Review of The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

The Scottish Prisoner is Gabaldon’s latest book in her extended family of books set in 18th century England/Scotland/Ireland. This offshoot from her main Outlander series focuses on Lord John Grey as his life once again tangles with Jamie Fraser, the ex-Jacobite rebel who is now a prisoner at Helwater farm. Great character development and a twisting plot cleverly incorporating snippets of Celtic language and folklore make this a pleasure to read.

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Review of You Might As Well Die by J.J. Murphy

J.J. Murphy’s second mystery, You Might As Well Die, starring Dorothy Parker, is a zany, screwball comedy delight set in New York in the 1920’s. People die (well, that’s debatable but I’ll say no more), but you will never feel sad. The witty jokes and cynical appraisals of life’s foibles fly as fast as you can read.

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Review of City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley

Award-winning Kelli Stanley has come out with the second in her Miranda Corbie mystery series set in San Francisco in the 30’s and 40’s—this time someone’s killing Jewish women, women whose place on the edges of society makes them particularly vulnerable. No one’s going to step up and bring them justice—or so the powers that be hope. They didn’t count on Miranda.

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Review of Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Next to Love is big in scope while everyday in focus and beautiful in its entirety. It spans the American years from December 1941 to August 1965 (from WWII to the Gulf of Tonkin). And yet, rather than the epic and larger-than-life action that war novels often involve, Next to Love portrays the world of the women left behind, then returned to (or not), and the lives they and their children build under the influence of the ever-present, but rarely-discussed war.

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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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