Review: The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

Published: September 3, 2019 by Harper

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Rósa has always dreamed of living a simple life alongside her Mamma in their remote village in Iceland, where she prays to the Christian God aloud during the day, whispering enchantments to the old gods alone at night. But after her father dies abruptly and her Mamma becomes ill, Rósa marries herself off to a visiting trader in exchange for a dowry, despite rumors of mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death.

Rósa follows her new husband, Jón, across the treacherous countryside to his remote home near the sea. There Jón works the field during the day, expecting Rósa to maintain their house in his absence with the deference of a good Christian wife. What Rósa did not anticipate was the fierce loneliness she would feel in her new home, where Jón forbids her from interacting with the locals in the nearby settlement and barely speaks to her himself.

Seclusion from the outside world isn’t the only troubling aspect of her new life — Rósa is also forbidden from going into Jón’s. When Rósa begins to hear strange noises from upstairs, she turns to the local woman in an attempt to find solace. But the villager’s words are even more troubling—confirming many of the rumors about Jón’s first wife, Anna, including that he buried her body alone in the middle of the night.

Rósa’s isolation begins to play tricks on her mind: What — or who — is in the attic? What happened to Anna? Was she mad, a witch, or just a victim of Jón’s ruthless nature? And when Jón is brutally maimed in an accident a series of events are set in motion that will force Rósa to choose between obedience and defiance — with her own survival and the safety of the ones she loves hanging in the balance.

Review: I picked up this book on a whim. I found the cover spectacular and the synopsis piqued my interest. In all my years I don’t believe that I have read too many books set in Iceland. 1600’s, newly Christianized, Iceland to boot. This caught my attention and made me want to read it.

I loved the premise of this story. Iceland as a whole is caught in this transitional period of being newly Christianized but a lot of the community are finding it difficult to give up the old pagan ways. So while they know that their local pastor will accuse them of witchcraft for it, they can’t seem to let it to entirely. That makes for a very interesting scenario. Rosa is one of those people. She has embraced the new Christian faith but still finds a lot of comfort in the runes and sagas from her youth. Her father has passed away and in an effort to ensure that her mother doesn’t follow him to the grave she makes an advantageous marriage to Jon.

Jon was an all around interesting character. He doesn’t say much but toward the end of the book we get a few snippets of his narration of the story. He was also caught. He grew up poor. He scraped and scrabbled his way to being the leader of his village. Unfortunately that means he is that the heart of every rumor and his name is on the lips of every troublemaker. And the local pastor doesn’t like him too much and so is very eager to find something he can pin on him.

These two were not my favorite however, that honor is reserved for Petur. He is Jon’s right hand man. No one is quite clear on why he’s so committed to protecting Jon but he is an unstoppable force. Rumors have abounded about him since he first stumbled out of the frozen woods as a child. Everyone seems to want to hate him. He was so funny and witty. And tough as nails. I loved him endlessly.

The actual plot was a good one. A young woman suddenly finds herself living with her new husband, whom she doesn’t really know, and quickly finds herself often alone. Jon is often traveling or out in the fields, leaving her alone in the house for extended periods. She thinks she hears noises. Scrabbling, scraping, sometimes whispering from the attic. But she can’t investigate because Jon keeps it locked and has forbidden her to go up there. It quickly sparks her paranoia about the rumors regarding the fate of Jon’s first wife. Could it be her in the attic? Her ghost perhaps? Some spectre coming to haunt Rosa for stupidly agreeing to this marriage? It was wonderful.

My biggest complaint was Rosa’s character. While I understood her fear initially, eventually it started to wear on me. She kept flinching away from Jon like a beaten animal and didn’t dare speak in his presence. She took every single thing that he said in a threatening manner, even when it wasn’t clear that there was any threatening intent. And he had never even been physically intimidating to her and never actually hurt her in any way. So initially the fear of an unknown husband with a ferocious reputation made sense. But as time went on I couldn’t felt thinking “Wtf are you flinching from woman? He has never done a thing to you. Grow some ovaries, gods.”

The other thing that brings this book down for me was the author’s note at the end. I was curious to read it because I wondered where the author got her inspiration from for this story. It was so wonderfully rich and unique. I know there are some who will find it unfair for me to add a judgment of the book on the author’s note but it aggravated me too much to overlook. The author signs off on her author’s note saying that she identifies with Rosa….and experiences similar struggles. That she has had the experience of quaking in fear because of the presence of a man, felt powerless to his authority. She hoped that her sons wouldn’t grow up to feel entitled to the world because they are men. And hopes for a day when her nieces don’t have to “put on their armor just to leave the house.” What the actual fuck is this woman talking about? Is she legitimately comparing the power dynamics in gender between the United States in 2020 and 1686 Iceland? She feels it’s an apt comparison between her irrational fear of a man’s very presence and a society where the mark of a good husband is that he doesn’t beat you? I have never had to put on armor to leave the house, not once in all my life. And hopefully she’s not raising her sons to be jerks, or else they’ll inevitably end up as jerks. I found it so tiresome. It detracted from the book and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Review: Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Published: June 16, 2020 by Europa Editions

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: 1878- The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker. Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager?s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. This exceptional novel explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Europa Editions!***

Through this entire book I got the feeling that I should be liking it more than I actually did. I felt like I should have been more motivated to read it than I was. I put the book down and it seemed to leave my thoughts. Often, I wouldn’t remember to pick it back up for days at a time. Then when I would pick it back up I felt no excitement for it, but found the story enjoyable.

So, in the end, I decide that I liked this book but it was forgettable. I loved the characters of Bram Stoker and Henry Irving. The two of them together were utterly delightful. Their banter was my absolute favorite part of this book. I could have read an entire of the exchanges between the two of these men.

I also loved the progression of Bram’s character. He starts out as the unwilling manager of a mismanaged theater who occasionally writes and turns into a passionate writer who has a family to support. I appreciate it when characters have a logical progression in a story and this one did. It also seemed fitting that the style of the novel was structured like a play. It was one of those things that didn’t distract from the story but I could nod to the author and think “I see what you did there. Nicely done.”

The biggest flaw this book had was the minutiae. There was just so many words. We did not need an entire 40 pages of Bram’s diary entries. We did not need a whole chapter on the accounting that goes into running a large theater. We got more than 100 pages in before they even had a play at the theater! I struggled to get to the good parts because there was just so much extra crap that did not need to be there.

Take My Money! Sunday

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Expected publication: March 23, 2021 by Minotaur Books

Goodreads

Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth…
But what if it finds them first?

Why I’m Excited: This sounds so creepy! It reminds me of Silent Hill with regard to the plot. I saw this pop up on my radar and it piqued my interest immediately.

The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich

Expected publication: November 10, 2020 by Tor

Goodreads

Synopsis: Faced with abominable working conditions, unsympathetic owners, and hard-hearted managers, the mill girls of Lowell have had enough. They’re going on strike, and they have a secret weapon on their side: a little witchcraft to ensure that no one leaves the picket line.

For the young women of Lowell, Massachusetts, freedom means fair wages for fair work, decent room and board, and a chance to escape the cotton mills before lint stops up their lungs. When the Boston owners decide to raise the workers’ rent, the girls go on strike. Their ringleader is Judith Whittier, a newcomer to Lowell but not to class warfare. Judith has already seen one strike fold and she doesn’t intend to see it again. Fortunately Hannah, her best friend in the boardinghouse—and maybe first love?—has a gift for the dying art of witchcraft.

Why I’m Excited: This sounds like such a great combination, I cannot wait to read it. Women fighting for their right to a fair workplace and strike organizers desperate enough to use a little magical force to make that happen. It sounds like a combination of plots that will ensure a really fun ride.

Reading Progress Updates

I have a lot of in progress reading going on, so thought I would put out some of my thoughts.

Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Goodreads

Progress: Page 46 of 310

Synopsis: 1878- The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker. Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager?s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. This exceptional novel explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.

Thoughts so far: It took me awhile to get on board with this story. I didn’t really enjoy the writing style and had a hard time figuring out what I was being told. But once I got past that I am quite enjoying the look at a young Bram Stoker.

Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

Goodreads

Progress: Page 52 of 490

Synopsis: WHAT YOU DO WITH AN OBSESSION COUNTS

“I, KARENNA ELIZABETH Ashe, being of sound mind, do… But that’s it, isn’t it? Being here proves I am not of sound mind…

So begins Book 1 of the Pride’s Children trilogy: Kary immediately regrets the misplaced sense of noblesse oblige which compels her to appear, live on national television—at exorbitant personal cost.

What she cannot anticipate is an entanglement with Hollywood that may destroy her carefully-constructed solitudinarian life.

A contemporary mainstream love story, in the epic tradition of Jane Eyre, and Dorothy L. Sayers’ four-novel bond between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Pride’s Children starts with a very public chance encounter, and will eventually stretch over three separate continents.

Thoughts so far: This was another one that the writing style took me a little while to jump into to and I was a bit concerned that maybe the story just wasn’t for me. It didn’t take long though for me to catch up and really start to enjoy myself. I adore Andrew. He is quirky, funny, smarmy and just so much fun.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Goodreads

Progress: Page 78 of 340 pages

Synopsis: Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

The can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Thoughts so far: This story seems strange to me so far. A double suicide, an abandoned baby, missing house residents and then suddenly it all comes together for an inheritance at the house where it all went down. It’s been okay so far, but nothing is blowing my socks off yet.

New Releases Wednesday

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

Published: August 4, 2020 (ebook and audiobook)

Goodreads

Synopsis: When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, an adoring husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous, wealthy, and cherished by those who knew her—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, and maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question Who killed Nancy?

Imperfect Women explores guilt and retribution, love and betrayal, and the compromises we make that alter our lives irrevocably. With the wickedly sharp insights and finely tuned suspense that has drawn comparisons to Patricia Highsmith and Paula Hawkins, Araminta Hall returns with another page-turning, thought-provoking tour de force.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a wonderful story about a group of women who are entwined in a story of the past and grief. What happens when the friend you thought you knew turns out to be much more mysterious?

Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin

Published: August 4, 2020 by Atria Books

Goodreads

Synopsis: Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with—including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family—but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.

Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact.

My Thoughts: I really adore historical fiction. This sounds romantic and scandalous all at the same time. I would love to see the Bronte sisters handle a family scandal.

Take My Money! Sunday

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Expected publication: January 2021 by One World

Goodreads

Synopsis: A whipsmart debut about three women–transgender and cisgender–whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Why I’m Excited: It’s not often that I come across a book that sounds so utterly unique. This is that book and it made me HAVE to read it. It sounds emotionally riveting and one of a kind.

Where Madness Lies by Silvia True

Expected publication: January 29, 2021 by John Hunt Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby.

Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations.

With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

Why I’m Excited: World War II historical fiction is having a moment, much of coming across almost exactly the same storylines in the process. But this one sounds different. This is examining two women, separated by time but not by circumstance. I am further intrigued that this is based on a story from the author’s family history. I am sure that will make it an emotional story.

Take My Money! Sunday

It’s been a busy few days. Started a new position at the day job, so was trying to train while working from home (not easy). Plus the husband had to work, so I had the child at home by myself while trying to train at my new job. See definition of “Impossible” to describe this task! But I did have a few books come across my radar that make me want time to move faster, so I bring them to you.

Gaijin by Sarah Z. Sleeper

Expected publication: August 1, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: The Japanese word gaijin means “unwelcome foreigner.” It’s not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan. My novel is called Gaijin…

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she’s obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she’s devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.

Why I’m Excited: This books sounds absolutely haunting. It is a story of not fitting in and trying to find the silver lining. And sometimes, even along a hard journey, there is beauty to be found. This synopsis roped me in and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Brides of Rome by Debra May MacLeod

Expected Publication: October 27, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: It is a world of power and privilege, secrets and sacred duty. It is the world of ancient Rome. And it is the esteemed Vestal Virgins-priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the home and hearth-who protect the Eternal Flame that protects the Eternal City.

Dedicated to a thirty-year vow of chaste service, Priestess Pomponia finds herself swept up in the intrigue, violence, wars, and bedroom politics of Rome’s elite-Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian and his maneuvering wife, Livia-all the while guarding the secret affection she has in her heart.

But when a charge of incestum-a broken vow of chastity-is made against the Vestal order, the ultimate punishment looms: death by being buried alive in the “Evil Field.”

In Brides of Rome, Book One in the Vesta Shadows series, Debra May Macleod skillfully recreates the world of ancient Rome with all its brutality and brilliance, all its rich history and even richer legend. A true page-turner that is as smart as it is compelling, this must-read novel brings the Vestal order to life like never before.

Why I’m Excited: I have a fascination with the worlds of ancient Rome and Greece. Their priestesses and temples were among the first pagan religions, and traces of that are carried into paganism today. So stories like this always draw me to them. And this story sounds excited too.

New Releases Wednesday

The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of a daring deception that plunges a courageous young woman deep into the horrors of a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.

In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible–until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.

Izzy’s disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy’s exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot.

The Prisoner’s Wife tells of an incredible risk, and of how our deepest bonds are tested in desperate times. Bill and Izzy’s story is one of love and survival against the darkest odds.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a thrilling journey spurred by love and surrounded in tragedy. World War II historical fiction seems to be having a moment right now and I am very excited to see what it brings.

The Lady Alchemist by Samantha Vitale

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: In a land torn between magic and alchemy, Sepha is an exceptional alchemist, able to bend the rules in ways no one else can. But when a slip of the tongue lands her in prison with a mountain of straw, even she has to admit that she can’t transmute straw into gold.

With the threat of a death sentence hanging over her, she’s forced to make a deal with a conniving magician. Sepha escapes with her life – but at a cost: she has one year to alchemically create a body for the magician, or else her firstborn child will be his.

As Sepha’s deadline approaches, she uncovers a deadly secret. How can she save her country when the body she owes the magician will be used to destroy it?

My Thoughts: Fairytale retellings are quite possibly my biggest guilty pleasure. I love the new take on a familiar story. Not to mention this cover is absolutely spectacular. I really want to read this.

New Releases Wednesday

This week I am excited to tell you about several books that were just released. All of them are on my TBR list and I can’t wait to get to them.

 

27774751Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman

Goodreads

Synopsis: From the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Angler, who unearthed the deepest secrets of Edward Snowden’s NSA archive, the first master narrative of the surveillance state that emerged after 9/11 and why it matters, based on scores of hours of conversation with Snowden and groundbreaking reportage in Washington, London, Moscow and Silicon Valley

Edward Snowden chose three journalists to tell the stories in his Top Secret trove of NSA documents: Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and filmmaker Laura Poitras, all of whom would share the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Poitras went on to direct the Oscar-winning Citizen Four. Greenwald wrote an instant memoir and cast himself as a pugilist on Snowden’s behalf.

Barton Gellman took his own path. Snowden and his documents were the beginning, not the end, of a story he had prepared his whole life to tell. More than 20 years as a top investigative journalist armed him with deep sources in national security and high technology. New sources reached out from government and industry, making contact on the same kinds of secret, anonymous channels that Snowden used. Gellman’s old reporting notes unlocked new puzzles in the NSA archive. Long days and evenings with Snowden in Moscow revealed a complex character who fit none of the stock images imposed on him by others.

Gellman now brings his unique access and storytelling gifts to a true-life spy tale that touches us all. Snowden captured the public imagination but left millions of people unsure what to think. Who is the man, really? How did he beat the world’s most advanced surveillance agency at its own game? Is government and corporate spying as bad as he says?

Dark Mirror is the master narrative we have waited for, told with authority and an inside view of extraordinary events. Within it is a personal account of the obstacles facing the author, beginning with Gellman’s discovery of his own name in the NSA document trove. Google notifies him that a foreign government is trying to compromise his account. A trusted technical adviser finds anomalies on his laptop. Sophisticated impostors approach Gellman with counterfeit documents, attempting to divert or discredit his work. Throughout Dark Mirror, the author describes an escalating battle against unknown digital adversaries, forcing him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense.

Written in the vivid scenes and insights that marked Gellman’s bestselling AnglerDark Mirror is an inside account of the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents, fighting back against state and corporate intrusions into our most private spheres. Along the way it tells the story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President’s Men.

My thoughts: Like most people, I have had a variety of opinions on Edward Snowden as a person. Is he a hero? Is he a traitor? Was he first one and then the other? Is he both? But what often gets lost in the assessments of him as a person is the web of government deception that he uncovered. This seems to tackle this head on, and I am really interested.

 

52028849The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

Goodreads

Synopsis: 1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

My thoughts: I love historical fiction! And I have a bit of a fascination with the British royal family. So, naturally, this makes me want to find out what the secret is?

 

52219451The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Goodreads

Synopsis: Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirty-something Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them

My thoughts: This sounds much like your typical cheating husband thriller. But, as you near the end of the synopsis it starts to sound different. I am intrigued. I want to know why Leo’s soon-to-be ex-wife is so worried about his new paramour. Is she dangerous? Or is the ex just upset that he cheated? I know that I want to find out.

Review: Apeirogon by Colum McCann

50185600._SX318_SY475_ (1)Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Published: February 25, 2020 by Random House

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Colum McCann’s most ambitious work to date, Apeirogon–named for a shape with a countably infinite number of sides–is a tour de force concerning friendship, love, loss, and belonging.

Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on, to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend, to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate.

Their worlds shift irreparably after ten-year-old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet and thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them and they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.

McCann crafts Apeirogon out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material. He crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature, and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. Musical, cinematic, muscular, delicate, and soaring, Apeirogon is a novel for our time.

Rating: 2 star

Review: I really wanted to love this book because I was so entranced by the first half of it. In the end though, this book made my brain hurt. It was physically exhausting to read. This is due solely to the style that it was written in. It seems like stream of consciousness more than anything else and when it was done I felt like I needed a very long nap.

The author has written this book as 1001 micro-chapters. Most of them are no longer than a paragraph. The author is referencing The Arabian Nights clearly because he frequently talks about this throughout the book. The idea is that you get little snippets of many different stories and through reading the whole stories of Bassam and Rami are slowly revealed. I liked this as it is a physical manifestation of the title. An apeirogon is a polygon with countably infinite sides (I googled that). Thus we have a book with numbered infinite chapters. I like that play on language and could picture in my head when we following on side of the story and then branched off into another, like creating a shape.

This book is also beautifully written. The prose is almost like a poem. Early on I was a bit confused at the sudden, jarring shift in narrative every few paragraphs but I learned to let it wash over me like a wave. And as we progressed further into the book the stories of the two men became more apparent. The stories were heartbreaking. I cried for Bassam and Rami. I agonized with them over their feelings about “the enemy” and their slow transformation into not seeing one another as “other” but as “friend and fellow father”. I loved it and was immersed in the beauty.

Unfortunately this book was just so long. While I was immersed in the story, I had to make a conscious effort to pull out the bits of the story about Bassam and Rami amongst the other detritus. In between relevant bits of narrative we talked about bird migration, history, ecology, biology, architecture, religion, politics, war, fiction, geography, Biblical studies, scripture, ancient weaving techniques, symbology in women’s clothing over time….honestly I could go on with this list for several weeks without running out of things to list. This audiobook was 15 hours, 20 minutes long. It was physically and mentally exhausting to continue to follow the actual bits of plot and after awhile it just became white noise. I was too exhausted to continue paying any attention at all.

I am saddened that I didn’t like this book more because it’s a wonderful story that is written in a creative, beautiful way.