Adult

Book Review: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

Murder, political intrigue, science, mathematics, airships, and time machines. “The Time Roads” by Beth Bernobich is a smorgasbord of delicious steampunk and mystery elements. When I switched on my Galley of “The Time Roads”, I was not expecting a political thriller. Truthfully, I expected yet another steampunk story where the plot and characters are second to the quest to add as many fantastical elements to the world as possible. The mention of mathematics in the summary goaded me into requesting the novel, and I am glad I did. What I found was a mature and nuanced tale set in a believable alternate story.

The story opens and closes in the first person point of view of Aine, queen of Erie, in an alternative history where Ireland, not England, is head of the great western empire at the turn of the century. There is no East India Company here, but there are plots. Aine is not safe from those who wish to take or change her empire, all complicated by the work of mathmeticians and scientists that are striving to conquer time itself. In the beginning, Aine is young and scared. The books starts off feeling like it could belong to the new adult scene, but as the pages turn, the story evolves. The reader grows with Aine. I found myself wrapped up in her story. I wanted to follow her to the end.

As Aine and the other main characters, Siomon and Aidrean, delve into and face the consequences of time travel, we switch into the third person point of view. Each of the four intertwined stories , each with a different character behind the lens felt a bit disjointed at first. The switch between them was disconcerting and confusing. Rather than being put off by it, I was drawn in even more. Time travel is full of, to quote The Doctor, “Wibbley Wobbly Timey Wimey,” stuff. It is enough to make your head spin. The characters were confused by the twists and turns of the Time Roads. They were lost without a map, remembering events that didn’t seem to have happened, and seeing shadows of other timelines. I felt like my confusion mirrored theirs. I was a part of their world, facing it right alongside them.

I can see the separate points of view and stories within the story confusing some readers and putting them off of the story. Not many books attempt to confound the traditional linear structure of a story. It can be trying for those who are unaccustomed to it. The mathematical theorems might also confuse. I was lucky enough to have a math professor who had taught English previously regale us with stories of Pythagoras and other famous mathematicians. That knowledge definitely enhanced my reading experience.

This title is an excellent choice for adult steampunk fans who are looking for something a bit more mature than the usual offerings. I also recommend it for alternate history and murder mystery fans who may not have yet attempted steampunk before. I have not read anything quite like it before, and I think it will appeal to many different readers. Please let me know what you think if you decide to pick this title up!

The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

Book Review: A Thread Unbroken by Kay Bratt

4 Out of 5 Stars

I just laid my eleven month old son down to sleep. His moist little breaths gently brushed my skin. His tiny hand had a hold on my shirt, his fingers toying with the button on my blouse. I rocked him slowly back and forth, listening to the quite snorts that pass for snores most nights. Looking down on his peaceful little face, with chubby cheeks, full pouty lips, and eyelashes any grown woman would pay for, my heart was filled with so much love that it felt tight in my chest, as it does every day and  night when I have a quite moment alone with my son. It is with that feeling still so fresh, and my heart still so full, that I sit down to write this review.

The topics and themes presented in “A Thread Unbroken” are not easy ones to digest. There is almost nothing in my privileged American middle  class life that could help me understand the mindset that leads to human trafficking. I know that were my son to be a daughter I would still feel the same about her. Were he to be physically deformed, mentally disabled, or otherwise imperfect in the eyes of society, I would still love him and care for him with all my heart. I was raised in a world where children are cherished treasures rather than economic boons or burdens. Many Americans, and in fact, many of the reviewers that I have read, come from a similar background and feel that “A Thread Unbroken” is unbelievable. Unfortunately, while the larger Chinese cities have become increasingly more progressive, life in rural China marches on much as it always has with little regard to technological innovation. It is ruled by traditional values, those that see strong sons as a priceless economic treasure, and daughters as a burden until they are married and gone to produce strong sons of their own for the husbands that rule the household.

In “A Thread Unbroken” we have three families affected by the girls’ abduction. father Jun adores his daughter. He has never seen his two little girls as anything but strong and capable individuals. He encourages their education and is unwilling to allow the search for a husband to decide his daughters’ futures. Josie on the other hand, physically disabled and not fit to be a bride, is responsible for caring for her father’s pigs, taking care of her young siblings, and helping her mother care for the house. The third family is a traditional fishing family living in near seclusion from the modern world. The people of their village openly purchase girls stolen from other parts of China to become brides for their sons, as there are few women around.

Through each family we get a glimpse of how China feels about their girls, and the economic and social reasons behind why human trafficking exists,  and what can be done to stop it. Chai is strong because her father has empowered her to be so.  Her father never stops searching for her, and she never stops searching for a way to get back to him. Josie relies on Chai to find the answers, to rescue them. She is timid and emotionally immature. Her father gives up the search quickly, merely lamenting that there is no one there to care for the pigs and help take care of the small children. The family the girls find themselves forced to become a part of is ruled by their father and the eldest son. Nothing is done without their permission.

Despite such a heavy topic, the story is not dark. I would go so far as to say it is sugar coated. The girls are not beaten, and for the most part are not abused. There are many girls, and boys, around the world who have it worst. The general smoothness and ease of the story, and the narration makes it an excellent introduction to trafficking for mature middle grade students (eighth grade) and younger high school students, though it is also a good read for adults. Be warned, though, that there is one graphic scene late in the book. It reads well for an adult as well. If the prose are simple, and the ending a fairy tale, it can be forgiven. “A Thread Unbroken” shows a gentler version of a dark and violent world making it more accessible for younger readers, and those who don’t often read dark fiction. The story opens up the floor for conversation, but leaves the reader feeling like there is hope, like things can change.

Kay Bratt lived in China for nearly five years and advocates for Chinese children and girls. Her passion shows in her writing. She has penned several novels around these subjects and I look forward to circling back and reading some more of them in the future. I can recommend one other book if you read this and found the story interesting. Sold by Patricia McCormick is the story of 13-year-old Lakshmi who is sold into prostitution to pay off her family’s debts. Please feel free to write you suggestions or thoughts in the comments. Human trafficking is an important issue, and the more literature can do to help get the message out, the better.

a_thread_unbroken_kay_bratt

The Belial Stone by R.D. Brady

3 stars out of 5

There is something comforting in a formula, especially when you have a lot going on and just want to decompress with a book rather than analyze every word. I often call it fluff reading, something I have done a lot of since my son was born ten months ago. “The Belial Stone” is not remarkable in the sub genre of archaeological thrillers. You won’t find anything revolutionary here, it sits firmly in the shadow of stories like “The DaVinci Code”, “The Relic”, and “Last Templar”. That being said, I did enjoy it quite a bit as a diversion.

The characters are not really complex. R.D. Brady attempted to add some complexity and mystery, but ultimately missed. The bad guys are selfish, evil, and bad in every way. The good guys are good without fail. Jake is willing to drop everything and believe almost anything to find his brother. Laney will get justice for her friend, even if it kills her. Those on the side of the light have no qualms about risking everything to save each other as well as strangers. The cast of characters is fairly dynamic and includes a warrior priest who specializes in religious archaeology, a hyper-intelligent teenage boy, and a lovable, mysterious giant who knows more about what is going on than he is telling (If you pay attention to the not subtle foreshadowing, you will likely guess why, even if it is not resolved by the end of the book). A few other characters show up to entertain, but I don’t want to spoil those who don’t wish to be spoiled.

I found the characters enjoyable through most of the story. Some of them have their moments. Jake is a bit more macho than I like prefer male leads. He has a protective streak that he cannot help but focus on Laney, the resident damsel in distress. He is not alone. All of the male characters, save for the baddies, feel a strong need to protect her. Jake actually comes to the realization that she needs protecting shortly after they meet, despite the obvious fact that she could hold her own in a fight with some mad martial arts skills. The inevitable and predictable romance springs up too quickly and feels a bit forced.

R.D. Brady plays with and mixes together two different mythologies. The story of Atlantis, and Christian myths. She does it beautifully and presents enough theoretical evidence to make it seem plausible.  My only nitpick is that all of the characters talk about, or accept, fringe archaeological theories as if they were well known facts. I love reading “Ancient Aliens” style theories, but it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a “Some people believe…” every once in a while. I found myself thinking “I’ve never heard of that,” a few times when sites I had read or watched documentaries came up. Being the curious sort, I left the story for a bit to look it up. Still, I was ultimately a fan of the archaeological bread crumbs strewn throughout the story.

The eBook is only 4.99 on Amazon and is a Kindle Unlimited story, so it also makes it into my list of decent bargain books. If you want a fun beach or airport read, or something to chill on the couch with, this is definitely a book to consider. If you are looking for something unpredictable that makes you think about each clue, look elsewhere.

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