I’ve read two of Moran’s other books and enjoyed them very much and have now gone back to her debut novel, Nefertiti, and I am happy to say that it di...moreI’ve read two of Moran’s other books and enjoyed them very much and have now gone back to her debut novel, Nefertiti, and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.
While the title of the book is Nefertiti, the book is told entirely from the point of view of the Queen’s younger sister Mutnodjmet. When Nefertiti is married to the young new Pharaoh Amenhotep it is hoped that she will be able to rein in some of his more outrageous ideas. But the young Queen is soon swept up in the powerful position of the Pharaoh’s Chief wife.
Munodjmet, known as Mutny, is the Queen’s chief confident and Nefertiti often demands her presence and involvement in the intrigues and plotting that occurs in the royal court. Mutny only wishes for a quiet life away from all the politics and infighting that surround court life. When a tragedy changes Mutny’s life she frees herself to live a quiet life only to be drawn back into the fray when the people begin to turn against Nefertiti and Akhenaton (formerly Amenhotep).
Moran knows how to draw you into a story and keep you there. She brings the world of Ancient Egypt to life. Her characters are believable, the plot absorbing and the relationship between the two very different sisters who nevertheless love each other was believable.
I’m not an expert on Egyptian history and I am sure there are many people who will question the veracity of a lot of what takes place in this novel. However I did spend some time looking into some of the history that is known and think that the author did a good job of weaving an interesting novel around the scarse facts that are known, creating a plausible story. The book is after all historical fiction and I thought Moran did a great job bringing these characters to life. (less)
I very much enjoyed The Wet Nurse’s Tale; although it got a bit dark in the end its strongest point was a completely delightful and earthy protagonist...moreI very much enjoyed The Wet Nurse’s Tale; although it got a bit dark in the end its strongest point was a completely delightful and earthy protagonist, Susan Rose, the wet nurse of the title.
Susan Rose is a poor, uneducated and illiterate young woman; she lives with her parents and siblings in a mean little house, her father a drunk and her mother the sole support of the family by bringing babies into the home and being a wet nurse to them. Most of the family eventually goes to work in the Great House, working for the Bonney family. When Susan finds herself in the family way, she follows her mother’s lead and becomes a wet nurse, but a new breed of nurses that actually go to live in the homes of the families where they are employed, usually leaving their own children behind. When Susan endures one tragedy and then a heart breaking betrayal she sets out on a journey to claim what is rightfully hers.
Susan is a wonderful character, big boned, not particularly attractive, with beautiful blue eyes and a bit of a lusty disposition. Susan may be uneducated, but she is nobody’s fool; when something needs to be done she considers the options and then attacks the situation. When Susan goes to work for the Norval family, where the sanity of the lady of the house is questionable, she will need every ounce of those wits to save herself and the Norval’s baby.
The narrative is in the first person, with Susan talking directly to the reader. Interspersed throughout the book are small stories where several women explain their reasons for hiring a wet nurse. The details of both Victorian life and the life of the wet nurse were fascinating. Although the latter half of the book did verge into a little over the top gothic bent it was still a very good read with a character you will be rooting for. (less)
Annie Sullivan is a twenty–something realtor getting ready to close up her open house so she can go home and enjoy dinner with her fiancé. When a last...moreAnnie Sullivan is a twenty–something realtor getting ready to close up her open house so she can go home and enjoy dinner with her fiancé. When a last minute customer stops by to see the house she decides to show the charming David around. It will be the mistake of her life.
This is a book that it is hard to review because you don’t want to reveal too much. Annie has lived in captivity for over a year. We learn about her life with her abductor through her sessions with a therapist. Annie struggles to try and get her life back, but it will never be the same. When she learns that her abduction may not have been random she is not prepared for the truth – and neither are we.
I could not stop reading this book. It was by turns scary, horrifying and so very sad. It’s hard to say you enjoy a book like this because it is so brutal, but from a fiction standpoint it was a great read. Tightly plotted and breath taking in it’s ferocity and it’s look at how someone survives in the spotlight of 24 hour news. It seems that we are often exposed to stories like this, but this one takes a deeper look into the survivors struggle to come back to a world that has changed forever and move forward in creating a new normal.
Whatever you do be prepared to read all day and night until you understand why Annie is Still Missing. (less)
When Daniel Sempere’s father takes him to a secret library called The Cemetery of Forgotten books it is his first step on a journey to learn the secre...moreWhen Daniel Sempere’s father takes him to a secret library called The Cemetery of Forgotten books it is his first step on a journey to learn the secret of The Shadow of the Wind, a book written by the mysterious Julian Carax.
Great opening for any book lover isn’t it? And for the most part this gothic romance/mystery delivers. It is filled with a true love of books and some fantastically imagined characters and twisting plot lines. It grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go until the end some 500 pages later.
There are so many intersecting plot lines that it is virtually impossible to summarize the story, but in short it is about love, obsession, madness, revenge, loyalty, friendship and regret. It seems as if everyone in the book is hiding something and it is often hard to tell what is true and what is distortion There are lots of Gothic elements; haunted houses, young girls locked away from the world, dark and stormy nights, secret passages, trap doors and more. The mystery of Julian Carax spans from the 1920’s to the Spanish Civil War of the 1950’s, from Barcelona to Paris and back again, with copious amounts of detail; sometimes there is a little too much detail with often takes you out of the story, but you are just as quickly drawn back in when another piece of the puzzle is revealed.
I really enjoyed this story and was thoroughly engrossed in it for a couple of weeks. It does fall short of 5 stars for two reasons; it was overlong, it could have been cut by about 100 pages. The second problem is I really don’t like when books ‘tell’ instead of ‘show’ and the ultimate solution to the entire mystery is revealed in a letter where all is explained and that was the weakest part of the book. Overall I would recommend The Shadow of the Wind, especially if you are fan of good yarns with some old fashioned Gothic creepiness thrown in. (less)
Although I read a great deal of historical fiction I will admit that I don’t know very much about Catherine de Medici, except that she was notoriously...moreAlthough I read a great deal of historical fiction I will admit that I don’t know very much about Catherine de Medici, except that she was notoriously evil, dabbled in black magic and responsible for the persecution and slaughter of thousands of Huguenot’s as Protestant Reformation swept through France. Of course it is my experience that woman in history are often maligned and painted as evil or deranged, depending on which view was more favorable to the monarch at the time or the men who liked to rewrite history. Author C.W. Gortner likes to try and find the woman beneath the legend or stories, something her did to great effect in The Last Queen, his sympathetic portrait of Juana the Mad; here I did not find Catherine to be as interesting or engaging as Juana, and that was a bit of a drawback to my enjoyment of the book.
I enjoyed the first person narrative; I think the author is very good at writing from a woman’s perspective. My biggest problem with the story here was the romance aspect; I just did not find the love affair for Catherine do be at all believable. I realize the book is fiction but this liaison just didn’t ring true for me. I also think that in trying to present a more likeable Catherine that some of her ruthlessness was played down too much.
Overall I enjoyed the writing and would definitely read another of Gortner’s books, but this particular story seemed to lack the same depth that The Last Queen had. (less)
It is 1799 and feudal Japan is firmly entrenched in its policy of isolation. The only contact with the Western world is through trade with the Dutch E...moreIt is 1799 and feudal Japan is firmly entrenched in its policy of isolation. The only contact with the Western world is through trade with the Dutch East Indies Company. Foreigners are not permitted to step on Japanese land, so an artificial island, Dejima, is built outside of Nagasaki and there all outsiders must live. Jacob de Zoet comes to this Land of A Thousand Autumns determined to make his fortune so that he can marry the fiancée he left behind in the Netherlands. What he doesn’t count on is falling in love with a beautiful but scarred midwife and having his life become intertwined with the varied inhabitants of Dejima.
While Jacob is the center of the novel, the story is in no way all about him, he is rather our entry into an unknown world. There is a love story, in fact there is more than one; there are pirates and trouble makers, feudal lords, good, evil, betrayal and redemption. This totally engrossing story is told in the most creative and beautiful use of language. Mitchell’s style can be challenging, he writes descriptive passages that can go on for an entire page, there is often no punctuation and conversations often overlap- just like in real life. This can be a demanding read at times but it is worth every second. I was so wrapped up in the story I both wanted to finish so I could find out what happened, yet I didn’t want it to end. There were times I was so involved in my reading that I was holding my breath because I was so worried about the fate of a particular character.
It is clear a great deal of research went into this book, the attention to detail is amazing; the melding together of fiction and history is seamless, you believe that this saga could have actually happened. If you are looking for a rich, dramatic and moving book read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, you won’t regret it.(less)
I love sweeping family sagas and I have been enjoying the "Rose Trilogy" that began with The Tea Rose and concludes with this the final book in the se...moreI love sweeping family sagas and I have been enjoying the "Rose Trilogy" that began with The Tea Rose and concludes with this the final book in the series. I am so sorry to say that this was a huge letdown and disappointing conclusion.
Because it is the third book there will be spoilers in the review, so if you haven't read the other two books be wary.
The first two books focused on the story of Fiona and Joe, star crossed lovers who are separated by misunderstandings and timing. The second book was the equally intriguing story of India Selwyn-Jones and her love affair with the notorious gangster Sid Malone.
Book three focuses on Seamus Finnegan and Willa Alden, and opens about eight years after the catastrophic accident that severely injured Willa. The difference in the books is that Fiona and India were strong female protagonists, always ready to stand up for their principles, their rights and their families. Willa Alden on the other hand spends most of this book feeling sorry for herself and dealing with life by drowning her sorrows with drugs and alcohol. Every time the book focused on her I cringed. Her poor me attitude, abrasiveness and melancholy was so tiresome I literally couldn't wait for her story to come to an end, unfortunately that took the entire book.
The best parts of the book were those that focused on the original main characters of Fiona and Joe and their children, now adults, and the parts where Sid and India were the focus. In addition even though this is historical fiction it doesn't mean that every famous historical personage from this time had to cross paths with the Bristow's and the Finnegan's. I mean really, Willa Alden, a severely handicapped woman is allowed to travel with T.E. Lawrence as he crosses the deserts of Arabia? Eye rolling did occur. In addition that handicap seemed to come and go quite often, there were things that happened where no mention is made of it at all, which just seemed preposterous. Also there was an over the top spy story that came to an unbelievable conclusion.
So three stars for the memory of a good series and I'm sad to see it end, but if I never read about Seamie and Willa again it will be just fine with me. (less)
Address Unknown is a small book, just 64 pages, but it packs a powerful punch. First published in America in 1938 it was one of the first books of fic...moreAddress Unknown is a small book, just 64 pages, but it packs a powerful punch. First published in America in 1938 it was one of the first books of fiction to depict the rising Nazi menace.
Max Eisentstein and Martin Schulse are long time business partners in America. Martin has decided to return to Germany with his family. Through a series of letters we learn how Martin slowly turns his back on everyone he knows as he becomes enthralled with the Nazi party. When Max asks a desperate favor of Martin he is shocked by a betrayal; Max then constructs a clever and stunning revenge.
I read the last series of letter over several times, making sure I understood what had happened. Deeply unsettling it does offer a lot of food for thought.
Everyone knows the name Ernest Hemingway and his larger than life personality as a writer, journalist, sportsman, adventurer, womanizer, heavy drinker...moreEveryone knows the name Ernest Hemingway and his larger than life personality as a writer, journalist, sportsman, adventurer, womanizer, heavy drinker and larger than life personality. But there was a Hemingway before he was ‘Papa’ and The Paris Wife brings to life the years before his great fame; the years when he lived in Paris with his first wife Hadley Richardson.
If there were ever two people who seemed less suited to one another it was the quiet, shy and reserved Hadley, 7 years older than the 21 year old dashing Ernest Hemingway. After a long distance relationship of less than a year they married. For most of their marriage they lived in Paris. Paris in the 1920’s was a fascinating place to be; a time where many writers and artists were residing in the city. The couple lived on the very edge of poverty, however because of Hemingway’s budding fame they became swept up in the “Lost Generation”. Their friends included Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and other luminaries of the time.
While I don’t know much about the time, to me it seemed as the author captured the frenzy and underlying melancholy of this generation caught between two world wars. The writing here is quite beautiful and you are caught up in the excitement of the running of the bulls or the absolute despair of a marriage falling apart. You will half love half despise Hemingway; you will respect Hadley’s strength in nurturing her husband and his talent while wanting her to learn to stand up for herself. In the end you will feel sadness as you watch the ruination of what started out as a genuine love story. It’s heartbreaking to read but you can’t turn away as everything comes tumbling down.
This is a remarkable book and one I would recommend very highly. (less)
Mudbound is the story of two families, The MacAllen’s and the Johnson’s and the events of one year that changes all their lives.
Laura MacAllen is a c...moreMudbound is the story of two families, The MacAllen’s and the Johnson’s and the events of one year that changes all their lives.
Laura MacAllen is a city girl, struggling to adapt to farm life in the Mississippi Delta. She lives with her husband Henry, their two children and Henry’s mean and hateful Pappy in a small house without electricity or indoor plumbing. Florence and Hal Johnson are black tenant sharecroppers on the MacAllen farm and Florence also helps Laura in the house. Henry’s brother Jamie and the Johnson’s son Roncel return home from the war. Jamie has acquired a drinking problem to deal with his nightmares of the war; Roncel returns a war hero but in Mississippi 1946 he is no more than a “boy”. Having traveled the world and seen more than their shares of horrors the two men don’t feel compelled to live by the rules of the Jim Crow South and strike up a forbidden friendship.
The story is told from the perspective of the six main characters, we never hear Pappy’s point of view but he is a major presence throughout the book. Each chapter is told from a different viewpoint of the same series of events. The author gives each of the characters a clear and believable voice. As the story develops the tension mounts and it becomes clear that we are on a collision course with tragedy.
This book drew me in from the start and I raced through it, a feeling of dread becoming more intense as the end draws near. It’s hard to say you love a book that tackles such a difficult subject, but I did love it. It was a beautifully written and powerful read, although very graphic in some parts. It is a very rewarding read in the end, and one I recommend very highly. (less)
This is the second book in The Hangman’s Daughter series. I read the first book and liked it enough to pick up the second book, unfortunately I don’t...more This is the second book in The Hangman’s Daughter series. I read the first book and liked it enough to pick up the second book, unfortunately I don’t think I will be picking up the third.
It’s Bavaria 1660. A local priest has been found dead. When it is determined that he has been poisoned Jakob Kuisel, the town hangman, his daughter Magdalena, Simon the town doctor and the priest’s sister set out to discover who killed him. In the course of their investigation the clues begin to point to the Knights Templar and a mysterious treasure.
There were a number of things I didn’t care for in this book. Here are the main issues:
The only character I liked at all was Jakob, he’s smart, principled and a good person. Magdalena and Simon, supposed lovers, are annoying; Magdalena is always whining about Simon and Simon is always whining about having no nice clothes to wear; he’s also slow to figure things out even when they are obvious.
The plot is very reminiscent of The DaVinci Code and not in a good way. Portraying most of the Templar’s as mad men was derivative.
I am not fond of coincidences in mysteries, but I can deal with one maybe two. This book had about a dozen, far too many.
If you are going to write historical fiction it pays to be accurate. People were not able to carry around boxes of matches because they would not exist for another 200 years after the time frame in the book. In addition, and I am not sure if this was a translation problem, but there were a number of modern expressions used. I am reasonably sure that a bunch of drunkards would not be referred to as stoners. When mistakes like that occur they wrench you out of the book and it’s quite frustrating.
Give your readers some credit; you don’t need to repeat things over and over. Mentioning that the hangman and his family were ostracized because they were dirty and nobody would marry the hangman’s daughter or sit with the family did not have to be mentioned at every turn, it just got tiresome.
At 542 pages this book was overlong by at least 200 pages. Editing would have picked up the pace of the book. Those last hundred pages were a real slog.
The book garners three stars only because I really enjoy the character of Jakob and enjoyed all the scenes he was a part of. I hope the next book focuses only on him, that is the only way I will read it. (less)
The Sandcastle Girls is a split time frame story. In the present time is Laura, wife and mother who begins to research her grandparent’s history after...moreThe Sandcastle Girls is a split time frame story. In the present time is Laura, wife and mother who begins to research her grandparent’s history after a friend sends her a photo of a woman bearing her family name of Petrosian. In the past is the story of Armen and Elizabeth, two people from entirely different worlds who meet during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
I find it astonishing that I knew nothing of the death of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman’s in the early years of The Great War. Apparently I am not alone because Bohjalian calls the genocide “The slaughter you know nothing about”.
Although very bleak in it’s subject matter the story is also about love, hope and survival. The horrors of the genocide are told in unflinching detail, the inhumanity of war is heartbreaking in its savagery. To be able to find love and hope in the midst of so much despair is a testament to the human spirit. Bohjalian is of Armenian descent and it is clear that this history is important to him- he refuses to let us close our eyes to the tragedy of this genocide He asks us to bear witness to both it’s violence and it’s lasting impact on the generations to come.
I love historical fiction; it is perhaps my favorite genre. I enjoy learning about the past in believable stories that impart knowledge by wrapping it around an engrossing story. The author is able to do this by making us care about the characters he introduces, they are well developed and real. We are invested in finding out what happens to them. Unfortunately some of the suspense of knowing the outcome is taken away by Laura’s story in the present. We know almost from the start that Elizabeth and Armen survive the war and go on to build a life together. I would rather have not known that, I think the story of Armen and Elizabeth, as good as it was, would have been more powerful if we don’t know that going in. My other small complaint is the ending. I’m not a fan of coincidences and so the ending seemed a little melodramatic.
Overall I found The Sandcastle Girls to be a very satisfactory and worthwhile read. I found the book hard to put down while reading the story set in the past; I was far less engaged or interested in Laura’s story. Most important of all it opened my eyes to a segment of history I knew nothing about and am now interested in learning and reading more about that time period. (less)
The Light in the Ruins is a hard book to classify. It’s part historical history and part murder mystery. What it definitely is is a haunting story abo...moreThe Light in the Ruins is a hard book to classify. It’s part historical history and part murder mystery. What it definitely is is a haunting story about the ravages of war and a chilling tale of revenge and murder.
The opening to this book grabs you immediately as it is told from a killer’s point of view, it was one of the best openings to a book I’ve ever read and it made me want to find out what has compelled someone to commit such a terrible crime.
The events of the book unfold in two different years, 1944 when the war came to Italy and 1955, years after the end of the war but the start of a well-planned act of revenge.
The Rosati family lives a life of privilege in their villa in the Tuscan hills. For the most part they are untouched by the war raging around the world. When two Nazi officers come to the villa, which is the home of an Etruscan tomb, their lives become entwined with that of the Nazis’ who are in the habit of plundering ancient art. Slowly, inexorably the Rosati’s way of life begins to unravel.
In 1955 we meet Serafina Bettini, a woman who has her own scars from the war. She is the police investigator assigned to the murder of Francesca Rosati. When another murder occurs it is clear that some one has a vendetta against the Rosati family.
I enjoyed the story; I loved the characters, all of which are not perfect and I thought the writing was excellent. I found myself wondering what I would do in a similar position as the Rosati’s, caught between factions in the midst of war. I was riveted to the mystery and the small clues that were sprinkled throughout. My only complaint is that the revelation of the murderer, while believable, seemed a little out of left field. Outside of that minor complaint this has been my favorite book by Bohjalian. (less)
I picked this book up after reading a brief review that talked about Frances Gererty, who created the advertising slogan “A Diamond is Forever”. I fou...moreI picked this book up after reading a brief review that talked about Frances Gererty, who created the advertising slogan “A Diamond is Forever”. I found the background on her interesting and was hoping to learn more about this interesting woman. “The Engagements” does use Frances as the lynchpin to the book, however I wished there had been more of her tale and less of the other stories included.
In The Engagements we learn the story of four couples; James, the paramedic who never feels good enough for his wife; Toby and Jeff, a gay couple planning their wedding with the help of their friend Kate who doesn’t believe in marriage; Delphine, a woman who leaves her husband for a much younger man; and Evelyn who has been married for 40 years and is struggling with the end of her sons marriage.
The book is divided into 5 parts, each part opening with Frances’s story and then proceeding with another installment in each of the other tales.
It is the format of the book that provided the most problems for me. All of the stories take place in different time frames, and there a number of characters involved in each storyline. It was very hard to be involved in one story and then have to read through 4 more unrelated tales before moving on. I often lost track of who was who and would have a hard time remembering where the last installment had left off.
The second issue was outside of Frances I really didn’t like any of the other main characters. Getting through the book was a slog, it was filled with just so much detail that I would lose my concentration. The last part of the book was the most interesting because we learn what the connection between all these people is. It was the only part I read straight through in one sitting. It was just too little too late.
I haven’t read Ms. Sullivan’s book Maine and after reading this one I don’t think I will be picking it up. (less)