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Marion Marchetto, author of The Bridgewater Chronicles "author of The Bridgewater Chronicles" (Florida USA)

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The Long March Home
The Long March Home
by Zoë S. Roy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.95
11 used & new from CDN$ 11.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The East-West Line Blurs Here, Nov. 9 2012
This review is from: The Long March Home (Paperback)
When teacher Meihua Wei is torn away from her newborn daughter and sent to a labor camp for seven years, she fears that she will never see her family again. Her crime? In the eyes of Communist China she is condemned as an 'anti-revolutionary' simply because her mother is an American. As Meihua labors away in the squalid conditions of the camp, we follow the life of her daughter Yezi as she grows.

Yezi and her brother Sang are left in the care of Yao, a sixty-year old woman who worked for Meihua and Lon (Yezi's father). Lon works in a mine and is only allowed to visit his family once a month. When Meihua is sent to the camp, the remainder of the family (Yao and the children) are forced out of their apartment and made to live in one room with a curtain for a door. The children share a bed; Yao sleeps in a chair. Food is costly and with very little money coming in Yao is forced to scrape out a living by scrounging the trash piles at the market for edible food.

Throughout Yezi's early years we learn about the harsh restrictions on the middle-class of Mao's China. Yezi begins to question her American heritage and learns to embrace it. When finally she meets her American grandmother and goes to live in Boston, she learns what true love really is.

I found this book to be an eye-opener. Having grown up during the same years as Yezi, and having been told there were starving children in China, I really didn't know much else. The plight of the Chinese was not taught in my parochial school; my parents shielded me from the bad news of the day. So for me this book was a learning experience that I wholly embraced.

Well written, steady pace, and an endearing yet unexpected conclusion give this debut novel five stars.

The Dovekeepers: A Novel
The Dovekeepers: A Novel
by Alice Hoffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.36
121 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Sign of Peace, Nov. 6 2012
As a longtime fan of Alice Hoffman, I was thrilled to find this latest offering. This author is known for her strong female characters and in The Dovekeepers she does not disappoint. The lure of four strong females was irresistible.

Set on the plains of Masada, four women of varied backgrounds find themselves at a crossroad in history. Two survive, two do not. The two women and five children are the only survivors of the massacre at Masada.

What started out as a personal look at history through the eyes of the women soon became bogged down with too much history. Yes, it was realistic. Yes, I did feel like I was present. But in this case I believe the writer's adage of "Show, Don't Tell" should have been more literally followed. For me there was not enough dialogue to move the story forward at a quicker pace. I felt the story was bogged down with weighty explanations of history. While I am a firm believer that history should be honored, I also believe that sometimes too much history can be a bad thing. After all, this is a work of fiction.

Having said that, I do honor the amount of research and preparation that went into this book. I'm sure the author lived the lives of her characters as she researched them. Well done on that score!

For my tastes, the book was drawn-out and tended to slow down in too many places. I found myself being distracted by outside forces too much. Not the kind of book I couldn't put down.

I look forward, however, to Ms. Hoffman's next offering.

Sarah's Key
Sarah's Key
by Tatiana de Rosnay
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.16
175 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Never Forget, Nov. 6 2012
This review is from: Sarah's Key (Paperback)
Ten year old Sirka's world is a happy one. She has loving parents and a fun-loving four year old brother whom she adores. But all that changes on the night of July 16, 1942 when German-occupied Paris is forced to give up it's Jewish families. Up to this point the Germans have only taken away the men of the family. However on this particular night they grab entire families. Sirka, not knowing what all of this means, thinks to save her little brother Michel by locking him into a secret cupboard with his favorite toy and a flashlight. It is her intention to come back for him after she and her family are released. She drops the key to the cupboard into her skirt pocket.

The next few weeks are a blur of confusion as Sirka and her family are taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver, a large sort of coliseum, where everyone is packed in without food, water, or any of life's basic needs. Within days many die and others become sick. At last the women and men are separated. The men are bussed to a camp from which they are taken by cattle car to Auschwitz where they are ultimately put to death. Sirka and her mother (who by now has retreated into her mind) are taken to a different camp where the children are separated from their mothers. The mothers, like the men before them, are soon herded into cattle cars and shipped to Auschwitz as well. The children will soon follow. But Sirka and another girl manage to escape the camp with the help of a French guard. Throughout this time Sirka has only one driving thought, to return to the family's home in Paris and release her brother who, she fears, has learned to hate her for not coming back sooner.

Fast forward sixty years to the anniversary of this awful event and meet Julia Jarmond, an American married to a Frenchman. She is a journalist who knew little to nothing about the Children of the Vel d'Hiv. Through her research she learns the story of Sirka (Susan). The story of this child soon consumes her and she is driven to learn all that she can. The facts, well-hidden from the world, lead her on a quest from France, to the United States, to Italy, and finally back to France. Julia learns that there are secrets her husband's family know but refuse to reveal; secrets that entwine their lives, and ultimately Julia's, with the life of Sirka (Susan).

This is a powerful story, one that taught me more than I've ever known about the cruelties of World War II. The young girl Sirka, whose story we follow, proves to be one of the strongest characters I have encountered in fiction. Although Julia, the American journalist, proves to be the catalyst for the story, I would have preferred to hear the story through Sirka's own voice (as in early chapters of the book). The personal mid-life crisis that Julia goes through adds little to the story. To be fair, though, Julia is a strong character in her own right.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learned quite a bit more about a chapter in history that I had heretofore only heard bits and pieces about. Well researched; well written.

Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves
Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves
by Kristina Mcmorris
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.77
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars An Almost Forgotten Piece of History, Nov. 6 2012
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves tells the story of two families, the Kerns and the Moritomos. Maddie and her brother TJ live in the family house (their mother is dead and their father is in a nursing home). TJ aspires to be a pro-league baseball player after college while Maddie has her heart set on studying at the Julliard School of Music as a violinist. TJ's best friend is Lane Moritomo. We meet the three in Los Angeles in 1941. Maddie has been dating Lane in secret because he is first generation Japanese American. While society at that time accepts interracial friendships it generally frowns on those same friends entering into a romantic relationship. The truth of their hidden romance is brought to light when the three, accompanied by Maddie's friend Jo, attend a local club. There a drunken acquaintance accuses Maddie of crossing the line with Lane. Of course both Lane and TJ fight for Maddie's honor, her brother thinking the drunk was way off base.

The next day, when Lane learns from his parents that a Japanese matchmaker is sending over a bride for him, he convinces Maddie that they should elope the following weekend. So with suitcase in hand, Maddie lies to her brother about her destination and gets on a train that brings her to Lane and a civil ceremony that unites them as husband and wife. Later, on their way home to Los Angeles they learn that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and that the country is at war. During the trip they begin to experience first hand the fear that grips the country when they are told to leave a restaurant simply because of Lane's distinguishing Asian features.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, Lane goes to his family's home only to find that his father, a respected banker, is being arrested and his mother and little sister are being harassed. Maddie too returns home to face the wrath of her brother. They live separated for a while as they try to figure things out. Lane and his family are rounded up with other Japanese Americans and bussed out to the desserts of New Mexico and Arizona where they are taken to an internment camp. Under the ever watchful eyes of U.S. Army guards they are given barrack housing and put to work. A school is available for the children. But conditions are less than humane. Lane is now the head of his family and must watch over them. That is when Maddie, who convinces the powers that be that she is pregnant with a Japanese child, willingly enters the camp to live with Lane's family. Thankfully her brother TJ has joined the Air Force and is not there to stop her.

What happens over the course of the war is a black spot on the history of our country. The conditions of the camp, while better than those for prisoners of war, prove a hardship for these proud people. Gangs begin to run freely and threaten the more peaceful families. When Lane, in an effort to prove himself and his family as loyal Americans, joins the Army as a special translator these gangs terrorize the families of those men who have enlisted. In the end these families, Maddie and Lane's mother and sister among them, are transferred to another state where they stay until the war is over.

TJ is taken prisoner in the Pacific Theater of War while Lane, thinking only of Maddie and the daughter she had borne, makes the ultimate sacrifice.

This is a romance that transcends the lines of heritage and race. I truly enjoyed the story and felt personal connections with these characters. The characters themselves are well rounded and we see them each grow in different ways. A truly satisfying story, it provided for me knowledge about a period of time that is rarely heard of - the Japanese being rounded up like criminals simply because of who they were.

I will say that I like Letters From Home (Ms. McMorris's first book) a little bit better than this one. That said, I can't give you a definite reason why although I've tried to think of one. For readers who enjoy the drama and intrigue of World War II with a bit of romance on the side, this book is a definite read. The soldier who returns home to claim his bride is there alongside the now-single parent of an interracial child.

There are moments of lightness as well as scenes that will have you biting your nails. A solid story that you will certainly enjoy.

Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.55
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Little-Known Facet of WWII, Nov. 6 2012
This review is from: Between Shades of Gray (Paperback)
"They took me in my nightgown." - This is the opening sentence of Between Shades of Gray. Rarely have I read an opening that drew me into a story as quickly as this one.

Lina Vilkas is a fifteen year old girl living in Lithuania in June of 1941. Her family is typical - she has a younger brother and two educated loving parents. Her life is typical middle-class in that her family has a nice home, good food, warm beds, and they basically want for nothing. Within hours of our meeting the Vilkas family, Lina, her brother, and her mother are rounded up along with many others who are taken by the Soviets for deportation. Lina's father, we later learn, has been taken earlier and is being detained.

We follow Lina's journey through the dehumanizing process of being turned into a slave of the state. The horrors they experience, the deprivation not just of food and drink but of even the basic human needs, only grow worse with each mile they are moved away from Lithuania. Halfway through their journey they are brought to a labor camp where they must work under the harshest conditions in order to receive their daily allotment of bread (300 kilos per person). During their time at the labor camp they are subjected to inhumane treatment by the NKVD (forerunners of the KGB). Ten months later, those who have survived are moved further to an isolated outpost above the Arctic Circle in Siberia.

Suffering from unclean conditions, literally wearing rags, they battle infestations of lice as well as the ravages of scurvy, malnutrition, frostbite, and other horrors as they build an outpost for their captors. These refugees are only allowed a daily portion of bread and whatever they can steal to build their own crude shelters to fend off the Arctic winter. At one point their captors herd them up and hide them when an American supply ship docks and leaves supplies for the Soviets. In essence, no one knows of the existence of these Lithuanians (and Latvians, Estonians, and Finns).

As aspiring artist prior to their deportation,Lina finds some comfort in her ability to draw and documents everything she sees and hears. Thankfully she is able to hide her drawings for surely if they were found she would be killed.

This story touched me on many levels: the cruelty of one segment of mankind to another is constantly played out not only between the Soviets and their prisoners but also between the prisoners themselves; we see the depths of love between family members; the determination to survive at all costs; and the redemption of man by still another segment of mankind.

Before reading this story and seeing the amount of research that Ms. Sepetys had done, I have now added to my knowledge of the atrocities of the Second World War. I believe this is a story that should be required reading for all young adults - this view into the underbelly of man may be tough to swallow but it can hopefully teach us to aspire to that more humane side of ourselves.

Original Sinners 3 Books Collection: The Prince / The Siren / The Angel
Original Sinners 3 Books Collection: The Prince / The Siren / The Angel
by Tiffany Reisz
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.80
30 used & new from CDN$ 5.18

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middle of the Road Erotica, Nov. 6 2012
Take one book editor (male) with demons from a guilty marriage, add one (female) author who is considered the queen of erotica running from demons of her own. Mix until there are no lumps. Fold in a younger (male) assistant who is hopelessly in love with the female. Put over high heat and watch the explosion.

That about sums up how I felt about this book. The BDSM scenes were intense as is the character of Soren - the demon who our female (Nora) is trying to put behind her by writing an erotic novel based loosely on her life. Zach (the book editor) is all over the place, running away from a marriage that he thinks his younger wife (living in England) no longer wants. Is he guilty for running out on his wife instead of working through their problems? Will he give in to the temptation that is Nora? Will Nora find solace in Zach's arms? Can each of them put aside their former lives or are they ultimately bound to their former partners?

The plot is well thought out, the characters are intriguing, and the big reveal - when it comes - took me by surprise. But I didn't find myself anxious to pick up the book and read the next chapter. I found myself actually wanting to watch television instead of trying to delve into the minds of Zach and Nora. I did like the character of Soren, though. He had no demons to run from, he knew what he wanted and how to get it. He was a man of action, not what-ifs.

If you like erotica, you'll like this book simply for those kinds of scenes. But for my money, I enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey more.

The Book Thief
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.99
88 used & new from CDN$ 1.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For Young Adults, Nov. 6 2012
This review is from: The Book Thief (Paperback)
If Death wanted to tell you a story, would you pay attention? That's just what you'll do when you pick up The Book Thief.

Death is a busy fellow (although he's not gender specific we get the feeling he's male). But the large scale events that keep him busy don't often give him time to ponder why he may cross paths many times with some people. The case of Liesel Meminger is different. Death crosses her path many times during World War II's Germany.

Death tells ten year old Liesel's story: foster child, illiterate at first but taught by her foster father to read on those nights when nightmares of her younger brother's death haunt her.

I did not find the story to be one of how Liesel finds solace through reading and her books. I found the story to be about the sacrifices required by the Furher of those working-class German families who were victims of the New Order as much as those people that Hitler sought to conquer. During those war years Liesel, her foster parents, and her friends and neighbors endure hardships. Food and coffee rationing, nighttime blackouts, air raids, the confiscation and burning of books that are not sanctioned by the government, the closing of stores and businesses when money becomes scarce, the Hitler Youth who terrorized working class people - all these are suffered by the working class Germans who attempt to retain their dignity above all else.

The story of The Book Thief is riveting and when the climax comes I was taken aback by the unexpected deaths while berating myself that I should have seen that coming. I found The Book Thief to be a powerful commentary of the effects of socialism on the working class who ultimately have no say in what happens under the rule of a dictator.

Suitable for ages 15 and up.

The Soldier's Wife
The Soldier's Wife
by Margaret Leroy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.72
80 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars When War Comes Home, Nov. 6 2012
This review is from: The Soldier's Wife (Paperback)
Vivienne de la Mare is the mother of two daughters; daughter-in-law to an elderly woman in the throes of Alzheimer's; and wife to a soldier from whom she is emotionally separated. With her husband off fighting the war, Vivienne is responsible for feeding and caring for her small family as well as protecting them.

Guernsey is a small island in the English Channel where the islanders had once felt removed from the war. All of that changed on the day the Germans moved in. Vivienne witnesses the horrors of war when the harbor town of the island is bombed and her best friend's husband dies in front of her eyes. Her thoughts fly to her small family - her daughters and mother-in-law - and prays that they are alright on the family farm. She is relieved when she returns home and finds them alive and well.

But the Occupation has begun and the German soldiers move in, requisitioning homes, vehicles, and other items for their own use. A handful of German soldiers moves in next door to Vivienne's farm. As the Germans go about their business Vivienne is drawn to watching them. One especially piques her interest. In time she accepts the man, Gunther, as her lover. They are circumspect in their meetings so that neither Vivienne's daughters or mother-in-law are aware of their affair.

As things on the island go from bad to worse, Vivienne comes face-to-face with her emotions. She realizes that she has fallen in love with Gunther and he in turn saves her from being sent away from the island since she was not a native-born islander.

Secretly, Vivienne helps an escaped prisoner who her youngest daughter has befriended. Her guilt at keeping this from Gunther takes on a life of its own when she hides the man, Kirill, in her attic and Gunther hears his coughing late at night. Vivienne passes it off as her mother-in-law being sick but worries that Gunther will report her nonetheless. When he goes off for a two week leave, the authorities raid her home. To take suspicion off of her, Kirill, openly walks through the orchard knowing full well that he will die. He is shot in full sight of Vivienne, Evelyn (the mother-in-law), and Millie (the six year old daughter). Thankfully none of the women are arrested.

When Gunther returns Vivienne breaks off their romance, hating herself but feeling that Gunther had betrayed her before he went on leave. When he is reassigned to the Russian front, she belatedly realizes that she wants him back but misses him before his departure.

This story was well-told and described. I felt that I was there during the different seasons on Guernsey and could feel the chill of the salt air in winter as well as the warm sun of summer. I would have liked a bit more of dialogue between Vivienne and Gunther but they didn't seem like folks who talked a lot, even in private. There are so many conflicting emotions running through Vivienne at any given time as I'm sure there were with most people during the war.

But the thread that weaves this story together is the question of what a person would do to keep their family safe, keep food on the table, and keep clothes on their backs. It is a question that we would do well to keep in mind in precarious economic times.

A Soldier's Wife gives us this different perspective of life during World War II. The islanders are at a distance from the fighting for one thing. Through the handful of Vivienne's German neighbors, we see the occupying army not so much as a military body but as real men who had other lives and occupations; indeed, some of them dislike the war as much as the islanders. This book caused me to delve into my own emotions. What would each of us do to protect someone we love?

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive: (Book 8)
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive: (Book 8)
by Alexander Mccall Smith
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars All Hail the Traditionally Built Woman!, Jan. 2 2008
In this latest installment of the #1 Ladies Detective Series, we find Mma Ramotswe finding challenges in the most unexpected places: the resignation of Mma Makutsi, holder of the 97 percent degree from Botswana Secretarial College; the desire of husband Mr. J L B Matekoni to take on an investigative case in the belief that life as a detective is more exciting than his work as a mechanic; the case of the late patients of a local hospital overseen by her cousin.

Throughout the book we find ourselves drawn in to the slower pace of the Botswana life, where people stop to watch the birds in the trees and contemplate life. A perfect respite from our own fast-paced world. But the faster pace of life outside Botswana seems to be making inroads in this book. The types of cases being investigated have begun to change, causing Mma Ramotswe to look to her compatriots for their input and finding that if one but takes the time to sit back, think things through, and open their eyes to the things around them answers to life's questions can be found.

Easy to read, this work packs a lot of information and entertainment in its short span of 210 pages. But really, how long does a work need to be if the message can be delivered succinctly?

Once again, McCall Smith has given me a good solid read and I look forward to the next chapter in this series.

Also recommended: The first 7 books in this series.

The Cater Street Hangman
The Cater Street Hangman
by Anne Perry
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, Not Great!, Jan. 2 2008
When I learned that there was a series of Victorian era murder/mysteries I became excited since I was bored with the usual historical romances. Ah, thought I, now for some excitement. In the Cater Street Hangman, the first of this series, the plot is good as mysteries go with any number of red herrings thrown in. The final denouement is a surprise (at least it was to me). However, the characters all seem a bit shallow and story movement is slow. At the outset I thought this would be one of those books where I read the first couple of chapters and set it aside. Not so. After a slow start, the story does indeed pick up with bits and pieces of the puzzle being revealed slowly.

For this reader, however, there are many unanswered questions about dangling story lines. Hopefully, they will be answered in the next book in the series. I've given this book 3 stars based on the originality of the plot.

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