Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief combines the stories of three men in three iterations of Venice and in three very different eras. The story begins in 2003 with a fairly straightforward account of Curtis, a former marine turned hired gun, who travels to Las Vegas in search of infamous gambler Stanley Glass. While there, Curtis discovers that finding Stanley is going to be much harder than he thought. In fact, all he can find of Stanley are whispers and an old book of poems called The Mirror Thief. The story shifts to Venice Beach in 1958 when Stanley is a young man stealing and grifting around town while searching for the author of a book of poems about Crivano, a 16th Century physician in Venice on a clandestine mission to steal famous mirror makers away to the Ottoman Empire. Crivano turns out to be a scheming, murderous man with questionable allegiances. He stalks the streets of Venice turning allies into foes and foes into allies at every turn. As these three men’s lives wind around one another, a story unfolds that combines philosophy, magic, history, and alchemy in unforeseen and delightful ways.

Seay’s debut novel is a house of mirrors full of magical realism, reminiscent of David Mitchell or Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. He was able to create wholly unlikeable characters with whom the reader can still empathize and become invested in their lives and stories, a difficult feat.
Rarely do I finish a book and immediately want to start it again right away, but The Mirror Thief had so many subtle hints and hidden gems that I wanted to go back and suss them out. I can’t wait to see what Martin Seay comes up with next.

-Portia Kapraun

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Little Indiana: small town destinations by Jessica Nunemaker

     Little Indiana: small town destinations by Jessica Nunemaker lists ninety-one small towns located in the state of Indiana.
All ninety-one are a day or week-end driving destinations well worth your driving time and will offer you a chance to discover what treasures are located in our Indiana small towns.
     The majority of travel guides focus on cities; Little Indiana is different.  The author has traveled with her family to each and every one of these destinations.  Part of the fun of small-town traveling is discovering the unexpected and incorporating it into your day. There is no scheduled itinerary, so just relax and enjoy the trip.

     So ladies and gentlemen start your engines and take a one day or week-end trip to some of Indiana's small town destinations!  After  making a few trips you will begin to see a recurring theme: every small town has something to offer, whether it is a winery, museums, festivals, chocolate shop, bakery, pioneer cemetery, or other attractions. And with Indiana's 200th birthday this year, what better way to learn more about our state and its history than exploring our small towns and enjoying the hidden gems that each one has to offer.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Now a popular BBC television series (also available for checkout), Call the Midwife, is Jennifer Worth’s 2002 memoir detailing the time she spent as a midwife in London’s post-war East End district.  Written with empathy and humor, Worth’s account of her time serving the poorest of the poor is both moving and informative.  Following a devastating break-up, young Jennifer commits herself to training and residency, for nursing and midwifery, at the Nonnatus House (a pseudonym) convent in East London. The Nonnatus nuns have a long history of providing medical and social services to the cockney families living in tenements and slums near the Poplar dockyards, and house a number of nurse trainees and midwifery students.  Worth recounts for her readers various experiences she had during that time with her patients and other community members. These recollections range from heart-warming; including the Spanish-born mother who astonished everyone by saving and caring for her 25th child, born prematurely at 28 weeks, to the despairing; the descriptions of squalor, neglect, and abuse (one neglectful mother left her two toddlers and infant, unsupervised in her filthy tenement apartment with a burning paraffin heater, while she took up trade at the behest of her abusive husband).  Despite the vagaries of life in the slums, nearly all characters are remembered with fondness.  This book would be a good fit for anyone who enjoys historical works or books on British life and customs. I ought to also mention that the audio-book, available for download from the Delphi Public Library via Overdrive, is a delight to hear with the snippets of both posh and cockney dialogue!

-Jennifer Wilson

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

This series is written by Sean French and Nicci Gerrard under the pseudonym of Nicci French.  This is the fourth in the series starring Frieda Klein, psychotherapist and sometimes murder investigator.  The other books take place in London,where Frieda lives along with her friends and family.  In this novel, she returns home, a place she has avoided over for twenty years.
An old classmate contacts Frieda because she feels she is becoming estranged from her teenage daughter perhaps because of her recent divorce.  She begs Frieda to talk with Becky.  After several sessions, Becky reveals she was raped and the details remind Frieda of the rape that happened to her twenty years ago.  No one believed her at the time, including her own mother which is why she left as soon as she could.  Now Becky's mother doesn't believe her daughter was raped.  So Becky hangs herself and
Frieda decides to find out who is responsible for destroying Becky's life.

 She goes back to Braxton to her mother's house and finds her ill and not at all welcoming.  So she stays with an old classmate, Eva.  As she visits with old friends, she learns of several other similar  rapes and murders that have occurred since she left.  In trying to piece together  the whereabouts of her friends during the night she was raped, she faces hostility and deceit.  She thinks she is facing this alone with only occasional help from her family and friends, but veiled serial killer, Dean Reeve, is  close behind her. 
Frieda faces her own ghosts in this book and as a result there are changes in her close relationships.  And there may be a cautiously blooming romance in the future.
What I like about this series, is that Frieda is her own person and while she has friends who value her, they accept her at face value.  I also envy that when she needs to think, she walks the streets of London.  If you like quiet mysteries, full of character, then you will enjoy this series.  Start with "Blue Monday".  Reviewed by Jane

Monday, May 02, 2016

God's Double Agent

Bob Fu, an underground pastor teaching in a communist school, gives us his personal story - his life, the struggles of wanting better for his country, and his confinement in a Chinese prison for his faith.  Having read other books on the persecuted Christian in China (The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun), I wondered if it would be more of the same, not that the same is boring. But Fu's story showed me much I hadn't yet read, while confirming as the other books did, that there is still no religious freedom in China. China makes it appear there is with their government sanctioned church, but those who stand true to the Bible will find themselves under government surveillance, tortured and eventually imprisoned.

Two things will remain with me from this book. First a quote by a Christian brother of Mr. Fu saying, "Prison is where God prepares his church in China." Along this line, Fu, as a young Christian, knew he would not be able to withstand imprisonment, so he prayed and asked the Lord for three years. Three years later, Fu was imprisoned.  During his time there God used Fu to spiritually set captives free.

The second is a story of a blind Christian woman who Fu had a part in getting her rescued from China. (Fu now being in America). It was Christmas time and Fu had this woman in his home, I believe. There he watched her take a set of Christmas lights, dismantle them and then re-mantle them in a matter of seconds. Amazed, he asked her to explain how she could do that. Her answer was, this is what she did for years while she was imprisoned in China.  Christmas lights. Made in China. Christian prisoners imprisoned for their faith, handling our Christmas lights! Selah.

Lastly, a quote by Ben Franklin that the author prefaces his book with: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."  God's Double Agent - A good read!    ~review by Patsy Scott