Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Full Black

Brad Thor's new book, FULL BLACK is a great pick for summer reading especially if sleeping is not part of the plan. This thrill ride is packed with political intrigue, terrorism and enough adventure to keep the reader guessing about what will happen next. If you are an avid Thor fan you'll enjoy this latest Scott Harveth series book - (but, it is certainly a stand-alone one as well).

When terrorists plan to pull the plug on America quite literally as it turns out, Harveth gears up for the fight of his life - spanning the world from Sweden to China and places in between he is taking on powers and forces beyond even his imagination.

Why a wealthy American would support an effort to bring America to her knees is an interesting spin and as usual Brad Thor drops historical tidbits and current headlines to make everything in the book much too plausible.

The novel will keep you up late reading, but the supposedly fictitious content may leave you sleepless long after you finish this book.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wings: A Novel Of World War II FlyGirls

Women, airplanes and war are the premise for Karl Friedrich’s WINGS: A NOVEL OF WORLD WAR II FLYGIRLS, which could have been subtitled “sassy skirts take on D.C. bureaucrats for the chance to fly military aircraft for the war effort.” Friedrich’s lead character, Sally Ketchum is a somewhat clichéd backwoods, dirt poor farm girl who traded that life for one of adventure when she met a young pilot who taught her to fly both literally and figuratively.  After his tragic death in a flying accident she volunteers for the “WASP” program (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots). She finds herself at the school where she will learn to fly military aircraft –to ferry them to bases, etc. and free up military pilots for combat. 

The aptly named “Avenger Field ” program in Texas is tough and is complicated by a Congressional “spy” who seems to dislike Sally in particular and female pilots in general. He is looking for problems and seems bent on closing down the WASP program.

With this conflict simmering, Frienderich who based his novel on real-life stories of WWII flygirls gives the reader a massive helping of the long hours, tough classroom and flying conditions experienced by the women in the program. He also adds a dash of romance, mystery and history to his book pulling in historic figures as well as pertinent war information.

It’s an easy and interesting read and if it is true that this will be a series, a TV mini-series seems probable as well.  Entertaining with believable characters (perhaps just a bit too black and white in terms of the good vs. bad guys) but a delicious slice of history for anyone interested in aviation. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April suggestions

Need a few suggestions for your April reading? Well, you are in luck -  there are many great novels including several great historical novels out this month. Here are a few of my picks for the month:

 Writer Michelle Moran is back with another novel about one of histories most intriguing women - this time Marie Grosholtz who became  Madame Tussaud of waxworks fame. How this petite girl became a front seat participant to the French Revolution is an intriguing story and one sure to keep you riveted. From the family salon where she helped entertain the likes of Robespiere to the court of Louis the XVI and the lovely Marie Antoinette to the horrors of the guillotine, Marie watched her country go from a monarchy to anarchy to a semblance off a republic albeit one awash in blood.  Fascinating read about this wax sculptress who made models of the famous and infamous and eventually death masks for the royals she had befriended.

Garden Spells writer Sarah Addison Allen's new book takes place in Walls of Water, N.C. and like her previous works there is a thread of magic woven through the multi-generation story that brings two diverse families together as a historic home "The Blue Ridge Madam,"  is renovated and re-opened as a magnificent bed and breakfast. Willa's family who lost their money in the 1930's owned the Madam - but she has never been in the old house unlike  Osgood heiress and former classmate Paxton who has taken on the challenge of restoring the Madam. But just what secrets does the Madam hold and what do the elderly Grandmother's of the two young women know? Will the secrets of the house long buried (literally) impact the lives of Willa and Paxton? Another of this author's tempting books will keep you reading to find  the answer!

Before Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII loved Bess Blount and she bore him a son who lived until he was in his late teens.  Who was this girl who captured the heart of a young king? Diane Haeger explores the story of Elizabeth Blount and the unpolished girl's entry to the glittering if sometimes solemn court of Henry and his Queen Katherine of Aragon. With a head filled with romance and tales of Camelot, Lancelot and courtly love, Bess is naive and thinks Henry VIII is in love with his Queen and doesn't have affairs. She quickly falls for the dashing king - never expecting she will be in his bed and become the first official mistress. Her dearest friend, Gilbert Tailboys (secret son of Cardinal Wolsey) becomes her husband following the birth off a royal son and Bess finds happiness in the marriage although it seems a part of her will always have a fondness and flame for Henry. 

A kind heart distinguishes Bess from so many tales of other royal mistresses and Haeger paints an appealing portrait of this woman who captured Henry VIII and gave him his heart's desire - a healthy son. 

When Alice Ibbetson, an artist and gardener covets and eventually follows her obsession for a rare orchid and under cover of darkness steals it - she cannot imagine the chain of events that will transpire. Her neighbor, Richard Wheeler a Quaker is dismayed by the theft of the "Lady's Slipper" orchid and confronts her about the theft. In denial, Alice's doesn't realize realize her crafty maid is set upon vengeance and finds a way to bring down heaven's wrath.  The novel takes place in turbulent 17th century England Charles II was on the throne following Cromwell's death (The Restoration) but memories of the Civil War still divide the land. Quakers are heavily persecuted. This religious intolerance is just one facet of the book that adds another layer of intrigue to the orchid theft. Numerous characters feel drawn to the orchid and lay claim to it for various reasons chief among them medicinal - tragedy is a cornerstone of this greed and the book doesn't gloss over the judicial system of this time period. A worthy read. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Bride's House

The Bride’s House

So, what happens when you get an advance copy of a book in the mail from a publisher and it just happens to be the The Bride’s House by Sandra Dallas. Well, of course you sit down to read the back cover and then you are so intrigued you sit down to read a few pages. The next thing you know you have finished the book – in one night.  That is what I did. Although I was already a big fan of her books I found the style of writing to be different than her other books – wonderful in a slightly more lush style -  and the story will resonate with women of all ages about the choices we make from the options that life brings to us.

The three generations of women in this novel that range from “Nealie,” a battered but strong girl who strikes out on her own to build a new life in Colorado during the late 1800’s and finds love with two very different men.  Later comes another woman, quiet and dutiful who must find her own happiness as she lives a life shaped by her father’s memories. Finally, there is Susan, a child of privilege who may have the chance to find her dreams in Georgetown, Colorado. The legacy of the house all three women have shared and loved is the tie that binds and the place of secrets – “The Bride’s House.”  Will the house bring them happiness or heartache?

With the Colorado mining industry as the historical background, Sandra Dallas weaves another tale of lives touched by love, misery, heartache, misunderstandings, loss and hope.  A saga for those who enjoy her books and for anyone with a yearning for a touch of romance or a passion for historical novels. Beautifully written, the characters are voiced with understanding and love. Truly an effort worthy of the author’s reputation for excellence!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Threads West - A Saga to Skip

In Threads West  the adventure begins just as the book ends. The worst part is that there are five more books in the saga.  It could easily be two books if the author had condensed the material, focused on the story and spent less time (the entire first half of the book) developing each character’s history when it could have been integrated into the story. Just as the characters (from several countries who all end up in St. Louis and all have a link to a treasure map and all set out on the same wagon train headed west) finally have some real action and the story really begins - the book ends. After only 222 pages. I am glad I didn’t pay to read it.

What a disappointment. It’s certainly not a western. It’s too long for a short story. Some of the characters seem to be drawn from romance novels although the “romantic moments,” would leave romance readers disappointed by the rather inept descriptions of those encounters. Everyone seems like a caricature – the smart, clever Jewish man, the big Scandinavian, the entitled British snob, and the hard drinking, card shark, cheating Irishman. I really wanted to like this book – but between the overwrought descriptions and the overwhelming coincidences it was just unbelievable.

It says on the back of the book that it is being compared to Lonesome Dove and Centennial. That is like equating a Harlequin Romance with Pride and Prejudice. But all things have their place and this book may find an audience with people who have lots of money to spare buying six books. Personally, after this one I won’t pay for the next five. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Historian: Another Great Read

.       #3.      The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova  

For lovers of historical fiction this is a gem and if you enjoy a touch of the supernatural with vampire lore then you’ll devour this author’s first novel.  With settings in remote castles, chilling crypts, glorious Istanbul and enough history to thrill a scholar the believable and intriguing characters span time to tell the story of Vlad the Impaler and a young woman’s search for the truth after she finds a mysterious document among her Father’s papers. Beguiling, suspenseful and fun. A lamp burner and very original!

This is another gem you may have missed when it was first published - it received great reviews - but if you didn't read it - don't skip it!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sandra Dallas: Many Great Books To Read

I am continuing my list of books to read in 2011- some you may have missed through the years. Here are some great reads by author Sandra Dallas. I discovered her by chance in a bookstore when I was intrigued by the title of her  book - Buster Midnight's Cafe. I bought the book, fell in love with the characters and her writing style  and have been a fan ever since that time. 

4.  Buster Midnight’s Café  by  Sandra Dallas  Some of the most compelling and loveable characters in fiction are in this book. Small town Montana boasted a movie star hopeful (May Anna) and a heavyweight contender (Buster) but their two best friends Effa Commander and Whippy Bird (you’ll love her) stay back home in Butte as their pals find fame, fortune and ultimately tragedy. A beautifully written story that evokes  war time rural America and all the glamour of studio era 1940’s Hollywood.  A book I have gifted repeatedly… If you love this you’ll also enjoy The Persian Pickle Club (a quilting circle in 1930’s Kansas that provides life support and group therapy for it’s vastly different women - think Steel Magnolias at a quilting bee), The Diary of Mattie Spenser about a young Iowa wife on the Overland Trail (by covered wagon) on her way to Colorado. Getting used to a husband, a new land, and then a prairie home are all shared through her writings. And what a tale she tells… My other Dallas favorite is Whiter Than Snow, which takes place in a small Colorado mining town in the 1920’s and centers on the terrible wait to discover who has survived an avalanche that buried a school. Each of the families is detailed with their story woven through the continuing thread of fear and hope. It is a day when the haves and have nots of the town become equals and when the barriers of wealth and poverty have no distinction. A powerful narrative.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ten to read in 2011: Old Gold - the first 4 recommendations

Here are some of my favorites that you might have missed through the years. You should be able to find most of them at your library or though a local bookstore. They are not in any particular order and range from classics to romance to historical fiction - something for everyone!

10. Paint the Wind  Cathy Cash Spellman’s western historical romance is a sweeping tribute to the boldness of the frontier and the men and women who carved out their destinies following the Civil War. You’ll take a “Fancy” to this one with its tale stretching from Louisiana to a Colorado mining town  to New York City and a cast of characters including a madam, miners, and the two men who love the same woman.

9. Confederacy of Dunces  by John Kennedy Toole.  The title for this singular (and posthumously awarded 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner)  tome comes from the Jonathan Swift quotation, "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." The book takes place in New Orleans (home of the author) and tells the story of Ignatius J. Reilly a thirtyish slob who although well educated believes that lady fortune (ah, goddess Fortuna where are you?) doesn’t shine upon him and his job hunting (through no fault of his own of course!). Unforgettable, with characters so colorful you will find it IMPOSSIBLE to believe the film has yet to be made. Hollywood please hurry --- but PLEASE don’t ruin this masterpiece!

8.     Tender by Mark Childress.  Growing up dirt poor in Mississippi and then becoming the most famous rock and rock legend in history – kind of sounds like Elvis Presley. That will be your guess too when you read this well written and fascinating novel about “Leroy’s” early years, including the twin he lost at birth, his adoring and overly attentive mother, a voice unlike any other and the quest for fame.  An emotional ride through the fictionalized life of the boy from Tupelo who called Memphis home.

7.       In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. When a middle-aged career woman enters a cloistered Benedictine convent her entire life becomes centered on quiet, thoughtful contemplation, prayer and life within a community of other women. Huge lifestyle change! Rumer Godden does a beautiful job of weaving the fabric of religious life along with the emotional upheaval, spiritual quest (and questions) community (including the stories of the other nuns) as she tells the story of Phillipa Talbot and her new life as a cloistered nun in an English convent. (You may remember the 1970’s movie with Diana Rigg).

Monday, January 24, 2011

A trip can change your life and Conor Grennan's book, little princes, documents this fact as he writes about his sojourn to an orphanage in Nepal. When he decided to take a year off to travel  Grennan, decided to add a brief stint of volunteering to his journey so it wouldn't seem quite so self indulgent. An orphanage in Nepal sounded interesting, even if he didn't know anything about kids - well, it was just a few weeks so how hard could it be? 

Grennan discovers that the young boys have many lessons to teach him about survival, joy, charity and life. How he takes these lessons and uses them to navigate his own life and then to begin unraveling the mysteries of  the child trafficking web in Nepal that ensnares his young friends makes this story compelling and extraordinary reading. Civil War has ravaged Nepal and its families and Grennan makes it his mission to reunite the little princes with their families - families who willing gave up all they owned in the belief they were giving their children a chance at a better life.

A great read and one that will move you to action --- check out Conor Grennan's  web page at  http://www.nextgenerationnepal.org/

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Khan: Empire of Silver

Khan: Empire of Silver is the fourth of Conn Iggulden's series about Genghis Khan's Mongol empire - this time without Genghis to anchor the story. Court intrigue among the remaining brothers (and grandsons), battles (he writes these so very well), family relations (or lack there of), trying to hold an empire together that at times seemed to be glued together only by the blood and wrath of Genghis proves difficult for his heirs as their thoughts are scattered by dreams of glory.

Like all of Iggulden's previous books it has fascinating history to draw in the reader but this particular time I personally found it difficult to keep up with the characters. There were so many that it was often hard to remember who was who.

Nonetheless, the history was very informative and I learned so much (I never knew the Mongols had fought the Templars, nor about the Battle with King Bela of Hungary.) But I was most intrigued by the story of a younger brother's sacrifice to heal his elder brother (a shaman’s idea.)

A worthy read for a history buff or anyone interested in the Mongols, historical battles or family sagas.