Monday, April 23, 2018

Educated, A Memoir by Tara Westover

Educated, A Memoir by Tara Westover - 334 pages

Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom. Instead of traditional lessons, she grew up learning how to stew herbs into medicine, scavenging in the family scrap yard and helping her family prepare for the apocalypse. She had no birth certificate and no medical records and had never been enrolled in school.

Westover’s mother proved a marvel at concocting folk remedies for many ailments. As Tara developed her own coping mechanisms, little by little, she started to realize that what her family was offering didn’t have to be her only education. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University at 16. 
Her first day of university was her first day in school—ever—and she would eventually win an esteemed fellowship from Cambridge and graduate with a PhD in intellectual history and political thought.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry

Twenty-One Days: A Daniel Pitt Novel by Anne Perry --- 303 pages

Best selling historical mystery writer Anne Perry is best known for her two mystery series set in Victorian England, the William Monk mysteries and the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries.   After thirty-two books appearing over  almost forty years, the Pitts made their final, triumphant appearance in Murder on the Serpentine (2017), in which Pitt, head of Britain's Special Branch, is knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to Crown and Country.

This year the indefatigable Perry debuts a new series, set ten years on in 1910. The old Queen is dead, and the Edwardian Era is underway. Thomas and Charlotte's son Daniel, is a newly minted barrister starting on the ground floor of one of London's most prominent law practices. We meet Daniel in the throes of defending his first serious criminal case. A former police officer, who once worked for Thomas Pitt and now works as a private inquiry agent, stands accused of murdering a man who owed him a substantial sum of money. All the evidence seems to point to Roman Blackwell's guilt, and one witness, Oscar Park, has been particularly damaging in his testimony.

Acting on a hunch, Daniel enlists the help of an expert witness to prove his client's innocence.  And just in time, for he is urgently summoned to assist in another, much more serious case in which a writer of salacious biographies of the rich and/or powerful stands accused of the murder of his wife and the disfigurement of her corpse. Russell Graves insists he is innocent, but he is an arrogant and abrasive man who does nothing to advance his cause. The jury finds him guilty, and he i sentenced to be hanged in just twenty-one days --- unless his lawyers can find legal grounds or new evidence to mount an appeal.

The more Daniel has to do with Graves, the more he dislikes the man; his sympathies are all for the victim, Graves' wife Ebony, and two surviving children, Sarah and Arthur. Graves insists that he's been framed by powerful enemies seeking to derail the publication of his new book, in which he claims to expose corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of government.

Daniel discovers that Graves' book defames the character of two people close to his family, as well as his own father, Sir Thomas; and destroys the reputation of Special Branch. Daniel also learns that Graves physically abused his wife, children and servants for years. He's sorely tempted to let Graves hang but --- he's not convinced that Graves is guilty of murdering his wife. Can Daniel prevent Graves from hanging for a murder he did not commit, yet make sure he's punished for his actual crimes --- and guarantee that his malicious book never sees the light of day?

Click HERE to see the review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to see the review from Kirkus Reviews.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S. Harris

Why Kill the Innocent: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery by C.S. Harris --- 335 pages including Author's Note.

The 13th entry in this superb Regency Era historical mystery series is Harris's best yet. Set against the backdrop of the 1814 Frost Fair --- the last time that a a bitterly cold winter caused the River Thames to freeze over so that the denizens of London could walk from one side of the river to the other on solid ice --- the story begins with Sebastian's wife Hero literally stumbling over the body of a murdered woman buried in a snow drift in the noisome Clerkenwell slums.

The mystery only deepens when Hero recognizes the corpse as the accomplished Jane Ambrose, a former musical prodigy who teaches piano to the children of the wealthy and powerful --- the Princess Charlotte,  Heiress Presumptive to the British throne, chief among them.  Hero and her husband Viscount St. Cyr know they must move quickly to investigate this death, since the Palace will act to suppress Jane's murder, less any hint of scandal attach to the Princess.

Sebastian and Hero soon discover that Jane, constrained on every side by the misogynistic norms of the time, trapped in an abusive and exploitative marriage, has involved herself in the palace intrigues surrounding the Princess and her despicable father, the Prince Regent. Their dogged pursuit of the truth and some measure of justice for Jane puts both their lives at risk.

Harris's historical expertise and her dramatic acumen combine in a story filled with suspense that illuminates both the glittering facade and the dark depths of Regency London, from the highest to the lowest level. Several historical persons make appearances in the book, while key characters such as Jane Ambrose are based on real people.

I highly recommend all the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Reviews.

Click HERE to read a review from Booklist.

Click HERE to read a review from 

Click HERE to find more about the London Frost Fair of 1814 from the BBC News Magazine 

INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger

INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger - 448 pages

A young psychic woman learns from her grandmother.  A murder mystery ensues and Finley, the young woman,  attempts to help the family. 
Actually I thought it moved to slow in places and was disappointed with the end.

This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer

This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer
(The Clifton Chronicles #7)
432 pages / 12 hrs, 47 mins

"In Whitehall, Giles Barrington discovers the truth about his wife Karin from the Cabinet Secretary. Is she a spy or a pawn in a larger game? Harry Clifton sets out to write his magnum opus, while his wife Emma completes her ten years as Chairman of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and receives an unexpected call from Margaret Thatcher offering her a job. Sebastian Clifton becomes chairman of Farthings Kaufman bank, but only after Hakim Bishara has to resign for personal reasons. Sebastian and Samantha's talented daughter Jessica is expelled from the Slade School of Fine Art, but her aunt Grace comes to her rescue. Meanwhile, Lady Virginia is about to flee the country to avoid her creditors when the Duchess of Hertford dies, and she sees another opportunity to clear her debts and finally trump the Cliftons and Barringtons."  --from the publisher

Wow! This was excellently done. The cast of characters and time span for this series are both immense, and Archer does a masterful job keeping the details straight so the reader is engaged in the story. The plot dragged in some places, but not for long. I may have to revisit this series in the future.  Loved it!

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
320 pages / 9 hrs, 1 min

"'The Cost of Discipleship' is a compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency from a man whose life and thought were exemplary articulations of a new type of leadership inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty." --from the publisher

I've always admired the faith and courage of Bonhoeffer, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this classic work.  I must say the book raised as many questions for me as it answered.  I just hope some of his brilliance soaked in as I plodded through.

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce  463 pages

Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm's most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness--and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the "leftover prince" with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram's heart, Arram realizes that one day--soon--he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.