Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

image from LibraryThing
I love big books and I can't lie!! 

This is a great one to sink into on a summer vacation afternoon...and I was lucky enough to do just that today!  Sat out on my porch with a diet pepsi cooling on the coffee table and this book in my hands!  It was wonderful!!

This is a WWII story of love and hardship and death and survival.  It's one of those that is sometimes hard to read because we know the events in history that this is going to have to bump up against. But, you can't stop reading because of the characters, because you truly care about them, you want to see if they make it and come together again!


The main character is Andras Levi, a Hungarian Jew who has won a prize to become a student of architecture in Paris.  That is how the story begins - Andras getting ready to leave Hungary for Paris and his brother Tibor sending him off.  But, there is a chance meeting with two people before he makes it to Paris. One is a mysterious older woman who asks him to mail a letter to C. Morganstern in Paris and the other is a kindly gentleman on his way back to Paris from Hungary, a Mr. Novak. 

Like all great books - these encounters set up important events and characters.  As chance sometimes happens in the interconnectedness of the Jewish world - these encounters lead Andras to life long love and occupation.

It was really interesting reading this from the Hungarian perspective - one that I don't think I have read before. I kept waiting on pins and needles for the awful Paris Jewish roundup that is the basis of Sarah's Key - another amazing WWII book. But, that didn't happen in the scope of this tale. Thank goodness!

Instead, this told the story of what it was like to be a Jew in a country that was part of the Warsaw pact, part of the losing team against the rest of the world. It also told of the kindness of Hungarians and the incredible cruelty.  It portrayed the deep divides in the Jewish classes of excess before WWII. This is a story of love and survival.

I LOVED this book!  I was transported to an uncertain and emotional world where humans can do so much more that we ever thought  - both for good and evil!!

Highly Recommend this one!!!

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

image from Library Thing
I am on a Victorian England kick it seems - and here is another book set in that time frame.

Charles Lenox is the English amateur detective and aristocrat called to the scene of the startling death of a young maid...perhaps a suicide, perhaps not.  Charles and his butler,  Graham, set about investigating this puzzling death - it looks like she drank arsenic - but Charles is not the bottom of the glass he discovers something else, the remains of a much more deadly and rare poison.  But, why would someone want to murder a maid?

Charles is helped in this investigation by by a cast of other characters - Lady Gray, his neighbor and confidante, a Scotland yard cop, an investigator and a one-time chemist.

It's been a while since I've read a straight up mystery.  This took me a while to get involved in. There were many mentions to previous cases that I didn't really get, and an overall assumption that I understood all about footmen, and poor nephews and much of English class structure.

So, although I liked the characters and the mystery itself was rather intriguing. It moved a bit slowly for me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Image from LibraryThing
I was totally enthralled with Downton Abbey - watching as many episodes on Netflix that I could.  So, this was a great follow up book!

The story takes place at a time when America was filled with new millionaires due to all the industries here while England was filled with dilapidated estates in need of cash. The idea of an American heiress traveling to England with deep pockets in need of a husband is a great place to start the story.

Cora Cash is a filthy rich spoiled daughter of a flour baron and an incredibly driven mother. Mrs. Cash's sole purpose seems to be proving her importance through what she can buy and that includes her gilded daughter.  Then a fateful coming out party and a flaming headress sends the mother and daughter to England to branch out and find a husband.

And that is where the book gets better. I liked Cora so much more when she was growing up - when she was becoming her own person, not her mother's shadow.  But, it is a book - so true love doesn't come easily! There is an evil mother-in-law, a lost love that doesn't want to stay lost, and all the mysteries of English country living.
Cora is the most real personality in this glittering facade.

I was a little disappointed in how quickly the book came to an end. There was a lot of build-up and then - boom - it was over.  That left me wanting more!  But, I would recommend this! It's a great tale and a fun summer read!

The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa

image from LibraryThing
I am always intrigued at the way imaginary lands creatures carry over from one story to another. This series by Julie Kagawa is an excellent example of that.

image from LibraryThing
The first book - The Iron King - takes place partly in the our world and partly in the world of Faery - where King Oberon has had a half faery daughter named Meghan who figures out on her 16th birthday when she figures out her 4 yr old brother has been switched with a changeling.  As the Faery sight begins to emerge she realizes that her great friend Robbie is actually her protector Puck or Robin Goodfellow...sound familiar?  It's Midsummers night dream tied in to today's world.

But that isn't the only twist - the faery world of NeverNever is slowly dying due to a strange new fey of iron. Iron is the killer of all faery creatures - one touch is deadly.  Who knew?!   And there is a king aiming to take over the entire world of NeverNever.

image from LibraryThing
Meghan crosses path with Ash, the hunter from the winter court and sworn enemy of Puck and Grimalkin the Cait Sith (that is a fancy way of calling him the cheshire cat from Alice). This group comes together to defeat the Iron King and in so doing Meghan finds a part of herself she had no idea existed.

Iron Daughter picks up right where Iron King ends.  I love books that do that! 

image from LibraryThing
But - I really felt like each of the next books didn't have quite the build up the first one did. As a reader, the excitement Meghan felt as she was discovering her identity was gone. Instead, it was a slow smoldering romance. I wasn't as interested...but I can't seem to stop in the middle of a series. I wanted to know how Meghan overcomes the obstacles that her father and Mab the Winter Queen throw in front of her. I wanted to know if her relationship grows with Ash and if he decides what his real priorities are and if he and Puck continue the feud.  And probably most importantly I wanted to know how Meghan defeats the false Iron King.

And that took us through the next two books. 

The Iron Knight was completely different. Ash was the main character on a quest to become human so he could be with Meghan and the Iron Fey.  When I started this one I just wanted it to be over. It felt like the final season of ER - I just really didn't care anymore - but I had put enough time in that I didn't want to quit.  At least that is how I felt at the beginning. It did draw me in. I did care about Ash and Puck. I really didn't like Ariella though.  But - my favorite characters were Grimalkin and The Big Bad Wolf.  They were great!  

So - I really liked these books. I thought they were interesting and a new twist on the fairy tales we know. Great ideas!