Staff Picks

The Nightingale

Summary: 
This is an interesting tale of two sisters in rural France, and how they responded to the horror of the Nazi invasion during the World War II. They both fight in vastly different ways, just to survive. One is in the resistance guiding Allied airmen, who have been shot down over France, to safety in Spain. The other remains in her home, with her daughter, just managing to survive, but also helping to save orphaned Jewish children. The plot also moves briefly to the present at times during the book, which serves only to give away the ending, at least for me. I'm glad I read this book as it serves to highlight the horrors and traumas that women and children in conquered Europe, were subjected to by the Nazis that one doesn't always think about.

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The Blood of Gods

Summary: 
"The Blood of Gods", the fifth and final book in the Emperor Series sees Julius Caesar cut down. His blood stains the hands of a band of bold conspirators led by famed general and one time friend, Marcus Brutus. The Senate are initially complicit in this act, and grant amnesty. The killers, however, turn toward plotting the empire’s future under their control. Caesar’s death does not rest easily with all of Rome. For Mark Antony and Octavian, who Caesar names son and heir to all his wealth and power, are bent on revenge, The shocking assassination is nothing less than treason and those responsible must pay with their lives. I was loath to start this book as I knew it was the last in this marvelous series about Caesar, his life, death and the future of the Roman Empire. Absolutely brilliant!

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The Fox Hunt

Summary: 
After "accidentally" reading the Old Testament, Mohammed has many questions about Jews. As there are only a handful left in his native Yemen, he begins to go abroad and meet them. The more he learns about other faiths, the more in danger he becomes. Soon, he receives death threats. Then the Yemeni Civil War breaks out. Not only is he wanted for this interfaith activism, now his tribal affiliation, religion and skin color immediately make him a target. His only chance for survival lies in escaping Yemen and putting his life in the hands of near strangers. But first he must trust the Americans and Israelis he was once taught to hate. I think this is an excellent book which reads more like a thriller than an autobiography!

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Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work

Summary: 
This remarkable book-- about air traffic controllers and oil rig and sanitation workers and truckers too --taps into a layer of this country that has surged to the fore recently, and lets their voices be heard loud and clear. The dedication to do the best job possible with the job they have makes these speakers admirable above all. No socio-economic analyses, just thought-provoking portraiture.

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Summary: 
This is John le Carre's third novel and probably his most famous. Drawing on his vast experience in the British Intelligence service, he creates a world that is unknown to the vast majority of us. He transports the reader to the shadowy, underground world of Alex Leamas, who has been recalled to London, after the last agent under his control is killed. He wants to come in from the cold permanently, but his spymaster, Control, has other plans. He sends Leamas, back to the cold to bring down the head of East German Intelligence. Leamas goes back as a discredited and dishonored spy to lure his enemy to his death. John le Carre's writing is wonderful. His ability to weave a plot of such complexity with such ease is amazing. So many twists and turns, and so fast-paced, one is never sure who is the perpetrator and who is the victim and which side either is working for. Absolutely brilliant!!!

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An Officer and a Spy

Summary: 
This is undoubtedly the most compelling book I have read in many years. It tells the shocking tale of Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian (German) of Jewish descent, who is convicted of treason 1894, for selling French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on a far-off island, and publicly stripped of his rank. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who, like everyone else believes in Dreyfus's guilt. However, when he is promoted to head of the French counter-espionage agency, Picquart finds evidence that a spy still remains at large in the military, indicating that Dreyfus is innocent. High-ranking military officials suppress the new evidence by deceit, an attempted cover up, and falsifying evidence in the uppermost levels of government. Picquart is begins to question, not only the case against Dreyfus but beliefs about his country, and himself. I could not put this book down! An unbelievable tale of miscarriage of justice and antisemitism, that was all the more shocking to me, in that it is fact!!!!

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A Rising Man

Summary: 
A police procedural series launch-- Sam Wyndham is recruited from Scotland Yard and a desolate personal life to 1919 Calcutta and the racial/political roil of the Raj. In the course of 6 days, he must solve a murder, uncover corruption, save an innocent, prevent civil insurrection, and battle his personal demons. Fascinating characters and a complex setting well-drawn, with #2 A Necessary Evil already available.

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The Monk of Mokha

Summary: 
Inspiring story of one man's desire to not only change his life, but the lives of coffee growers in Yemen.

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City of Spies

Summary: 
In 1970s Pakistan, Aliya and her American best friend Lizzy ponder the class and racial complexities of their international middle school, the mysteries of adulthood, the difference between servants and family and the roiling political environment that surrounds them. Loyalty and identity are as troubled as truth and lies as they are thrust into the turmoil.

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Confessional

Summary: 
The third book in the Liam Devlin series, sees a KGB-trained IRA assassin planted so deep under cover as a Catholic priest, some 20 years in the past. Following his discovery by the British Secret Service, he has gone rogue and is hellbent on killing the Pope. The IRA, KGB and British Secret Service are all after him, but will Liam Devlin's insights get him there first? Cuchulain, one of his many names, has been operating in Ireland to keep the cycle of violence between the IRA and British Intelligence at a fever pitch. Cuchulain targets the pope as his ultimate victim. Who can stop him! A great Jack Higgins suspense novel, full of fast-paced action, twists and turns. Thoroughly enjoyable!!

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