Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Title: The Golden Son
Author: Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Year Published: 2016

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 387
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)India

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book for myself

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Anil is the cherished eldest son of a large family from an Indian village, expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain they inhabit and her dear parents. As childhood friends, they are inseparable, with one of those rare relationships that transcends circumstance and the inequalities of life. But with the pressures and complications of adulthood, their paths begin to diverge. Anil journeys to America to pursue his dream of becoming a medical doctor, finding both temptation and trial at a gritty urban hospital in Dallas, Texas. In India, Leena leaves her beloved home to join her new husband in a distant village, to discover her new family has unexpected complications.

Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart. Many years later, their lives intersect once again. Altered by their choices and experiences, these two old friends are reunited when they need each other most. A tender and bittersweet story of friendship and family.

Review: I LOVED Gowda's Secret Daughter and was beyond excited when I saw this book! As with Secret Daughter, this book had me from the very start. I am not sure if it's the writing style, the characters, both, or something else, but I just love this author's books.

Gowda does a wonderful job of setting the scene. I feel like I can smell the Indian village, with it's fields of cotton and sugarcane, the cooking, and the dirt roads. I can also feel the chaos and tension of the Dallas hospital where Anil works and his shame as he feels he has let down his family, friends, and himself.

Gowda's characters are also strong, from Anil and Leena to the supporting cast of Leena's horrible husband and in-laws to Anil's American colleagues and friends as well as his family in India. I want them all to be okay! I assumed that I knew how this story would end, but I was wrong on many fronts, which I like. As the book ended I felt at peace. Then I thought: When is her next book coming?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sunday Salon January 15, 2017

My life in books: 
This past two weeks I didn't read much at all and I'm not sure why though I did go book shopping! Here's what I read since my last Sunday Salon
  • Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton. I enjoyed reading these stories!
  • March: Book One by John Lewis. This book felt fitting as we get closer to the inauguration
  • Diamond Boy by Michael Williams. This book was interesting and a good YA
  • Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell. I am a Patricia Cornwell fan, but this wasn't one of my favorites.
And here are the books I bought for myself on a spree at Chaucer's, our local independent bookshop

  • The Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (post civil war in Sierra Leon)
  • Still Life by Louise Penny (a mystery that many people have told me is good)
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (2 people recommended this one to me)
  • Night of Many Dreams by Gail Tsukiyama (I love all her books)
  • The Invention of Wings by Susan Monk Kidd (it seems everyone is saying this one is a must read)
  • March: Book One by John Lewis (see above)

My life outside books:
Winter break was really fun with my daughter home from school. She had an extra week after I went back to work, but the week was filled with every doctor, dentist, orthodontist appointment possible. She also got her driver's permit! I thought I was going to be really nervous driving with her, but we got her 6 professional hours done in the few days after she passed the test so she felt confident enough that I did, too. I even let her drive half the way back to her school (I drove in Los Angeles!).

My new job is really sedentary so I have been trying to walk more. Yesterday was a beautiful morning here so I walked down to the beach and was treated to dolphins frolicking in the ocean. Not a bad way to begin a three-day weekend. I walked to the beach again this morning. No dolphins, but plenty of sunshine.

I was planning on going to LA next weekend for the Women's March, but it turns out someone is organizing one here in Santa Barbara so I'm going to attend that one instead. It turns out she hadn't really done much organizing other than posting about it so I created the Facebook Event and will also get the permit from the city. It feels good to be involved.

Review: March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Title: March: Book One
Author: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin (art by Nate Powell)
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA non-fiction (graphic novel)
Pages: 121
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (Alabama, Tennessee, Washington, DC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book for myself

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book One spans John Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Review: I first heard about this book when I saw John Lewis interviewed after he led the sit-in in the House of Representative last year. Then it kept cropping up from various sources so I figured I should read it.

The civil rights era in the United States is one that I have always found fascinating. The stories are familiar: segregation at every level in the south; nonviolent protests at lunch counters; marches; voter registration drives; jail time; beatings; and more. However, each time I read them I glean a new understanding of what it must have been like, what it took to stand up to the in justices.

John Lewis and his colleagues paved the way for everyone that came after them. They demonstrated restraint, honor, and bravery. That is always a good thing to read about. I definitely want to get ahold of March: Book Two and March: Book Three. This volume, Book One, takes the reader through preparations for President Barack Obama's first inauguration and John Lewis' early years (through 1960). I look forward to reading the next phases of his journey.

Review: Diamond Boy by Michael Williams

Title: Diamond Boy
Author: Michael Williams
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 373
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map): Zimbabwe and South Africa

FTC Disclosure: I received this book as a gift

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): "Diamonds are for everyone." That's what fifteen-year-old Patson Moyo hears when his family arrives in the Marange diamond fields of southern Africa. Soon Patson is working in the mines along with four friends, each of them hoping to find a girazi, a priceless stone that could change their lives forever. But when the government's soldiers come to Marange, Patson's world is shattered.

Set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's brutal recent history, Diamond Boy is the story of a young man who succumbs to greed but finds his way out through a transformative journey to South Africa in search of his missing sister, in search of freedom, and in search of himself.

Review: I really liked Michael Williams' book Now is the Time for Running so was looking forward to this one. And, I didn't realize it's a "companion" novel to Now is the Time for Running! The author has an explanation at the end that is wonderful: a girl in New Hampshire wrote him a letter requesting another book so he wrote one using a small character from Now is the Time for Running and expanded his story. Way cool.

Although this book has overlap characters with Now is the Time for Running, you can read them independently. This novel is longer and more involved, but both are good.

I like the characters that Michael Williams creates because they are believable and authentic. I can feel with Patson and his family. His friends are people that I want good things for (although that rarely happens). The bad guys are bad. They are callous, sadistic, greedy and hurtful. And they have no remorse. Unfortunately, they are also very real as are the circumstances that they are in (child trafficking, diamond mining, diamond stealing, etc).

The story is an interesting one and I am so glad that the author includes a bit after the end of the story where he explains the situation in Zimbabwe: the diamond mining; the soldiers; and the treatment of children. It makes the story have even more impact when you realize it is based on reality. If you want to learn more about what is happening in Zimbabwe this is a good novel to read!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Title: Depraved Heart
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 466
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (MA)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my daughter

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, MA, when she receives a txt message with a video link that seems to be from her niece Lucy. But how can it be? It's clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken years ago. As Scarpetta watches she comes to grips with frightening secrets. That first clip and others sent soon after raise dangerous implications that isolate Scarpetta, leaving her confused and not knowing when she can tell--not her FBI agent husband, Benton Wesley, or her investigative partner, Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

Cornwell launches these characters on a psychological odyssey that includes the bizarre death of a Hollywood mogul's daughter, wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta's entire world. The diabolical presence and singularly "depraved heart" behind what unfolds seems obvious--but not to the FBI, who begin building a case against Lucy that could send her to prison for the rest of her life....

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Find out more about Patricia Cornwell at her website, and follow her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Review: I do enjoy me a good Patricia Cornwell novel, but I've got to say I am a little sick of the Carrie storyline. I'd like her to be caught and dealt with so we readers (and Lucy, Benton and Kay) can move on.

This novel picks up only a week or so after the previous one finished, which is fun. Kay is seriously injured having escaped death while scuba diving. Lucy's house is being searched by the FBI (that remains fairly unclear, in my opinion), and a woman is found murdered (of course, she is tied to all of them). Cornwell's novels are always complicated, with lots of characters who are closely or loosely connected to one another. I'll admit I sometimes get confused.

But, the story telling is good, the plots are twisted and interesting, and the forensics are fascinating. I like the characters and that they cover the FBI and the medical examiner worlds; it works well to connect the two so closely. It's the Lucy storylines that I am not quite as keen on. They seem to never be completely clear or resolved.

But, if you like a good mystery or forensic stories, the Kay Scarpetta books are a definite "must read."