The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman – Book Review

The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman
Published by Little, Brown, an imprint of Hachette

It has been a year since Yehoshuah, the man who would later be known throughout the world as Jesus, was crucified by the Romans. His death has changed many of those who came in contact with him during his relatively short life, but perhaps not exactly in the way that one might think.

The Liars’ Gospel is not a religious book. In fact, it really isn’t even about Jesus, either the historical figure or the religious one. The real heart of the novel is the political situation of  Roman-occupied Judea. Yehoshuah’s mother, who effectively not seen her son since he began his ministry, finds herself harboring a fugitive whose town attempted to make a stand against the Romans. Ichuda finds himself lost in more ways than one – not only has he lost what faith he once had, but he has left Judea and is assumed by all there to be dead. The High Priest of the Temple, Caiaphas, admits that he is essentially a collaborator, but justifies his actions by telling himself that he simply wishes to keep peace. Finally is Bar-Avo, the man who was in mail at the same time as Yehoshuah and escaped only by manipulating Pilate and sealing Yehoshuah’s fate.

Told in four chapters, from the four points of view, The Liars’ Gospel is almost more a series of linked novellas than a proper novel, but it does not suffer from this format. By seeing 1st century AD life from the point of view of a mother, a former believer, a priest, and a freedom fighter, the reader begins to see just how oppressive the Roman rule of Judea may have been. This was a troubled period, and The Liars’ Gospel is full of the massacres of an occupying army attempting to subjugate a devoted people.

The Liars’ Gospel is crafted beautifully, a completely engrossing read that I found myself unable to put down. Very highly recommended.

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Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear – Book Review

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
Published by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

My reviews of the first nine books in the seriesMaisie DobbsBirds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAn Incomplete Revenge, Among the Mad, The Mapping of Love and Death, A Lesson in Secrets, and An Elegy for Eddie.

For the first time in ten books, Maisie Dobbs is not truly ready for her next case. Of course, she has never failed a case so utterly as she did her last big one. Maisie doesn’t really do failure well, and this one is eating at her. It doesn’t help that the man she considers responsible, the one she could not bring to justice, is one who is constantly at the periphery of her every day life, and would be even closer if she weren’t actively working to keep him away. His presence is a constant reminder to Maisie of the time she failed, all the ways she is not everything she wants to be, and so nothing is really right: not her work, not her relationship with James. What Maisie really wants, what she feels that she needs, is experience. Marcel traveled widely and Maisie feels that it was those travels that helped him become as perceptive and empathetic as he was in the years that she knew him, and so Maisie desires to leave the life she knows and the man who loves her and travel.

Leaving Everything Most Loved does involve a case, but it almost seems beside the point. Maisie is pulled in on the case of an Indian woman killed two months earlier. The case went cold for Scotland Yard and they effectively dropped it, until her brother arrived to agitate for justice. Frustrated with the police, Mr. Pramal is referred to Maisie by her own mentor’s mentor. Maisie investigates, but she is more inside her own head than is typical. She seems almost to be going through the motions, more focused on where her own life is going than on Usha Pramal’s murder.

If you haven’t read any of the Maisie Dobbs series before and are thinking about starting here, please picture me waving big red flags. Don’t do it! Leaving Everything Most Loved is so much more internal and with so much less plot than most of Winspear’s series. Also, because this is the 10th book in the series, much of the background for this time of contemplation comes not from the 260 or so pages of Leaving Everything Most Loved, but from the couple of thousand pages preceding it. If you haven’t read the previous books, you are simply not going to care, and if you haven’t read Elegy for Eddie, you are not really going to grasp Maisie’s sorrow. Even fans of the series may need to be in the right mood to enjoy Leaving Everything Most Loved, as it has a very different feel from the rest of the series. However, it seems that it is going to be important as a transitional book (at least, I assume it is a transition, and not an ending).

Not your typical Maisie Dobbs experience, but many fans will appreciate the intense look into Maisie’s psyche.

Buy this book from:
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Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Hey, remember a year ago when I was pregnant with twins and so sick that I could barely read anything except Agatha Christie, and then I picked up Nancy Bilyeau’s debut novel and I read it like I wasn’t even sick? And then even though I read it in January it was still in my brain enough that I included it in my ‘Best of’ list for 2012?

Yeah, so, her The Chalice lives up to the promise of its older sibling, The Crown.

This year when it came time to read The Chalice I was in the middle of a work-induced reading slump and then I started it and read the whole 500 or so pages in 24 hours. 24!

The Chalice has great pace with characters that are just as engaging as they were in The Crown. I love that Bilyeau has found somewhere new to go with the Tudor time period and I just love the way she writes historical thrillers, combining flawlessly the best parts of both genres. If you like history, pick up Bilyeau’s The Crown and have The Chalice erady to go to follow it up.

If you want to know more about The Chalice, here’s the publisher’s description:

In 1538, England’s bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king’s torture rooms, and escaped death at the hands of those desperate to possess the power of an ancient relic.

Even with all she has experienced, the quiet life is not for Joanna. Despite the possibilities of arrest and imprisonment, she becomes caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting Henry VIII himself. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna realizes her role is more critical than she’d ever imagined. She must choose between those she loves most and assuming her part in a prophecy foretold by three seers. Repelled by violence, Joanna seizes a future with a man who loves her. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny.

To learn the final, sinister piece of the prophecy, she flees across Europe with a corrupt spy sent by Spain. As she completes the puzzle in the dungeon of a twelfth-century Belgian fortress, Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies. . . .

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler – Book Review

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Depending on whose account you read, Zelda was either F. Scott Fitzgerald’s muse or the thing that ruined his life and his writing career. What often gets lost in the discussion is the fact that Zelda was a smart woman and a talented writer in her own right. Therese Anne Fowler’s Z remedies all of this. Z joins Zelda’s story before she ever meets Scott and covers her life through their often rocky marriage through Zelda’s institutionalization and Scott’s death.

I loved this book from page one. Fowler’s writing is lovely, and seems to bring the essence of Zelda roaring to life. My favorite thing about it, though, may have been Zelda’s antipathy towards Hemingway. I do not personally have a high opinion of the man (or his writing, to be honest), so Zelda’s smack talk made me feel vindicated in my opinions of him. Fowler’s Hemingway is delightfully mean and vindictive, with a side of manipulative that ensnares her Scott Fitzgerald.

Of course, a novel cannot be carried on hatred of Hemingway alone. Luckily even for those of you who adore Hemingway, Z is a vividly imagined novel about one of the most fascinating women of the early 20th century. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Above All Things by Tanis Rideout – Mini Book Review

Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
Published by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, an imprint of Penguin

Because it’s there.
-George Mallory

In 1924, George Mallory made his third and final attempt at Everest. In Above All Things, Tanis Rideout tells the story of his last expedition by alternating between the experiences of the men on the mountain and those of Mallory’s wife, Ruth, waiting at home for news of her husband. I sort of wish that Above All Things could have been only from George Mallory’s point of view, as what was happening in his life was much flashier and more obviously interesting, but interspersing his climb with Ruth’s life serves the story Rideout is telling well. What really makes it work, in my opinion, is the time differential between Ruth and George’s accounts. Everything happening with George takes place a month or so before Ruth’s narrative – the amount of time it takes to get letters from Everest back home to England. This is a brilliant piece of plotting, as it synchronizes the end results of the mission for both of them.

Above All Things is beautifully written, and it brings Mallory’s third Everest expedition to vividly to life.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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