‘The Language of Trees’ by Steve Wiegenstein

the langauge of trees-wiegensteinIn the Ozarks of Missouri, a community of early 19th century settlers face the challenges of an ever-changing America in Steve Wiegenstein’s latest novel, The Language of Trees.

Daybreak is a utopian society that has thrived for 30 years until it is suddenly shaken by the outside world. Now, it’s up to the founders’ children to not only maintain their community, but to thrive within it when the world seems set against them. It is a post-Civil War America, and Daybreak has met with little trouble since the war until a group of loggers move in nearby and offer to buy a large chunk of the community’s land. With the loggers come love interests, the ideals of capitalism, and the threat of what selfishness can do to a community.

Each of the characters takes a turn to show the reader Daybreak from her eyes, even characters that at first seem to be villains. Wiegenstein, though, does a fantastic job of staying in a single character’s head at any one time. Through all of these different perspectives, Wiegenstein is able to truly build the idea of community within the reader’s mind.  The reader becomes acquainted with each character so fully that even those who are less honorable are still able to be sympathized with.

Melding history with fiction, allure, and mystery, Wiegenstein paints a beautiful and romantic picture of 19th century America: a world where even in hardship, a community can stick together.

The Language of Trees is the third in Wiegenstein’s Daybreak saga. With the next generation of characters leading the way, though, The Language of Trees is just as strong on its own is it is within the series.

Slated for release by Blank Slate Press on September 26, 2017, you can preorder a copy of The Language of Trees by Steve Wiegenstein at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Girl in the Blue Coat’ by Monica Hesse

girl-in-the-blue-coat-hesse.jpgGirl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is a novel steeped in history, passion, and emotion. A coming of age book that tells the story of the main character, seventeen-year-old Hanneke’s experiences in Amsterdam during World War II. Hanneke is an angry citizen of Amsterdam during the German occupation in 1943, angered not only by the Germans’ presence, but mostly because her boyfriend died during the war and she feels responsible. Now, Hanneke works in dealings on the black market, delivering goods like coffee, chocolate, and cigarettes to her fellow citizens.

At the beginning of the novel, Hanneke is completing a routine drop off at Mrs. Janssen’s house, a woman Hanneke knows well and whose son and husband have also died at the hands of the Germans. When Mrs. Janssen invites Hanneke to stay for real coffee and pastries though, Hanneke is suspicious of what more Mrs. Janssen might want from her. After reluctantly agreeing to join the old woman, Hanneke begins to relax and wonders if perhaps Mrs. Janssen is merely lonely. And she is, though not exactly for the reasons Hanneke was thinking.

Mrs. Janssen reveals to Hanneke that she was hiding a young Jewish girl in her house, a girl she not only feels responsible for because the girl’s whole family is dead, but a girl she has also come to love as a daughter. Though Hanneke has never worked in dealing with contraband people, she decides to help Mrs. Janssen almost as a way to please Bas, her dead boyfriend. She knows he would help Mrs. Janssen if he were alive, so in an attempt to regain the trust she thinks Bas has lost in her, she decides that hunting for this girl is the right choice.

Along the twisting roads of mystery leading up and down Girl in the Blue Coat, Hanneke finds much more than and not at all what she was ever looking for. She finds unsuspecting friendships, passion for a cause, and more than one reason to keep living her life.

Though marketed as a young adult novel, Girl in the Blue Coat is an exhilarating and powerful read for any aged booklover.

The paperback version of Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse was published by Little Brown and Company in April of 2017. You can purchase a copy of the novel at your local bookstore.

Read more historical fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

 

‘To the Stars Through Difficulties’ by Romalyn Tilghman

to-the-stars-through-difficulties-tilghmanTo the Stars Through Difficulties by Romalyn Tilghman is an uplifting story about the strength of collectivity, especially the collective power of women.

To the Stars Through Difficulties follows three different women: Traci, Gayle, and Angelina. Each is dealing with a major life event, or series of life events, that has somehow led them to New Hope, Kansas. Traci has been hired as an artist in residency at the only arts center in New Hope, which also happens to be an old Carnegie library, which Angelina is writing her PhD dissertation on, and which Gayle is attending for therapeutic art classes, provided by Traci. The catch is that Traci has no experience teaching art, though she lied and told the arts center that she did; Gayle’s life was blown away in a tornado and she can’t seem to get her life back together; and Angelina has actually been working on her dissertation for ten years, and the dissertation is going to potentially get dropped by her university.

The Carnegie library turned arts center is the central meeting place not only for these women, but for the ideas that move the book forward. Tilghman weaves together a history of the women who came before Traci, Gayle, and Angelina with the journey of her three protagonists, using the library as the two histories’ point of intersection. In the past, we follow the women who helped make the Carnegie library a reality despite their hard times, while in the present the hardships look a bit different.

Focusing not only on the strength of women but also the power of print and the importance of history, both collective and one’s own, Tilghman leads readers through a maze of mysteries and hardships in To the Stars Through Difficulties.

Slated for release by She Writes Press on April 4, 2017, you can reserve your copy of To the Stars Through Difficulties from your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Wonder Women’ by Sam Maggs

wonder-women-maggsHistory has always been predominantly about “his” story, not hers. Sam Maggs attempts to change all of that with her latest novel Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History. Wonder Women is just what it sounds like, a history book about women. Maggs, though, does not fill Wonder Women with dull facts, a myriad of dates, or a droning tone that could put any reader to sleep. Instead, she provides short snippets of each featured woman that are fun, conversational in tone, and accessible to any age group.

Maggs divides Wonder Women into five chapters, each relating to a different category of women. These chapters cover Women of Science, Women of Medicine, Women of Espionage, Women of Innovation, and Women of Adventure. In each chapter, a handful of women are explored in depth through a few page biography. Following these longer narratives, Maggs compiles a list of other notable women who influenced that particular field, and she provides one paragraph summaries of each of their lives and contributions. Finally, every chapter ends with an interview of a notable woman who is alive and working in the given field today.

From Mary Bowser, an escaped slave who more than dabbled in espionage, to Chevalier D’eon, potentially one of the first known transgender women, Maggs spans a wide range of influential women. Maggs doesn’t just cover the well-known women either; in fact, she focuses on the lesser known, throwing women like Amelia Earhart and Sacagawea into the longer list of notable women with shorter bios.

Though some of the stories seem rather radical, Maggs is always quick to point out when the facts aren’t all there. There are multiple times throughout Wonder Women, when Maggs admits that the records are confusing or missing, and so she simply provides what is there, noting that it might not be pure fact. The stories without as many holes tend to be more salient; however, those that can’t be fully pieced together further point to the hardship of women, especially women of the past. Many women featured in Wonder Women experienced betrayal at the hands of men colleagues or had to lie to avoid incarceration or death for their actions or beliefs, making it harder to pick fact from fiction.

Whatever the particulars of fact and fiction, Maggs provides a wide view of many forgotten women in the world, women who have contributed to the growth and development of our global society in previously untold ways. Though not all of the stories may be true in all regards, Maggs still provides readers with a larger takeaway, a more inspiring message: women have always been here, we’ve always been working in science and technology, in art and innovation, and though it’s always been hard, it’s also always been worth it. Maggs urges readers to continue to contribute to these fields and to help change the stigma around women and science, technology, and adventure.

Released October 18, 2016 by Quirk Books you can purchase Wonder Women at your local bookstore.

Read more nonfiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.