Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Recipe for Secrets

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan

It wasn't as if Lila didn't know what she was getting into when she married Sam, but she didn't know what Sam was going to get into when he got his dream job of restaurant critic for a major Philadelphia newspaper. With her toddler daughter and another baby on the way, Lila knows that moving to a new city isn't going to be easy. However, Sam is making it even harder for her, because he's suspicious of everyone, including the neighbors. That's because if a restaurant critic doesn't have his anonymity, he can't write an objective review, since the chef and staff will never treat him like just another customer. To top it all off, not only is Lila lonely because she can't make friends, she's also aching to go back to work. Unfortunately, going back to her high-profile position as a crisis manager for the Addison Hotel chain can only put Sam's attempts at obscurity in even more danger.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - December 22, 2015

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Depths in simplicity

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

If there is one quote from this novel that both sums it up, and yet is also the exact opposite of what this story tries to do, it is this: "we never know, and never would know, what it would be like to understand another person fully. It seems a simple thought, but as I get older I see more and more that she had to tell us that." The "she" in this quote refers to Sarah Payne, an author that holds a writing workshop that Lucy attends. This is a very truthful and telling line, both for writers and readers alike. Yet, this is exactly what authors attempt to convey to their readers - a story where we can understand another person fully. That Elizabeth Strout (author of the Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories Olive Kittredge) is able to reveal the character of Lucy Barton to her readers so fully, is only part of her genius. The other part is that she does it with such economy of text (just over 200 pages), making this book virtually magical.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday (December 18, 2015)

Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The purpose is to meet new people and gain more followers in the book blogging community. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Confessions of a Frustrated Reader

Anachronisms & Inaccuracies

My friend, author Rabbi Ilene Schneider recently wrote a post on her blog called "Blueberries in Hammonton in 1920? - Doubtful," which discusses researching something that seemed to her to be an historical inaccuracy from the TV show "Boardwalk Empire." Such anachronisms can ruin watching movies, TV shows and of course, reading novels. I'm sure that like you, I've come up against these kinds of problems of inaccuracies with many novels; most of which have to do with areas I know quite a bit about. Of course, even when that is the case, before I say anything about these problems, I'll start researching the items to make sure my initial impression is correct. Two of my most prominent examples are as follows:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How do you eRead?

Seeing as I'm in between reviews, I thought I'd discuss something a little different. No, not chocolate (although I certainly could), but rather what I've discovered about eReading, and how I read eBooks these days.

Anyone who read either of my early posts about print vs. eBooks will know that I'm still certain that dead tree books are still very much long for this world. Although those posts are both over two years old, I haven't changed my mind. I also don't intend to, because frankly, I doubt I'll ever tire of reading from the printed page.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays (December 1 2015)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2015

The Year of the "Tied for #X Place" Books

Despite the fact that there are two books published in 2015 that I haven't even begun to read (Patrick Gale's A Place Called Winter, and Therese Walsh's The Last Will of Moira Leahy), being dyslexic, and considering the length of my present reading list, I have my doubts I'll be able to finish either before the year finishes. Because of this, I've decided that I'm going to give you my top five fiction books of 2015 a little early.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Merchant Prince's Woman

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age by Renee Rosen

One of the first jobs I ever held was as a salesperson for Marshall Field & Co., in their Evanston branch (just north of Chicago). At the time, all new employees had to undergo three days of training in their flagship State Street branch. I was no stranger to that store. I spent many happy hours wandering around its luxurious interior, looking at things I couldn't afford to buy, and even standing outside in the cold to see their incredible Christmas window displays. Marshall Field's was part of my history, part of the history of Chicago, and a huge chunk of the retail store industry's history. Where I grew up, everyone knew that, respected it and it made us proud*. That's why I knew that a historical fiction novel about this particular woman behind this particular empire-building man was exactly my kind of story.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A well-punctuated road-trip

It's. Nice. Outside. by Jim Kokoris

John Nichols isn't doing very well. He's 50-something, divorced and unhappy with his job, so with his two daughters no longer at home, his whole life surrounds his 19-year-old autistic and mentally disabled son, Ethan. What's more, as much as John loves his son, it's getting harder to handle him. Aside from that, John's feeling like the life he dreamed of having may slip away forever, unless he does something about it soon. Now he's driving with Ethan from Illinois to his daughter Karen's wedding in South Carolina, with a secret plan that will change everything.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What is your superpower?

My Grandmother Sends her Regrets and Apologises (aka My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry), by Fredrik Backman

Anyone who has been reading my reviews will know that my favorite book of 2014 was Backman's, "A Man Called Ove." This Swedish author took the world by storm with his poignant story of a man who has given up, and the people who keep him going. I was lucky enough to get that novel as an ARC, but when this one showed up on NetGalley, the publishers rejected my request. Undaunted, we paid good money to buy this book, and it's an investment we will treasure for years to come. In fact, Backman's second novel immediately became heavy competition for Anne Tyler's "A Spool of Blue Thread" for the #1 spot on my 2015 list.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Business of Compassion

The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford

This is one of those books that, if you read it, you'll be glad you didn't overlook it because you judged it by its cover, its title or even its synopsis. Starting with the latter, the publisher's synopsis for this book is as follows:

Book-smart Melissa Fletcher lives a predictable life in her hometown, working behind the scenes for her charismatic father in a financial career that makes perfect sense. But when her dad is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Missy is forced to step up and take over as his primary caregiver and the principal of the firm.

After her father’s death, Missy finds a letter from him in which he praises her for being a dutiful daughter but admonishes her for not taking any risks in life.

Devastated, Missy packs her suitcase and heads for Italy. There she meets a new friend who proposes a radical idea. Soon, Missy finds herself in impoverished India, signing away her inheritance and betting on a risky plan while rekindling a lost love.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays (Nov. 3, 2015)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Apologies and Flight

Hello friends - long time, no see!

I wanted my readers to know why I haven't been posting book reviews lately. The reason is, I've been on vacation abroad. The relatively short trip (due to a lack of vacation time at my "day job") was to visit family and friends, but mostly to attend my 40th High School Reunion. Yes, I'm from the Evanston Township High School Class of 1975 (and yes, I'm that old). I'm glad to say that I had an absolutely amazing time - not the least of which included finding out that at least three of my classmates are librarians (how cool is that for someone who writes a book blog)!

Monday, October 12, 2015

What a Trader!

One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald

Trading something seemingly worthless until you get something of real value might be a cheap trick, especially if it starts out with something as insignificant as a paperclip and ends up with a house. It may also seem like an impossible feat. However, that's exactly what Kyle MacDonald did. On the one hand, those of us who struggled to buy our homes might feel MacDonald cheated to get what others sweat years to achieve. On the other hand, it takes gumption, nay, chutzpah to actually attempt this, let alone actually make it happen. Others will say MacDonald is lazy, and his admitted laziness factors highly here. He wanted a house, but he didn't want to work years to earn enough to buy one. In fact, he didn't even want a job, but he also didn't want to sponge off his girlfriend. In the end, this wild exercise netted MacDonald a house. You can call him a trickster, a cheater or just lazy - but you have to hand it to MacDonald for his originality in achieving this dream.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gritty New York Stories and Poems

Resident Aliens by Beth Porter

"Resident Aliens" by Beth Porter is actually a collection of writings. On the menu is a novella, four poems and three short stories, all focusing on New York in the 60s. Before I discuss the various elements of this book, there is a small warning - nothing included here is for the faint of heart. These are gritty tales, darkly atmospheric with glimpses into the city's stark realities. They show off New York's rough edges, without makeup or apology. Written with a clear and confident voice, Porter lays this city bare and naked before her readers. But don't let that put you off. This is well worth reading, even if some parts make you uncomfortable.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Deliciously Dressed Up Deceptions

Food Whore by Jessica Tom

Imagine losing your sense of taste. That would be bad enough for anyone, but if you're the top food critic for the New York Times that would be a complete disaster. That's just what happened to Michael Saltz, but then he found Tia Monroe. Fresh out of Yale, Tia is a starry-eyed a NYU graduate student in food studies. With her amazing palate and talent for describing how foods taste, Saltz knows exactly how to take advantage of Tia's first venture into the New York dining scene, and the people with all the influence and power.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The First Modern Graphic Novel

A Contract with God and other Tenement Stories by Will Eisner

After I made a seemingly disparaging comment about comic books on another website, one of the commentators challenged me to write a review of a graphic novel. What better graphic novel to review than the one that most sites have dubbed the first modern graphic novel, and also attributes it to having helped spawn the genre and bring it to art form level. I’m talking about Will Eisner’s 1978 graphic novel, “A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Would you read more? A First Chapter/First Paragraph Tuesday Intro

My fellow book blogger at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts "First Chapter/First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" where she shares the first paragraph sometimes two from a book she is reading or thinking about reading soon. I've decided to join in with this opening excerpt from a book that the author sent me.  Tell me what you think... would you read on, or not?

 A Love & Beyond by Dan Sofer
Amazon Digital Services, Inc./Dan Sofer, March 5, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Marshmallow Mayhem Blitz

Marshmallow Mayhem cover

Buy it now on Amazon for 99 Pennies…or

read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.


In this sequel to BANANA BAMBOOZLE, all Cassidy Dunne wants is a road trip to bond with her niece and some gooey campfire s’mores. What she gets is an extra serving of mayhem — marijuana brownies, creepy locals, an ardent admirer, a precocious canine cohort, and a dead body.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Positron? Not Positive.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Which would you choose if you had the choice between staying unemployed and homeless, and cutting yourself off from the rest of society but with job security and a home to live in? What if having a home meant you had no real freedom? On the other hand, what if having your freedom meant poverty and constantly running away from rapists, thieves or worse.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Becoming Nora

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

Everyone loved Maurice Webster. While she was married to him, Nora lived quietly in his shadow. Then he fell ill, and as his death approached, Nora was totally devoted, practically ignoring her sons and daughters in order to care for him. Now that he's gone, Nora has become something of a tragic celebrity. More importantly, now Nora has to find a new normal for both herself and her children.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Monsters Within

The Determined Heart by Antoinette May

The bulk of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's fame came from her novel "Frankenstein." However, she was also married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the daughter of two well-known writers, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. This novel examines the life of this woman who, in the early 1800s, wrote a penultimate horror novel, and was arguably one of the first writers of science fiction.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cover Reveal: While You Were Gone By Kate Moretti

While You Were Gone

By Kate Moretti

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Book Description:
Despite Karen Caughee’s intense focus on her music, her life is drifting out of its lane. Her alcoholic mother keeps calling from bars for early-morning rides, her boyfriend doesn’t think she gets him, and that Toronto Symphony Orchestra position she applied for ends up going to her friend, Amy. By chance, she meets American Greg Randolf just before she’s in a car accident. He pulls her from the wreckage, but after major surgery, her recovery is slow. Without her music, her life’s pursuit, Karen is pushed further adrift.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Facing Three Hours

The Face: A Time Code by Ruth Ozeki

In this short non-fiction piece, Ozeki takes on the Zen exercise of staring at her face for three hours.

The book starts with her time clock set at 00:00:00, which ticks off the seconds and minutes as she writes whatever comes into her head while looking at her face. Between these are short essays about herself, her life and her ancestry to punctuate her time clock observances.

Friday, August 14, 2015

In Congruence

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

This novel, according to Rushdie's website, is "a wonder tale about the way we live now, a rich and multifaceted work that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story to bring alive a world – our world – that has been plunged into an age of unreason. Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling tradition yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment ...." This retrospective tale of the events that happened in the 21st century, when a huge storm sparked what historians a thousand years later would call the "strangenesses." When that happened, it opened cracks closed for over eight hundred years between earth and the realm ruled by the jinni. After one thousand and one nights of the strangenesses, came the War between the Worlds. That war, seeded in the 12th century, grew from the vastly different views of the theologian Ghazali and the philosopher Ibn Rushd. In addition, the many progeny and multitudes of their descendants from the jinnia princess Dunia, who came down to earth and fell in love with Ibn Rushd, will play instrumental parts in that war.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Blitz Spotlight: Overcoming Anxiety

Overcoming Anxiety

By David Berndt, PhD

Genre: Mental Health, Self-help

Book Blurb

The good news is that anxiety can be overcome without relying on medication. Psychologist David Berndt, PhD, in Overcoming Anxiety outlines several self-help methods for relief for anxiety and worry. In clear simple language and a conversational style. Dr. Berndt shares with the reader powerful step by step proven techniques for anxiety management.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Data In, Lives Out

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

It is 2013 and Josephine and Joseph are newlyweds and new to the city. Broke and almost homeless, just getting jobs is more important than what they have to do at work. For Josephine, being alone in a dingy, windowless room, mindlessly entering data into a computer, is depressing enough, until she figures out the significance of the information she's inputting. That's when everything and everyone become even more puzzling as well as ominous.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Their Pens' Might...

The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi

Hired to write the biography of the distinguished but aging writer, Mamoon Azam, Harry Johnson is in not only awe, but also excited and a little overwhelmed. Mamoon's reputation precedes him with rumors of his caustic personality, monumental intelligence, and a charisma that entrapped women throughout his life. Despite this daunting task, Harry needs the money if he's going to make a home with his fiancée Alice. Furthermore, Harry's agent, the constantly drunken Rob Deveraux, is promising untold wealth and fame if he succeeds, while dooming him to exile and teaching creative writing in America if he fails. Mamoon is also less than agreeable to the idea. However, his present wife Liana has been spending his money at alarming rates, and a biography could put some new funds into his account by renewing interest in his works. There's nothing left but for Harry to leave London and Alice behind, so he can stay at Prospects House and learn everything he can about one of the writers he's always admired.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Overtures with a Nightingale

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

Bea's overbearing brother Marvin wants her to go to Paris and get his son Julian to come home, or he'll stop sending him money. He can't do it himself, he's far too busy with his important work and California is so far away from Europe. Bea is in New York and is "only" an English literature teacher, so Marvin figures it makes sense for her to go. The problem is that Bea has never met her nephew Julian or her niece Iris, who wants to get involved in her father's scheme (unbeknownst to Marvin). Bea also hardly knows Marvin's wife Margaret, who has been very unstable lately, and Marvin thinks getting her son back might cure her. Although Bea only reluctantly agrees, she can't deny the mission will let her escape from her solitary life for a while. What Bea doesn't bargain on is the storm her journeys spark, even touching Leo Coopersmith, the composer to whom Bea was briefly married.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Well Traveled Reunion Project

Frank Derrick's Holiday of a Lifetime by J.B. Morrison

When Beth calls her father to tell him that, not only has her husband Jimmy left her, but also that the doctors found a lump, Frank is understandably worried. At age 82, living on a fixed income, he can't just pick up and leave the UK to be with her in California. That is, until his landlord offers to give him £5,000 to move out of his apartment. With his granddaughter Laura about to turn 21, what could be more serendipitous? Furthermore, Frank's visit can only help Laura carry with her plans to get Jimmy and Beth back together.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Two World Wars, Two Women, Thousands of Letters

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

In March 1912, David Graham is a University student in Urbana, Illinois. He's just read a book of poetry by Elspeth Dunn, who lives on Scotland's Isle of Skye. Impressed, he decides to write to her, and thereby begins a correspondence that will change both their lives. Just over 28 years later, Margaret's best friend is about to join the war as a RAF fighter pilot, when she realizes she's in love with him, as much as he is in love with her. When a bomb rips through the wall of her mother's Edinburgh house, out spills piles of letters her mother has been keeping since before the Great War. The next morning, her mother and the letters are gone - except for the single, yellowed page Margaret picked up. The contents of that letter are so mysterious, it leads her to a quest to discover the secrets her mother has kept all her life, which might also answer her own questions of who she is. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Literal Fly on the Wall

Jacob's Folly by Rebecca Miller

Jacob Cerf was an impoverished, religious Jewish peddler in 18th Century Paris. Circumstance led him away from his family and faith and into a world of impious debauchery. 300 years later, he's back, but now he's a fly in 21st Century New York and involved in the lives of two people. One is Masha - an innocent girl, sheltered from the world by her orthodox Jewish family. The other is the model citizen, husband and father, Leslie Senzatimore. As Jacob curses his new fate, he decides to repay his maker by bringing these two together putting their goodness to test.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dangerous Reunions

Run you Down by Julia Dahl

The sudden death of Pessie Goldin never received any publicity, despite her being a young mother. That's mostly because she's a member of the ultra-orthodox (Haredi) community of Roseville, and they officially declared it an accident. However, her husband Levi is suspicious about the circumstances, and refuses to believe this or the suicide rumors. Since the Haredi burial society won't allow the police to carry out autopsies, the only way to look for the truth is to get the press involved. After Rebekah Roberts covered the Rivka Mendelssohn story so successfully, despite it almost getting her killed, she is Levi's only possibility. For Rebekah, this is story she can't resist, particularly because her mother Aviva is now living in Roseville, and it finally seems they both are ready to meet.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In his own space

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

Björn's recent promotion must mean he's on his way, headed straight for the top. Of course, new surroundings can be stressful, particularly learning to get along with your new colleagues. As talented and intelligent as Björn is, he doesn't make friends easily; he'd rather just put his head down and do his job. Not long after Björn moves to his new office, he finds a room between the elevators and the toilets. It is the perfect office - clean, well lit, perfectly decorated, and more importantly, no one seems to be using it. Since Björn feels so good while he's in there, why not take advantage.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Less than Picture Perfect

Lessons in French by Hilary Reyl

What budding artist wouldn't grab the chance to work in Paris with the world-famous photojournalist Lydia Schell? For Katherine, who just finished Yale, it will also be like going home, having lived in Paris as a young girl when her father was dying from cancer. Back then, she stayed with cousins and their son in a poor part of the city. Remembering that time, including her cousin Etienne's cruelty to her, still hurt, but they aren't going to get in the way of making new ones. This time Kate will be renting a room in the Schell's house, located in one of Paris' most classy neighborhoods. So what if Kate doesn't know how difficult Lydia is, or what she'll be doing for her? How hard could it be for a Yale graduate with unaccented and fluent French in the city of every artist's dreams? Furthermore, the Berlin Wall is about to come down, so this is the perfect time to work with a photojournalist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Socially Capital Laugh

Various Pets Alive & Dead by Marina Lewycka

Their twenty years of commune life didn't turn out as reaffirming as Marcus and Doro had hoped it would be, so maybe it is time to conform and get married. This isn't news their children ever expected to get, but neither Clara nor Serge are into their parent's radical lifestyle anymore. Clara is a teacher who is still idealistic, but quickly got used to the creature comforts living above the poverty line affords. Serge, on the other hand, is making lots of money applying his genius in math to the world of banking, but paranoid his parents will find out he's stopped working on his PhD. To top it off, Oolie-Anna's social worker wants to move her into a sheltered housing project for Down syndrome adults. Nothing is staying the same, but maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Literary Impressionism

The Sunken Cathedral by Kate Walbert

According to the publisher's website, this novel "follows a cast of characters as they negotiate one of Manhattan’s swiftly changing neighborhoods, extreme weather, and the unease of twenty-first-century life." The main characters are Marie and Simone, friends of many decades, survivors of World War II, now widowed and living in the neighborhood of Chelsea in New York. The publishers also said, "Walbert paints portraits of marriage, of friendship, and of love in its many facets, always limning the inner life, the place of deepest yearning and anxiety."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hollywood Secrets and Pasts

Melting the Snow on Hester Street by Daisy Waugh

Its 1929 and movie director Max Beecham and his actress wife Eleanor hobnob with Charlie Chaplain, Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, John Barrymore, Gloria Swanson and more. To them, Max and Eleanor are the happiest, most loving couple in Hollywood. However, the Beechams are even better actors than those on the silver screen. They haven't been happy since they left their old lives behind in New York, together with their tiny daughter, Isha. While Max seems to have given up, Eleanor is still determined to find her, or at least find out what happened to her.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Out of the Ashes

An Unknown Woman by Jane Davis

When Anita and Ed's London home of nearly 15 years burns to the ground, taking everything they own with them, it ignites a brushfire through all of Anita's life, bringing everything she thought she was always so sure of into question for her. Suffering from what is probably PTSD, Anita goes off to stay with her parents in Liverpool, only to discover that even the familiar comfort of her parents and childhood aren't what she thought they were. More importantly, when she discovers the secret about her mother Patti, the destruction of her home seems suddenly almost inconsequential. In her latest novel, author Jane Davis brings us two masterful character studies of a mother and daughter, combined into one journey.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trying Youth

Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe

Sue Bowl has been through a lot more in life than most 17-year-olds have. Her mother, Buddleia, committed suicide, and not long after that, her father took up with another woman. Buddleia's sister, Aunt Coral, was still mourning the loss of their father when Buddleia took her life. Looking for comfort, and knowing Sue needed some comforting herself, Coral invites her to Egham to spend her gap year in her mother's ancestral home. Of course, Sue can't leave Titford fast enough, mostly because she's sure that Green Place will be the perfect setting to start writing her novel. While she's there, perhaps she can find some answers about her mother, with a dash of romance on the side.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stitching together Thessaloniki's story

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

During the 20th Century, the seaside Greek city of Thessaloniki saw it all – fires, wars and earthquakes. This is the backdrop of Victoria Hislop’s novel The Thread. In it, we get to know the story of this city through a fictional cast of characters. As the book opens, Katerina and Dmitri’s grandson has come to visit. He asks them why they still live in this city, since their children and their families are all in England or the USA. The answer to his question is the story of these two people and this special city.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Twins and Ghosts

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Elspeth and Edwina were identical twins, estranged for many years. When Elspeth dies in London, she leaves her flat to her sister's, nieces - Julia and Veronica - who are also identical twins. However, there is a condition. The two girls must leave the USA and their mother behind, and in the flat for a year. After that, they can do what they want with it. The girls decide to take up the challenge - since seriously, how horrid could a rent-free year in London be? Especially if what they've inherited, is a bright and sunny flat, situated near the amazing Highgate Cemetery. However, soon after they arrive, they meet their unusual neighbors and some strange things start to happen.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Mystery of Christopher Marlowe

Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

During the Elizabethan era, Christopher Marlowe was a famous and popular playwright, but today when we think of that time, practically the only writer that comes to mind is Shakespeare. One reason for this could be Marlowe's untimely and early death, at the height of his career. Although his life has been the subject of several studies, it seems that the only absolute facts we have are his murder, the injuries that killed him and where they found his body. Somehow, Louise Welsh wrote a whole novella with only this scant bit of background.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Odd One Out

The Children's Crusade by Anne Packer

How can one deal with someone you love pulling away from you? This is the question posed in Anne Packer's latest novel about the Blairs, Penny and Bill, their marriage, their home, the land it was built on and their four children, Robert, Rebecca, Ryan and James. More than that, this is about Penny's gradual detachment from them, and how it affects each of them, later in their lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Secret of a 100-Year-Old Woman

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Roscommon Mental Hospital is about to be torn down, and the director, Dr. Grene has to figure out what to do with his patients, including Roseanne McNulty. Should he move her to the new facility? Maybe he should find her somewhere on the outside? She doesn’t seem at all crazy, but she’s been living there since she was a teenager; how would she survive in the outside world? What’s more, she is already so old; how much time does she have to live? The only way to decide is for Dr. Grene to delve into Roseanne’s history. At the same time, Roseanne has been secretly writing the story of her life from before her institutionalization.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Frankly Amazing Woman

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Anyone interested in early 20th century architecture might recognize the name Mamah Borthwick Cheney as being the woman who was Frank Lloyd Wright's lover - for whom he left his wife and family, which caused a scandal that rocked not only Chicago's society, but also the world of architecture. For those who don't know of Wright, he was of the Mies van der Rohe's "less is more" school of architecture (quoted as saying, "less is only more when more is bad"). To this, Wright added his own organic elements in trying to make buildings blend in and feel like they belonged to their natural surroundings.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Calm within the Storm

Restless by William Boyd

Ruth Gilmartin is a single mother, working on her Master’s Thesis and teaching English as a Second Language in Oxford. Her mother, Sally, has decided to write down the story of her experiences during WW2 and give them to Ruth. This is when Ruth discovers that the woman she grew up with was actually Eva Delectorskaya; a Russian recruited to be a spy for England who moved to Paris in 1939 after the discovery of her brother's dead body. The problem is Eva is certain that her story didn't end there, and now she feels it may be time for her last job. Unfortunately, without Ruth's help, she can't accomplish her mission.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Dream within a Dream

Sleeping Patterns by J.R. Crook

What is the relationship between the writer and his audience? J.R. Crook’s debut novel investigates this through a group of characters – himself included – living together in student accommodations in London. The main story here centers on an artist Annelie Strandli, known as Grethe to her friends, and a writer Berry Walker. As the book opens, Grethe tells of the death of Crook and how she received the book – chapter by chapter, and out of order. She also explains why she decided to publish it exactly as she received it. What may be confusing here is that although Crook is a minor character in his own novel, it is Berry who is writing the chapters, and allowing Grethe to find them one at a time (and again, out of order). Yet the overall premise here is that Crook sent the chapters to Grethe before he died, despite the fact that he is very much alive in real life (thank goodness).

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Gambits and Pawns

The Death's Head Chess Club by John Donoghue

Obersturmführer (1st Lieutenant) Paul Meissner's battle injury has taken him off the front lines, and put him in Auschwitz, assigned to bolster flagging morale in the camps. His superiors are skeptical about his chess club idea, especially if he's allowing officers and enlisted men to play against each other. These doubts fade with the club's popularity, boosted by the betting on the side. All seems to be going well until Meissner hears about a Jewish prisoner, the one they call the Watchmaker, who is apparently "unbeatable" at chess. What better way to prove the superiority of Aryan intelligence and raise the men's spirits than to defeat this Jew. However, Meissner insists it be a fair game, the Jew must play to win, or beating won't be satisfactory. So begins a relationship between Meissner and the Watchmaker (better known as Emil Clément), as complex as the game itself, the moves of which are only revealed years later, during the 1962 international chess tournament in Amsterdam.