Monday, July 30, 2018

Dune Drive by Mariah Stewart (Book Review)

Title: Dune Drive: The Chesapeake Diaries
Author: Mariah Stewart
Publication: Pocket Books, paperback, August 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Plot: When Chrissie Jenkins finally gains the courage necessary to escape from her abusive boyfriend, she heads to Cannonball Island, just off St. Dennis, Maryland, a quirky coastal town which has appeared in previous books by Stewart. She is welcomed by Ruby Carter, her great-grandmother, a feisty octogenarian with enough second sight to unnerve her affectionate relatives.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Something in the Water (Book Review)

Title: Something in the Water
Author: Catherine Steadman
Publication: Ballantine, various formats, 2018
Genre: Suspense
Plot: Told in the first person, this is a chilling story of how one bad choice causes a ripple effect that irrevocably changes two newlyweds. Erin, a brilliant filmmaker, and her fiancĂ©, Mark, a London banker, have the perfect life – until Mark loses his job and his self-confidence.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Five Things

Is mowing the lawn exercise? Yes! The actual amount of calories burned depends on your weight and the type of mower but this is comforting news. I suspect all my bending to pick up sticks and branches is more valuable fitness-wise than pushing the mower but you never know.
My favorite striped petunias on the front steps
Perhaps this week’s moral lesson is NOT to buy Talenti Gelato unless it is on sale. I was brought up to know better and I am punished for too quickly grabbing a pint of Sea Salt Caramel which, upon arriving home, turned out to be Coffee Chocolate Chip Gelato, a flavor I don’t like. I would like to give it to someone if I could deliver it unmelted.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Star of the North (Book Review)

Title: Star of the North 
Author: D. B. John
Publication: Crown Publishing, hardcover, 2018
Genre: Suspense
Plot: Jenna’s twin sister disappeared 12 years ago while studying in Korea, devastating the while family.  Jenna has tried to rebuild her life and is a successful academic at Georgetown University when she learns there is a possibility Soo-Min is alive.  Abandoning her career, she joins the CIA in an attempt to learn as much as possible about North Korea and expedite any opportunity to rescue her sister.  Other characters include a North Korean diplomat, Colonel Cho, part of the Pyongyang elite who is sent on a mission to negotiate with the United States – where he meets Jenna – and Mrs. Moon, a North Korean peasant living near the Chinese border, trying desperately to support herself and an invalid husband.

Audience: Fans of suspense, particularly those who enjoy strong female characters.  I recommend to readers who enjoy David Baldacci and Dean Koontz.

My Impressions: What a timely book written by Welsh-born David Johns and, more importantly, it was impossible to put down!  Jenna is an appealing and compelling heroine whose nightmares about her sister’s disappearance and survivor’s guilt have prevented her from developing close relationships as an adult, although she is beautiful and brilliant.   Her dual heritage from her African-American military father and her Korean mother has set her apart and focused her academic interests so when she is recruited to join the CIA, she can almost immediately discern information on North Korea that is not apparent to Washington insiders. 
Parallel with Jenna’s story is a convincing look at the highest and the lowest in North Korea:  Colonel Cho Sang-ho appears to have it all as a member of North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a high-ranking position, serving Kim Jong-Il (father of the current despot), and Mrs. Moon has a heartbreaking life of selling scraps by a railway station in North Korea’s Ryanggang Province, bribing police out of her meager profits to survive each day.   I was so busy reading I forgot to wonder how her story intersected with the others, and was surprised and impressed by the author’s skill in weaving these disparate personalities into a disturbing yet enthralling narrative. I am embarrassed at how weak my geography is – hence the map above.  I did not have much interest in North Korea prior to this year but found this story fascinating.  Best of all, there is clearly room for a sequel but not at the expense (as my sister was just complaining) of ending this book without a conclusion.

Source: This book was recommended by my talented college classmate Nick Kristof in his newsletter, and I got a copy from the Boston Public Library.   I suggest you give it a try.