Friday, December 29, 2017

Cinderella or Pygmalion?

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict


Clara Kelly was not who everyone thought she was, and this accident of mistaken identity lands her the position of lady’s maid in one of the wealthiest homes in all Pittsburgh, that of the Carnegie family. If Clara is to help her family back in Ireland, then keeping up appearances is what she’ll have to do, even when Mrs. Carnegie’s eldest son Andrew starts to treat her not like a household employee, but as an equal and maybe something more.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Border Life


All the Rivers UK Edition

All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan


Liat is spending time in the New York apartment of friends, while she studies for her translation degree. Hilmi is living in Brooklyn, trying to make it as an artist. Their whirlwind romance would be uneventful except for the fact that Liat is Jewish and comes from Tel Aviv, and Hilmi is a Palestinian from Ramallah, in the West Bank. With this book, Rabinyan brings us an
exquisitely crafted, modern “Romeo and Juliette” story that strikes at the heart of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can tear people apart.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Calculating Woman

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini


This is the fictionalized story of Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace. In real life, not only was she the only legal child of the famed poet Lord Byron, but she was a talented mathematician and scientists, who made huge contributions to those worlds during the late 19th century. In Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel, she becomes much more than that.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My Top Five (or more) Books of 2017



Those of my readers who have been following this blog for a while, know that I had to stuff seven novels into my favorites of 2016 list, and eight books ended up on list for 2015. This year, I have nine books that deserved a full five stars. Notably, one of these is a non-fiction book. Since I usually make these lists about fiction, that one non-fiction five-star book will get a special award. That means that once again, I need to cram eight books into this list. With no further ado required, let the countdown begin.

#5 – Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney – this novel took its inspiration from real-life poet and Macy's ad-writer Margaret Fishback, who gained fame for her clever ads and humorous poetry in the 1930s. This delightful book of historical fiction brings an essentially unknown woman into the limelight at last. (Oh, and by the way, where have you been all my reading life, Kathleen Rooney?)

#4 – Girl in Disguise by Greer McCallister – in McCallister's second novel, she takes on telling the story of Kate Warne, America's (and maybe the world's) first female detective, who walked into the Pinkerton's Detective Agency in 1856 and insisted Pinkerton take her on as an agent. With the little information left about Warne and her escapades, Macallister succeeds in weaving a story of intrigue and mystery in a tale that will fascinate as well as educate.

#3 – Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss TIED with The Golden House by Salman Rushdie – Krauss’ long awaited fourth novel is, to my mind her best yet. In this book, Krauss gives us parallel stories of two characters that travel from New York to Tel Aviv, while neither of them ever meets the other. Despite these disconnected tales, Krauss leads us to draw our own comparisons and contrasts with what she both reveals from and hides underneath their adventures. Rushdie’s latest novel moves back into the realm of solid reality, to revolve around the newest wealthy family at "The Gardens," a gated New York Community - the Golden family. Not only do they all have strange names (straight out of ancient Roman and Greek history and mythology), but they themselves seem a bit odd. René is a fellow resident, with ambitions in filmmaking, including a project to document the Golden family, but René hasn't decided if he should tell their true story or make up something fictional; either way, René can't seem to stay away from the Golden House.

#2 – See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt – the infamous Lizzie Borden was a woman that the public (but not a jury) believed murdered her father and stepmother with an axe. Since the science of forensics at the time was primitive at best, they found neither proof of Lizzie's guilt nor any other suspects. That means we will never know the whole truth. Using this mystery, Sarah Schmidt devises her own ideas about Lizzie Borden, her family and the murders, all of which she put into her dark and highly emotive debut novel.

#1 – The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce TIED with the novel Beartown by Fredrik Backman AND the novella The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman – last year, Backman’s novel and novella got demoted (after grabbing the first-place spots in 2014 and 2015) to the second-place spot, but both of his two works of this year left me breathless. However, Joyce’s fourth book had me bawling like a baby, so I couldn’t place her novel any lower on this list. UPDATE: I have decided that I must also include All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan as another book TIED for first place this year (although it was first published in Israel in 2014 in Hebrew, the English version only came out in 2017, so it does deserve to be here as well)!


NON-FICTION Award Not Quite Lost: Travels without a Sense of Direction by Roz Morris – who would have thought that a self-published book would be so absolutely delightful, but this one certainly is just that. Morris, who is an accomplished ghost-writer, took the step to finally publish under her own name, and the world is better for it. This lovingly written diary takes us along Morris' many travels (mostly across Britain), where random entries in hotel or B&B guest books spark the imagination and become new adventures both thrilling and beautiful. Although I haven’t read her fiction (not really my thing, as they’re kinda fantasy/Sci-Fi books), if this little memoir is anything to go by, they must be wonderful.

That’s it for this year, and here's wishing everyone a 2018 filled with more amazing books. (Who knows, but maybe I'll need to make that list a "top ten" one!) You can find my previous lists here:


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mysterious Models

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton



“On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at a grand house in Amsterdam to begin her new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. Though curiously distant, he presents her with an extraordinary wedding give: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. it is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations ring eerily true. As Nella uncovers the secrets of her new household she realizes the escalating dangers they face. The miniaturist seems to hold their fate in her hands – but does she plan to save or destroy them?”