“The House of Five Fortunes” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2016. Lillis and James. Bold Women of the 20th Century #3. 2016.

The House of Five FortunesXiu’s mother bought an opium den, The House of Five Fortunes, in San Francisco after her husband fell ill and could no longer support the family. When she died Xiu inherited it, but was forced to hide the leadership skills she’d learned due to a possessive and tyrannical husband. Her mother had worked hard to make the business a success, even though there were few women business owners in Chinatown, but Xiu passively allowed her husband to hold the reins of her life and her empire because she loved him.

When he was killed Xiu took control again and, with the help of her friend Nuan and Madison a famous actor, they raised The House of Five Fortunes to greater heights. Though there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment, that didn’t stop Madison from falling in love with Xiu but, due to her being Chinese, they were not allowed to marry. When random murders began to be committed, the police and local Whites blamed the Chinese. Madison knew Xiu wasn’t safe but, when a massive race riot began in Chinatown, their lives were soon endangered along with all of the town’s inhabitants.

Though this book is in the Bold Women of the 20th Century series, I didn’t see Xiu as very bold. Her mother was strong, but I saw Xiu as weak and easy to manipulate. I thought her mother, Nuan, and Dandan the cook were strong female characters, not Xiu. In fact the strongest character in the book was Madison, and he was a man!

Descriptions of the United States in the 1870’s, life during the gold rush, and the building of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese immigrants were interesting to read. I was saddened to read of the many ways the Chinese were mistreated – ways that are mirrored in anti-Immigrant policies today. Our country may have travelled far during the past 150 years, but many unpleasant reminders from the past still rear their ugly heads.

Recommended for Adults.

“Dodgers” by Bill Beverly

Rated 4 stars **** Crown Publishers (Penguin). 2016. 290 p.

DodgersThe Boxes, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, is what fifteen-year-old East has always called home. He is the leader of a group of boys who keep a 24 hr. lookout for cops coming near the crack house they guard. His uncle Fin runs several of these houses, and has decided to send East, his younger brother Ty, and two others on a road trip to Wisconsin to kill a judge who is a witness in a court case.

On the road the brothers renew their distrust towards each other as, eventually, everyone finds ways to get on each other’s nerves. As they travel from state to state, stopping only for gas or quick meals, East is mesmerized and thoughtful over everything new he sees because, having never been out of L.A., each state is eye opening. Though he appears to have more of a moral conscience than the others, and does not like guns, one thing is clear. Fin ordered the hit so the hit must get done, despite any of his inward objections.

Sometimes rambling, but always eye opening, “Dodgers” spins a tale of strength, street knowledge, street talk, street crime, courage, and survival. East reminded me of Pony Boy in “The Outsiders,” as he analyzed everything and everyone. “Dodgers” will keep readers riveted to their seats. I finished it in one day. This is one of those books that could be considered Adult, but would work well with readers 18 and older

Recommended for ages 18 and older.

“Trapeze” by Leigh Ansell

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. ARC. To be published September 10, 2019. Wattpad Books.

TrapezeCorey was 2 years old when she went to live with her aunt. For fifteen years she trained as a trapeze artist, traveling around the country with her circus family. When the circus reached a small town in California, someone set fire to their tent during a performance and, just like that, her circus family was forced apart.

With nowhere to turn Corey was forced to live with her mom, who she hadn’t seen in 15 years. Now that she wasn’t constantly moving around the country, she had to attend high school for the first time in her life. Knowing that the townspeople hated circus people, she vowed to keep her life as a trapeze artist a secret. The only one who knew her secret was Luke, a very handsome junior she’d briefly met at a diner the night of the fire.

As their romance began to take shape she began to notice things about him that didn’t seem right, almost as if he was hiding things. Her relationship with her mother was frosty, while she was hiding her past life in the circus, so who was she to judge? Though they both worked hard to keep their secrets, eventually, secrets have a way of being found out. When their secrets are finally revealed, it will change everything forever.

I commiserated with Corey and the decisions she had to make throughout the book, but I had a few problems with it. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, and thought the character of Landon was very stereotypical. Also, the whole premise of why everyone hated the circus was never addressed. Who caused the vandalism? However I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Alien superstar” by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. To be published Oct. 1, 2019. Book #1. Amulet Books. 254 p.

Alien superstarCitizen Short Nose (birth name XR 23 Zeta 5466) is escaping from his planet because he turned 13 years old and his sensory enhancer will be deactivated. Without it he’ll become a robot, so he’s on the run. His grandmother knew this time was coming so she built a spaceship, setting the coordinates for Universal Studios in Hollywood.

Short Nose had to leave his grandmother behind, but managed to land in Hollywood. There he comes up with the name Buddy Cheese Burger, landing a role playing an alien on a comedy TV show where his “costume” helps him become a hit. As his fame grows, Buddy worries everyone will realize he really IS an alien. When he begins to lose the ability to transform to a human, his secret is in danger of being revealed. With time ticking away Buddy is desperate to find a solution.

I enjoyed reading about Buddy’s escapades, and the very open ending left no doubt that it’s part of a series. I found a little glitch in the ARC. On p. 141 a little girl is described as having 6 pigtails with ribbons, but the image on p. 146 shows just 2 pigtails and no ribbons. Hopefully that image (or the text) will be corrected in the final copy.

As an alien Buddy takes everything literally, so readers will have fun figuring out his many Buddyisms. Henry Winkler even put in a reference to himself when Buddy meets an actor named Luis whose lunchbox has a picture of Fonzie. Buddy instantly recognizes the guy as being on a show called “Happy Days.” Pretty cool!

Winkler has written many books for children, including his well-known “Hank Zipper” series, but this is his first solid foray into the middle grade world. Buddy is so likable I believe he’ll also be a hit with the younger folk. I’ll definitely have a copy in my elementary library! I got a copy of this ARC at the recent American Library Association’s annual conference in D.C. where I got to meet Henry AND he signed my ARC. I was THRILLED, as I LOVED him as Fonzie when I was a teenager! Below is a pic from that memorable meeting.

I’m not biased, because it really is a good book, so I’m definitely recommending it.

Recommended for ages 8-14.

Henry Winkler




“I escaped the California Camp Fire: California’s deadliest wildfire” by S.D. Brown & Scott Peters

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. 2019. I escaped book #2. Best Day Books for Young Readers. (Includes Facts about the Paradise fire, Study guide, Timeline, Q & A’s, Books about fires, and a Red Cross resource.)

I escaped the California camp fireWhen his parents planned a trip and left him in charge of his little sister Emma for the night, fourteen-year-old Troy expected to pig out on junk food, and binge watch TV. What he didn’t expect was to be rudely awakened by his dog. Though it was just 9:15 in the morning, everything was smoky dark due to an oncoming fire.

Troy knew their only route of escape was for him to drive his father’s Bronco, even though he didn’t have a license. He manages to get his sister, dog and cat on the road, however, traffic is barely moving and the fire is coming fast. With split second timing Troy will have to figure out the safest and quickest route to freedom if he wants them all to survive.

This book was a very quick read, with short, cliffhanger chapters. It’s a good choice for reluctant readers, especially boys. There are some references to God, faith and prayer, but they’re not enough to turn this into a “Christian” book. I see it as an adventure/survival story, not a “Christian” adventure/survival story. This “I escaped” series seems very similar to the “I survived” series, written by Lauren Tarshis.

Recommended for ages 11-15.

I received an e-copy of this book from the Publisher in return for an honest review.

“Jazz owls: A novel of the Zoot Suit Riots” by Margarita Engle

Rated 5 stars ***** 2018. Simon & Schuster. 192 p. (Includes Author’s Note and References).

Jazz OwlsAfter working all day at their cannery jobs in Los Angeles, 16-year old Marisella and her 14-year old sister Lorena dance with sailors at their local USO because they love the way jitterbugging makes them feel. Against the background of their love for dance is a tide of hatred against Mexicans fueled by negative newspaper reports of interracial marriage. The papers call them gangsters and “a Mexican Problem” because of the death of a young boy named Jose Diaz.

Policemen stop them for no reason other than the color of their skin, and because they’re wearing zoot suits. Though they’re Americans with relatives fighting in the war, that doesn’t stop a large group of drunken sailors, soldiers and civilians from invading their neighborhoods, beating young boys, and burning their zoot suits. The police are reluctant to arrest the rioters and enter the fray, arresting and beating Mexicans and blacks instead of those who caused the riots.

The newspapers call the night of terror “The zoot suit riots,” instead of “Sailor riots,” blaming it all on Mexican teens. The anger they feel at such unwarranted treatment bleeds into their terrible working conditions, causing them to join in on the unionization movement.

Margarita’s intensive research gives readers detailed explanations of a previously unknown, dark chapter in our history. The story is told in verse, through several voices, giving varying points of view on the situation. “Jazz Owls” is a good choice for reluctant readers, and anyone interested in learning more about this time period in American history.

Highly recommended for ages 12 and older.

“Lord of shadows” Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. The dark artifices, Book #2. Margaret K. McElderry Books. 699 p.

Lord of ShadowsWhen last we saw the warlock Malcolm Fade, he’d been planning revenge on Shadowhunters for killing his girlfriend, Annabel Blackthorn. Though Emma killed him, his evil magic lives on…

A contingent of Centurions (highly trained Shadowhunters) arrives at the Los Angeles Institute to search for Malcolm’s body and the Black Volume of evil magic. Power hungry Zara Dearborn leads the group. She is determined to punish and oust Downworlders, and has gained a large following of Shadowhunters who feel as if they must maintain strict rules on all Downworlders.

Meanwhile Mark, Julian, Cristina and Emma break Clave Law to rescue Kieran from the Unseelie King as he’s about to be executed. Hotly pursued by his army they are given refuge in the Seelie Queen’s kingdom. There she reveals to Julian that she knows how to break his parabatai bond. All she wants in return is the Black Volume, also being sought by the Unseelie King.

His relationship with Emma is at stake, so Julian joins the long list of those wanting to get their hands on the Black Volume. Unfortunately the decisions he makes to gain it costs him more than he’d ever expected.

With every cliffhanger chapter I found myself on the edge of my seat, eagerly reading to find out what happens to Emma and the Blackthorns. I think I even found myself sliding over to Team Mark instead of Team Julian, as more of Mark’s character traits was revealed. There are lots of loose ends that need tying, so I can’t wait to dive into book 3  “Queen of air and darkness.”

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.