Book Review: The Dance of the Spirits by Catherine Aerie

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Another book tour by Sage. I have to be honest, this book took a little time before it could capture my interest at all. There was a point where I was wondering if I should email Sage and let her know that I wouldn’t be able to review it. Thankfully, the story did pick up and I did get through the book.

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Jasmine Young is a Chinese woman, part of the Korean War, one of the few to have volunteered into it, unlike most others. Born into a rich and privileged family, Jasmine had the best of education and had not known the lack of anything until her mother died and changed everything for her and her family.

Personal circumstances weren’t the only things that changed for Jasmine. Soon the political climate changed too and circumstances landed her right into the war. Jasmine had just completed her medical training and her first opportunity to work as a doctor is in the war. The book is the touching story of Jasmine as she lives through the horrible war, when people lose love, belongings, and most of all dignity and liberty.

The book is interesting in parts, but in some sections I found it hard to keep reading. Especially the descriptions of war. I suppose it must just be me. All the descriptions of bloodshed and wounded people was a bit too much for me. However given that the book revolves around a medic in a war, it makes sense. I did feel that the author tends to be over descriptive. I love descriptions normally, of the sort that transport you into the places which they talk about, in this book however, it was a struggle. I struggled to read them through.

The snippets of history that the author provides gives a nice context to what is happening in the book. Given that I was completely ignorant about the political situation surrounding the war, it made sense. The class hierarchy and the huge class divide in China that helped in welcoming a Communist wave is brought out very well. I also enjoyed Jasmine’s childhood and the account of her life before the war. It gave us an insight into Jasmine as a person.

Some books are not for you, unfortunately. This was one of those. A book that might well appeal to others, but a book that I struggled to read. A 2.5/5 for me.

I got this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

About the Author

Catherine Aerie, a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a master degree in finance. She was inspired to write ‘The Dance of Spirits’ while researching a family member’s role in the Korean War, deciding to revive an often overlooked setting in fiction and heighten the universality go love and liberty. Her debut novel was completed after about two years of research.

This book is available from Amazon.

Book Review: Our Orbit by Anesa Miller

image I get to be the host at Sage’s Blog Tours again. This time with Anesa Miller’s book, Our Orbit. Sage sent me this book in exchange of a honest and fair review. image image Nine year old Miriam Winslow has had enough trouble to last a lifetime. If losing her mother wasn’t enough, within months of her mother’s death, her father, Levi, gets thrown into prison for being a tax protester. Miriam and her siblings get separated as each of them have had different arrangements put in place by the authorities. Mirium, the youngest get Rick and Deanne Fletcher as her foster parents. Rick and Deanne wholeheartedly welcome Miriam into their family. Miriam is different from them though. She had been brought up in a different way, no new clothes, no luxuries, extremely ostentatious ways of showing remorse in church. Her father believed in all this, and her mother had gone along with it. Her older brother Issac lived with his wife, away and wasn’t all that affected but her other brother Josh was as fanatic as her father. Rachelle her sister, rebelled and went the other way, landed in juvenile prison.

As all this came to fore, Rick and Deanne struggle but continue to do the right thing for their new foster daughter. Miriam has her own struggles too, having come to live in a family that is strongly secular, where children don’t live in fear that their actions could cause harm to the rest of the family, and a house full of nice beautiful things. For Miriam, it’s a life far far different from the one she left, and one she isn’t sure she ought to be living in, any way, given that she has learned that luxuries of this kind are not right, all her life. Josh, her brother’s strong views do not help at all. Neither does her unbelieving sister’s actions.

A touching story of how two families with conflicting ways of life and beliefs are thrown together by tragedy. A well crafted book, with small insightful incidents, showing how each family and each person responded to things.

All the characters were well-rounded, people who you could understand, even if you didn’t agree with their motivations. Relationships between them explored beautifully, be it Miriam’s relationship with her foster parents Rachelle’s with their aunt and cousin, the siblings themselves or Josh and his girlfriend. The flow of writing was perfect. The book progressed at a very good pace, not too slow, not too fast,perfect for the kind of topic it addresses. I liked the way it ended as well, with just enough for the reader to ponder over.

What I liked most about the book is the way it handled and explored the hypocrisy that comes with blind faith. Of how easily wrongs can be justified for, just because it’s part of our faith. The risk that blind faith or blind belief in anything entails. The book also makes you think about the role of poverty in the way people react to religion. The author tackles the subject with sensitivity and compassion, with an understanding of why people behave the way they do in these circumstances, rather than just being judgmental, which I think makes the book a pleasure to read.

A book that I’m so glad I got to read, a 4.5/5 rating from me.

About the Author

Anesa Miller is a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and has been awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship in Creative Writing from the Ohio Arts Council in 1998. Her poems and prose have been published in The Kenyon Review, The Cream City Review, The California Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, and many others. She now devotes herself to writing full-time. More about her here.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

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Ellen Moore is a conscientious social worker. A mother of three, she works with troubled families and several times, has had to make difficult decisions regarding her clients. Of taking children into care, because their parents were incapable of caring for them. A difficult decision, but one she has had to make, as that seemed the right thing to do for the children’s well-being. As a social worker, Ellen has seen the worst kind of things that people could do to children. She has fought to keep children safe, to bring the guilty to justice. Some cases she’s been successful, but in others criminals have got away, those are the ones that continue to haunt her.

In a sad twist of fate, Ellen finds herself in the same situation as her clients. She had a momentary lapse and faces the possibility of her child being taken away from her.

As a ferocious children’s rights and protection advocate she finds herself trapped in the same situation as her clients. Her former colleagues have no option but to follow the rules, especially when its one of their own who is the one facing charges.

As Ellen goes through the worst ever nightmare, her family rallies around her. Her husband with his unstinting support and her mother, with more practical means like providing her two older children with a home while their mother battle out with the authorities. Ellen’s mother has another unexpected charge, ten years old Jenny, who had ended up separated from her dad. Jenny has a story of her own. Living with her loving but alcoholic dad has exposed her to dangers as well as a survival mechanism way beyond her years. The one thing she has learnt in her short life is to stay clear of social workers, and funnily enough, she ends up in a social worker’s mother house of all places.

Ellen’s and Jenny’s stories is narrated in parallel. A very interesting narrative, one that makes you think. It could happen to any of us. Despite being the best of parents, what if we commit one mistake, just one innocent mistake, that makes us a criminal. One mistake that could end up separating you from your beloved child. A very scary prospect. That’s what it is. And yet, possible. Even if we are very careful most of the time, it could be that one tiny mistake that might turn into the worst mistake of our life. It was a situation, I as a parent, could easily relate to.

A book that affected me, and a book that I enjoyed reading. Well etched characters, an interesting premise and a fast paced narrative. A book I would recommend, if you like reading this genre of books. I do, and would rate it 4/5.

About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf is a NY times and USA Today bestselling author.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Reflection by Diane Chamberlain

If you browse through my reviews, you’ll find a lot of Diane Chamberlain books on there. Just goes to show how much I like her style of writing, doesn’t it?

I chanced upon this at my now-very-irregular lunchtime library run. I’ve started reading on the Kindle far more, and work has been really busy, plus I’m late most days in the mornings, so I make up for it by minimising my lunch time. It’s been fine apart from the fact that I don’t seem to reach the library these days. So, where was I? Oh yes, I found this book on one of my lunchtime library run. And having enjoyed Chamberlain before, picked it up without checking reviews on Goodreads.

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Rachel Huber has not been to Reflection, a small town in Pennsylvania Dutch country, for twenty years, when a terrible incident forced her to leave the place she grew up in. Now, twenty years later she comes back to nurse her ill grandmother, Helen, who was struck by lightening. Rachel, a teacher by profession, comes back to a town still stuck in the tragedy that happened then, and realises that most people still held a grudge and held her responsible for what happened then. While she had expected some amount of it, the scale of the hatred that she faced left her shaken. The town hadn’t moved on at all, but then how easy it, to move on? When families have been destroyed, lives uprooted…

Thankfully for Rachel, she’s not completely alone in an antagonistic town, she has support in her old childhood friend Michael and unexpectedly, her grandmother Helen, with whom she realises, she shares a lot more than she had realised. Her time in Reflection, for Helen, becomes a time for coming to terms with her past, to stop running away from the ghosts of her past and facing up to the demons that haunt her. A beautiful story of love, loss and forgiveness.

A beautiful book, full of sub plots, and intricate relationships. It had so many elements to it, so many layers and yet, everything beautifully balanced, an absolute page turner, keeping the suspense going until the very end. Characters you empathise with, characters you understand, even when they have completely divergent stands or points of view. The title especially, I felt was very apt. This will be one of my favourite Diane Chamberlains so far. I’ve found that her books are advertised as ‘Jodi Picoult type’ books, but I do think that she has a flavour of her own, a style that I quite enjoy.

A 4/5 for me.

Book Review: Wrong, For the Right Reasons by Ritu Lalit

I’ve read Ritu Lalit before, and have enjoyed her writing, although all her books I’ve read so far have been of the fantasy genre. ‘Wrong, for the Right Reasons’, sounded very interesting, and luckily for me, the Kindle edition was available on Amazon(UK).

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Shyamoli Verna, a regular young woman, has gone back to her parents’ house. Which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, had she not had two children in tow, and a broken down marriage with her. Of course, from her mother’s point of view, she had done everything for her daughter, by getting her married. Once married, it was the daughter’s responsibility to stay married. Adjust. Compromise. After all her husband doesn’t ‘beat’ her. A little infidelity? Surely women could overlook that!

Undeterred by her mother’s (and society in general) attitude, Shyamoli sets out to make a life for her and her two children.

It’s a fascinating book, a window to what a divorcee goes through in Indian society, a place where a married woman has the sole responsibility of keeping her marriage intact. The double standards and obstacles that a single woman has to encounter. The style of writing is very engaging. It helps that Shyamoli is a regular woman, with the same insecurities and inhibitions that most of us have. She is an easy protagonist to identify with, to relate to, and to cheer on. You want to see her succeed.

I particularly liked the well-etched out characters. Shyamoli, initially who had lost her confidence, who got road rolled by her mothers, to the Shyamoli who slowly regains her confidence and flair. Her son, and her wonderfully spirited daughter, Ketaki. I really liked that name, Ketaki (although that had nothing to do with liking the actual book 🙂 )and absolutely loved the character of Ketaki. Spirited, exuberant, spunky! What a fun character she was! The various relationships well drawn out. The difficult relationship Shyamoli has with her mother, the complicated relationship she has with her daughter, the comfortable one with her son, they all felt so real, it could have been our neighbours, it could have been our relatives, it could have been us.

The Afghan element to the story was equally fascinating. I’m longing to find out from the author how she knows so much about the Afghan culture and language. To me, it added a unique and wonderful flavour to the book. A book I would easily rate a 4/5.

About the Author
Ritu Lalit, is an author of four books, A Bowlful of Butterflies, a coming of age story about three fast friends in school, HILAWI a fantasy thriller, and Chakra, Chronicles of the Witch Way, again a fantasy adventure, and Wrong, for the right reasons. Forthcoming murder mystery, My Father’s Mistress.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: The Archers Revenge by Destination Infinity

Destination Infinity is a blogger who I read. I don’t do much of blog hopping these days, but I still read the old timers blogs, albeit sporadically. So when DI asked me to review his book, I agreed. Although, I always worry about reviewing books of people I know. Because what do I say if I don’t enjoy the book? Do I just keep quiet and not mention anything. There was once this lady blogger I came across. She is a prolific blogger and has a few books to her credit. Now, I used to follow her blog, but her books weren’t as great. And she asked me outright how I found her books, which had me grasping for words, wondering how to put it politely..

So yes, where was I? Yes, DI sent me a copy of his book for an honest review, and me being as efficient as I am, took ages to get around to reading it. Apologies, DI, for the delay, and thank you so much for asking for an honest review, it’s so much easier when an author wants genuine feedback.

The Archer’s Revenge is the story of Aryan, a young man, Aryan, and his quest to revenge his father’s death. Aryan’s father’s death was camouflaged as a sudden cardiac death, until he got an anonymous tip that he was murdered at the behest of the Minister, Guru. Having known that, Aryan sets out planning his revenge and he plans to use archery to achieve his objective. He is single minded in his quest, and fate brings him a companion, Divya, another person with a similar story, and a common goal.

It is an interesting story, the plot, well thought out, and well executed. I enjoyed the twists and turns, and had a tiny, really tiny inkling that there was a twist in the offing, however, when it came, it was still a surprise. The plot, and the handling of it, was done well. The author has managed to build up his story and the backgrounds of each of the protagonists really well to explain the motives of the characters, right from Aryan to Guru, the minister. All this makes it a believable book, even if archery might still not be considered a method of choice for most people seeking revenge of this sort.

What I felt could have made it much better, is better editing. The title itself is a case in point. The language, the style of the book, could have been improved much more with proper professional editing, but for a first time author, I thought it was a good effort, with a very different storyline, nicely interspersed with local flavours, and culture.

A book that I would rate 3.5/5.

About the Author
Destination Infinity (Rajesh K) is a vetern Indian Blogger who has recently forayed into the world of writing (books as opposed to blogs).

Book Review: Will You Remember Me by Amanda Prowse

Another book that leapt out at me from the shelves of a library. That also reminds me that I’ve not been to a library in the past three weeks. *gasps in shock at the realization* Not even my lunch time library run! I have been downloading e-books. I’ve become a convert, I have to say. While I still love regular books, the lure of marked down books is too difficult to ignore.

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Poppy Day is a 32 year old young woman. Mother to two adorable children, wife to Mart, an army man and her childhood sweetheart. Mart is just back after tour with the army, safe, and is considering packing in his army career which takes him away so much from his family. For Poppy, nothing can be happier news than knowing that her husband might be with them all the time, even if it means that she would have to forgo some of the things she currently takes for granted, like the house she is so proud of. Nothing can match having her partner, her husband with her and not having him go away on dangerous missions to all sorts of unstable parts of the world.

Busy with her children and her regular life, Poppy almost misses a lump in her breast. And unfortunately for her, it turns out to be cancer. Poppy Day knows that she has to fight it and fight it hard, she can’t let cancer take her away from her family, the family she has fought so hard for, the life she has fought so hard for. Poppy has come a long way from her origins in the East End of London, and she isn’t about to let cancer take it all away.

It is such a heart wrenching story, a young woman, at the prime of her life faced with the possibility of dying before her time, way before her time. The way the story is narrated, is both sweet and sad at the same time. It is a book that could move you to tears, and as a mother with a young child myself, I could almost place myself in her place and imagine what she must be going through. The possibility of your children never knowing you, of growing up without their mother, of not having their mother with them at the most crucial time of their lives.. Poppy had grown up with a mother who did little for her daughter. She always tried hard to be the sort of mother she always wanted for herself, and facing the possibility that she might not, is such a cruel, cruel fate.

A heart wrenching story, but a story well worth the read. I loved the way the author brought out so many emotions, Poppy’s own situation, Mart’s frustration at not being able to do anything to help his wife, the children and their ways of dealing with what they understood of the situation.. A beautifully written book. This book was apparently a sequel to another book, which I hadn’t read but this doesn’t hamper the storyline in anyway. It is just that readers who had read the previous book might connect and empathise with Poppy and Mart even more, but it certainly didn’t detract from this book, for me. There were some elements of the book that didn’t work for me, which I can’t really go into without revealing too much of the book, making it 3.5/5 book for me. Otherwise it could have easily been a 4.5/5 book.

About the author
Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. When her family isn’t being uprooted by the army, Amanda lives blissfully in the West Country with her soldier husband and their two teenage sons.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).