The daughter of a Torah scholar in eighteenth-century Ukraine, Gittel has always accepted her place in a family steeped in religion. Married at age twelve to a cold and reclusive rabbi, the young bride gives birth to two sons destined to follow their father’s path. Finding very little comfort in family life, Gittel shares her dreams, visions, and a close spiritual understanding with her only confidant: her father-in-law, the Maggid of Mezeritch.
When Gittel loses those close to her one by one, she decides to leave her old life behind, including her sons, to set out on a lonesome and perilous journey to Jerusalem. Will she sacrifice everything in pursuit of the dream of her youth?~Goodreads Blurb
Sometimes writing a review is harder than reading the book and simply talking about the book. This is one of those books that really refuses to be pigeon-holed. At only 107 pages, I had expected to be able to rip through it and bang out a review in one night. Instead it has taken me a good two weeks and I’m still not sure that I’ll be doing a great enough service to this book. It has a strange twisting ability to sneak into your head and cause you to slow down.
With many religious and inspirational stories, when a character describes a vision there is almost a 2D filter that falls over it to make it simple and plain to the reader. Author Smadar Herzfeld steps away from that common method. Her descriptions of the visions and the spiritual struggles of main character Gittel reads almost like a fever dream that the reader has been sucked into to experience it along with her. That combined with the forward and back flipping through time and place can leave the reader confused momentarily. This begs the reader to pause and absorb what Herzfeld is saying and perhaps to read it again. As previously stated it is rather short, and it can be read in an evening but to understand the story it may take longer than that. A well written story with a strong female character who puts aside her entire life to do what she feels called to do, Trail of Miracles is well worth the time.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for honest feedback.*
Born in in Tel Aviv, Smadar Herzfeld initially came to Jerusalem to work with underprivileged children. She is the founder of 62, a boutique publishing house that specializes in books on women and religion. Herzfeld, who writes about characters with strong spiritual and religious beliefs, has penned four novels and a book of poetry. Her novel God Isn’t Me won the Jerusalem Foundation Award. The mother of two adopted sons from Vietnam, Herzfeld lives in Jerusalem. Learn more at www.publishers62.co.il.
In the summer of 1962, one year after East German Communists built the Berlin Wall, a group of daring young West Germans came up with a plan. They would risk prison, Stasi torture, even death to liberate friends, lovers, and strangers in East Berlin by digging tunnels under the Wall. Among the tunnelers and escape helpers were a legendary cyclist, an American student from Stanford, and an engineer who would later help build the tunnel under the English Channel.
Then two U.S. television networks, NBC and CBS, heard about the secret projects, and raced to be first to air a spectacular "inside tunnel" special on the human will for freedom. The networks funded two separate tunnels in return for exclusive rights to film the escapes. In response, President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, wary of anything that might raise tensions and force a military confrontation with the Soviets, maneuvered to quash both documentaries...~Goodreads Blurb
I was concerned that this was going to be a tough one to slough through. As a 90’s kid (specifically 1991) I have no real emotional attachment or memory of the Berlin Wall. You have that standard universal knowledge that there was a wall, and someone told some Russian to tear it down.(I Googled it, Reagan to Gorbachev) Other than that I didn’t have much starting knowledge. My other fear was that it was a nonfiction book, and therefore boring. As an ardent historical fiction reader, I tend to stay away from the nonfiction. This one blew me out of the water.
With author Greg Mitchell’s use of the narrative voice, I found myself being drawn into the story. Instead of simply a black and white story, Mitchell has formed all these facts into a multi faceted gem that takes all these different nations’ and governments’ views and hands you a story. He doesn’t just stop there, instead of leaving readers in the past, he brings them forward to present time to compare it to modern day walls. Though today we spend more time talking about keeping people out with our walls(i.e. Trump) rather than the East Germany goal of keeping them in.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes history and a good spy novel. Though it’s nonfiction I think this is going to rank very high on my list of favorites. I’m going to have to go back and give nonfiction another try and definitely anything by Greg Mitchell will be on the list. I rarely give books 5-stars, yet this one had me intrigued from the first chapter.
*This book was provided by BloggingForBooks and Crown Publishing in exchange for honest feedback*
Notes about the author: Mitchell has blogged on the media and politics, for The Nation. and at his own blog, Pressing Issjes. He was the editor of Editor & Publisher (E&P), from 2002 to the end of 2009, and long ago was executive editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. His book "The Campaign of the Century" won the Goldsmith Book Prize and "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady" was a New York Times Notable Book for 1998. He has also co-authored two books with Robert Jay Lifton, along with a "So Wrong For So Long" about the media and Iraq. His books have been optioned numerous times for movies (including "Joy in Mudville" by Tim Hanks). He has served as chief adviser to two award-winning documentaries and currently is co-producer of an upcoming film on Beethoven with his co-author on "Journeys With Beethoven."
Cologne, 1351: Elisabeth and Stephen Hardenstein are twins, but they could not be more different. While Elisabeth is inspired by the family business, absorbing everything her father shows her about the cloth trade, Stephen enjoys a leisurely life and pays little attention to their father’s teachings. Elisabeth recognizes her true vocation as a tradeswoman, and though the odds are stacked against her, she pursues her passion.
When the twins’ father suffers a tragic stroke, the tables turn. Suddenly Stephen is interested in running the draper’s shop his father left behind, and he takes the lead in managing the family business. But Elisabeth can’t sit idly by and watch as he makes bad decisions and accumulates debts. Stephen pushes her to marry as soon as possible, even proposing a suitor, but Elisabeth has her own ideas about matters of the heart. Are her talents in the art of negotiation enough to win her both the job of her dreams and the man she truly loves?~Goodreads Blurb
How about a little Girl Power in 1300’s Germany? How about a lot? The Draper’s Daughter has plenty to spare. It is full of strong women characters, not only working with the men around them, but at times surpassing them. I became so caught up in the story that I finished this eBook in one sitting. I so wanted Elisabeth to succeed no matter how many roadblocks were thrown up in her way. I will admit to a little author hate when things continued to go wrong, but I think in the end it made for a better story and a stronger cast. I would definitely read another book by this author/translator team. Translating from German to English can be difficult and some of the language was a little stilted but it quickly picked up.
For a Historical Fiction piece, I would have enjoyed a bit more history and a little less fiction. I would simply classify this as fiction, since you need more than a past date and a real town to make it historical fiction. The dynamic between women was also intriguing. While most were willing to help, it wasn’t a strictly men vs women book which can be a common trope.I was concerned as the story went on that we would end up with nothing but villains and cowed men, but once again the author surprised me. This is definitely a good example of getting your cake and eating it too.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for honest feedback*
Author's Notes:Born in 1970, Ellin Carsta is a successful German author who publishes under various pseudonyms. She is married with three grown children. Although writing books is her passion, she also enjoys sports, especially jogging and cross-training.
After realizing her coworkers at L’Ombre, a high-profile restaurant in NYC, will never appreciate or respect her, Charlie Garrett allows her ex-boyfriend, Avery Michaels, to convince her to work for him as executive pastry chef at his new Seattle hotspot, Thrill. She’ll have her own kitchen, her own staff—everything she ever wanted professionally.
When she arrives at Thrill, however, she realizes that Avery wanted more than a pastry chef for his restaurant—he wanted a costar for the reality show they’re filming about the restaurant and its staff. Charlie is uncomfortable with the idea at first, but she soon realizes that this is her chance to show the world what women in the kitchen are capable of. She sets some ground rules with the film crew, signs a non-disclosure agreement, and promptly meets the man of her dreams, Kai, off-camera.
The show, and her demanding work schedule as head of the pastry kitchen, makes it nearly impossible for Charlie and Kai to spend time together. Drama on and off the set soon take a toll on Charlie’s well-being, forcing her to choose if life in front of the camera is worth sacrificing life behind the scenes.~Goodreads Blurb
Kimberly Stuart can write a great kitchen scene. Scratch that, she can write some wonderful food scenes. I was excited to read about this strong woman finally getting the position she deserved, moving up in the world, and making her mark. The visual contrast between the pretty servers and the hard working back of house really shone through here. I’m all for strong female characters who can make strides in their fields without having to resort to the tropes of “the witch or the whore.” In that regard I really enjoyed the book. The part that I had trouble with is the romantic element of the book. I have to agree with Margot, the idea of leaving a career that you have spent so long building up, a job that makes you happy, for a guy that you’ve known for three months seems ridiculous. I understand the idea of a whirlwind romance might seem feasible and that these types of books are supposed to be escapism, but it really irked me. Charlie is written as this strong powerful woman, but as soon as she meets a guy who’s a good kisser she decides that she doesn’t want to be without him. I had a whole other review written tearing apart Kai and their relationship, but none of it was constructive. I wanted better for Charlie, and I can only hope that there is a sequel where Stuart bumps him off.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing in exchange for honest feedback*
**I spent 6 years working in various professional kitchens, I can attest to the fact that most people who join this profession and work the line ARE in fact crazy and/or nuts. **
Her Author Profile on Goodreads states: Kimberly Stuart wants you to know that authors write their own bios and are hardly reliable sources, particularly if they are writers of fiction. Nevertheless, there are a few facts that stand out:
1. Stuart loves a good story, both written and lived.
2. Stuart loves imported chocolate and her children, though the order of her affections sometimes gets muddled.
3. Stuart writes comedic women's fiction that has an infusion of faith. However, she seems to make Christians nervous. Read at your own risk, then, and e-mail her publisher if you must.
First they took French. Then they took leave of their senses. They bought a 400-year-old cottage in rural France from an ad on the Internet. Their “completely restored” farmhouse certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked, the walls cracked, and the electricity fizzled whenever they switched on the kettle.
This is the wry and witty memoir of les Américains, Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter Sara. Their dream of being French leads them into uncharted territory where “oh la la” takes on a whole different meaning.
Before they can even move in, a freak accident destroys the interior of the house. An ancient wisteria threatens to uproot the kitchen floor. The wildlife continually tries to take up residence, and the pool becomes a watery hole that swallows up euros. And then there’s Jacqueline.
The only way Les Américains can salvage their sanity is by adopting a simple, time-tested mantra: “Have a setback, have a drink.” Soon they’re buying rosé by the case~Goodreads Blurb
Reading through the description of the book, I couldn’t help but have a wiggling nudge of suspicion that I had read this book before. Americans going off to other countries, buying houses that need to be fixed up while facing foreign bureaucracy and new taxes and laws. Not only that it is a common enough theme, but I had watched Under the Tuscan Sun a few nights before, so it really stood out. For a bit of escapist travel fluff, Beginning French is a nice quick read that isn’t very problematic.
At only 205 pages, it only took me about an evening to finish up. The problem I had was not the length but the makeup of the length. With half the story being about the house and the ensuing cracks and flaws that come with an old house, the other half was strangely filled with the equivalent of a marriage counselor's session. I understand that such a big project as this can strain a marriage but I’m not sure that publishing a book about your house and putting that in there really fits. I think that Beginning French would have made a lovely blog, and the website the authors have done up is extremely easy to use and absolutely lovely. As a book I feel as though it was just not enough. Though padded with some delicious looking recipes (I am especially eager to try the onion jam) and an easy to use French to English glossary in the eBook version, I would only recommend this to people looking for a night’s escape to an idyllic French countryside.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback*
Goodreads says this about the authors: Les Américains is the nom de plume of Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier, an American couple who divide their time between California and France. Eileen is the kind of person who can predict an entire plot from the first line of a novel or the first scene in a movie. Marty is a design consultant who has written six bestselling books on innovation, creativity, and branding. Their daughter Sara, who appears in Beginning French and contributes the recipes, is a New York food stylist who began her career at Martha Stewart Living. The trois Américains meet every summer in France—to cook, write, and share photos and travel tips with their followers.
1798. Three people, two brutal murders, and a single promise...
Golo Eck is searching for the fabled lost library of The Lynx, Europe’s first scientific society, founded in 1603. Fergus, his friend and fellow adventurer, is on the trail of the legend in Ireland when he becomes embroiled in the uprising of the United Irish against English rule. His only hope of escape is Greta, a courageous messenger for the United Irish cause. Following the bloody battles of New Ross and Vinegar Hill, Fergus is missing, and Greta is on the run.
Golo meanwhile suspects other forces are on the trail of the Lynx, and he heads to Holland in pursuit. When Golo’s ship founders and he disappears, his ward Ruan is left to fend for himself, a stranger in a strange land.
Can Ruan pursue the trail to the lost library? Will Golo and Fergus be found? Can Greta escape Ireland with her very life? And will the truth of the Legacy of the Lynx finally be revealed?~Goodreads Blurb
From the cover to the description of the story I was ready to dive into this new book whole-hearted. A historical fiction story with a lost library and some fighting in the Irish Rebellion, sign me up. Though it isn't a very long book, at 368 pages, I almost felt that I was reading something that might have been better divided into two books. It was less about the lost library and more about our two main characters' journeys. The story throws in different characters to create a more complete tapestry that, at times, doesn't always make sense to me. I found myself trying to speed read through certain passages to get back to other characters who I found more interesting.
I did find author Clio Gray’s style and characterization welcoming. Instead of writing simple characters that can be pigeon-holed into good versus bad, or lovable and annoying, we see characters that grow into themselves as the story progresses. The readers are left wanting the best for the characters, instead of hoping they get killed off à la George RR Martin. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy adventures, coming of age stories, and historical fiction. It is not one of those books you can speed through and I would suggest this with a cup of tea and a cozy chair. Get comfortable and let it wash over you.
*eBook provided by NetGalley and Urbane Publications in exchange for honest feedback*
NetGalley's note from the Publisher: Clio was born in Yorkshire, spent her later childhood in Devon before returning to Yorkshire to go to university. For the last twenty five years she has lived in the Scottish Highlands where she intends to remain. She eschewed the usual route of marriage, mortgage, children, and instead spent her working life in libraries, filling her home with books and sharing that home with dogs. She began writing for personal amusement in the late nineties, then began entering short story competitions, getting short listed and then winning, which led directly to a publication deal with Headline. Her latest book, The Anatomist's Dream, was nominated for the Man Booker 2015 and long listed for the Bailey's Prize in 2016...
With wit and good humor, this handy little book not only saves us from sticky linguistic situations but also provides fascinating cocktail-party-ready anecdotes. Entries reveal how to pronounce boatswain like an old salt on the deck of a ship, trompe l'oeil like a bona fide art expert, and haricot vert like a foodie, while arming us with the knowledge of why certain words are correctly pronounced the "slangy" way (they came about before dictionaries), what stalks of grain have to do with pronunciation, and more. With bonus sidebars like "How to Sound like a Seasoned Traveler" and "How to Sound Cultured," readers will be able to speak about foreign foods and places, fashion, philosophy, and literature with authority.~Goodreads Blurb
As a kid, we had plenty of blankets and quilts, but never one of those strange things called duvets. I knew what they were of course. I had read several stories about children being tucked in, or young adults struggling with changing the duvet cover. It was one of those words that I learned from reading, so imagine my surprise when I was corrected, at the age of 24, that it was DEW-vay, not Dove-et. I was mortified. I had no idea that it was all fancy like that. I remember closing up and not really talking the rest of the night for fear that my pronunciation would come under attack again.
With humor and grace, authors Ross and Kathryn Petras, guide us towards correct pronunciation. With no malice, but a bit of prodding, they sprinkle their newest book with history, social cues, and help to avoid faux pas for anyone who speaks this silly language we call English. I was able to finish it off in only a few hours, but I found its effect lingered on in my guarded speech. I think that anyone who speaks English as a first language is going to find at least one, if not more, words that they mispronounce on a regular basis. I think this would not only be a great read but also a great present for people who love words, and the history behind them. Or you could give them to your friend who always pronounces things wrong, but I'm not promising that you won't get an eyeroll or a punch for it.
*This book was provided to me by Blogging For Books and Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review*
On the surface, the life of young scientist Mei Yin seems perfect. She runs her own research institute in China, she’s getting married, and she founded an orphanage that helps hundreds of girls. But Mei Yin has a dark secret—three vials of “Satan’s gift,” a deadly smallpox virus left over from Russian scientific research conducted during the Cold War. She’s determined to find a vaccine, even if that means endangering those she holds dear.
Zia Baj, a terrorist educated in the West, has also obtained Satan’s gift. But he’s not looking for a cure—instead, he plans to exact revenge and start a war. So he unleashes the virus in an American classroom. At the same time, thousands of miles away, the children of Mei Yin’s orphanage fall ill. Soon authorities realize that this is no ordinary outbreak: it’s the start of an epidemic. How are the two cases linked? And can a worldwide pandemic be stopped?~Goodreads Blurb
Whoa. This world-encompassing biological thriller is one of my favorite books to come out in 2016. Everyone knows that smallpox was eradicated so thoroughly that they don’t even inoculate kids for it these days. We’re more worried about mumps and measles, to even think about a virus that wiped out millions of people in the past seems a waste of time. Author Jinkang Wang uses his latest book to show us why that might not be the right way to go. With an interesting way of combining the idea of nature as a god-like entity and an understanding of science, the story unfolds in a surprising manner. The timeline stretches from just before 9/11 until beyond present times. This gives a rich world-building story that shows the slow game that evolution and adaption take until meddled with by humans.
Jinkang Wang and translator Jeremy Tiang have done an amazing job on Pathological. Its full of twists and turns leaving readers with the moral question of “Just because we can, should we?” There is quite a bit of religion, atheism and science throughout which give all the various viewpoints that can be difficult to fold together. The idea that everything that exists to day has won some sort of genetic and evolutionary lottery is unsettling if only in the need to question one’s own existence. Couple that with the highlighting of the horrible things that humans have done to each other, JInkang Wang has done a brilliant job marrying science and morals to leave the readers wondering in the best way. I think the basic thought this book leaves you with is best put in the author’s own words. “Does the rabbit have the authority to declare the coyote illegal?”
*Received eBook from NetGalley in exchange for honest review*
AmazonCrossing said this about author Wang Jin Kang: A master of science fiction, Wang Jinkang won the World Chinese Science Fiction Association’s Nebula Award for best novel in 1997 and the International Science Fiction Conference’s Milky Way Award in 2010. His books include Ant People, Seven-Layered Shell, Life-Death Balance, Time-Space Shift, Sowing Seeds on Mercury, and Human-Like. Jeremy Tiang has translated more than ten books from Chinese, including novels by Zhang Yueran, Yan Geling, and Chan Ho-kei. He has been awarded an NEA Literary Translation Fellowship and People’s Literature Prize. He also writes and translates plays, and his own short story collection, It Never Rains on National Day, was short-listed for the Singapore Literature Prize.
The Great Fire has reduced London to smouldering embers. From the ashes, thief taker Charlie Tuesday is drawn to investigate a string of strange murders. Mutilated corpses are washing up at Deptford, each marked with a dire astrological prediction. But only London’s best crime-solver realises the killer’s deadly offerings will soon unleash a devastating force on England.
With the help of Lily Boswell, a gypsy street-girl with a knife and a grudge, Charlie must find the killer and put a stop to the murders. And by doing so, the Thief Taker will find the man whose terrible destiny is entwined with his, their fates written in the dark stars…~Goodreads Blurb
I don’t typically read books out of order. I find that usually you miss bits and pieces that make up the characters. Drawn in by the cover and the promise of adventure that the blurb had, I made an exception to the rule. I am so glad that I did. Easy to jump into and with enough explanation of our heroes’ previous adventures to get the gist, Dark Stars was a blast. A fun read with some historical background mixed with a good murder mystery, I was hooked. I’m going to have to go back and read the first two books, but if they are held to the same standard I know I’ll have no problem getting into them.
The story does tend to end the chapters on hooks and then repeat themselves when they pick up again. This may simply be a creative choice that I’m not to keen on, but it doesn’t detract from the story. Author C.S. Quinn takes us through Restoration London, just before a massive lunar eclipse. Following clues from their personal history and things they earn along the way our two heroes are facing more than just a killer. Being able to not only see through the heroes’ eyes but also the killer, left me trying to connect the dots within the killer’s mind. Adventure, Murder Mystery, with a side of psycho-analyzing...it’s what makes me happy.
I would recommend this book, and probably the series, to readers who enjoyed The Hangman’s Daughter series, The Robert Langdon mysteries, and even Miss Fisher’s Mysteries. The fun and easy escapism of Quinn’s novel makes this the perfect book to take on a trip, or simply sit and devour in an evening as I did. *Received eBook from NetGalley in exchange for honest review*
C.S. Quinn is a travel and lifestyle journalist for The Times, The Guardian and The Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to this, Quinn's background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council. Quinn pooled these resources, combining historical research with first-hand experiences in far-flung places to create The Thief Taker's London.
Freelance Editor & Reviewer