A quaint and enlightening tale of a man's journey into the world of selling rare objects and books in London. Subtle wit and an obvious love of books, booksellers, dusty shelves, hidden alcoves and book lovers of all kinds grace the pages of Oliver's travels in his apprenticeship at one of the oldest bookshops in the world- Henry Sotheran Ltd. Imagine book dungeons where nooks and crannies hide treasure on every shelf or you might come across a gourd carved with the likeness of Queen Victoria. A place where a dying breed of craftsmen toil away repairing book bindings considered hopeless. A place where every phone call may lead to a treasure trove and every search may begin in one direction and end in another completely different. Welcome to Oliver Darkshire's introduction and education into the remarkable world of antiquarian bookselling. Fun to read and guaranteed to make you unable to walk past any old bookshop in the future without wanting to go in. 3 1/2 stars
Dust Child by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
A moving story of war and the after effects that ripple through generations. Vietnam in 1969 where young boys barely out of their teens have been thrown into the madness and mayhem of a foreign country in war. Many find comfort in bars where young Vietnamese girls help them forget for a few hours. Two sisters are lured away from their village with the promise of easy money working in one of these Sai Gon bars. Soon they discover that it is more than just selling drinks and talking that is required of them. One sister and a lonely American will fall in love and escape into their own world far away from the war. Fast forward to 2016 and that G.I. is now racked with guilt about the pregnant girl he left behind in Vietnam. He travels overseas with his wife (who is ignorant of the real reason for the visit) to find her and redeem himself. We also see life through one of the many Amerasian children who do not fit in either society - they have been abandoned by both countries caught between wanting to find their American fathers but being taken advantage of. Engrossing and heartfelt, this is a story that is long overdue. A mix of corruption and innocence, love and the violence and loss of war and family vs. culture. 4 stars
While these crimes and the number of coffins will horrify some so will the living conditions for the women living in this Hungarian village in the 1920's. Women were born enslaved first to their fathers and then to their husbands giving birth to more children than they could feed and suffering from the abuse of the men in their family. Living conditions brought new meaning to the term "dirt poor" so many turned to the only woman they knew who could help - Auntie Suzy the village midwife. She hastened the end of unwanted children and husbands alike. Arsenic was her medicine of choice and soon the number of natural deaths and new friends added up. This put her in a position of power as it would be a death sentence for the women to reveal their part in all of this. Unbelievably this went unchecked until a prosecutor almost a decade after Aunt Suzy began started to put clues together. Vivid descriptions told in an investigative true crime style offer us a glimpse into life for these poor women and the power hungry midwife who offered them a way out. 3 stars
Our favorite American female sniper is back in Paris even though the Nazis have put a most wanted target on her back. Kate is only taking this mission to rescue a friend but the Brits see the opportunity to add to it and the danger. Shoot the mark, deliver a package and pick up the asset is all she must do but somehow these missions never go as planned. Things start to go wrong from the start but Kate, near exhaustion must keep zig-zagging to stay one step ahead of capture. Adrenaline filled WWII spy chase that moves as fast as Kate must with ever changing information and not knowing who to trust. This is not a cozy cup of tea historical fiction but more of a double scotch and cold blast of winter air type thriller where you, like Kate, must stay awake and alert until the final page. This does pick up after the previous Kate Rees book but is easily read as a standalone. For fans of Ken Follett's spy tales and Kate Quinn's THE DIAMOND EYE. 4 stars
Womb by Leah Hazard
It is the one thing that ties us together yet it is the most misunderstood and ignored organ in our body. Throughout history women have endured poking, prodding, testing and countless hours of pain and humiliation all because of the mighty uterus. Leah Hazard presents a comprehensive look from menstruation to menopause that is very readable. The joy of child birth to the pain of loss or failure of the uterus to act as it should. Women have been taught to suffer in silence and take advice from confusing sources. The author does not just present the negative historical account but also exploration of future treatments and the glorious account of what the magnificent can do. She invites us to take ownership and fight for rights to your body so we don't relive the mistakes of the past. A book all women should read and share!
Filipina maids working in Singapore look to some like a step up from their homeland and for many it is but for others it is just another form of imprisonment and control. To the wealthy wives who employ them they are hired help lucky to have a roof over their heads, food to eat (leftovers) and a day off but to these women they are judged, verbally abused and watched 24/7 should they slip up. Cora is treated very well by the widow who has taken her on, even awkwardly being made to feel like a confidant and family member but she lives in fear that her nephew's past and her escape from the Philippines will come to light. When one of her friends is accused of murdering her employer it sends shockwaves through the housekeepers and employers alike. It seems shocking to see how the housekeepers are treated and to report it means certain deportation or worse as the wealthy homeowner is always in the right. You will cheer this ragtag little group as they try to clear their friend's name and fight for their innocence and rights. Powerful and hopefully eyeopening this story will resonate with readers and affect change. 4 stars
Maybe Next Time by Cesca Major
A British version of Groundhog Day to fix a life before all is lost. Emma is trying to be everything to everyone and we know how that goes. From her super romantic husband, to her kids, to her boss and the needy authors she represents as well as a power hungry school committee - she is stretched thin.
Between phone and the voices in her head she is never really present for anything else until the night she see her husband die in front of her and is given a chance to redeem herself. She wakes the next day only to find that it is again the day before and keeps adjusting things to try to correct her mistakes. What would we change if we got a second chance? A sobering look at how getting everything you want and realizing that it is all too much. 3 1/2 stars
Lillian Waters is a country western singer/songwriter forced to call it quits after this last tour. Some see it as a publicity stunt especially with it ending in the little town she came from in Washington but Lillian knows why it has to be. She has pulled herself up by the bootstraps before and after leaving home during hard times in the 40's and never looked back. She sings and writes songs of what she knows - the hard fought gigs, the men who didn't care about her singing talent, all those endless bus rides from place to place and the relationships that didn't work. Charlie is the one person who has seen Lil at her best and absolute worst and even he couldn't stick with it forever. This is a snapshot of the early years (pre-Nashville) of country music focusing on the women who made it great and one woman's journey always pushing through to the front without looking back and what it cost her. This will strike a chord for lovers of the Queens of country music as well as those who appreciate a historical tale of a strong woman during the 40's through the 80's. 3 1/2 stars
A beautifully and mesmerizing gothic story of the immortal lives of one woman. Collette now is an artist and head of a small art school for children in New York. She has become overly fond of one of her small charges, a sickly and very talented boy caught up in a complicated home life. This is not a good situation for Collette. The chapters travel back and forth between present day and her many other lives which always end in discovery, violence and flight. Her existence depends on a regular blood supply which unlike other vampire stories she does not lurk in the shadows ripping out the throats of innocents and instead hunts small animals and feeds on livestock and the occasional men not worth saving. Her big heart and maternal instincts draw her to care for the children she tries to help all the while knowing she is placing them in danger and that the God of Endings will end her someday. This plan worked until Leo wormed his way into her heart and added to her hunger not just for blood but to truly live fully for once. This is for readers of softer vampire stories of Ann Rice or THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova.
4 1/2 stars
1935 North Carolina
Leah's life is upended after her dad's logging accident leaves her an orphan at 14. She is sent away to become a "helpmate" for a wealthy family which is just another way to say indentured servant. With only one true friend left at home Leah tries to escape and gain her independence. Sadly this is also a time when Eugenics was starting and Leah is deemed as being wanton and wild. Without her consent she is sterilized. A harrowing story of innocence lost and man's inhumanity to man (or woman). This is perfect for fans of WHERE THE CRAWDAD SINGS and THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE. 3 1/2 stars
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