Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Falling: A Love Story by Jane Green

Falling: A Love Story. Jane Green. Penguin Publishing Group. July 2016. 384 pp.  ISBN#: 9780399583285. 

Emma Montague has flown the hectic, successful, stylish life of the New York finance world to live in the countryside of Westport, Connecticut.  She’s actually British and comes from a family where “class” means everything and “Mum” just doesn’t get her present abandonment of a rising career for country living.  Emma herself isn’t quite sure about her future but little by little every day begins to feel oh so right!
Her first independent streak is deciding after renting a worn-down old house to do some redecorating.  It turns out Emma’s got quite a bit of latent talent and her landlord, after getting over the change of his grandparents’ look, admits her style is very, very good.  When not doing odd jobs at home and building shelves for his new renter Emma, Dominic is a bartender at a local bar and raising his son, 6 year-old Jessie.  The rapport between the three quickly grows, in between some very funny scenes as Emma is introduced to the night life of the area and some very varied women.  Some would have fit in Emma’s New York scene and others are more relaxed, friendly and down-to-earth women who warmly make Emma fit in as if she’s always lived there, even though they make her blush with their comments about Dominic as Emma’s “neighborly” closeness.

The remainder of the novel is quite lovely as Dominic, Emma and Jesse begin to bond as a caring family.  Then comes the totally unexplained and unexpected jolt and the future dramatically changes forever.

Wonderful, light (somewhat contrived) fiction that this reviewer highly recommends as a very pleasant read!  Thanks to the publisher, Penguin, who provided this novel in return for an honest review!

Peregrine Island: A Novel by Diane B. Saxton

Peregrine Island: A Novel. Diane B. Saxton. She Writes Press. August 2016. 288 pp.  ISBN#: 9781631521515. 

Three women inhabit a home on Peregrine Island, a small town on the Connecticut side of the Long Island Sound.  The grandmother Winter, daughter Elsie and granddaughter Peda live together but firmly divided by their likes and dislikes, their secrets and their refusal to talk directly about the family history that has divided them, without each realizing that reality.  Winter sits every day staring at a painting she deems beautiful, full of characters who mean more to her than her own family.  Elsie had disappeared for five years and returned with her daughter Peda, never giving one utterance of her reasons for disappearing or a clue about who her daughter’s father is.  An old caretaker and a hidden old man whom others believe is Peda’s invention add mystery and ghost-like ambiance to this lush setting and bittersweet family. Many secrets will become exposed and unraveled depicting how the past so forcefully colors the present. 

One day two bedraggled old men and a young, sexy-looking man, Ham, arrive at the house, claiming they’ve been sent by well-known art dealers.  They are here to evaluate the painting Winter loves, created by her grandfather, Simon Candor.  Winter, a woman who fluctuates between biting direct remarks and being a surrealistic presence, wants to know how these strange men learned about the painting.  Ham claims he is a relative of Simon Candor and that the painting really belongs to him. The family is protective in the face of unending questions and comments; the art evaluators seem greedy and ready to do something for their own benefit.  Is the painting real or a copy?  Are the evaluators really experts or frauds?

To say more would be to spoil a delicious tale of revelation and conflict that flows like the tide of the waters surrounding this island home.  Over quite a period of time, we will learn not only who created the painting and what lies behind its frame, but the mystery of a family member who disappeared years ago, the truth about a murder that was never documented, and the truth about present and past relationships that is shocking to all.  Truth and honesty will eventually come out but not until the end of a circuitous journey that exposes loyalty, greed, unfaithfulness, selfishness and terror in every single character abiding in these pages.

Peregrine Island… is a carefully plotted and uniquely characterized story that is sure to delight readers of skilled authors.  Highly recommended historical/contemporary fiction!!!

The Ninja's Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel - A Shinobi Mystery by Susan Spann

The Ninja’s Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel (A Shinobi Mystery).  Susan Spann. Seventh Street Books. August 2, 2016. 248 pp.  ISBN#: 9781633881815.

The daughter of an actor is found murdered by the side of Kyoto’s Kamo River, and a man who “thinks” he murdered her comes for assistance to the Portuguese Jesuit priest, Father Mateo, and his secret body guard, the master ninja Hiro Hattori. Hiro and Father Mateo are at odds initially as the latter believes there’s a mystery here to be solved and Hiro believes this is a messy business they should avoid. 

The latest Shogun has died and various groups are vying for this position, indeed getting ready to go to war with each other to win the coveted position that carries so much power, riches and fame with it. 

Father Mateo and Hiro discover that the local magistrates won’t investigate this murder because the dead girl was the daughter of an actor, a profession considered shameful in 16th century Japan.  Father Mateo, however, values every life and insists on investigating this murder, helping the family of the murdered girl, and defying the warning that they would be arrested if they interfered with any investigation. 

The intriguing parts of this mystery involve a golden coin found attached to the string that caused the death of Emi, a silent lover Jiro who was with Emi the night before she died but remembers nothing else, a family whose males acted in Noh dramas, a sister who knew of Emi’s plans and secret meetings with men at night, and parents who allowed Emi to act in unseemly ways because they couldn’t control her fierce passions about her future life. 

Besides being a good mystery, this novel is also intriguing in its presentation of the Noh actors’ culture, the set standards of communicating with men and women of different social classes, and the levels of integrity and abuse of the local clans ruling the area with its codes of behavior for different members in the samurai hierarchy.
Wonderful historical mystery, Susan Spann! Highly recommended reading!