RECENTLY READ: SEPTEMBER 2019
Have You Seen Luis Velez by Catherine Ryan Hyde
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: May 21, 2019
Seventeen-year-old Raymond is an unusually mature and self-aware youngster who is finding it hard to fit in at home and at school. He lives in an apartment building in New York. One day, he finds an old woman standing in her doorway, calling out, “Hello? Hello? Is someone still there?” Mrs. G or Millie, 92 years old, is blind and asks Raymond if he knows were Luis Velez is.
Raymond learns that a young man named Luis had been helping Mrs. G to run errands, but she has not seen him in almost three weeks and has been living on a single can of soup for the last few days. This is where an unlikely friendship and a journey begins. Raymond takes over the role of Millie’s caregiver, they get to know each other, and Raymond’s starts to see the world and people in a completely new light. It isn’t long before he sets out looking for Luis Velez.
The story touches on several topics like privilege, loss, compassion, forgiveness, and most of all, friendship. The friendship that developed between Raymond and Millie was heartwarming and the tale reminding us of the power of kindness moving. A feel-good coming of age novel. Rating: 5/5
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: February 26, 2019
From the author of the Alice Network, comes another compulsively readable WWII-era novel, this time about the hunt for a Nazi war criminal. It is a riveting story told from three perspectives, masterfully converged together, at the heart of which is a woman accused of committing unspeakable war crimes against children in Poland during World War II.
Ferocious and reckless, Nina Markova grows up neglected and abused in wild, icy Siberia, dreaming of flying and fearing nothing. When World War II breaks out, Nina joins the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment. After she is downed behind enemy lines, she comes face to face with the female Nazi known as the Huntress.
British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials and is obsessed with bringing Nazi war criminals to justice. After the war, he abandons journalism to become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target has been able to elude him: the Huntress. The only person live who has ever seen the Huntress is Nina Markova, with whom Ian has a complicated past.
Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post-WWII Boston. After her widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan can’t shake the feeling that there is something dangerous about this woman. Annaliese is a charming but secretive German woman, whose young daughter, Ruth, is so traumatized by the past that she barely speaks.
It is a suspenseful, character driven story. Quinn effectively uses the book's structure to deliberately reveal the past and the different threads are gradually being weaved together. Rating: 5/5
A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: August 1, 2019
Gillian Gibbons discovers an old photograph of her grandmother posing with a Nazi officer. Her grandmother, Vivian, had arrived in the United States after WWII together with her son (Gillian's father) and her second husband, Jack. Her first husband, from an aristocratic family in England, was killed in one of the air raids during the war, together with her sister, April.
The story is a revelation of what the story behind the photo was and what had happened during the war. Gillian learns more about her grandmother’s past, but for every question answered, a new one takes its place. The truth is not at all what she had expected.
It is an emotional story of conflict and war, of betrayal and acceptance, of family and love, with complex characters. The twists and turns hold the reader's interest until the end. But Gillian's own parallel storyline with her relationship issues did not add anything to the book and could have been left out. Rating: 5/4
When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: July 16, 2019
It's been fifteen years since Kit last saw her sister Josie. They had been estranged for some years but never got to make amends because Josie died in a terrorist attack in France. At least that's what Kit has always believed. Then, live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured an image of a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Josie. Kit decides to travel to New Zealand in hopes of discovering the identity of the woman who looks so much like her sister. The book is told in two perspectives, of Kit and Mari. As they reunite, some of the sisters' long-buried secrets are unearthed.
It is a tale of love, redemption, and forgiveness; an ocean of lies, and a search for the truth. Beautifully written, even though I found Kit's romance and Josie's Sapphire House more like fillers in the story. Rating 5/4
Where the forest meets the stars by Glendy Vanderah
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: March 1, 2019
Joanna is a graduate student of ornithology who is recovering from the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer. She trows herself into her research and is living a solitary life consumed by her studies...until her routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child.
The girl, who calls herself Ursa, shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises. She claims to have come from the stars to stay until she witnesses five miracles. She is adorable, incredibly smart, and very stubborn. Jo has concerns about the child’s situation at home and reluctantly agrees to let her stay—only until she has found information about her parents. But when she cannot find Ursa in the missing children registry, she turns to her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel, to help her solve the mystery of this precious child. The three form an incredible bond. When the reality of having a strange child stay with them finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.
This is a debut novel by the author and it is spectacular. A heartwarming and mysterious story, eloquently written, with a message of unexpected love and coming together, with heavy subjects intricately weaved in. It's really good. Rating 5/5