The Boston Girl – Anita Diamant

Boston GirlThe tape recorder began running in 1984, as Addie Baum, in response to her granddaughter’s request, started to tell of her life. The story begins in 1915 when she was 15, with the family of four living in one room in the North End of Boston. She was born to Jewish Russian immigrant parents, with a hard-working father and a mother who was suspicious of all things American.  Addie was the only one of the children who was allowed to go to high school, and go to the library, and read whatever she wanted. That’s where she started to be her own person. As Addie’s story unfolds, so does the 20th century:  the influenza epidemic of 1918, women’s suffrage, the Roaring 20’s, the Great Depression.  Addie lives with it all.

The book has great historical detail and captures the hard, grinding life of immigrants.  It is full of strong women who help one another overcome problems and prejudices.  I began to feel that Addie was real and almost forgot that I wasn’t reading a memoir.  It’s a quick, easy read, warm and comforting.

eGalley review    Publication date 12.9.14

Posted in adult, highly recommend, historical fiction, Uncategorized

A Thousand Pieces of You – Claudia Gray

a Thousand pieces of youMarguerite’s brilliant scientist parents have received funding from a giant tech corporation to develop their parallel universe theories.  Their two grad student assistants, Paul and Theo, are treated like family.  When it appears Paul has killed her father and escaped to an alternate universe, Marguerite and Theo chase after him with intent to kill.  As the three jump to each different universe, their soul enters the body of their universal double and takes over.  A love triangle emerges to add the touching element to this fast-paced race through the universes.

Alternate universe stories are fun and stretch the mind a bit, thinking of what-ifs and the many different paths every decision we make create.  While this is not as gritty as All Our Yesterdays (Cristin Terrill), it is very good.  For teens ready to jump into multiple universe stories, this will satisfy quite nicely.  The story wraps up but the door is left open for more.

eGalley review                     Publication date 11.4.14

Posted in science fiction | Tagged

Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble – Marilyn Johnson

Lives in RuinsArchaeologists, real archaeologists are not at all like Indiana Jones. From Machu Picchu to Rhode Island, the Mediterranean to Fishkill, New York, Marilyn Johnson worked and lived with real archaeologists.  Her intent was to understand their character, to understand why they want to spend their life scratching the surface of the planet for little money and usually little fame, to understand their dirty little secrets.  And they are very dirty, and sweaty and backbreaking.  The book took me all over the planet to various sorts of digs and exposed the painstaking care taken to uncover the past.  It’s a very readable and lively book, full of interesting people, told with wit and skill.  I loved every page and highly recommend it for readers of all ages.

eGalley review     Publication date 11.11.14

Posted in adult, nonfiction

Capturing Music: The Story of Notation – Thomas Forrest

Capturing MusicI had always just taken musical notation for granted.  When I saw the title of this book, it dawned on me that there had to be a beginning.  Someone, sometime, had to decide to try to record the music.  And so I read and found it amazing that we learned to make signs that can represent sounds.

Legend has it that Gregory the Great (Pope 590-604) is the source of the service music of the Roman church, and that he received the chant from the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove singing in  his ear.     Therefore the chant must be kept pure, not a note, not a syllable changed. Since there was no musical notation at that time the chant was passed down from generation to generation by careful memorization.  Early attempts to record the sounds were not very practical, but the use of neumes or signs began to catch on.  They were just little marks to indicate higher or lower pitch, useful to remind a singer of what he already knew.  Then about 1030 Guido the Monk developed a technology for writing and reproducing music.  He gave names to the notes and put them on parallel lines.  Thus began the slow process of recording music.  A process by which a musician could learn music he had never heard before.

The book is not written for the professional musician, but is aimed at anyone interested in early music and learning about the conceptual breakthroughs that enabled musicians to devise a way to teach novices. It contains beautiful illustrations of manuscript pages and a sixteen track audio CD.

eGalley review        Publication date 11.3.14

Posted in adult, nonfiction

The Girl Next Door – Ruth Rendell

Girl Next DoorThe qanats were a perfect place for the neighborhood children to play. Daphne found the name which means a subterranean passage for carrying water.  The children loved the name because it started with a q without a u.   It was a series of tunnels that only they knew about, and in the closing days of World War II there were not many amusements available for children living on the outskirts of London.   And so they brought food and candles and played games and explored.  It was a fine place.  The children then grew up and grew apart, as children will do.

Now, sixty years later, builders have found in the foundations of a house on the same land, a biscuit tin containing skeletal hands of a man and a woman.  The discovery makes national news and these children, now grown old, begin to remember those magical days.  Those still alive come together renewing old friendships, reevaluating their lives and the choices they have made.  This novel is a bit of a departure for Ruth Rendell, more about relationships than murders.  I liked it very much and highly recommend it.

eGalley review      Publication date 11.4.14

Posted in adult, realistic fiction

The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe': No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (#15) – Alexander McCall Smith

Handsome Man's De Luxe CafeGrace Makutsi, now happily married to Phuti Radiphuti and mother to Itumelang Clovis Radiphuti, has decided to open a restaurant.  Oh, she will continue to work with Mma Ramotswe in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, but in her spare time will run the restaurant.  Never mind that she has no idea how to run a restaurant, it will all work out in the end.  All she needs to do is remodel the building, hire a chef and staff, and devise a menu.  No problem for someone who scored ninety-seven percent in her final examinations at the college.  Meanwhile the Agency has a new case involving an Indian woman with total amnesia.   And Charlie, the feckless apprentice mechanic, is now a detective!

This wonderful series, set in Botswana, is full of the flavor of Africa, full of endearing, quirky characters, and full of a gentle philosophy of life.  I love to peek into the lives of these wonderful people and I devour the books quickly, leaving me to regret that they are over far too soon.   Tidbits about the characters are sprinkled in the beginning so that the book can be read out of order without problems.  Highly recommended for readers of all ages.

eGalley review     Publication date 10.28.14

Posted in mystery

The Pierced Heart – Lynn Shepherd

Pierced HeartCharles Maddox has traveled across Europe to the estate of the Baron Von Reisenberg, charged with the job of making judicious inquiries into the affairs of the Baron.  It seems that the Baron has offered to donate a rather large sum to the Bodelian Library in the University of Oxford for the upkeep of one of the library’s most famous possessions.  The library, of course, wishes to be assured of the Baron’s credentials and the Baron has offered to pay Charles’ expenses so that he might do just that.  As to be expected, Charles finds the Baron and his ancestral castle quite strange, with the local folk muttering and crossing themselves.  And Charles has nightmares and a tiny mark on his neck.  And Charles ends his stay in a lunatic asylum.

For this book Lynn Shepherd has chosen Bram Stoker’s Dracula for her inspiration.  Dark and eerie, it catches the mood.  We find Charles caught between superstition and science as he tries to make sense of gruesome murders in London.  I love the way the narrator in the book is sometimes standing just offstage, in the present.  It’s a ripping good tale, and I do recommend it.

eGalley review     Publication date 10.21.14

Posted in adult, mystery