The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan


By Deborah Copaken Kogan

$24.99 Voice Publishers

My thoughts next -

THE RAVEN opens tomorrow, April 27

This is one movie that I can't wait to see... it opens tomorrow, Friday, April 27!

THE RAVEN with John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

The Book of Lost Fragrances

By M. J. Rose

Atria Books, $24.00

What the publisher wants you to know:

A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra—and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances—and of her mother’s suicide—she moves to America, leaving the company in the hands of her brother Robbie. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac discovers a secret the House of L’Etoile has been hiding since 1799: a scent that unlocks the mysteries of reincarnation. The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

My thoughts about The Book of Lost Fragrances:  

I've read that the author burned highly perfumed candles while crafting this hypnotic story and I can see why. Layer upon layer of stories and characters, drifting back and forth over two thousand years of fragrances make this a winner. 

I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book as I've always been someone who associates fragrances, scents and smells with people and memories in my own life. Whenever I smell juniper trees it reminds me of a treasured great aunt, whose old house on a hill was surrounded by them, and in the air, after a rain, the scents of the junipers that filled the air were like perfume to me. Fresh baked bread always takes me back to my grandmother's kitchen as us kids waited for the bread to cool so she could slice into it and then thickly smear on the lusciously fragrant home made strawberry jam.  I'll never pass a fragrance counter without stopping at the Joy bottle and spritzing a bit on my wrist so the wafts bring my Mom back to me.  

These are the sorts of things that permeate M. J. Rose's The Book of Lost Fragrances.  It wasn't until I had finished the book and sat down to write this review that I learned that this is part of M.J. Rose's Rein­car­na­tion­ist series, don't let that scare you away from this book, it's fabulous on its own. 

I liked that Rose told the story from multiple perspectives as it helped the story flow a bit easier. Sometimes the many plots and stories could get a bit confusing, but I was so entranced with the book that I just kept reading.  I don't believe in reincarnation, but I accepted it as a plot device that made the ancient Egyptian plot lines easy to buy into, even though I easily saw some twists and turns coming.

All in all, I would have liked a bit more character development as I really like to know the characters, but I suppose the author gave us what she felt the readers needed. It's sure a mystical read! 

I give this one 4 stars out of 5. 

**This was provided to me by the publishers through NetGalley and that in no way affected my ability to write an honest review. 

Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins has died

It's with a great sense of personal loss that I share with you all the sad new of the death of Jonathan Frid on April 13, 2012.  Frid was the original Barnabas Collins on the classic TV series DARK SHADOWS.

John Herbert Frid
December 2, 1924 - April 13, 2012

Rest in peace dear Jonathan, you brought us joy 
and a sense of adventure.

Jonathan Frid's first appearance on DARK SHADOWS 

A Night to Remember 100 years later

One hundred years ago today, at 2:20 AM on 15 April 1912, over 1500 people died in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, when the "unsinkable" Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. We remember and honor those who lost their lives, as well as those 705 people who survived to tell their stories.  


Source link

I think the best accounting of the tragedy is the 1958 book, A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord. 

Lord's book was turned into a very accurate and incredibly well done film,  starring Kenneth More as Second Officer Charles Lightoller.  

The excellent people over at the Criterion Collection have issued a newly restored digital  restoration of the movie. The new DVD includes several extras including interviews and a commentary.  

                               The Criterion Collection © 2012 

Book cover art and original poster images are copyright their respective owners.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's Secretary

By Susan Elia MacNeal

Bantam, $15.00

What the publisher wants you to know:

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character,  Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

What I want to share with you: 

I love this book! Susan Elia MacNeal has crafted a smart, fun and inquisitive character in Maggie Hope.  Maggie's an American student, on her way to study at MIT. Maggie's been raised by an aunt after the deaths of her parents in a car accident in London. When a grandmother she's never known dies, she inherits her grandmother's London home. So off Maggie goes, at the beginning days of WWII, to see about selling the home. Because of the war's onset, Maggie is trapped in London. She's unable to sell the home and quickly goes about renting out its rooms to a quirky and interesting group of supporting players. Susan Elia MacNeal opens the book with the death of a young woman. I love it when the action starts before you turn too many pages.  

Make no mistake, this isn't a fluffy piece of historical fiction, or maybe more precisely, a fictional historical mystery. Trust no one you meet in Mr. Churchill's Secretary, as not all are whom they seem to be and Maggie comes to realize that her world and the people in it, aren't always who and what she thought they were. 

Susan's character Maggie, reminds be just a teeny bit of the "Maisey Dobbs" character, in that they are both incredibly smart, young and are a bit miffed that because they are "female" they are limited in what the world around them allows them to do. Maggie Hope is her own modern woman and she fights to claim her own place in the world, even if it's not quite the way she expected it to be.

Susan Elia MacNeal's research is incredibly detailed and accurate as needed historically. The story unwinds at a good pace and that makes it a very easy and enjoyable read. For me, the book moved quickly and smoothly and the characters and settings were perfect for me to suspend my disbelief. 

I'm excited to learn that there will be four more Maggie Hope books for us to enjoy, the next two will be, in order, Princess Elizabeth's Spy out this fall and then Hitler's Nightgale and a fourth that's still unnamed. 

I give Mr. Churchill's Secretary 4 out of 5 stars!  It's great, just read it!

**I received this book through a GOODREADS early reader giveaway from the publisher, and this is my honest review of the book.

J.K. Rowling's next book announced! THE CASUAL VACANCY

WOO HOO!  Finally we have the announcement from J.K. Rowling's publisher that her highly anticipated adult novel has a name and publication info!

Here's the press release about THE CASUAL VACANCY!

Little, Brown Book Group announces that the new novel for adults by J.K. Rowling is entitled The Casual Vacancy.  The book will be published worldwide in the English language in hardback, ebook, unabridged audio download and on CD on Thursday 27th September 2012.

The Casual Vacancy

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.
© Wall to Wall Media Ltd.  Photographer: Andrew Montgomery.
© Wall to Wall Media Ltd. Photographer: Andrew Montgomery.

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

The Lifeboat 

By Charlotte Rogan

Reagan Arthur Books, $24.99

The publisher's synopsis:
 As the weather deteriorates and the passengers are forced to choose sides in a brewing power struggle, Grace realizes that her survival could depend on whether she backs the ruthless but experienced John Hardie or the enigmatic but increasingly forceful Ursula Grant. Over the course of three perilous weeks, the lifeboat passengers plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while questioning their deepest assumptions about goodness, humanity and God. 
It is the summer of 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war, but Grace Winter’s future finally seems secure as she and her new husband set sail for New York, where she hopes to win over a disapproving and status-conscious mother-in-law. When a mysterious explosion sinks their ship, Grace is thrust into a lifeboat by a quick-witted crew member, who climbs in after her even though the boat is already filled beyond capacity. 
Grace is finally rescued, only to be put on trial for her life. Unsure what to make of their client, Grace’s attorneys suggest she write her story down. The result is a page-turning tale of moral dilemmas, and also a haunting portrait of a woman as unforgettable and complicated as the events she describes.

Author Charlotte Rogan wisely starts her story in the middle of the action. Readers meet Grace Winter, twenty two, a bride of ten weeks, and a widow for almost 6 weeks. Grace is being escorted from the courtroom, where she is on trial for murder. As her attorneys lead her to a nearby restaurant for lunch, a rain storm opens up and Grace greedily stands in the downpour, allowing her mouth to open and swallow up the drenching rain, much to the embarrassment of her lawyers.  This prologue tells us so much, and yet so little. What Rogan has brilliantly done is make us want to know more.

Whew!  Let me start by saying that I read this in two sittings. Over two days. I was so hooked on Grace Winter that my "real world" was put on "pause" so I could read this brilliant first novel!  I won't give anything away that the publisher doesn't reveal in the synopsis or the author in the prologue.  

We know that Grace and others do survive the explosion and subsequent sinking of the luxury liner, the Empress Alexandra, taking place two years after the loss of the Titanic.  We know some in her lifeboat do not survive. What we will find out - is who survives and why some do not.

As we meet the passengers in the over crowded lifeboat, we see the struggle for life over death, and the struggle of death to bring life.

Break out author Charlotte Rogan has crafted a story so simple, but with so many layers that you are hypnotized by its telling.

Not a miss step that I could find in this story, and I will add that I think it's interesting that we know a lot more about the women passengers than we do about the men.  Rogan gives us what we need as far as character development. Not too much, just enough to care and to keep us turning the pages.

A HUGE 5 out of 5 stars!!

Be sure to visit the author's website for more information about The Lifeboat.

*This book was provided to me by the publisher through Net Galley and in no way affected my honest review.  

National Library Week April 8 - 14, 2012

Celebrate National Library Week
 April 8 -14th!

Visit your local library, get a card, borrow a book!  

Easy, peasy!

Source information - American Library Association 

Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith

Elizabeth The Queen

By Sally Bedell Smith

Random House, $30.00

From the publisher: From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do we really know the world’s most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in intimate detail the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who has led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last sixty years with unparalleled composure, intelligence, and grace.  In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes “heiress presumptive” when her uncle abdicates the throne. We meet the thirteen-year-old Lilibet as she falls in love with a young navy cadet named Philip and becomes determined to marry him, even though her parents prefer wealthier English aristocrats. We see the teenage Lilibet repairing army trucks during World War II and standing with Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on V-E Day. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children. Sally Bedell Smith brings us inside the palace doors and into the Queen’s daily routines—the “red boxes” of documents she reviews each day, the weekly meetings she has had with twelve prime ministers, her physically demanding tours abroad, and the constant scrutiny of the press—as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life; her children and their often-disastrous marriages; her grandchildren and friends.

My thoughts:  Let me start by telling you what Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth The Queen is not. It's not a trashy and it's not a tell-all. If that's what you're looking for, then this is not the book for you.  However...if you're looking for a look at the life of a modern monarch, then give Elizabeth The Queen a try. 

I really enjoyed this book, Smith goes to great lengths to really give the reader a background into the life of the young princess who suddenly goes from being a "background" Royal to being front and center when her uncle, the Duke of Windsor abdicates.  As her book unfolds, it's easy to see that great attention was paid to getting things right and telling a fair account of the Queen's life "in service to her country" when you realize that Smith was allowed to travel with the Queen on many trips, to visit her Royal residences and had access to reportedly two hundred people within the world of Her Majesty.  

Smith shares the strength and courage of a young wife and mother, who overnight, becomes Queen with the early death of her father. You learn background bits about her teen years as a Girl Guide and someone who watched her parents go out into the streets of London during the bombings of WWII, she's head strong and frugal. She's steady, she's adapted and she's endured.

Want to know more?  Read this book!

I enjoyed Smith's writing style and her attention to details. This could bother some, but not me. I want to know, I love biographies and I admire the courage and strength of this woman.  Elizabeth The Queen is not a short or "easy" read. But it is a a good read. A very good read.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

**This book was provided to me by the publisher through a giveaway and that in no way affected my honest review.

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