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Reading wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay

    Like many novels, Reay creates two separate story timeliness to propel this Cold War story forward; one that begins in 1954 and one that begins in 1980. Here is my book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay.

    Vienna after the War

    Ingrid Bauer has lost everything and everyone she loves. Her beloved Vienna is in shambles. And so she agrees to a brief courtship and marriage to a Soviet embassy worker and they move back to Moscow where he accepts a promotion.

    But timid Ingrid finds everything about the Soviet regime difficult. Including her husband who she now suspects is working for the KGB. When she gives birth to a daughter, she realizes this secretive Soviet world is not what she wants for this darling little baby to grow up with. And so she secretly reaches out to the British embassy, where she was secretly born, and begins a life as a spy.

    Moscow at the Height of the Cold War

    Anya, a bright and aspiring student from the Soviet Union, has spent four years in the coveted Foreign Studies Initiative at Georgetown University. During her time in the USA she has pretended to be German, because the USSR and the USA are definitely not friends. She has also fallen in love with an American, although she knows she must cut the relationship off, as her time to return to the Soviet Union approaches.

    Anya struggles after she returns, and begins to question the oppressive regime. When her best friend is murdered by the KGB, Anya vows revenge and becomes a spy for the United States.

    On a Collision Course

    As these two stories unfold, it’s clear these two remarkable women are headed for a collision course. But what does that mean? When a act of treachery in Eastern Europe puts them both in extreme danger, something, or someone will make a decision that will change everyone’s lives forever.

    Book Review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay

    I really loved this book. I enjoyed a novel about the Cold War era…a topic not often explored. The writing is very good and I was intrigued throughout. *****Five stars for A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay.

    Thanks for reading my book review A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay. See last week’s book review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger here.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    I have enjoyed three other books by William Kent Krueger; Lightning Strike and Ordinary Grace as well as one of my all time favorite reads This Tender Land. Today I present his latest – here is my book review The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    Murder in a Small Town

    The theme of a murder in a small town isn’t a new one, but Krueger manages to capture the small town feeling so eloquently in this novel. It’s 1958 and the story begins when the body of the towns wealthy, arrogant and mostly disliked Jimmy Quinn is found in the Alabaster River. But Quinn didn’t drown, he was shot.

    Whodunit?

    Sherriff Brody Dern begins the investigation, as he deals with his own emotional scars from his time in the war. But he is focused and sees clearly that the murder scene has been set up. But by who? The small town has a surprisingly large cast of characters, given how just about everyone disliked Quinn.

    At the top of the suspect list, at least to most of the racist folks in town, is Noah Bluestone, a WWII Veteran and Native American. Bluestone’s Japanese wife, who is also discriminated against in the post-war era is also a suspect.

    Throughout the investigation Brody is assisted by a former deputy, an eccentric attorney, and a newspaper editor, each dealing with their own demons and life tragedies. Quinn’s family is also suspect, none of them seeming overly grief stricken about the murder of Jimmy Quinn.

    Fairness

    Can this highly charged murder get a fair trial in a small town such as Jewell Minnisota? Only a few level headed townspeople as well as two teenage boys can keep an open mind as the investigation comes to a violent end.

    Book Review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

    Although not my favorite Krueger novel, this book captured by attention and was easy to read. Five stars for A River We Remember. See last week’s book review Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer

    Thanks for reading my book review A River We Remember by William Kent Krueger. We love it when you comment, pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers

    This is a powerful telling of three generations of Yanktonai Dakota Native American Women over multiple generations. Disturbing but also important, like other books about the horrific treatment of Native peoples during the early years of USA expansion. Here is my book review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers.

    Dolls

    Powers using dolls to tell this story…three dolls that belonged to three different generations of women. Each doll propelling the story forward of the anguish and heartache of these women and their life and loves.

    First we meet Sissy in the early 1960’s as she tries to make her mother love her. Sissy wants to feel secure and safe, but her mother is battling her own demons. Sissy’s doll Ethel might save her life.

    Next we meet Lillian, who has witnessed the unthinkable at the hands of a nun in an Indian School in the 1920’s far from her family she loves. Lillian will lose two people she loves the most, and her doll Mae will try to ease the pain.

    And finally we meet Cora, born in 1888 her life will be upended at the end of the Indian Wars when she is transferred to an Indian School. On arrival her most precious items will be taken from her and burned, including her doll Winona. The spirit of Winona will guide Cora through the tragedies that will come.

    This is a powerful story of the generations of grief and pain that will forever haunt the people who witnessed the massacre of a people at the hands of white run, Christian boarding schools that have still to this day not apologized or provided restitution for the damage and death that was dealt.

    *****Five stars for The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers.

    Thank you for reading my book review The Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers. See last week’s book review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

    Parts of this book I loved, in particular the focus on a family with a disabled child who doesn’t speak. But other parts of it I just didn’t love, in particular the portrayal of police detective as dishonest and a few too many coincidences to keep the plot moving forward. But you will need to decide for yourself. Here is my book review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim.

    Crisis

    The book is placed during the pandemic when Mia and her family are on lockdown in their home. Mia, home from college, and her twin brother John, have returned to the family home where their bi-racial parents (Mom Hannah Korean and Dad Adam Caucasian) live with their disabled brother Eugene. The family has dealt with eleven -year- old Eugene’s severe disability of Angelman Syndrome and Autism. Eurgene does not speak. This is the families biggest crisis to date – the constant care of Eugene. And then there is a little thing called the Pandemic. But what happens next is the biggest crisis of all.

    Missing

    Mia’s father is missing. How long do you wait to call the police when someone is missing? Hindsight is always helpful, but on the day this particular crisis began Mia doesn’t think there is really anything unusual about the fact her father is not home.

    But as the hours and days drag on, clearly this is a major crisis. The last person to see dad Adam was Eugene. But Eugene is unable to communicate. Or is he really? Did Adam know something about communicating with Eugene? Does Eugene’s so called “violent” outbursts mean he is a suspect? Did Eugene attack a police officer or was he trying to communicate?

    Where is Adam?

    The heart of the book is this family and the crisis they are thrust into when Adam does not return home from a day in the park with Eugene. Decisions, or lack of in the first few hours as well as discoveries on Adam’s computer and voice mail will send the family spiraling as they try to understand what has happened to the man they love. Could he possibly have been unfaithful? Disappeared on purpose? Or has he been injured or killed? Where is he?

    This missing person drama is written with an interesting collection of footnotes and multiple genre styles that are unique and propel the reader forward in the story. Kim has a race element and uses the pandemic as part of the plot. As I said before I liked this book, and praise Kim’s research of the subject of Angelman Syndrome. I learned a lot about that. But I just didn’t love the story. Good but not great.

    Four stars for Happiness Falls by Angie Kim.

    Thanks for reading my book review Happiness Falls by Angie Kim. See last week’s book review The Samurais Garden by Gail Tsukiyama.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama.

    This beautiful, easy to read novel made me choke up at the end. I highly recommend it. Here is my Book Review The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama.

    1930’s Japan & China

    Tsukiyama, who herself is part Chinese and part Japanese, creates a beautiful narrative of 1930’s pre-war China and Japan. We are introduced to a 20-year old young Chinese man, who comes home from university to recover from tuberculosis. His family sends him to their summer home in Japan, to get him out of the city and to help him recover near the sea.

    Stephen misses his family, especially his younger sister, but over the course of year he becomes close to Matsu, the caretaker of the families home. Despite the Chinese boy and the Japanese man’s different upbringings, economic status and cultural differences, the two develop a bond. And Stephen learns about Matsu’s secrets, his loyalty and love.

    Matsu will teach Stephen about devotion, and survival in a world that prizes honor more than life itself. As we learn more about past tragedies in Matsu’s life, Stephen both matures and returns to health.

    But when Japan invades China, and World War is mounting, the two friends will say good bye with hopeful hearts to see one another again.

    Book Review The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama

    A short and easy to read novel, with an underlying message of tolerance and love, that goes beyond any Chinese or Japanese story I have read before. *****Five stars for The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama.

    See last week’s book review Still Life by Sarah Winman

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Still Life by Sarah Winman

    I loved this book. One of the best novels I’ve read in months. Unforgettable characters and a story of love, family, poetry, art and war. Here is my book review Still Life by Sarah Winman.

    War

    At first I thought this was going to be a WWII story. And though we start in Italy in 1944, when we meet Ulysses and Evelyn, at it’s heart it really isn’t about the war. The war will certainly follow the characters through the story and through the next thirty years, but the real story is about love.

    Love

    I’m not talking a romance novel here. Oh no. The love in this book is about so much more than physical attraction, although there is a lot of that too. The love that comes out of a chance meeting in Italy at the end of the war will surround this novel and it’s fascinating collection of character. Winman expertly guides the reader through all ranges of the emotion from the love of a man and women, the love of a women and women, the love that comes from friends who are closer than family. The decades long epic novel explores the love of art, food, poetry, as well as authors, artists even a parrot.

    Confused? Don’t be. Open your heart to this book, it’s beautiful story, it’s well developed characters and it’s underlying sizzling theme.

    Saga

    Winman takes the reader from 1940’s Tuscany to London and back in this sweeping thirty year portrait of people you will fall in love with, as they fall in love with each other, life and country. It’s a deeply respectful epic of generations thrown together and clinging for dear life. And one parrot.

    Book Review Still Life by Sarah Winman

    *****Five stars for a perfect book that will make you laugh and cry and fill you with wonder. Thanks for reading my book review Still Life by Sarah Winman. See last week’s book review Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

    I have only read one other book by James McBride, that was Deacon King Kong back in 2021. I liked that one. His new book The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store has garnered all kinds of praise. So I had to see what it was all about. Here is my Book Review The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.

    Pay Attention

    McBride is a master of weaving a tale, and so you gotta be on your toes with this novel. In this book you will meet a wildly varied group of characters, each brilliantly developed and lushly described by McBride. We find ourselves on Chicken Hill, a run down neighborhoods of Pottstown Pennsylvania where African Americans and immigrant Jews live and work side by side.

    Margins

    The folks of Chicken Hill manage to get by despite living on the margins of the wider white community who control everything from the water system to the police. Blacks and Jews work the system as best they can, but without each other it doesn’t come together for the people of Chicken Hill.

    Our Story

    Our story focuses on Moshe an immigrant Jew and his beautiful wife Chona an American born Jew. There lives are entwined with Nate, a black worker at Moshe’s theater and Nate’s wife Addie who helps Chona at the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. Nate and Addie’s 12 year old nephew Dodo, who is deaf, finds out the “State” is trying to put him in an institution. Trouble ensues as the entire community comes together to silently and conspiratorially help Dodo.

    Meanwhile the white elite of the town, including lecherous Doc Roberts and a local City Council man are creating additional problems for the people of Chicken Hill. This is when the bonds of friendship, love and community will come together. Not everyone will survive, but no one will ever be forgotten in the tight knit community of Chicken Hill, home of the Heaven and Earth Grocery Store.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

    *****Five Stars for The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. See last week’s book review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell.

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