Devices and Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England – Kate Hubbard Harper

Devices and DesiresHardwick Hall was built in the 1590s, when Bess was in her seventies. It is still remarkable with clean lines,  amazing windows –  more glass than wall. It was the grand finale of building projects for Bess of Hardwick. being preceded by Chatsworth, which she worked on for thirty years, the Old Hall at Hardwick and Owlcotes, built for her son. This was an age of great builders and Bess fit right in. Daughter of a Derbyshire squire, her first marriage was arranged to Robert Barley, who died when he was fourteen. She began her climb up the social ladder with her marriage to Sir William Cavendish which brought her into London and the court. They acquired the manor of Chatsworth, beginning Bess’s building career. Her final marriage was to the Earl of Shrewsbury, which made Bess the Countess of Shrewsbury. By the time of her death, she was a most wealthy and powerful woman. Everything is highly documented. There are more than 230 of Bess’s letters between husbands, children, friends, and even the queen. There are notes sharing court gossip. I found all of these fascinating, revealing a strong woman, a very modern woman who learned how to take care of herself quite nicely. Household and business accounts abound. I loved the detail in the household accounts, but if you find it too much, just skip over them. This is a most interesting story of an amazing woman.

eGalley review                                                  Publication date 2.26.19

Posted in adult, biography, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Lovely War – Julie Berry

Lovely WarFrom the publisher, “It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.” 

Employing Aphrodite as the story narrator, telling the story of four people swept into WWI is brilliant. The author touches on the horror of the trench wars, the bigotry faced by the African American soldiers, the brutalization of Belgium, women’s roles during the war, problems faced by returning soldiers, and so much more.  The book is not so much a love story (G-rated) but more about war and how it drastically impacts the lives of innocents.  It can also serve as an introduction to WWI. I finished this book the same day that I watched Peter Jackson’s documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old”.    Julie Berry is a master storyteller, deftly weaving the characters and plot.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 3.5.19

Posted in gentle reader, highly recommend, historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

Pay Attention, Carter Jones – Gary D. Schmidt

Pay Attention, Carter JonesSixth grader Carter Jones, opens the door to find a portly butler during a frantic first day of school morning for the four children.  In the vein of Mary Poppins, sans magic, he arrives at the most needed time.  Carter’s father has been deployed for many years, leaving his mother to hold the family together after Carter’s younger brother recently died. The butler worked for their late grandfather and arrives to deliver a Bentley and support to the family when Carter’s father decides he no longer wants his family and stays overseas.  The butler is properly British and helps each child shine by encouraging their interests while teaching proper etiquette and behavior and for Carter, he introduces cricket.  At first glance, cricket is the focus of the book when the butler teaches Carter how to play, it spreads through the school culminating in a cricket match with the entire community supporting.  Beneath the cricket, is a story of being your best, accepting loss, and moving on.  A charming story that maybe is full of magic. The magic of the right person coming along at the right time.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                 Publication date 2.5.19

Posted in gentle reader, highly recommend, realistic fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

The Wartime Sisters – Lynda Loigman

the wartime sistersYou would never think that Ruth and Millie were sisters. Ruth, three years older, was the responsible one, rather plain looking, very smart, and you could count on her to always do the right thing. But expectations were high for Ruth, and any tiny misstep met with her mother’s disapproval. Millie, on the other hand, could get away with anything. She was beautiful, outgoing. Everyone loved her. That is, everyone but Ruth. And Millie craved her sister’s love. In 1942, Ruth is living at the Springfield Armory, an officer’s wife, when Millie appears with her two-year-old son. There had been no contact for a few years and Ruth was not happy. But Millie was a war widow and needed help. So Ruth took her in, helped her get a job at the Armory assembling rifles. The book focuses on the relationships between the women in the Armory, not just Ruth and Millie, with four women telling the story. And it is a story of women from various backgrounds whose lives had been shaped by their childhoods, coming together in the war effort, trying to survive problems and uncertainties. The book is beautifully written, with strong, believable characters. The depiction of life in the Armory showed a part of the war effort that I had not known existed. I really liked it and will be watching for Lynda Loigman’s next book.

eGalley review                                                    Publication date 1.22.19

Posted in adult, historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

The Wicked King – Holly Black

wicked kingThe sequel to The Cruel Prince opens with all of Jude’s plans coming to fruition.  Oak is safely growing up in the human world until he comes of age to rule, replacing Cardan.  Cardan now rules, temporarily, but is well controlled by Jude.  Madoc warns Jude that it is keeping power, once gained, that is most challenging.  She is bound to slip up.  After all, she is mortal in the land of fae where trickery and cruelty are ever present.  Jude faces betrayals worse than the physical injuries and tortures she endures.  King Cardan is delightfully complex.  Does he truly care for Jude or is he playing her?  Can any fae truly love a mortal?  Jude betrayed Madoc.  Can she trust him now?  And what of the bargains she made to put Carden on the throne?  So much to juggle and this takes a toll.

Wow!  I waited in line for an hour to get this galley and meet the amazing Holly Black.  The story is woven so cleverly with each character so clearly drawn. I like Cardan, even with the twists in his character it is hard not to empathize with him. I don’t find him nearly as cruel or wicked as having to wait over a year for the third book in the series.  Highly recommend!

Galley review                                                         Publication date 1.8.19

Posted in fantasy, fiction, folklore, highly recommend, suspense, Uncategorized | Tagged

The Legend of Sally Jones – Jakob Wegelius

legend of sally jonesLast year, Delecorte Press published The Murderer’s Ape and I thought it was terrific. So very unique.  I recently ordered a hardback of The Legend of Sally Jones published by Pushkin Press and not readily available in the US.  The title needs to be published and promoted in the U.S.  The Legend of Sally Jones is a short book, a picture book of sorts. Each page is beautifully, brilliantly illustrated to accompany each short paragraph describing the events in Sally’s life preceding her adventures in The Murderer’s Ape.  When she was quite young, Sally was captured in Africa.  She had many owners including one master thief who trained her to scale buildings, pick locks and steal for her.  She spent years in a zoo, then a circus before she made her way to a harbor.  There she began her life on the sea and met “The Chief” (Ship’s Engineer).  Sally is amazing. Tender of heart, acts with emotion, loyal, and can learn anything – ANYTHING!.  The illustrations are so detailed.  I wish I had a huge poster of any of the illustrations or book cover.

If more readers were introduced to this short picture book first, they should clamor for the longer novel, The Murderer’s Ape. Highly recommend!

Hardback                                                         Publication date 2008 (outside U.S.)

Posted in adventure, fiction, highly recommend, Uncategorized

Code Name: Lise – The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy – Larry Loftis

code name liseOdette was born and raised in France. Her father died a hero in the First World War, and every Sunday afternoon she and her brother placed flowers on his grave. Her Grandfather told the children that in twenty or twenty-five years there was going to be another war and it will be your duty to do as well as your father. Fast forward to 1942. Odette is now living in England, married to an Englishman, mother of three daughters.  She feels she must do something to help the war effort, to help France, and to honor her father’s memory. She reluctantly joined the SOE (Special Operations Executive), organized to conduct espionage in France and help the Resistance.  Odette left her daughters in a convent school and began the process of learning to be a spy. Her new identity, Lise, served under the command of Peter Churchill. This book is not for the faint hearted, for Lise and Peter were captured, and the tortures they endured are described graphically. That they both lived to tell their story is amazing. It is written like a thriller, with most chapters ending in cliff hangers. It is hard to believe that it isn’t fiction, but it has been well researched, using interviews, diaries, memoirs and archived records.  Highly Recommend!

eGalley review                                                             Publication date 1.15.19

Posted in adult, biography, highly recommend, history | Tagged , ,