Pearl, MD: The Way West – Marie Bartlett

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

The Way West, the second in the Pearl MD series, begins right where we were left off and is just as captivating.
Pearl is a physician in the nineteenth-century. This was when women were not welcome to have a profession. African Americans were also treated poorly. Healing them as patients was unacceptable and hiring them as assistants—as Pearl did— was frowned upon and bad for business. Angry people burned her medical center to the ground, and she had no choice but to stay at a hotel until she found out what to do. In this second book, the author provides a short backstory just to remind the reader of what’s happened so far in book one, and then she moves on to the story, full speed.

Even though Pearl consistently receives bad news, she is stronger than ever. As she is trying to figure out her own life, she is informed that her best friend is dying and she may be losing the baby too. Pearl has to leave Asheville and travel to the West to save her friend Victoria.

There is a slight problem, though. Pearl is now romantically inclined with Herschel, and although there are no wedding bells ringing, her departure may affect and terminate this newfound love between them.

She has to make a decision and fast. She decides to ask her assistant, Loomey, to travel with her, and she agrees to accompany her for at least half of the way. Pearl makes a stop to see her parents and does some questioning towards finding the person who set her medical office on fire. Loomey has to return home as her husband is injured in a fight and his life is in danger. Pearl continues the journey alone to the west.

When she arrives, things do not look good. Not only is her friend in bad shape but also she discovers new things that disgust her. This is where the story really grabs your attention. She is confronted, conned, tricked and worst of all she has to save her friend from herself as well as her surroundings. Caine, Pearl’s previous love interest is also there to make things even more uncomfortable and Walter, Victoria’s husband is acting very weird.

I was stuck to this book like glue and could not put it down. The literary standard of writing and the references to so many sensitive subjects will blow your mind. Human trafficking, sex trading, racial encounters, and women’s rights are just a few issues that the author touches on.

Pearl is so gracious and kind that you find it very hard not to fall in love with her. She has such a beautiful spirit to an extent where she does not care what others think regardless of how much it affects her social status. She even refuses to send Loomey to a different car just because she is of a different skin color. Pearl joins Loomey in her ride to prove a point to the others.

Please note, Pearl MD, The Way West is not a stand –alone novel. You will need to read Pearl MD, the first in the series. However, both are gems and from the beginning to the end, will they continue to surprise you.

I highly recommend  Pearl MD, The Way West to anyone that is looking to read something out of this world.

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Olympic Collision: The Story of Mary Decker and Zola Budd- Kyle Keiderling

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

One momentous day. And two lives were forever linked.
At the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles, a raucous crowd of ninety thousand saw their favorite in the women’s three-thousand-meter race, Mary Decker, go down. An audience of two billion around the world witnessed the mishap and listened to the instantaneous accusations against the suspected culprit, Zola Budd.

Just seventeen, the South African Budd had already been the target of a vicious and vocal campaign by the anti-apartheid lobby after she transferred to the British team in order to compete at the games. Decker, at twenty-six, was America’s golden girl, ready to overcome years of bad luck and injuries to rightfully take the Olympic gold for which she had waited so long. With three laps to go, Decker and Budd’s feet became tangled. Decker went down and didn’t get up, wailing in primal agony as her gold medal hopes vanished.

Although both women found success after the Olympics, neither could escape the long shadow of the infamous event that forever changed both of their lives and continues to define them in popular culture to this day.

“This isn’t a tale of heroic feats… It’s about two lives running parallel for a while, with common aspirations and convergent dreams.” – Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna, The Motorcycle Diaries (2005)

This quote perfectly defines the two legendary sportswomen. What a book!!! I was simply spellbound from the moment I started reading. A chronicle of two legends, miles apart and differing in age and yet both defined by their personalities that started at home but differed in how they persevered. The author captured the sportsmanship of track runners beautifully, the physical toils that we don’t often see or imagine and the amount of training and dedication it requires to be a success in their respective domains.

The style of writing is perfect to describe two different personalities who have only one thing in common: they love to run and they run to be free. There is no commentary required for any characterisation here because this is not one of those fictional books where you look at how the character develops; this is a true story of two legends. The title and the cover image are therefore perfect. This is one of those books that show a clear thought process when it comes to writing, and clarity and determination it takes to research the content.

Favorite quote:
Thipe was black, and the camaraderie they enjoyed out in the countryside was not permitted in Bloemfontein – or indeed anywhere else in South Africa. Apartheid was still the law of the land, and such associations were not acceptable. But Zola learned a different lesson from this friendship, and as she later put it, “My relationship with Thipe taught me, early on, that the color of a person’s skin is not what’s important.”

Just as Mary Decker’s move with her family to Southern California would have tremendous impact on her development as a runner, so too Zola Budd’s birthplace influence her subsequent career. In Budd’s case, the happenstance of being born in South Africa would dog her steps on track like a fast runner she couldn’t shake off no matter how she tried. “

Olympic Collision is absolutely a perfect book that I am going to rave and recommend to one and all. I would have, of course, preferred to see more images related to track events to make it a bit more personal.

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Beyond the Carousel – Bette Lee Crosby

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

A family tragedy that spans over twenty years, and a detective who believes that justice has a higher power than law and is determined to make things right.

“Life is like a carousel; what goes around, comes around. “

I am deliberately keeping the synopsis brief; the book is truly a delight to read and discover and empathise with; so it’s unfair to write a lengthy description and spoil the plot. I don’t know how this started as a series, but as an individual book, this will definitely leave an impression.

The plot is quite simple; it starts with a young couple who ends up with a chance inheritance and builds a life on Chester Street. The story of bringing future generations and the happiness and tragedy that follows has been beautifully linked to the simple beginning. The story definitely talks love, happiness and family intimacies, but it also dwells upon how everything in life comes to a circle – karmic justifications or the comfort of beginning a new life in the same house that your grandparents once built.

I absolutely loved the simplicity of the plot-line and how the characters are deeply entrenched within it, while making an individual presence in the minds of the reader. The narrative style is a combination of a memoir as well as tone of narration in second person.

The cover image and the title is perfect, if you follow the quote that I have provided at the start. Basically there is a complimentary balance throughout the entire book which is quite soothing for the reader. One thing though– if you go by the description that has been provided for the book, you will imagine a plot-line that is quite different from the one that has been provided. That discrepancy would be the only negative from my side.

Beyond the Carousel is simply beautiful and much recommended.

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The Girl from Rostov- Shitij Sharma

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“Everything adds up. Every second, every lie, every breath. In the end, it all catches up with you.”
“Even if you have little to do with it. Family, for instance. “
That’s what young Maya had to learn. Too many unanswered questions haunted her into adulthood. With the death of her uncle, she needed answers. Unfortunately, this would bring her friend Samar into the search and he was to find the truth of his own past.

Maya’s family came to the Soviet Union from Turkey. Orphaned at a young age, she was raised by her uncle, Majid. He came to the USSR when he was ten years old. The family lived in the Russian crime capital of Rostov, filled with slums and brothels.

Though they came from a family of pickpockets.  Majid was to graduate to more ruthless crimes via the Turkish mafia. It would prove to be quite profitable but would affect his entire family.

However, when the political structure in the Soviet Union started to change, politicians and police alike refused to be victims of his extortion. In order to make money it was necessary for him to leave Russia. He felt that he must take Maya with him; not just out of love, but also out of guilt.

A friend who worked with the KGB found a place for them in India. With the disbandment of the KGB, Majid found more lucrative ways to make money, like selling illegal arms to the highest bidder.

The Girl from Rostov is a bloody crime thriller filled with espionage but also an emotional story with a touch of romance. Though still a historical crime novel, there are so many themes to the story such as learning about oneself, living in a new and distinct culture, and dealing with the issue of loyalty. The story starts out in the USSR but mostly takes place in India. This contrast adds to the plot, and both countries are colorfully described. It would have been easy for the author to fall into the trap of overly-romanticizing the story. Instead he takes a realistic approach in the relationship between Maya and Samar.

It’s not only the actual story that I found intriguing, but also the characters involved. They seem real with all of their flaws and are illustrated in detail. I find this rare for a book that is under 150 pages.

The Girl from Rostov is a must-read for those who enjoy fast-paced crime fiction. You won’t be disappointed with this one.

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Motherland Hotel – Yusuf Atilgan, (Translated from the Turkish by Fred Stark)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“She was in the painting on the wall…It had gotten stiff again and he ran his fingers through the short hairs at the root. “Almost as big as the rest of you.” at tall woman, under him so tall. Could I kiss your breasts Sure if you want and your neck too Go ahead sure but his lips barely reached if he was slow ever slow in coming she had a practiced grind an up and down up and down a rocking like the attic cradle rocking…”

This is in the mind of Zeberjet, a hotel owner, as he goes insane. But let me back up a little.

As a youngster, Zeberjet helped his father run the Motherland Hotel in a small Turkish town near a railroad station. When his father died, he became the sole owner. He never refused a room to anyone unless they were outright drunk or disorderly. So the hotel was frequented by prostitutes and male couples in addition to elite guests. He just didn’t care; that is, until he became obsessed with one of the female guests. When she left—though nothing happened between them—he kept awaiting her return and would not rent out the room that she was in. Always a loner and an introvert, he became more withdrawn. Eventually he stopped accepting guests altogether, and went progressively insane which led to murder.

As we learn of Zeberjet’s downward spiral, the author goes back and forth providing us a history of his family’s wealthy Ottoman history and well as its struggle with mental illness. The supporting characters, including the other guests and townspeople have issues of their own, which give the story more depth.

Though there are only a few instances of stream of consciousness writing as exhibited above, the novel’s sentence structure can be confusing. Sometimes  I wasn’t sure if the POV was from Zeberjet or from the narrator.  However when it can be determined, it  lends to the story’s  uniqueness.

Make sure you read all notes and the translator’s introduction before beginning the story. There are no spoilers but it will explain some Turkish idioms and terms and give historical significance. A brief description of the major characters and significant inanimate objects follows .

“Motherland Hotel was hailed as the novel of the year in Turkey when it was published in 1973, astonishing critics with its experimental style, its intense psychological depth and its audacious description of sexual obsession.”

In fact, it was required reading for psychiatry students at the Ankara University.

 

 

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Wishing You the Best in 2017

(by JD Jung)

ny2017

 

We would all like to thank you for using UnderratedReads as one of your resources for book recommendations.

We are looking forward to continue to give you our opinions on exciting and thought-provoking “underrated” releases in 2017.

Though we only post reviews on books that we recommend, there are some that our reviewers have considered to be the best underrated or forgotten books that we discovered in 2016.

Here they are…

Non-Fiction

Elegant Entrepreneur – Danielle Tate   (Business)    reviewed by JD Jung

On the Nose: A Lifelong Obsession with Yosemite’s Most Iconic Climb – by Hans Florine , Jayme Moye           (Adventure, travel)     reviewed by Ishita RC

Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dram in France – Craig Carlson (Bios & Memoirs, travel)     reviewed by JD Jung

Super Nuke!: A Memoir About Life as a Nuclear Submariner and the Contributions of a “Super Nuke” – the USS RAY (SSN653) Toward Winning the Cold War – Charles Cranston Jett          (Bios & Memoirs)     reviewed by Ishita RC

The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction – M. A. Orthofer   (World literature Reference) reviewed by JD Jung

Walking the Nile – Levison Wood   (Travel) reviewed by Ishita RC

Fiction

America’s First Daughter: A Novel – Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie   (Historical Fiction)  reviewed by Ishita RC

Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large – Walter Mosley (noir-esque fiction)

Ashvamedha: The Game of Power – Ms Aparna Sinha   ( Indian Literature, political lit, crime/ mystery/thrillers)   reviewed by Ishita RC

Beat the Rain – Nigel Jay Cooper (Modern literary fiction)

Fardwor, Russia!: A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin – Oleg Kashin,  (Translated from the Russian by Will Evans)

Game of Anarchy: Race Against Time – Kenneth Jones  (Indian Literature, political lit, crime, mystery, thriller) reviewed by Ishita RC

The History Major – Michael Phillip Cash   ( Mystery, sci-fi) reviewed by Lee Nelson

The Jolly Coroner: A Picaresque Novel– Quentin Canterel (crime/mystery & thrillers, dark humor, satire)

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules– Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg   (Humor & Satire, world literature) reviewed by  Pat Luboff

Outside the Lines (Forensic Handwriting Series-Vol. 6) – Sheila Lowe   (Crime, mystery, thrillers)   reviewed by  Cathy Carey

Pearl, MD – Marie Bartlett   (Historical fiction) reviewed by Jeyran Main

Red Lights – Georges Simenon, Translated from the French by Norman Denny, Introduction by Anita Brookner)

The Vikramaditya Trilogy Book 1/The Guardians of the Halahala – Shatrujit Nath                (Indian literature, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/mythology)  reviewed by Ishita RC

 

Have a safe New Year!

 

 

 

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The Four Legendary Kingdoms – Matthew Reilly

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Jack West Jr. is finally living the life of peace with his family when one urgent call later, he gets kidnapped and finds himself waking up in an underground cell to a masked intruder charging at him with a knife.

Jack, it seems has been chosen – along with dozen other elite soldiers- to compete in a series of deadly challenges, that have been designed to fulfil an ancient ritual that puts the fate of the Earth at stake. In the process, he will discover the mysterious and powerful group of individuals behind it all: the four legendary kingdoms.

He might also discover that he is not the only hero in this place…

I have been waiting for this book since the day I came across the entire series. To be a fan of mythological fiction and then to wait with patience for your favorite writer to continue justifying the book, is a challenge on its own. The feeling of gratification is intensely satisfying when you finally get your hands on the book and you are not disappointed. This is especially true when two of your favorite characters are combined in one book to give an explosive narration.

Being familiar with the entirety of the series helps in understanding some of the plot elements and a few of the characters. But as an independent book, the plot delivery still lives up to the fast paced action shrouded in mysteries of mythology that is usually expected from Matthew Reilly and his characterization of Jack West Jr. There’s not a single moment where the book lets up, and for an avid reader that’s a very good sign. The plot was quite good and follows the previous installments, but somewhere I felt that the impact of the book lessened in few places. I can blame it on the depiction of some of the popular female characters of the franchise who have been undervalued and shadowed by the dose of testosterone.

I am a bit biased towards Jack West books and hence I did love the book despite the fact that there were many places where the book failed to deliver the necessary punch. Still going to recommend it.

Posted in Adventure, Crime, Mystery and Thrillers, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

One Good Man – Del Staecker

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“That voice and his love of music made him a legend—a true living legend.”

Atlantic City’s whiskey-voiced radio DJ, “Jersey Shore Joe” had enough. Music and times were changing; it was time for this 1960s and ’70s legend to retire. He buys a cheap boat to restore and moves to Ocean City to temporarily live with his niece who runs an inn. He’s going to live the quiet and slow life.

Or not…Joe finds himself feeling sorry for a teenage girl whose friend is missing. He wants to do what he can to help her and right all the possible wrongs. It’s not that simple though, as he later to finds himself trapped in a brutal crime network bursting with drugs, prostitution and murder. No one is who they seem—from gangsters to cops—everyone is on the take.

One Good Man is a fast-paced thriller that is dark and gritty with characters to reflect the story. This is in contrast to the naïve Joe, who is easily manipulated and just wants to be liked. His popularity both helps and hinders him.

The characters are distinct and well-explored. I wasn’t sure that I would like the story in the beginning. I usually like my thrillers with all of the characters dark and disturbing, like the perverted sleuth or psycho P.I. I’m not use to liking my characters—any of them. As I read on, I was pleasantly surprised. Though Joe is a nice guy, the story is not for the faint of heart; it is graphic and disturbing.

More importantly, there are so many unexpected twists and turns with dead ends to match. Right when you (and Joe) think you’ve figured it all out, boom, there’s more.

I didn’t predict the final ending, but it was satisfying and made total sense.

I recommend The Good Man for those who crave a strong thriller with characters to match. You won’t be disappointed.

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‘Tis the Season – Jennifer Gracen

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Being the heir of the Harrison enterprise, propriety has been the middle name of Charles Harrison the III. He has always followed the rule and decorum. However now he is tempted by the bewitching nanny.

Lisette has always loved the eldest Harrison from a distance. She never expected more than that the reigning prince will ignore the social differences and fall for her. Can she believe in the magic of Christmas and believe in their new love? Or will she run out again?

Having followed the Harrisons from the very beginning, I was glad that Kensington didn’t put up any conditions while requesting the ARC. There is nothing dramatic to expect from the plot. It’s a buildup of a sweet romance between two mature characters with problems that almost resemble the real world. The characters definitely have a personality that can be defined as approachable and relatable. The plotline is sweet and simple while ensuring continuity with the previous two books. The style of narration is simple and keeps in tune with the romance of the lead characters. The cover image definitely looks more like a movie poster than a book cover, but it’s not something major that I will crib about.

For those who are obsessive like me and don’t like to leave a series in between, you won’t be disappointed. For those who are starting it for the first time, you won’t miss out on the previous books; this one has its unique personality and you can very well enjoy it.

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Ocean Echoes – by Sheila Hurst

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

Ocean Echoes is an educational read on our beautiful oceans through the eyes of  marine biologist, Ellen Upton, who is seeking to discover new findings through her ever ending funds at the Cape Cod research facility.

Ellen is a hard working, driven, ambitious woman who takes her research on a cruise across the Panama Canal in hopes to accomplish an innovative discovery so that she may keep her job and funding. However, I felt that it was more than that. Ellen was mostly seeking recognition and felt like without a discovery, she had no purpose. On this journey she has many beautiful adventures under the sea and also manages to experience some love on the ship she sails on. On Toll Island her discovery is not what she expected and like all scientists her new breakthrough comes with costs.

I found the book to be exceptionally well-written and beautifully described. Sheila Hurst portrays a fascinating world under water and adds an educational, informative touch on this whole endeavour through her story with her writing. This, I believe makes a tale more valuable and desirable for its reader. I liked how Ellen was not perfect and strict. She would make mistakes and was vulnerable at times, which made her more relatable.

There are many twists and delightful turns in the plot. The character building is excellent and definitely draws the reader to feel for them. I believe there is just enough juice in making a second book out of this one. It has enough backstory and ammunition for a sequel and I hope that the author does consider this as I look forward to read more of her books.

Ocean Echoes is not just a voyage through the deep ocean and the discovery of our environment but it is also the journey of self-discovery.

I recommend this tale to all fiction readers and people who like to learn something as they enjoy a book.

(Editor’s note: According to note on Amazon,  “A percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations.)

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