When Claudette Bourvil is recruited to the French Resistance the last thing she expects is that she will be sent to work in the heart of Paris to spy on senior Nazi officers.
Claudette learns how to survive in a city ravaged by war, where the citizens are murdered on the whim of the occupying force. Constantly under threat of discovery, and in danger of losing her life, Claudette risks everything when she falls in love with the wrong man, the worst kind of man.
Over seventy years later, in rural Oxfordshire, Connie Webber discovers seven letters linked to a famous playwright, Freddy March. The letters will eventually lead her to Paris where she discovers the horrific reason behind Freddy’s life long depression. As his mother’s story unfolds Connie uncovers a dark past that the city has tried to erase from history.~Goodreads Blurb
With a flip back and forth between chapters, the story line moves forward quickly and the reader is drawn into the worlds being revealed. Alternating between the lives of Connie and Claudette, we are thrust into modern day England and WWII Paris. Each one is trying to make their lives, dealing with struggle, love, and mystery. The writing style is lovely and would make for an easy transition to film. The subject matter in the WWII chapters is hard to face, but historically accurate. It is hard to understand how women could have survived in those situations. It leaves the reader with a moral question, wondering if they would have done the same, or if they could have changed things.
I would recommend this book for people who enjoyed Sarah’s Key, The Nightingale, Finding Rebecca, or Paris Time Capsule. The historical side is taken quite seriously yet never turns into a lecture or speech. The mystery wasn’t solvable in the first few chapters as I feared. I was surprised that this was first novel, it was very enjoyable and I am looking forward to reading more from author, Jan Harvey. Thank yous to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing’s branch Matador for allowing me to read this one so close to publishing date.
The Goodreads blurb about the author:Jan Harvey is an artist and author based in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. She is a tutor in creative writing, drawing and painting.
The Seven Letters is her first novel and now that it is published she will be working on her second, The French Apartment. Her books are unified by the city of Paris.
In her spare time Jan loves jazz, and likes to relax watching French Films and old black and white movies, particularly if they star Cary Grant.
Jan is married to Paul, she has one son, Max, and an extended family including two beautiful step-granddaughters.
She also owns a very badly behaved Flat-Coated Retriever called Byron.
Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-travelled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert s inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn t opened in years.
Ben s routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she s fleeing something in her past a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.
As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who've laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire s pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert s greatest mystery what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?
Starting out at a slightly slow clip, The Never-Open Desert Diner is a clever story about the lives of the people who choose to live away from modern life. Their link to the outside world is Ben Jones. As a narrator, Ben is clever and observant. As a protagonist, he seems to be lacking. While the perfect protag is often just as annoying and often borders a “Mary-Sue,” Ben has a tendency to go when he should stop and stop when he should keep moving. This make him frustrating but not horribly so. (Besides the peeing on houses, and peeping at naked cello players.) The internal conflict of trying to be a good man and yet, having some sort of hero complex leading him to try and defend Claire, our mystery woman can confuse the reader but I think it shows a human side to this literary character.
I wouldn’t really consider this a mystery novel, so much as I would call it a humanity piece. I really felt like the characters were whole, each with a backstory that understandably brought them out to that stretch of desert. I would recommend this to people looking for something a little different but very well written. You might not like the ending but like life, some stories end in unexpected ways. With a diverse cast of characters, and a worthwhile 295 pages, The Never-Open Desert Diner, is luckily getting a second push from Crowne Publishing and I have to thank Blogging For Books for getting this one out to me to review.
James Anderson was born in Seattle, Washington and raised in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He received his undergraduate degree in American Studies from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and his Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Boston Massachusetts.
In 1974, while still an undergraduate, Anderson founded Breitenbush Books, a book publisher specializing in literature and general interest trade titles. From 1974 to 1991 Anderson served as publisher and executive editor. Breitenbush received many awards for its books, including three Western States Book Awards, juried by Robert Penn Warren, Elizabeth Hardwick, N. Scott Momaday, Jonathan Galassi, Jorie Graham, Denise Levertov, William Kittredge and others. Notable authors published include Mary Barnard, Bruce Berger, Clyde Rice, Naomi Shihab Nye, Michael Simms, William Greenway, John Stoltenberg, Sam Hamill and Gary Miranda.
From 1995 to 2002 Anderson co-produced documentary films, including Tara’s Daughters, narrated by Susan Sarandon. The film, which won Best Documentary at the New York Film Festival, chronicled the plight of Tibetan women refugees as carriers of Tibetan culture in the diaspora.
Mondragon, by Aran Jane, is a sci-fi/biopunk action adventure, set more than a thousand years in the future, after a ceasefire between genetically mutated Martian colonists known as "newstylers" and the unmodified "accidentals" back on Earth.
In Shanghai, Earth's capital, battle-weary Derek Mondragon looks after wounded fellow soldier MacCullum, the last casualty of the Newstyler Rebellion. Meanwhile, his home life deteriorates, resulting in the mother of his child abandoning them both.
Derek is troubled by MacCullum's obsession with an ancient codex that warns of an existential threat tied to the current interplanetary conflict. When MacCullum is attacked in his hospital room for that knowledge, and then Derek's young daughter is removed to a hatchery (a state-run orphanage that turns kids into science projects), Derek goes AWOL to take matters into his own hands, only to land unexpectedly in the middle of a secret mission that might decide the fate of everyone on both planets. ~Goodreads Blurb
A feat by newly published author Aran Jane, Mondragon is a speculative science fiction novel that draws you into his world. It looks like our own, and yet it turns our view on its head. With space exploration, the introduction of new technology and an almost fantasy style of biological manipulation of human life Aran Jane manages to create a world quite unlike our own while filling it with the all too common human emotions and flaws.
With some speculative fiction you are introduced to a world that just seems to have one or two differences that make the world an alternative timeline. Such as who wins the second World War in The Man in the High Castle and the like, this novel has taken the common idea of uploading ourselves in order to transport ourselves across the galaxy and expanded upon it. It assumes a world where we have advanced to a point where those who have uploaded their existence and those who retain their humanity are at odds. This leaves you with a them versus us that isn’t bound by race but by “progress.” The idea that science would progress to an extent that people created by what we today would see as natural creation would be viewed as accidentals. It gives a thought provoking viewpoint that keeps the reader wondering which side to choose.
While the distinction is made early between newstylers and accidentals, one must read further on to really understand what the author means. Simply saying this is “A” and these guys are “B” left me to try and fill in the blanks. Later on in the book I was able to understand as the world building was fleshed out and more of the back story was filled in. So even if you don’t automatically understand I encourage you to keep going. The threads you’re given at the beginning do eventually make a rich tapestry.
Speaking of the world building and the science part of the science fiction, I have to give a thank you to the author. Many times authors will fudge the facts or at least play with the numbers or the nature of the sciences to suit their story. While I am no quantum physicist and my grasp of the sciences is limited, I found Aran Jane’s way of explaining the mechanics of his sandbox and showing the readers the limits of the science refreshing.
Using the Voynich Manuscript was a lovely touch as well. In a world full of technology and code breakers, it is still a source of fascination today. Unsolved and full of a language that no one understands, it is a mystery that has been written about many times. Aran Jane’s choice in making it a message from the past to the future was an interesting turn as was his decision over the Voynich witches inclusion.
While I’m not crazy about the fact that all the women in Mondragon’s life, besides his wife, seem to flock to him, I am glad that the author included women in a manner that made them more than bystanders. It kept the story from becoming a sausage fest and a boys brigade. I could have used more women but I leave that us to the author’s next work.
For a newly published author’s first book I am impressed and look forward to whatever he publishes next. Mondragon is a 479 page book with rather lengthy chapters(25.) I would not recommend this book for a light-hearted read as it is quite dense(in a good way.) If you are looking for a world that you can dive into and really enjoy, this would be perfect for you. A delightful read that is sure to capture your mind and leave you wondering at your own humanity.
Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, veryseriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.~Goodreads Blurb
Just as a starting note, I would say that you need to at least have a passing knowledge of Jane Eyre before reading this book. It isn’t super important but it may make a difference in how much you enjoy this book. To be fair there are a lot of literary puns and in in-jokes that might leave you scratching your head or just brushing it off without notice. I’m have my English Lit. degree and I still had to look up a couple of character notes to get the joke. This may have been a book-lover's gift to other book-lovers, that got out of hand and the public got a hold of it. Not everyone’s cup of tea but clever if you know what to look for.
The Eyre Affair was listed as dystopian in some reviews but I think it firmly lies in the Speculative Fiction world. It is laced with humor and world building that would make Pratchett say, “It’s a good start.” The alternative timeline can be a little hard to understand if you aren’t from the 1980’s England. As a 90s kid who lived in America all her life, I had to do some Googling to figure out when the Crimean War actually ended and what it was all about. (3 year war resulted in Treaty of Paris no real winner though the Allies claimed a victory.) Not being British or a literature buff may make this book a bit annoying and that isn’t something you want for your readers. There’s clever and too clever. The way the author, Jasper Fforde, names his characters seems to be a deliberate nudge to the readers. Almost like saying, “See that, look what I did there.” While some like Paige Turner can be forgiven as cutesy, naming your bad guy Acheron Hades, is a bit like Boaty McBoatface or Baddie McDevilguy
Well written and paced well, the actual Eyre Affair doesn’t take place until over halfway through the story so I can’t help but wonder if a different title might not have served the author better. There is a strong whimsical feel to the timeline, which gives us dodo birds and door-to-door Baconians, the author not the animal product. The ending seems to have a bit of a deus ex machina feel to it but with all the messing about in other people's’ books it fits rather well in the novel. I enjoyed it but the having to open Google up every few chapters can get rather tiresome for some folks.
The Author's Information is listed on Goodreads as: Jasper Fforde is a novelist living in Wales. He is the son of John Standish Fforde, the 24th Chief Cashier for the Bank of England, whose signature used to appear on sterling banknotes, and is cousin of Desmond Fforde, married to author Katie Fforde. His early career was spent as a focus puller in the film industry, where he worked on a number of films including Quills, GoldenEye, and Entrapment.
His published books include a series of novels starring Thursday Next: The Eyre Affair(2001), Lost in a Good Book (2002), The Well of Lost Plots (2003), Something Rotten(2004) and First Among Sequels (2007). The Big Over Easy (2005), which shares a similar setting with the Next novels, is a reworking of his first written novel, which initially failed to find a publisher. It had the working title of Nursery Crime, which is the title now used to refer to this series of books. The follow-up to The Big Over Easy, The Fourth Bear was published in July 2006 and focuses on Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Between 1865 and 1937, Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency was at the center of countless conflicts between capital and labor, bandits and railroads, and strikers and state power. Some believed that the detectives were protecting society from dangerous criminal conspiracies; others thought that armed Pinkertons were capital’s tool to crush worker dissent. Yet the image of the Pinkerton detective also inspired romantic and sensationalist novels, reflected shifting ideals of Victorian manhood, and embodied a particular kind of rough frontier justice.
The dime-novels of the Wild West would constantly use The Pinkerton Detective Agency not only as good guys, but more often than not, as the villain. These stories were full of adventure and daring-dos. Inventing The Pinkertons or Spies, Sleuths, Mercenaries, and Thugs manages to avoid most of that. This book is definitely well researched and written with a specific audience in mind. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the right audience. I love the excitement and the adventure that lies within history and I wasn’t able to dive into this book.
I believe my biggest issue that I had to work around was that unlike the FBI or any other service that has been written about, there is usually some figurehead that a story can be formed around. The creation of the agency and the history of Allan Pinkerton drives the first chapter and draws you into this man’s life and the myth that he wove around himself. All too quickly though it spins out to encompass the entire agency and it becomes a faceless mass with only a few characters to pin the motives of an entire force to. There were so many Pinkerton agents that the story could have followed, and I will certainly seek them out in the future for my own personal benefit, yet the book chooses to focus on the image of the Pinkertons.
The Pinkertons have always had a branding issue, to labor workers they are strikebreakers, and to desperadoes they can be just as bad as bounty hunters. They are heroes and villains all at the same time. It must be difficult to decide where they sit on the fence of justice or villainy, and I believe that S. Paul O’Hara does a valiant job trying to help his audience do so. Not being the right audience for this I instead finished the book and went and watched The Pinkertons on Netflix. I found O’Hara’s book too dry for my liking and without a clear bias in either direction (good vs bad.) Very well written and historically accurate I would recommend this to someone who is interested in that time frame and also the grey side of image and branding in the past.
Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on Krakatoa, and discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.Winner of the 1948 Newbery Medal, this classic fantasy-adventure is now available in a handsome new edition.-Goodreads Blurb
I first read this book when I was just 10, I was drawn in by the idea of travelling around the world in a hot air balloon, not personally (fear of heights) but in a literary mode it seemed exciting and new to me. I hadn’t yet gotten my hands on Jules Verne or HG Wells, both of whom’s styles you can see in this book. For a children’s book, it stands up quite well 70+ years later. The little ideas and illustrations scattered through the book by author really adds to the story instead of being distracting or leading the mind in one direction. I remember wondering what inventions I would invent if I was on the island, would I want elevator beds, or furniture that sunk into the floor to clean easily?
Every year for Christmas, my Niece and Nephews know that they are going to get at least two new books from Aunt Michelle. This year this will definitely be in the stack. The light and whimsical storytelling manages to create a safe space even with the pending volcanic eruption. This will be a great starter book before sending heavy books such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, or one of Verne's other whimsical sci-fi books. If I can get away with I may try to slip some Terry Pratchett in at some point as well.
Another reason I think this will be a hit, even this long after publication, even with the smallest of imaginations, one can’t help but imagine what a restaurant based government would be like. There is a level of whimsy and humor that i didn’t expect to have lasted this long. Even having read it 15 years ago I still found myself laughing and having a difficult time not finishing it in a four hour stint. So Ben and Hannah, if you’re reading this, guess what you’re getting for Christmas?
Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.
Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.
Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets.
With the success of the real Agatha Christie’s novels, the Orient Express has become a synonym for murder mystery. Any story with it in the title seems to be destined to have at least one body show up. Not so much in this one. I had assumed that this would be a murder mystery surrounding the person of Agatha Christie, similar to the Doctor Who Episode “The Unicorn and The Wasp.” A huge fan of Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie’s works, I was excited to sink my teeth into a whodunit.
A quick read at a little over 300 pages, this is not a murder mystery, I wouldn’t even call it a mystery at all really. Falling firmly in the historical fiction category, this female based novel sheds light on the time after Christie’s breakdown. With bits of Middle Eastern culture and history sprinkled throughout the story, you find yourself racing through the pages. There is something exciting about reading about travel, and the descriptions really make the book. Combining the known history of two women, Ashford has created a lovely story about three women who meet on the Orient Express and change each other's’ lives. This isn’t a hard read, and I would definitely recommend this book as some light summer reading.
Freelance Editor & Reviewer