajos in the book, are working purely to send money back to Mexico, others like the Rivera family are here to take advantage of our schools or medical services without making an effort to learn English or become part of our society (although Mrs. Rivera did find a class for English as a second language by accident). Not learning English and with no way to communicate had disastrous results for Mr. Rivera. 

But we should not be quick to lump everyone into one category, there are many people from Mexico and South America who come here, work hard, become part of our society and go on to get their citizenship. When my daughter and I went to the courthouse for the finalization of our citizenship, 95% of the group were from Mexico and it was awesome to see how excited they were to become American citizens.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Cat and the King of Clubs by Carole Nelson Douglas

Carole Nelson Douglas's Midnight Louie books have been popular for years. While looking for a book with a Nevada setting for this year's 50 State Reading Challenge, I decided to go back to book one of the Cat and the Playing Card series - The Cat and the King of Clubs.
Carole Nelson Douglas is a local author and I've met her many times and heard of her battles with publishing companies, but it wasn't until I read on the front of the cover "Author's Preferred Edition" - "Original Text Restored" and the Author's Foreward that I realized how much the editors had changed her works by actually cutting 37% percent of her novel without her knowledge. She told me once, if she had to do it again she would go the route I've chosen - self publishing.

From Goodreads
Classy Van von Rhine finds herself in her dream job - managing the Crystal Phoenix hotel, and her first job is to oversee its renovation. She has no idea that Nicky Fontana, her boss, is a member of a Mafia family. Early on, Van and Nicky can barely tolerate each other, but before long they're swept up in romance. Midnight Louie watches as a silver-haired man appears down the hall from Van's room, and hoodlums try to sabotage the hotel work. Van's dream job is quickly turning into a nightmare, and her love life seems about to follow suit... 

Friday, September 16, 2016

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

In These Happy Golden Years Laura Ingalls Wilder, at age fifteen, becomes a teacher.

From the cover:
Laura lives apart from her family for the first time, teaching school in a claim shanty twelve miles from home. She is very homesick, but keeps at it so that she can help pay for her sister Mary's tuition at the college for the blind. During school vacations Laura has fun with her singing lessons, going on sleigh rides, and best of all, helping Almanzo Wilder drive his new buggy. Friendship soon turns to love for Laura and Almanzo in the romantic conclusion of this Little House book.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold

Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold is set in Las Vegas. Not Las Vegas, Nevada but Las Vegas, New Mexico.

My thoughts:
I found the setting to have an interesting history and the book was well written, but I'm not a big fan of the supernatural and found it confusing. However, the book has excellent reviews so it may just have been something I wasn't in the mood to read at this time.

Goodreads review
Art teacher Mira Fenn's life was curiously lacking in color until the day she learned of a mysterious inheritance from her birthmother--a long-abandoned house in New Mexico. Dim childhood memories begin to brighten in Mira's mind--her colorfully exotic mother, the curiously silent women who were her mother's servants. 

Returning to New Mexico, Mira discovers that the house is a faded thing, looked after by the charismatic Domingo Navidad. But when Mira dreams of her childhood home, it is a riot of color--and she and Domingo soon set to work to bring her dreams to life. 

Color brings more than just an old house back to life. The bright paint Mira applies to wood and plaster seems to reach into her soul, to awaken powers trapped in a decades-long slumber. The silent women reappear, carrying with them a great secret. Convinced her mother is still alive, Mira searches for her, journeying through a sea of light and color to a time and place far from her own. 

Who and what she finds there will alter her world forever.

"Child of a Rainless Year is a novel about those spaces in between. It is about the dichotomy between expectation and reality, about past and present, about parents and children, mothers and daughters, loving and the fear of love. Color weaves through these contradictions, not so much pulling them together as highlighting differences and similarities. Historical events prove to be as important as current events, and even a house has opinions on how things should be done."
Jane Lindskold

Friday, September 9, 2016

Candy Apple Dead by Sammi Carter

Candy Apple Dead is a cozy mystery set in Colorado. I liked Sammi Carter's style of writing and enjoyed the mystery. But be warned - this is not a good mystery to read if you're trying to cut down on calories or sugar consumption. I wanted to dash out and buy some chocolate/toffee/candy after reading about the delicious recipes Abby comes up with for her candy shop.

From the cover:
No visit to Paradise, Colorado, is complete without a stop at Divinity Candy Shop for a little taste of heaven. For owner Abby Shaw, it's a sweet deal, too. When her Aunt Grace passed away, Abby inherited Divinity - and the opportunity to leave her career as a corporate lawyer and dump her cheating husband. Then life sours when her friend/possible boyfriend dies in a fire in his men's clothing store . . . and her brother becomes the number one suspect.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall

I have just started reading A clue for the Puzzle Lady the first book in the Puzzle Lady Mystery series by Parnell Hall.  Although the story seems to be moving along, one thing I've found off putting is the crossword puzzle watermark on some of the pages, making itdifficult to read. I haven't come across this before in mystery novels and wonder why the publisher would think this was a good idea!

From the cover:
Violent crime is rare in tiny Bakerhaven. When the body of an unknown teenage girls turns up in the local cemetery, Police Chief Dale Harper finds himself investigating his first homicide. Nothing aobut this case is straightforward. Even a thorough search of the crime scene fails to reveal who she was, the murder weapon, or why the killer left her body in a graveyard minus her shows. A cryptic message on a scrap of paper she carried seems to be a crossword puzzle clue. Could it have been left by the killer? If so, what does it mean?

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle

I finally found a book at the library set in Rhode Island for my 50 State Reading Challenge - The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle. Although it's a YA book and for grades 6-8, I think it would appeal to adults too and would make a great book club read. Told from the point of view of a teenage boy, the story covers the struggles and fears of east coast America during the WWII years - I didn't realize that U-Boats had been trawling for and sinking our allied ships off the U.S. coast. Forty-three ton Naval guns had been placed and the local base was camouflaged. Even a farmhouse wasn't what it seemed as it was made from concrete, painted to look like a farmhouse and the lookout was disguised as a chimney to the building. What we often forget about WWII was that the German people feared the Germans in power every bit as much as we did.

From the cover:
The year is 1942. Spring has come to a small village on the Rhode Island coast, and with it a regiment of soldiers and giant defensive guns emplaced in bunkers along the beaches. Offshore, Nazi submarines lie in wait for Allied convoy ships. The war in Europe seems far away, but residents in town keep a nervous eye on the ocean, and thirteen-year-old Robert and his cousin Elliot aren't the only ones taking an interest in a German abstract artist who's set up camp recently in woods near the shore. Many believe that he's a spy who roams at night signaling the enemy with a high-powered flash light. Elliot, who has a talent for drawing, is determined to seek out the artist for help with his art. Where else will he find anyone to teach him what he needs to know? Robert warns him against it, but Elliot can't stay away and the situation veers out of control. This is a story of dangers lurking inside and outside a community, of deceptive enemies and suspicions fanned to violence, and how two friends find their own very different ways of mastering the art of keeping cool.