Thursday, April 20, 2017

My take on: In Farleigh Field

The dangers of World War II hit close to home at Farleigh Place, when the dead body of soldier is discovered on the stately grounds. His death the result of a failed parachute. But the bigger mystery? Who was he? He had no I.D., and even the soldiers stationed at Fairleigh Place don't know who he is. His only possession? A photograph. Perhaps he was a spy? A German spy? Who he was, who he intended to meet, and why is at the heart of In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen.

Ben Cresswell, an MI5 operative, is tasked with finding out who the dead soldier was. Ben's special relationship with Farleigh allows him to carry out his mission covertly. Farleigh Place is home to Lord Westerham, his wife, Lady Esme, and their five daughters Pamela, Margot, Diana, Dido, and Phoebe. Ben is a longtime family friend. This assignment offers Ben the chance to get closer to Pamela, whom he has been in love with for years. But Pamela is smitten with Jeremy Prescott, a pilot who has recently escaped from a Nazi prison camp. However, Pamela is more than just a lovesick young woman, she's doing her part to help Britain defeat Germany. Pamela is a code breaker, which her family doesn't know. She isn't the only one in the family keeping secrets. Margot is in Paris under the guise of an apprenticeship with a famous fashion designer, but she's actually part of the resistance.

The investigation into the mysterious soldier leads to more questions than answers. Ben can't fathom that anyone at Farleigh or in town is involved. The traitor can't be someone he knows. Maybe that's denial on Ben's part. Or maybe it's a stranger? The only tangible clue is the photograph, which Ben is convinced is a coded message. The photo maybe part of a larger conspiracy, and Ben needs to figure it out before it's too late.

Historical fiction is right in my wheelhouse. I loved the premise and there definitely was mystery and intrigue throughout. But sometimes I felt like there was a little too much going on. The story is told from the perspective of several characters, which I didn't think was totally necessary. Each character could have had their own book, but all of the storylines were together in this one story which made for uneven pacing. I was pulled in by the dead soldier. What was his motive? What was his mission? Did he intend to land at Farleigh? I wanted the book to stick to that story and Ben and Pamela's relationship. But there is still a lot to like about this book. My favorite aspect is that the women in this book are very driven and determined not to be damsels in distress. They want to be part of the action just like the men. Overall, this a worthy read and I would gladly read another book by this author.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My take on: The Hate U Give

It usually takes months sometimes years before I jump on the hot book of the moment. I've only read one Harry Potter book. I'm still struggling through Game of Thrones and The Book Thief. One day I will finish The Lunar Chronicles. But I made an exception for The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

The Hate U Give has been praised by multiple authors, readers, bloggers, and media outlets. I wanted to see if this book was worth the hype. I'll be honest, I wasn't totally wowed by the writing style but I was wowed by the subject matter and the message. The author was inspired by the music of Tupac Shakur and the Black Lives Matter movement, and it shows in this book.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is the sole witness to the shooting death of her childhood friend, Khalil, who dies at the hands of a white police officer. Like many real-life police shootings, Khalil's case becomes a national headline and a fight for justice -- resulting in riots, violence, and vandalism. Lost in all the madness? Starr. The night Khalil died, is also the night Starr lost her voice and her identity. Can she find herself again and get justice for Khalil?

"...people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right." -- Pg. 59

For the past several years, Starr has lived in two worlds -- her poor black neighborhood of Garden Heights and her middle-class prep school Williamson. She doesn't speak, act, and think the same way in both of those worlds. At school, she's Williamson Starr. At home, she's Garden Heights Starr. In Garden Heights, Starr can let her guard down. But at Williamson, her guard is always up, even with her friends, Maya and Hailey, and her boyfriend, Chris. She spends a lot of energy keeping the two worlds separate. Her Williamson friends don't visit Garden Heights and vice versa. But after Khalil's death, it's getting harder and harder to keep the two separate. Students at Williamson want to protest Khalil's shooting, but they're not doing it for the right reasons. She wants to express her anger and grief over Khalil's death, but then Garden Heights Starr might come out. The people at Williamson, especially Hailey, wouldn't know what to do with Garden Heights Starr -- the one who is angry about racial digs Hailey has thrown her way.

Garden Heights itself is in turmoil. Maverick "Big Mav" Carter, Starr's dad, tries to keep the peace in the neighborhood and in his home. Mav is an ex-con and ex-gang member, his words of wisdom carry a lot of weight except with King, the neighborhood gang leader. As the riots and violence increase in the neighborhood, so does the tension in the Carter household. Lisa, Starr's mom, wants their family out of the neighborhood, but that's a concept Mav struggles with. How can he bring about change if he leaves Garden Heights? Is he a sellout if he leaves? Clearly, Starr isn't the only one in the household with identity struggles.

Overall, I wish there was a book like this when I was younger. I don't remember reading about characters that looked like me. I'm in my thirties and I truly appreciate books like this. My one knock on this book, the writing style. The writing takes some getting used to, and I wasn't in love with the numerous references to 1990s culture and entertainment. The references felt like overkill. But put that aside, and this is still a very good book -- one I wish a lot of people in power would read. If politicians and law enforcement could truly understand the other side, understand people not like them, today's climate would be so much better. The ending isn't sunshine and roses, it plays out very true to real life!

Rating: Superb
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