The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Lisa See returns to share the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha in the Yunnan province. Li-yan, her family, are all tea farmers. Their people have lived and died by the farming of tea for generations. It is not until one day a stranger arrives in a car (the first one the Akha people have seen) that their lives change. Li-yan has received some schooling thanks to a teacher sent by the Communist government years ago to educate the people and with that schooling was able to serve as a translator for the stranger. It gives her a glimmer of hope for her future as she was satisfied with her certain future as a midwife. The stranger offers her and her village a more prosperous future through the growing of a certain kind of tea he claims is worth a lot of money.

Unfortunately, Li-yan’s hope for a better education are dashed when an encounter with a young man changes her life. This sets in motion the second half of the story, wherein a Chinese girl is raised by white American parents in southern California. The adopted child wonders about her biological parents. All she has from them is a tea cake with a design on it that she cannot decipher.

As always, See writes an engaging tale. I myself was particularly invested in the young girl’s part of the story. My K-12 schooling took place in one of the cities mentioned during her tale and I recognized everything she talked about. I’m not adopted nor am I Chinese (only half Taiwanese) but I understood her feelings about many things. Frankly, if she were real she definitely could have been one of my classmates.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (ARC)

Rating: 5 / 5 stars.

A riveting and thoroughly researched history of the young American women whose lives were irreversibly changed by radium. During World War I, dozens of young women, some still teenagers, were hired to paint dials numbers and hands with a magical substance called radium. No one told them it was toxic. The numbers and hands were so small, the girls only had one option to get the brush fine enough to paint them properly: put them in their mouths.

Lip, dip, paint. Over and over again.

When the girls started getting sick, no one could figure out the cause. It took some time before anyone even considered that what they did at the factory could be the cause. And when even a hint of blame was placed on the radium, the company worked as hard as it could to divert the blame to something, anything else.

It took decades for the young women, many of whom had died horrible, painful deaths decades before they were meant to pass, to get justice. Moore tells the never-before-heard story in painstaking detail. Truly an incredible book.

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.

DC Rebirth Batgirl Vol. 1 Beyond Burnside by Hope Larson

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

This volume contained Issues #1 – 6.

Barbara Gordon travels to Japan to train with combat masters of the East. But on her first day she runs into an old friend who causes a whole load of problems for her and whose actions place a target on Batgirl’s back.

Gordon is in fine form in this volume, using her combat skills, technology skills, and library science skills to fight against this new nemesis. The new skills she struggles to learn also help her save herself and her friend. The only downside, for me, in this issue is the unnecessary romance between her and her old friend. Why do they have to be lovers? Why can’t a man and a woman just be friends?

It’s also not the best issue to start with if someone is new to DC because it assumes the reader knows who Babs is and what she can do. Her personality is already firmly established. There is nothing new here beyond the skill she learns from the people she meets in this issue. There’s only a brief hint to the long period where she was wheelchair-bound (the great Oracle days) and is easily missed. I personally am still torn whether it’s tolerable or bad that she is no longer paralyzed.

Overall, it’s an acceptable iteration. Issues #7-10 are already available.

Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

The 55th entry in the In Death series brings nothing new. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and billionaire husband Roarke stumble upon a naked woman while on the drive home from a social event. They track her address and discover the woman’s dead husband. Dallas works the case to capture a man who uses makeup and costume to give his victims the idea that he is a demon when he attacks them.

After fifty-five books, the series has become stale. Within the first couple interviews between Dallas and her suspects, I was able to correctly predict who the killer was. There was no significant character or overarching plot development. I surmise the only ones enjoying the latest entry are people who enjoy the consistent and unchanging elements in every book. The In Death series is dependable, in its own way. But for those craving an exciting detective mystery/suspense, I suggest looking elsewhere.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Moore’s debut novel tells two stories: one of Harold White, a modern day man who is a fervent fan of the great detective Sherlock Holmes, and another about Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The narrative switches back and forth between White in 2010 and Conan Doyle in 1900.

White is suddenly thrown into a hunt for a missing diary written by Conan Doyle that was supposed to cover the time period from October to December 1900. Not even the most dedicated Sherlock fan, Sherlockians as most of them call themselves, had been able to find the diary in the years since Conan Doyles’ passing and could only speculate as what was inside. Accompanied by the mysterious Sarah, White does his best to find the diary, not knowing who to trust and trying to stay alive. For his part, Conan Doyle has Bram Stoker for a companion. The events of his life covered in the missing diary turn out to be quite intriguing and suspenseful.

The book was an enjoyable read with how Moore brought Conan Doyle, Stoker, and 1900 London to life. White and the modern day chapters were actually the least interesting part of the book for me. The final reaction to the diary were quite confusing to me. But that was only a small wrinkle in a good book.