Monday, October 28, 2019

Book Review: South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad by Pat Conroy book cover and review
I've been told by several people that I should read a Pat Conroy novel. I finally got around to it and was not disappointed. I chose South of Broad because I own it -- by "hand-me-down." Not sure who gave it to me.

Our narrator, Leo, loves his home town of Charleston, South Carolina. Leo had a traumatic childhood. He finds his older brother dead from a suicide, wrists slit open, in the bathtub. His life spirals after that. His mother seems to not care about Leo, he ends up being arrested for a crime he didn't commit, he spends some time in a mental institution, and he does his community service by taking care of a cantankerous old man.

His mother is the principal at the high school Leo attends, and in the 1960s desegregation is just beginning. Leo becomes friends with an unlikely group of kids. New neighbors, Trevor and Sheba, who live with there alcoholic mother. Starla, Niles, and Betty live in an orphanage in town. Ike is the son of the new (African American) football coach. And Chad, Molly, and Fraser are from rich, upperclass families from South of Broad, who got in trouble at their private school and must now attend Leo's school.

South of Broad switches back and forth from the 60s to the 80s, as Leo outlines the progression of the relationships within this mismatched group. There seem to be more "downs" than "ups" for most of them. From the racial tensions of the 1960s South, to the aids epidemic in 1980s San Francisco, to Hurrican Hugo in 1989, the story is a saga, as well as an homage to Charleston.

Conroy's writing draws you into the lives of these people and the atmosphere of Charleston in the 60s. If you haven't read any of his novels, I will recommend him -- as he was recommended to me. South of Broad was not one of his better-received novels, although certainly a best-seller, so I'll be sure to seek out another of his novels soon.

Published by Nan A. Telese, 2009
Copy obtained from a gift
514 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Book Review: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory book cover and review
Royal Holiday is a delightful, romantic story. Just what I needed.

Vivian is busy. As most hard-working people are. When her daughter, Maddie's work takes her to England over the holidays, she is determined to take her mother with her. Vivian is resistant but eventually goes along. Maddie will be working as a stylist for a Duchess of the royal family at their castle at Sandringham.

Vivian is delighted when she meets the Queen's private secretary, Malcolm, and he offers to give her a tour of the grounds and castle.

Malcolm has never given private tours before and doesn't really understand what has come over him. But he is definitely attracted to Vivian, so he continues to find excuses to see her. The romance develops pretty quickly--well it needs to, since Vivian is only in England until January 2.

I enjoyed the easy banter between these two. I appreciated that these were not "20 somethings" but older adults. I enjoyed the Christmasy aspect of the story, although it wasn't too sappy. I enjoyed the Sandringham (I had to look it up on Wikipedia) and London settings.

I read this in a little more than one day. I was in the mood for a cute, fluffy holiday story and Royal Holiday definitely fit the bill. You should check it out.

Published by Berkley, October 1, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Review: Shadow Scent by P. M. Freestone

Shadow Scent by P. M. Freestone book cover and review
Shadow Scent (edited: The actual title is Shadowscent) introduces us to a new fantasy world that has been compared to An Ember in the Ashes. I think that is a pretty good comparison.

Scents are everything in Aramtesh, and Rahil has a very good nose. Scents are status symbols and religious artifacts. Rahil will do anything to save her father who is suffering from a disease that is literally rotting him away. Her only chance is to leave her father and go to the capital to compete to become a perfumer.  With the skills and money she would earn as a perfumer, she could provide the best treatment for her father. She bargains with the devil, and even though she has the skills to win, she is tricked and ends up a slave to the head priestess. It turns out that this situation may not be as bad as it seems. The priestess knows more about Rahil than she realizes, and some revelations cause Rahil to question everything her father has told her.

Ash is the Shield to Prince Nisai and will protect him at all costs. But there is an unusual bond between these two based on deep secrets about Ash’s true identity. Nasai spends much of his time trying to figure out how to contain what is a secret part hidden inside of Ash, barely contained. Nasai chooses to undertake a long journey and visit one of their lands during a very special blooming of a mysterious dark flower that only happens once a generation.  Ash fears for the Prince's safety, and rightly so.

Chaos ensues, the head priestess is killed, the Prince is afflicted with a deadly and mysterious disease, and Ash and Rahil become unlikely conspirators. They are on the run with the army in hot pursuit, trying to find the antidote that will save the Prince’s life. The tasks seem impossible, but somehow these two always manage to figure out the very obscure hints they are working with. Romance eventually blossoms between Ash and Rahil, as they face insurmountable odds, but also get closer to solving the riddles and finding the cure.

Loaded with tension, drama, life-threatening situations, and romance, readers will easily become enraptured with Rahil and Ash. Some surprising and imaginative twists and turns add to the drama. Although Shadow Scent stretches the imagination at times, it is a fantasy after all. We are left with an open-ended and heart-wrenching conclusion, clamoring for a sequel. Recommend Shadow Scent to fantasy-loving teens.

Published by Scholastic, November 5, 2019
ARC obtained for review
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston book cover and review
The Lost City of the Monkey God was a bit detailed, but the audio version kept my interest, and it is a fascinating story.

The Lost City of the Monkey God is the true account of Preston's adventure into previously unexplored territory in the Honduran jungle in search of a legendary lost city. There is a lot of history and perspective before this journey actually begins. That is what I mean by detailed. But I believe most of it is necessary, and since I was listening, it was much easier to get through.

And then, they go on this amazing (and frightening) adventure, and there is still much of the book remaining.  That is because many of those on the trip ended up with a nasty parasite, leishmaniasis, that is truly horrifying.

I must first admit that I have a profound, paralyzing, and (I know) totally irrational fear of snakes. So the snakes described in this book are the stuff of my nightmares. I've always been told that "they are afraid of you," but these snakes (fer de lance) put that notion to shame. So just be warned if you fear snakes, this book will not help.

The rainforest they explored was previously unexplored not only because of the wildlife, but because it is so thick that it is almost impenetrable. Trying to hike is so slow and difficult that no one previously has been able to make it. These scientists used a relatively new technology called Lidar mapping to isolate specific areas that might contain the city. I also cannot imagine dealing with the insects, other wildlife, discomfort, constant mud, and wetness that is required to make a journey like this. It is just totally out of my comfort zone. So I was a bit distracted by all that when reading about their discoveries. And their discoveries are fascinating!

Also adding to the intrigue is that these discoveries, the methods used, and what has happened since is all very controversial in the scientific community. Of course, we are only getting one biased perspective here, so you may be interesting in further research after reading Preston's account.

As far as nonfiction goes, The Lost City of the Monkey God rates pretty high in my book. And the audio narrator, Bill Mumy, is superb. It is written in the first person, and he is spot-on with the drama and emotion of the narration.

I'm also left with some sadness, concern, and curiosity about how all of these people are faring since some of them are still (and probably will always) battle leishmaniasis.

I recommend The Lost City of the Monkey God, especially the audio version.

Published by Grand Central, 2017
Audiobook obtained from the library
336 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Review: Rebel by Marie Lu @Marie_Lu

Rebel by Marie Lu book cover and review
I really enjoyed Lu's Legend series and couldn't pass up the chance to read Rebel. I was not disappointed.

Day (now called Daniel) and June are some of my favorite characters ever, and even though Rebel is about Daniel's brother, Eden, both Daniel and June play a big part. Eden and Daniel live in Ross City in Antartica. They moved to this domed, high-tech city because it is supposed to be the new perfect system. Eden is about to graduate from the academy and is a top scientist. Daniel works for this new government as a detective -- like an FBI agent.  Who would have thought?

Everything seems perfect. If you work hard, you earn points. If you don't get into trouble, you earn points. If you cause trouble, you lose points. The more points you have, the better access you have to the finer things in life. It all seems like a great system.

But there are secrets. There is an underworld of people who have few or no points, and it is impossible for them to raise themselves. It seems not only are luxuries withheld, but for these people, they must do without basic necessities--like food, shelter, and medicine. This low level is, of course, full of crime and corruption as well.

I don't want to say too much more. Eden gets involved in the underworld and ends up associating with a very powerful, bad man. A man that Daniel has been trying to find and arrest. The brothers don't get along very well and don't communicate. They are both having nightmares about their past life in The Republic, but they don't help each other. Daniel thinks his most important job is to protect Eden from anything evil. Eden just wants Daniel to trust him and let him grow up and use his talents.

Of course, they end up fighting for their lives and the life of Ross City. They plot and scheme to make the world a better place.  And June, who works for The Republic, ends up involved.

Rebel wasn't as tense as the Legend books, but it was dramatic enough to keep my interest. And Rebel provided a nice, comfortable conclusion to the series. I'm glad I read it, and if you have read the Legend series, you should make sure you get your hands on Rebel.

Published by Roaring Brook, October 1, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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