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Sandcastle Hurricane–joy from a hurricane
by Carolyn Brown
Two adult cousins, Tabby and Ellie Mae, with dysfunctional family backgrounds are reunited when their Aunt Charlotte decides to retire from the B&B she owns in the little beach town of Sandcastle, TX. Although she has moved away from hurricane country to snow country, she is a constant source of encouragement and advice to her nieces through phone calls and statements sprinkled throughout the book as the cousins can almost hear her talking.
Tabby and Ellie Mae have only been at the B&B for a few weeks when they find themselves boarding up windows in response to warnings of Hurricane Delilah. Aunt Charlotte arranges for her friend Alex to help them as he always helped her and for the trio to take in four residents from an assisted living center who have no family.
The story is very character driven as we learn the backgrounds of all of them and how life’s events have affected them. Tabby and Ellie Mae are both battling grief. Neither has a positive relationship with their families for good reason. The four elderly characters are a study in contrasts. The author shows how it is possible to change, grow, and stand up to overwhelming problems. Although humor is not a mainstay of this book, there are amusing situations and dialogue that lighten the tone of some serious issues and confrontations.
There are romantic scenarios for Tabby and Ellie Mae. The events at the end of the book lead to good things for the characters even though they would not have planned the turns that happen in their journey. Sandcastle Hurricane is about people struggling to do their best, misunderstandings, and family. It deals with the problems that can accompany mixed race marriages and their offspring as well as the joys of color-blind friendships.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: General Fiction, Romance
Notes: Contains about a dozen instances of mild swearing
Publication: November 8, 2022—Montlake
Why can’t my dad and his brother get along like Homer and Frank? Ellie Mae bit back a sigh. Because they never had to go through tough times together. That builds character and teaches people to depend on each other, Aunt Charlotte whispered softly in her ear.
A woman who has lost her husband is called a widow. Children who lose their parents are orphans.. But there is no word for mothers who lose children, because the grief is too hard to put a name on it.
“We just have to believe what is happening now is for a good reason, and what brought us to this day has shaped us into the people we are.”
We Hope for Better Times–discrimination across the years
We Hope for Better Things
by Erin Bartels
This work of fiction begins in the present day where the story centers on Elizabeth Balsam, an investigative journalist in Detroit, Michigan, always looking for a good story. She thinks she has found it when a stranger asks her to return a camera and some photos of the ’67 Detroit race riots to a relative of hers that she doesn’t actually know. This is interesting timing as she has just lost her job when outed during undercover work. Is it possible that what seems like a devastating blow to her career will be the best thing that could have happened to her?
Suddenly the author drops us into Detroit in 1963, and we are introduced to an interracial couple. This is a thread that ties right into Elizabeth’s story as she meets Nora. This elderly relative probably has a story to tell if she can just be coaxed into telling it. This new plot thread segues into the story of yet another family member, Mary Balsam. Mary’s home is in Lapeer County in 1861, but it is now Nora’s home.
All three generations involve interracial couples, and author Erin Bartels tries to present the problems each generation encounters. We witness the horrors and sadness of racial issues that run the gamut from slavery to discriminating glances and everything in between.
Each plot thread is strong and as each chapter ended, I couldn’t wait to get to that part of the story again as the chapters cycled through each woman’s tale. As the book draws to a conclusion, the threads become tightly knitted together forming the family’s story.
Although We Hope for Better Things is fiction, it has the feeling of “it could have happened.” The Christian aspects are not prominently featured, but there is an important theme throughout of God’s plan for a person’s life. A sub-theme is the Christian community’s response to runaway slaves in the 1860’s in Mary’s small community during the Civil War.
This is an important work of historical fiction especially for those interested in the Civil War, the riots of the 60’s, or the current progress or lack of it on racial issues. The author presents events in the context of the culture during the specific time period. This novel focuses on the women in each generation and gives a more complete portrayal of them than of the men in the story, and that is probably how this tale needs to be told.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Revell for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication: January 1, 2019—Revell
I was getting less twitchy about not having internet access. I didn’t exactly miss hearing the constant beeps notifying me of texts and tweets and status updates. Out here it was just the ambling, quiet life of the country. A comfortable obscurity.
“That’s good money.”
“What do we need it for? We’re making ends meet.”
“Barely. We’re not getting ahead.”
“Ahead of what? If you have enough to live, what do you need more for?”
“There’s no one right path that if you make the wrong choice you’re sunk. Whatever you choose to do, God can use that. Life is always a winding path. It’s only in retrospect that it appears to be a straight and inevitable one.”
Ruddy Gore–a mix of Chinese, Welsh, and Australian
by Kerry Greenwood
The inimitable Phryne Fisher and her friend Bunji find themselves in the middle of a very physical Chinese family dispute, which is only a subplot in this tale, as they are on their way to the theatre to enjoy a presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Ruddigore. Following that initial conflict, they make their way to His Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, and the reader is presented with the one weak portion of the novel. In the guise of encouraging Bunji, a very minor character in the book, to stay and enjoy the opera, Phryne summarizes the plot of the opera for her. Greenwood is attempting to share background for her unfolding story which centers around an old and a new murder and mysterious occurrences at the “Maj.” Both the cast and the characters they play are important in Ruddy Gore’s storyline, but this portion of the book, really only part of a chapter, was more extensive than necessary.
With the background sufficiently established, the plot moves quickly as Phryne is initially mystified, and then gradually peels off the layers of this puzzle. As always with a Phryne Fisher novel, there are descriptions of her delightful ensembles and her romantic encounters. Dot, her companion, is called in to help with the investigation. Detective Inspector Jack Robinson views Miss Fisher as more likely to obtain information from the cast than he is, and so they cooperate and share information.
The Chinese connection through her love interest, Lin Chung, presents the thread of racial intolerance and prejudice from both sides. Lin and Phryne discuss the history of the Chinese in Australia and how the Chinese have adapted and coped. Phryne is the subject of discrimination herself from the Chinese and handles it well.
Phryne Fisher is undoubtedly rich as evidenced by her spending and lifestyle. She is not selfish, however, and her magnanimity occurs on a personal level. In this story she identifies a situation in which a stage boy with few options but much promise is being abused by his alcoholic father. Phryne doesn’t try to change the world, but she does change this boy’s world by providing him with opportunities. She doesn’t make him a charity case, suggesting that he repay her at a future date. She is also resourceful in engaging the cooperation of others in helping him.
Ruddy Gore is a wealth of incidental information about the theatre, actors, technical people, and management. All of these play a role in the mysteries which are resolved in the end, quite satisfactorily, leaving the reader anticipating further adventures starring Phryne Fisher.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Notes: #7 in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries but reads well as a standalone
Publication: April 4, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press
“He will always get everything that he wants and never get the one thing which he really desires—that’s how it works with bounders,” observed Phryne.
No harm in him but as self-centred as a gyroscope.
“Have you ever heard of hiraeth?” he asked, his eyes staring sadly across endless seas. “No, what is that?” “A Welsh thing, hard to translate. ‘Yearning,’ perhaps. ‘Longing’ is more like it. All of us have it, however happy we are. The yearning for home, even if we shook the dust off our shoes in loathing and swore never to return to the cold damp streets and the cold narrow people and the flat beer and the chapels fulminating endlessly against sin.”