“Evangelina takes flight” Diana J. Noble

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Arte Público Press. 195 p.

EvangelinaTakesFlightEvangelina lived with her parents, brothers, sisters and grandfather on her father’s ranch in Mariposa Mexico, which had been in the family for generations. She was looking forward to turning 15 in a year and a half so she could also celebrate her quinceañera, like her big sister. Everything about her life seemed to be going well, until the politics of 1911 turned everything upside down.

Due to the fighting that had begun with the Revolution, Pancho Villa and his soldiers roamed the countryside, robbing and killing villagers, Evangelina’s parents decide it’s too risky to stay in Mexico, so Evangelina had to leave her home and everything she loved, including her grandfather. It took days to travel to a small border town in Texas to live with her aunt but once there, the family found out they weren’t welcomed because they were Mexican.

Through the trials and tribulations she endured at school and at the hands of prejudiced villagers, Evangelina gained the courage to spread her wings and fly free as a butterfly, despite those who wanted her to crawl at their feet like a caterpillar.

I enjoyed learning about the Mexican Revolution from the eyes of a family who was living it. It was sad to read how Mexicans were treated in Texas and other states, even though they had been part of Mexico before the Mexican-American War. When settlers from the United States moved into these new states and took over land previously owned by Mexico, it was the Mexicans (the original inhabitants) who lost the rights to their ancestral homelands – just as what had happened to the Native Americans.

Attitudes towards Mexicans and other foreigners are, unfortunately, still alive today. Despite having to flee their homes due to war, gangs and other types of violence, many are not met with acceptance when they arrive in the United States. I loved what Evangelina said on page 111 when she asked, “Why do people in town glare at us so hatefully if they’ve never even met us? What would they do if the war was in Texas and their sons and daughters and fathers and sisters were being kidnapped and killed?” 

I have to get on a soapbox to say that people need to put themselves into the shoes of others, and stop being judgmental. As I’ve said time and again no one is an original American except for Native Americans, so think about where YOU would be now if your ancestors were kept out of the country the way you’re trying so hard to keep others out.” Think about it really hard.

Highly recommended for ages 12-16.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Advertisements

“The stolen marriage” Diane Chamberlain

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook.St. Martin’s Press. To be published October 3, 2017. (Includes “Author’s notes and Acknowledgements.”)

TheStolenMarriageIn 1943 twenty-three year old Tess DeMello was set to marry Vincent, the love of her life, in their Little Italy neighborhood of Baltimore where they’d grown up together. He had become a doctor and she was studying to be a nurse so, when a severe outbreak of polio struck children in Chicago, Vincent volunteered his services for several months. His absence set the stage for Tess to visit Washington D.C. where she met Hank Kraft, a rich furniture maker from Hickory, a small North Carolina town. When she becomes pregnant she abandons Vincent, marries Hank, and moves to Hickory.

Hatred from her mother-in-law, as well as from Hank’s sister, former girlfriend, and all their friends greeted her, causing loneliness to cloud her every move. In addition, Tess soon realized Hank seemed to be hiding secrets, and had no feelings for her. Anxious to find a way to relieve the pressure of her marriage, Tess disobeyed Hank to volunteer her services as a nurse at the hospital the town built in 54 hours when polio struck their part of the state.  There she learned to stand on her own again, finally able to become the person she was meant to be.

Many themes are at work in this book, ranging from infantile paralysis (what polio used to be called), religion, mediums, relationships, racial inequalities and more. Readers will definitely have much to ponder, making this a great choice for a book club.

As a child my mother suffered from polio in the mid 1940’s, which caused her to be in a leg brace. To this day, she still has problems with that leg. This is the first book I’ve ever read about infantile paralysis/polio, which helped me understand what she and thousands of other children had to endure. Thank you Diane Chamberlain for enlightening readers on the subject through your excellent research and, of course, a huge round of applause is reserved for Jonas Salk.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“House of Echoes” Brendan Duffy

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Ballantine Books (Random House). Published April 14, 2015.

HouseOfEchoesBen Tierney and his wife Caroline live with their baby boy and eight-year-old son Charlie in a Manhattan apartment. When Ben’s grandmother dies, he and his brother inherit a sprawling mansion called the Crofts built between two mountains in the small upstate New York town of Swannhaven. Charlie has endured severe bullying at his school, so Ben is sure he and his family should start a new life at the Crofts. In a short time, the Tierney’s move to Swannhaven to renovate and turn the mansion into an inn has become a reality.

As time goes on creepy things begin to happen at the Crofts, and Ben finds himself facing questions that don’t seem to have any answers. Why does Charlie keep disappearing into the forest? Why do the villagers look at them so strangely? Why does it feel like someone is watching his family? What is really going on at Swannhaven? These questions and more will keep readers at the edges of their seats.

“House of Echoes” has many similarities to the 1973 novel “Harvest Home,” by Thomas Tryon. It is such a creepy and shocking read, I suggest you read during the day. If you must read at night, make sure you have plenty of lights on in the house! Duffy doles out the creepiness in enough doses to keep readers turning pages, eagerly trying to find out what will happen next to the Tierney family.

Recommended for Adult readers.

The

“My best everything” Sarah Tomp

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Published March 3, 2015. Little, Brown & Company.

MyBestEverythingSeventeen-year-old Lulu tells her story through a letter to the boy she met and fell in love with during the summer she graduated from high school. Falling in love was not part of her plan, as she was supposed to leave Virginia in just a few months. She planned to say goodbye to her best friend Roni and to her backwoods town of Dale so she could start a new life at the University of San Diego. For her part Roni is certain her future lies in marrying her boyfriend Bucky and living in Dale forever. Neither of them can understand why Lulu is so anxious to leave, but Lulu is undeterred. She will leave Dale.

Unfortunately all of Lulu’s plans come to a screeching halt when her father loses her college money in a poor financial move. She is devastated, but is determined that she will get out of Dale no matter the cost. When a moonshine still is delivered to the junkyard where she works with Roni, Lulu is sure selling moonshine will be the answer to her problems. Bucky’s friend Mason has been in the moonshine business with his cousin Seth, and offers to help with their endeavor.

As Lulu, Roni, Bucky and Mason work together to secretly make and sell their illegal moonshine, Lulu again finds her life turned upside down. Her need to leave Dale has compromised everything she has ever believed in, as she finds herself turning into someone she doesn’t recognize. Confused over her feelings for Mason, and now questioning her desire to leave Dale, Lulu’s summer turns into a bubbling mess that will rival any moonshine in her secret still.

Determination, strength of will, and stubbornness are just a few of the adjectives that describe some of the characters in “My best everything.” Though I don’t agree with the way Lulu decided to try and solve her problems, I admire the way she owned up to her mistakes.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“1999: A novel of the Celtic Tiger and the search for peace” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 4 stars **** 2008. Irish Century Novels #5. Tom Doherty Associates. 399 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters,Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1999 AnoveloftheCelticTigerandthe searchforpeaceBarry Halloran’s personal fight as a photojournalist against Ireland’s occupation by the British continues in the last book of The Irish Century series. In “1999” readers are infused with information about the various IRA Republican factions which continued their battles for a united Ireland, contrasted with crimes committed against Catholics by British and Protestant organizations aided and abetted by local police.

As usual, Llywelyn summarizes information covered in previous books to bring the reader “up to speed.” However I found a glaring error in “1999,” which disappointed me since the author has always been very good at seamlessly joining all her books.

The error was a complete changing of an event that happened in “1972” in which Barry woke Barbara Kavanagh from a deep sleep and proposed to her. Afterwards they both woke up his best friend Séamus to ask him to be the best man.

I was very dismayed to have the marriage proposal be completely changed in “1999”, as the proposal now occurs while Barbara is having an argument with her mother over the telephone. Later that evening, Séamus returns home and is asked to be Barry’s best man.

I am at a loss as to why Barry’s proposal was changed from one book to the other. Did an editor not catch the change? If Morgan Llywelyn were to read this review I would ask why she changed such a romantic proposal from “1972” into this “ho hum” proposal in “1999.” In my opinion, a change was not necessary.

Other than having a problem with this change, I enjoyed “1999.”

Recommended for Adult readers.

“1972: A novel of Ireland’s unfinished revolution” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2005. Irish Century Novels #4. Tom Doherty Associates. 365 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Bipartisan Declaration from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1972Barry Halloran, Ursula’s son and Ned’s grandson, now takes up the centuries long fight for Ireland’s independence in Llywelyn’s latest book.

Eager to fight for his country Barry joins the IRA as a foot soldier, and is soon enamored with the feeling of camaraderie amongst the men in the army. He has hope for his country’s future but, when he actually killed someone, Barry decided there had to be a way to make a difference without killing. In time he became a demolition expert for the IRA, but insisted his targets be places where lives would not be lost. Soon, he became the best demolition expert in the army.

With Northern Catholics experiencing severe civil rights violations, various political factions within the country sought to copy the nonviolent civil rights movement undertaken in America in an effort to reunite the country. Now an experienced photojournalist, Barry is in the midst of the action as Northern extremists clash with Catholics. Ireland and Barry’s coming of age story are uniquely joined, culminating in the terrible events known to history as Bloody Sunday.

Recommended for Adults.

“1949: A novel of the Irish Free State” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2003. Irish Century Novels #3. Tom Doherty Associates. 485 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Ireland Act from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1949With Ned off fighting for the Republic and Henry living in America, it is up to Ursula Halloran to take up the story of Ireland and her struggles for freedom in this newest edition to the Irish Century series.

After two years at a Swiss finishing school, Ursula arrives back at the home of Louise Hamilton determined to get a job at a radio station and become more heavily involved in Ireland’s quest to become a Republic. Determined not to marry and to remain independent, contrary to what the Catholic Church has instilled into the consciousness of her countrywomen, she forges a strong path for herself.

Ursula’s strong willed tendencies make her extremely attractive to two men. With each determined to win her love Ursula refuses to give in to her feelings, even when she becomes pregnant. Without telling the father of her child, she travels to Switzerland to work for the League of Nations and to give birth as a single mother outside of the condemnation of the Church. Unfortunately Adolf Hitler and the rise of Fascism have led to a thirst for power and land among various leaders. With almost all of Europe falling to his army, she and little Barry are no longer safe.

Ireland’s role during the war, along with its own internal battles for freedom, form a background to Ursula’s story, the rise of Hitler and the horrors of World War II. Readers will learn of important historical events while continuing to follow the highs and lows of the Halloran clan who we have grown to love.

Recommended for Adult readers.