Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston

  • Title and author:  Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi
  • Publisher:  Penguin Random House
  • Published:  February 20, 2018
  • Pages:  40 pages
  • Genre:  Children’s literature / children’s picture books / culture

SYNOPSIS

Sakura’s dad gets a new job in America, so she and her parents make the move from their home in Japan. When she arrives in the States, most of all she misses her grandmother and the cherry blossom trees, under which she and her grandmother used to play and picnic. She wonders how she’ll ever feel at home in this new place, with its unfamiliar language and landscape. One day, she meets her neighbor, a boy named Luke, and begins to feel a little more settled. When her grandmother becomes ill, though, her family takes a trip back to Japan. Sakura is sad when she returns to the States and once again reflects on all she misses. Luke does his best to cheer her up — and tells her about a surprise he knows she’ll love, but she’ll have to wait till spring. In the meantime, Sakura and Luke’s friendship blooms and finally, when spring comes, Luke takes her to see the cherry blossom trees flowering right there in her new neighborhood.

Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms captures the beauty of the healing power of friendship through Weston’s Japanese poetry-inspired text and Saburi’s breathtaking illustrations.

Buy the book:   Penguin    Amazon    Barnes & Noble

Meet the author:   Robert Paul Weston’s first novel was Zorgamazoo, a Booklist top ten debut of 2008. Born in the UK and raised in Canada, Robert Paul Weston lives in Toronto, where he currently teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto.

Connect with the author:  Website   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram

REVIEW:

This little story is about Sakura, a Japanese girl whose life is transplanted from Japan to America. She misses her grandmother, Obaachan and the little things they would do together in the spring when the cherry trees were blooming. Sakura finds learning a new language to be a bit tricky, as English sounds are very different from Japanese words. Her new little friend Luke is helping her adapt to her new life in America, such as making snow angels (I adore the snow angel picture!)

The story is written in a series of traditional tanka poems. A lovely little book that teaches children that, although learning a new language and culture can be difficult, it can have it’s own rewards and joys.

Book review: Whisper of the Moon Moth by Jayne Ashford

  • Title and author:  Whisper of the Moon Moth by Jayne Ashford
  • Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
  • Date released:  October 1, 2017
  • Pages:  352
  • Genre:  Biographical | historical fiction

SYNOPSIS:

For nineteen-year-old Estelle Thompson, going to the cinema is more than a way to pass the time…it’s a way out. In 1931 in Calcutta, Anglo-Indian girls like Estelle are considered half-breeds, shunned by both English and Indian society. Her only escape is through the silver screen, where she can forget the world around her.

When Estelle catches the eye of a dashing American heir with connections to a major motion-picture studio, he also captures her heart. Soon, Estelle has a one-way ticket to London and a recommendation for a screen test.

To get to the top, she must keep her Indian heritage concealed—and so begins her new identity as movie goddess Merle Oberon. But just as her dreams are poised to come true, she discovers that her own family is keeping a much more shocking secret from her—one that changes everything she’s believed about her past.

Buy the book:   Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Audible

Meet the author:  Raised in Wolverhampton, UK, Lindsay Jayne Ashford became the first woman to graduate from Queens’ College, Cambridge in its 550 year history. She gained a degree in Criminology and was employed as a reporter for the BBC before becoming a freelance journalist, writing for a number of national magazines and newspapers.

Lindsay began her career as a novelist with a contemporary crime series featuring forensic psychologist Megan Rhys. She moved into the historical genre with ‘The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen’, and her two most recent books, ‘The Color of Secrets’ and ‘The Woman on the Orient Express’ blend real events with fiction and are set in the first half of the twentieth century.  She has four children and divides her time between a house overlooking the sea on the west coast of Wales and a small farmhouse in Spain’s Sierra de Los Filabres. When she is not writing she is a volunteer with the charity Save the Children. She also enjoys kayaking and walking her dog – a Border Terrier.

Connect with the author:   Amazon author profile

MY REVIEW:

An absorbing fictional and biographical account about Merle Oberon (formerly Estelle Thompson) who had to hide her Anglo-Indian ancestry in order to break into the narrow-minded and bigoted film industry in England and then later Hollywood. Not a completely accurate account, the author describes the fictional liberties she took with both Merle and the other characters in the book.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the book was entertaining and had me constantly googling the characters and places that were mentioned in the book and I was able to sort out fiction from fact.

A fun read for anyone who loves Hollywood stories with a bit of fantasy and intrigue thrown in.

Book review: The Designer by Marius Gabriel

  • Title & Author:  The Designer by Marius Gabriel
  • Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
  • Date published:  October 1, 2017
  • Pages: 388 pages
  • Genre:  biographical fiction / general fiction / historical fiction

Book Description:

In 1944, newly married Copper Reilly arrives in Paris soon after the liberation. While the city celebrates its freedom, she’s stuck in the prison of an unhappy marriage. When her husband commits one betrayal too many, Copper demands a separation.

Alone in Paris, she finds an unlikely new friend: an obscure, middle-aged designer from the back rooms of a decaying fashion house whose timid nature and reluctance for fame clash with the bold brilliance of his designs. His name is Christian Dior.

Realising his genius, Copper urges Dior to strike out on his own, helping to pull him away from his insecurities and towards stardom. With just a camera and a typewriter, she takes her own advice and ventures into the wild and colourful world of fashion journalism.

Soon Copper finds herself torn between two very different suitors, questioning who she is and what she truly wants. As the city rebuilds and opulence returns, can Copper make a new, love-filled life for herself?

Buy the book:   Amazon    Barnes & Noble

Meet the author:  

Marius Gabriel is an international thriller and mystery writer.  Under the pseudonym Madeleine Ker, he wrote over 30 romance novels in the 1980s.

As Marius Gabriel he has written several mystery best-sellers, some of them historical novels. 

He has three grown-up children and currently lives in Cairo and London.

Connect with the author:   Twitter    Facebook    goodreads

REVIEW:

As a photographer and fashion enthusiast, I was looking forward to exploring the rise of fashion and the world of Christian Dior during the remaining years of WWII.  The story revolves around Oona Reilly (Copper), a young American woman stationed in Paris with her journalist husband.  After her marriage falls apart and her husband is stationed elsewhere, Oona becomes heavily involved in the bohemian art and fashion world.  This association leads her to become a protege of Christian Dior, a talented designer who has yet to establish his own design house.

Although this book is primarily historical fiction, there are several historical events relating to the war described in this novel such as the concentration camps, the severe living conditions in France at the time as well as the role the American army and the French resistance played in liberating France from the Nazis.  I found myself googling the characters and events in the book for more information and found that the events described were accurate.

Although Oona’s meteoric rise as a photographer and  a successful freelance journalist seemed “a little too effortless” to be believable I really did enjoy reading this novel.

 

Book review: Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl: A Novel by John Demos

  • Puritan Girl, Mohawak Girl by John Demos
  • Publisher:  Amulet Books
  • Date published:  (October 31, 2017)
  • Pages:  160 pages
  • Genre:  8-12 years (middle grade)

DESCRIPTION:

Inspired by Demos’s award-winning novel The Unredeemed CaptivePuritan Girl, Mohawk Girl will captivate a young audience, providing a Native American perspective rather than the Western one typically taught in the classroom.

As the armed conflicts between the English colonies in North America and the French settlements raged in the 1700s, a young Puritan girl, Eunice Williams, is kidnapped by Mohawk people and taken to Canada. She is adopted into a new family, a new culture, and a new set of traditions that will define her life. As Eunice spends her days learning the Mohawk language and the roles of women and girls in the community, she gains a deeper understanding of her Mohawk family.  Although her father and brother try to persuade Eunice to return to Massachusetts, she ultimately chooses to remain with her Mohawk family and settlement.

Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl offers a compelling and rich lesson that is sure to enchant young readers and those who want to deepen their understanding of Native American history.

BUY THE BOOK:   AMAZON    BARNES & NOBLE  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Putnam Demos is an American author and historian. He has written two books which discuss witch-hunts and has discovered that one of his own ancestors was John Putnam Senior, ancestor of the Putnam family which was prominent in the Salem witch trials.

Demos was awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for his book Entertaining Satan. He was awarded the 1995 Francis Parkman Prize for his book The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America.

He retired in December 2008 as the Samuel Knight Professor of History at Yale University.

Demos lives in Tyringham, Massachusetts and is currently working on a new book.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:    WEBSITE

REVIEW:  

This book caught my attention because I have very good friends who belong to the Mohawk nation in Kahnawake, close to the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. One of my friends, although Mohawk, is tall and white skinned and I am told it was because there was a white captive that was adopted into his tribe several generations ago.

Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl is an excellent way to teach history to middle grade children through storytelling. Although the main character, Eunice Williams really existed, most of the details are fictional but based on the daily life of the Mohawk people.

I remember reading a very similar story as a young girl entitled “Calico Captive”. The story was similar but with a much different ending. I really enjoyed Eunice’s story and found it to be quite a page turner.

Book review: Lillian Boxfish takes a walk by Kathleen Rooney

  • Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
  • Date released:  January 17, 2017
  • Pages:  304
  • Genre:  Literary fiction / Women’s fiction

SYNOPSIS:

“In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”

Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now—her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl—but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed—and has not.

A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.

“Extraordinary…Hilarious…Elegantly written, Rooney creates a glorious paean to a distant literary life and time—and an unabashed celebration of human connections that bridge past and future.
Publishers Weekly

BUY THE BOOK:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble   MacMillan

Meet the author:  Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. She has been recognized as one of Newcity Lit’s “Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2016.” Her previous work includes poetry as well as both fiction and nonfiction, and has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Allure, Salon, The Rumpus, and the Chicago Tribune. She works as a senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing at DePaul University where she teaches, among other things, a workshop on The Writer as Urban Walker. Kathleen is married to the novelist Martin Seay.

Connect with the author:   Website   Facebook   Twitter   goodreads   tumbler

MY REVIEW:

Eighty-five year old Lillian is going for a walk on New Year’s eve.  A very long walk.  Never the wilting violet, her walk takes her through dangerous neighbourhoods as well as old haunts. As she passes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, old memories surface as she relives her life beginning as a young career woman who rose to fame writing ads for Macy’s Department Store in the 1930s.  Her widely publicized creed that a woman doesn’t need romance or love in her life backfires when she falls completely and insanely in love with Max.  With the birth of her child, her lifestyle and aspirations change abruptly, causing her to lose her lose her sense of self.

Although this book is a work of fiction, the author’s inspiration came from the real life character of Margaret Fishback, a poet and the real highest-paid female advertising copywriter in the world during the 1930s.

The author, herself a poet, delivers a delightfully witty and touching story of a woman who has it all, loses it all and then comes to terms with who she has become. I smiled often at Lillian’s witticisms and feisty repartee and will buy the hardbound book just so that I can re-read this wonderful story again.

 

 

Book review: A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

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