Thursday, May 26, 2022

A Roundup of Reviews -- Six Book Reviews to Spring Clean My Blog


I’ve gotten behind on my book reviews here on Rose City Reader. So in a bout of spring cleaning, here is a roundup of a half a dozen reviews to make a dent my backlog and my To Do list:

๐Ÿ“˜Coco at the Ritz: A Novel by Gioia Diliberto (2021, Pegasus Books)

Coco Chanel is remembered today as a fashion icon and strong businesswoman, who redefined feminine chic and built a world-famous design brand. But Chanel was a complex character with a darker side.

Gioia Diliberto’s new novel is based on the true story of Chanel's war-time romance with a German spy and how that affair led to her arrest for treason following the Liberation of Paris. The story is fascinating in how it neither glorifies nor demonizes Chanel, but portrays her honestly, as a 60-year-old woman desperate to preserve a semblance of her pre-war life even if it meant deceiving herself and lying to her friends – and her interrogators.

Coco at the Ritz is historical fiction at its page-turning best. It went straight onto my list of French Connections books.

๐Ÿ“˜Under The Orange Blossoms: An Inspirational Story of Bravery and Strength by Cindy Benezra (2021, Cindytalks)

Cindy Benezra was abused as a child by her father. She struggled with the ongoing trauma of her abuse, especially the shame and self-blame she carried with her. After much work brought her own healing and peace, Benezra wanted to write her memoir to share her story. In her book, she also grapples with her mother’s death, her own divorce, and her son’s ongoing health problems.

Benezra’s strength and bravery are an inspiration particularly for abuse survivors. But the story she tells in Under the Orange Blossoms can be a comfort to anyone who has faced trauma and helpful for anyone supporting trauma survivors.

๐Ÿ“˜One Night, New York by Lara Thompson (2021, Pegasus Books)

One Night, New York is Lara Thompson’s terrific debut novel. The story takes place on one December night in 1932, when two young women plot to get revenge on a man who has wronged them by pushing him off the top of the Empire State Building.

Frances ran away from her life in Depression-wracked Kansas for the fast life of the big city. There, she fell in love with Agnes, a photographer’s apprentice, and they both fell in with a bad crowd. It is a story of romance, corruption, art, Greenwich Village bohemians, nightclubs, and skyscrapers. This fast-paced historical fiction glimmers with the edgy glamor of old New York, right up to the nail-biting culmination.

๐Ÿ“˜The Florentines: From Dante to Galileo: The Transformation of Western Civilization by Paul Strathern.

Paul Strathern offers a masterful history of 400 years of Florentine culture. He argues that the ideas that flourished between the birth of Dante in 1265 and the death of Galileo in 1642 -- ideas expressed in the art and architecture of Florence -- led to the emergence of humanism as the driving philosophy of the Western world.

By providing a cross-section of Renaissance society, Strathern shows how science, art, architecture, literature, finance, business, and economics all connected in Florence. Readers see how the Florentine leaders’ interactions – public and private – fomented the ideas that lead Florence, and eventually Europe, out of the Dark Ages and into the modern Renaissance.

๐Ÿ“˜Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution by Mary Hollingsworth (2021, Pegasus Books)

Mary Hollingsworth's latest book tells the history of the patrons of the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, during the tumultuous period of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is an excellent introduction for readers looking to learn about the famous Renaissance families of Italy whose names ring bells but details are sketchy, like Medici, Borgia, d’Este, Farnese, Visconti, Sforza, and Gritti.

Princes of the Renaissance is the kind of well-written “popular” history backed by substantive research that is a delight to read. It is also a beautiful book, filled with photographs and color prints of the of the places and art described. 

(Princes of the Renaissance and The Florentines make a perfect companion set. Good idea for Father's Day if your dad is a history buff!)

๐Ÿ“˜A Few Words about Words: A Common-Sense Look at Writing and Grammar by Joseph J. Diorio (2021, Beaufort Books)

I love any and all grammar books and A Few Words About Words is a first-rate addition to my collection. Joe Diorio is the author of a popular newsletter of the same name that has been around for 30 years. He built this book around those columns, organized by subject and theme, trimmed or expanded as needed, and connected by personal anecdotes for continuity. The end result is a lighthearted and engaging guide to English grammar and a wholehearted apologia for using it correctly.


Have you read any of these? What do you think? Do any of them look good to you?

My thanks to the publishers, authors, and publicists who gave me review copies. With apologies for my tardy reviews. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


What day is it? Yikes! What a week!

I got my mom and sister moved to Omaha and flew back to Portland. But got back to the office to a crazy week. My law partner is home with covid. There is a mountain of work for me to catch up on from when I was gone. And my Instagram account was hacked, recovered, and rehacked because the hackers snuck an email address in there that let them change the password after I had recovered the account. So I've been trying to get my Instagram account back from Bitcoin lunatics while changing the passwords on the 800 other websites, apps, and devices in my life. 

If any of you follow me on Instagram, first, thank you. Second, sorry! Please bear with me while I try to recover my account. I really don't want to start over from scratch. Just ignore all the stories trying to sell you cryptocurrency!

In the meantime, here is a delayed Book Beginnings on Fridays post. Please share the opening sentence (or so) of a book you are reading this week. Or just a book that caught your fancy. 


In the heart of the West End, there are many quiet pockets, unknown to almost all but taxi drivers who traverse them with expert knowledge, and arrive triumphantly thereby at Park Lane, Berkeley Square or South Audley Street.
-- from At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie. I need a nice vintage mystery to calm my frayed nerves. In this case, a Silver Vintage Mystery as this one was published in 1965. 


Please leave the link to your Book Beginning post in the Linky box below. If you post on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag. 

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From At Bertram's Hotel:
"Of course you won't get run over," said Elvira. "You know how nippy you are on your feet, and all London traffic is used to pulling up suddenly."
What are they up to? Doesn't sound like a safe plan!

Please wish me luck getting my Instagram back!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Double Life of Katharine Clark by Katherine Gregorio -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


Greeting from Omaha, Nebraska, my Book Beginnings friends! I'm on the road this week, helping my mom and sister move from Oregon back to our hometown of Omaha. We've lived in Oregon for over 40 years, but the Midwest called them home. I will miss having them close by. Fortunately, it is easy to fly to Omaha, since it is right in the middle!

On to Book Beginnings! Please share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight. 


At half past seven on the twenty-fourth of January 1955, Katherine Clark shivered as she left the dark, run-down lobby of the old, central district courthouse and stepped outside onto its front steps. 

-- from Chapter One, "Belgrade" in The Double Life of Katharine Clark: The Untold Story of the Fearless Journalist Who Risked Her Life for Truth and Justice by Katherine Gregorio.

The Double Life of Katharine Clark is a thrilling new nonfiction book about an American journalist who smuggled an anti-Communist manuscript out of Yugoslavia during the Cold War. Read the publisher's description below because it sounds amazing! I just got my copy and can't wait to read it. 


Please add the link to your Book Beginning post in the Linky box below. If you share on social media, please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings. 

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Another fun Friday event is The Friday 56. Share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of your book, or 56% of the way through your e-book or audiobook, on this weekly event hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice.


From The Double Life of Katharine Clark:
She took a deep breath and turned to Milovan, asking him if he remembered her from the courthouse.
Milovan stared back at her blankly, furrowed lines wrinkling his forehead.


In 1955, Katharine Clark, the first American woman wire reporter behind the Iron Curtain, saw something none of her male colleagues did. What followed became one of the most unusual adventure stories of the Cold War. While on assignment in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Clark befriended a man who, by many definitions, was her enemy. But she saw something in Milovan Djilas, a high-ranking Communist leader who dared to question the ideology he helped establish, that made her want to work with him. It became the assignment of her life.

Against the backdrop of protests in Poland and a revolution in Hungary, she risked her life to ensure Djilas's work made it past the watchful eye of the Yugoslavian secret police to the West. She single-handedly was responsible for smuggling his scathing anti-Communism manifesto,
The New Class, out of Yugoslavia and into the hands of American publishers. The New Class would go on to sell three million copies worldwide, become a New York Times bestseller, be translated into over 60 languages, and be used by the CIA in its covert book program.

Meticulously researched and written by Clark's great-niece, Katharine Gregorio,
The Double Life of Katharine Clark illuminates a largely untold chapter of the twentieth century. It shows how a strong-willed, fiercely independent woman with an ardent commitment to truth, justice and freedom put her life on the line to share ideas with the world, ultimately transforming both herself--and history--in the process.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Family Business: A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Mystery by S. J. Rozan -- BOOK REVIEW


Family Business: A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Mystery by S. J. Rozan (2021, Pegasus Books)

Family Business is the latest mystery novel in S. J. Rozan's long-running series featuring New York private eye Lydia Chin and her fellow P.I. boyfriend Bill Smith. Here, Lydia and Bill get pulled in to solve the mystery of a murdered Tong leader found dead in a Chinatown building at the center of a real estate development battle.

Family Business is first-rate entertainment. I loved how the story made New York City feel like a village by focusing on the interconnected “Chinatown” community. I put Chinatown in quotation marks because one of the cool things I learned was that there are many Chinatown neighborhoods throughout New York City, not only the one tourists walk through in Manhattan, down near Soho. Lydia, her extended family, and a network of characters who have known each other since high school cross paths on both sides of the law.

The plot centers around the Tong headquarters. Crime boss Big Brother Choi left the building to his niece upon his death. A hotshot young Chinese developer wants to buy the building to tear down for a condo development, which Choi opposed and so does his niece. The Tong members are divided over what to do with the building and who will take over now that Choi is dead. They also believe stolen riches may be hidden in the building. There’s plenty of action, some light humor, and enough complexity to keep your attention right to the end.


Even though Family Business is the 14th book in Rozan’s Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series, I had no problem reading it as a standalone. Rozan gives enough of the characters’ background to smooth over any blank spots.

Only after I finished it did I remember that I had dipped into the series before with Winter and Night, which won the Edgar Award in 2003. Bill Smith was the narrator and focus of that one, in contrast to Family Business that Lydia Chin narrates. I look forward to reading more of these fast-paced books. The relationship between Lydia and Bill is engaging, as is the way Chin’s mother treats Lydia’s non-Chinese boyfriend.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


It's time again for Book Beginnings on Fridays, where participants share the opening sentence (or so) of the book they are reading this week. Or you can share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

What other weekly blog events do you participate in besides Book Beginnings? I also play along with the Friday 56 (see below). I don't do any others on Fridays. I like Mailbox Monday, where participants share the books that came into their homes the prior week -- a show and tell type of thing. I used to do more, but it's all I can do to keep Book Beginnings going every week! But I'm interested to know what weekly events are out there these days.


The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms.
-- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This is one of my very favorite books. I didn't read it as a kid but I fell in love with it as an adult. 

WITW is one of the few books I've reread. My library had the audiobook edition narrated by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame and it is terrific! I’ve since listened to it three times. It is my go-to whenever I need a morale boost.

This month I'm reading WITW with my eyes for the first time and it is just as wonderful. I'm taking part in a WITW real along on Instagram. I've never done an online read along and it's fun. 


Please link to your Book Beginning post in the box below and use the #bookbeginnings hashtag if you share on social media. 

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Another weekly teaser event is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice where you can find details and add a link to your post. The idea is to share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book you are featuring. You can also find a teaser from 56% of the way through your ebook or audiobook.


From Wind in the Willows:
The Rat looked very grave, and stood in deep thought for a minute or two. Then he re-entered the house, strapped a belt round his waist, shoved a brace of pistols into it, took up a stout cudgel that stood in a corner of the hall, and set off for the Wild Wood at a smart pace.
The anthropomorphization in WITW is the best there is! I laugh at all of it, especially when the animals do things like carry pistols, eat sausages, or as Ratty does in this scene, make their way "manfully" through the woods.  

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