THE PRAGUE SONATA BY BRADFORD MORROW (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The Prague Sonata

From the critically acclaimed author Bradford Morrow, a literary quest novel that travels from Nazi-occupied Prague to turn-of-the-millennium New York as a young musicologist seeks to solve the mystery behind an eighteenth-century sonata manuscript

Music and war, war and music—these are the twin motifs around which Bradford Morrow, recipient of the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has composed his magnum opus, The Prague Sonata, a novel more than a dozen years in the making.

In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript—the gift of a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens—come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. To Meta’s eye, it appears to be an authentic eighteenth-century work; to her discerning ear, the music rendered there is commanding, hauntingly beautiful, clearly the undiscovered composition of a master. But there is no indication of who the composer might be. The gift comes with the request that Meta attempt to find the manuscript’s true owner—a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart—and to make the three-part sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorák and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn’t the only one after the music’s secrets.

Magisterially evoking decades of Prague’s tragic and triumphant history, from the First World War through the soaring days of the Velvet Revolution, and moving from postwar London to the heartland of immigrant America, The Prague Sonata is both epic and intimate, evoking the ways in which individual notes of love and sacrifice become part of the celebratory symphony of life.

Music and War. All wars begin with music her father tells her just before he leaves to never return. Entrusting her with a portfolio with a mysterious sonata.

A look at Prague during WWII. The story is less a history lesson than a personal memoir of Otylie, who protects the piece the best way she knows how as her country is overridden by Nazis and neighbor turns against neighbor. While her own husband goes underground to join the resistance, she is left to survive and protect the sonata the best way she knows how.

In New York, many years later a chance meeting with an old woman from Prague brings Meta, a musicologist, into that same world. By giving her the piece of the sonata that Otylie entrusted her with and begging her to find the other two parts and return them to Otylie.

And so begins a journey that is told through various characters eyes. At times difficult to read, even knowing how this war would turn out, I cried for the people of Prague. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to and now have a much deeper appreciation for.

A story of hope and love and the power of music. Every one of the great composers is here as well as the great writers. We travel from WWI to the end of the Nazi regime.

It is a long read but well worth reading especially today.

Thank you Mr. Morrow!      Netgalley/Atlantic Monthly Press

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Something Like Family by Heather Burch

Something Like Family

Abandoned by his mother when he was young, twenty-two-year-old Rave Wayne knows all about loss. That doesn’t mean he’s used to it. After he’s dumped by the girlfriend he assumed he’d spend his life with, Rave is longing more than ever to connect.

Then, as if by miracle, he receives an invitation from his grandfather, a man he thought was long gone, to come for a visit in rural Tennessee. Loyal, honest, and loving, dear old Tuck is everything Rave could have hoped for. He’s family. Soon, Rave finds himself falling for a down-to-earth local girl, and he thinks his life is finally coming together.

But the past isn’t through with Rave. When his mother returns after many long years, looking to reconcile the terrible mistakes that once defined her, Rave struggles to put together the unsettled pieces of his heart. Will this once-estranged family be able to come together to understand the meaning of unconditional love, the fragile bonds of family, and the healing power of letting go?

This is a beautiful book. So well written it involves every emotion you can think of!

None of these characters are perfect. They are all flawed in some way exactly like most families. A story of love, hope, courage and forgiveness. It shows us that what we believe isn’t always the truth. The truth is always more complicated.

Doing the right thing is sometimes the hardest thing to do. But it usually turns out to be the best thing.

Heather Burch is a storyteller of the best kind. From the first page to the last you cry, laugh, mourn and feel every emotion her characters feel. I don’t know how she does it but I’m awfully glad she does!

This book will be released on September 12, 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.  Netgalley

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land: A Novel by [Kostova, Elizabeth]

From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes a mesmerizing novel that spans the past and the present—and unearths the troubled history of a gorgeous but haunted country.

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss.

In the beginning of this book, I thought, oh we have a mystery on our hands. A mysterious trio who have left one of their bags mixed in with Alexandra’s in front of a hotel in Sofia.

When a nice looking and very helpful taxi driver insists on helping her, she takes him up on it, not knowing that he is not who or what he says he is.

They travel to villages all around Sofia, and find some relatives and hear the stories of the family they are chasing. And that is when this became a gripping and heartbreaking look at what war does to people and how each person bears their burdens differently.

The descriptions of the country, the wars, the people were so complete. I love a book that can not only entertain me, but leave me thinking long after I’ve read it.

I loved every minute of our journey to Bulgaria!

Thanks Netgalley and Ballentine!

Books,Books and More Books

 

 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls
Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.

The story of three women, and their own experiences with WWII.

One, a wealthy young woman living in New York and doing the best she can for the orphans and other displaced persons in France. Caroline Ferriday, finds herself in a relationship with an actor, who is also married and has a wife in France.

In Poland, we find Kasia Kuzmerick, a teenager whose youth is about to be ended when Poland is invaded. Kasia has a strength unlike I have ever seen. No matter what horrors she endures, she still puts one foot in front of the other and survives. But along with the physical scars, the emotional scars are heartbreaking.

In Germany, Herta Oberheuser, a young idealistic German doctor, is looking for a place she can use and practice what she has learned. When she answers an ad, her life and the lives of many others will be impacted.

Based on real people this story is one we all need to read. No matter how many articles or books I read on the Holocaust, it never gets easier and yet it must be told. This story of hope, courage, love, and selflessness is one I will recommend to one and all.

This book was difficult to read but the story was much more difficult for those living it.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martha Hall Kelly   Martha Hall Kelly

Website

 

Martha is a native New Englander but has become nomadic, splitting her time between New York City, Martha’s Vineyard and Atlanta, Georgia. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching Lilac Girls, her first novel. When Martha is not chasing after her new puppy she is hard at work on her next book. You’ll find more info about the true story behind Lilac Girls at her website: http://www.marthahallkelly.com and lots of visual inspiration for the book on the Pinterest account she is madly in love with.

 

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Bury The Living (The Revolutionary Series Book 1) by Jodi McIssac

Bury the Living (The Revolutionary Series, #1)

The Book Blurb for Bury the Living:

Rebellion has always been in the O’Reilly family’s blood. So when faced with the tragic death of her brother during Northern Ireland’s infamous Troubles, a teenage Nora joined the IRA to fight for her country’s freedom. Now, more than a decade later, Nora is haunted by both her past and vivid dreams of a man she has never met.

When she is given a relic belonging to Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of Ireland, the mystical artifact transports her back eighty years—to the height of Ireland’s brutal civil war. Here she meets the alluring stranger from her dreams, who has his own secrets—and agenda. Taken out of her own time, Nora has the chance to alter the fortunes of Ireland and maybe even save the ones she loves. In this captivating and adventurous novel from Jodi McIsaac, history belongs to those with the courage to change it.

Our story begins in 1990 Belfast with a 15 year old Nora O’Reilly. The British may have pulled out but the war continues. A Civil War that has turned countryman against countryman. Trying to help her mother and brother, Nora agrees to do some shady things and gets in trouble with the wrong people. The same people who soon get her brother killed.

14 years later, we find Nora in Darfur,Sudan, working in a Refugee Camp. Planning a much needed bit of R & R. But she ends up back in Ireland. Having dreams of a man and an urgent need to find him. To do that she will have to suspend reality for a while. Will she find him? Can she really travel back in time and try to find this man and end the wars in her home country?

As a History buff, I enjoyed this book very much. The Irish Wars have always been a complicated subject, and difficult to understand what exactly happened and who is now fighting who.

One of my favorite types of stories are those that combine fact and fiction. There are plenty of facts and obviously some fiction, and it works wonderfully well.

Coming from an Irish family, I loved this book. Parts of it broke my heart. War is never easy to read about. But Nora is a girl after my own heart. Standing her ground and fighting for her country as well as any man.

Since this is book one in this series we know there will be more, which is a good thing.

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:5826477

Jodi McIsaac is the author of the Irish contemporary fantasy series The Thin Veil (47North) the thriller A Cure for Madness (Thomas & Mercer) and the forthcoming historical Revolutionary series, starting with Bury the Living (47North).

She grew up in New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast. After abandoning her Olympic speed skating dream, she wrote speeches for a politician, volunteered in a refugee camp, waited tables in Belfast, earned a couple of university degrees, and started a boutique copywriting agency. She loves geek culture, running, and whiskey.

Expected publication: September 6th 2016 by 47North

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

I have read every one of Mr. Coben’s books. I have never been disappointed in any of them and I eagerly look forward to the next one.

I did not expect what was inside of this book, however!

The jacket description: Former special-ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work. Her two year old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe- who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery : Can you believe your own eyes, even when you desperately want to?
To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband and herself.

It has been a rough time for Maya. Serving in the war, her sister’s murder while she was away and now that she is home, her husband is murdered. When a friend brings her a nanny cam, disguised as a digital picture frame, she can’t imagine she will see anything except the nanny caring for her daughter, but what she sees sets a series of events in place that I never saw coming. As she tries to make sense of what she has seen, everyone around her becomes suspect. Who knows what? And what does her husband’s death have to do with her sister’s death? Why does it seem Maya is leaving a lot of bodies in her wake?

Talk about dysfunctional families! I think I was suspect of every character at least once! But I never, ever saw that ending coming! I think this is one of the best Mr. Coben has written yet!

I think I walked around for hours saying ” Oh my God”, until my partner said, ” Please give me the book now!!” Thank you Mr. Coben!

WAR by Sebastian Junger

 

War

Sebastian Junger, New York Times Bestseller, author of The Perfect Storm, and A Death in Belmont, as well as a contributing editor to Vanity Fair is not only the author of WAR, but also along with photojournalist Tim Hetherington, directed Restrepo, a Documentary which was nominated for an Oscar.

Over the course of 15 months, Junger, writing for Vanity Fair, was embedded with a single platoon at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan. His objective was to convey what soldiers experience. What war really feels like.

This book is the result of 5 trips to The Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan ( also known as The Valley of Death)  between June of 2007 and June of 2008.  He worked with photojournalist Tim Hetherington sometimes and other times each went on their own. Entirely dependent on our military for everything. Their hours of videotape became the basis of the feature length documentary called Restrepo.

This book was as hard to read as it was rewarding. At some point, I was so emotional I didn’t think I could continue, but I did. The book focuses on one platoon, Battle Company and is a real and honest look at what these men go through in one of the worst places to be in Afghanistan. These are real people making life and death decisions and doing their best to just do their jobs and not get killed. The total trust they have in each other, the pain when one of their own is lost or injured. The feeling of never being able to let your guard down for an instant. Understanding the difference between Human terrain and Physical terrain. This was but one of the things I had never considered. Also that the moral basis of the war doesn’t seem to interest soldiers so much, and its long-term success or failure has a relevance of almost zero. The U.S. pulled out of The Konegal Valley in 2010.

I also watched the documentary and got to see the guys who I had only pictured in my head. As they talked about their experiences and their lost friends and there was a look in all of their eyes that made you feel like they had seen things that even they couldn’t quite face. It was a superb film.

We had a discussion on the book at our local library, as Mr. Junger is in Oklahoma this week doing several talks and signings, and I would like to thank Susan at the Del City branch for her insights into the book and the film. This is a book that needs to be shared and needs to be talked about. I encourage you all to watch the film as well as read the book.