Feb 12, 2014

Book Review: The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

THE FEVER TREE by Jennifer McVeigh
Berkley Trade Paperback Reprint; February 4, 2014
Genre: historical fiction, romance
A huge acacia spread its shade over one side of the house.
"The fever tree," Edwin said, following her gaze. "The farm is famous for it."
 (ch. 20)
My comments: The author notes that thousands of native people and workers died from smallpox in the diamond fields of South Africa in the nineteenth century. The disease was ignored, people not given vaccinations or quarantined, the situation covered up even by famous British statesman, Cecil Rhodes, to protect investment in the mines. These historical facts alone make the book worth reading.

Written linearly, chronologically, the book is both history and romance, depicting the plight of Francis Irvine traveling to a far and strange country to be married. She is an example of one of the redundant or surplus unmarried women in 19th century England who sought husbands and a new life in the colonies.

Book description: "A sweeping novel of romance and South African history.
Frances Irvine is forced by hopeless circumstance to emigrate from England to the Cape in pursuit of a reluctant marriage. There she discovers a strange new world where greed and colonial exploitation are bringing vast wealth to some and misery to countless others.

Frances must choose between two very different men: one serious and idealistic, the other charming and ambitious. When a smallpox epidemic threatens the financial dynasty of the most powerful Englishman in South Africa, Frances will be cast into a vortex of dangerous consequences—and find an unexpected, purposeful path." (publisher)

About the Author: Jennifer McVeigh has traveled to Southern and East Africa, and also drew on firsthand accounts of life in colonial South Africa, as well as nineteenth century guidebooks and women’s magazines, in order to make Frances Irvine’s experiences true to life. Visit her at www.jennifermcveigh.com

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Feb 11, 2014

Book Review: The Poodle Tales, Book Nine: The Modeling Poo

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read

Title: The Poodle Tales: The Modeling Poo by Toni Tuso Faber
Published September 12, 2012; MindStir Media
Genre: children's picture book for ages 4-9, written in rhyme

Opening paragraph/teaser:
The twelve poodle puppies growing older every week,
Had now received their first poo cuts, each looking very chic.
Each and every poodle just loved their Talent Show,
Eager for the next act, the girl who next would go.
The Poodle Pups is a series of illustrated rhymed stories for children, featuring twelve poodle puppies, from birth through their various growing-up adventures. The stories are meant to entertain and teach life lessons to children. Book Nine shows one of the poodles as a new model, wearing different outfits as she shares her accessories with the other poodles.

A cute picture storybook for young girls who are interested in dress-up using different outfits, high heels and other accessories. The rhyming is clever although some of the words may be too advanced for girls ages 4-9, but the pictures of the dogs in costume and the general story might make up for that. Adults who read the book to the children may enjoy it also.

Based on the first verse, would you read this book to your girls? 

Thanks to Kelly and Hall publicity for a review copy of this book.

Feb 9, 2014

Sunday Salon: Let It Snow

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday at its permanent home, and Stacking the Shelves at Tyngas' Reviews.

The snow doesn't bother me anymore. More snow coming today? Okay. So, I'm getting blase about this unusually white winter. I know that the Northeast is getting unused-to ice storms, which is something they're not used to, as yet! How about you?

The cover makes the book. Do you agree? How about these covers?

But I am also intrigued by clever and eye catching titles! Such as the ones below:

Which one would you choose to read first? Click on their covers, which will take you to the goodreads book descriptions. They are new review books, thanks to the publishers.

Right now, I'm reading Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman, about a girl raised by wolves in Nevada in the 19th century. Quite interesting.

What did you get in your mailbox and which are you planning to read this week? 

Feb 7, 2014

Book Review: I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn

Title: I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War by Jerome Charyn
Published February 3, 2014; Liveright
Rating: 5/5

About the book: Lincoln left home to escape an abusive father who nevertheless had taught him carpentry, which was to help Lincoln find jobs in his new home, New Salem, Ill., as he worked his way up. Lincoln worked odd jobs, clerked in a general store, fought during the Black Hawk Indian rebellion, and worked as a postmaster and assistant land surveyor. He eventually won a seat in the Legislature for Sangamon County. From there as state senator, he went to Vandalia, the state capital.

Known as Lawyer Lincoln, a tall tale teller, and as a persuasive speaker, Lincoln spoke out openly against slavery. His talk at the Cooper Institute propelled him into the Presidential race. In the White House, he had to deal with Rebels and secessionists until declaring outright war - the Civil War. Plagued by melancholy all his life, Lincoln nevertheless carried the war through to victory.

My comments: Historical facts are woven with the personal life of Lincoln and his family life with wife Mary Todd and their four children. We see Lincoln "not having faith in his own eloquence," worrying about the length of the Civil War, about his oldest son Bob going to the front and possibly being lost. We follow Lincoln as he wages war with the help of his generals, and in spite of one or two of his ineffective generals, and as he deals with Mary's driving ambition, her tempestuous dark moods, and her paralyzing grief over the deaths of two of their sons.

An eye-opening look at history as well as a convincing portrait of a backwoods young man who becomes the sixteenth president and changes the course of American history. Fluid writing, excellent portrayal of  Lincoln, his wife, and his generals and ministers of war. Convincing fictional characters. I highly recommend the novel to American history buffs as well as to the general reader.

Book Summary:
An unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated in the first person, it mixes humor with tragedy, creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.

Tracing Lincoln's life as a young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady's dressmaker and confidante—and the almost treasonous General McClellan with fictional extras: knaves, hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter renegade Rebel soldiers, Northern deserters, and Black recruits who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center is Lincoln, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.

Using Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with psychological insight and compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with a sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to life in a portrait rarely seen in historical fiction." (publisher)

Thanks to Tribute Books and the author for a review ARC of this novel. Visit the tour schedule for more reviews.

Jerome Charyn, an American author with nearly 50 published works, has been called "one of the most important writers in American literature," and "a contemporary American Balzac." Twice a winner of the New York Times Book of the Year, he also has received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris and lives in Paris and New York City.

Also submitted to Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2014. 

Feb 4, 2014

A BURNABLE BOOK by Bruce Holsinger

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B; choose two teaser sentences from a random page of your current read.

 Title: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger
To be published February 18, 2014; William Morrow
Genre: historical thriller
Teaser: She spoke of the book. His face remained impassive as she described the volume and its poetry, the dark histories inscribed in its strange verses; the cloth and its heraldry, the incriminating livery woven in its strands. She recited the four bits of prophecy she had gotten by rote, including the one that mattered most, on the death of King Richard. (chapter xix)
First chapter:Prologue: Under a clouded moon Agnes huddles in a sliver of utter darkness and watches him, this dark-cloaked man, as he questions the girl by the dying fire. At first he is kind seeming, almost gentle with her. They speak something like French: not the flavor of Stratford-at-Bowe nor of Paris, but a deep and throated tongue, tinged with the south. Olives and figs in his voice, the embrace of a warmer sea. 
Book description: In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings. A Burnable Book is a thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low. 

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate. (publisher)

Based on the teaser, the opening paragraph, and the book description, is this a novel you would continue reading? 

Feb 3, 2014

Book Review: OMG...Am I A Witch? by Talia Aikens-Nunez

Title: OMG...Am I a Witch? by Talia Aikens-Nunez
Published October 31, 1013; Pinwheel Books
Genre: children's literature
Objective rating: 4/5

About the book: April is in the fifth grade and has used the internet to find a magic spell to change her irritating older brother Austin into a dog. Scared of what her parents will think or do, April gets her friend Grace to help her find another spell on the internet to undo the damage and return Austin to his human state. She wonders at her powers and if it means she is a witch. This is a very cute little story of 143 pages, illustrated at the beginning of each chapter

My comments: . There is suspense when April and Grace are almost found out by their parents that there is a dog in April's bedroom. The suspense continues when they have to find excuses for Austin's non-appearance at home, and for keeping Grace at April's house while they plan. How they manage to outwit their parents is all in the fun. And of course, there is a happy ending.

I think fifth graders and children in that age group will enjoy this book, for the suspense as well as for the characters of the two girls, April and Grace, not to mention, Austin the little dog. Well written, with an unusual story line, I think the book will appeal to middle school children and younger.

About the author: Talia Aikens-Nuñez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. She never thought she would be a writer. It was the birth of her daughter and raising a bilingual child that inspired Talia to write multicultural children’s books. She, her husband and daughter live on a river in Connecticut with their daughter Isabella.
Find out more about Talia at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book. For more reviews of OMG...visit this link.

Feb 1, 2014

Sunday Salon: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer, and It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey. Also, Mailbox Monday at its permanent home, and Stacking the Shelves at Tyngas' Reviews.

My good friend this year has been goodreads, which allows me to keep track of books I have read and rated, even commented on, so I don't always feel the need to post a full page review on my blog. Goodreads can announce your books read on facebook too.

 I have just read the two excellent books by Wiley Cash, sent courtesy of William Morrow -
This Dark Road to Mercy and A Land More Kind Than Home, both of which I rated a 5/5 on goodreads.  I learned more about the rural North Carolina setting from these literary novels which also read a little like thrillers.
Next on my reading list is Laura Lippman's After I'm Gone and a new cozy by Daryl Wood Gerber, Inherit the Word, a Cookbook Nook mystery.

New books in the mail?

What are you reading these days?

Sunday Salon: New Reads

 Recently finished: Central Park  by Guillaume Musso,  March 16, 2021 by Bay Back Books. Genre: thriller, mystery Source: Netgalley The book...