I usually love Alice Hoffman's books, and I loved some parts of this one -- but the preponderance of coincidence, the way Shelby's recovery depends on I usually love Alice Hoffman's books, and I loved some parts of this one -- but the preponderance of coincidence, the way Shelby's recovery depends on either misunderstanding or victimizing others who are, themselves, victims, and the number of scenes where she and her mother count the stars ... it didn't jell for me at all. I gave it 2 stars because some of the writing is beautiful.
I received this book as a giveaway from NetGalley....more
Flavia de Luce is always delectable. This excursion is no exception. She has returned from Canada, where her last adventure, As Chimney Sweepers ComeFlavia de Luce is always delectable. This excursion is no exception. She has returned from Canada, where her last adventure, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, took place. She knows something is wrong as soon as she arrives at her beloved Buckshaw and is met only by trusty Dogger instead of her beloved father (and, perhaps, not-so-beloved sisters). Her father is so ill with pneumonia that he is in hospital. Everyone is preoccupied, and she is on her own, a strange situation indeed for the run-up to Christmas. The murder and mystery she solves this time out involves her in the life of a beloved author of children's books and his son -- think A. A. Milne and his son, the prototype for Christopher Robin. Characters (Characters!) abound, songs are sung, and a mystery is solved.
I was a tad less taken by this episode in the life of Flavia. Perhaps everything was a bit more chilly than usual. I still enjoyed it (read it in one day!) and will look forward to the next book.
Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC in exchange for a fair review....more
Once, when I was a teenager, I was called out by an English teacher for having the arrogance to bring Finnegan's Wake into into the classroom. "You caOnce, when I was a teenager, I was called out by an English teacher for having the arrogance to bring Finnegan's Wake into into the classroom. "You can't understand that book until you've LIVED!" she said. Well, truth is, to this day, I haven't read it all, but now, as then, I dip in for the joy of finding a phrase that sings or vibrates or tingles.
I found myself dipping into this book the same way. Although I read these poems through, more than once, and I could write much about their narratives, I find myself enjoying the singing, tingling phrases so much that they almost distract me. The poems that touch on the experience of writing, especially, zing out of the page. On viewing an ancient statue of a lion attacking a horse, Bitting writes "There's a poem in here somewhere / And I'll kill what I have to to get it." Musing on a favored pen, she says "This pitch plastic wand / scratches the page / tapered streamlined / to say / what I want to tell it ... You're doing it again / pretending a pen / could crack those squawking sounds / like magic candy strings / wings and claws / scratching wet ink..." She writes in a cafe ("to confront my double Americano and the empty plate of a black notebook... we are still recipes short of sating hoards of unfed souls"), and at home, in the early morning ("the rest still hard at dreaming / in rooms light years away").
We also see the poet as she remembers tearing open presents on Christmas morning( "the havoc of never enough"), investigating a mining shaft ("click/ of my empty lunch pail / its skull licked clean", and investigating a park with her son.
And then, there are those images that leap out of the poems, images that do not need context to grab your attention, like this -- "...bright coin / tumbled back on blue pools that rippled open / like chakras on an amusement park ride..." or this "The way Aunt Mary's sweaters smelled of death and peppermint..." or this "...Even the terrorist's shoes fit feet just like your own..."
However you read this book, whether for story or sparks of imagery, it will stay with you and move you. Highly recommended.
Thank you, Serena Agusto-Cox, for including me in the Poetic Book Tour for this book. I received an ARC in exchange for a review....more
How controversial is a Latin teacher named Beatrice? In 1914, in the small English town of Rye, a woman teaching Latin is shocking. Shocking! BeatriceHow controversial is a Latin teacher named Beatrice? In 1914, in the small English town of Rye, a woman teaching Latin is shocking. Shocking! Beatrice Nash, who was her scholarly father's assistant, travel agent, and budget manager until his death, has two choices: remain at her stingy and disapproving aunt's house, or work. She chooses work.
Rye, although its more titled and tony citizens are conservative and easily shocked, has undercurrents of sophistication and modernity that Beatrice taps into immediately. She meets a serious surgical student, Hugh, and his flamboyant, poetic cousin, Daniel, both watched over and protected by their aunt Agatha. Her students include Snout, a Romany boy whose innate talent for Latin is suspect in his own community and the outside. Circumstances also bring her into the circle of notable residents, including a freethinking woman photographer, a novelist whose entry into social circles is blocked because of a divorce in her past, and a portly, portentous novelist who clearly is styled on Henry James.
The peaceful summer is the prequel to England's entry into the War. Many local men are called to fight in the bloody trenches, hospitals, or officer corps. How the townspeople adjust depends not only on their wealth, title, and status, but also the emotional toll of expectations and loss.
What will the dreamy Daniel do when his partner-in-poetry, Craigmore, is forced to enlist when his father hears Daniel's scandalous poem about his son? What of Snout, who realizes that his Romany heritage will mean that he will never have the opportunity to use his scholarship? And how will the haughty townspeople react to the hoardes of Belgian refugees they are forced to take in?
The gentry set up super-patriotic organizations, including a chapter of the St. George Recruitment Brigade, in which fetchingly-dressed young women pressure young men to enlist, handing those who resist a white feather, symbol of cowardice. They also plan a parade and exhibition, including Daniel's model trench, tastefully decorated and supplied with shelves for books of poetry. Marrows are judged, young people pick hops and dance, students translate the Aenid before they march off to war. So it goes.
The texture of life in Rye changes with some room for growth and tolerance, and with tragedies mixed in with the small but vital victories, both personal and political. As in Simonson's first book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the reader gets to know this texture, and comes to care about - and root for - the townspeople and the town.
Highly recommended. One star subtracted because the ending seemed disappointingly hasty.
I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review....more
The hardest thing about reading this book from cover to cover is … reading this book from cover to cover. Every page is a delicious detour, be it a phThe hardest thing about reading this book from cover to cover is … reading this book from cover to cover. Every page is a delicious detour, be it a photograph of adorable sheep, lambs, or goats, or closeups of lavender spikes, hay bales, or salad. Sprinkled throughout are patterns, projects, and recipes that invite you to reach for your needles, spindle, loom, dye pots, or oven mitts. (A cardigan sweater knit in one piece, beginning with the left sleeve? Jammies for lambies? Maple-sweetened peach tart with mountain blueberry compote anyone? I’ll bring the tea.) Who could resist?
Once you decide to read this book, cover to cover, full speed ahead, you will follow Barbara Parry for a full year as she raises the sheep whose fibers become her Foxfire Fibers. You will be with her for shearing, washing, and trimming fleeces (which she stores “like a stack of clean pinafores “), and consulting with small spinneries to design and spin her yarns. You’ll accompany her to Stockbridge Farm nearby, where she learns about lavender and basil variations, including plants that smell like camphor, or lemon, or licorice.You will accompany lambs as they learn how to bounce and lamb-pede, and follow Parry’s exacting, back-breaking work of hand-dying her yarns into colors inspired by the farm: squash-blossom, crimson sumac, bronze sedge, lichen.
All is not baahs and bliss, of course. Slime grafting (it involves “birthing goo”) does not always convince a ewe to adopt an orphaned lamb. A wolf kills - seemingly for sport - several of her animals. “There are no classes in how to be a sheep doula,” she mourns. You will also learn that some of her lambs become meat. And so it goes.
The chapter on weaning the lambs will leave you crying with laughter and sympathy. Unlike some lamb farmers, Parry weans over a period of days, hoping to ease the trauma that is shared by the ewes, the lambs, and neighboring farms :”Blatting lambs and bellowing ewes become the soundtrack for the entire neighborhood.” Even Crackerjack, the llama who serves as the lambs’ nanny (taking them on picnics and watching over them as they graze), questions the process: “...confronted with forty lambs blatting hysterically, he turns his head and looks at me as if to say, ‘And whose idea was this?’”
Still, it does all get sorted out. Sheep are sheared, delicious locally-sourced confections created, hay bales stored. And at the end of the day, she says, “I share the pool of sun with my lambs, even though the napping bottle lamb in my lap has just piddled on my jeans.”
A rich and satisfying book about a young British teenager at the turn of the century who is taken in by some of the more ... unusual ... Coney IslandA rich and satisfying book about a young British teenager at the turn of the century who is taken in by some of the more ... unusual ... Coney Island inhabitants, who range from anarchists through performers who are popular for their acts, or for their ... unusual qualities. By the end of the book, you can taste and smell and feel the place, which is not always nice, but is always fascinating and very, very real.
A plus: H P Wood has a splendid website associated with this novel. You can play a gramophone to hear the music, and page through a picture gallery. Great fun!
Thank you, NetGalley, for an ARC of this wonderful book. ...more
"Surprisingly cheerful" is not how I would describe this book, amazon.com notwithstanding. Nor is it a "beginner's guide to aging" unless the reader,"Surprisingly cheerful" is not how I would describe this book, amazon.com notwithstanding. Nor is it a "beginner's guide to aging" unless the reader, like Michael Kinsley, has been given a diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson's disease after a career in political analysis and online innovation. Kinsley is not Everyman.
Most of the chapters in this slim book were originally published in The New Yorker. An editor should have eliminated repetition (sometimes verbatim), as well as the last chapter (a possibly-tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Boomers should pay off the national debt that is jarring, thematically inappropriate, and illogical).
The only truly universal chapter deals with how Parkinson's accelerates the natural decline of cognitive function. The reader can empathize with Kinsley's fear and dismay at the prospect of losing the verbal agility that has enabled his career, and his distress on reading the doctor's assessment: "...the insight concerning his cognitive weaknesses seems quite limited."
Less universal is his riff on posthumous reputation, and his attempt at humor when he compares charitable contributions to the medieval practice of the sale of indulgences. In fact, "indulgent" characterizes much of this book.
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. ...more
Excellent beginning to a new series about a young woman reporter in the days before women were expected to *be* reporters (unless they wrote about socExcellent beginning to a new series about a young woman reporter in the days before women were expected to *be* reporters (unless they wrote about social events, clothes, etc.). ...more
No matter how closely you have followed the political, military, and attitudinal fallout after September 11, 2001, you have never read such a concise,No matter how closely you have followed the political, military, and attitudinal fallout after September 11, 2001, you have never read such a concise, analytical, closely-sourced, and cogent overview as this. In clean, spare, unemotional prose, Rebecca Gordon examines how the stage for the Iraq war was set long before that catastrophe, as right-wing strategists plotted the demise of Saddam Hussein, admittedly a tyrant and a bully, in order to realign the Middle East in our favor - and Israel's. She traces how 9/11 changed how the United States justified and waged war, captured and tortured prisoners, lied and obfuscated in international forums, and misjudged how the war would change the dynamics of the Middle East, leaving no doubt about the way the war paved the way for the ongoing brutality of ISIS and the continued suffering of the civilians in its path.
Before examining 9/11, however, Gordon examines the history, philosophies, and history of war crimes, including details about the Nuremberg Trials that may be new to the reader, and may have foreshadowed how the United States would proceed. Early on, for example, both Churchill and FDR wanted to execute the accused without trials; Stalin insisted on trials to establish the legitimacy of the executions. Questions were raised about whether Allied countries that had used fire bombs and atomic bombs on civilians had the moral standing to judge Germany. And the United States fretted about alienating Germany, which was seen as an ally against communism and the USSR. The trials were held, but with unusual rules of evidence and procedure that may have been foreshadowings of how the United States would capture, judge, and indefinitely imprison "enemy combatants."
Gordon argues that rules of evidence, reasons for just war, treatment of prisoners, and the definition of torture slid neatly under George Bush's "new paradigm" after the horrors of 9/11. Our own laws (such as the War Crimes Act of 1996) were ignored, as was our signature on many of the Geneva Conventions (which are defined and explored thoroughly). How else could 180 prisoners suffocate in a shipping container on their way to a camp headed by United States Special Forces? Why would the head of the CIA be upset to hear that a White House spokesman had said that detainees were being treated humanely? How could we justify having prisoners sent to countries where they were raped, or using white phosphorus on civilians and combatants alike? Why has the United States refused to sign the portion of the Conventions that protects civilian medical personnel in armed conflicts?
Some of the details of how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been waged (closely sourced, with authoritative, comprehensive footnotes and bibliographical references) that Gordon relates go beyond venal and sordid, beyond the horrors that any war creates. The actions and speeches reflect a widespread and disproportionate catastrophe, one that continues with every fleeing refugee and barbaric ISIS attack.
So what can we do, Gordon asks? Clearly, the officials and strategists, named and charted with great specificity, will never be tried as war criminals. The government of the United States does not even recognize the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even more damning is her well-documented conclusion: "In the name of security, we have been terrorized by our own government... into giving up not only our own freedoms but our fundamental sense of human empathy."
That lack of empathy is the key to what we can do, says Gordon. We might take our cue from the government of South Africa, which created the Truth and Reconciliation process to acknowledge, with openness and truth, what had been done during the dreadful years of apartheid. Perhaps such an assembly could be convened here. Truth is what the United States owes to all of the victims of the wars in Iraq and its sequelae. In an ideal world, she says, we would end our use of torture, implement United Nations and Geneva Conventions, hold accountable the architects, and join the other 124 countries who are parties to the ICC. Working towards these goals would constitute the beginning of a true American Nuremberg.
This is a powerful book.
I received an advance copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair review....more
Who wouldn't like to live in a town where herbal stores, cafes, and breweries that want to make herbal-infused beer coexists with people who love to gWho wouldn't like to live in a town where herbal stores, cafes, and breweries that want to make herbal-infused beer coexists with people who love to garden, cook, and brew tea? Maybe the murder victim, but - hey, he may have deserved it, who knows?
Even if you haven't read any of the other books in this series, plunge right in. It's a leisurely read, not so much cozy as conversational, with China narrating the storyline as well as the way the town came to be botanical-friendly. You'll learn about her history, including her marriage and adopted daughter, and you'll meet the townspeople. The murder suspect this time around is a hospice nurse who is staying in China's b&b (a renovated barn that is utterly charming). She may have learned about nefarious dealings by management, but China will have a hard time learning after she disappears without a trace...
Each chapter opens with China quoting from articles she's written, pieces from Susan Wittig Albert's own writings about herbs, or excerpts from historical herbalists. Between the openings, and Albert's deft way of describing the gardens, herbs, and dishes, you'll pause often to imagine and to breathe.
As always, recipes are included, so you can partake of some of the delicacies.
Thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with a copy in exchange for a fair review....more
In the hands of a lesser storyteller, Fern and Abby would be sterotypes whose love for the same man would be a cliche. What Rachael Herron does with tIn the hands of a lesser storyteller, Fern and Abby would be sterotypes whose love for the same man would be a cliche. What Rachael Herron does with the story of Abby and Fern is to show us conflicted, edgy characters who might never have met had Scott not died right after Abby told him she wanted a divorce. No, he had not been cheating on Abby - at least, not in the usual way. By having a vasectomy in secret, and refusing to adopt, he had cheated her of the child she desperately desired.
Abby's grief is burdened with additional shock when she goes through her husband's papers and learns that he had been married before, to Fern, and they had a son whom he has been supporting.
She and Fern do not meet cute. In fact, the reader despairs for both women - the struggling mother whose eccentric extended family (including Scott's father!) depends on her, and the grieving, lonely widow. Caught in the middle is Matty, whose talent and need for a stable family helps to break down the barriers between the women.
I loved the the blended family that Fern struggles to protect, and I loved Abby's basic generosity. Better yet - the plot includes knitting! Always a winner for me. I'd love to meet these characters again. Highly recommended. Thank you for the ARC, Goodreads!...more
Maisie Dobbs is one of the most complex characters I've followed in any fictional series, regardless of genre. In this book, the reader follows her asMaisie Dobbs is one of the most complex characters I've followed in any fictional series, regardless of genre. In this book, the reader follows her as she accepts a request to go to Munich to rescue a British industrialist who has been imprisoned in Dachau for two years. She is still trying to process the tragedies that befell her in the last book, she has no permanent home in London, she has no profession, and she has suffered so many losses that even the lessons she learned from her beloved mentor, Maurice, do not seem to center her. Never the less, she accepts the challenge.
Once in Munich, she learns that Hitler is about to launch his incursion into Austria, Jewish and Christian children have to hide if they wish to play together, and citizens can be tortured if they fail to reply to soldiers' salutes to the Fuhrer. She also begins to apply the meditation and visualization techniques that strengthen her resolve and her soul. She will need all the strength she can muster to find the industrialist, fulfill a promise to a grieving mother, and pull her life back together once this trial is over.
I admire Maisie Dobbs for her courage, honesty, and willingness to be open to reality, regardless of where it leads her. I admire Jacqueline Winspear more, of course, for having the breadth of imagination and skill to bring this character to life.
I received an ARC of this book from Eidelweiss. This is an honest review.
Engel has lived through the turmoil in the Middle East, and he relates his gripping, sometimes-terrifying observations with precise historical contextEngel has lived through the turmoil in the Middle East, and he relates his gripping, sometimes-terrifying observations with precise historical context. Anyone who wants to understand how Egypt, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya disintegrated in full view of the world should read this and learn its lessons well....more
Another lush, exciting, total-immersion novel from the pen of M.J. Rose, second in a series (but completely self-contained). In this novel, Opaline (dAnother lush, exciting, total-immersion novel from the pen of M.J. Rose, second in a series (but completely self-contained). In this novel, Opaline (daugher of Sandrine, the witch from The Witch of Painted Sorrows) is a Parisian jeweller during WWI. Her mentor is a grieving Russian royalist who hopes that the Romanovs will return to power, and whose friends and family do what they can in exile to thwart the Bolshevik spies. Opaline makes artistic pieces and creates wristwatches for soldiers, but her specialty is making amulets of crystals and hair from dead soldiers that allow her to hear the voices of the dead, and to pass on their last thoughts or wishes to grieving mothers.
There are so many descriptions of the jewels, the enamelwork (especially Faberge eggs), and fabrics, so many scents, so many scenes of Parisians trying to live their lives despite the bombings and the spies (German and Russian) who use ancient tunnels - so many! It's impossible not to be caught up in the narrative and to hope that peace and beauty will prevail, despite devastation, loss, and dishonor running rampant. Do take a look at the author's Pinterest page to get a sense of the times and places.
I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
Thank you, NetGalley, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for a review....more
I wish I'd had this book when I had my first wheel - so clear! Although I'm more experienced now, this book taught me nuances I still hadn't quite undI wish I'd had this book when I had my first wheel - so clear! Although I'm more experienced now, this book taught me nuances I still hadn't quite understood, from the differences amongst tensioning systems to what spinning from the fold really entails. What a splendid new resource!
Thank you, NetGalley, for giving me an ARC of this book....more