Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage


Safely returned from an involuntary stay on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. The government of His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition.

In Ayrshire, the people close ranks around their evicted ministers, stubbornly clinging to their Presbyterian faith. But disobedience comes at a price – a very steep price - and as neighbours and friends are driven from hearth and home, Alex becomes increasingly more nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his continued support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden.

Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is totally incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and minister before his own safety and therefore per extension her safety and the safety of their children, he puts their marriage under severe strain.

The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing, watching from a distance as her husband dances round his lost boy.

Things are brought to a head when Matthew yet again places all their lives in the balance to save his dear friend and preacher from the dragoons that chase him over the moor.   How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose? Will she find him in time? And if she does, will she be capable of paying the price required to buy him free?

Matador Publishing | July 1st, 2013 | 392 pages
My Review

4 Stars

The Prodigal Son is the third installment in Anna Belfrage's Alex and Matthew Graham saga.  This novel picks up where the series' second book, Like Chaff in the Wind (click here to read my review), left off, with Matthew returned home to Scotland after having been rescued by Alex from forced indenture in the colony of Virginia.  While happy to be home and in the loving embrace of his growing family, Matthew is determined to defy Charles II's edict that requires strict adherence to the Church of England and the outlawing of the Presbyterian faith and its ministers.  Raised in the Church of Scotland, and believing strongly in its tenets, Matthew is determined to support outlawed Covenanters.  But this support puts Matthew at direct odds with his wife, Alex, who doesn't want Matthew to do anything to risk his own safety or that of their family.  Matthew's choice, therefore, will not be an easy one.  If he chooses to do nothing he will betray his religious convictions, but if he continues to support the Scottish Church he risks losing the people he most cares for. 

Having read and enjoyed the previous two novels in this series, I fully expected to enjoy this one.  I wasn't disappointed.  In fact, given I'm comfortable with the characters and know what to expect from them, I think this series is getting stronger as it progresses.  As Alex is a product of the 21st century, I enjoy how she often butts heads with her husband and other members of her family given her world view has been shaped by modern, and not 17th century, expectations and social mores.   I also like how Belfrage has shaped Matthew's character as his beliefs, even though he has accepted his wife is originally from another, much more liberal century, are consistent with those that would have been held by a 17th century male.  Matthew's conflict with his brother Luke, a theme that runs throughout the series, is clearly evident in this novel even though it isn't as large a part of the narrative as it was in the previous two novels.  The incorporation of religious strife and the struggle to maintain the Church of Scotland in the face of opposition from the King was an interesting and educational aspect of the narrative.  

While the previous two novels in the Alex and Matthew saga have included chapters featuring people left behind from Alex's 21st century life, namely her father Magnus and son Isaac, The Prodigal Son does not.  By the third novel Alex is quite firmly rooted in the 17th century, and her thoughts of her old life have become more limited.  I do wish, however, that more than one line in the novel had referenced Alex's first son Isaac, as no matter how adjusted to 17th century life and her new family she's become I can't believe her heart wouldn't have ached for Isaac from time to time.  My only issue with this novel was that the sex scenes were a little too romance novel-like for my tastes.   

I look forward to finding out what adventures Alex, Matthew and their family experience next. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Prodigal Son is on tour!  Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical -  both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer - or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am - I have achieved my dream.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein


A lush, exquisitely rendered meditation on war, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

Fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

W.W. Norton & Company | March 11, 2013 | 382 pages (hardcover)

My Review

4 Stars

Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a beautifully written, heart-breaking yet ultimately satisfying novel set in both America and Japan in the mid-20th century.   Although told from the perspectives of several different characters, both American and Japanese, the story revolves primarily around Yoshi Kobayashi, a young Japanese girl whose narrative, in one way or another, touches upon those of the novel's other principal characters.  While the narrative of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment spans several decades, it is each of the characters experiences during WWII that are at the heart of this book. 

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment has many strengths, not the least of which is well-drawn and sympathetic characters.   The characters in this novel felt very real to me and, as a result, I was fully immersed in their story lines and cared about their fates.  Yoshi, who provides readers with a glimpse of life in Tokyo before, during and after WWII, experiences firsthand one of WWII's most horrific events: the March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.  Epstein, through her often eloquent prose, effectively captures and conveys the horrors of that event and its aftermath.   Downed Army pilot Cam Richards, who was involved in an earlier air raid against Japan but whose plane never made it back to safety, showcases the horrible treatment of American prisoners of war by Japanese forces.  Cam's wife Lacy, who knows only that her husband is missing in action, illustrates the uncertainties and fears of those left at home.   My heart broke for Yoshi, Cam and Lacy and all they had to endure. 

Another of this novel's strengths was that it focuses on WWII in the Pacific theatre.  While I'm quite familiar with the events of WWII, my knowledge is limited primarily to the European theatre.  The Gods of Heavenly Punishment was able to highlight for me some of the seminal events of the war in the Pacific, and the impact they had on the people who lived through them -- both solider and civilian, American and Japanese. 

I highly recommend The Gods of Heavenly Punishment to all readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in WWII and Japanese history. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is currently on tour.   You can check out other reviews by clicking here to view the tour schedule.  

About the Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

For more information, please visit www.jennifercodyepstein.com
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Chat: Seasonal Reading

It's time for Book Talk, a weekly feature here at Confessions of an Avid Reader designed to generate discussion on random book-related issues and topics.   This week's topic is: Seasonal Reading.

With the summer finally upon us (or winter if you live in the southern hemisphere) I've been giving some thought to my reading plans for the next couple of months.  While I have a few review books to catch up on in the weeks ahead, I have decided not to accept or request any more review books until the fall in order to focus my reading attention on my own TBR pile.  But what do I read?  Do I tackle some of the historical fiction novels sitting on my shelves, or do I move away from this genre all together and read a few of the many fantasy novels found in my bookcases?  Do I read shorter books with lighter themes since it's the summer, or do I try to get through one or more of the epic tomes that I have waiting to be read?  

This last question is what has prompted this week's topic, and leads me to my question for the week:  Do the seasons influence your reading habits?  Do you read darker, heavier novels in the winter?  Are you more likely to pick up fluffier reads in the summer?   My initial response to this question was that my reading habits aren't influenced by the seasons, but the more I thought about it I realized that I do tend to stay away from overly long books during the summer, and that I think novels dealing with heavier subject matters are best read in the fall or winters months.   For this reason I suspect my summer reading plans will involve a lot of fantasy novels and/or some lighter fare. 

What do you think?  Do you have seasonal reading habits? 

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: She Rises by Kate Worsley


It is 1740 and Louise Fletcher, a young maid, has been warned of the lure of the sea for as long as she can remember—after all, it stole away her father and brother. But when she is offered work in the bustling naval port of Harwich serving a wealthy captain’s daughter, she leaps at the chance to see more of the world. There she meets Rebecca, her haughty and fascinating mistress.

Intertwined with Louise’s story is that of fifteen-year-old Luke, who is beaten and press ganged, sent to sea against his will on board the warship Essex in the service of His Majesty’s Navy. He must learn fast and choose his friends well if he is to survive the brutal hardships of a sailor’s life and its many dangers, both up high in the rigging and in the dark decks down below.

She Rises brings to vivid life both land and sea in Georgian England, but explores a thoroughly modern and complex love story.  Bold, brilliant, and utterly original, She Rises is an accomplished and gripping search for identity and survival.

Bloomsbury USA | June 18, 2013 | 432 pages 

My Review

3 Stars

She Rises, the debut novel from author Kate Worsley, is quite unlike any historical novel I've read before.  Set in England and at sea in the mid-18th century, the story is told from the perspectives of dairymaid turned lady's maid Louise Fletcher, and Luke, a young man pressed into service with the Royal Navy.  Louise's narrative focuses on her life as lady's maid to Rebecca, the daughter of a well-to-do sea captain, whose outlook and behaviour is far from ladylike. Captivated by Rebecca, Louise quickly becomes devoted to her, and it isn't long before their relationship deepens.  While Louise's story occurs on land, Luke's narrative takes place at sea.  Forcibly pressed into service aboard the HMS Essex, Luke struggles to find his place on the warship.  Life at sea proves brutal for Luke, who makes few friends and attracts unwanted attention, but it is also exhilarating.  As the story moves back and forth between the two narratives, the reader is left to ponder how and in what manner they will converge. 

Although the narrative of She Rises seamlessly alternates between Louise and Luke's stories, it is Louise who is the central character in the novel.  Louise proves to be the more compelling of the two protagonists, especially as the reader is given very little insight into Luke himself until much later in the novel.  While I found Louise's storyline to be the more engaging of the two, both narratives nicely showcase Worsely's ability to create a strong sense of both time and place.  This is especially pronounced in the chapters that take place at sea, as I think Worsley has done a fabulous job of capturing the essence of life on ship for the ordinary sailor.   

While the writing in this novel is strong, and the story moves along at a steady pace, the book never managed to fully capture my interest.  Although told in first person, I didn't feel as if I really got to know either Louise or Luke and, as a result, I never felt entirely invested in their stories.  Nor did I understand what it was about Rebecca that drew Louise to her.  I had correctly anticipated how Louise and Luke's story lines would converge quite early in the novel, and, unfortunately, this served to lessen the impact for me when their stories finally did come together.   

She Rises features subjects not generally found in mainstream historical fiction and I really liked how Worsley depicts them.  While the story itself may not have worked as well for me as I had hoped,  I think readers who enjoy literary historical novels will find She Rises to be a book well worth reading. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

She Rises is currently on tour.   Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author

Kate Worsley was born in Preston, Lancashire, and studied English at University College London.  She has worked variously as a journalist, a massage practitioner, and spotlight operator, and has a master’s in creative writing (novels) from City University London. She now lives on the Essex coast. She Rises is her first novel.


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of She Rises.   Here are the giveaway details:

- The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and The United States only;
- To enter simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) on June 28th;
- The winner will be selected using random. org.

Good Luck!  

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Suddenly Sunday and Giveaway Winner

It's time for Suddenly Sunday, a weekly meme hosted by Svea at Muse in the Fog that gives bloggers the opportunity to highlight their key blogging activities from the past week. 

In my previous Suddenly Sunday post I mentioned that I would be posting reviews for both Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith and Red Joan by Jennie Rooney.  Obviously, this didn't happen because (a) I'm still reading Royal Mistress, and (b) I can't seem to put into words my thoughts on Red Joan.  

Despite not posting reviews as intended, I did manage to get my weekly Book Chat post up and running once again.  The topic was how to keep reviews fresh, and if you haven't already done so I'd love to know your thoughts (click here to go to the post).  

I only have one review specifically planned for the week ahead (She Rises by Kate Worsley), but will try and get my Royal Mistress and Red Joan reviews up (no promises!). 

I do have a giveaway winner to announce.  Melissa McKee has been selected (using random.org) as the winner of the giveaway of Ben Kane's two Spartacus novels (Spartacus the Gladiator and Spartacus: Rebellion).   Congratulations, Melissa!  I hope you enjoy the novels. 

It's a rainy Sunday here, so I'll be spending the day indoors with my husband and daughter enjoying Father's Day.

Happy Reading!  

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Talk: How Do You Keep Your Reviews Fresh?

It's time for Book Talk, a (once again) weekly feature designed to generate discussion on random book-related issues and topics.   This week's topic is: How Do You Keep Your Reviews Fresh?

I don't know about any of you, but I've been struggling to write reviews lately.  While I always have thoughts on what I read, of late I have been finding it difficult to come up with unique ways to express these thoughts.  I find myself using the same language to describe what I've read and in so doing feel my reviews are getting stale.  I basically need to find new ways of saying the same things, and this, for me at least, is becoming harder to do the more reviews I write.  

So fellow book bloggers, I'd love to know how you keep your reviews fresh?  Or, do you find it as difficult as I do to ensure the language in your reviews isn't overused and to develop novel ways of saying the same things?  

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Armchair BEA Giveaway Winner

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of my Armchair BEA Giveaway, selected using Random.org, is:

Shannon from The Most Happy Reader

Congratulations, Shannon!  An email has been sent to notify you.

I'd like to extend a big thank you to everyone who stopped by, entered the giveaway, and commented on my post.    

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Suddenly Sunday

It's time for Suddenly Sunday, a weekly meme hosted by Svea at Muse in the Fog that gives bloggers the opportunity to highlight their key blogging activities from the past week.  

Since it has been a few months since I last took part in Suddenly Sunday I've decided it's high time I started to participate regularly again.  In general, I'm going to try to get back to more consistently posting non-required review posts in the weeks ahead. 

Looking back, this week was pretty quiet on the blog.  Here is what I posted:

  • Review of The Geneva Option by Adam Lebor.   If you love modern-day political thrillers this is a book not to be missed. 
  • Review and Giveaway of Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane.   The giveaway, open to US/CAN residents, is for one copy of each of the two books in Kane's 2-book Spartacus series.  Be sure to enter if you haven't already done so -- the books are fabulous.

 Looking ahead, I have a couple of reviews planned for this week:

  • Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith, a novel about Jane Shore, mistress to Edward IV.
  • Red Joan by Jennie Rooney, a novel about a young British woman who becomes a Russian spy at the end of the Second World War. 

I also plan to get my Book Talk feature going again next week.  I had intended it to be a weekly feature, but life got in the way and I had to temporarily set it aside.  My next topic will be 'keeping book reviews fresh' as I find I've been struggling with this lately and would love to hear from other bloggers on this subject. 

After a few days of rain and drizzle the sun is finally out here, which means I'll finally get the chance to plant some flowers in my garden!   My Sunday plans also include reading (of course!) and watching the Blue Jays game.   What are your Sunday plans?

Happy Reading!

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway - Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane


Spartacus has already done the impossible—not only has he escaped from slavery, he and his seconds have created a mighty slave army that has challenged Rome and defeated the armies of three praetors, two consuls, and one proconsul. On the plain of the River Po, in modern Northern Italy, Spartacus has defeated Gaius Cassius Longinus, proconsul and general of an army of two legions. Now the road home lies before them—to Thrace for Spartacus, and to Gaul for his seconds-in-command, Castus and Gannicus.

But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. One of Spartacus's most powerful generals has defected, taking his men with him. Back in Rome, the immensely rich Marcus Licinius Crassus is gathering an unheard-of Army. The Senate has given Crassus an army made up of ten legions and the authority to do whatever it takes to end the slave rebellion once and for all.

Meanwhile, Spartacus wants to lead his men over the Alps and home, but his two seconds have a different plan. They want to march on Rome itself and bring the Republic to its knees. Rebellion has become war. War to the death.

St. Martin's Press | May 14, 2013 | 464 pages

My Review

4 Stars

Spartacus: Rebellion by Ben Kane is the second of two novels chronicling the life of the Spartacus, a gladiator turned rebel who leads tens of thousands of escaped slaves in revolt against Rome.  This novel picks up immediately where the series first book, Spartacus the Gladiator, left off.   Fresh off his tremendous (and unexpected) series of victories against various Roman forces, Spartacus leads his army north towards the Alps, where he plans to cross out of Italy and return to Thrace, his homeland.  But Spartacus' plan is thwarted by his two most senior officers, the Gauls Castus and Gannicus, who would like nothing more than to assume full command themselves.  With his initial plan thwarted, Spartacus turns his army around and heads for Southern Italy, where his forces will ultimately face an army larger than any they've come across before, an army that is prepared to do whatever is necessary to put down Spartacus' revolt for good.

Much like Kane's first Spartacus novel, Spartacus: Rebellion, is full of rich historical detail that gives readers a glimpse into life, both rebel and Roman, in the 7th century BC.  Kane doesn't romanticize the period, as he clearly conveys the brutality of war and its aftermath during the period in which the novel is set.  While little is known about Spartacus, Kane takes the few facts available and fills in the gaps in a plausible manner.  As a result, the reader is able to gain an appreciation for Spartacus' possible motivations and the forces that drove him to rebel.  Kane's Spartacus is a master strategist and tactician, and a remarkable leader of men -- qualities Spartacus must of possessed in order to have achieved such tremendous success against much better trained, disciplined and experienced Roman forces.  One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the often strained relationship between Spartacus and Castus and Gannicus, his two most senior officers, and I enjoyed how Spartacus was able to address and overcome the constant challenges posed by these two men.  I also enjoyed the sections dealing with Crassus, which dealt not only with his desire to bring Spartacus to his knees, but also with the intricacies of Roman politics. 

Recommended to all readers of historical fiction interested in the Roman era. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher as part of Ben Kane's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Spartacus: Rebellion is currently on tour.  Click here to check out the tour schedule and find links to other reviews.  

About the Author

Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.

While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fuelled by visits to Hadrian's Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs - being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.

To find out more about Ben and his books visit www.benkane.net

GIVEAWAY (Spartacus the Gladiator and Spartacus: Rebellion)

I'm pleased to offer to one lucky entrant one hardcover copy of Spartacus: Rebellion AND one paperback copy of Spartacus the Gladiator!   

Giveaway details are listed below:

- The contest is open to Canadian and U.S. residents only;
- To enter all you need to do is leave a comment below with your email address;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) on June 16th.  

Good Luck!! 

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: The Geneva Option by Adam Lebor


Yael Azoulay does the United Nations’ dirty work by cutting deals that most of us never hear about. Equally at home in the caves of Afghanistan, the slums of Gaza, or corporate boardrooms all across the world, Yael believes the ends justify the means…until she’s pushed way beyond her breaking point.

When Yael is assigned to eastern Congo to negotiate with Jean-Pierre Hakizimani, a Hutu warlord wanted for genocide, she offers him a generous plea bargain. Thanks to Congo’s abundance of a valuable mineral used in computer and cell phone production, her number one priority is maintaining regional stability. But when she discovers that Hakizimani is linked to the death of the person she loved the most—and that the UN is prepared to sanction mass murder—Yael soon realizes that salvation means not just saving others’ lives but confronting her own inner demons.

Spanning New York City, Africa, and Switzerland, The Geneva Option is the first in a series of gripping conspiracy thrillers, a tour de force of international espionage and intrigue.

HarperCollins Paperbacks | May 28, 2013 | 368 pages

My Review

5 Stars

Journalist Adam Lebor's remarkable debut novel, The Geneva Option, is a fast-paced, intelligent thriller that takes readers deep into a conspiracy by a business conglomerate to take control of profitable African resources, a conspiracy that involves some of those in the top echelons of power within the United Nations.

Yael Azoulay is one of the UN Secretary General's most trusted aides.  Charged with arranging deals with some of the world's most notorious political and military figures, Yael undertakes dangerous missions that are known to only a select few.  But when the results of Yael's most recent mission, negotiating a plea bargain with one of the chief architects of the Rwandan genocide, are leaked to the press, Yael is forced from her job and her life is placed in grave danger.  She immediately sets out to uncover the source of the leak, and in the process learns of a top secret conspiracy involving Africa that has the support of some of the UN's most powerful people.  Yael is in a race against time to both unravel the full extent of the conspiracy and to put a stop to it before it claims countless lives. 

The Geneva Option has all the of elements I think a good political thriller should have.  It has: a fast-moving and highly entertaining narrative that makes the novel difficult to put down; it centres around a plausible conspiracy involving shady businessmen and powerful political figures; it has a highly intelligent, capable and determined heroine who is easy to root for; the secondary characters  are unique and memorable; and it is extremely well-written.  Yael's strong and well-developed character is one of the this novel's greatest strengths, and this strength is complemented by a diverse group of equaling intriguing supporting characters, who include a NY Times reporter, a Rwandan warlord, the Secretary General of the UN, Yael's personal bodyguard, a Serbian small business owner, and a young Rwandan boy.   One of the components of this novel that I most enjoyed was the insights it gave into the backroom dealings of the UN, the power struggles within the organization, and the constant jockeying for prestige and influence amongst its various personnel and departments.    Although this novel is fictional, it is not difficult to imagine that such backrooms dealings and power struggles are a reality within the world's most well-known organization. 

I highly recommend The Geneva Option to all readers who enjoys thrillers, as well as to those who like to read novels with strong female leads.  I cannot wait to read more from Adam Lebor and to see where he takes Yael next.

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Geneva Option is currently on tour.  You can check out the tour schedules and links to other reader reviews by clicking here.   

About the Author

Adam LeBor lives in Budapest and writes for the Economist, New York Times, Times (London), Monocle, and numerous other publications. He is the author of a number of nonfiction books, including the groundbreaking investigative work Hitler’s Secret Bankers (short-listed for the Orwell Prize), which revealed the extent of Swiss complicity with the Third Reich; City of Oranges (short-listed for the Jewish Quarterly Prize); and Complicity with Evil.

Find out more about Adam at his website, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Armchair BEA: Wrap-Up

With BEA winding down yesterday in NYC, it's time to wrap-up Armchair BEA.  What a few days its been!  I've had a great time chatting all things bookish with my fellow book bloggers, especially as its given me the opportunity to find some great new blogs and bloggers to follow.  I did miss one of the daily topics due to time constraints, but be sure to check out my posts on the other topics if you haven't already done so, including my international giveaway (click on the post title to go to the discussion):

Thanks to everyone who visited this site and left comments, especially those of you who are now followers.   I hope you enjoyed your visit!   A very big thank you also goes to the group of bloggers at the Armchair BEA site for making all of this possible.  I look forward to participating again next year. 

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Armchair BEA Day 5: Keeping it Real and Children's/YA

It's Day 5 of Armchair BEA.   I was too busy to draft up my post for yesterday's topic, but I'm back for more today :-) 

The general topic for discussion today is keeping it real.  That is, how do we, as bloggers, keep our material fresh?  How do we grow our audience?  The genre topic is children's and young adult literature. 

Keeping it Real

While reviews are big part of my blog, I do like to mix things up every now and then by participating in memes and general discussion chats to help keep things fresh and interesting.   When it comes to growing an audience, I think it's important to actively comment on other blogs you enjoy.   Meme participation, especially for new bloggers, is a great way to attract new blog readers/followers (and to discover new blogs).  Participation in blog hops, read-a-thons and/or events such as Armchair BEA also help to grow an audience.  Twitter is another great way to connect with follow readers and book bloggers.

General book-related discussion chats seem to generate a lot of activity on my blog, and I find they are a great way to engage new and existing followers, especially followers who aren't big into historical fiction, the genre I most often review.  However, I have difficulty consistently coming up with discussion topics that I think would not only be of interest to fellow book bloggers, but also encourage them to comment.  This is the component of blogging that I'd most like to get better at.

I'm looking forward to reading about how other bloggers keep things real.

Children's/Young Adult Literature

I don't read a lot of children's literature, but I have a lot of fond memories of the books I read as a kid. I have a 7-year old daughter who is just starting to read chapter books, and many of the books she is eager to try are those I loved when I was her age.  My favourites include:

- Judy Blume's Superfudge series;
- John Peterson's Littles series;
- All of Roald Dahl's books, but especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory;
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert O'Brien;
- Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little by E.B. White;
- The Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary; and
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. 

The one series of children's books I re-read (often) are the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, although I don't know that I would classify them as children's books, at least not the later novels in the series.   What do others think?

I'm not a really big reader of YA novels, but I generally enjoy those I do read and have lots books within this genre on my TBR pile.  Since I'm not a young adult, I usually read YA books when I'm in the mood for something lighter (although I recognize that not all YA books are light).  Here are my favourites:

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins;
- Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series;
- John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series;
- The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak;
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares; and
- Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy. 

Do you read children's and YA literature?  If so, what are some of your favourites?

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