The town of Bedford, Maine is dying, little by little. The paper mill is closed; families are leaving looking for better lives; the kids that live theThe town of Bedford, Maine is dying, little by little. The paper mill is closed; families are leaving looking for better lives; the kids that live there cannot wait to graduate high school and get out. Liz Marley is one of those girls hoping to leave behind her family and sister Susan. Susan is the specter of the town; wandering around, not speaking to anyone and somehow invading the thoughts of all the people in the town. When Susan falls to her death in a terrible accident all the dark secrets of Bedford and its inhabitants begin to come out; the dead start to rise and madness is taking over little by little.
I don’t read much horror anymore, but The Keeper sounded promising and it was a freebie for Kindle. It actually started out quite well, reminiscent of Stephen King’s early novels set in small town Maine; unfortunately somewhere about halfway through the storyline became too violent, too choppy and at times in the midst of all that too boring with a lot of repetition and far too much detail. The biggest problem for me is that I didn’t care about most of the people in the book, whenever I felt a connection is was too fleeting and soon I just wanted to get to the end, which unsurprisingly was anti-climatic. I rated it two stars because it did start out well and since it is a debut maybe future books will be better; I like to give new authors the benefit of a doubt.
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 diI’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. ...more
Book No: 7 The fall of the Romanov’s has provided endless fascination among both authors and readers for many years. In this book Robert Alexander takeBook No: 7 The fall of the Romanov’s has provided endless fascination among both authors and readers for many years. In this book Robert Alexander takes a look at one of the lesser-known Romanov’s, Elizabeth, sister to the Czarina and wife of Grand Duke Serge of Russia. While the life of this princess is indeed interesting, the execution is not as interesting as I had hoped.
I had heard good things about this author so I was looking forward to this book, but I was very disappointed. First the title is a bit misleading, since the story of Ella and Serge’s marriage is barely mentioned before it is twenty years later, so she is not exactly a ‘bride’ anymore. Very little of either of the two’s lives are explored and the story loses something in understanding the character of Ella. Why did they marry? What was Ella’s relationship to Nicolas and her sister Alexandra like before they assumed power? It is glossed over that Serge was possibly homosexual and likely an abusive husband, but a lot of what would have made this story interesting is barely touched upon.
The second problem was the alternating stories of Ella and Pavel, a young Russian man who becomes a revolutionary. This is an entirely fictional character and most of his dialogue and musings seem like a step-by-step guide to revolution and most of his ideas read like a propaganda manual. The fact that he was involved in so many aspects of the assassination of Serge when he was such a minor and low level radical and kept crossing paths with Serge and Ella seemed very far-fetched. I found most of his chapters tiresome to read, and except for one scene I felt no connection to him at all.
I found the dialogue flat and the characters rather uninteresting despite the fact that this is a fascinating time in history. The whole book felt like someone standing to the side explaining everything they saw without any real depth or emotion.
Despite hearing that Alexander’s other books are better after this book I am far less likely to give them a shot. ...more
This book languished on my TBR pile for seven years. Pushed into finally picking it up because of a reading challenge all I can say is “Why did it tak This book languished on my TBR pile for seven years. Pushed into finally picking it up because of a reading challenge all I can say is “Why did it take me so long”?
Katherine De Roet was the daughter of a herald and upon his death she was sent to a convent. Her older sister was able to acquire a post in the court of King Edward III. When Katherine is called to court at 15 her beauty does not go unnoticed and she is eventually betrothed to Hugh Swynford, a knight in the service of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and third in line to the throne. Katherine does not go unnoticed by the Duke of Lancaster however; despite their mutual attraction it is a number years before they begin a clandestine affair. This novel tells the tale of Katherine and John’s long love affair over a period of thirty years.
This is a prime example of excellent historical fiction. Seton tells a story steeped in fact and excellent research but draws the reader in so deeply that you feel as if you are a part of this medieval world. Seton writes so vividly of the people, events, politics and religious upheaval of the time yet at no time do you feel like you are reading a history lesson. This is a beautifully rendered story of a love that endures despite much turmoil. Although often categorized as romance, it s not a ‘bodice ripper’ but a fascinating look at the realities of love and marriage in the 14th century.
One of the best aspects of the book for me were the secondary characters who were so well developed, as vital to the story line as Katherine and John; Philippa, Katherine’s shrewish sister, Geoffrey Chaucer the noted poet and husband to Philippa, Hawise lady in waiting to Katherine, Hugh Swynford, Katherine’s husband. All of these added to the realism of this story. Although written over 50 years ago, the novel does not feel dated and richly deserves its designation as a Classic Love Story.
Although I had heard of Katherine and John I was not aware at all of their historical importance. Through their descendants the Tudor Dynasty was founded, as well as the Stuart lineage through their great granddaughter Joan Beaufort. John and Katherine’s daughter, also Joan Beaufort was grandmother to Edward the IV and Richard III. They were also related to Catherine Parr and Catherine of Aragon, both Queens of Henry VIII. Quite a legacy.
First let me preface this review by saying I really like Adriani Trigiani’s books. I’ve read six of her books and have 3 more on my shelf. While theyFirst let me preface this review by saying I really like Adriani Trigiani’s books. I’ve read six of her books and have 3 more on my shelf. While they may not be “deep” reads they are always well written and enjoyable and I always see a glimmer of recognition in her characters.
Valentine Roncalli is 34 years old, has left her career as a teacher and is living with her eighty year old grandmother. Teodora is the matriarch of the Roncalli/Angelini family and the owner of the Angelini Shoe Company, one of the last family owned businesses in Greenwich Village. Valentine is her apprentice, learning how to make custom designed wedding shoes. What Valentine doesn’t know is the business is on the verge of collapse and the vultures are circling.
I really enjoyed this book. It is full of some the funniest and over the top Italian Americans, but not in a bad way. I’ve lived and worked in NYC all my life and I know these people, I’ve worked with them and hung out with them and I love them. The book is also a love story to the “Old” Greenwich Village, of cobblestone streets and small family dwellings slowly being pushed out by the proliferation of high-rise buildings. It’s also a valentine (no pun intended) to the Isle of Capri, Tuscany and Naples and the dying art of cobblers and shoemakers.
There is also a romance for Valentine, with the up and coming chef Roman Falconi; the couple meet cute and start a relationship that is often hindered by their respective devotion to their careers. Valentine is always struggling with the question of whether she is in love or in love with the idea of being in love. And how does one balance a career, family and an equally ambitious partner? In addition there are the dynamics of a large and boisterous family, a family who has never taken Valentine very seriously. When a chance to design a shoe and win a prestigious award comes her way nobody has much faith in her ability to pull it off.
One warning though - don’t read this book on an empty stomach. The descriptions of food, even just a simple tomato drizzled in oil will have you salivating and rummaging through the pantry for something to eat. And you will close the book and want to schedule a trip to Italy the next day.
I’m very much looking forward to getting to the next book in this trilogy, Brava Valentine. ...more
I was a huge fan of Brennert’s book Moloka’i, so I was a little hesitant to read this follow-up. I need not have been, while not quite as good as MoloI was a huge fan of Brennert’s book Moloka’i, so I was a little hesitant to read this follow-up. I need not have been, while not quite as good as Moloka’i it was a fascinating look at Hawaii long before it became the vacation capital of the world.
The book begins in Korea, where girls have very little value. This is made abundantly clear when her parents name our protagonist Regret. Wishing to better her life and get an education, Regret becomes a “picture bride”. In exchange for passage to Hawaii she agrees to marry a young Korean named Noh. Unfortunately when Regret gets to the promised land she learns she has been duped into marrying an older man, an alcoholic with a severe gambling habit and an inclination to take his anger out on his wife with his fists. Regret, now called Jin, has been taught her whole life to be subservient to men; eventually she gets the courage to run away and try to make a better life for herself.
When Jin relocates to the other side of the island she reconnects with a few other picture brides she met on her trip over from Korea. With the help of these friends, plus her own will and determination Jin begins to carve out a new life. Over the course of 40 years we follow Jin and her friends ups and downs. Brennert peppers the narrative with real life historical figures and introduces us to a land that is little more than a ramshackle town, segregated into the haves: sugar and pineapple plantation owners and the have-nots: the laborers that made them rich.
I enjoyed following Jin’s journey from unwanted and unloved Regret to a life filled with many joys and sorrows, a woman who never gives up her dreams of a better life.
Although I appreciated all the research that went in the book, there was sometime a feeling of overload. In addition I found the fact that Jin was constantly meeting and befriending all of the famous personage’s on the island highly unlikely. For these two reasons I dropped my rating a little; nevertheless I do recommend the book, it was a worthwhile read. ...more
I was intrigued by the title of this book, the question “Why is this night different from all other nights” is a key part of the Passover Seder. WhenI was intrigued by the title of this book, the question “Why is this night different from all other nights” is a key part of the Passover Seder. When reading the description and knowing it was set during the Civil War I was doubly intrigued and so I bought the book and I am very glad I did.
Jacob Rappaport is a Jewish young man living in NYC. It is the start of the War Between the States and to escape an arranged marriage Jacob joins the Union Army. He is soon drafted into doing espionage when it is learned that his Uncle is involved with Judah Benjamin, Vice President of the Confederacy and also Jewish. Asked to perform an unspeakable act Jacob takes the path of least resistance. Being a good little soldier he is soon given another task; befriend, woo and marry a young Jewish woman who is suspected of being a spy for the South. Jacob agrees to this plan, but falls in love with the woman he is supposed to betray.
This book presented many questions about ethics, morality, love, honor, acceptance, assimilation and redemption to name a few. It was filled with the conflicts experienced within families during the war, when brothers often turned on each other. It doesn’t present the characters as all good or all bad but as real people dealing with emotional conflict as the world around them fell apart.
There were a great many things I really liked about this book. The character of Jacob started out being almost unlikeable in his unquestioning following of orders. When he meets Genie and falls in love you think you know where the story is going, but the author throws us a curve and we go down another path. Little by little we watch Jacob grow and change as he seeks forgiveness for his many “crimes”. The background of the many Jewish people who fought on both sides of the war was fascinating. I learned so much about Civil War history that I knew nothing about. I loved the writing and really came to care about the many characters in the book. I appreciated the juxtaposition of real historical characters and the fictional; it made Jacob’s story even more believable.
The one scene that has stuck with me throughout (not a spoiler) is when Jacob celebrates Passover, the retelling of the Jew’s freedom from the slavery of Pharaoh. Throughout this dinner, celebrated in the home of his Southern uncle, Jacob and the guests are served by slaves. The incongruity is inescapable.
If you are looking for a Civil War story told from a completely different perspective you will find it in this though provoking narrative....more
Flavia de Luce is back. After solving a murder in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie the precocious eleven year old is once again caught up in a mFlavia de Luce is back. After solving a murder in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie the precocious eleven year old is once again caught up in a mystery when a traveling puppet show comes to the town of Bishop’s Lacey and the master puppeteer is electrocuted during the show. Everyone believes it to be an accident; everyone that is except Flavia.
While I was absolutely enchanted with the first book in the series, this one was a little bit uneven. I still love the character of Flavia, she is so well written and her observations are so sharp I just love reading her. What I really found bothersome was the two sisters, Daphne and Ophelia who are inexplicably cruel to Flavia, I found that storyline to be very annoying, although I do enjoy Flavia’s careful planning of revenge (warning- should you ever encounter Flavia do not accept her offer of an almond nougat)
I did enjoy the introduction of a few new characters, the formidable Aunt Felicity and the possible love interest for Daphne, the mysterious WWII pilot Dieter. I also liked revisiting with a few characters from book one and learning a little more about them – including Inspector Hewitt and his very exotic wife.
The mystery in this was rather interesting; especially in the way it tied into another mystery in the village from several years earlier. Several red herrings and a few plot twists that come together in the end made for a fairly engrossing and entertaining read. By far my favorite part is the opening graveyard/funeral scene, where Flavia contemplates her death and her family’s reaction; it was very amusing. So I will definitely read book three, A Red Herring Without Mustard, I just hope the sisters stop torturing Flavia....more
What a poignant story this book turned out to be. Based on the life of Alice Liddell, the real life inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, Melanie BenjaWhat a poignant story this book turned out to be. Based on the life of Alice Liddell, the real life inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, Melanie Benjamin has written a beautiful a novel that is at times disturbing and at others an incredibly sad story of a woman who spends her lifetime living in the shadow of a make-believe little girl.
Although this is a work of fiction, it is quite clear that a great deal of research went into the story and doesn’t stray far from the known facts of Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), a longtime friend of her family. Growing up as a child at Oxford University, where her father was the Dean of Students, Alice came into contact with many fascinating and scholarly people, but none had the impact that Mr. Dodson did.
This story is told in three voices of Alice, as a young girl to whom Charles Dodson dedicated the book Alice’s Adventures Underground (later Alice in Wonderland); as a young woman and her first love; and as an older wife and mother looking back on her life. Alice I Have Been is filled with details of life in Victorian England through WWI and pre WWII, from the clothing to the furniture and the social niceties of the upper class, you can clearly see in your mind the places and people vividly portrayed in the book.
It has been hinted that Lewis Carroll may have been a pedophile, and that is definitely alluded to in this story, however it is not graphic in anyway and a surprising twist comes at the very end of the book when Alice faces a memory she has blocked from her mind for a very long time. It is only when she faces the ghost of her past that Alice begins to really understand and appreciate her life.
If you enjoy very good historical fiction with a strong basis in fact that is beautifully written and thoroughly engaging I suggest you read this book, I think you will be happy you made the choice. ...more
False Mermaid is the third book in a series that began with Haunted Ground and continued through Lake of Sorrows. All three books foRating: 3.5/5*****
False Mermaid is the third book in a series that began with Haunted Ground and continued through Lake of Sorrows. All three books focus on Nora Gavin, an American pathologist who has been living in Ireland studying bog bodies, those bodies that have been trapped and preserved in the bog land of the country. In her work she has come to care for Cormac McCarthy, an archaeologist. An undercurrent in the first two books is the story of Nora’s sister Triona, who had been murdered several years earlier; a murder Nora is convinced was carried out by Triona’s husband. Realizing that she cannot move forward in her life Nora returns to America to try and find out the truth about her sister’s death. This search forms the basis for False Mermaid.
I very much liked both Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows, they were beautifully written and the mysteries in both books were very layered and interesting. Unfortunately False Mermaid did not equal the lyricism of the earlier books. The main problem is the book is set in Minnesota, which doesn’t allow for a lot of the atmosphere that the books set in Ireland were filled with and it doesn’t incorporate as much history and archaeological procedures that were incorporated into those books. It is probably therefore no surprise that for me the book doesn’t pick up until Nora returns to Ireland in the latter third of the book.
One of the other problems with this book were the overwhelming prevalence of coincidences; there were so many of them, from finding a book in a library that had not been moved in 5 years, to the appearance of a homeless person wearing a sweatshirt that once belonged to Triona’s husband and appears to be stained with blood (again 5 years later). There were enough of those moments to take me out of the story. There is also an old mystery that Cormac is intrigued by, concerning the fable of selkies, supposed half seal - half human beings. The constant seal sightings or stories about seals and the mysticism surrounding them overwhelmed the storyline and again seemed just too coincidental and too piled on.
I gave the book 3.5 stars because there were moments of very good story telling; just not as fine as her previous books. If she does return with a fourth book I hope she keeps it in Ireland and focuses more on the anthropological mysteries; Ms Hart does those much better than this run of the mill murder mystery. ...more
Kristin Hannah is a favorite author of mine; she writes contemporary women's fiction that usually focuses on relationships, most oftenRating: 3.5 ***
Kristin Hannah is a favorite author of mine; she writes contemporary women's fiction that usually focuses on relationships, most often between sisters, mothers and daughters or best friends. In Winter Garden she tells the story of Nina and her sister Meredith and their cold and distant mother Anya. As adults Nina and Meredith have gone their separate ways; Meredith stays close to home, marries, has children and helps run the family business. Nina is an award winning photo journalist, traveling the world and never staying in one place for too long. When a family tragedy brings the sisters together they decide to find out what happened to their mother to make her so distant and uninvolved with them.
This book took a lot of time to get going but once it did it was impossible to put down. I stayed up way too late to finish the book once Anya’s story began. It is clear from the start of the book that there has been some kind of tragedy in her life and when she finally tells her story it changes both her life and the lives of her daughters.
A few quibbles take the book down a notch. As stated the beginning is very slow going and the ending seems just too coincidental, even if it is heartwarming; finally everything is tied up too neatly, while it makes a happy ending it is very unrealistic. Still Hannah knows how to tug at your heartstrings and turn on the tears and I enjoy good chick-lit; she writes among the best, so all in all an enjoyable several hours of all night reading....more
I’ve read Kate Morton’s other books The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden so I was looking forward to The Distant Hours; while I liked it verI’ve read Kate Morton’s other books The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden so I was looking forward to The Distant Hours; while I liked it very much it fell a little bit short of the other two, both of which I loved.
The storytelling device is again the same, intertwining stories that are told from two time perspectives, 1992 and 1939 - 1941. It all begins with a letter that is delivered 50 years after it was posted. When Meredith Burchill receives the letter her daughter Edie is present and sees that the letter has deeply disturbed her mother. Meredith refuses to talk about it, but eventually Edie learns that during the war her mother was evacuated from London to the countryside. Meredith lived at Milderhurst Castle, home of the famous author Raymond Blythe and his three daughters. After a while Edie decides to find out about her mother’s life at Milderhurst and becomes entwined in the lives of the three sisters Blythe; Percy, Saffy and Juniper. The women are now quite elderly and still living in the castle and the story begins to alternate between the two time frames.
This book is very much a modern Gothic. There is a castle, a loveaffair, a sister who is mentally unbalanced, a missing fiancée, a few stormy nights and secrets, secrets, secrets. Morton is quite adept at switching back and forth between the two story lines and ever so slowly peels back all the layers of the tale. It is at times creepy, moving and sometimes shocking. It seemed as if every time I knew where the story was going the author would shift it off into another direction.
The title The Distant Hours doesn’t just refer to the story in the past but also is an inference to Edie and Meredith’s relationship, which has never been close, and a relationship that Edie is hoping to repair by discovering the truth about her mother’s past. In doing so she begins to also figure out a little about herself.
The rating of 4 stars reflects the fact that the book was a bit slow moving and the back-story took a little too long to set up. Overall an entertaining read. ...more