Book round up…

Since my last book blog post I have read:

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Described in its blurb as, Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s museum, alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle.

One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

Review

An enthralling tale about two people in NY in the early nineteenth century. Coralie is the daughter of the proprietor of the Museum of Extraordinary Things and has a did figuration herself and Eddie is the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant who rejects his father and his culture. Set around two real life historical fires, Coralie and Eddie are drawn together admits a disappearance of a local girl and her fathers quest to turn his fortunes around.

A gripping tale with equally gripping characters.

Rusted Rails by Barry Jones

“Rusted Rails” based in 1928, resurrects the now abandoned coal-mining town of Wilder, Tennessee. Life in these towns held little promise for the future. One family, that of David and Jenny Hughes, sought to keep their son out of the mines. Their plan was, however, jeopardized by David’s untimely death and by Jenny’s discovery that she was carrying her late husband’s unborn child. With few options, Jenny chose abortion. And so begins a gritty tale that tells of Jenny’s rescue from the dire consequences of her decision.

Review

This historical novel is well written mostly and despite a few typos was a pleasure to read. Set in 1928 in a mining town that actually existed you get a great description of life at the time and the dangers and hardships faced by the miners and their family. This book boldly tackles the issue of abortion, with very little bias it describes the plight of poor families trying to cope with family size and a lack of services available to women.

Throw in the mob and Al Capone and you have an interesting crime novel. I did find the book lost pace a little after 60% but by 80% through it gained a speed that kept it very interesting and you wondered if the good guys would make it.

If you like American History and FBI crime procedural so this story is definitely for you.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn’t share his brother’s appetite for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

Review

This isn’t the sort of book I would ordinarily pick for myself or expect to enjoy, but it was chosen by my book club and I could not put it down. Written in the first person from the point of view of Eli Sisters, it is humorous and compelling. I became ver fond of the characters despite their flaws and the desperation of survival at all costs was the underlying theme of this novel.

Powerfully written and not for the faint hearted, this was a touching read and I cannot recommend it enough. Even if gunslinging Westerns are far from your style, I still recommend you read this.

Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy by Alexander McNabb

Jason Hartmoor is dying of cancer. But will his past kill him first?

After a lifetime of service around the Middle East, retired diplomat Jason Hartmoor is dying of cancer. He embarks on a last journey back to Lebanon where he studied Arabic as a young man at the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies, the infamous ‘British spy school’ in the village of Shemlan far up in the hills overlooking Beirut.

Jason wants to rediscover the love he lost when the civil war forced him to flee Lebanon. Instead his past catches up with him with such speed and violence, it threatens to kill him before the disease does. The only man who can keep him alive long enough to face that past is Gerald Lynch.

Review

A clever, suspenseful and action-filled story about a retired diplomat and the sequence of events that follow when he returns to Beruit years after he left due to the civil war. This return triggers the interest of the CIA, SIS and culminates in tragic events you won’t see coming.

The pace is kept while you’re taken on an action packed political adventure filled with intrigue. A highly recommended read.

The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins

Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Review

A thrilling introduction to the trilogy, this book grabs you from the first page and what’s really remarkable is how much emotion and depth is conveyed simply in this YA novel.

As you learn the rules of this utopian world and the hunger games you grow attached to the characters and hope it all works out for them, but who will be with Katniss, Peeta or Gale?

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games book 2) by Suzanne Collins

Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel in the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before…and surprising readers at every turn.

Review

An enthralling sequel which extends the scope of the dystopian world we were introduced to in the first book, fearing overwhelming rebellion can the Capitol overcome the questions rising and keep power?

Emotion and action-packed, you wonder where the story can go from here.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games book 3) by Suzanne Collins

My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans–except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost.

Review

For me this part of the trilogy was much slower than the first two. Although significant events occurred in the final part I wasn’t thrilled by the writing in the same way, this could be due to the fact that Katniss, who narrates the story becomes much more weary in this final part for good reason.

This conclusion is the best way to end the trilogy in my view but is a different kind of book to the first two in the series.

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