Month: October 2019

Lights All Night Long Book Review

New literary voices are fun to discover. Lydia Fitzpatrick’s debut novel Lights All Night Long will appeal to readers of multiple genres. Unsolved murders lurk in the background of this novel exploring contemporary issues.

Exchange Student

The protagonist is high school exchange student Ilya Alexandrovich from a remote part of Russia. The town is connected to an energy company which arranges exchanges of students to a Louisiana town also revolving around an energy company. Hence the title Lights All Night Long.

Fitzpatrick utilizes flashback chapters to explain how and why Ilya arrives with a burden. The change of location keeps the story line straight. But there are many similarities between the two towns which reach far beyond the refineries. One could substitute for the other.

Contemporary Issues

The author subtly presents the split between students who become engaged in learning and those that fall prey to outside sources. There is a large presence of drugs in both towns and the writer successfully demonstrates the many forces involved in drug abuse. Along with the use of drugs and alcohol, the novel touches upon teen sex as an outgrowth of the disengagement of students from school activities.

Murder Plot

Entwined with the story of Ilya and his brother Vladimir are a series of brutal murders. A major twist occurs when Vladimir confesses to the crimes. But Ilya does not believe the confession. Furthermore, he is determined to prove the confession was coerced.

Lights All Night Long in America

Ilya’s exchange family is given the contemporary stereotype of Evangelical Christians. But the oldest child, Sadie, does not quite fit in. Yet, she has her own reasons for staying out of the hardcore drug scene.

Between Ilya and Sadie, Fitzpatrick demonstrates through the actions of her characters the close binds of family. Both youngsters rise above the drug drenched culture found in many places today. But both are loyal to those captured by drug addiction.

Lights All Night Long is an excellent debut novel. The chapter flashbacks are a key part of the story. Lydia Fitzpatrick does a good job of moving the story along during the flashbacks and the current day chapters. The twists and turns in the murder plot keep the reader turning the pages.

But what I liked best about the book were the characters. At first glimpse many seem stereotypical. But they are not. Each develops into a complex human being. Perfection does not exist, but neither does total failure. Above all, there is love.

 

 

 

Overload of Green Tomatoes

Table full of produce harvested just before a killing frost
An abundance of green tomatoes

The big freeze last week left me with an overload of green tomatoes. Many of them are ripening while just sitting on the dining room table. But I need alternatives. So, I started searching through my recipe boxes. Family recipes are the best. Especially those handed down from generation to generation just like in the novel I reviewed, The Recipe Box.

At one time I used a recipe written down by a neighbor to make Green Tomato Jam. However, it used canned pineapple from the grocery store and lots of sugar. I also have a good green tomato relish recipe. Currently, it is at the top of the list for using up the tomatoes.

Online Recipes

While the green tomato relish makes a great presentation as a Christmas gift, I have a lot of tomatoes. So I started searching the Internet for recipes. One of my favorite recipe websites belongs to Deb Perelman. If you have yet to discover Smitten Kitchen take a look.

Another site I frequently visit is The Spruce Eats. I am very tempted to try the Green Tomato Cake recipe. Some days you just feel like having sweets. Actually, quite a few recipes from the posting 15 Fabulous Green Tomato Recipes are calling out to me.

Ripening Green Tomatoes

Quite a few of the tomatoes are turning red. We are enjoying the heirloom slicing tomatoes. In addition to processing a bunch of the green tomatoes today, I plan to dehydrate a batch of Romas that have ripened.

It is nearing the end of the canning season for me. Although my favorite Small-Batch Preserving recipe book boasts of year-round production, I hang up my processing hat shortly after the first freeze. To be honest, the cooler weather pulls me toward the quilting room instead of the kitchen. But, first I need to can the green tomatoes.

The World That We Knew Book Review

Cover of The World That We Knew

 

Alice Hoffman has long been a favorite of my offspring. So, when I saw The World That We Knew perched on the new arrivals at the local library I picked it up. I am so glad that I did. The book is moving.

World War II

The Second World War is the backdrop of Hoffman’s novel. The story opens in Berlin. A mother is torn between getting her 12 year old daughter to safety outside of Germany and honoring her duties to her own mother. In the end she stays in Berlin while arranging for the safe passage of her young daughter.

The safety factor is a golem. This mystical creature of Jewish lore is created by the daughter of a revered rabbi. Ettie is the rabbi’s daughter. She violates many traditions creating the golem. The price she charges is two train tickets so she and a younger sister can also flee the Nazi’s.

The World That We Knew

Ettie and her sister and young Lea and her guardian golem leave their old world behind. The novel follows their separate paths until they again merge. The reader experiences the terrors of the Third Reich through these protagonists. But the characters that will steal your heart are the Levi brothers.

Hoffman shows how class systems and age differences break down during wars. Furthermore, she explores the responsibilities of parents and the connections made by blood and love. Each character, including that of the golem, face soul-searching decisions. Life or death decisions. The World That We Know explores how often sheer chance weighs into decision making.

Good vs. Evil

Finally, the novel showcases good vs. evil. The Nazi’s were truly evil and Hoffman makes that clear. But, she also shows the struggles of those who are inherently good when they choose immoral actions to combat the evil.

I know there are many novels on the market with World War II as the setting. This is an excellent account. It is fiction, but I believe the book portrays the resistance in France accurately. The World That We Know is a worthy addition to any library, public or private.

Paradox Book Review

The latest Savich and Sherlock FBI thriller from Catherine Coulter that I have read is Paradox. Since these two characters are among my very favorites, it is only fair to warn you I may be biased. Nonetheless, I think Paradox is worth reading. There are plenty of psychological components to make it a thriller.

Coulter’s opening scene captures your attention. There is a break-in and an unknown man is found looming above a sleeping Sean Savich. His mom, FBI agent Lacey Sherlock, interrupts the kidnapping. The couple, familiar to many readers, race to discover the identity of the would-be kidnapper of their son Sean.

Parallel Stories

Simultaneously, Chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder from her back deck. She is helpless to do anything but watch since the event takes place in the middle of the lake. Coulter melds the two stories into one in prime fashion.

Christie is the protagonist for the parallel story line. Coulter does a good job with her character. She becomes a friend more than a love interest to another key character. This is refreshing.

Paradox

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated may prove well-founded or true according to my online dictionary. There are multiple instances of paradox in this novel. All but one proved easy to understand.

People act against or outside their personality for a variety of reasons. Coulter is masterful at manipulating the actions of characters both main and secondary in ways that are paradoxical throughout Paradox. The title truly fits the story.

Earlier editions of the FBI series which featured Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock coupled thrills with steamy romantic scenes. Perhaps because the two are a married couple, Coulter has toned the action down quite a bit.

Furthermore, the relationship Ty Christie engages in does not meet the criteria needed to make Paradox a romance as much as a thriller. The book’s focus is that of a thriller joined with a bit of the paranormal and a hefty dose of psychotic killers. A good book to read- but perhaps not just before you sleep.