Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014).
Although the previous book was billed as the “final” one, it clearly wasn’t. I’m not complaining though – it’s always interesting to read another installment in the life of Father Tim, Southern Episcopal priest. I can’t say whether Jan Karon’s portrayal of small town life in twenty-first century Appalachia is accurate, but it rings true. I’m sure most readers will have read the previous novels in the series, but Karon does make the effort to fill in the back story behind various circumstances, for those who are new or might have forgotten how various characters came in. This installment is well done and worth reading.
The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith (Recorded Books 2014)
While Alexander McCall Smith’s books are always more about love and philosophy than action, things actually happen in this novel that make you want to keep reading (or listening in my case) to find out what happens next. This book is particularly interesting because large parts of it take place in the Cayman Islands, an exotic Caribbean tax haven for the rich. Unlike the 44 Scotland Place series, which switches between several stories with different primary characters, this book follows a girl called Clover from childhood through early adulthood. She does move to Edinburgh for high school and college, but visits her home in the Caymans often and spends time in Singapore and Australia at the end of the book. Her mother has a key role in the story, as does Clover’s friend and love interest, James. Although this is a love story between heterosexuals, gay characters are starting to show up in sympathetic roles in McCall Smith’s novels. Astute readers will notice that the men are always described in detail (usually as beautiful or gorgeous) while the women are never described at all. I will not reveal whether Clover gets her boy in the end, since that would spoil it for you.
Peacemaker by C. J. Cherryh (Daw Books, 2013).
Reading this book was a reminder of the importance of starting with the first book of a long series. This was number 15 of the Foreigner science fiction series by C. J. Cherryh, and it was almost incomprehensible. The reviews on the back cover indicated that this is one of the best of an excellent author’s many novels, but I still shouldn’t have started with it. I should have began (at the very least) with the historical background provided at the end, but since I didn’t know it was there, I didn’t read it until after I finished. There is no map provided of the alien planet, which would have been extremely helpful for reference. The natives of the planet had a very formal, quasi-Japanese culture in which all the names sound similar and alien honorifics are thrown in without explanation. It was interesting to see the politics of an alien culture from both the perspective of a native child and from the perspective of a human diplomat, but the politics were very complex and heavily dependent on remembering confusing names and clan affiliations.