While we are few this week due to lots and lots of vacationing staff (it is August after all!) what we do offer this week is rather interesting in its variety. This week we have some alt history, a social outcast, France (it is back!), London and Cambodia.

Let us begin!

Stephanie was happily prepared for the commuting strife earlier this week . “This week the best thing I read was definitely The Impeachment  Of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen L. Carter. I was stuck on a train for a few hours on Monday but I barely noticed it thanks to this absorbing work of alternative history. Carter begins from a seductively simple question—what if President Lincoln had survived his assassination attempt in 1865? The answer: the various factions who detested him would have put him on trial for multiple offenses, including the charge that he attempted to permanently take over the government with the help of the military. Told from the perspectives of the people defending the President in front of the Senate, with the bulk of the book devoted to Abigail, a young black woman who dreams of being a lawyer, it’s perfect for people who still miss watching The West Wing. It’s equal parts historical fiction and legal thriller with a dash of old-fashioned procedural (and even a little spy action), and a total page-turner. “  Let this week’s commuting woes be a valuable lesson!  NEVER be without a book!

The Amazing Amanda is reading The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller.  “Meet Haven. She’s seventeen and lives with her controlling religious grandmother in a small town in Tennessee. She’s a social outcast because she has visions of her past lives. After being publically declared as being possessed by the Devil, Haven decides to run away to New York City. There she hopes to meet Ethan, her soul-mate from her past life visions. However, meeting Ethan in this new life as Iain does not necessarily mean happy ever after for this southern girl.  Miller’s book is a page turner that breathes life into the mannerism and culture of small town America. Haven is just eccentric enough to keep her likable. However, the current YA trend of possessive and controlling teenage boys is overwrought no matter how destined the lovers are for each other.

Jeanne has just finished the Age of Desire by Jennie Fields. “I thought it started a bit slow, much like Wharton's own Custom of the Country which I read a few years ago and which she was writing during the time frame of the Age of Desire. But the tempo picks up in both and merits page turning as Ms. Fields leads us from France to the United States and back several times in a whirlwind of society guests, salons and assignations. A number of very private letters between Edith Wharton and Morton Fullerton became available for public viewing and from these; Ms. Fields enraptures us in a tale of wanton sexual awakening, jealousies and (misguided) loyalties. I was torn between good for them! And how dare they! You'll never read House of Mirth quite the same way!”

Ann is in an Olympic state of mind with Gold by Chris Cleave. “This is quite an appropriate book for this final week of the London Summer Olympics of 2012.  Chris Cleave has his main characters competing for the open spot on the British women's speed cycling team.  Zoe and Kate have been friends and fierce competitors for many years.  Kate is married to Jack an Olympian speed cyclist and the mother of Sophie.  Sophie is quite ill and Kate has made enormous sacrifices to be by her daughter's side. Zoe, although with her own problems to deal with, can focus more on her training.  These women will become even more involved with each other as the Olympic Games approach. I loved Little Bee by Chris Cleave which is a remarkable book if you haven't read it.   Gold is not up to the level of Little Bee, but I must say I liked it better than I thought I would. It's an enjoyable summer read.”

I am really enjoying In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.  Seven year old Raami is a princess who lives behind tall walls that shelter her and her extended family.  Her world is safe and secure until a fateful day when the Khmer Rouge literally knock on the garden gate and order the family to leave immediately.  Thus begins a period of horrific suffering and loss.  This being said it is Ratner’s amazing voice that makes this novel sing and soar despite the subject matter.  The author actually lived this reality and was 5 when the genocide began.


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