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Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE ROMANOV SISTERS; The Lost Lives of the Daughters of NIcholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport



History and Russian buffs will love this history of the last Tsar and his family. Although the title seems to indicate the book will revolve around the four Romanov daughters more than half of the book is spent with their mother Alexandra and her ills, their brother Alexie who suffers from Hemophilia and the influence of Rasputin.  

 Perhaps because the girls were so sheltered from the public little actual “news” is available to write about them, their lives, their schooling and private lives.  The book reads quickly and is interesting, especially as it relates the family to their English and German relatives. 

If you are hoping to read the bloody details of the family’s end, you will need to find another book as this one ends with their banishment from public and royal life. You will, however, discover a family that cherishes normality and each other.
4 of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Laura McHugh



THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD concerns what happens when family loyalty blinds one member to the oddities, questions and inconsistencies of another member; when love for a brother leads one to cover up misdeeds in the name of family and to continue for years never admitting the half truths that abound. 
This thriller by Laura McHugh starts out mildly unsettling and ratchets up as the pages turn.  Carl and Clete are brothers who both fall for the same girl, Lila, an orphan who comes to the Ozarks for work and finds love. After marrying Carl, Lila has a daughter Lucy, who is loved by both her father and her uncle.  In short order a town girl disappears and her body is found dismembered and stuffed in a tree.  Lila, considered an outsider and perhaps a witch, disappears soon after. The story continues 16 years later with Lila’s daughter and increasing tension between the brothers and in the town.
McHugh does a good job with tension and atmosphere, characterization and ordinariness as the story deepens into horror. Some readers may be disturbed by the subtext of white slavery.  Book groups will discuss family secrets, loyalty, the pull of neighborliness, mental handicaps, privacy and small town morals topics for discussion.
4 of 5 stars

Saturday, February 22, 2014

THE SECRET OF MAGIC by Deborah Johnson



This is a wonderful book!  The book jacket does not do it justice.  I almost didn’t buy it. Then I started reading and couldn’t put it down.  The writing reminds me of THE HELP or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or IN COLD BLOOD or even MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL – all great books.
A black war hero is returning home to Mississippi after WWII when he is beaten to death and dumped in the river.  The story concerns the hero’s father and the two women – one white, one black – who want to see justice served in a segregated Jim Crow South. The characters in this book are real people (fictional) who are shown in both their goodness and their fear, their needs and their disappointments, their triumphs and their failures.  The town of Revere, Mississippi, is as much a character as the people who populate the town -  the District Attorney, the sheriff, the white lawyer and the black lawyer, the erstwhile lover and his wife and son, the maybe murderess and the ever present sense of fear and “place.”
The story is riveting. You will not be disappointed.  Book groups will find a wealth of topics to discuss.
5 of 5 stars

Sunday, February 16, 2014

GAME, SET and MURDER by Elizabeth Flynn




If you like tennis and you like cozy murder mysteries you will love this book.  Detective Inspector Angela Costello is on her first case as a DI when a beloved tennis star is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Costello is a likeable character who thinks carefully through the clues and suspects.  Red herrings abound with the suspect tennis players and their friends (enemies?) who are individuals and not stock characters. The plot is full of surprises and twists that will keep you guessing until the final pages.. 
This is a quick read that is quite enjoyable.  I look forward to reading more about DI Angela Costello.
4 of 5 stars

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card



ENDER”S GAME   by Orson Scott Card
This young adult book has been out for some time, but I had never read it before.  The premise is a child (Ender, age 6) is a genius at war games on the computer and the adults will use him to win a war against the “buggers.” It will soon be a major motion picture.  I felt that the story could have been told as a Western or other genre as easily as Sci-fi.  The battle scenes were exciting while the psychological scenes were boring and mercifully brief.  The book was interesting as a war/battle story but I was disappointed as I was looking for a classic, memorable tale. 
Ender is a fully developed character and the reader is allowed to see how his mind is developed and manipulated as the story proceeds and Ender ages from 6 to 15 years or so.  The brother and sister are less well developed, the brother only seen through the eyes (mind) of Ender and the sister.  Several adult characters also appear in one dimensional form. They serve to guide (or manipulate) Ender through the intricacies of the “game” meant to train him for the coming war.
The end will not be a surprise to the adult reader.  Book groups will want to discuss the psychology and manipulation of children. Morality and violence may also be topics as well as fear of others different from the norm.
3 of 5 stars.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd



THE INVENTION OF WINGS   by Sue Monk Kidd
Kidd’s retelling of the Grimke sisters and their fight for equality for women and the abolition of slavery is told with sympathy and fact.  Although much of the story is fiction, Kidd manages to remain true to the real life story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke in the days and decades before the Civil War.  A number of “big names” appear in the sisters’ ongoing struggle to be heard in a male dominated South and respected in a male dominated North.
The tale loses momentum in the middle, possibly because the sisters’ actual lives also stalled in their middle years.   The addition of the totally fictional characters of Charlotte and Hetty carry the story well, giving the slave side of Southern life.  The horrors of slavery are graphically depicted.
I can recommend this book without reservation for anyone interested in Southern life, abolition, women’s rights, and the life style and treatment of women in antebellum Charleston, South Carolina. Also interesting is the role of the church (in many permutations) in the condoning of slavery and the treatment of women.
5 of 5 stars