A Coming-To-America-To-Make-A-Better-Life-for-Oneself-Story: A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George

I love immigrants-in-search-of-a-new-life stories! This one by Alex George, published in 2012 begins in 1904 and narrates the story of three generations (generational, family stories being another of my favorites) and tells the sweep-you-away love story of Frederick and Jette. Young lovers, they discover that Jette is pregnant and must flee the wrath and disappointment of her mother and family and make a married life for themselves in America. They intend to live in New York, but only have enough passage money to book for New Orleans, and through mishaps and misunderstandings in communication, end up starting their new life in Beatrice, Missouri, a fictional town in a very real county in Missouri.

The story is narrated by their grandson, James. Near the end of the book, James uncovers a family secret that rocks his world and reveals his true identity. It is a “sweeping” story that explores a love of music ranging from Puccini to Barbershop quartets, so popular in America in the 1900’s. It deals with family expectations and the consequences when one does not live up to them, expressed throughout three generations.

There are many memorable characters, of whom Jette was my favorite, both as a young spunky girl and as an old, strong matriarch of an impressive family. In A Good American, “Each new generation discovers what it means to be an American,” and each generation strives to be what Frederick  adopted as his major life’s goal, to be a good American.

YA NOVEL, EVERY SOUL A STAR: A Review

Wendy Moss has written a young adult novel that interested me, and I am far from a young adult. She uses an interesting format; every three chapters alternate between the three main characters, Ally, Bree, and Jack.  The entire story is told from three separate points of view. Ally lives at Moon Shadow, a campground where the nearest town is an hour’s drive away. She gives star lectures at this perfect place to view the Great Eclipse as hundreds and thousands of tourists worldwide come to view the solar eclipse. Bree is Ally’s opposite, popular, gorgeous, whose goal is to be on the cover of Seventeen magazine before turning seventeen.  Jack is “overweight and awkward,”raised by a single mom.  He is an artist who daydreams and draws in class and has been given the opportunity to come assist his science teacher camp guide in lieu of going to summer school.

The book is often humorous, very warm, and very engaging. It is about “strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s own place in the universe.” It is not your typical romance, and focuses on friendships instead of sexual attraction.  It is a fast-paced, enjoyable read which kept me up late finishing it.

THE BOOK OF AWESOME WOMEN: Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes, and Female Firsts

This non-fiction book by Becca Anderson would make an excellent reference book and is also, at the same time extremely readable.  It was fun to go through and learn about “famous” women, who are presented in a way that kept me reading and wanting to learn more. The title, cleverly, says it all.  The chapters are divided into women who broke boundaries of race, gender and personal obstacles to be overcome; those who fought for freedom from the earliest days to the twenty-first century; “Sheroes” some of whom were my personal “heroes” as a young girl and as an adult; and those females who dared to be the first to do whatever needed to be done.

The forward by Vicki Leon made the statement that, “Well behaved women rarely make history,” so some of the women were considered unseemly,  un-ladylike, pushy etc. when they were just ahead of their time in their thinking and actions. Anderson chooses environmentalists, athletes, scientists, women of color, music muses, resistors, and artists, in the broadest definition of the word.

This book is a catalog of “Sheroes” that would make a great outline for a women’s study course or a personal study of women in general. Many of my “old friends” from sixth grade forward like Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor; Florence Nightingale, who reformed the institution of nursing; Marie Curie, the discoverer of Uranium and the “inventor” of x-rays; and many many more of the childhood biographies I read were discussed in excellent, attention-keeping detail, and readable entries. The section on Women of Color is especially well done, including women from Sojourner Truth to Michelle Obama, as the author discussed the women’s lives and the real “obstacles” they overcame to make their contributions to our culture and our society.

Some of the entries were short, little known (to me) ancient women in leadership positions whom little is known about, but the author included them in her listings.  Others, more familiar, had longer entries which often gave little known facts about these sheroes that were fascinating to read and made me admire them even more.

It is not a book for just women. Young men and women, older adults who hear of names that sound familiar but aren’t sure of what they’re “famous” for, and anyone who wants information presented in a reader-friendly, interesting way should read this fine book.

The exciting news is that this book will be released on July 20th by Mango publishing  at http://mangopublishingroup.com

Information is available at http://bit.ly/2uRV9Vw or http://amzn.to/2uRWf3p

A Hard-To-Classify Novel: A Review

The Keeper of Lost Things, a 2017 debut novel by Ruth Hogan, is extremely hard to classify.  It is a love story, a mystery, a ghost story, a good “recipe” for a “good read.”

Take a large portion of characterization equal parts of Anthony Perkins, once a celebrated author of short stories; Laura, his recently betrayed assistant, who is struggling both financially and emotionally; and Frank, handsome but scarred (literally) gardener…

Pour mixture into a large old house with a locked study filled with…what? and add a dash of a teenage Downs  Syndrome girl named Sunshine, a pinch of a grumpy ghost, a dollop of short vignettes inspired by sometimes sad circumstances.

Mix with a wooden spoon until the plot thickens (pun intended), and ladle into a baking pan. Bake in the heat of a sexual attraction until humor is emitted from the touch of a finger, and the reader has a story about “second chances, endless possibilities, and joyful discoveries.

Promise from the recipe writer:  The results will be most enjoyable!

 

SETTING FREE THE KITES by Alex George: A Review

This 2017 novel, available in large print at the Alvin Public Library, was an “impulse pick up” displayed at the library much like the impulse buys at the grocery store. My biggest compliment to the author is that the characterization (which I read for, more than plot) was outstanding. The story was set in Haverford, Maine and begins in 1976 when the narrator , Robert Carter, was attending Longfellow Middle School.

Like most middle schools, Longfellow had its bullies, specifically Hollis Calhoun, whose main purpose in life was to make Robert’s life miserable. Enter on the scene, the “new boy,” Nathan Tilly, who although small in stature, confronts Hollis and rescues Robert.  From there, a friendship is formed that supersedes Robert’s older brother’s disability and Nathan’s loss of his father shortly after moving to town. Robert’s part in this terrible accident, leaving Faye, Nathan’s mother unhinged and unhappy, is the complexity of plot and human emotion that evolves as the novel progresses. Robert is Nathan/Gatsby’s, Nick/ the narrator, as we meet the true main character, Nathan, who is described by critics as “confident, fearless,impetetous–and fascinated by kites and flying” with a “boundless capacity for optimism.”  Yes, the novel is filled with tragedies–some small, some huge–but the indomitable ability of human nature to “cope” comes through loud and clearly.

The book deals with “truths about family, desire and revenge”. Surprises come every time the reader “turns a corner.” Many are hilarious; others are sad, and some cause warm and fuzzy feelings on the part of the reader. Kites has a satisfying ending, the dialog is spot-on, and the entire book is laugh-out-loud funny.  I read it in a day and a half. I couldn’t put it down.

 

Who Is the Human? Sam, Fred, Dylax: A Review of a Sci-Fi Novel

Gary Pegoda’s novel begins with a question posed on the title page: “If computers were human in every way, would it be human? How would you know?” In this day of messing around with IA, it is a question to be considered. The first character we meet is Sam, “I am Sam, the Star Bright Machine…” a computer activated in 2020 who is, in its/his own words, “intelligent,” and “conscious” although he/it is a quantum computer in reality. The second character we meet is Fred, who is escaping from Sam, in a series of fast-paced, action-filled escapes and near-escapes as Fred tries to decide whether he, Fred, is a human or a figment of Sam’s creation and imagination. When Dylax, who speaks strangely and is a bit hard to follow until one gets used to her disjointed, out-of-syntax speech, comes on the scene, she is the love-match for Fred, and the sex is out-of-this-world (pun intended).

Although the story is puzzling at times (I believe that is the author’s intention), the twists and turns keep readers turning the pages to see what happens next.  Oftentimes it is another beating, another capture, another operation to implant or take out implants on poor Fred.

Fortunately, the novel has a very satisfying ending, leaving it open for a sequel, which I hope the author will write.  I for one will follow these fascinating characters and their lives/existences.

TUESDAY TEASER

This meme hosted by The Purple Booker asks readers to take the book they’re currently reading, open it at random, and copy a couple of sentences that might tease other readers into reading the same book.

I love books about books, reading, and people who love books. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is just such a book.  It is her first book, her debut novel, which tells the story of Sarah who comes to visit the US from Sweden to see her elderly Book Buddy, Amy, only to find a surprise.  While spending her time in Broken Wheel, almost a ghost town, Sarah re-opens Amy’s small shop as a book shop, using Amy’s vast collection of books as her merchandise. Here is an excerpt from near the beginning of the book:

As she enters the local cafe, Sarah meets Grace, the toughest, shotgun-toting woman in town who owns the place.  Grace speaks: “You must be the tourist,” she said.  The smoke from her cigarette hit Sarah in the face.”

“I’m Sarah.  Do you know where Amy Harris lives?”

“The woman nodded,  “One hell of a day”, a lump of ash from her cigarette landed on the counter…” “She leaned over the counter. Amy’s dead, she said.”

This is one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud-books I’ve ever read, and it makes me want to go an see what Sarah brought about in Broken Wheel, just through the introduction of books into people’s lives.