Thursday, August 11, 2016

Valley of the Moon: A Novel, by Melanie Gideon

On a sunny day in April, the ground shook and a thick grey fog encircled Greengage farm, a communal enclave near Sonoma, California. It was 1906, and the great San Francisco earthquake had just struck. Joseph, the British founder of Greengage, soon realizes that the fog kills anyone who tries to go through it. Four months later, the now isolated community still has not found a way to break through this fog. Then Lux, an unwed mother, struggling to make ends meet in San Francisco while caring for a young son and working in a bar, stumbles through the fog. Lux, however, is from 1975. Apparently the only person able to travel through the fog unharmed, Lux discovers that time flows differently in Greengage; while the community has experienced a passage of time of only four months since the earthquake, close to 70 years have passed on the outside.

Weaving a delicate tapestry composed of her own unique story, combined with hints of Brigadoon, C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells, and non-Orwellian futurism, Gideon gifts us with a compelling novel of familial and romantic love trapped and then freed by time and circumstances.

Valley of the Moon is a fascinating book that spans more than two centuries, I could not put it down. (I was provided a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.)

Print Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 26, 2016)
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Sold by: Random House LLC

The Titanic Murders, by Max Allan Collins

The Titanic Murders, by Max Allan Collins, all in all is an excellent book. I have read several of Collins' other historical mysteries and I continue to be impressed by his mastery of historical detail. Although Jaques Futrelle, the lead character and the author of the Professor Van Dusen detective stories, was one of the Titanic's victims over 100 years ago, Collins brings him to life and makes his death a recent tragedy.

Collins also gives the reader a front row seat to the Titanic's staterooms, cabins, restaurants, and lounges. For the first time, I learned that the Titanic's steerage passengers enjoyed the most luxurious accommodations ever provided to steerage class travelers. The floors and walls were sparkling, the beds comfortable, each cabin had washing facilities, and the meals were both tasty and abundant. The second class accommodations were the equivalent of first class on other ships, and the first class staterooms were unsurpassed in their luxury. Each of the characters that Collins introduces to us, lives, laughs, conspires, and, some even love. Too many, however, lose their lives when the great ship sinks. That is history's fault, not Collins'. Nonetheless, I am grateful that Collins did not devote many pages to describing the tragic sinking. I also am grateful that Collins avoided the cliche of allocating blame for the tragedy. He tells a truthful story with some whimsical attributes, and he solves a mystery. If you enjoy mystery novels that make you smarter, you will enjoy this book.

Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Berkley; 1st edition (April 1, 1999)
Language: English

The Girl Who Could Read Hearts

Six year old Katie loves her plastic angel doll named Etta Ebella. With Etta's magical help, Katie sees the light, vibrant colors and love in her family's hearts. She also sees the darkness and snakes in some other hearts outside her family. Born with red hair, just like her beloved "Grammy Mer," Katie is gifted with unexplainable talents. Although religious belief plays a role in the book, Maysonave approaches faith from Katie's inclusionary standpoint: there is "Jesus-man," who is all things to every religion, and there is the Great Angel Mother who is the feminine side of God. Prejudice, the " pre-judging" of others, is taboo. Those that practice "churchianity" instead of Christianity are called out for being small-minded hypocrites, who are at times dangerous and evil. "The Girl Who Could Read Hearts" is a delightful, inspiring novel. In a world that seems to be getting darker, Maysonave creates a little child to help us focus on the beauty of our planet, and to help us let the light in. (In exchange for an honest review, I was provided a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)

Publisher: Balboa Press (April 26, 2016)
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC