Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Few Suggestions

A few more picks for the week:

If you like first person accounts and have an interest in the life of a wet nurse (if you read any historical novels you've seen these women mentioned but  probably never thought about  the actual life of a servant when she takes another woman's child to her breast. Where do families find such women? What of her own child?) The Wet Nurse's Tale, by Erica Eisdorfer introduces Susan Rose a spirited, buxom farm girl,  whose indiscretion with the son of the manor laves her with child. Soon she is able to follow the occupation of her mother - wet nurse. The main character with her sense of curiosity and penchant for seeing life a bit differently than most,  has several interesting experiences among the gentry as she breast feeds their offspring and manages to expand her world view on each new posting.  A fascinating book and a  look at a woman's role that is now almost forgotten.

Daniel Silva's The Defector is another thriller featuring Gabriel Allon (the art restorer whose first life is a spy/assassin for Israel). The book  picks up almost where Moscow Rules ended as Allon and his team take on old enemy Ivan Kharkov as they try to save the life of a Russian defector/former intelligence officer  (and friend of Allon). When Allon's wife is also taken by Kharkov, the Israeli team's work takes on added pressure. A top notch thriller from a master of the genre. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pick for the Week

I've seen a few critics compare this Polish historical, family saga to "Gone With the Wind." I beg to differ because Countess  Anna Maria Berezowska while often naive and trusting is also compassionate, understanding, and kind in both temper and world view. 

Eighteenth century Poland saw war with Catherine the Great, discontent among the peasants, the rise of one of the first European Democracies, and a life of privilege and splendor for the wealthy and titled. The Countess Anna's story from childhood to adult spans not only her story but that of her country. We see her change as she becomes aware of the differences in her status and life as opposed to those of the lower classes. As Poland struggles for freedom so does the Countess. 

Taking control of her destiny may harken back to Scarlett O'Hara but Countess Anna is not a primping, prissy, southern belle. Like her nation, Anna  is  bold,  willing to meet the enemy and make her stand. The history is rich in this novel thanks to meticulous research by author James Conroyd Martin. You'll appreciate the struggle of both Anna and that of Poland as war rages and heroes emerge to fight for the little country that through the years has been the victim of so much treachery. 

Sounds like a sequel and perhaps even a movie are in the works! Yeah!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Read to Relax - Writers You May Have Missed

If you get overwhelmed in the library or your local bookstore you aren't alone. There are so many wonderful options that it's easy to just pick up books by the same authors instead of trying a new one.

Here are a few suggestions if you have not tried these yet: 

Tom Rob Smith  The Secret Speech and Child 44. Both of these books are set in Russia and will quickly catch your attention. The two books feature Leo 
Demidov a secret police member haunted by his job of torturing and killing for the state. In Child 44 he is tasked with looking for a serial slay
er of children in a country where crime does not officially exist.

 In Smith's second novel, Khrushchev is in power and he has criticized Stalin for going too far in his purges and treatment of the citizens - hence the "Secret Speech," title. Dimidov's past work continues to haunt him and the life he has made with a wife and adopted children. This book follows a wandering trail as it explores the harshness of the gulags,  life in Russia during the mid 1950's, Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution, and the strain of familial relationships when there is no trust.  Both of these books are worth reading.

    Eileen Favorite  The Heroines  is a debut novel about a young teen and her mother whose B&B is host to a cast of literature’s finest (and most tragic) heroines from Ophelia to Hester Prynne and Scarlett O’Hara. The narrator is ordered to play with Hester’s daughter Pearl (can we say “playing “pillory”) so the two unwed mother’s can share notes. The daughter is cautioned she must keep two secrets: don’t tell anyone you see heroines (albeit they are garbed in modern clothing) and the never to tell the heroines the rest of their or  they will not go back to meet their dreadful fates. No wonder the young narrator ends up accidentally (so to speak) in a psych ward. An interesting take on an odd situation…I hoped for a bit more…kind of an adult  “Inkheart” with a tad less drama, a lot less fantasy and slightly more heart.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Aunt Kathy's Books of the Week

Something new... five picks for the week... Here are the first three!!!

After discovering her husband plans to leave her, one woman goes to extreme lengths to change her spending habits and save money for her divorce. Written with wit and charm by Sarah Strohmeyer The Penny Pinchers Club,  is a suburban shopoholic tale that forces one woman to examine her life and recognize that value is not always the price of the things you own. 

If you haven't read Greg Isles before you are in for a treat with his latest
Natchez, Mississippi  based novel about riverboat gambling. The unsavory investors and gamblers it attracts are just the
beginning of  problems faced by the small town mayor (a continuing Isles character the multi-talented Penn Cage, also a writer and former prosecutor) in  The Devil's Punchbowl. Murder, riverboat gambling, dogfights are the core around which we see Penn's relationships with his family, girlfriend(s), childhood friends as well as law enforcement play out in this thriller. Penn matches wits with thugs who play nasty and cruel and  the tension builds along with the body count. Like any Isles book it is a page turner.

I admit to being a huge fan of Brad Thor and the character he has made famous Scot Harvath. So it is no wonder I enjoyed The Apostle.
Set in Afghanistan it focuses on a kidnapped American physician who happens to be the daughter of a high profile and monied contributer to the new US president.

The fictional change in administration's moves Harveth's character to the private sector and it also keeps the reader guessing how much is fact  in behind the scenes White Ho use staffing, policy changes and presidential authority. 
Can Harveth break an AlQueda prisoner out of prison to exchange for the American doctor? Can he let a terrorist go free?  Weaving Harveth's latest adventure through the underworld of the Taliban and AlQueda, presidential politics, plus assorted murder and  may
hem, Thor writes one of his best novels yet and my favorite  political thriller of the summer.