Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Midwife's Sister

The Midwife's Sister: The Story of Jennifer Worth by her Sister
Christine Lee
Pan Books
Pan Macmillan Publishers
London, England
ISBN: 978-1-4472-8264-8
$ 14.95
341 pages with additional photographs

Christine Lee is the sister of Jennifer Lee Worth who is the author of Call the Midwife series.   Her perspective on their lives is quite different from her sister's viewpoint.
Jennifer is three years older than her sister, Christine.  The two had a close relationship in their early years, relying on each other for companionship. 
While their father was daily working, their mother was not nurturing, and for Christine, Jennifer was her big sister/mother.
Much of the novel regards their childhood, which privileged, was problematic with their mother suffering from a stroke when she arrived home early one day to discover her father with his secretary in their bed.
The girls' lives spun into turmoil as their parents split and their father remarried which eventually causes the sisters to be separated.
Christine states their lives as being middle-class.  However, the girls were sent to boarding school and had servants in the home.  Money did not seem to be a concern.
Although the book is subtitled, The Story of Call the Midwife's Jennifer Lee Worth, the story is as actually more about Christine with most of the pictures about her life and including her art when she met the queen, not about Jennifer.
I also felt that very little was written about her "midwife" time and much about Jennifer's isolation from her sister.
An issue I have with the book was that it was written and published until after her sister's death.   It is not fair to Jennifer to have her life revealed strictly from Christine's perspective.
Besides the misleading title, the book is a reflection of Christine Lee as the little sister of the author and creator of the "Call the Midwife" series.  
The story reads quickly but concentrates more on Christine's marriages, children, and life rather than Jennifer's.
Who would enjoy the book?  
Call the Midwife fans are the obvious audience but would be disappointed in that the relationships are not at all like the series.
People who begin to read the book without the expectation of revealing the Jennifer Lee Worth story can enjoy the story of Christine Lee, artist.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Wasn't Invited to the Party

I Wasn't Invited to the Party
Author: Susanna Kern
Illustrator: Adolfo Serra
Consortium Book Sales
ISBN: 978-84-944446-4-7
$ 16.95
32 pages

"You can't always go to all the parties.  But this doesn't mean that we should be sad, and we shouldn't enjoy ourselves."
For all children, a birthday party is exciting.   When the invitations are delivered to each person in a class at school, the anticipation of each child is thrilling.  
However, what if one child is left out. 
Mark is not invited to the party.
The afternoon of the party, he goes into the park, but it appears vacated, even the birds are gone.
Surprisingly, Mark discovers two of his classmates also in the park who were not invited to the party.  Yuna and Adrian begin to climb a tree with Mark.
From their high perch, they quickly view the nearby sea which is rising rapidly around nearby buildings.
As the water levels increase, it becomes so deep that a whale who is wearing a tiny hat maneuvers itself to the tree.   He quickly offers the threesome a ride while picking up other children who were not invited to the party as they journey through the water.
The whale transports the children to a village in the clouds on a tall mountain.
The residents are animals dressed in clothes, wearing shoes, glasses, and watches.  These creatures are having a celebration since they were not invited to the ostrich's birthday party.
The children had so much fun that they had completely forgotten about the birthday party.
As night falls, the whale whistles to return the children to their homes.
Imagination is a wonderful thing.
Author Susanna Isern is a writer and child psychologist whose books have been translated into many languages.  She was awarded the Silver Medal in the Moonbeam Children's Books in 2013.
The illustrator, Adolfo Serra has won numerous awards for his beautiful illustrations.
Everyone is left out sometime in their life.   Making the best of any situation is the most positive and learning how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons.
I Wasn't Invited to the Birthday Party is for children from preschool to at least second grade, or older if exclusions are causing problems for children.   This book could easily be a fast read aloud in any elementary school classroom and continue with both journal writing and discussions.
The illustrations wonderfully match the text enhancing the story as it progresses making this an enjoyable book that can be read multiple times.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Racing the Devil

Racing the Devil
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
Charles Todd
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-238621-2
$ 26.99
341 pages

Wartime comrades frequently form unusual alliances.   Former rivals can become lasting friends through bonding over life/death experiences of any war. 
It was June of 1916 when a group of seven English officers who while sharing could be their final drink, they discovered that all of them had lived within one-hundred miles of each other in southern England with each of them being very passionate with motorcars.
Realizing that this could their last relaxing drink before returning to the Front to fight the Germans, these men agree to a challenge if they survive the war.  
The agreement is for each of the men to meet in Paris one-year after the war ends and to each bring a vehicle to race all the way to Nice, whether their car is a racer of not.
The race occurs with only the five survivors and becomes dangerous as the drivers approach Nice with one accident, severely injuring the former officer and another vehicle almost pushed off the road.
One year after the race another death occurred of a clergyman who died in an accident.   It appears that someone hit his car while pushing it off the road while he was driving.
How does this connect to the racers?   The owner of the car was one of the officers.
Inspector Ian Rutledge represents Scotland Yard in investigating the clergyman's death.   Unfortunately, the community seems to have many secrets that they are extremely reluctant to share with law enforcement.
Will he be able to solve this case and to prevent others from dying?
The secrets of two villages complicate Rutledge's investigation with two completely different personalities.   These small towns are close regarding proximity but one is completely separate, even isolated due to the lack of transportation in 1920, and both are fighting for jurisdiction and not thrilled about Scotland Yard's involvement.
Charles Todd is the combined named of a mother-son writing team of Caroline Todd and her son, Charles. 
The two are well known for their series of novels directly after World War I with protagonists Inspector Ian Rutledge, Bess Crawford, and Hamish MacLeod winning multiple mystery novel awards throughout the years.
Racing the Devil is an extraordinary adventure transporting every reader into the post-war years following the World War 1.

Desperate Housedogs

Desperate Housedogs
A Pampered Pets Mystery - Book One
Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books
Memphis, Tennessee
ISBN: 978-1-61194-050-3
$ 12.95
192 pages

Being a pet psychologist has to be a challenge.   One must depend on behavior rather than a common language to communicate.   Even though animals are known to talk, you have to understand them to translate.
For Caro Lamont, this is her career.   Previously she lost her license to work with humans caused by her husband and ending in divorce.
Caro moved on to another place in an exclusive area in southern California, Laguna Beach; she now deals with slightly different clients, the non-human kind.  This community has more dog residents than children.
Her first client of the day is Kevin Blackstone who is having difficulties with his two German Shepherds.   They are upset and overly excitable, refusing to calm.
Two hours after her visit, Kevin is dead.  Caro knows that she is not the killer being he was alive when she left.
What about the shifty gardener who observed her?   Why was he not working and watching?  Why don't the dogs like this man?
If you are not certain if the police will clear your name as a person of interest, politically correct way of saying suspect, what do you do?
Sparkle Abbey is the combined work of two central Iowa authors both being owned by their pets. Mary Lee Woods writes for her cat, Sparkle.  Anita Carter is commanded by her dog, Abbey.
Desperate Housedogs aims for a female audience of light, cozy mystery readers.   The book is simplistic in form and organization while establishing the characters for many future books in this first book of the series.
Desperate Housedogs is fun to read while in pursuit of a murderer and to have to deal with a close-knit community including gossip and running a small business while maintaining personal relationships.
Does anyone lose business if they are a person of interest in a murder?
Why does the police, even a handsome officer, insist that Caro stay out of the investigation when she has more relationships and access to the real suspects?   Why can't they trust her?
I thoroughly recommend Desperate Housedogs to any reader who enjoys a fun, fast-paced, light mystery.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Midnight Watch

The Midnight Watch
David Dyer
St. Martin's Press
New York, New York
First Published in Australia
ISBN: 9781250080936
$ 26.99
323 pages

"The midnight watch: a time of loneliness, demons, and trances".
The night the Titanic sunk, April 14th, 1912,  was also the same night that the closest ship, the Californian had difficulty itself fighting the constant enclosing ice and avoiding icebergs.
During the midnight watch on the Californian, a distress call was sent to them by the Titanic.   The Californian's captain,  Captain Lord, chose to ignore all communications including lanterns using Morse Code, telegraph communications, and the sight of eight white rockets from the sinking Titanic.
The rescued survivors of the Titanic in the rowboats actually could see the Californian in the distance and expected them to save them and those in the frozen ocean.
Fortunately for those in who were rescues, another ship, the Carpathian was further from the Titanic and collected those lucky survivors.
Unfortunately, thousands died in the ocean while hoping the nearby ship; the Carpathian would rescue them quickly.
However, the Carpathian did not come to their aid.
Eventually, communication between Carpathian and the Californian was established with directions for the Californian to search for bodies.   For some reason, the Californian found none, of course, the location they supposedly looked was not correct.
The Midnight Watch is based on the investigation both in the United States and England regarding the role of the Carpathian and the choices made by Captain Lord.  
Lord's crew was torn between honesty and loyalty.    On shipboard, everyone is expected to follow the captain through all situations even when he is either wrong or lying.   For many of the crew, this conflicted with their values of honesty and the rules of the sea with loyalty to their captain.
The Midnight Watch is the fascinating story from various perspectives of the actual historical events.   Viewing the disaster from different people in varying roles allows the reader to decide whether or not they agree with the final decisions.
Even with the disastrous event happening more than one-hundred years ago, The Midnight Watch is an investigative mystery into the past.
The author, David Dyer, writes what he knows best.  Having worked on various types of merchant vessels, and graduating from the Australian Maritime College, he worked as a lawyer at a London legal firm whose parent company represented the Titanic's owners in 1912.  Currently, he is employed as an English literature in Sydney.
Dyer has created an utterly enthralling journey in the Titanic's disastrous past.

If You Were Me and Lived in...The Ancient Mali Empire, Ancient China Han Dynasty, The Mayan Empire

If You Were Me and Lived in... The Ancient Mali Empire
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
ISBN: 978-1540337276
78 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China Han Dynasty
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
ISBN: 978-1532875243
76 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in...The Mayan Empire
Illustrator: Paula Tabor
ISBN: 978-1535046213
64 pages
Author: Carole P. Roman
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
$ 16.99

If You Were Me and Lived in the Ancient Mali Empire begins in the year of 1322 and covered much of the area of Western Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert including the current area of western Sudan.  
Reflecting on both the time and the area is a typical Islamic family including a father with many wives.  For this particular family, there is a total of seventeen siblings with the perspective from a favored daughter.
Essential to both the time and area were the trade routes uniting Asia and Africa in their exchange of gold, salt, silk, and slaves.
If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China was about life in the year 150 A.D. and life in China about two thousand years ago.  The Han dynasty of this time is considered to be the Golden Age of Ancient China with people reading and writing literature and poetry as well as the creation of porcelain china.
Life here was very involved with The Silk Road connecting cities throughout all of China creating the new positions of merchants.
 The development of the entire silk industry began at this time, explaining how silk is made starting with the moth, with the worms feeding all the mulberry bushes, worms spinning cocoons, killing the moths, and spinning their silk into threads.  This process made many people wealthy and was a secret which if revealed was punishable by death.
If You Were Me and Lived in the Mayan Empire takes occurs in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico about 1500 years ago.    These people are the only ancient American society that wrote of their history that prospered by establishing trade routes.
These Mayans were attractive if their heads had been flattened from birth and crossed eyes.  The idea was to resemble an ear of corn.   A jewel was tied between the boards around the head to cross the eyes.
Included with this book are the many contributions these people gave to the world that were foundations of today's modern society throughout the world.
Each book has its glossary regarding the book including pronunciations and definitions for their particular time and place.
All three of these books are outstanding in enriching readers of all ages of individuals living in different times and venues with a multitude of various experiences unique to their culture.
The only way any of us can be more accepting of others from other places is to be educated in their way of life and to discover their lives are not so different from our own.

The Bitter Season

The Bitter Season
Tami Hoag
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 9780451470072
Mass Market Paperback
$ 9.99
480 pages

Supposedly change is good for us, but unfortunately we do not always adjust as well as we could, or should even if it our choice to change.
Detective Nikki Liska has this problem.   She chose to leave homicide due to the long and unpredictable hours which are difficult for a single-parent of two teenaged boys.
This was her choice.
Now she is a part of the newly formed cold case unit in Minneapolis.   Now she has predictable hours, at least that is what she believes entering this position.
Each member of this team is going through the extensive files of cold cases, choosing what case they can successfully solve.  With newness, each member is acutely aware of the need for success in order to continue and be of value to the force and to the taxpayers.
The selected case is the murder of a police officer, Ted Duffy which happened twenty-years ago.   If the police could not solve it in all those years, why would the cold case unit now be able to find new information?  Nikki is not pleased with this decision.
Strangely, Nikki quickly discovers that Ted's widow married his twin brother.   Also the former investigating detective seems to want to be too involved with this new investigation.
Her former partner, Kovac, who is still in homicide is trying to find a new partner.   That is not easy for an experienced detective accustomed to his own procedures. 
His newest case is the brutal murder of a college professor of East Asian history and his wife.   The killer had used a samarai sword and nunjucks.
The professor was due at an interview that morning to become head of his department.  Would anyone kill over a promotion?
The pace of these two alternating storylines creates the perfect  page-turner with characters thoroughly developed with complex relationships complicated with both their personal and professional lives.
California resident, Tammy Hoag, is the best-selling authors of more than thirty books published into over forty million copies of their books translated into more than thirty languages.
The Bitter Season is a fast-paced novel the 480 pages go by.  This book is enthrallingly addictive as you accompany the converging investigations combining past and the present.
Who would best enjoy this mystery?   Any adult reader who delights in a well-plotted and organized story that is a complete distraction from a busy life would be entirely engrossed in this complex real-life novel.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rogue Wolf

Rogue Wolf
Book Three of The Oldenglen Chronicles
Robin Mason
Tricklewood Press
Brooklyn, Ontario
ISBN: 978-0-9948371-6-5
Trade Paperback
384 pages

Oldenglen  is a special place near Jax’s home in southern Oregon. Having his life uprooted from life in England was difficult for him. However, school wasn’t his salvation, but the magical relationship he discovered with this unique forest and the creatures who live within as well as the trust and friendship with each other.
Keeping the area protected is always a constant challenge. With the ever-expanding new housing developments for humans threatening the natural habitats of the wild creatures while keeping the balance of nature between the expanding population of people and nature.
Balances within Oldenglen are also difficult to maintain. Providing food for all creatures requires just the correct proportion between predators and prey. Too many prey demands massive amounts of plants and small creatures, while predators must depend on an abundance of prey, otherwise they starve.
Oldenglen now is facing two challenges.
The first involves some new visitors, eleven wolves. The problem is that this area of the glen cannot possibly feed that many without decimating the population of the prey animals.How does anyone convince the wolves to leave the area? How many creatures will be food for this pack?With their needs for food, the local ranchers raising sheep and cows are fearful for the survival of their herds. They see the only solution is to have the wolves killed.
Another problem bothering Jax and Sarah is the existence of two nearby poachers who are renting from Sarah’s grandfather. Can they possibly save the young eagle that was captured?
Rogue Wolf is the third book in this projected five book series. This Oldenglen series should be read in order. Minimally, all readers need to read the first book, Oldenglen to understand the characters and their relationships and history individually and with each other.
Oldenglen, the first book in the series has been the recipient of many awards including a Silver Medal at the 2016 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for The Bill Fisher Award for the Best First Book: Children’s Young Adult, and Second Place in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2015/2016 for ages 12-16.
Book Two, Lone Wolf also won numerous awards. It was a Red Ribbon Winner in The Wishing Shelf Book, a finalist in the 2016 Foreward Indies for Juvenile Fiction, a Silver Medalist in the 2017 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for Young Readers, and an Honorable Mention in the Readers Views Literary Awards 2016/2017.
In all these books, including this one, all the characters are believable and realistic including the animals which stay true to the creature and have personalities while magically communicating with Jax.
With the theme of balance, friendship, and anti-bullying, the pace is quick with the reader wanting more with their cliff-hanging chapter ends and the book truly expressing the harmony of nature.
Even the cover is beautifully illustrated by artist, Chris Beatrice.
The Oldenglen series was begun by author Robin Mason and his father, Michael Mason. Robin completed books two and three completely by himself. Robin was born in England but spent considerable time in his childhood exploring an estate in British Columbia while his father read to him numerous books including The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy.
This book is recommended for children from ages eight to twelve. Personally, I would find this book challenging for an eight-year old to read independently and believe this age level would thoroughly enjoy it as a read-aloud.
I also recommend this book be extended to readers through high school. In actuality readers of all ages, adult and children would completely enjoy Rogue Wolf.