The Malta Exchange – Steve Berry

Malta ExchangeOh boy, Cotton has come out of retirement again. He’s working freelance for British intelligence – a simple buy and sell of letters between Churchill and Mussolini which had been lost in 1945. But now his orders are to steal them, things are getting complicated, and he finds himself on Malta involved in more than he’d bargained for. To spice things up, Luke Daniels is also on Malta, sent by Stephanie Nelle to monitor the movements of Cardinal Gallo just before the concave to select the next Pope. This is a good book, full of the history of Malta, the Knights, the Catholic Church, most of which was new to me. I loved every page. What’s not to love: plots, murders, fantastic narrow escapes, all kinds of blood and gore. Typical Cotton Malone. And at the end, Berry separates the fact from the fiction, which is a very good thing. If you enjoy action and adventure mixed with a nice dose of history, don’t miss this.

eGalley review                                             Publication date 3.5.19

Posted in adult, adventure, history, suspense, Uncategorized

Unto Us a Son Is Given – Donna Leon

Unto Us a Son is GivenCommissario Gido Brunetti is having a difficult conversation with his father-in-law, Count Orazio Falier. The Count is hoping that Brunetti will agree to look into the affairs of a mutual elderly friend. It seems that the friend is planning on adopting a younger man as his son, which would make the young man heir to a large fortune, and Brunetti’s father-in-law feels that is not a good thing. But Brunetti thinks that it is not his business, that the friend should be allowed to do as he pleases, and he is reluctant to interfere. I sometimes wonder if these books should be classified as mysteries. As is often the case, most of the book is devoted to Brunetti’s family life, the everyday interaction with his wife and children, his associates at work, the books he is currently reading. And this is what I love most. Life in Venice is slower than it is here. Much more civilized. Brunetti even goes home for a long, home cooked lunch with wife and children. The prose is beautiful, describing lovely food, and a lovely Venice. There is, eventually, a murder. And quickly, and neatly the crime is solved. This is the 28h book in the series. It would be possible to enjoy it as a stand alone, but so much back story would be missing.

eGalley review                                       Publication date 3.5.19

Posted in adult, mystery, Uncategorized | Tagged

If Cats Disappeared from the World – Genki Kawamura, trans by Eric Selland

If Cats DisappearedIf you were given only a few more days to live, just what would you do? Well, the young postman in this story is faced with that situation and sits down to write the 10 things he wants to do before he dies, but his effort isn’t very successful. So the devil shows up to help, and of course he has a bargain. To gain one more day of life one thing must be removed from the world. The catch is, the devil gets to pick what will disappear each day. This is an odd little book, translated from the Japanese. It is advertised as a “quirky and charming homily on the true meaning of life,” and sold over a million copies in Japan. It might have lost something in translation, but I suspect that the Japanese see the world differently, for while it was an OK read, it didn’t really grab me.

eGalley review                                  Publication date 3.12.19

Posted in adult, Uncategorized | Tagged

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 , ,