YA Review -Dreams Beyond the Shore

In Dreams Beyond the Shore we find seventeen year old Chelsea at a crossroads in her life, left to decide whether to be the dutiful daughter her politician father expects her to be or to follow her own dreams to be a writer. Dreams Beyond the Shore is the winner of the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

At its heart this is a coming-of-age love story. Told from two perspectives, Chelsea’s and Kyron’s-her eighteen year old boyfriend, the story is real and the central characters’ voices ring true to the electric experience of new teenage love. Kyron steals the show with his good looks, confidence, intelligence, and integrity all mixed in with a slight bad-boy vibe.

Dreams Beyond the Shore is set on the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and while the setting is important, it remains in the background leaving at the forefront the classic tale of two teens struggling to define life on their own terms. Teen readers will definitely connect to their stories

While the central story line is well written and developed, readers may find themselves wanting to know more about the underlying stories of Mr. Marchand’s connection to the criminal world and the implications of his rise to being Prime Minister, both for the country and for Chelsea and Kyron.

There is an interesting cast of secondary characters who do have some depth but are unsatisfying in that their appearances are fleeting.
During her narrative, Chelsea hints repeatedly at her father being duplicitous and corrupt but we don’t see hard evidence of this. Near the end there is a strong suggestion that Mr. Marchand has been involved in horrible crimes however it is hard to believe that these are the sort of activities of which Chelsea was aware.

This is an enjoyable book. I became invested in the lives of the main characters and was left wanting at the end as I needed to know more about their fates.


YA Review – Down to Dirt (Dirt and Stars Book 1)

Recommended read.
Mara was born and raised on Tombaugh, a space station inhabited only by the brightest and best humans and where these humans live uncontaminated by earth’s gravity, sun, and polluted atmosphere. So she’s very unhappy when her parents force her to spend time with her aunt, uncle, and cousin on Earth, or ‘Dirt,’ as it’s called on Tombaugh. Continue reading “YA Review – Down to Dirt (Dirt and Stars Book 1)”


Barberry Hill – Review

No, I’m not reviewing my own book. I just received the Kirkus review of Barberry Hill and was quite pleased with the reviewer’s thoughtful comments. I glowed on reading “She skillfully captures Jaden’s grief, anxiety, feelings of abandonment, fear, and other stormy emotions, as well as the rhythms of friendship and dialogue among teenage boys….

“Fresh, well-described setting and vibrant characters, with one or two missteps.”
–Kirkus Reviews

The reviewer articulated what he/she saw as the missteps but you’ll have to read the full Kirkus review to see those!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Review

When eleven year old Flavia discovers a man dying in her back yard she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous search to discover the killer. This is not a quick read. The author lays out scene-an estate in a small rural town in Britain in 1950- and plot at a measured pace and in great detail.

Although Flavia is eleven, older readers will enjoy this book. She is irreverent, resourceful, immoral, and brilliant in a way that seldom comes about unless intelligent children are left to their own devices to follow their passion-in this case, chemistry. She’s not particularly boastful of her precociousness (is that a word?) and comes across as quite kind in spite of her fascination with poisons and although she finds it difficult to express affection, having grown up without her mom and with a distant dad.

Readers might guess the murderer if not the motive before Flavia does, but by that point they are likely to be so taken with her journey they will continue to enjoy reading as she uncovers the truth.

We see her two sisters and her father through her eyes and they seem a bit caricature-like. It would have been nice to have seen her come to a deeper understanding of them by the end of the story. The climactic scene was drawn out long enough to lose its edge mid-stream and perhaps could have been more effective had it come to a head more quickly.

All-in-all, a fun and interesting read with an appealing protagonist.


A United Kingdom-Movie Review

I must confess I don’t watch a lot of movies, I much prefer to read a book. However, I was intrigued by the preview of this movie and I am a big fan of David Oyelowo (sigh).

I found the story fascinating. A true story in which the marriage between Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana and a white Londoner is thwarted by the British government as they try to curry favor with the South African government and maintain their supply of that country’s minerals. After I watched the movie I did some research on the history  of Botswana to try to separate fact from fiction. I wish I could say that the truth of the complicity and greed of these larger nations was shocking but I realised that the emotions I was feeling were the same emotions my grand children will feel when they learn the motives behind many of the decisions being made in the US government today.

My research left me impressed with Prince Seretse Khama, who was commended highly by the likes of Nelson Mandela for his role in keeping Botswana independent of South Africa and free of apartheid. He ended the royal succession and peacefully instituted democracy in his country. He was not a particularly prolific orator which may be part of the reason that his deeds remain in obscurity.

Frankly, I thought that the movie was pretty awful. They were not able to properly convey the passage of time and so the ten plus years it took for Seretse’s situation to be resolved felt like a much shorter time. Even the courtship between Seretse and his wife Ruth was made to feel like a whirlwind courtship when in fact it took place over a period of a year. In addition, although the movie was set partially in Botswana there were only five black characters with speaking parts–Seretse, a friend of Seretse’s in London, his uncle, the uncle’s wife, and Seretse’s sister. The rest of the Botswana people seemed relegated to a single mass moving with one mind.

While I don’t recommend the movie, if it will encourage more people to research the history of Botswana then it may be worth a watch.


Review-Rain Falls on Everyone

I received this book free on NetGalley.
Theo is one of the lucky ones. Rescued from the midst of the Rwanda genocide by an Irish humanitarian, he’s raised in Dublin from the age of seven. He never forgives himself for his father’s actions in the war and even as he puts a face on trying to fit in to life in Dublin he is careless with the gift he’s been given perhaps because he’s not sure he deserves it.
Brimming with beautifully crafted and thoughtful imagery, Rain Falls on Everyone begins with Theo running from the law after killing a man. It then dips back to the events leading up to that night. At first the author weaves a thread of suspense so tight that readers will be on the edge of their seats hesitating to turn the page tor fear of the terrible judgement we know must be delivered on Theo. He’s a dark character, scarred and flawed but so honest with himself and loyal in his dealings with others that it’s impossible not to care about him. And as the story progresses, it’s clear, despite the slow and steady pace of the writing, Theo’s life is a runaway train minutes from derailment.
When Theo meets Deidre, a mother of three who works at the same place Theo does, the author begins to alternate the narrative between these two main characters. This is reasonable, after all it’s Deidre’s abusive husband whom Theo kills. Before the murder, Deidre’s life becomes entangled with Theo’s in ways that the characters themselves are not aware. Some of the connections seemed a bit contrived but that does not really detract from the story. While Deidre’s story is compelling, I found myself waiting to get past the sections told in her point of view and looking forward to hearing Theo’s voice once more.
Thoughtful readers may read wondering how the author will end this tale of so much sadness. The ending of Rain Falls on Everyone is satisfying to some extent. Theo was rescued by whites as a child and they continue to be his ‘saviour’ to the end, giving him the guidance he needs to get some closure. But he does achieve enough of his growth through his own self searching and again readers will likely forgive the gratuitous manner by which he comes by some of his maturity.


Review-Coming Out Of Egypt (The Egypt Series Book 1)

Seventeen year old Marsha and June flee their remote home in the village of Egypt, on the Caribbean island of Trinidad after Marva accidentally kills their abusive father. This begins a journey for Marva in which she plots and executes her main goal-to protect her sister from further harm. Marva is strong, resourceful, yet vulnerable, a well-rounded character.

Don’t be fooled by the age of the main character, this is a book for adults. Coming Out of Egypt gives equal billing to Cicely, a teacher with a misty past of her own who befriends the girls while falling in love with the very detective assigned to uncover the truth about the death of Marva’s father. His conviction that the girls know more about their father’s death drives a wedge between him and Cicely.

There’s much to recommend in Coming Out of Egypt, with its large and varied cast of characters. Set in Trinidad in 1983, I believe, the book deals with the ongoing problem of familial sexual abuse, the dirth of laws back then to protect the abused, and the stigma (double punishment) this abuse places on the victims. The adult characters lament the absence of laws but it would have been nice to see them try to do something to change the laws…Marva would have… perhaps in book two.

The lead adult characters were both expats, an interesting choice by the author. It disturbed me a little and I tried not to read it as a commentary on the inability of our own Caribbean people to reach out to two young people in need.

I found June’s evolution from the frightened, withdrawn thirteen year old into the more engaging young lady she becomes a bit rapid but otherwise the characters were believable and engaging.

The main characters all come to know God and gather strength from this part of their journey, a natural progression in a Caribbean setting. The author does not present this transformation as a crutch, however, the characters still must face and solve their problems.

Coming Out of Egypt ends without the full resolution of the central issue which was a bit disappointing. There’s a second book in which you can continue to follow the journey.


YA Review – The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola YoonI read The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon on a business trip to St. Kitts fraught with delayed flights. When I finally lifted my eyes from the book I found that friends from home were sitting near me in the airport. When I approached them their faces filled with concern.

“What’s the matter?” they asked.

I was confused until I realized my eyes were still filled with the tears that had surfaced as I got to the end of the journey I had taken with Natasha and Daniel. Continue reading “YA Review – The Sun is Also a Star”