Mireille by Molly Cochran

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 619 pgs
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Mireille by Molly Cochran is a sweeping novel that takes place near the end of WWII through the 1960s, and the title character is forced from her home at the same time she is forced to realize that her life must become an illusion in order for her to survive.  Mireille is an unusual beauty who finds herself caught in the web of her own lies later in life, and while she’s desperate to escape, she’s also careful to protect her family from harm, even if that means paying a heavy price.  Following the end of WWII, she makes the trek on foot to Paris and finds herself in even worse health and shape than when she ran from her home.  She learns quickly that kindness is hard to come by and that the only way she can provide for herself and survive is the become the best prostitute in all of Paris.

Cochran has dove deep into the world of Paris escorts, and the depravity Mireille finds there is something that she can only deal with by severing her actions from her true 17-year-old self.  She soon meets Oliver Jordan, a famous movie producer from Hollywood, but he’s darker than she ever could imagine.  He will remind readers of the Marquis de Sade driven by his baser instincts and clearly someone who knows nothing about love or emotional attachment.  He only understands manipulation, physical release, and ownership.

Mireille by Molly Cochran is a page turner that is neatly wrapped up by the end of the novel, and as long as readers can ignore the historical issues — such as actresses unable to earn a great deal because they were owned by their respective studios at the time in the novel and Mireille’s apparent wealth — the book will take them on a dark journey that will leave their stomachs turning.  However, as a book about perseverance, Mireille does have a will that will rival many — as she strives onward even in the most dire circumstances.  A solid read full of sex, profane events, and more.

***My apologies to Molly Cochran and TLC Book Tours for failing to review this in June.***

About the Author:

Molly Cochran is the author of more than twenty novels and nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller GrandmasterThe Forever KingThe Broken Sword, and The Temple Dogs, all cowritten with Warren Murphy. She is also the author of The Third Magic, and she cowrote the nonfiction bestseller Dressing Thin with Dale Goday. Cochran has received numerous awards, including the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, the Romance Writers of America’s “Best Thriller” award, and an “Outstanding” classification by the New York Public Library. Recently she published a series of young adult novels, LegacyPoison, and Seduction, and two novellas, Wishes and RevelsLegacy won a 2013 Westchester Fiction Award.





Mister H by Daniel Nesquens, Illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 61 pgs
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Mister H by Daniel Nesquens, Illustrated by Luciano Lozano, is an early readers chapter book and a little too much to read in one sitting for younger children, like my daughter. For these younger kids, it is best to break it up by chapter for readings so the kids can see the accompanying illustrations, which are delightful, and absorb the story more thoroughly. Mister H is a hippo in search of Africa, his true home, and while he persuades a young girl to free him and leaves the zoo, the conclusion to the story is not a happy ending. Some may find this disappointing, but in many ways, it will help children learn that happy endings are not always available upon first try and that additional chances should be taken.

Nesquens uses a lot of words in this tale and these words can be sometimes large for younger readers, but with help from parents and teachers, kids should be able to sound out these larger words and add to their own vocabularies. Mister H is a tolerant animal in the park who plays with two rambunctious boys and when he is demeaned by a snooty lady in a pizza parlor. Throughout his adventures children will learn how to be persistent in reaching their goals and how to brush off meanness without resorting to similar tactics.

Mister H by Daniel Nesquens, Illustrated by Luciano Lozano, offers a great deal for children to learn about how to interact with others, especially those different from themselves, and how to keep trying even if at first they don’t achieve their goals. Wonderfully illustrated, and observant kids will have fun picking out the happenings that go on beyond just the text.

About the Author:

Daniel Nesquens has been writing children’s books for over ten years. He has published more than thirty titles, including My Tattooed Dad (Groundwood).

About the Illustrator:

Luciano Lozano is a professional illustrator whose work has appeared in books, newspapers, and magazines. He lives in Barcelona. Visit his website.

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 96 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen, is a novella and a dark fairy tale that brings a young teen into the depths of the library’s labyrinth.  The teenage boy loves to read and abides his mother, but the library seems to be his home on many levels until he enters room 107.  From there stranger things happen and the boy meets a sheep man and a mysterious and pretty girl.  Murakami has a wild imagination and it comes to life in these pages.  He’s created a world that is fantastical and odd, but the threats and tensions are real, leaving the reader sweating and despairing alongside his protagonist.

The text is accompanied by odd little drawings and magazine-like images, which add more of a creep factor to the story.  The copy from the library had an odd cover that had one flap flipping up and one flipping down, which could be used as a bookmark, but while reading, they tended to get in the way.  However, that wasn’t enough to detract from the creepy story that unfolded in these pages.  Murakami clearly has a vivid imagination in which animals and men can crossover into different planes of existence.  While many of us enjoy books, reading, and our libraries, The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen, sure will give readers a reason to pause before entering their libraries again.

About the Author:

Haruki Murakami (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’.  Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.  Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko.

Rani in Search of a Rainbow by Shaila Abdullah

Source: Loving Healing Press
Paperback, 56 pgs
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Rani in Search of a Rainbow by Shaila Abdullah is set in Pakistan around the time of the 2010 floods that displaced or disrupted the lives of 20 million people.  Rani and her family are transported to a cap where they live in tents and have very little from their original homes.  However, Rani and the kids in the camp are quick to play and find the sunshine amidst the rain.  Some play with tires and others play games with one another, but Rani wants to help.  She spends her days moving about the camp in search of a job, but she’s too little to help unload the supply trucks and she’s to young to help her mother birth babies.  This eight-year-old, however, is not defeated by her youth or her size, she is determined to find a way to help.  When her friend and neighbor, Juju becomes ill, she again seeks out how best she can help.

Abdullah has created a wonderful story about a young girl who remains resilient and positive in the face of a great many challenges.  These children and their families have had their lives uprooted and schooling disrupted, but like her parents and the other adults, she is making the best of it.  From making new friends and helping those in need, Rani and her family — all of the families — are rebuilding their lives even if they are out of their home element.  Rani learns that the biggest way she can help is by being a friend, and that just may be enough.  The illustrations are vibrant and give kids a sense of what camp life is like without being too gritty.

The illustrations are very easy to relate to and can spark discussions with younger children about Pakistan, its culture, and the terrible floods that displaced these people.  Rani in Search of a Rainbow by Shaila Abdullah could be a great tool to use to teach children about resiliency and kindness, as well as how to cope with unexpected disaster as a family.  Perfect for children ages 5-8.

About the Author:

Noted as “Word Artist” by critics, Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer based in Austin, Texas. She is the author of five books: Saffron Dreams, Beyond the Cayenne Wall, My Friend Suhana, Rani in Search of a Rainbow, and A Manual for Marco. The author has received several awards for her work including the Golden Quill Award and Patras Bukhari Award for English Language. Several academic institutions have adopted her books as course study or recommended reading, including the University of California, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Indiana University, Boston University, California State University, and George Washington University.

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 336 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien, which was the final read-a-long for the 2014 War Through the Generations challenge, is the story of soldiers in Vietnam as they struggle with courage and honor and fate.  Paul Berlin appears to break from reality and is the daydreamer of the group, but he latches onto the dream of Cacciato, who claims you can walk out of the Vietnam War, across Asia and into Europe, all the way to Paris.  In a series of chapters that alternate from reality to fantasy and back again, O’Brien examines what it means to be a soldier in war, struggling to process all the dangers and lulls in danger around them.  Berlin is an observer, but he is quaking in his boots when he arrives.  However, he has a plan, stay on the outside of everything, don’t get attached, and he’ll make it through.

“They were all among the dead.  The rain fed fungus that grew in the men’s boots and socks, and their socks rotted, and their feet turned white and soft so that the skin could be scraped off with a fingernail, and Stink Harris woke up screaming one night with a leech on his tongue.  When it was not raining, a low mist moved across the paddies, blending the elements into a single gray element, and the war was cold and pasty and rotten.”  (page 1)

As O’Brien blends reality and fantasy, readers will want to believe in the fantasies to cling to the adventure story, which also perilous seems less dire than trudging through rice paddies and jungles in search of the enemy.  There is that pervasive feeling throughout the book of being caught — a hopelessness of the situation and a desire to escape it by any means necessary.  When the only purpose to war is the winning of it, morale gets bogged down in the failures and the confusion, at least this is the case for Berlin and his squad members.

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien is O’Brien at his best, using magical realism to bring forth the realities of the war for soldiers and their internal struggles.  A complex novel with a great deal for book clubs to discuss about duty, honor, courage, and self-preservation.  O’Brien is considered one of the best novelists writing about the Vietnam War and this book proves his skill and compassion.

About the Author:

Tim O’Brien was born in 1946 in Austin, Minnesota, and spent most of his youth in the small town of Worthington, Minnesota. He graduated summa cum laude from Macalester College in 1968. From February 1969 to March 1970 he served as infantryman with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, after which he pursued graduate studies in government at Harvard University. He worked as a national affairs reporter for The Washington Post from 1973 to 1974.

34th book (Vietnam War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Hitrecord on TV! Season One by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Source: Dey Street Books
Video, 8 episodes
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HitRecord on TV Season One by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a collaborative effort like the books, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 1, 2, and 3, but these collaborations come to life on stage and in video.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the host of the show, but really he’s his own variety show in that he can act, dance, do tricks, play several instruments, sing, and coordinate all of these projects with hundreds of collaborators.  While this box set includes full-color, stylized booklets for each episode, its the downloaded episodes that will have people riveted.  This show is addictive.  It is not American Idol or The Voice, or any other competitive show about who is the best.  This is a creative engine that is generating a life of its own beyond the screen and the books to create its own artistic community of collaborators and re-mixers.  It is addictive to watch, and I’ve had the song, Freakin’ On My Front Lawn stuck in my head for days!

Each episode is chock full of facts, stories, and fun, JGL takes his role as collaborator and host seriously and he’s all about honest production and fun.  There is audience interaction at the live reveals and each piece begins with the germ of an idea.  Rather than focus on our actual trash production, the episode on trash spoke with John Waters to talk about what it means to make or be trash.  These interviews with the famous and famous in their own industry add even more flavor to the show.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt clearly loves these projects from beginning to end, and audiences will be infected with this sense of joy and inspiration from the moment they begin watching.

With only eight downloadable episodes, the season seems too short, but there are additional downloads from 17 songs/soundtracks to bonus content.  Do not forget about the books!  These slim volumes include so much in such a small space that they are little powerhouses unto themselves.  HitRecord on TV Season One by Joseph Gordon-Levitt would make the perfect gift for the artists in the family, but also for those looking for a fresh show the likes of Ed Sullivan.  The only drawback is these are downloads and not DVDs, and for some of us not quite versed in streaming from computers to televisions, etc., it makes it a little harder.  But it is well worth the effort.

About the Artist:

HitRECord founder and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s acting career has managed to garner a massive popular appeal while maintaining a widely respected artistic integrity. He recently starred in Christopher Nolan’s Academy Award-nominated Inception and received Golden Globe, Independent Spirit and People’s Choice award nominations for his performance in (500) Days of Summer. Currently earning rave reviews for his performance in 50/50, also starring Seth Rogen, his upcoming films include David Koepp actioner Premium Rush and Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller Looper, with Bruce Willis. He is currently in production on The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and will next begin work opposite Daniel Day Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln biopic, Lincoln.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

Source: Viking
Hardcover, 320 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett is a literary mystery in which the fate of Jane Austen’s reputation as a premier novelist hangs in the balance.  Sophie Collingwood has finished her master’s degree at Oxford when she meets a beguiling Eric Hall, an American traveling through Europe.  In a meeting of the minds, they share one passionate kiss, but after he’s gone to France, she must deal with a lot more than her future after university when the family is hit by tragedy.  As she regains her footing, her sister, Victoria, provides her with the framework she needs to move forward, even if it is in baby steps.  She shares a similar relationship with her sister that Jane shared with her own, Cassandra.

“Uncle Bertram’s books were not arranged by author or title or more perplexing to little Sophie, by size or color.  ‘You have to read a book to understand its place on the shelf,’ said Uncle Bertram.”  (page 26)

Soon as a bookshop worker in Boxhill, Sophie finds that she is unwittingly at the center of a book controversy as two separate customers want her to locate the second edition of book, A Little Book of Allegories, by an obscure clergyman named Richard Mansfield.  Sophie is a bookish woman who loves a good mystery, but this mystery has a darkness to it, especially when one of the customers begins issuing veiled threats to motivate her in her search.  Even as she is afraid, she is still determined to uncover the mysterious connections between Mansfield and Austen, but she also finds herself being romantically pursued by two men.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett is a literary mystery that is not hard to unravel, but it does make for a fun journey.  When your companions are Jane Austen and Sophie Collingwood, you’ll have little to be disappointed about.  From a young Austen crafting her novels at home and sharing them with her small family and social circle to Sophie finding her way after tragedy, Lovett has created an enjoyable mystery full of companionship, love, and suspense.

About the Author:

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright whose plays for children have been seen in over 3000 productions worldwide. He served for more than a decade as Writer-in-Residence at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC.  Check out the Book Club Kit.


84th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg

Source:  LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 368 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg is a perfect book for book clubs who want to discuss social and cultural issues.  Nordberg is a journalist in Afghanistan, and she stumbles upon a family with a son who is not what he seems.  He is bacha posh or dressed up as a boy in Dari — it is a technique used by families to save their families’ honor when they have only daughters.  The pressure on low-income, middle-income, and even rich families to have sons is great, and while there are rules in place, they can be bent.  Some families take their youngest girls and dress them as boys, and these girls are then allowed the same privileges as true sons — which means education, sports, being outside unescorted, and wearing boys clothes.  While these privileges only last a short while, the daughters mostly enjoy their time as sons, but there are some who prefer to be girls and wear dresses, but do what they must for their families to survive in society and earn the money they need to live.

“Often, as we have seen in Kabul, it is a combination of factors  A poor family may need a son for different reasons than a rich family, but no ethnic or geographical reasons set them apart.  They are all Afghans, living in a society that demands sons at almost any cost.  And to most of them, the health workers say, having a bacha posh in the family is an accepted and uncontroversial practice, provided the girl is turned back to woman before she enters puberty, when she must marry and have children of her own.  Waiting too long to turn someone back could have consequences for a girl’s reputation.  A teenage girl can conceive and should not be anywhere near teenage boys, even in disguise.”  (page 68 ARC)

Nordberg consistently brings in outside data about the culture of Afghanistan, and she admits that her efforts to apply logic to the situation is pointless, and yet she keeps trying.  These women have defined beliefs and adhere to their culture, even if they wish certain traditions and customs regarding women were different.  Even one female politician adheres to the culture because to outwardly thwart it would bring dishonor to her family and particularly to her husband.  Each of these women knows that to survive they must work within the system, and sons are regarded above everything, though women are considered property and as good as cash when making advancements in society — which is why many women were sold off into marriages at very young ages.  While some aspects of the culture are less arcane, it is clear that Afghanistan is resistant to “Western” ideas and ways, and when the Taliban is in charge, things are even more dire for women.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg touches upon a phenomenon that is more widespread than expected, but it is not documented, as these girls dressed as boys are considered acceptable so long as the secret is not widely broadcast.  While many would see this as a form of resistance in a rigid society, the women in these families do not see it that way in many cases.  It is merely a way to survive and maintain a honorable reputation in the eyes of society, and if dressing a girl like a boy magically results in a son being born, so much the better.

About the Author:

Jenny Nordberg is a New York-based foreign correspondent and a columnist for Swedish national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.  In 2010, she broke the story of “bacha posh” – how girls grow up disguised as boys in gender-segregated Afghanistan. The Page One story was published in The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, and Nordberg’s original research in the piece was used for follow-up stories around the world, as well as opinion pieces and fictional tales.  Check out her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Eddie Campbell

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 74 pgs
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The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Eddie Campbell, is a book that probably does very well on audio or read in person with the backdrop of images inside this book.  The story is a simple journey of one man, seeking a guide into the Black Mountains of Misty Isle.  In full-color illustrations, which mirror acrylic paintings, the book also contains comics and balloon conversations, and yet somehow it all comes together nicely with Neil Gaiman’s story.  The prose is simple, much like those tales told by campfires.

“‘You are wrong.  The truth is a cave in the black mountains.  There is one way there, and one way only, and that way is treacherous and hard.  And if you choose the wrong path you will die alone, on the mountainside.” (page 21)

Two men journey to the Misty Isle and the cave in the Black Mountains through the Scottish Highlands in search of the gold they can carry back with them.  Rather than merely be an adventure story in search of treasure, each man carries with him moments of regret and love.  The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Eddie Campbell, should be read aloud and shared with others, perhaps in front of the fireplace on a cold winter’s evening.

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman’s work has been honoured with many awards internationally, including the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. His books and stories have also been honoured with 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards.

About the Illustrator:

Eddie Campbell is a Scottish comics artist and cartoonist who now lives in Australia. Probably best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell.

Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds by Jane Odiwe

Source: Jane Odiwe
ebook, 148 pgs
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Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds by Jane Odiwe is part of the the Jane Austen Jewel Box series and it is a quaint novella to pass the holidays with, especially as all of Pemberley prepares for the Christmas Ball.  Set shortly after Elizabeth and Darcy get married, Elizabeth is just getting to know what her role is as mistress of Pemberley and the staff seem to admire her, even if Darcy’s aunt Lady Catherine does not.  In addition to Lady Catherine and the Bennets, Darcy’s French cousins Antoine de Valois and his sister Louise are also to attend on the invitation of Lady Catherine.  These distant cousins are barely known to the Darcy family, but Georgiana is quite taken with them and their exotic culture.

“Lady Catherine, now purple about the gills, opened and closed her mouth like the trout he fished in the Pemberley streams”

Odiwe has created a full novella in that it doesn’t feel too short, and it will satisfy readers looking for more Jane Austen fiction.  She has a firm grasp on characterization, particularly how Lizzy and Darcy would act with one another behind closed doors (though nothing too graphic) and in front of family, the servants, and society.  All of these faces of the Darcys provide a round picture of their societal obligations as well as how different they are from many other aristocrats.  Lizzy’s mother is the same as always, looking for suitors for her last daughters, Kitty and Mary, and still trying Mr. Bennet’s nerves.

“The Longbourn servants were already running hither and thither whilst Mrs. Bennet emerged from the breakfast parlour flapping her arms like a demented bird, barking instructions, scolding her daughters and generally not being very useful to anyone.”

Odiwe’s Austen fiction is among the best every time, and readers will always find that they are engaged from the onset in the plight of the moment.  In this case, one of the Darcy Diamonds goes missing, and with the ball coming up and the guests arriving, it is imperative that the new mistress of Pemberley find it.  But beyond the missing diamond, the Darcy name could be scandalized as a mysterious man is set about dragging their name through the mud.  Will Darcy find the mysterious man before its too late? Will the diamond be found?  Readers will want to spend part of the day reading to find out!

Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds by Jane Odiwe is a lovely novella that will have readers rejoining Darcy and Lizzy in their happiest moments, while they still navigate the early days of a new marriage and plan a societal ball.  Readers will thoroughly enjoy the company in this novel and revisiting old friends.

About the Author:

Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, consisting of annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.  Check out Jane Odiwe’s blog here.

Other reviews of this author’s work:

Countdown by Mira Grant

Source: Amazon Kindle
ebook, 82 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Countdown (A Newsflesh Novella) by Mira Grant is a great addition to the trilogy, chronicling the emergence of Kellis-Amberlee from its aucpicious beginnings as separate cures for the common cold and cancer.  There is the saying that there can be too much of a good thing, and in this case, these good things combined to create one of the most destructive things imaginable for the human race.  Dr. Alexander Kellis is working on a way to cure the common cold, but his testing is still in animal trials, while Dr. Daniel Wells is working on the Marburg Amberlee cure for cancer and is testing on humans with some success.

“‘This guy thinks he can eat textbooks and shit miracles,’ was the pitch.”

“Freed from its secure lab environment, Alpha-RC007 floated serene and unaware on the air currents of the stratosphere.  It did not enjoy freedom; it did not abhor freedom; it did not feel anything, not even the cool breezes holding it aloft.  In the absence of a living host, the hybrid virus was inert, waiting for something to come along and shock it into a semblance of life.”

“There is nothing so patient, in this world or any other, as a virus searching for a host.”

While these scientists are working on separate cures, there are forces outside of their labs that threaten their progress.  The Mayday Army, once a pot-head group of kids, is bent on “sticking it to The Man.”  They see an opportunity and take it.  Meanwhile, the unsuspecting people throughout the country, including the Masons from the trilogy itself, are left to deal with the wide-ranging consequences.  Through a series of blog entries, these tales unfold in rapid succession, ramping up the tension toward the ultimate conclusion before the start of the official trilogy.

Countdown (A Newsflesh Novella) by Mira Grant is not a necessary addition to the series, but certainly one that will be appreciated by those that love the novels and want more about how the outbreak that ended modern civilization occurred.  Readers will enjoy how Grant mixes scientific jargon into a thriller.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 384 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman is an emotional tale of finding the strength to do what’s right even if it places you, your dreams, and your family in danger.  Elodie Bertolotti is a young, virtuoso with the cello, and her father teaches violin at the local music school in Verona, Italy.  She has the musical talents of her father, and they often connect with just the music around them or speak through minimal glances and facial expressions.  But like her mother, she can memorize things instantly. She has the best gifts for a musician — the ability to memorize entire scores and the ability to play them with passion.  However, she is mild compared to her friend, Lena, who is outspoken against the Fascists and eager to get involved in the Italian resistance.

“His playing was the lullaby of her childhood.  She knew when he played Mozart that he was savoring good news; when he was nervous, he played Brahms; and when he wanted forgiveness from her mother, he played Dvorak.  She knew her father more clearly through his music than she did through his words.”  (page 19)

The Venetian blood running through Elodie’s veins and her gift of memorization are things that she had little thought for beyond her music, but she soon realizes that they can be of great use.  Richman has created a novel in which a young music student finds that she’s passionate about more than the scores she learns in class; she is eager to be noticed by Luca who catches her eye, but she also wants to take action against the Nazis who have come to lay a heavy hand on her country.  Things are not what they once were in Verona, and she must learn how to either blend into the background or stand up for what she believes in.

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman is stunning, and a real treat for those interested in the Italian resistance during WWII.  But the novel also offers a coming of age story and a story of second chances.  Richman has created an emotionally charged, suspenseful, historical fiction novel that at its heart speaks of redemption and new beginnings.  Weaving together music, art, books, and war, Richman’s story transcends time through the lives of her dynamic characters.  Another for the Best of List 2014.

About the Author:

Alyson Richman is the internationally bestselling author of: The Garden of Letters, The Lost Wife, The Last Van Gogh, The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango), and The Mask Carver’s Son. Her books have received both national and international critical acclaim and have been translated into eighteen languages.  The Lost Wife was nominated as one of the best books of 2012 by the Jewish Journal of Books and was The 2012 Long Island Reads Selection.  The novel is now a national bestseller with over 200,000 combined print/ebook copies sold and is in development to be a major motion film. Her forthcoming novel, The Painted Dove, centers around the French courtesan Marthe de Florian and the mystery of her Paris apartment that remained locked for 70 years.  It will be published by Berkley/Penguin in September 2016.  A graduate of Wellesley College and a former Thomas J. Watson Fellow, she currently lives with her husband and children in Long Island, New York.

37th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





33rd book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.





28th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Italy)