A Punctual Paymaster by Dan Groat

A Punctual Paymaster by Dan GroatBlurb

A TOWN DIVIDED BY RACE IS HIDING A MIRACLE AMONG ITS SECRETS

Travel seventy years through the secrets of the white Thanos family and the black Taylor family, twisted like strands of yarn woven together on a loom. The wealthy, powerful Nikkos Thanos owns a woolen mill and almost everything else on the north side of Delphi, Missouri, and is the overseer of a fractured society. The brave, judicious Thaddeus “Cousin” Taylor owns a grocery store and a tavern on the south side and carries a past hauntingly shrouded in tragedy. Each man tries to shepherd his part of town through the turmoil of racism, the depression, and war. With the passage of time, those caretaker roles are filled by Evangelina, Nikkos’ beautiful and strong-willed daughter, and T.J., the grandson who worshipped Cousin. Forty-five years after high school, two friends, Ab and Grady, return for the funeral of their mentor, T.J., and walk into the middle of a mystery. They unweave the black and white threads that are the town’s concealed, troubled past, revealing an extraordinary tapestry of life and death, revenge and triumph.

My Perspective

I downloaded this eBook for free on Amazon awhile back.

The story follows the history of two families, the Thanos family and the Taylor family. The Thanos family are white and live on the north side of town, a town that has basically been built by Nikkos, the father of the Thanos family. The Taylor family are black and live on the south side of town and Cousin, the father of the Taylor family, is basically the unofficial leader of the south side. The story is set from 1939 through to 2010 and spans around three generations of the families. It deeply explores the racial tension between whites and blacks in America through a story filled with mystery, intrigue, sadness and redemption.

I had really high hopes for this book because the premise sounded so interesting however i felt it fell a bit flat. It started out really strong and then got a bit lost on the way.

The characters were really interesting however some of them could have been developed a lot more. Even though some of them had a lot of “air time”, i still felt like i barely knew them.

Most of the book was slow paced with a lot of content, the kind of book that doesn’t have you turning the pages as fast as you can, more the kind of book that you slowly digest and can even put down for awhile to process before picking it back up again. The pace wasn’t very consistent though, with big jumps in time and disconnect between chapters where you weren’t really sure what was going on.

I wasn’t sure whether the mystery of the story was meant to be obvious to the reader or not, because i found it was a bit predictable. If that was the intention of the author then it worked well because you wondered whether the characters would be able to figure it out or not and how the story would end – them living the rest of their lives never knowing or them being fully aware of their history and moving forward from it.

Overall it was a good story with a lot of depth and richness however I think it could have benefited from a lot more editing. I would probably still recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction, in particular novels about the racial tension in the USA.

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Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

29485885Blurb

A mysterious seaman hides at a country inn; cut-throats raid a sleepy English village; suddenly, young Jim Hawkins becomes the owner of a map leading to a lost tropical island and a fortune in stolen gold. Three adventurers–Jim, Squire Trelawney, and Dr. Livesey–set out to find the treasure. — But they trust the one they should most fear, Long John Silver. Charming, brave, ruthless, murderous, Silver fills the squire’s ship with pirates. And on the desolate, fever-infested island, the quest for gold becomes a deadly war of hide and seek. Desperate defenders against merciless killers battling over a cursed treasure won with blood, buried with blood, sought with blood. Incredible wealth that Jim and his friends can only claim…

My Perspective

Treasure Island is the story of how Jim Hawkins came to be in possession of a treasure map and the journey and adventure he went on with Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney to acquire it.

I’m really in the mood for adventure stories at the moment so this is exactly what I felt like reading.

I really liked Jim. He was an easygoing young man, eager to please, hardworking, quick thinking and he had a lot of courage. Doctor Livesey was also an easy character to like whether Squire Trelawney I found a bit too freely spoken and over confident. John Silver was friendly and very easy to like, which of course made me suspicious. The rest of the crew were typical pirates, or “buccaneers”, self interested, not too smart, violent and drunk on rum all the time.

The story was very interesting and well paced, keeping you on your toes and turning the pages quickly. I did find some of the language hard to understand at times however it added to the feel of the story so I wouldn’t change it.

Overall it was a really enjoyable story, well written and full of adventure. I would definitely recommend it if you like classics, adventure stories or historical fiction.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafonBlurb

It is 1945 and Barcelona is enduring the long aftermath of civil war when Daniel Sempere’s bookseller father decides his son is old enough to visit the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There Daniel must ‘adopt’ a single book, promising to care for it and keep it alive always. His choice falls on The Shadow of the Wind.

Bewitched, he embarks on an epic quest to find the truth about Julian Carax, the book’s mysterious author. Soon Daniel is consumed by strange discoveries about love and obsession, art and life, and how they become entangled within the shadow world of books.

My Perspective

The Shadow of the Wind is about how Daniel as a ten year old boy, is taken to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his Father and where he finds a novel by Julian Carax, The Shadow of the Wind. He soon discovers that the book is quite sought after, especially by a faceless man who smells of burnt paper. As a young man, he decides to find out more about Julian Carax however the more he digs, the deeper the mystery and the more trouble he finds himself in.

This book was recommended by one of my customers.

The story was really quite fascinating and unusual. It was written quite differently too – it didn’t flow smoothly, it was quite stilted. However I found this really worked in with the theme and mood of the book, which was a bit dark and mysterious.

I liked Daniel. He was slightly frustrating at times however he was young and naive. The other characters were well written and rich in depth.

The story really made you want to discover Barcelona. There were some great descriptions throughout and a lot of the writing was rich and colourful.

The book had plenty of mystery and intrigue however there were some parts where I was slightly confused. I also predicted some of the major mysteries, which I was slightly disappointed that I saw them coming. There was a lot of others that I didn’t though so it did keep me on my toes.

The book was really interesting and kept me turning the pages.

I would definitely recommend this book if you like historical fiction with a gothic feel to it.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonBlurb

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy – who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.

My Perspective

The Secret Keeper is mainly about Dorothy “Dolly” Smitham’s life and how nearing the end of it, Dolly’s eldest daughter Laurel, starts digging into the past to find out her mother’s secrets of the life she led before she was married – specifically how the event Laurel witnessed as a teenager came to be.

The Secret Keeper was written in true Kate Morton style – a complex family saga spanning over a couple of generations with plenty of drama, mystery and twists and turns.

I really did not like Dolly. More so from before she was married than after. She was so selfish and so self absorbed. It took so much tragedy for her to realise how much she truly had. I really liked Laurel. I felt like you couldn’t help but be drawn to her. Jimmy was such a sweetheart with such a good heart and I really hated the way Dolly treated him and that he let her! Vivien was such an interesting character with many layers and I couldn’t help but like her.

The story was quite long and about half way through I thought it was about to come to a head and the story was going to be finished. Obviously it didn’t and instead there was a bit of a dead spot and I couldn’t fathom that there was still a whole other half to the story. However it did pick up again and after a bit even more pieces to the puzzle became clear.

There were so many twists and turns in the book that quite a few times I felt a bit lost. It was very interesting though and really kept me guessing. I was able to figure out a few of the minor mysteries however the major one had me completely fooled until the very end. It’s such an in depth book that really once you’ve finished reading it, you need to start at the very beginning and read it all over again and you’d probably still miss some things!

Overall I quite enjoyed the story and I found it hard to put down. I wish I could have loved the story however as I didn’t like Dolly’s character, that put a blemish on it for me. I would definitely recommend if you like a dramatic family saga.

Where The Heart Is by Annie Groves

Where The Heart Is by Annie GrovesBlurb

The country is going forward together – but will the Campions?

Three years into the war and the country is facing its darkest days. Victory has never seemed so far away. The changes that war has brought are affecting everyone, not least the Campion family.

Eldest son Luke is fighting on the African Front. Emily is harbouring romantic thoughts about Wilhelm, the German POW. Bella still pines for her forbidden love. The war effort has steered twins Lou and Sasha on different paths, but has it driven a wedge between them?

The Campions, along with the rest of the nation, must face their fears and endure their darkest hour. All of their tomorrows depend on it.

My Perspective

This is the twelfth and last (finally!) book i chose to read from my post Third Lot – And It’s A Lot

Where The Heart is follows the Campion family three years into WWII and how it is affecting each one of them including cousin Bella, ex-billetee Katie, aunt Francine, Con and Emily.

Although it was a bit soppy in places, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting and well written and the many storylines of each person kept you on your toes. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like books with multiple main characters.

I liked most of the characters except I was annoyed at both Luke and Sasha for their attitudes – especially Sasha. She seemed like a selfish brat.

There were many love stories throughout, which at times I found myself rolling my eyes at. The way the men were portrayed was a bit…I’m not sure how to describe it. Over the top? Overall though it wasn’t too bad.

Overall I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to those who like romance and/or historical fiction.

NOTE: I didn’t realise that this book was the fourth in a series so it probably would have been better to start at the beginning! However I still enjoyed it and wasn’t really confused by anything so I suppose you could read it as a stand alone book.

How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret DillowayBlurb

A mother-daughter story about the strong pull of tradition, and the lure and cost of breaking free of it.

When Shoko decided to marry an American GI and leave Japan, she had her parents’ blessing, her brother’s scorn, and a gift from her husband-a book on how to be a proper American housewife.

As she crossed the ocean to America, Shoko also brought with her a secret she would need to keep her entire life…

Half a century later, Shoko’s plans to finally return to Japan and reconcile with her brother are derailed by illness. In her place, she sends her grown American daughter, Sue, a divorced single mother whose own life isn’t what she hoped for. As Sue takes in Japan, with all its beauty and contradictions, she discovers another side to her mother and returns to America unexpectedly changed and irrevocably touched.

My Perspective

This is the eighth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.

How To Be An American Housewife is the intertwined stories of Shoko and her daughter Sue. Shoko, a native Japanese, marries Charlie, a medical officer in the navy, while he is stationed in Japan. Her story is not just about her childhood but also the state in which she leaves her family in Japan and how she tries to assimilate into American culture. Sue’s story is the result of the assimilation and how it affected her growing up and throughout the rest of her life.

This book was interesting and reads like a memoir. It almost felt like a non fiction at the beginning when it was just Shoko’s story compared to the last part of the book, which felt a little bit unbelievable.

I found it hard to connect with Shoko, more so as an adult than as a child. I still liked her though. I really liked Sue.

It was interesting to read about the two different cultures and how America seemed like such a step up from Japan (when really I don’t think it is).

Interspersed throughout are snippets of guidance, which come from the manual “How To Be An American Housewife”. This confused me as it’s the same title as the book. I assumed then that the snippets were from the original book, which was an actual guide, and this was a story of a Japanese woman who actually lived it out. However at the end I read that it was fictional and the author had made it up! Although i found it confusing at the beginning, it was quite a clever way to incorporate certain cultural information and differences.

Overall it was an interesting and informative read that gave insight into the two different cultures. It was steady paced and although it wasn’t gripping, kept you curious. A nice gentle read that I would recommend to those who like memoirs or historical fiction.

To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Watkins

To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra WatkinsBlurb

Explorer Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his mysterious death nearly two centuries ago. His last hope for redemption is helping nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney flee her madame mother in New Orleans and find her father in Nashville. To get there, Merry must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he duels the corrupt Judge, an old foe who has his own despicable plans for Em.

My Perspective

Andra Watkins is a hilarious and delightful blogger whom i have had the pleasure of subscribing to for over a year now. When she published her first novel at the beginning of March, i was very excited to read it.

The story is about famed American explorer Meriwether Lewis, who is sent from the afterlife to help escort a young girl, Emmaline Cagney from the terrors chasing her in New Orleans to her father in Nashville. However he soon realises that the terror chasing Emmaline, is the same terror that chased him in life.

I was drawn into the story immediately, holding my breath for most of the book. The events were obviously slightly unbelievable when you thought about it at the end, however during the book you don’t even think twice, you’re just so caught up in the chase.

The characters were well developed. I really liked Meriwether or “Merry” and i was rooting for him the entire time. At first, when i discovered the predicament that Emmaline was in, i was horrified and was rooting for her too. However my feelings towards her shifted from positive to negative throughout the book and even though i wanted to see her reunited with her father in Nashville, i did find her a little bit annoying. However this was probably a realistic portrayal on a real nine year old. The Judge was a slimy character and made your skin crawl – he was very well written.

The story takes place mostly in New Orleans and then on the Natchez Trace. Although not much actual time passes, the book is quite faced paced. There were some sections that i felt were a bit mismatched and didn’t flow as well however overall it was good.

At the beginning i was a little confused with some of the text and who it was about however after a couple of chapters it is cleared up and you realise. I did find myself referencing back to previous chapters throughout the book, which isn’t a bad thing, i just found it helped clear up any further confusion i had.

To be honest i felt the ending fell a little bit flat. I’m not sure how else you could have ended it though.

Overall it was a really interesting read and i read it over the course of several hours. It was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend it and to almost everyone as it crosses a variety of genres (historical fiction, paranormal, adventure) and probably would appeal to most people.

NOTE: To launch her book, Andra has just finished walking the Natchez Trace. It is an incredible feat and has been an unbelievably, fantastic journey to read about as she posted about it every day. Click here to find out more about it!