Janie Chang’s — Dragon Springs Road *****

Janie Chang’s — Dragon Springs Road *****

When the Fong’s estate near Shanghai is sold and the Yangs arrive, Jialing’s mother disappears and Jialing becomes a bond servant to the new family. Through her friendship with the spirit fox and Anjuin, the Yangs oldest daughter, she survives. A group of teachers rent a section of the estate and Jialing is given an opportunity to go to school. But even with her education and perfect English no one will employ her because she is zazhong— half Chinese, half Eurasian. How will she survive once the Yangs move to Shanghai leaving her behind?

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Audrey Thomas’ — Isobel Gunn *****

Audrey Thomas’ — Isobel Gunn *****

The Orkney islanders think Isobel Gunn is crazy when she races to meet each ship docked in the harbour asking about James. Only Magnus remembers how heroic Isobel was twenty years earlier when she disguised herself as a man and sailed to Rupert’s Land back in the 1800s to work in the harsh Canadian wilderness.

Equally as good is Thomas’ Tatty Coram, a minor character from one of Dickens’ novels whom she weaves into the life of Dickens himself.

Victoria Finlay’s — Buried treasure, travels through the jewel box *****

Victoria Finlay’s — Buried treasure, travels through the jewel box *****

During my travels I was desperate for something to read and was handed Finlay’s book. I’m not a lover of jewels so I approached the book with low expectations. How wrong I was.

This book deals with the history and intrigue behind searching and acquiring jewels from amber, jet and opals to the more expensive emeralds, rubies and diamonds. I was hooked from the first page and fascinated by every fact from this non-fiction gem.

Shyam Selvadurai’s — The hungry ghosts *****

Shyam Selvadurai’s — The hungry ghosts *****

When Shivan prepares to return to Colombo to bring his aging grandmother to Canada, memories of his childhood flood back. He remembers how he was the one forced to befriend the greedy and callous matriarch so his widowed mother and sister would not be kicked out of her house. He suffers her beatings and insults because his grandmother despises his mother for marrying a Tamil and producing two half Tamil children.

Set through an era of political hatred towards the Tamil minority (that still persists to day) and grappling with Shivan’s sexual orientation, this is a story wrought with tension on many levels.

Joanna Goodman’s — The home for unwanted girls *****

Joanna Goodman’s — The home for unwanted girls *****

Although Maggie’s mother is French Canadian, Maggie is sent to an English school by her English father. But in spite of her predominantly English up bringing, she falls in love with a poor French boy, Gabriel. At fifteen she discovers she’s pregnant. Pressured by 1950s Quebec’s stance on unwedded mothers and her beloved father’s threat of abandoning her if she keeps the child and has any more to do with Gabriel, Maggie’s child, Elodie is taken from her.

Goodman presents the English/French mistrust in Quebec to perfection and while at times the story is predictable, the experiences of little Elodie’s time in two institutions reflects the horror orphans of that era went through. A compelling read.

Vaddey Ratner’s — In the shadow of the banyan *****

Vaddey Ratner’s — In the shadow of the banyan *****

This book was recommended by fellow blogger Renee, the Global Bookwork and it’s definitely a five out of five (like every book I mention on this site).

Raami has an idealistic childhood in her Phnom Penh home with loving parents and servants. But when war breaks out in 1975 and the Khmer Rouge force everyone to flee from the city, the family joins the throngs of people and head to their holiday home with Raami’s extended family. They are lulled into a false sense of security until they are ordered to leave not only their second home, but their car. They trudge along with the rest of the hoards where soldiers watch over them, their guns poised, without knowing where they are headed.

This compelling novel is based on the writer’s personal experiences with names and locations changed.

Marie Benedict’s — The other Einstein *****

Marie Benedict’s — The other Einstein *****

In the late 1800s with the support of her father, Mitza Maric leaves her Eastern European home to study physics and math at the Polytechnic in Zurich. She is the only woman in her class where only Albert Einstein, a young student, befriends her. Mtiza is ambitious and a gifted math student, but when she becomes pregnant, her dreams are slowly shattered.

This fascinating tale based on research, makes us question how much of Einstein’s discoveries are accredited to the wrong scientist?