Category Archives: Book Review

Saving Paradise, by Mike Bond (Mandevilla Press, 2012) – 4 stars

I’m giving Mike Bond’s Saving Paradise 4 stars because it’s not just a decent novel but also is an exposé of the hoax wind energy companies (which are also oil companies) are perpetrating on us. I’ll rant about the hoax itself elsewhere and here say only that the disturbing details, on their own, make the book worth reading.

The plot is timely and suspenseful, pitting the wealthy and powerful against native Hawaiians and threatening the islands’ ecology and sacred spaces. Hawaiian Pono Hawkins, the book’s main character, is a Special Forces veteran and excellent hero material. His passion is surfing, his survival skills are finely honed, he keeps himself in excellent physical shape, and he knows the islands (and a number of beautiful women) intimately. His prison record and native status make him automatically suspect by the police, but he’s a good guy who took a fall for a friend (a disabled vet who once took a bullet for Pono) and he’s an habitual rescuer of damsels, animals, and friends in distress, compelled to take risks for good causes. He’s an interesting narrator, too, able to use native dialect naturally, but also so that it illuminates native customs, values, and settings in ways relevant to both character and plot.

I’ve ordered a copy for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium. Here’s hoping Pono stars in many more Bond novels to come.

5 STARS for Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky (Hyperion, 2014)

Ami Polonsky is a young writer I am delighted to add to my “must follow” list, her first novel is so well done. Gracefully Grayson is a wonderful book that I hope many adults as well as young readers will read and share with their family members and friends. I’ve ordered it for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium.

The narrator and hero, Grayson, is a 6th grader who mostly keeps to himself, trying to avoid humiliation and abuse by hiding a secret, that he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Keeping that secret is increasingly difficult to do, and when the story opens, Grayson is already looking for ways to let that inner self out.

Grayson’s parents died when Grayson was 4. Aunt Sally and Uncle Ethan took him in, but Grayson doesn’t feel part of their family or safe enough to tell them the truth. Aunt Sally has rigid standards for acceptable behavior and wants Grayson to be more athletic and more like her son Jack. 7th-grade cousin Jack no longer acts like a protective big brother but seems to condone his athletic friends’ bullying. Uncle Ethan and younger cousin Brett try to be supportive, but Sally and Jack ignore them.

Grayson’s quest for identity, self-esteem, and acceptance is a heart-pounding suspense story that will keep you turning pages, worrying, cheering, and caring about not only Grayson but other characters, teens and adults, who share in the risks Grayson takes. I hope you’ll read Gracefully Grayson soon. Read it, talk about it — and pass it on!

Let’s Get Lost, by Adi Alsaid (Harlequin Teen, 2014) – 4 STARS

Never did I think I’d write a glowing review of a Harlequin publication, but Let’s Get Lost is a wonderful novella, extremely well written — and, yes, I have ordered a copy for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium.

The novella’s 5 parts each center on a different character, but Leila, whose own story is the focus in the last section, plays a pivotal role in each of the other 4 parts. This structure lets the point of view shift comfortably from Hudson (in Vicksburg, Mississippi), to Bree (in Kansas), to Elliot (in Minnesota), to Sonia (in British Columbia and Tacoma, Washington), and finally to Leila, who travels from Texas to Alaska and back again. Leila’s ability to both empathize with others and see their situations objectively lets her help them through life crises while she deals with her own quest to understand herself and choose how she will live.

Let’s Get Lost is much more than a romance. I recommend it to readers young and old.

DOZENS OF STARS for Nest, by Esther Ehrlich

Nest, by Esther Ehrlich (Wendy Lamb Books, 2014), more than lives up to its editor’s promise. This is an exceptionally fine novel, not just for young people but for all readers. From the first sentence, I did not want to put it down. At the last sentence, I did not want it to end but knew it should end there and am still thinking and feeling the whole book.

Ehrlich is definitely a writer I want to follow. Nest is her first novel and, in my opinion, should take every award it may be eligible for; it is that good. The characters are wonderful, every word of dialogue rings true, the problems are universal and important, the pacing is excellent, and the voice – I cannot overstate how true it is. I am amazed that a first novel could so faithfully portray an eleven-year-old narrator and simultaneously be so well done that we understand clearly what the child does not, while everything is shown, not told. Ehrlich pulls you right into the story and keeps you there, fully sensing and feeling every bit of it.

Thank you, Wendy Lamb, for introducing us to Esther Ehrlich and Nest

 

5 stars for The Crocheter’s Skill Building Workshop by Dora Ohrenstein (Storey Publishing)

The Crocheter’s Skill Building Workshop by Dora Ohrenstein (Storey Publishing) is one of the best – if not THE best – of its kind that I’ve found. I’m definitely adding it to my personal library and ordering a copy for our public library.

Ohrenstein covers everything for the novice through intermediate level crocheter, and the book is truly a workshop text, excellent for use in classes or alone. Read just the first thee chapters, which cover yarn and tools and tension, and you’ll have a thorough understanding of how yarn texture, weight, and material, hook size and material, and tension, separately and together determine everything from stitch height and density to overall shape and drape. You’ll also want to read the rest of the book, because the how-to photos and their accompanying directions are so clear and the exercises are so excellent..

Chapters four, five, and six cover fundamental techniques, shaping and construction, and crochet in the round. Chapters seven through ten deal with advanced shaping issues, textured stitches, color, and finishing, and the book ends with five projects for honing skills. The high quality photos, clear directions, and excellent exercises continue, and Ohrenstein also shows consummate skill in showing how to recognize and deal with problems as they arise.

If you want to learn crochet, get better at it, or teach it, The Crocheter’s Skill Building Workshop is the book to buy.

 

4 stars for Rachel White’s Blood Tells (Less Than Three Press LLC)

Rachel White’s Blood Tells is the first gay novel I’ve read in quite a while, and I’m glad I did. I read it in two sittings – I would have read it in one but was interrupted mid-book – and did NOT figure out who the primary antagonist was until the hero did. That’s one thing I liked about the book. Clues abound and none of them are misleading, but the mystery remains until it’s solved.

I also like that the adventure/suspense and romantic plots of Blood Tells grow entirely out of the characters’ motivations, personalities, and histories. The characters are well drawn, interesting, likeable, and relatively complex, though I do wonder a bit that, although fathers are present, no mothers are. This could be an interesting feature of this fantasy world, where sorcerers are abundant but suspect, the monarchy and army and buildings feel feudal, and spells and curses mix equally with guns and trolleys, but both the fantasy elements and the setting in general feel far less important than the characters and plots.

In any case, I’ll be watching for more from Rachel White.

 

All Muck and Mulletts by Samantha Nash (Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2014): Not My Cup of Tea

Usually I enjoy humorous stories about quirky villagers, especially when the author writes well. But not this time.

For those with the right sort of sense of humor (which mine obviously is not), the village brawls, poaching, and tantrums may be slapstick enough to provoke laughter, but for me the characters’ main common feature was stupidity – suitable perhaps for a country rube joke but not designed to create “winning” or even remotely endearing characters. Which probably explains why I had such a hard time telling the idiots (other than Mazzer) from each other – I got bored.

My three-stars feel like a gift, but only because I expect authors to at least like some of their characters. Readers who don’t care about that may like this one.