Review of Becoming Marie Antoinette, Juliet Grey

In this novel Juliet Grey is interested in redeeming a much maligned historical figure, who, while usually portrayed as “heedless to headless” was, in fact, a much more sympathetic character. She creates a richly developed inner world for Marie Antoinette from ten-year-old Archduchess of Austria to Dauphine of France on the verge of becoming queen.

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Review of The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone is a venerable Victorian classic mystery described by T.S. Eliot as “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.” We follow the exotic Moonstone diamond from its home on a Hindu statue through war and intrigue onto the bosom of a proper Victorian lady in a grand country home—only to lose sight of it again for a long but entertaining time. Who took it and where is it? You’ll meet several amusing narrators and wind through intricate clues in this classic, which is available these days as a free e-book.

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Review of Everything Beautiful Began After, by Simon Van Booy

Van Booy has created a masterful piece of fiction, although it is not an easy read. I found it disorienting at times, and sometimes the masterful demanded I take notice of the author’s skill rather than lose myself in his characters and their world. At the core of Everything Beautiful Began After are three very flawed characters whose emotional crippling as children leads them to unusual relationships as adults. Love and grief take extreme forms that enlighten and intrigue the reader. Click on title to read review.

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Review of Ransom, by David Malouf

Ransom focuses on the moment in the Iliad when King Priam retrieves his son Hector’s body from Achilles. In twenty years of teaching that part of the epic, I never survived a class without having to wipe away tears. For me, it is the single most revealing moment in literature about what it means to be human. Nothing tops it. To choose that moment for a book’s primary subject! —audacious and, it turns out, wise.

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Two Ruins, Two Lessons

Two sets of ancient ruins—the graceful temple columns rising against the backdrop of shimmering desert sands in honor of the Mesopotamian god Bel, and a Persian mountain fortress containing a possible Zoroastrian fire altar—these disparate places, one in modern Syria and one in northern Afghanistan, reveal two sides of modern archaeology: the allure of beautiful and exotic locations that connect us to the past and the dangers archaeologists face while digging in the midst of wars and conflict.

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Review of Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

Waiting for Robert Capa is both a puzzling book and an alluring one. It contains gorgeous, vivid descriptions of life in Paris and Spain in the ‘30s, but we never lose ourselves in Fortes’s imagined semi-fictional world because she tells Robert and Gerda’s story with the all-knowing voice of historical retrospective.

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Review of Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen’s latest offering in her Royal Spyness series, Naughty in Nice, is pure fun. The French Riviera in 1933, Coco Chanel, Mrs. Simpson and the Duke of Windsor lurking on the sidelines, handsome scoundrels and clever thieves, gorgeous gowns and too much champagne, not to mention a dark, handsome lover and a clever if somewhat naïve young Lady Georgiana (cousin to Queen Mary) out to solve all the puzzles even if it puts her life in danger.

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Interview with Elizabeth Speller, author of The Return of Captain John Emmett

An engaging interview with Elizabeth Speller, author of The Return of Captain John Emmett: what led her to write about the aftermath of WWI, her choice of shellshock (PTSD) and the execution of an officer as foci for the book, and what she discovered along the way of writing it.

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