Book Review

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.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00039]

Deborah Harkness at Powell’s Books July 31st

14619141987_21d18af765_o

 

On Thursday night I had the pleasure of meeting Deborah Harkness, author of the best selling All Souls Trilogy which contains the books “Discovery of Witches”, “Shadow of Night”, and “The Book of Life”. I found the series shortly after the first book was released on a front display at Barnes and Noble. I have always been a fan of stories about witchcraft and the occult. On top of that, the cover was beautiful. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I will freely admit that the more attractive the cover, the more likely I am to notice it. I don’t think I even read the synopsis before picking it up, and I normally meticulously pour through reviews and ratings before committing my treasured free reading time to a new book series. I was not disappointed.

The All Souls Trilogy is the story of reluctant witch Diana and her vampire companion Matthew as they work together to find out the secrets of a mysterious manuscript that might hold the key to saving the supernatural world. No one knows what is in the manuscript, but that isn’t stopping them from hunting it down. Diana and Matthew’s journey take them on an action packed journey around the world, through the past and the present, surrounded by an amazingly rich cast of characters.

Deborah Harkness is a history professor and it shows in her work. Her approach to the supernatural is intelligent and grounded in history with scientific explanations to back up the existence of the paranormal. The character’s fears, their world views, and their actions are guided by evidence of how supernatural beings were thought of and dealt with historically. During the Q&A session she revealed that the idea came to her one day as she stared down a wall of supernatural fiction inspired by the recent release of “Breaking Dawn”. Knowing what she knew about history, it seemed strange that supernatural beings in these stories walked amongst normal people with no one noticing, and that witches seemed happy to be witches, which “historically was not a good career path for a woman”.  So, Diana’s character, a witch who did not want to be a witch, was born.

Ms. Harkness’ sense of humor, her passion for her stories and characters, showed through as she spoke to the full house at Powells. I cannot wait to dig into “The Book of Life” which is currently waiting for me to finish reading “The Belial Stone”. Until then, I will leave you with a few fun facts from the Q&A.

  • Ms. Harkness’ favorite historical character is Elizabeth the 1st, but for no particular reason.
  • She handles her fame by thinking of her fans as an extension of her students, only when she enters the room for a book signing, she knows everyone has done the reading.
  • There was an attempt to make a movie out of “A Discovery of Witches”, but it ended in an amicable breakup.
  • Male lead Matthew Clairmont is based on a missing poet named Matthew Roydon.
  • Originally Ms. Harkness thought she would be writing one book, but around page 400 she realized that is was going to be much longer than one book.

If you enjoy historical fiction and supernatural stories with a hint of romance and are looking for something a little bit different, I highly recommend the All Souls Trilogy.

Deborah Harkness Book Reading

The Crowd for Deborah Harkness Powell's Books

Book Reading with Deborah Harkness at Powell's Books

%d bloggers like this: