The story revolves around Bartholomew Fortuno, dubbed "THE WORLD'S SKINNIEST MAN" in P.T. Barnum's museum in New York City. P.T. Barnum is the same guThe story revolves around Bartholomew Fortuno, dubbed "THE WORLD'S SKINNIEST MAN" in P.T. Barnum's museum in New York City. P.T. Barnum is the same guy from Barnum and Bailey Circus. It's 1865 and the Civil War has just ended and President Lincoln has just been shot. But this story isn't about Lincoln or the Civil War. It's about the Curiosities (the freaks and oddities as they were called) who actually lived in the Barnum's museum.
Bartholomew Fortuno is considered a True Prodigy, one who was born with his "gift." But his world is rocked when a mysterious veiled lady arrives under cover and is rumored to be a new act. From that moment on, Fortuno's life will never be the same.
I absolutely loved this story of Bartholomew Fortuno. The entire time period and feel of New York City and the Museum comes alive, but it's Fortuno's story, as well as the other Curiosities, that I fell for. Fortuno struggles with past and with his future as he grows in character and as a man.
I had briefly heard about P.T. Barnum's odd museum which later on burned to the ground. A few years ago, some CUNY students recreated the museum online in a wonderful interactive site. If you've never checked out the Lost Museum website, I urge you to go check it out.
I loved that Ellen took pains to include authenticity into the book. For example, every once in a while there are hand written letters or Notices for the museum performers....more
It's a part serial killer/murder mystery/love story/WWII novel set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean just south of Italy. Before this noveIt's a part serial killer/murder mystery/love story/WWII novel set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean just south of Italy. Before this novel, I had never heard of the Siege of Malta. During WWII, it was pretty much the most heavily bombed place ever. Wow. The Allies were stationed on the island and were helping to fend off the Germans and Italians from invading.
Enter the Information Officer, Max Chadwick, a British officer in charge of, well, information. Obviously with all the bombing going on, morale can be quite low. So Max is in charge of keeping certain information hidden that might hurt the campaign, while promoting the heroism and valor of the Allies and Maltese.
On top of all that, Max is called in to check out the body of a young girl who was found dead, murdered. In her hands is the scrap of a officer's uniform. The coroner believes she was not the first victim. Obviously Max is in a bind: he can't let the Maltese people know that one of the Allied officers may be killing their girls. Creepily, some of the chapters are narrated by this unknown killer providing the reader with a disturbing glimpse into the killer's mind.
On top of all that, Max is in another predicament. He's been seeing one lady while he's fallen in love with someone else.
So this seems like a lot of stuff going on, but Mark Mills handles it wonderfully. The picture he paints is so vivid. Imagine constantly being bombarded day and night. Often, people just go up on roofs to watch the current wave of bombs. People have bomb shelters but they also hide in various tunnels throughout the island. They don't drive because the dust kicked up becomes a prime target. But life goes on.
I think the setting is what I loved about this book. I'm big into the history part of historical-fiction. The murder mystery is an added bonus. The only part of the book I didn't quite like is the love story part. I don't want to have any spoilers, but it was one of those things where you felt for Max but he kind of shot himself in the foot on this one (figuratively, not literally)....more
The Creed of Violence starts out on the Texas/Mexico border in 1910. Mexico is rumbling for revolution which is a problem for both countries because oThe Creed of Violence starts out on the Texas/Mexico border in 1910. Mexico is rumbling for revolution which is a problem for both countries because of Mexico's much-needed oil fields (hmmm...sounds eerily familiar). John Lourdes is a young agent in America's Bureau of Investigation (early FBI). His job is to take the criminal known as Rawbone and travel with him and a truck full of weapons across the border into Mexico undercover. Rawbone is working with the Bureau to gain immunity. Problem? Aside from the obvious dangers of working undercover in a country on the brink of revolution, Rawbone is John Lourdes dead-beat father. John Lourdes knows this. Rawbone does not.
I really enjoyed this book for two reasons: the setting of the novel and the relationship between father and son. I could totally see why The Creed of Violence is being adapted in to a movie. What a violent and vivid portrait he paints of Mexico, the revolutionaries, the violence, and America's intervention into the fray. The setting sucked me into the novel but it was really the relationship between Rawbone and John Lourdes that kept me reading.
Here's the first line of the book which is about Rawbone:
"He was born in Scabtown the day Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater."
I love how it starts out. Rawbone is a criminal and a common killer. He never knew his father and his prostitute mom died when he was young. Left on his own he turned criminal. Honestly, I kind of liked him. He was sort of funny with a type of wit that made him a likable character. John Lourdes, ironically, had a similar sad upbringing. Rawbone was married to his mom and then took off when Lourdes was young. His mom passed away shortly after. But instead of turning criminal like Rawbone, Lourdes joins the Bureau of Investigation. He's angry at Rawbone and really wants to see him dead.
But their journey together changes them. And that's the part of The Creed of Violence that I enjoyed. I'm excited to see how this book will be adapted to the big screen. I wonder who would portray Rawbone and John Lourdes. ...more
This book is a bit of a trip. Take chick-lit, a bit of romance, Irish historical-fiction, and time travel and mix it all up, throw in a little bit ofThis book is a bit of a trip. Take chick-lit, a bit of romance, Irish historical-fiction, and time travel and mix it all up, throw in a little bit of Irish wolfhound and you've got Now & Then. And I totally enjoyed it. **Warning: The dog plays a fairly small part in the story.**
Anna O'Shea is a bit of a mess. Her father abandoned the family, her brother has anger issues, her nephew has just landed in jail, and her husband left her for another woman after three failed pregnancies.
Joseph O'Shea is a bit of a mess. He's sixteen, unpopular at school, and only good at wrestling, not the most popular sport at school. His father just got into a huge car accident while on his way to pick up Joseph from jail and his aunt, Anna, is furious with him.
Enter the time-travel. How? Why? Read the book!
Anna and Joseph get whisked back in time to country Ireland, 1844. Just one year before THE potato famine. And they get separated. Anna is injured and is taken in by some of the country people. Joseph gets taken for a non-Irish Canadian and is taken in by a wealthy Englishman. And of course, they both fall in love with someone while in historic Ireland. Anna and Joseph have to find each other, figure out what happened and why, and how to get home...if they still want to go home.
What I liked:
I enjoyed the sections narrated by Anna. I really liked her and just wanted her to be happy. I loved the historical setting in Ireland. The way the Irish were suppressed by the British landlords and what they had to do to survive was fascinating and horrible at the same time. I love that it was kind of realistic too. Anna got beat up quite a bit which I don't think you'd find in a romance novel. I mean, at one point she looses some teeth. O yeah.
What I didn't like:
Ok. I think the cover and blurb is so misleading. I thought this book would be more dog-centric, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong. There is a dog. An Irish wolfhound name Madigan. He has more to do with Joseph's part of the story. But just a bit. Madigan's importance really only comes out at the very end. And speaking of Joseph, he was so annoying. I guess he's a sixteen year-old but still. Hmm...I guess that is it.
While it wasn't the story the cover led me to believe it was, it was still a fun time-traveling ride. I have to admit I'm a sucker for Irish history so that was a huge bonus for me. ...more
In 2003, two thirty-something friends take a vacation to Granada, Spain to enjoy the town and take lessons in flamenco dancing. Sonia is in a love-lesIn 2003, two thirty-something friends take a vacation to Granada, Spain to enjoy the town and take lessons in flamenco dancing. Sonia is in a love-less relationship with her husband and has taken refuge in her weekly flamenco classes. During her trip, she meets an elderly waiter who proceeds to divulge the torrent history of Granada and Spain during the Spanish Civil War which started in 1936 in an army coup led by General Franco. The story revolves around one family's tale, the Ramírez family who's daughter Mercedes was a talented flamenco dancer and who's son was a famous bullfighter.
The first part of the story was ok. I'm more of a historical fiction fan so I was impatient to get to the Ramírez family's story. But it did drive home a point that many of us are not too familiar with Spain's story during this time period.
When it was time for the Ramírez family's story, I almost thought I wasn't going to like this book. The story is definitely laid out as a narrative with few actual dialogue pieces. I'm not used to this type of story telling. I thought it was a bit too removed and distant. BUT...then I got into the story. Victoria Hislop paints the town of Granada with such vividness that I can almost see the streets. Mercedes was such a beautiful character living for two things: flamenco dancing and her love for the gypsy guitarist Javier. Long after the story ended I still think on the Ramírez family, just one of thousands of families who's lives were ripped asunder by the Spanish Civil War and Franco's regime.
The Coral Thief is set after the battle of Waterloo which marks the end of the reign of Napoleon. Now I've read books set during the French RevolutionThe Coral Thief is set after the battle of Waterloo which marks the end of the reign of Napoleon. Now I've read books set during the French Revolution (Mistress of the Revolution is awesome) but nothing set during this time period.
I'm a little torn over this book. I love the historical setting. And I wanted to love the characters...but somehow I just couldn't get close to them. There's a bit of romance, a bit of action, and a bit of Les Miserables going on.
So here's the story:
Daniel Conner, a student from Scotland, is on his way to Paris to study anatomy under the prestigious Jardin des Plantes. During the late night coach ride into the city, Daniel notices among the other passengers an attractive woman with a small child. He naturally strikes up a conversation with this lady on the long trek to Paris. The next day, he awakens on the coach to find the letters of introduction to the school missing as well as some coral specimens which were meant to be a gift for the school. Embarrassed and annoyed at his loss, he wants to know who this lady was and why she would steal these things. Daniel's quest for takes him into fascinating territories of post-Napoleon Paris.
I loved aspects of this novel. I was fascinated by the historical era this book takes place in. Rebecca Stott really made post-Napoleon Paris come alive. The characters were also so interesting. There was naive Daniel who really evolved and grew up throughout the story. The heroine of the novel - the coral thief - well, I just loved her. What a strong leading lady. And then the whole Les Miserables aspect (there's a Cosette type child and Javert type police inspector).
But the characters are the only problem with this story as well. They are a bit slippery. A bit mysterious. I couldn't quite get a grasp on them. Like the Coral Thief...I wanted to love her. She could really be one of my favorite literary characters...but the author kind of keeps her distance on the whole story. And I couldn't quite get what she was doing with Daniel.
A Girl Walks into a Bookstore reviewed this as well and mentioned that the writer seemed "emotionally detached" from the story. I totally understand what she meant. I'd love to see this story expanded and/or adapted into a movie or something. I would still recommend it for the historical time period it covers. And the Coral Thief...we'll, she's still a really cool character....more
It's set in Rome, Italy during World War II. Robert is an American stationed in Rome during the period following the liberation of Italy from the GermIt's set in Rome, Italy during World War II. Robert is an American stationed in Rome during the period following the liberation of Italy from the Germans. Italy was very grateful to the Allies...at first...but now they just want them gone. They want their country back.
Robert has made a deal with a local Italian girl, Lisa. She rents a room in a house, they pretend they are married. She gets some food, gifts, etc....he gets company at night. But in war, nothing is that simple.
This was a fairly short novel but very powerful. The book jacket sort of gave me the impression that this was a love story. But I wouldn't call it that. It really portrayed a segment of society that may get overlooked in other war stories. What happens to people when their country is occupied whether it be by friends or foe? What happens to the women? How do they survive?
I found it fascinating that Robert is an American while Alfred Hayes was a British writer. It really didn't portray Americans in a positive light...not negatively but definitely not positive either. Maybe spoiled and naive. And the title of the book, I think, references the type of girls who walk the streets who get picked up for money. And of course the ending was perfect for this type of novel. It really leaves you hanging...which is the point....more
Miss Fortune by Sara Mills is the first in a series based on Allie Fortune, private detective. I have to say that I've always loved this genre of deteMiss Fortune by Sara Mills is the first in a series based on Allie Fortune, private detective. I have to say that I've always loved this genre of detective stories. You know, the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett kind of stuff. This is like that, only instead of Bogie being the detective, you've got Bacall.
The novel takes place in New York City a couple of years after World War II. Just like all the books in this type of genre, there is a knock at the door, a shaken client, and a case to solve. But what I liked about this series is that I really fell for Allie Fortune. She wasn't a P.I. Princess, even though that was her nickname. Instead, her character is level headed and quite human.
The reason why I'm going to keep reading this series is that Allie has her own personal mystery to solve. I don't want to tell you any spoilers but there is an interesting little love triangle and a couple of mysterious disappearances which are going to make me pick up the next novel, Miss Match.
Judging by this first book, the series isn't a gritty, dirty detective series that, say, Alan Furst may write, but I thoroughly enjoyed it....more
The story takes place pre-World War II, in 1937. Andre Szara is a Polish-born journalist working for the Russian newspaper Pravda. While just doing hiThe story takes place pre-World War II, in 1937. Andre Szara is a Polish-born journalist working for the Russian newspaper Pravda. While just doing his job, he gets coerced into working with the NKVD (Soviet secret intelligence). Setting up base in Paris, Szara becomes pretty much a spy for Russia. He travels across Europe as a spy and a journalist, enlisting the help of an agent in Berlin with whom he develops romantic connections.
Ok. So a spy novel. But Furst knows his history...sometimes a little too much. But I loved the cloak and dagger feel of the book and the time period was just crazy. I can't imagine traipsing around Europe right before WWII.
I'm going to definitely check out his other books....more
This is one of those books that is just right up my alley. It's got historical-fiction, mystery, murder, a literary celebrity, and just plain good chaThis is one of those books that is just right up my alley. It's got historical-fiction, mystery, murder, a literary celebrity, and just plain good characters. And don't worry if you've never read anything by Charles Dickens. After reading this, though, you may want to start.
The story starts off just after the death of Charles Dickens. His death has caused quite the stir, not just because of his popularity but because he left his latest novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. Back then, many novels were published segments at a time as serials. So everyone knew that the title character, Edwin Drood, had been murdered by his uncle. But how did the story end? This was particularly aggravating to his London and American publishers.
It's left to one of the partners of Dickens' American publishers, James Osgood, to track down and see if Dickens left any notes or papers revealing how the story would end. They are racing against thieves and unsavory characters who will publish their own versions and who will even murder to get their hands on the valuable document.
I enjoyed this novel on so many different levels. First of all, this is a fun mystery adventure filled with thieves, creepy villains, opium dens...all that is great in a Dickens novel. James Osgood and his assistant Rebecca Sands are just an awesome hero/heroine duo. I loved the insight into the cut-throat publishing world of the 19th Century. I had no clue that the U.S. was such a breeding ground for unauthorized printing.
But my favorite aspect of this book was all that I learned about Charles Dickens. There is one segment that flashes back a few years to when Dickens did a whirl-wind American tour. I had no clue how huge of a celebrity he was back then. I mean HUGE. I really want to know more about him. And his story is one of those things where fact really is more crazy than fiction. For instance, he was in this huge train accident and miraculously survived, even helped to save other passengers. But the whole experience haunted him tremendously. Five years later, to the day, he passed away. And this is just ONE of the crazy things I learned about him.
So again, you don't have read any of Charles Dickens novels to enjoy this one. But it inspired me to read some. I'm in the middle of reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood right now and am really enjoying it. It's actually pretty humorous as well....more