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Becky1

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 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

 

VOX by Christina Dalcher

Vox - Christina Dalcher
VOX by Christina Dalcher
 
The United States has been taken over in an election by seriously ultra conservative politicians. Laws have been passed restricting females to just 100 words per day and enforce this directive with punishing electric shocks for every word beyond the allotment. The novel starts with this interesting premise and then has a rather boring first 100 pages as we learn about the wife who is quite an acclaimed scientist and feminist but is married to a go-along, get-along politician husband high up in the conservative government.
 
The plot finally gets going when she is coerced by the government to restart her science project and discovers a sinister plot against women all over the world. The last two thirds of the book is an interesting and well plotted thriller.
 
Overall, readers who are looking for another “Handmaids Tale” will be disappointed. Readers looking for a thriller and make it through the first third will be pleased. The characters are clearly defined and remain in character for the entire book. The premise and resulting government action is full of holes but with a suspension of reality, the novel as a whole is satisfying.
 
3 of 5 stars

 

THE WAR OUTSIDE by Monica Hesse

The War Outside - Monica Hesse
THE WAR OUTSIDE by Monica Hesse
 
Texas was the site of Crystal City – an internment camp for “Enemy Aliens” during World War II. Crystal City was for those people of German, Japanese or Italian ancestry that the government believed might be spies.
 
Haruku and Margot both accompanied fathers who were suspects. They lived on opposite sides of the camp but became friends – sort of. This story gives a glimpse into the reality of their lives and that of the others interned at Crystal City. They were American teenagers, but because someone in their family was suspect, they had been uprooted and sent to a hot, dusty, ill equipped prison. They were enemies to each other and to their country.
 
Hesse writes clearly of young people confused and conflicted and does it extremely well. Margot and Haruku live and breathe.
 
They become friends - and enemies. They trust each other - and break that trust. We learn of their families – their love, their politics, their fears, their coping – and their NOT coping. Engrossing, terrifying, moving, sweet and bittersweet – all these and more.
 
Ultimately a story of betrayal and forgiveness, THE WAR OUTSIDE is thought provoking and well worth reading.
 
5 of 5 stars

 

Lines We Leave Behind by Eliza Graham

The Lines We Leave Behind - Eliza Graham
THE LINES WE LEAVE BEHIND by Eliza Graham
 
Maud/Amber is a young woman in a secure mental facility charged with a crime. As she speaks with her psychiatrist we learn what led her to the hospital as she “remembers” the past. She was a special agent for the Allies in the Balkans during WWII ….. or was she?
 
Told in flashbacks, this very interesting tale winds itself out in drips and drabs. The infighting between the Partisans, the Chetniks, the Home Guard and the Germans for control of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia is clear as Maud/Amber carries out her assignments.
 
Modern day ethnic strife is foreshadowed as the various parties and their doctrines become clear. The land and peoples of the Balkans are well developed and made clear. The personalities of the various players clash believably.
 
Well researched and well written, this tale is enjoyable and engrossing as the reader tries to determine what is true and what is result of trauma.
 
Family ties, partisanship, politics, spying, secrets, women in war, and mental health treatments are all topics for discussion by book groups. 4 of 5 stars

 

A WELL BEHAVED WOMAN by Therese Anne Fowler

A Well Behaved Woman - Therese Anne Fowler
A WELL BEHAVED WOMAN by Therese Anne Fowler
 
Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont was anything but a well- behaved woman.
Left near penniless as she approached marriageable age in the 1870’s, she set her aim for a wealthy man. William Vanderbilt, a younger son in the ultra-wealthy but socially ignored family, caught her eye, as she caught his.
This fictionalized account of her life as a philanthropist, sufferage activist, society hostess and intelligent, opinionated woman is a bit too long, but is vastly entertaining.
Alva, her sisters, her children, her husbands, the Vanderbilts, the Astors and others of upper crust New York society are clearly, and unsparingly, drawn.
The day to day life of Gilded Age society is the backdrop and conformingly repressive constraint her friends and “frenemies” endured.
Told with clear eyed sympathy, the novel follows Alva from age 17 to her death in 1933. Book groups will enjoy discussing the differences between women today and the women who found themselves painted, pampered, polished, packaged and utterly controlled by their fathers and husbands.
4 ½ of 5 stars

 

EVERLASTING NORA

Everlasting Nora - Marie Miranda Cruz
EVERLASTING NORA by Marie Miranda Cruz
Nora, 12, lives in her father’s grave house in a Philippine cemetery. Written for middle graders, this novel will be eye opening to adults as well.
 
Nora and her mother have descended into crushing poverty and survive because Nora makes and sells flower garlands to visitors to other graves. Her friend JoJo, 13, and his grandmother assist as well as they can when Nora’s mother becomes quite ill.
 
Nora is well defined as a normal child who wants normal things. American preteens will easily identify with her and also with JoJo, a child who has never attended school and is his grandmother’s support. The “bad guys” (who are truly bad) are somewhat glossed over.
 
Friendship, initiative, caring, hope, forgiveness, determination are all traits exhibited by those Nora learns to trust. A heartwarming story that is ideal for a parent/child book club.
 
5 of 5 stars