Saturday, May 19, 2018

The First Scheme by K A Meng

The First SchemeThe First Scheme by K a Meng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the sound of gunfire, Joann Fields wakes up. She is unable to clear her thoughts and when she struggles out of bed, she finds she has trouble walking. She shouldn't feel this way. She only had one glass of wine. Still, she needs to find her husband, so she makes her way out of the bedroom. There are plenty of people in her town who would love to hurt both her man and her.

That's how The First Scheme starts. From there, the story follows a unique and intriguing path with twists and surprises that pull readers into the story. The novel also has characters with backgrounds intricate enough to produce mixed emotions about their fates. Together these facts produce a novel that stands well on its own, but is also perfect for the first book of a series.

The First Scheme is a great read for anyone who likes a good crime story.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's SonThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Orphan Master's Son is a thoroughly researched novel about one man's life in North Korea during the reign of Kim Jong-il (the father of North Korea's current leader). It is a magnificent book for readers who like books that make them think, but not a good match for readers looking for a light, fun read. It is long and contains detailed descriptions of the infamous prison camps and of torture sessions. Adam Johnson spent years researching his story, visiting Pyongyang and interviewing people who defected. He received a well deserved Pulitzer for his efforts.

This is an important book for a time when North Korea is back in the news and when the current American president has expressed an admiration for authoritarian leaders worldwide. This is also a period of “alternative facts” in our country, which is not very far from Johnson's description of the story versus the man:

“If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he'd be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change....But in America, people's stories change all the time. In America, it is the man who matters.”

Jun Do is the son of a man who runs a labor camp for orphans. His mother, a singer, was stolen from the family to work in Pyongyang. Within the camp, Jun Do receives special treatment due to his father's role, but he is given an orphan's name which carries a stigma as he grows older. The plot follows Jun's life on a fishing boat, as a national hero, and in a prison camp. In part 2, the novel continues with Jun, but also shows life through the point of view of a biographer, whose job it is to use torture to get the stories of people who have been assigned to him. The plot is also advanced through stories told to the people of North Korea over loud speakers placed in all populated areas.

Although the magnificence of this book stems from the way it reveals life in North Korea, there is room for a relationship of love and sacrifice. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a unique read, one that requires some thought from its readers.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Dream of Darkness (The Rise of the Light, #1) by H.M. Gooden

Dream of Darkness (The Rise of the Light, #1)Dream of Darkness by H.M. Gooden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About a third of the way through Dream of Darkness, Cat, the sixteen year old heroine of the story, settles in with her sister, Vanessa, for some serious Harry Potter binge watching. If you could see yourself doing the same thing, this is the perfect book for you. It has teenage girls with mystical powers who set out to save their town from someone controlled by a dark, satan-like creature.

The novel also has numerous references to Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, the play the students are producing that year. Robin Goodfellow (also known as Puck) is one of Shakespeare's characters as well as a sprite out of old English folklore and a spirit who visits Cat in her dreams. Here's what Robin tells her:

“Look to your dreams for answers, and let your friends know to look to theirs. You will find help if ever you need it and you have only to ask and it shall find you.”

The plot of H. M. Gooden's novel is fun, but the best part of the book is the relationship between the two sisters. There's a little jealousy and a period of great guilt, but mostly there's love and support shared between both girls. When Gooden throws in Evelyn, a mutual friend with powers of her own, the picture is complete and the girls are ready to take on the evil threatening their world.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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