Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bang by Barry Lyga

One of my favorite authors of young adult literature has always been Barry Lyga. I have enjoyed every book of his that I have read and his stories have a habit of consuming my life until they are finished so I was ecstatic when Bang arrived on my desk a couple months ago. Yet again, Barry Lyga has provided me with a powerful, well-written and unique story that I recommend to older teens and adults.  

This emotional roller coaster begins with the main character, Sebastian, discussing his younger sister and why there are no traces of her around the house. No photos of his sister can be found around the house, no girl clothes in the laundry baskets, no baby dolls strewn about after being played with because she was killed when she was four months old by a pistol. A pistol that was used by Sebastian.

Bang tells the story of a young man who is struggling with the loss of a sibling and with being responsible for her death. Although he was just a small child himself, Sebastian feels guilty and it encapsulates his entire existence. It was difficult to read the story as Sebastian and see how depressing his life was and the thoughts that ran through his mind while dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy. How would you face your mother every single day knowing that you killed her baby? How could you accept her love and not feel horrible for what you took from her? Does she secretly hate you? These were all questions I had while thinking about his situation.

When Aneesa moves into town, Sebastian finally finds a new friend and she brings a new sense of purpose into his life by helping him make Youtube videos about making different kinds of pizza. Just when things seem to be looking up for Sebastian, the story heads into a different direction and leads to an unexpected ending that left me in tears. This story begins and ends with a bang.

Recommended for fans of Barry Lyga, young adult literature or realistic and contemporary fiction.


A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex


This title completely and utterly offended me when I glanced at it. My curiosity of why Monsieur Chessex titled this book, A Jew Must Die, stupefied me. It compelled me to find out what could possibly be on these few pages so here we begin.....

 The author, Jacques Chessex, was only eight at the time, and awakens the dark secrets of Payerne, Switzerland in his novel, A Jew Must Die. 

Agitator, Philippe Lugrin a Nazi sympathizer gathered a band of vagabonds to do the unthinkable; a plot to murder Arthur Bloch, a Jew, a few days before Hitler's Birthday as a tribute to the Nazi Empire.  Of course, Mr. Lugrin didn't want to do the dirty work so he sent Ferdinand Ischi to lead the heinous crime. It was so well written I felt as if I was standing in the room watching this evil act. Regrettably, this is one of many true stories of what the SS regime and Nazi sympathizers did to innocent people who were not of a "pure race".  This book is an eye-opener to Europe's dark history.

     On his grave stone it reads,  GOTT WEISS WARUM 

(God knows Why).

Dani Green

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham usually writes the "DI Tom Thorne" suspense/mysteries, but his last two books have been standalone with Tom just peeking in at the end.  In this book, three British couples meet and hang out together at a Florida resort.  They become somewhat friends, eating, drinking, and sunbathing together. A single woman with her handicapped daughter, Amber Marie, is often at the pool as the girl likes to swim.  On their last day, Amber Marie is reported missing.  Her mother frantically searches for her to no avail.   Detective Jeff Gardner is assigned to the case.  Statements are taken from everyone at the resort, and the three couples are allowed to return home on schedule.  The poor mother stays in a nearby hotel for months until her daughter's body is found in the mangroves by fishermen.
Once Angie and Barry, Marina and Dave, and Sue and Ed return to England, they decide to meet for dinner at each other's homes in an attempt to remain friends.  The first dinner is at Angie and Barry's home.  From the beginning, the disappearance of Amber Marie hangs over them and is a topic of discussion.  Everyone is uncomfortable, and as the dinners continue, it is evident that they all have secrets and that they all lied to the Florida detective.  As they continue to meet, we get to know each of the couples as individuals and the secrets they hide.  When another girl is found dead in England and there are similarities to Amber Marie's killing, a local detective begins to tie the two murders together.  The tension ramps up until it explodes!

Mark Billingham's books are character and plot driven, and these standalones can be read quickly.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trusting Grace by Maggie Brendan

Set on a farm in Gallatin Valley, Montana, Grace Bidwell who longed to have children had unexpectedly lost her husband. Broken, she had to run the farm and take care of her father, Owen, who is sick.  She needed help and fast.  She placed an ad for a hired hand hoping that someone would respond quickly.

Meanwhile, handsome Robert Frasier arrived with three meager children Tom, Sarah, and Becky.  However, they were not his own.  After he lost his farm and newly wed wife, Ada, Ada's sister burst into the court room with the children. Robert surprised and angry packed his belongings, his newly found out children and traveled to wherever there was an available job.  When he arrived in Gallatin Valley to pick up a few items he noticed Grace's ad and immediately inquired about the job. 

Robert, however, purposely didn't tell Owen or Grace about his children and hid them in the wood which made things a little complicated, especially when Grace found out.  Grace gave Robert no choice to leave the children unattended in the woods but to come live on the farm with her and her father. Robert knew to comply. If not, it could cost him his job.  

Grace immediately fell in love with the children. Robert saw her nurturing side and how she interacted with the children and started to grow feelings towards Grace.  However, Robert vowed that he would never fall in love let alone trust another woman after what Ada had done to him.  Both Grace and Robert both realized they needed to stop looking into the past, a past filled with hurt, anger, and resentment to find peace and a future they are both longing for.

For those who love historical fiction, pick up this charming and lighthearted story about faith, trust, and unexpected love.  

Dani Green 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

 Annie Proulx’s sprawling saga, Barkskins, is at once a cautionary tale and an epic testimony to the force of will. The story follows the lives and descendants of two indentured servants, René Sel and Charles Duquet, who land in New France with the crude social climber Monsieur Claude Trépagny. Shortly after discovering the true nature of his master’s plans, Duquet runs off, taking his chances in the forest-choked landscape of modern day Canada. René Sel stays behind, letting winds of fate decide his destiny.

Duquet survives his trek and begins to make a name for himself among the fur traders.  With an eye for business and a desperate need for status, he expands his scope to including the burgeoning timber industry.  Suddenly, before cementing his status as a man of worth (after starting life as a street urchin in Paris), the patriarch mysteriously disappears. His progeny continue to expand the venture, bringing fortune and recognition to the “Duke” family name, with two or three members of each generation inheriting his drive and acumen.

Rene, far less driven, stays put on the Trépagny land and is forced into a marriage with Trépagny’s mi’kmaq cook Mari. Their children, along with her previous children, wander the land of New France, some spreading as far as New England. Mixed-raced, they live on the fringe, working as barkskins (lumberjack). Several attempt to flee the white man’s influence, and are constantly being pushed west and north as new settlers arrive, devouring the land like locusts.

Impeccably researched and told without the heavy gloss that tends to romanticize colonial times, Barkskins is a masterpiece of historical fiction.

Jennifer Wilson