Thursday, September 12, 2019

Where the Light Enters: A Novel by Sara Donati

Where the Light Enters: A Novel. Sara Donati. Penguin Publishing Group.  September 2019. hb, 672 pp.; ISBN: 9780425271827.

Dr. Sophie Savard and Dr. Anna Savard, Sophie’s cousin and best friend, want to start a medical school and hospital for disadvantaged women in the 1800s.  Both doctors are women of color and have had their past experiences of prejudice and suspicion.  Now, Dr. Sophie’s husband has died of tuberculosis in Europe and she has returned to New York.  She’s had plenty of condolences and her own memories in grief to now process.  But activities in the city quickly garner her interest and involvement. 

A number of deaths have occurred to women who were pregnant, went to a criminal doctor who punished them with surgery, infection and eventual death.  But now that doctor is gone and there are still problems.  The wife of a reputable banker has disappeared and another woman is found dead by very suspicious wounds which lead the investigators to believe the same type of murder has again occurred.  Dr. Anna’s husband, Detective-Sergeant Jack Mezzanotte, asks the cousins to consult on the investigation.  They agree to consult and gradually the story unfolds to show who the captors or kidnappers are and who has once again murdered.

This is a tough and tender story that will grip every reader who is interested in both medicine and crime.  The main characters are financially well-settled but still have enormous compassion for women who seek criminal doctors hoping to end pregnancies or illness.  Women who are mistreated have multiple reasons to seek illicit treatment and the Savard doctors believe education and compassion will change the horrific nature of these losses.  This is a timely subject as the nation is coping with the possibility of abortions becoming illegal as it was fifty years ago and earlier.  It is not too hard to realize that these dark days could become reality again and that there are even now numerous women, both health care professionals and regular women, who seriously are concerned about this issue.  Dr. Anna and her husband Jack, as well as Dr. Sophie stand for the protection of women’s rights.  This would be an excellent novel to use in a book club or to share in other contemporary issue discussions.

The topic is obviously well-research and is presented with all sides of the issues covered.  Sara Donati is a highly-skilled, creative and talented writer.  This, her latest novel, is highly recommended historical fiction!!! Enjoy the read!

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

The Vanished Bride.  Bella Ellis. Penguin Publishing Group.  September 2019; pb, 304 pp.; ISBN #: 9780593099056.

In between writing poetry, novels and stories, Charlotte, Emily and Ann Bronte are looking into a criminal matter.  They call themselves “detectors.” That means there’s no official police designation and no spy attachment.  The nicest part of this novel is that these are talented but ordinary sisters who have talents with weaknesses.  They quarrel with and pick on each other as sisters do but there is a deep abiding and protective love that is rock solid no matter what happens.  They grow up in a time when a woman is a possession and really has absolutely no rights of her own.  However, they are raised by a liberal pastoral father who teaches them otherwise and respects the decisions they make.  So when a friend of theirs, Maddie, tells of a horrible occasion where her mistress has gone missing and all that is left behind is a gross amount of blood all over her bedroom.  Maddie implies that the behavior of Mr. Chester is cruel beyond reason and comes close to being criminal.  So the three sisters decide to become sleuths and tell their father nothing of plans.

Bram, the sisters’ brother, is an enigma of a character in this story.  He helps them during the day and seems strongly supportive.  But his nights are full of drinking himself into oblivion and he seems aimless in life because of a lost love.  However, he does come through in all the right places where woman must be accompanied by a male.  All the characters who loved Mrs. Chester are warm and have nothing but good things to say about her.  So they also will do what they can to find this missing woman.

The solution to the mystery comes after numerous clues are provided with many different interpretations as to meaning and how they fit with the obvious plan. Mr. Chester has a hyperactive brain that imagines wrongs that lead him to jealous and cruel treatment of his brides and everyone else in the house.  Others try to protect the victims from Mr. Chester’s outrageous attacks.

However, the right people will be discovered and the criminal will pay for wrongs committed.  Overall, readers will be pleased with the detective-like activities of these three sisters who vow to do no wrong and always work on the right side of the law.  They are very good “detectors” and the reader hopes they will have other efforts published on their mystery talent skills.  Nicely done, Bella Ellis!

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Passengers by John Marrs

The Passengers: A Novel. John Marrs. Penguin Publishing Group.  August 2019. pb, 352 pp.; ISBN: 9781984806970.

Libby is part of a Vehicle Inquest Jury deciding who is to blame when driver-less vehicles in England are in accidents with driver-controlled vehicles or pedestrians.  The outcome angers her because the driver-controlled vehicles are always cleared.  Now Libby and we share a phenomenal nightmare.  Eight driver-controlled vehicles are hacked by an unknown enemy; each of the people in those locked vehicles are told they will die in two-and-a-half hours. 

Libby and her jury peers are told they must choose who must die and which single person be allowed to live.  This whole scenario is obviously pre-planned and set up as each person has many reasons to live but all have at least one horrendous part of background which would negate the innocence of his or her life.  The disclosure of each biography plus the revelation of dark secrets is equal in shock value to the participants, public social media audience and each reader.  One is married to a pedophile, one is married to a bigamist, one has a dead husband in the trunk of the car, one is an abused illegal immigrant, one is bent on suicide and more. 

The premise of the novel will eventually be explained albeit condemned.  This novel will force readers to think about the Artificial Intelligence (AI) behind driver-less vehicles and about the decision to grant justice or injustice on those who survive such collisions.  Jack, the MP running the Vehicle Inquest Jury, is motivated by personal greed and is very much part of decisions that are immoral and downright injustice.  His end in this plot is as frightening as the rest of the novel.

Catch up on your sleep before you begin this novel because you will be gripped by its hair-raising plot and unable to stop reading, even while the tension mounts over and over with each changing scene and challenge.  It’s important satire but also a warning that AI needs to be monitored, maintained and controlled because it’s not as objective and detached as it seems.  Science can be deleterious and damning if not examined and measured on how it affects individuals and the public within society. It has criminal possibilities as well as technological progress.  As in this novel, You Decide!

Mind-blowing plot, carefully crafted and a nail-biting, hair-raising story.  A truly thrilling read!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Perfect Son: A Novel by Lauren North

The Perfect Son: A Novel.  Lauren North. Penguin Publishing Group.  August 2019; pb, 368 pp.; ISBN #: 9781984803849.

How far will grief take over the mind and heart of its victim?  Tessa Clarke has just lost her husband in a tragic airplane accident.  Now at the beginning of this story, she wakes up in the hospital with a knife wound in her stomach and the realization that her son Jamie is missing.  The plot goes back to months before Jamie’s birthday and his disappearance.  Many have reached out to Tess in her grief but she remains totally incommunicado.  The only person to approach her is her late husband’s brother, Ian, who claims that he loaned Mark a huge amount of money that he needs repaid now.  Tessa is the Executrix of her husband’s will but hasn’t given any thought to a will or the future.

All of a sudden, Tessa finds some temporary relief in a visit from Shelly, a grief counselor, who herself lost a child and has been through this grief process.  She knows exactly what Tessa is thinking and feeling, and that is some small comfort as Tessa struggles to keep her head together for her son.  Jamie however has reverted to his former shy nature and fear of anything out of the normal occurrences of everyday.  He, however, also enjoys Sherry’s visits.

The story plays out and the reader discovers a mystery lurking that she cannot handle even though once it does play out forces her to wake up to how her grief is destroying her life and perhaps even forcing the loss of her son.  But that truth takes a while to evolve as it does.

Lauren North is a psychologist who knows the mind and hearts of her characters.  Thing tie up a bit pat by the end but it’s satisfactory to the reader who has been taking sides with the characters since this nightmare began.  Nicely crafted, Lauren North – a mysterious, touching and sincere read!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Ellie and the Harpmaker: A Novel by Hazel Prior

Ellie and the Harpmaker: A Novel.  Hazel Prior. Penguin Publishing Group.  August, 2019; pb, 336 pp.; ISBN #: 9781984803788.

Ellie on a wandering walk in the Exmoor country finds a Harpmaker Barn owned by Dan who creates Celtic harps that produce gorgeous music.  The story is narrated from the points of view of Ellie and Dan.  Dan is a sensitive soul who loves nature, the rocky pebbles that he uniquely places at the bottom of each harp he builds, and culture that is in touch with beauty. 

Ellie is married to Clive, a man who enjoys his work, football and food.  He loves Ellie but has no place in him for the loneliness she feels and her craving for expressing the beauty in the world she perceives.  However, all that is about to change as she meets Dan, receives a harp he has made and begins to take lessons which she loves.  But Ellie’s curiosity leads her into trouble as she perceives something in Dan’s life that he needs to know.  That in turn sets off Ellie’s conflict with Clive, who believes Ellie has been unfaithful to him.  Clive makes no accusations but stays cold and distant.

Meanwhile Dan is making friends with someone very close to him and a new life is beginning.  It is only when Ellie tells him that Clive has thrown her out that their future together becomes a happy, fulfilling reality.  Ellie now has the opportunity to become who she really is, allowing her inner world to blend with her Exmoor reality – a dream come true!

This is a lovely story of two people who must overcome who they are not to venture into a new possibility.  The conflicts are sad but develop as they must.  Some changes are painfully necessary for dreams to come true!  Delightful romantic, contemporary fiction!!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Life and Other Inconveniences: A Novel by Kristan Higgins

Life and Other Inconveniences: A Novel. Kristan Higgins. Penguin Publishing Group.  August 2019. pb, 448 pp.; ISBN: 9780451489425.

Genevieve London has had a successful life but a very unhappy one.  She lost her son Sheppard who suddenly disappeared and wasn’t found even after many years.  Then her husband died.  She raised her granddaughter Emma after the suicide death of Emma’s mother.  Emma became pregnant at 18 years old and gave birth to Riley, the joy of her life, but Genevieve threw Emma out of the house.

Emma hasn’t communicated with Genevieve once in many years but now receives a message to come as her grandmother is dying.  It’s a perfect time to go to Sheerwater, Connecticut as Riley is being harassed by so-called friends in High School. However, Emma thinks she owes her grandmother nothing and doesn’t want to seem like she’s waiting for Genevieve to die so she can inherit her fortune.  She finally agrees to go for Riley’s sake and let her daughter decide what she thinks about this relative she’s never known.

This then is the story of a family who will be reunited, get to know each other as they are in today’s world, and plan for a future.  It’s a lovely story with some very funny moments.  Riley and Genevieve get along and become very close and Genevieve puts up with Riley’s snappy retorts and frankly cold comments about the way Genevieve treats family.   Emma, on the other hand, finds work at a local home, where her sister Hope is a resident, and meets a man who’s trying to be a single parent of a daughter who’s a pro at throwing long, long tantrums.

The story is narrated from the perspective of each character which fills in details about the inner characters as well as some mysterious gaps for the reader.  This is a straight-from-the hip account in which the inner thoughts and feelings of each character stands out to form a complete story.  Genevieve is grateful for the presence of her family as she is gradually declining from brain cancer and has short and long periods of losing awareness of where and who she is, as well as about those around her.   The end is a surprise but a welcome one as relationships fall the way they will, without any false expectations!  Very nice tale skillfully presented!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Mirador: A Novel by James Jennings

Mirador: A Novel. James Jennings. Greenpoint Press.  August 2019. pb, 471 pp.; ISBN: 9780990619444. 

In the early 1990s the United States made an agreement with Canada and Mexico known as NAFTA or North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.  It was supposed to establish trade in which the Mexican common people would benefit as much as business owners and employees.  Nothing, however, changed. The peasants realized the deal was a sham and began to demonstrate and protest against the role of government and big corporations and insisted on the institution of democracy and free rights for all Mexicans including the majority of peasants who were literally being starved to death in poverty wages.  The military stepped up their vigilante behavior and began kidnapping protestors and peasants, who became known as victims or desaparecido or disappeared ones.

Nate and Sarah have been married for a short time.  Nate is a successful IT businessman and Sarah is a nurse.  A visiting pastor has been sermonizing in America and recruits Nate and Sarah to travel to Mirador in the State of Chiapas in Mexico.  Nate doesn’t really want to go but does so because he known Sarah will go without him and will not be swayed from her decision. He believes he must go to protect her.  Early in their journey, they meet soldiers of El Piton who are arresting indigenistas or Zapatistas, those who are rebelling and protesting.  They are peasants who have had enough of being kidnapped and killed.  The officer known as El Piton commits atrocities such as our young couple will experience.  It matters not whether one is Mexican or a foreigner for El Piton’s power is subject to no authority.  In a horrific scene, Nathan watches as El Piton kills his wife with a gunshot to the head after taunting her with questions of whether or not she believes in Jesus Christ.  One cannot truly believe this deed yet riveting pages describe the stages of Nate’s grief, sorrow, rage and confusion.  Finally, after burying his wife, he returns to Mirador, believing his grief has no boundary or end unless he continues to carry out the mission he and his wife initially agreed to complete.  Thus he begins setting up a website for the Zapatistas, widely promulgating the rebellious demand for freedom and democracy of the indigenistas.  He will pay the ultimate price and knows he will but believes that the mission is now larger than individual lives or motives.  It is unknown how many martyrs have been sacrificed to stop this now global mission but the War Against Forgetting is still active today and may be appreciated at or 

This novel is based on reality that must be known, appreciated and spread.  James Jennings is a writer thoroughly familiar with this cause for life and liberty and presents the reality in fiction in hopes of creating world-wide awareness and pressure to compel change and hope for those who have no other voice.  “Lust for life and a horror of losing it” fuel this movement. Highly recommended reading crafted with historical, social, military, economic and human rights details.  A MUST read for those who dare to hope for a better dream for the people of Mirador and elsewhere in Mexico!!!