Unexpected Finds of 2017

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I just wanted to write about one of the most interesting and enjoyable “finds” in books that I made this year.  I often find myself looking for an interesting read that is not ‘issue”-leaden, or anything like that.  Sometimes I just want to be entertained.  So, my favorite simply entertaining novels this year have been the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters (actually the deceased novelist Barbara Mertz).  One of reasons that I’ve been enjoying these, is that my first “love” was all things ancient Egyptian.  I seriously wanted to become an Egyptologist when I was young, and spent a lot of time researching the various dynasties.  (And, yes, I’ve always been a card-carrying nerd.)

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Amelia Peabody is an unusual character for the time.   She is a feminist in Victorian England, a woman who believes whole-heartedly in women’s rights and equality.  She is also extremely intelligent, feisty and hysterically funny.  I am loving these novels, and am recommending them to those who haven’t read them.  The mysteries are convoluted, full of ancient Egyptian facts, interesting to the extreme, and funny.  I highly recommend this series!  Now, if only they were to make a series of movies from the novels…

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What were your unexpected book finds this year?  Share in the comments below so that the rest of us have more books to put on our to be read lists.  Happy reading!

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Elizabeth Peters

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Book Review

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As usual, I’ve come to the party late, however, I’m here and I’ve paid attention.  This is an extraordinary novel.  To prove it, it’s already been banned in more than one location in the United States.  So, Thomas has made it to the big time, and I, for one, am glad.  A book being banned only means that it makes you think, something too many people don’t want to do, especially if what you learn from it is in opposition to what it is that you may have been taught.

Starr Carter, at the age of sixteen has seen two of her best friends die.  She has held them in her arms as they have breathed their last.  This is not only her story, but the story of too many.  The poor, the over-looked, and the reviled.

How can I even do this novel justice?  I really can’t.  You have to read it for yourselves.  The systematic poverty, the limited life choices, the grinding down of people, The Hate U Give is not only a novel, but an expose of what a society has chosen to do.

Open your eyes, open your hearts.  Read this novel.  You will not regret it.  Well done, Thomas!  You are an important voice, and I for one, have heard you.  Thank you.

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Angie Thomas

The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb – Book Review

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I really loved this novel, however, the best thing about it was that it was based on a true story, and almost every single character in it had been a real person.  This is the story of how a murderer was uncovered and sentenced to prison by way of a ghost’s “testimony”.  Seriously, how unbelievable is that?

In the 1890’s spirited and beautiful Zona marries “Trout” Shue against her families’ wishes.  Mere months after having wedded, Zona “falls” down the stairs and dies.  Trout manages to circumvent the doctor from examining her, and prepares her body for burial himself.  His actions are strange and far from what is considered normal under the circumstances, leading to his mother-in-law’s suspicious.  As evidence mounts against Trout, Mrs. Heaster, Zona’s mother, is not letting this death go unpunished.

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Zona Heaster Shue

The story is told from the perspective of Mrs. Heaster, and the black lawyer, James Gardner, who was the second lawyer for Trout at his trial.  James tells the story to his doctor (in 1930) while undergoing therapy in an insane asylum.

One of the best things about this novel is the fact that McCrumb pays great attention to detail, giving the reader a true glimpse into life at that time.  I really enjoyed this novel, and highly recommend it.  Well done, McCrumb!

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Sharyn McCrumb

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld – Book Review

The Child Finder

Naomi Cottle is a child finder.  She spends her life rescuing lost children.  Most times she succeeds in finding these children alive, but sometimes they are dead.  This is both what she does, and who she is.  Naomi herself is a “lost” child who somehow rescued herself.  However, for Naomi her memories begin in the field she ran across while running away.  From what she doesn’t know.

When confronted with a difficult new case, Naomi’s memory begins to come back.  She is trying to find a child who wandered away into the wilderness before Christmas, and was lost during a snowstorm.  The police have had no luck finding her, and three years on, Madison’s parents have put the last of their hopes on Naomi’s shoulders.

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I thought this novel was excellent.  The mystery was one just begging to be solved.  We get the story of young Madison who has figured out a way to survive her capture and imprisonment with the man who found her, along with Naomi’s recurrent fragmented memories coming back.  There is also the story of “B”, the man who is holding Madison.  I highly recommend this novel.  The storytelling is excellent, and it’s one of those novels that you find yourself thinking about for quite a while.  Well done, Denfeld!

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Rene Denfeld

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain – Book Review

The Stolen Marriag

The year is 1943, and  nursing student Tess, is pining for marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Vincent to finally occur.  While waiting, Vincent, a new doctor, goes to Chicago in order to help out with a new outbreak of Polio.  Tess is left holding the bag, so to speak, as communication with Vincent dwindles to nothing.  Heartbroken, Tess visits Washington with her friend, drinks too much and disaster befalls her.

Caught in a web of her own mistakes, Tess leaves Baltimore, moves to North Carolina, and marries Henry.  Although theirs is a marriage of convenience, Tess is hopeful of eventually loving Henry.  I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, since I want you to read this novel.  There are plenty of problems for Tess and Henry to overcome, just to mention a few:  sexism and racism are the most prominent.

I really enjoyed this novel, and highly recommend it.  Well done, Chamberlain!

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Diane Chamberlain

Inferior, How Science Got Women Wrong by Angela Saini – Book Review

Inferior, How Science

I usually don’t review non-fiction, since I don’t read much of it.  However, I think that this is an important book for many reasons, but most particularly for our health and medical care.  How can it be that until very recently, only men were studied for the medical effects of the various pharmaceuticals that many people, women included take?  This is only the start, as Saini takes on the established view of women by science, how this view originated, and whether or not it is valid.

Saini gives us a thorough history of scientific research, but don’t assume that this is a dry, boring book.  It is not.  I found it interesting and engaging.  Saini’s writing is both informative, amusing and full of facts.  I really enjoyed this book, and felt that I learned a lot.  This is an important book if you have any questions about how science comes to the conclusions it does about the difference between men and woman; but also, why scientists come to these conclusions.  I highly recommend this book.  Well done, Saini!

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Angela Saini