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Books, Books and More Books

Stop by and read a few sentences about the books I love and the books I hated. Leave a comment or two. I am a former librarian and a voracious reader.

The BLUE by Nancy Bilyeau

The Blue. A Novel. - Nancy Bilyeau
THE BLUE, A Novel by Nancy Bilyeau
Using actual people and events as the basis, Bilyeau has written an engrossing tale of spying, treachery, art, porcelain making, kings and kingdoms. Blue is a difficult color to create for artists and porcelain makers. It was on of the last colors to be made for artists (late 28th century) and was greatly prized.
Genevieve, an English Huguenot who desired to be an historical artist, is the well-developed main character. She is surrounded by chemists seeking the color blue, spies seeking the color blue, kings and pottery makers seeking the color blue and those willing to kill to help or hinder them.
The intricate plot is thick with chicanery and populated with such personages as Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV, and the founders of Sèvres and Derby porcelain. Of course romance blooms as well.
Book groups who are interested in history, art, or romance will find this tale engrossing and will lead to good discussions.
5 of 5 stars

 

Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Daughter of Moloka'i (Moloka'i #2) - Alan Brennert
DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA’I by Alan Brennert
 
The long awaited sequel to MOLOKA’I is here! Rachel’s daughter Ruth, taken from her the day Ruth was born, is the main character in this family tale that extends from Hawaii to California to Japanese internment camps and back to California.
 
Brennert excels in incorporating actual people and events into his stories. DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA’I is no exception. The discrimination against Japanese (Rachel is adopted by a Japanese couple) in the early part of the twentieth century, the difficult life of “foreign” farmers in the lush farmland of California and the internment of hapless Japanese during WWII make up the bulk of this novel. The final portion relates the difficulty of adoptees and their birth parents in locating each other and the repercussions that follow.
 
Brennert’s empathy finds expression is his clearly drawn characters, skillful conversations and deft handling of conflict. Book groups will love this historically accurate account of difficult episodes., especially those who have read and loved MOLOKA’I. Groups interested in immigration/emigration issues will find much to discuss.
 
5 of 5 stars

 

Singapore Sapphire by A M Stuart

Singapore Sapphire (A Harriet Gordon Mystery #1) - A.M. Stuart
SINGAPORE SAPPHIRE by A M Stuart
 
In the mood for a multiple murder/gem smuggling mystery with a bit of romance and family drama and a fair amount of diverse culture? Then this is your book.
 
Harriet, newly arrived in Singapore in 1910, is the richly nuanced main character. Most characters are well developed, although a couple surprises near the end seem a bit “out of the blue.” The culture of colonial Singapore is clearly drawn. The main characters are mainly upper class British, with the requisite native servants and lower level functionaries.
 
I read an e-book before publication and there was no glossary – one is sorely needed. The plot is fast moving and well developed. The writing is clear and expressive. The character listing helps keep the many persons straight. There are several murders, but not too much gruesomeness. The sex is merely alluded to. There is no foul language.
 
4 of 5 stars

 

D-DAY GIRLS by Sarah Rose

D-Day Girls - Sarah Rose
D-DAY GIRLS by Sarah Rose
I had to keep reminding myself that this was “real non-fiction” and keep reading. Unfortunately I had just read a fictionalized account of the resistance in France that covered many of the same women/events in this book.
D-DAY GIRLS is well researched and well written. It does jump from person to person and event to event with only a new chapter title to give warning. I found this disconcerting and jarring. The notes are wonderful and enlightening.
Odette, whose exploits begin in the early days of the “Firm” and continue to end of the war, was a fascinating woman. The angst of the old guard in deploying women to danger and possible death is a continuing story even today.
History buffs will love this book. The minutia, letters and intimate details will carry them through. A person wishing a lighter tale or more “plot” should find another book covering the same era.
4 of 5 stars

 

THE LAST COLLECTION

The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel - Jeanne Mackim
THE LAST COLLECTION by Jeanne Mackin
I was fascinated by the personalities of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli and the intricacies of Haute Couture and politics in Paris just before and during WWII. But I was also intrigued by the daily life of various classes of people (upper class, middle class, merchants, professionals, wage workers, spies, artists, military, etc.) during that same period. Even the Ritz Hotel and the various cafes became a part of the story.
I was so curious about the gowns being designed, constructed and worn that I looked them up on Google. Yes, they are all there! I hope the finished book has photographs of Lily’s first Schiaparelli dress and the “tree” costume.
At first I thought this would be just another mildly interesting romance with clothes. I was delightedly mistaken. THE LAST COLLECTION is well worth your reading time and would be a good choice for book groups.
5 of 5 stars

 

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding - Jennifer Robson
THE GOWN by Jennifer Robson
The intimate details of every day life in 1947 England, still suffering from the austerity required by the devastation of WWII, are clearly rendered in the lives of two embroiderers working on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown. One woman will become world famous, the other will be lost in obscurity when she emigrates to Canada.
Richly detailed scenes in ordinary home life (rationed, food, clothing, housing), education, and the workplace make this tale of historical fiction come to life. The reader comes to care about Ann and Miriam as they toil day after day on the peculiarities of embroidered flowers and motifs at Hartnell, a haute couture house of fashion.
Robson has done the research. She ably and seamlessly weaves real events and real people into her story. Book groups and history buffs will both find much to love and discuss in this tale.
5 of 5 stars

 

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts

Of Blood and Bone - Nora Roberts
OF BLOOD AND BONE by Nora Roberts
Volume two of The Chronicles of THE ONE is a richly imagined world of magic, war, peace, education, and strategy. The characters introduced in volume one (YEAR ONE) are fleshed out and new characters become real.
Roberts is a master of characterization and plotting. This book demonstrates that. The training of THE ONE continues with an increase in magic, friendships and war.
Although the middle of the book drags a bit, it is a welcome launch to the heart pounding final chapters. The conclusion of this book ensures readers will wait breathlessly for the third and final installment.
Readers who enjoy their magic laced with realism and great characters will appreciate this book. Can be read as a stand alone.
5 of 5 stars

 

The Flapper, The Impostor, and the Stalker by Charlene Bell Dietz

The Flapper, The Impostor, and the Stalker (Inkydance Book Club Collection, #2) - Charlene Bell Dietz
THE FLAPPER, THE IMPOSTOR, AND THE STALKER by Charlene Bell Dietz
 
 
This was an interesting read, but I am still wondering how to classify it and if I liked it. It is a murder mystery, but also a coming of age and an historical novel. I didn’t much like Kathleen, the main character. The ending was too abbreviated, or not necessary, I can’t decide which. From reading the notes, apparently this book is a prequel to THE FLAPPER, THE SCIENTIST AND THE SABATEUR.
The 1920’s dialogue, clothing, music and situations all ring true. The Chicago elements are accurate (I am a Chicagoan). Stephens College is a real school in Missouri that debutantes and wealthy females attended (and still do). The plot is well thought out and executed. Kathleen’s adventures are (mostly) believable.
I’m still not willing to give a rave review, but it did hold my interest, had a few humorous parts and a few truly scary parts. Kathleen was a bit of a twit, but then she was 17 at the start of the book. I’ll be interested to read someone else’s thoughts.
3 of 5 stars

 

Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin

Someday We Will Fly - Rachel Dewoskin
SOMEDAY WE WILL FLY by Rachel DeWoskin Performers in the Warsaw Circus must flee for their lives from the Nazis. As they flee to Shanghai, Lillia’s mother is lost. She and father left with no choice, continue to Shanghai where Jews are being offered safety, but not an easy life. As the Japanese draw ever nearer, life becomes more tenuous and scary. Well written and researched, this YA novel is also a wonderful read for adults. The Jewish experience in war time China has been little known. This book attempts to rectify that omission and succeeds. Lillia, her father and those she comes in contact with are fully developed characters. The plot is engrossing. 5 of 5 stars

 

Vintage Grisham

The Reckoning - John Grisham
THE RECKONING by John Grisham
Grisham is back to writing mysteries instead of “magical realism” and I am happy.
When the town’s celebrated hero walks into church and kills his best friend, there has to be a story……and there is.
Why did Pete kill Dexter? Why won’t he talk? How can he be defended? The court room drama takes us from the Jim Crow south to the jungles of WWII to an insane asylum and back to the court room. This is vintage Grisham and an exciting read.
5 of 5 stars

 

The ending is good

The Inquisitor's Wife: A Novel of Renaissance Spain - Jeanne Kalogridis

THE INQUISITOR’S WIFE  by Jeanne Kalogridis

The last 50 pages are heart thumping exciting. The rest of the book not so much.  I had high hopes for an interesting and illuminating story, but it was hard to get past the often jarring word usage. This book needed a good editor.

3 of 5 stars

Murder...or suicide?

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz
THE WORD IS MURDER by Anthony Horowitz
 
A woman plans her funeral in great detail, leaves the funeral home and six hours later is murdered – or maybe it was suicide. The writing form used for this book (the actual author is a pretend/actual author telling the tale) is a bit off putting, but once you get beyond that the mystery is engrossing.
Perhaps I read too many of Horowitz’s Alex Ryder books to be interested in his ruminations as the pretend/actual author. I wanted him to just get on with the murder/suicide and tell his tale.
Well drawn characters, several possible murderers, a convincing possibility for suicide – so which is it? Get beyond his conceit and the mystery is a good one.
3 of 5 stars

 

Complex characters and murder most foul

Lethal White - Robert Galbraith
LETHAL WHITE by Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling)
Although very long (647 pages) this outing for investigators Cormoran and Robin is compelling. Strangled children, murder, crooked politicians, assumed identities, money and reputations, horses, and conflicted personal relationships keep the story moving along.
 
There are lots of red herrings and white horses to keep you wondering. Robin and Cormoran continue to present themselves as complex characters.
 
Galbraith is a master of plotting and characters. Set aside a goodly amount of time to savor this read, but it is worth it in the final moments of this tale!
5 of 5 stars

 

A good Romp

The FLATSHARE - Beth O'Leary
The FLATSHARE by Beth O’Leary
The book started out as a ditsy sex filled romance. By page 25 I could hardly wait to get to page 50 (my self-imposed cutoff) so I could abandon it and read something worthwhile or just entertaining. And then…. It turned into an intelligent exploration of boy-friend emotional abuse. Yes, the main character was still a bit of a ditz, but she made sense. Her flatmate, a slightly repressed male nurse, and her friends started to sound sensible, although still somewhat sex-obsessed.
The characters were unique and well-developed. The story was interesting and full of realistic situations and common sense. Her controlling ex-boyfriend did all of the horrid things controlling ex-boyfriends do. Her friends were supportive and intelligent. Even the comic character, Kathrin, was authentic and original.
Altogether, a very nicely done romance with both heart and intelligence.
4 of 5 stars (for a trashy beginning)

 

Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens
WOW! Just WOW! This is a great book. Murder, abandoned child, growing up alone, nature, young love, sex, ecology, love, poetry, betrayal, education, redemption, forgiveness, treachery -- it is all here.
Well written with strong characters and even stronger biology, Owens debut novel is clearly a winner.
The North Carolina coastal region and the animals, birds, flowers, grasses, etc. are as much a character as the human in this book. Kya, Chase, Jumpin’, Mabel and Tate are the main humans in this beautiful elegy to nature and the human spirit.
Saying too much more will spoil the “mystery” in the book, so just know that is a book that should not be missed.
Book groups will find much to discuss and ponder. Biologists and sportsmen/women will appreciate the accuracy of the science.
5 of 5 stars

 

OF BLOOD AND BONE (Chronicles of THE ONE, Book 2)

Of Blood and Bone - Nora Roberts
OF BLOOD AND BONE by Nora Roberts
 
Volume two of The Chronicles of THE ONE is a richly imagined world of magic, war, peace, education, and strategy. The characters introduced in volume one (YEAR ONE) are fleshed out and new characters become real. Roberts is a master of characterization and plotting. This book demonstrates that.
 
The training of THE ONE continues with an increase in magic, friendships and war. Although the middle of the book drags a bit, it is a welcome launch to the heart pounding final chapters. The conclusion of this book ensures readers will wait breathlessly for the third and final installment.
 
Readers who enjoy their magic laced with realism and great characters will appreciate this book. Can be read as a stand alone. 
5 of 5 stars