Sunday, October 1, 2023

Movements and Moments

Movements and Moments is a collection of 7 short comics about influential indigenous women in developing areas of our world. Each story is about 30 pages long. My favorite one is the first story in the book Let the River Flow Free. It's about the women of the Cordillera tribe in the Phillipines who fought the government to stop plans for a dam that would flood their native lands. We also read about 1930s Bolivia when a self-described Anarchist Cholas form a libertarian trade union. In the Northern Highlands of Vietnam, the songs of one girl’s youth lead her to a life of activism. Equally striking accounts from, Chile, Ecuador, India, Nepal, and Peru weave a tapestry of trauma and triumph, shedding light on not-too-distant histories otherwise overlooked.

What these stories have in common is a commitment to resistance in a world that puts profit before respectand western notions of progress before their own. Movements and Moments is an introductory glimpse into how indigenous people tell these stories in their own words. These seven stories were selected from an open call across forty-two countries to spotlight feminist movements and advocacies in the Global South.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Book Cover of the Month: September

I love this book cover for Nancy Bilyeau's latest novel The Orchid Hour. The vivid colors are attractive and the orchid leaves are expertly placed. The book was published by Lume Books, a division of Joffe Books. Both are indie publishers based in Britain. I was unable to determine who designed this cover but whoever they are, they deserve accolades. It's a gorgeous book cover. Don't you agree? 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Book of the Month: September

Banyan Moon is my favorite read for this month. It is a 3 generation family saga about 3 Vietnamese women. It spans several decades from 1960s Vietnam to the present day in Florida and Michigan. The story alternates between grandmother Minh in Vietnam, her daughter Huong in Florida and granddaughter Ann in Michigan. I am always a sucker for family sagas and this one captured my heart. It always amazes me how people assimilate into new cultures. For every one of these sagas that I have read the second and third generation always makes the same decisions. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do to feel that you are an American. Check the book out. It is fantastic.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #28

The Printer's Row Lit Fest was held last weekend in Chicago. It has been an annual festival for over 50 years and is held in the Printer's Row neighborhood of the south Loop. Three of the books I purchased are being featured below. I spoke with all of the authors. Each of them told me not only what their books were about but also why they were interested in the subject matter that they wrote about. The Fest also hosts events with authors but I did not attend any this year.

Unbound Feet by Kim Orendor is an account of the author's years living in China. Kim describes herself as being a wallflower when she was a child. As an adult she taught at an international university in Henan Province. Here, Kim took time to re-examine all aspects of her life: relationships, faith, and expectations. This journey wasn't always smooth and sometimes she felt as if she was moving backward. Kim was astonished when she found herself dancing in the halftime show of the Chinese University Basketball Association championship. The game was broadcast live to millions of people and her shy self  began to blossom. Kim returned to the U. S. in 2011. She hasn't danced much since returning stateside but every now and then this former wallflower busts a move.

Mailboat: The End of the Pier by Danielle Hannah is the first book in a suspense series. There are 5 books in the series to date. The setting is Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a day trip away from Chicago. This first book opens with the finding of a dead man tied to the pilings on the pier. He had been missing for 17 years.  The main character is Bailey. She delivers letters by boat in the resort town. Bailey has learned over the years that an occasional splash into the lake as she jumps onto the pier is just part of her job. However, discovering a dead body is far from her routine. Bailey becomes fearful when the police investigation spills over into her abusive foster home, threatening to take her away from Lake Geneva entirely. 

Mother Daughter Murder Night was written by Nina Simon. The main character is Lana Rubicon, a high powered real estate professional in Los Angeles. While recovering from surgery Lana visits her daughter Beth and her grand-daughter Jack, who live 300 miles north. When Jack finds a dead body while kayaking, she quickly becomes a suspect in the homicide investigation. Lana decides to find the true murderer so she can protect her family and prove she still has power. With Jack and Beth’s help, Lana uncovers a web of lies, family vendettas, and land disputes lurking beneath the surface of a community populated by folksy conservationists and wealthy ranchers. These three women, though, must learn how to depend upon each other to find the killer.

What books have you added to your own bookshelf this week?

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Orchid Hour

I love Nancy Bilyeau's books. Her Genevieve Planche trilogy and Joanna Stafford trilogy were both fantastic so I had high expectations for The Orchid Hour. It is a charming portrait of the Little Italy neighborhood in New York City in the 1920s.

The publisher's summary:  

New York City, 1923. Zia De Luca’s life is about to be shattered. Having lost her husband to The Great War, she lives with her son and in-laws in Little Italy and works at the public library. But when a quiet poetry lover is murdered outside the library, the police investigation focuses on Zia. After a second tragedy strikes even closer to home, Zia learns that both crimes are connected to a new speakeasy in Greenwich Village called The Orchid Hour. 

When the police investigation stalls, Zia decides to find her own answers. A cousin with whom she has a special bond serves as a guide to the shadow realm of the Orchid Hour, a world filled with enticements Zia has shunned up to now. She must contend with a group of players determined to find wealth and power in New York on their own terms. In this heady atmosphere, Zia begins to wonder if she too could rewrite her life’s rules. As she’s pulled in deeper and deeper, will Zia be able to bring the killers to justice before they learn her secret?

While I enjoyed the story, it was not as engaging as Bilyeau's earlier books. Normally I would devour her books in one sitting. The Orchid Hour took me several days. However, it is still a solid story. The book is different because it is a murder mystery that takes place in the 1920s. Bilyeau's earlier books were more in the historical fiction genre. 

I did not connect with Zia as I have with other characters the author has created. She is not the typical amateur sleuth because she does not leave her job or home to determine the identity of the killer. Zia stays inside her home, which is one story on top of the cheese shop her in-laws own. She does not challenge social norms and lets the men in her family make all her major life decisions. How can this type of woman be a sleuth?

The setting is really the story here. It is definitely strong enough to carry the novel but I was disappointed that the novel was not written in the genre Bilyeau is known for. Perhaps if I had advance knowledge concerning the genre I would have read the book with different eyes.

3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #27

I just got a copy of Jon Meacham's latest book And There Was Light. The book is about our 16th president Abraham Lincoln, a man who governed America during a period of polarization and political upheaval similar to today's environment. He was both hated and hailed just as the last 4 U.S. presidents have been. The book sounds like it will be instructive on how to handle the struggles we are currently experiencing.

And There Was Light has won several awards. It is the winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, longlisted for the Biographers International Plutarch Award and One of the Best Books of the Year from The Christian Science Monitor and Kirkus Reviews. Lincoln is idolized in the book but it is advertised as giving a human portrait of an imperfect man. His moral antislavery commitment, essential to the story of justice in America, began as he grew up in an antislavery Baptist community. This biography covers Lincoln’s entire life, from birth to death.

I love chunky books and this is certainly one of them. The publisher says it's 720 pages while my ebook version is 1260 pages. I am sure it will be a lovely read.

Friday, September 8, 2023

DNA Never Lies

DNA Never Lies is the first book in a new series featuring Karen Copperfield as a genetic genealogist. Karen helps people make sense of the dark family secrets that are revealed by DNA tests as they ask: ‘what happens when nothing you believed is true?’ It was published in 2022.

The publisher's summary:  

As an ambitious young woman in the years following the Second World War, Barbara made some hard choices, decisions changing everything that came after. She had to fight for what she wanted; then the stakes got so much higher.

A continent away, and decades later, Barbara’s daughter hires genealogist Karen Copperfield to make sense of the family’s DNA tests. Nothing about the results ties in with what Barbara’s children believed, and the shock is tearing the family apart. Barbara seems to prefer death to revealing the truth, and Karen soon discovers there is more than one secret she intends to take to her grave.

But when threats start to come from both sides of the Atlantic, it soon becomes clear that Barbara is not the only person who wants the past to stay that way.

I was hooked on this story from the first page. It is told in an alternating format from California in the 1950s and England in 2018. The story begins with ninety-year-old Barbara Pendleton and her three adult children receiving DNA testing kits for Christmas. It was meant to be fun and if the family learned something new about their national origin it would be worth it. No one was expecting any controversial information to be revealed except for Barbara. Consequently, she threw her test kit in the garbage.

As the story continues we read about Barbara’s past as well as a girl named Jean Woods, an artist wannabe. Jean grew up in Lake View, California in a traditional post-war nuclear family. Church attendance was a must and alcohol forbidden. After high school graduation, Jean enrolls in a local college for art classes. She still lives at home, though, and continues to be sheltered by her parents. The lives of these two ladies are told as well as that of Barbara’s daughter Lynne.

I have read several geneology mystery series in the past but they are about historical research genealogists. This series delves into genetic geneology. I don't know how this type of geneology is done but am intrigued. Can I presume it's similar to murder mysteries where genetic information is used to solve crimes? Maybe. Nevertheless I am excited to learn more about it through this series.

DNA Never Lies is a page turner. I highly recommend it. 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Shallows

The Shallows is a gripping novel about two women who are neighbors in one of Sydney’s most exclusive suburbs. Emma and Ariella appear to have it all. They have expensive five story homes, wealthy husbands, and seemingly perfect lives. Both of them have dark secrets about their marriages that lurk beneath the surface. Ariella's secrets aren't too heavily buried. Her husband has a minder with her 24/7 and other neighbors have noticed. Mateo owns several strip clubs while Emma's husband Charles works for a security company. The two ladies slip notes to each other and share secrets when the minder isn't looking. Ariella's last message says she has a secret to share with Emma. However, Ariella was found murdered the next day after Emma’s daughter Kiki unknowingly filmed the killing while she made a You Tube video that she posted immediately. When Emma’s husband Charles forces the family to leave their perfect life and escape on their yacht, Emma feels trapped and tries to get answers from him. What or who are they hiding from? What did Ariella have to tell her? Does anyone else knows Emma’s own secret?

This story is a page turner. It is told from two perspectives. One is told three months in the past and the other is told in the current date. As the novel progresses three months become two, then one and then weeks. The suspense is ratcheted up from this literary device. Halfway through the book the story is only told in the present day. 

I loved the characters. Both Emma and Ariella were sympathetic ladies. Both of the husbands were villains but Mateo is the ultimate villain. He runs a string of strip clubs where teenagers work and people regularly disappear. He cannot even trust his own wife although he probably had no idea she wanted to leave him. They married when she was just 18 and had no idea what life had in store for her. Ariella did not know much about Mateo's business but she knew enough to fear him. Emma’s two kids, Kiki and Cooper, are a big part of the plot too. 

The Shallows is the debut novel of Holly Craig. It's amazing to me that her first book is this good. 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Global: One Fragile World

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Young Readers
Publication Date:  April 11, 2023
Reading Age:  10 - 14
Pages:  144
ISBN:  1728262194

Global: One Fragile World is told from two alternating perspectives. One is a child living in the Arctic and one living in the Bay of Bengal. Both kids are dealing with the destruction of their homes and lifestyles from weather related events. Sami and his grandfather live in a village along the Indian Ocean. They earn their living by fishing. But the ocean is rising and each day they work harder but bring back fewer fish. Yuki lives in the Canadian North where warming temperatures are melting the ice. Polar bears have less food to hunt and are wandering into town looking for something to eat. Yuki is determined to do something to help the bears.

Both climate change subplots are suspenseful and are told with alot of emotion. The reader doesn't know how these two kids will survive. Sami and Yuki have terrifying experiences that they must endure but they are able to get through them with the aplomb only a child can exhibit. We also get a short account of Myanmar immigrants to the Bay of Bengal.

The reason I picked up this middle grade book was due to the richly saturated colors that illustrator Giovanni Rigano used. The drawings have been done in the traditional comic strip format and show detailed expressions on the characters faces. At the end of the story the author gives information about global warming. 

5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Letters of Comfort

Doretta Schwartz used to be a happy person and passed her positive attitude along to her friends in several letters that she wrote each month. All that changed the day she learned of her fiance William’s death and a heavy weight of depression fell upon her. Feeling empty, she puts away her letter writing and won’t even respond to calls from friends. William’s twin brother, Warren, is also grieving his loss, while at the same time, trying to be supportive to his parents and Doretta. Doretta responds to Warren’s friendship, but the question is has he just becoming a replacement for the once-in-a-lifetime love she lost?

Letters of Comfort is the second book in the author's Friendship Letters duology. While we all know Amish fiction ends on a positive note, don't let that make you believe that the plot is simple. Brunstetter gives us several twists and turns in Doretta's recovery as well as showing how deep someone can fall into depression. In many ways it is a medical mystery novel albeit one that is light and in which you can predict a lovely ending. The Author's Note tells us that she intended to write a book with depression as a theme. 

I was surprised to learn that Doretta's boyfriend William was not as good a person that she originally thought he was. Was it necessary to show this in order to make his twin Warren look good? I kind of wish he remained the perfect person. Nevertheless, Letters of Comfort is a primer on what lies beneath a person's exterior.

5 out of 5 stars.