Friday, September 30, 2022

Book of the Month: September

The Apple Creek Announcement by Wanda Brunstetter was my favorite read for September. Brunstetter wrote what I believe is her best book to date. She added to the plot a character's quest to find her birth mother. It read more like a mystery than the typical Amish fiction novel and for that reason I have selected the book as my favorite for the month. 

The book is the third installment of a trilogy. Andrea Wagner is engaged to veterinarian Brandon Prentice. When she finds out that she is adopted Andrea puts her wedding plans on hold until she can find her birth mother. This is a clean romance novel so we read more about the characters' emotions and their relationship with God than how they might act when together. 

I don't believe that I have ever read an Amish fiction novel with such a complex plot. For that reason, it is my best book for the month.

Book Cover of the Month: September

My favorite book cover of the month for September is Laura Childs' A Dark and Stormy Tea. I could not determine who the book cover designer is but wonder whether it was an in-house designer at Berkeley. This was disappointing because I like to write about the artist behind the cover. What I like about this cover is that it is a table set for afternoon tea. I LOVE afternoon tea so these drawings are always attractive to me. My favorite dessert, macarons, are on the table and there is a beautiful set of purple china also. What's not to like?

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Her Perfect Life

Her Perfect Life is Sam Hepburn's first novel. She later published Gone Before in 2020 and A Good Mother in 2021. Hepburn writes psychological thrillers. This is the first book of hers that I have read. The premise for the story is how far would a person go to create the perfect life. Character Gracie Dwyer has it all, the handsome husband, the adorable child, the beautiful home and the glittering career. The perfect life. Her new friend Juliet doesn’t exactly fit in. She’s a down-on-her-luck single parent with no money and not much hope. So just what is it that draws Gracie and Juliet together? And when the cracks start to appear in Gracie’s perfect life, can both of them survive?

When I began reading I thought that the story sounded familiar and that perhaps I already read this book. After reviewing my previously published book reviews I noticed that in 2020 I reviewed Valerie Keogh's book The Perfect Life.  It is exactly like this novel. I also got it confused with Hank Phillippi Ryan's 2021 book, also titled Her Perfect Life and wondered whether I purchased the right book. I knew that I was going to read a book with this title for the Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge but failed to write down the author's name, not knowing that there could be more than one book with this title.

I was not thrilled with the Hepburn book. It had a slow start. There was no suspense and I felt nothing for the characters. While the plot is similar to the Keough book, the writing is not as good as Keough's. Since I thought the Keough book was mediocre, this book was a big disappointment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Children of Sugarcane

I received a free copy of the Children of Sugarcane through the Early Reviewer's Program at Librarything. It is a historical fiction novel of 19th century India and the British owned sugarcane plantations in Natal, South Africa. The book was published in 2021 in South Africa by Jonathan Ball Publishers. It was then published in the UK in 2022. Author Joanne Joseph is a well known media personality in South Africa and has hosted both radio and television programs there. She previously wrote an expose of prisons in Thailand but this is her first novel. 

The publisher's summary:

Shanti, a bright teenager stifled by life in rural India and facing an arranged marriage, dreams that South Africa is an opportunity to start afresh. The Colony of Natal is where Shanti believes she can escape the poverty, caste, and the traumatic fate of young girls in her village. Months later, after a harrowing sea voyage, she arrives in Natal and realises life there is full of hardship and labour.

Spanning four decades and two continents, Children of Sugarcane illustrates the lifegiving power of love, the indestructible bonds between family and friends, heroism, and how the ultimate sacrifice becomes Shanti’s greatest redemption.

I enjoyed reading this book. It is a little different from my usual fare and while it is historical I wonder whether the book should be categorized as literary fiction. The pace was slower than the historical fiction that I usually read. Shanti doesn't arrive in Natal until page 140, a third of the way through the story. I thought this was slow but it wouldn't be for literary fiction. The characters were well drawn and the history of the time and place was detailed. The author was obviously very familiar with what happened on the sugarcane plantations in Natal. She gives us alot of important information about this sad and not well known part of history. For that we can be thankful.

5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Stacking the Shelves #22

This past week I visited my local public library and found a book by Charles Finch that I had not read.  His 2021 novel, An Extravagant Death, sleuth Charles Lenox gets a chance to travel to America. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli sends him on a diplomatic mission to New York City on behalf of the Queen. While there, Lenox hobnobs with both the old Knickerbocker society and the new robber barons. After the season's most beautiful debutante throws her self off a cliff, it is assumed that she killed herself. Lenox thinks that it could be murder. With his reputation for solving cases having preceded him, Lenox is invited to a magnificent Newport mansion to investigate the death.  

I have not posted in this meme before about library books that I have added to my stack. I finally feel safe going to the library since the pandemic began so there may be more of these posts. Last year I read Finch's The September Society which he published in 2008. He has 16 books published to date. 14 of them are part of the Charles Lenox series. I loved The September Society and plan on reading all of his books, whenever I get the time. 

What have you stacked your shelves with this week?

Friday, September 16, 2022


I have been thinking for awhile about reading this graphic memoir about a woman who was adopted from her native country Korea to her adoptive parents in Sweden.  I finally picked up the comic and it was fantastic.

The publisher's summary:

Thousands of South Korean children were adopted around the world in the 1970s and 1980s. More than nine thousand found their new home in Sweden, including the cartoonist Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom, who was adopted when she was two years old. Throughout her childhood she struggled to fit into the homogenous Swedish culture and was continually told to suppress the innate desire to know her origins. “Be thankful,” she was told; surely her life in Sweden was better than it would have been in Korea. Like many adoptees, Sjöblom learned to bury the feeling of abandonment.

Palimpsest, an emotionally charged memoir, Sjöblom’s unaddressed feelings about her adoption come to a head when she is pregnant with her first child. When she discovers a document containing the names of her biological parents, she realizes her own history may not match up with the story she’s been told her whole life: that she was an orphan without a background. 

As Sjöblom digs deeper into her own backstory, returning to Korea and the orphanage, she finds that the truth is much more complicated than the story she was told and struggled to believe. The sacred image of adoption as a humanitarian act that gives parents to orphans begins to unravel.

Sjöblom’s beautiful autumnal tones and clear-line style belie the complicated nature of this graphic memoir’s vital central question: Who owns the story of an adoption?

Alot of the dialogue is actually exposition with the illustrations showing the emotions of the characters. The color scheme was basically light brown with other cool toned colors. It looked depressing to me but this story is about the depression that the author felt.  In fact, she tried to kill herself. The documents that she and her husband sent to Korean adoption agencies are illustrated in full as well as the responses that they received. While the story informs us about the unique Korean adoption process, there are general roadblocks written in to the story that all adoptees face. It was heartbreaking when a letter came in the mail with less information than was expected. It is also easy for the reader to see all of the steps an adoptee has to take in order to discover their biological background. 

All in all, a great memoir.  5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Welcome to St. Hell

Welcome to St. Hell is a groundbreaking memoir about being a trans teen. Lois/Lewis has a few things to say to his younger teen self. He knows she hates her body. He knows she's confused about who to snog. He knows she's really a he and will ultimately realize this... but she's going to go through a whole lot of mess (some of it funny, some of it not funny at all) to get to that point. Lewis is trying to tell her this... but she's refusing to listen.

In Welcome to St. Hell, author-illustrator Lewis Hancox takes readers on the hilarious, heartbreaking, and healing path he took to make it past trauma, confusion, hurt, and dubious fashion choices in order to become the man he was meant to be. 

When I began reading I wondered whether the comic would be preachy. It isn't. The author kept his hometown anonymous by calling is St. Hell in the comic and the high school he attended was called St. Hell High School. I felt so bad for him when he was taunted by his classmates. Young kids can be way too critical. However, he did find friends that accepted him and some of them came out publicly with different sexual orientations after high school. 

The artwork created the humor in the novel. We see Lois/Lewis trying several actions to hide her feminine body shape. He works out in order to get rid of his curves and diets heavily that he has to be treated for anorexia. He finally admits to his mother that he is trying to get rid of his feminine shape because he feels like a boy. The author is lucky that his mother accepted him when he came out and, in fact, encouraged some of his behaviors because, inside, she knew that he was different.

I don't know that I would have purchased this book if I didn't have a trans friend. We have had many great conversations about life in general and I see and accept her as a normal person. Without knowing her, I probably would have had a hands off approach to anyone talking about being trans. It is too different from my life. While it is risky for a trans person to come out publicly, it was helpful for me to know someone who experienced this. 

This is a thoughtful memoir that taught me alot about the struggle of trans people.  5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, September 12, 2022


Engrossing! This book is unputdownable. I picked it up intending to read only a couple of pages while the Kindle recharged. The next thing I knew I was 200 pages into the book and knew that I would not read anything else until I finished it. 

Paris is a historical fiction novel by Edward Rutherford. It covers 1,000 years of history by telling the sagas of six families. The families interact with famous people from their eras in order to bring the reader some familiarity with Parisian history. I have read 2 other historical novels by Rutherford and both told their stories chronologically.  Paris skips back and forth in time but I found it is easy to follow. 

There are many, many historical details that are clearly explained. If you want to know why plaster of paris is named such, read this book. What about the building of the Eiffel Tower? Here, you will discover everything that went into its construction by following characters who were hired to work on it. While the book covers two wars, I was glad that the fighting scenes were short. I don't like war stories much. The plague and the Spanish Flu also appear as well as the world exhibitions that were held in Paris and the rise of feminism.

I LOVED this book and cannot recommend it more highly to historical fiction fans. Do not be put off by its 800 pages. Most of Rutherford's books are over 1,000 pages so Paris is a short story. 5 out of 5 stars.

After Lambana

After Lambana: Myth and Magic in Manila is a fantasy graphic novel that explores the world of Filipino myths.  It was published on June 7, 2022 by Tuttle Publishing. The author, Eliza Victoria, is an award winning writer in the Philippines and has published general fiction, science fiction, short stories and poetry. 

The publisher's summary:

Lambana--the realm of supernatural fairies known as Diwata--has fallen, and the Magic Prohibition Act has been enacted. To add to his troubles, there's something wrong with Conrad's heart and only magic can prolong his life. He teams up with Ignacio, a well-connected friend who promises to hook him up with the Diwata and their magical treatments--a quest that's not only risky but highly illegal!

On the shadowy, noir-tinged streets of Manila, multiple realities co-exist and intertwine as the two friends seek a cure for the magical malady. Slinky sirens and roaming wraith-like spirits populate a parallel world ruled by corruption and greed, which Conrad must enter to find the cure he seeks. He has little idea of the creatures he will encounter and the truths to be revealed along the way. Will Lambana spill its secrets and provide the healing balm Conrad needs? Or will he perish in the process?

I didn't enjoy this story much. While beautifully illustrated with bright colors, the story itself lacked suspense. The characters were not fleshed out at all. I did not either like them or dislike them. It was difficult to figure out what was going on and while I was reading I wondered why  I should even care about continuing it. I am not attracted to mythological stories and am completely ignorant regarding Filipino mythology so perhaps this was my problem. Still, myth stories need strong characters and plot to keep a reader interested.

No rating.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Can't Wait Wednesday #15

My selection for this month's Calendar of Crime Challenge is The Butcher and the Wren.  It will be published next week on September 13, 2022. Butcher is the debut novel of Alaina Urquhart and it is a psychic thriller. 

The novel has an alternating point of view of a serial killer and the medical examiner following his trail. Dr. Wren has always been able to solve the cases that she has encountered except for this one. It seems that the serial killer is taunting her by the clues that have been left at the crime scenes. As the cases pile up in her office, Dr. Wren is sucked into a cat and mouse chase with the killer. 

The publisher's summary mentions that there are details written in the book that only a autopsy tech can provide. From this I assume that the details may be grisly but I am still looking forward to reading this novel.