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Friday, October 19, 2018

A Different Kind of Angel: The False Imprisonment of a 19th Century Refugee

I first heard of  Paulette Mahurin on author Christoph Fischer's blog a number of years ago when he was heaping praise on her novel The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap,  dealing with bigotry against a lesbian in a small Nevada town in the late 19th century.  When Mahurin recently gifted me with her latest book, A Different Kind of Angel, I was reminded that I still hadn't read The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap.  I hope to rectify that error in the immediate future.

A Different Kind of Angel focuses on a fictional woman unjustly consigned to the asylum where  the real investigative journalist Nellie Bly went undercover in 1887 to expose their abuse of patients.  Nellie Bly appears as a character late in the novel.

                               

In the current political climate in which my government considers its harsh treatment of refugees justifiable, it's instructive to examine earlier times when American authorities had a similar attitude.  

A Different Kind of Angel's protagonist Klara Gelfman was sent to a mental institution because she couldn't speak English.   She was a refugee fleeing Russia due to a major pogrom that really did occur in 1881 precipitated by the Jews of Russia being irrationally blamed for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II.

Mahurin's fictional Klara was still imprisoned inside that institution when Emma Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus" in 1883 whose famous lines about "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" were later inscribed on a plaque placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  This was the same period when the Immigration Restriction League was founded and gained an influential following.  They believed that immigrants were inferior  and that they would destroy America's social fabric.  I can only conclude that Emma Lazarus wasn't reflecting the cultural consensus of her time.  Her poem must have been aspirational.   She hoped that Americans would one day be welcoming toward refugees.   Let's just say that we still need to do a great deal of work on that issue.

I thought that Mahurin portrayed Klara and other patients convincingly as human beings.  On the other hand, she has Klara make an observation about the nature of insanity that seemed too much like current ideas.   I agreed with it.  I just don't believe that someone from late 19th century Russia would be thinking in those terms.

What I liked most about this book was that Mahurin brought Nellie Bly's real undercover investigation of the asylum to life powerfully by showing us the impact of their abusive practices on patients.  I felt that Mahurin was herself playing the investigative role of Nellie Bly by uncovering the horrors of that institution for her readers before Nellie Bly showed up in the story line.

                         

                           

                          

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Black God's Drums--The African Diasporic Steampunk That I Was Looking For

Back in 2016 I read an alternate history novel called Everfair by Nisi Shawl and absolutely loved it both conceptually and spiritually.  It was my favorite read of  2016. My review is here. Yet I was really looking for a book that centered on an authentic character who was privileged to have direct contact with one of the spirits from the rich religious traditions that were brought from the land of the Yoruba in Nigeria, and spread all over the world.  Since then I have read fantasy novels containing significant African religious content, but still not what I was looking for.  Contemporary YA novel American Street  by Ibi Zoboi came very close with her protagonist who was very devoted to a Haitian Loa. See my review here.

The Black God's Drums by P. Djèlí Clark is IMAO under-rated because it's a novella.   It's as if people believe that shorter books can't possibly be as good as longer ones.  Over and over again, I see in reviews that it's good for a novella.  This is a backhanded compliment.  Short literary forms are very much on point.  There is nothing unnecessary.  So it seems to me that the best ones have more power than a full length novel. It never surprises me to find exactly what I wanted to read in a short story, novelette or novella.  Clark's The Black God's Drums is a complete slam dunk.



                             


Protagonist Creeper was born during a hurricane in alternate steampunk  Louisiana and was declared a daughter of the Yoruban Orisha Oya by her mother at birth. Oya wasn't originally an Orisha from Yorubaland.  According to Oya scholar Judith Gleason, she came from Benin and was syncretized  (a theological term that means combined) with various Yoruban spirits. ( See Gleason's book Oya: In Praise of an African Goddess.) This resulted in a very complex figure with numerous aspects.

Creeper is very close to the aspect of Oya who dances during storms with her husband, a thunder spirit variously known as Chango, Shango or Xango depending on which African diasporic tradition is most familiar to you.  This Oya flies and is often depicted with wings.  So naturally her daughter Creeper wanted to fly in an airship.  

Airships are common in steampunk worlds, but the weapon known as the Black God's Drums comes from Clark's alternate Haiti.  I would describe it as that universe's equivalent of the nuclear option.  It has much broader effects than the purpose for which it's deployed.  Anyone who considers using such a weapon really ought to think it over, but there are those in Clark's universe who don't consider the consequences of their actions.  I am familiar with those types in our own universe. 

Any author who has mastered the magic of combining political, historical and spiritual themes with an action plot and characterization is one I will want to continue reading.   I sincerely hope that P. Djèlí Clark will be writing and getting published for some time to come.

                           

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Astronaut's Son--Blog Tour and Giveaway @woodhallpress @tom_seigel

Like many American science fiction fans, I've always been a supporter of  NASA.  This is the primary reason why I downloaded a Net Galley of The Astronaut's Son which is the first novel of Tom Seigel.  This is also why I decided to participate in the blog tour for this novel.  Scroll down for information about the giveaway.

                         

If you were looking for a feel good romanticization of the space program, The Astronaut's Son isn't that book.   It's a provocative thriller that addresses a number of significant issues that can make for uncomfortable reading.   This is especially true if you have a Jewish background, and the only thing you really know about Nazi scientists at NASA is Tom Lehrer's satiric song, "Wernher von Braun". If you don't remember this song or never knew it, you can watch Tom Lehrer sing it at the hyperlink I've provided.

The Astronaut's Son takes you inside the experience of protagonist Jonathan Stein.  His father had been the Israeli astronaut Avi Stein who had tragically died of a heart attack just before his departure on a NASA moon mission. Jonathan's entire life has been devoted to honoring his father's memory by reaching that shining lunar destination in the sky.  Yet what if  his father hadn't died of natural causes?  What if he'd been murdered?  If Avi Stein had been murdered, then his first priority should be to find out the truth.

I found Jonathan Stein complex and sympathetic.  The discoveries that he makes in trying to find out what really happened to his father create a very personal dilemma for him. Jonathan thinks about a range of ethical issues that trouble him throughout the book.  I respected the fact that he had integrity.

I think that being an astronaut is a calling.  It requires tremendous dedication to a very demanding career path. I read an award winning story called "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal dealing with a female protagonist who wrestles with a decision over life priorities like Jonathan Stein. You can read it at Tor.com here.

I admit to being bothered by Jonathan Stein putting science fiction fans on a list that included hoax believers, fraudsters and mass murderers.  He also seemed to think that science fiction fans are generally male.  I would like to point out that the demographics of science fiction fandom began to change in the late 1960's when women started to organize their own fan conventions and publications as a result of Star Trek.

Aside from the issue I had in the above paragraph, I was impressed by the Astronaut's Son.  The plot and characters had a great deal of impact on me.  There were revelations about NASA's history that caused me to place Tom Seigel's book on  my list of top reads for 2018.

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If you would like to see the entire schedule of this blog tour, you can find it at https://www.tomseigel.com/blog-tour


                        GIVEAWAY!


 The prizes will be a copy of THE ASTRONAUT’S SON, a package of freeze dried astronaut ice cream and a gift card for 2 movie tickets (hopefully people will use the tickets to go and see the Neil Armstrong movie, First Man which opens on October 12).  There will be one winner from this blog. The giveaway is  limited to the USA only.  Sorry international readers, but Over The River Public Relations which has organized this blog tour only wants to mail prizes within the U.S.

In order to enter, you will need to comment on this review with a contact e-mail.   Your deadline for entry will be October 18th.  I will then select a winner.  If you are the winner, I will e-mail you and request your postal mailing address.  Then I will forward your info to Over The River Public Relations.

 This giveaway is now over. Sadly, no one entered.   This doesn't exactly encourage me to do future giveaways.  OTOH, looking at the bright side, I can afford to do lots of my own  giveaways if no one will take me up on it. There are no shipping costs for a failed giveaway. 😄

                           

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Claire's Last Secret: The Perspective of Claire Claremont

When publicist Mary Glenn McCombs asked me if I wanted to read Marty Ambrose's first historical mystery, Claire's Last Secret, for review I jumped at the chance because I hadn't read a novel from the perspective of Claire Claremont.  I was generously supplied with free review copies in both digital and print formats via Mary Glenn McCombs.

                     
 

Claire Claremont (1798-1879) was brought up in the household of  political philosopher William Godwin along with her stepsisters Mary and Fanny. Seventeen year old  Mary ran off with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and sixteen year old Claire tagged along because she wanted to have an interesting adventurous life.  Many contemporary readers would think of these girls as irresponsible teenagers.  Mary eventually married Shelley and wrote Frankenstein.  Yet what about Claire?  Before reading this book, I knew little about her beyond her brief involvement with Lord Byron.

I found the historical aspect of Claire's Last Secret intriguing. Ambrose raises the possibility that Byron may have been involved in an Italian secret society.  I was also interested in some background scenes dealing with how Byron became inspired to write his iconic narrative poem "The Prisoner of Chillon" which was based on the life of the real 16th century Swiss historical figure François Bonivard whose Wikipedia article can be found here.

Claire's Last Secret is a dual period novel that contains sections taking place during Claire's youth in 1816 and Claire's old age in 1873.  There are mysterious events in both these periods, but only the 1873 murder appeared to be fully resolved.  I saw a review on Goodreads that said that this novel ended with a cliffhanger.  In my view, the protagonist needs to be in actual jeopardy in order to describe the ending as a cliffhanger.  There are some dangling plot strands, but I didn't believe that Claire was in any danger when I finished reading the final scene in this book.  So I would definitely disagree with that criticism.

I do need to say that the police investigation of the 1873 murder isn't really a prominent element in the plot, but I wasn't expecting Claire's Last Secret to be a police procedural. The surprising resolution made it a satisfying mystery.

This book's greatest strength was Marty Ambrose's solid research which made her characters so convincing.   I would definitely read another historical mystery by this author.

                        



 




 

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Lost Queen: A Different Approach To Arthurian Legend

I have an interest in the legends that inspire us including those that are collectively known as the Matter of Britain.   Most people call them Arthurian although some of these stories deal with figures who were only parenthetically involved in the tale of King Arthur.

Signe Pike decided to re-examine the Arthurian Mythos when she learned that a man who appears to have been the historical Merlin had a twin sister.  A novel focused on Merlin's twin sister would certainly be covering new ground.  That's why I agreed to review The Lost Queen by Signe Pike when the publisher made a review request.  I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Net Galley and  this is my honest review.
                           
                                  

What sets this Arthurian novel apart is Signe Pike's source of inspiration.  She wasn't inspired by earlier Arthurian fiction, but by a history book called Finding Merlin by Adam Ardrey. Ardrey's Merlin is an individual who actually lived in 6th century Scotland.  If I had the time, I would have read this book and evaluated it as a work of historical scholarship before writing this review.  Since I am trying to keep my commitment to the publisher who entrusted me with an ARC for review before The Lost Queen's release, I decided to look for independent confirmation online instead.

 The search that I conducted first led me to a site called Undiscovered Scotland which has a page that I've hyperlinked devoted to a man who lived during the same period and in the same location, but didn't use the name Lailoken which Ardrey associated with his Merlin.  Yet I also found a book by historian Tim Clarkson called Scotland's Merlin which was published a number of years after Ardrey's.  It did use the name Lailoken.  Based on a review of Scotland's Merlin which I found on History Scotland's website here, Clarkson dismisses the idea that Lailoken was a Pagan.  The review states that Lailoken's story can be found in medieval legends dealing with St. Kentigern, one of those who is credited with having been involved in the process of converting Scotland. Lailoken is portrayed as a contemporary opponent of St. Kentigern in The Lost Queen.  The Christian conversion of Scotland is known to have taken place during a period of two centuries during which Scotland was in a state of religious transition that involved a great deal of conflict.  Stories associated with St. Kentigern are likely to have been hagiographic (celebrating his saintliness).  So the perspective they convey might be very biased.  Winston Churchill said that "history is written by the victors".  I believe that this quote applies to the medieval source about Lailoken mentioned in the review of Scotland's Merlin.

The existence of Lailoken was confirmed by my research, but readers should decide for themselves whether to believe what the supporters of St. Kentigern wrote about him. Signe Pike's protagonist, who is Lailoken's twin sister Languoreth, is portrayed in the novel as defending her brother from slanders that were written about him.

Languoreth is not portrayed as a medieval feminist.  As a  woman who was a daughter of a King, she was constrained in her choices.   She married the man that her father chose instead of the man she loved.   She did this for the sake of her family.   There was a great deal of tragedy in Languoreth's life.  I felt compassion for her, and tried not to judge her.  

This novel is compared to The Mists of Avalon because it takes the perspective of a woman, and portrays the struggle between Pagans and Christians that was taking place during that period.  Since it's the first volume in a trilogy, I will be interested in seeing how Signe Pike will put her personal stamp on her version of the Arthurian legend in future books.

                                

                             


                           

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Spying Moon: An RCMP Police Procedural

When publicist Wiley Saichek invited me to select a title for review from the upcoming releases of his client, Down and Out Books, I chose Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan.  I'd never read anything by this author previously, nor had I read a police procedural dealing with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  The  only crime author that I've blogged about who writes books that take place in Canada is Ausma Zehanat Khan whose protagonists work for the Toronto Police.  (See my review of Khan's The Unquiet Dead here.  I considered it the best mystery I read in 2017.)  The RCMP is a national police force.  I knew very little about them before starting this book.  I received a free copy for review from the publisher via Wiley Saichek.

                       


 The title is apparently derived from a legend about the North American indigenous trickster deity, Coyote, replacing the moon and spying on people.   I found a similar tale to the one mentioned in Spying Moon here.  You will need to scroll down to find the story.  It's credited as a myth of the Kalispel people  who have a reservation in the U.S. state of Washington.

Ruttan's protagonist is an RCMP constable who is female.  According to the RCMP Official Website, there were women working for them as constables as early as 1900.  Currently, one fifth of RCMP officers are women.  The central character Kendall Moreau was assigned to a town called Maple River which seems to be fictional.

Moreau's missing mother was of First Nations descent.  This is how Canada refers to its indigenous population.  Moreau was a child when her mother disappeared, and she had no other family that was known to the authorities. She was placed into foster care. This means that she knows nothing of her First Nations heritage.  In a more typical narrative centered on a character with this background, Moreau would have been studying with a medicine woman in order to get back to her roots.   This doesn't happen in Spying Moon.  Although Moreau was disappointed not to be in a position where she can work on her mother's very cold case, readers can expect her to be a professional who is focused on solving crimes.  She doesn't allow any prejudice or harassment that she encounters to stop her from doing her job.  I found her admirable.

The male partners that Moreau works with in her assignments are more ambivalent figures whose motives become  more clear over the course of the narrative.

Since Moreau is dealing with multiple investigations simultaneously, there is a large cast of  minor characters.   Sometimes Ruttan reminds us briefly of the role that they play, but not always.  There were a couple of occasions when I needed to page through my notes to refresh my memory about how these miscellaneous individuals fit into their respective cases.  This is my only criticism of Spying Moon.

I learned all sorts of interesting details about police procedures.  For example, CSI didn't just bag the contents of a victim's high school locker.  They removed the entire locker to dust for fingerprints and test for DNA.   There were also numerous plot twists and dramatic confrontations.   Ruttan is an experienced writer who knows how to build suspense.

I look forward to reading future novels about the adventures of Kendall Moreau in the RCMP.  Perhaps she may investigate cases that involve First Nations individuals or communities.  Yet she could be dealing with numerous types of ethnicities that reflect the diversity of 21st century Canadian society.  I have confidence in Moreau's ability to handle all the situations that might arise in the course of her career, and Ruttan's ability to portray them.

                        



                   

                          

                          

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Her Fear: An Amish Romantic Suspense Novel That Should Have Been Wonderful

I was a recipient of an ARC of Her Fear by Shelley Shepard Grey which I won in a Goodreads giveaway that was sent to me by the publisher, Avon Inspire.  This is #5 in the Amish of Hart County.  It should be considered Christian romantic suspense.  I have in the past read a number of Amish novels in this category, but none were in this series by Shelley Shepard Grey.

As someone who had experience with a minority culture that found modern life problematic (Orthodox Jews) , I have an interest in how the Amish are dealing with the 21st century.  Christian writers who have done their research are more likely to be authentic in portraying Amish characters than those who aren't Christians. That's why I prefer to read Amish novels by Christian authors like Shelley Shepard Grey.

                       


 What I liked most about this book is that Gray doesn't portray the Amish as uniform in their beliefs and practices.  The Old Order Amish that I read about in novels by Beverly Lewis still exist, but there are also New Order Amish and other distinct flavors of Amish that represent a variety of approaches.  Gray has done her research.  She includes notes on a couple of different topics that are relevant to this book.  I was surprised to learn about the New Order Amish attitude toward alcohol use.

 After reading this book, I looked at a chart on Wikipedia  here about the adoption of technology in different sects of Amish and discovered that the most widely adopted technological device among all varieties of Amish is the electric washing machine.  I would speculate that the need of Amish women to do laundry for large families is what drives the Amish embrace of washing machines.  I also read the text of a radio interview on NPR's website here about Amish being selective in their adoption of technology based on whether they believe it will support or harm the Amish community. The Wikipedia chart shows that they have made a variety of such decisions depending on their particular beliefs.

I appreciated Shelley Shepard Gray's characterization in Her Fear.   The slow development of  Sadie, the female protagonist, toward independent judgement and the evolution of her attitude toward the male protagonist was very well handled.  I considered all the characters and relationships in this novel credible.  There were some very emotionally powerful moments.

I also thought that the investigation of the murders that were happening among Sadie's relatives led to surprising revelations.  So I would evaluate the suspense aspect of the novel as successful as well.

I was considering giving this book five stars on Goodreads until relatively late in my reading process when my evaluation changed.

Unfortunately, the ARC edition that I received from the publisher contained errors that went beyond ordinary typographical mistakes.   The most serious was an inconsistency in describing the relationship between Sadie's family of origin and her cousins.  Were they related to her mother or her father?  The first is more likely, but the second is possible and would alter my entire view of Sadie's father. The implications of the Kentucky cousins being the family of origin for Sadie's father involve a major shift in character dynamics.   It would make Sadie's father a more complex character with understandable motivations who becomes somewhat more sympathetic in retrospect.  In some ways, this would be an improvement in the novel, but it does seem more likely that the original idea that they are related to Sadie's mother is what the author intended.  I have no idea if this inconsistency exists in the finished book.  I did see another review from someone who received a free copy on Goodreads who complained about this error and others that were less serious.  Since it is a significant inconsistency, I can't in good conscience give this book a five star rating.

Publishers ask professional reviewers to consider only the text in finished copies even if they received an ARC.  They are expected to consult the published version before finalizing their reviews.   I feel that readers who aren't writing professional reviews shouldn't be expected to consult anything but the edition in their hands. I myself am in the category of non-professional reviewer.   I'm just a blogger, folks.   I do this in my spare time.  So I'm telling you about the copy of the book that I read, but for the sake of accuracy I'm notifying readers who are considering a purchase of this book that the version for sale may be a corrected text without the errors that I found in the ARC.

I'm really sorry that the early edition of such a good book had such a serious problem.

                             


                        

                 




Friday, August 31, 2018

Killing in C Sharp--African American Woman Solves Mysteries in Ireland

I received Killing in C Sharp by Alexia Gordon from Net Galley, but read it recently because it's going to be discussed next week at the F2F mystery book club that I attend.   It's the third in a paranormal mystery series whose protagonist, Gethsemane Brown, is a school musical director in a small Irish village.  Like author Alexia Gordon, Gethsemane is African American.  The first book in the series, Murder in G Major reveals how Gethsemane ended up in Ireland.   If you feel that it's important to know the central character's background, by all means read Murder in G Major before this book. Yet I should point out that Gethsemane's U.S. background plays no role in Killing in C Sharp. So it's definitely possible to read this book first. I read Murder in G Major before there were any other books in the series and enjoyed it for the most part.  This inclined me to read another book in the series.

                     


Gethsemane rents a cottage that is haunted by a ghost.  So the owner of the cottage decided to pay a ghost hunting TV series to film an episode at his cottage.  Since I tend to suspect TV ghost hunters of faking the phenomena that they are supposedly investigating, I almost didn't read this book.  I expected it to deal with frauds discovering that there actually was a ghost which is mildly amusing, but I felt that I had better things to do with my reading time.   I turned out to be wrong about the TV ghost hunters.  There was also content that was a great deal more interesting to me.

Gethsemane invited an Irish composer, Aed Devlin, to give a series of lectures to her students.  Devlin was also premiering a new opera which was based on a Hungarian legend associated with a curse.  I happen to be an opera fan, and the legend described in the book definitely caused this feminist to sit up and take notice. I researched the story and learned that it isn't an actual Hungarian legend.  Alexia Gordon created it probably from the bones of a folk tale called The Walled Up Wife .  It's a different yet equally awful story from a feminist perspective, but Gordon's addition of a curse and a ghost vastly improved the narrative.

The murder expected by mystery lovers happened, and the local Catholic priest was given an opportunity to contribute a very fine witticism which I just adored.  I'll leave my readers to discover it for themselves.

 I consider Killing in C Sharp better than its description and the mystery more intriguing than in the first novel in the series.  The resolution was inventive.  I can't wait to see what Alexia Gordon comes up with in her next Gethsemane Brown novel.

                             




                          



     


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Madilla: The Spirit of U'Katang--Fighting For A Woman's Right to Play A Musical Instrument

I obtained Madilla: The Spirit of U'Katang by Ian B. Boyd from Net Galley because the book deals with a girl who plays the piano.  I have an interest in female protagonists who are involved in any of the arts.  The summary implies very adverse circumstances for this young musician.  I don't believe this book was written with a teen audience in mind.  There are mature themes and mature content.

                           

The author states that Madilla takes place in an imaginary country.  There are linguistic and cultural similarities to real places.  At first,  I wondered why  Boyd didn't situate it in a known location. The village described is under military occupation.  It could have been in a number of different nations, but it occurred to me that Boyd wants us to realize that this type of story could apply to all of them.  He shows the impact of occupation on everyone in that village.
 
 Madilla's problem with a ban on women participating in music wasn't imposed by the occupiers. This is a traditional taboo in her own culture which she defies.  I could identify with her since I came up against some serious opposition to women singing as a child in the Jewish Orthodox community.   I discuss the spectrum of  Jewish opinions on women singing in "Are The Haredi Jewish Taliban?" here.

Although I knew of religious traditions where music isn't allowed at all, I wasn't aware of specific cultural proscriptions against women playing or even touching musical instruments. So I ran a search on the topic.  As a result, I discovered a very illuminating blog article by Josh Middleton dealing with this prohibition as a cross-cultural issue here.  There are still prejudices against women playing certain musical instruments. Middleton points out that in contemporary pop music, there are few highly regarded female guitarists.

I consider this a feminist book.  Both men and women have hard lives in Madilla, but there is a strong focus on the problems of women, and it seems to me that the most sympathetic characters are female.

The first ten percent of Madilla establishes the character and context.   I wasn't bothered by this, and considered the entire novel well-written.  Some readers may experience the book as slow-paced.

Madilla has been shelved as fantasy on Goodreads.  It isn't epic fantasy.  It takes place in our contemporary world, so readers may feel genre confusion.  Others may identify the book with magic realism.  The category to which Madilla belongs isn't obvious at the outset.  This may be problematic for those who really want to know what sort of book they're reading.  It isn't clear at the beginning whether Madilla is paranormally gifted or highly imaginative.  Let's just say that by the end of the novel you will definitely know the answer to that question.

  Madilla is not a book for people who are uncomfortable with uncertainty.  Yet if you're willing to deal with fantasy/magical realism and you love protagonists who are musicians, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.

                           






Sunday, August 12, 2018

Lone Wolf in Jerusalem: A Historical Thriller About Resisting The British Occupation of Palestine

When I saw Lone Wolf in Jerusalem by Ehud Diskin on Net Galley, it intrigued me.  I had read books taking place in British Mandate Palestine, but I hadn't seen this sort of focus before.  Since it was a Read Now book, I was able to download it right away.  So when publicist Wiley Saichek asked me if I wanted to review it, I said that I already had a copy for review.

                         

Although Lone Wolf in Jerusalem is primarily a thriller, I find myself wanting to discuss characters. I loved  Shoshana.  Her character arc of recovery from her experiences during WWII really pulled me in to the book.  Yet I have to say that at the beginning of the novel, I found the perspective of the protagonist understandable, but not sympathetic.   David Gabinsky, the main character, was an anti-Nazi resistance fighter and a Holocaust survivor when he arrived in British Mandate Palestine.   He decided to take action against British police officers on his own.  With his background, I understood why David did not distinguish between the Nazis and the British occupiers.  He saw himself as continuing his World II struggle against the enemies of Jews.

Before writing this review, I thought about how I wanted to approach the issue of terrorism.  I re-read my review of  The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi which partly took place in British Mandate Palestine.  You can find it here.  In that review, I remarked about terrorism that "I tend to draw the line at the victimizing of innocent civilians." This expresses my opinion on the subject in a nutshell which is why I am quoting it in this review.  I learned from Lone Wolf in Jerusalem that a Jewish terrorist organization of this period known as the Lehi attacked British civilians in direct opposition to the policy of the Irgun, a much better known anti-British Jewish terrorist organization.  My feeling is that the Irgun policy makes an important ethical statement. At one point in this book, David realized that he had victimized innocents in one of his actions, and came to regret it. Diskin shows us a protagonist who evolves in his thinking, and becomes more sympathetic over the course of the novel.

While I knew something about the Irgun before I read this book, I was extremely uninformed about the Lehi.  I had known that it was called the Stern Gang by its opponents.  So after writing the above paragraph,  I did some research.  British historian Colin Schindler's website pointed me in the direction of The Stern Gang by Joseph Heller.  I'll definitely want to read it. The Lehi didn't play a significant role in Lone Wolf in Jerusalem, but Diskin's content about the Lehi in this novel caused me to think that I wanted to know more.

 Diskin's military background lends tremendous verisimilitude to the action scenes in this thriller.  There is a great deal more talk about strategy and tactics than I am accustomed to seeing in thrillers, but they weren't just dry discussions.  Diskin contextualized strategy and tactics within the life of the protagonist.  David's choices were accompanied by flashbacks when they were related to specific memories from his experiences. 

I am usually disappointed by bestsellers when I read them, but this Israeli bestseller was both intense and informative.

                      




















                    

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Deadliest Fever (Miriam Bat Isaac #4)--Reversing My First Impression

I accepted an invitation to review The Deadliest Fever, the fourth in the Miriam Bat Isaac historical mystery series recently.  The invitation was made by Destiny Brown, a tireless promoter of indie books on Goodreads.  I read all of Destiny's promotional posts.  I figure it was inevitable that one day my interests and hers would intersect.  So I clicked on her link to Net Galley's page for The Deadliest Fever and downloaded a review copy from the indie publisher.

                             

                              
I purchased the first book in the Miriam Bat Isaac series, The Deadliest Lie some time ago because I'm interested in books taking place in ancient Alexandria, and historical fiction with Jewish protagonists. So I decided to read The Deadliest Lie first as background for The Deadliest Fever.  I can't recommend that other readers do the same unless your main interest in historical mysteries is the historical aspect.  There are mountainous info dumps in June Trop's first novel, and the mystery element isn't introduced into the plot until 31%  in the Kindle edition.  I am not the only one to complain about this issue on Goodreads.   Only the most patient mystery reader should attempt to apply themselves to such a narrative.

I would also like to warn those who thought you might eventually want to tackle the gladiatorial book three in the series, The Deadliest Sport.  You probably shouldn't read The Deadliest Fever beforehand.   It contains major spoilers dealing with the The Deadliest Sport's resolution.  Unless you are as tolerant of spoilers as I am, I would advise you to read book three first.

Regardless of when you decide to start The Deadliest Fever, you can expect mystery action beginning at the novel's opening.  So the plot's pacing is vastly improved over book one.

 I also complained in my Goodreads review of  The Deadliest Lie that although it was realistic for Miriam Bat Isaac to behave like an immature teenager when she was seventeen, she wasn't the sort of protagonist that I prefer.  I do read YA, but the YA novels I like best contain unusual central characters who don't behave like typical teenagers. So I was delighted to find that Miriam Bat Isaac is a thirty year old woman in The Deadliest Fever, and is therefore much more in line with my preferences.

Since I enjoy doing research about topics that interest me which are raised in the books that I read,  I often bring up searches I conducted in my reviews.   In this case, I want to discuss my research process.

In The Deadliest Fever, Miriam wants to discover who damaged the mantle which covered her synagogue's Torah.  Mantles are made of cloth covered with embroidery.  Sometimes they are encrusted with gems.

 Since I have seen that not all Torahs are covered with mantles in a contemporary Jewish context, I did a search on the subject.  I discovered that covering Torahs with mantles is an Ashkenazi practice.  Ashkenazis are the descendants of Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe. I myself am of Ashkenazi descent, but there were no Ashkenazis in ancient times.  The only Jews in ancient Alexandria would have been Mizrachis, Jews whose ancestors came from the Middle East.   The current Mizrachi practice is to cover Torahs with silver cylinders which would keep them upright at all times.

 There is a theological conflict of the Sephardis /Mizrachis vs. the Ashkenazis over whether Torahs should be upright or diagonal.  Sephardis are the community descended from the Jewish refugees expelled from Spain.  Many of them settled in the Middle East and adopted the Mizrachi outlook.  If you want to learn more about the reasons behind this disagreement, see this Q & A on the Chabad website.  Chabad is the largest Jewish outreach organization in the world.  Their orientation is Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), but they engage in outreach to Jews of all backgrounds.  After reading that Q & A , I came to the mistaken conclusion that June Trop had been inauthentic.  I believed that the Torah in The Deadliest Fever should have been covered with a wooden or silver cylinder.

Then I gave some additional thought to the matter.  The Rabbis cited in the Chabad Q & A had been medieval authorities. They weren't Talmudic Rabbis from the Roman period.  That entire geographical disagreement hadn't existed in ancient times.  I still needed to find out about ancient Torah covering practices.   I found my answer in an article from the Jewish Virtual Library which revealed that "important" Torahs in the ancient Middle East were covered in cloth.   The Torah in the Great Synagogue of Alexandria would have been regarded as important.  So June Trop had been accurate in her portrayal of that Torah after all.

I included my entire process because I wanted to remind people that asking the right question is the foundation of good research.  This is especially important in evaluating an author's accuracy. 

 The Deadliest Fever has the same great historical background that I found in the first book, but it's used more judiciously.  Plot is prioritized and the maturation of Miriam Bat Isaac has made her a much more viable protagonist.   I expect to go back and read the second book in the series, The Deadliest Hate, eventually.  June Trop has successfully reversed the negative first impression I had after reading her first novel.

                              










Saturday, July 21, 2018

City of Ink (Li Du #3) by Elsa Hart

The publisher approved me for City of Ink on Net Galley because I had reviewed the first novel of the Li Du mystery series, Jade Dragon Mountain, here.  I praised the first book for its unusual  18th century China  setting.  When I received this third novel,  I realized that I should have gotten seven lashes with a wet Chinese noodle for neglecting to read the second book in the series, The White Mirror.  Last month I corrected that shortcoming and reviewed Li Du #2 here. I thought The White Mirror was fascinating because of it's 18th century Tibet setting.  It was the best novel that I read in the first half of 2018.  My honest review of City of Ink is below.

                       


  In City of Ink Li Du returns to Beijing from exile.   He had been exiled for his association with Shu who had been executed for conspiring against the Emperor.  Shu had been Li Du's mentor and friend.  He couldn't believe that Shu could have been guilty of such a terrible crime.  So Li Du's main goal in returning to Beijing is to clear Shu's name.

 I believe that Li Du's effort to vindicate his dead friend could have made a compelling short story.  It was certainly the strongest aspect of City of Ink, and provided a powerful ending to the novel.

Unfortunately, a great deal of narrative space was taken up with an investigation that didn't interest me nearly as much as the drama of Li Du's personal crusade to clear Shu.  There were murders at a tile factory.  Li Du diligently followed the clues and came to a slightly unexpected conclusion.  Yet this was the sort of case that could have taken place anywhere.  It was a classic mystery with the requisite plot twist, but after the extraordinary goings on in Tibet during The White Mirror I expected more.

The Imperial exams for government positions were an event in the foreground of City of Ink.   It didn't surprise me that corruption had crept into the exam process.   It would have astonished me far more if all the examiners and applicants were completely honest.  Bureaucratic corruption adds realism, but I considered it a routine element in this novel.

Li Du's friend, the storyteller Hamza was entertaining as usual.  I continue to regard him as the most interesting character in this series.  I hope that Elsa Hart includes Hamza in Li Du's future adventures.

I admit to having been disappointed by the mystery aspect of City of Ink, but I am optimistic about the possibilities that could develop for Li Du and Hamza in upcoming novels.

                               





                       

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Smoke and Iron (Great Library #4)-- Saving The Great Library From Itself

I reviewed the previous novel in Rachel Caine's dystopian alternate history fantasy series back in April here and promised that I would get to Smoke and Iron relatively soon.  The time got away from me. With the best of intentions, I become over-committed.  Then I heard from the publisher wondering when I would review it.  So I shoe-horned this Net Galley into my schedule as best as I could.  Many thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for the ARC.
 
                             

The central characters of this series are rebels, but they are rebels that are part of the Great Library.  They are scholars, obscurists with magical abilities and High Garda military officers who want the Great Library to be restored to its original values without the authoritarianism and corruption that had crept in.  They're something like the contemporary Americans who call themselves the Resistance except that the protagonists of this series are only a small group.  They needed to gain more support or they couldn't possibly succeed.  Smoke and Iron is the story of how they start to build a network.   This isn't a simple process.  It's difficult and dangerous.  It also couldn't be completed in one book.

There is a belief that heroes are people who accomplish great feats on their own.   This is a myth.  Heroes have mentors and allies.  Even an impressively strong character like the hijabi heroine Khalila couldn't do it all on her own.   Even the powerful obscurist Morgan needed help from within her own order.   Jess had connections from the criminal world where he originated.  They all had people that they could call on.  Some of those who responded were surprising.   The inventor Thomas provided some astonishing innovations.

By the end of Smoke and Iron what had seemed like a quixotic mission began to look possible.   This novel is the turning point.   So it's definitely essential to readers of the Great Library series.   Yet a  positive resolution isn't guaranteed.  Hold on to your metaphorical headgear.  The fifth book in the series is likely to be  hair-raising because the Archivist and his cronies won't give up their power without a tremendous struggle.

                           
 
                          

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia--A Rebuttal To Hillbilly Elegy

When I came across commentary about Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, I thought about what I knew of the history of the region and it didn't sit right.  So I never did read it.   I figured that I wouldn't get any fresh insight from Vance.  I read Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders many years ago.  So I'm familiar with that perspective. I was glad to come across What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by historian Elizabeth Catte who is also native to the region.  I thought I could learn something from Catte's book.

                         

 I already knew that Appalachians were portrayed as backwards as an excuse to seize their land. Catte tells us about Kentucky widow Ollie Combs trying to block the bulldozers that were destroying her house in 1965.  (See a page on Appalachian Women on the Appalachian Voices website.) The company made the argument that Combs owned everything above ground, but the mining company had purchased the resources underneath her property. The house stood in the way of extracting that mineral wealth.  Ollie Combs was arrested.  Catte tells us that Bill Strode, the Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist who documented Ollie Combs' act of  resistance, was also arrested. (See the article about Bill Strode on Wikipedia.)

It wasn't just about the destruction of the environment though that was also a serious issue.  It was about taking everything these people had--their homes and the farms that were their livelihood. This is the root cause of Appalachian poverty.

Before the labor regulations of the New Deal, the mining companies didn't treat their Appalachian employees much better. You can find out more about the serious exploitation that was going on by reading the History Channel's article about the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia, which was called "the largest labor uprising" in American history.  Although I was aware of the intense labor struggle between miners and mine owners in West Virginia,  I learned from Catte that the mine owners actually had a private army which was dropping bombs on the strikers from private planes.  The fight to preserve Blair Mountain as a historical site is currently ongoing. It's slated for mountaintop removal mining. (See this article on the Progressive.org website.)

Catte also mentions  Black Appalachians in her book. If you read Vance's book you'd think that there were no African Americans in Appalachia.

Elizabeth Catte has an extensive bibliography to bolster her arguments.   It was refreshing to see her perspective. She successfully proves that there have been  and still are Appalachian radicals, and that the population of Appalachia is more ethnically diverse than Vance portrays.

                       











                             

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Lost Pilots--Aviation History Marred By True Crime

I won The Lost Pilots by Corey Mead from Goodreads giveaways.  It was published last month, so I'm about a month late with my review.  I admit that I've been a good deal later than that, but I do wish I could manage to be more timely.  I read giveaway books in the order that I receive them rather than the order that I won them.  So the next book on the giveaway pile was actually a 2017 win that arrived very late due to a mix up.  I hope to review it some time in July.

I wanted to read The Lost Pilots because the history of women's aviation is one of my abiding interests.  See the very first review that appeared on this blog of a book dealing with the female Russian WWII ace, Lilia Litvyak here.  So I hoped to find out about the female Australian aviator, Jessie Miller, by reading The Lost Pilots.

                                


The aviation history aspect of this book was fascinating.  I enjoyed reading about Jessie Miller's aviation accomplishments.  I even liked reading about the discrimination against women that held her back because it gave me a clearer picture of the experience of woman pilots during this period.  I felt that the speed limitations on women in the Women's Air Derby were the aviation equivalent of footbinding because they hobbled women probably due to a mistaken belief that women were incapable of flying safely at greater speed.   I considered this ironic because it seemed to me that it was William Lancaster who was incapable of flying safely.  He had a pattern of poor decisions that resulted in accidents which ruined his flying career.   He was continually being given opportunities and wrecking planes.  This caused potential employers to lose confidence in him.   Honestly, I don't know why anyone was impressed with Lancaster.

As much as I admired Jessie, she sure did have bad judgement about men. Over the course of the narrative, I kept on changing my mind about which of the men involved in the true crime sequence was worse. 
 
In the title of this review I state that The Lost Pilots was "marred" by true crime since this is a genre that makes me uncomfortable.  Because I tend to avoid true crime, I've never really thought about why I have problems with it.  In my entire past history on Goodreads, I've only shelved one of my reads as true crime.  It was Murder in the High Himalaya which I didn't review on a blog, but only on Goodreads.  I remember feeling that it was sordid with no redeeming value.  I love fictional crime novels for their clever plots, important themes, memorable protagonists and witty dialogue.   All of these are products of a novel's artistry.   True crime lacks these characteristics.  So all that's left is the facts of what occurred which can feel rather sordid.

I have friends who love true crime.  So they are likely to feel that The Lost Pilots was enlivened by true crime, rather than marred by it.   I will say that the true crime aspect of this book did affect me powerfully.  I was very conscious of the fact that these were real people and I cared very much about Jessie Miller. When I became fully aware of the personal consequences of these events for Jessie, I felt sick to my stomach and couldn't continue reading until the following day.  It seemed to me that she was more of a victim than the dead man, Haden Clarke, because she had to live with the repercussions for the rest of her life.

Since I can't imagine writing about the lives of Jesse Miller and William Lancaster without introducing Haden Clarke into the mix,  I suppose it was inevitable that this book was destined to include the true crime element, and that I would enjoy reading it less.  Yet Corey Mead's writing, organization and research are first rate.  So I would recommend The Lost Pilots from a historical perspective.

                              


                                

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Yes, We Do Need Better Science About Women

 I received a review copy of Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong from Edelweiss last year. I admit that I should have gotten to it sooner. I finally read it because it was the Book of the Month on a Goodreads group.  I've posted some comments to the group's discussion thread, but I know that isn't sufficient.  When I request books from Edelweiss, I commit to reviewing them on my blog.  My review is rather late, but I still feel that I owe the publisher and Edelweiss a blog review.  So let's see if I can generate one. 

                                




 I consider Inferior a survey on the subject of science written about women which has actually been dealt with in more depth in narrower books dealing with women in particular fields of science.  

Nevertheless, Saini points things out that I hadn't realized before.  For example,  I hadn't known that androgen increases risk-taking behavior, not aggression.   It occurred to me that there are both pros and cons to being risk-takers.  Saini doesn't really discuss the implications of androgen and risk-taking very much.  Since women's hormone balance changes as we become older, does science show that post-menopausal women do in general take more risks than younger women?  I am skeptical about this possibility.

 I also hadn't known that in addition to human women only female killer whales survive past menopause. This is interesting, but then the book lets me down with obvious ideas about elders having something to contribute which is very inter-cultural.

So while I do agree that we need better science about women, I didn't find that Saini provided much in the way of fresh insight on the subject.

                          






                      

Nyira and the Invisible Boy--Slavery and Child Separation in a Historical Fantasy

While I was thinking about an approach to this review of Nyira and the Invisible Boy by K. M. Harrell, I realized that the opening of this novel related to current events.  Thousands of children have recently been separated from their parents who were seeking asylum in the United States.  I saw mention on social media of separation of families happening in the 18th and 19th century before the abolition of slavery. This timely reminder of shameful history became noteworthy for me because Harrell's historical fantasy contains an example.  It showed the young protagonist being tragically parted from her only parent.

After reading the description and seeing the extraordinary cover on Goodreads giveaways, I purchased a copy of Nyira and the Invisible Boy.  I considered it a must read and buying it was my best option.  Somewhat later, the author contacted me and requested a review.   I voluntarily agreed to provide one.

                             


Regarding the cover, I had already started writing this review when I came across a discussion  of the racist association of African Americans with primates on the blog Reading While White posted by Elisa Gall.  I think that African American author  K. M. Harrell is conscious of this association and was deliberately subverting that racist stereotype by showing gorillas to be superior to humans involved with slavery in his book. It's important to state that this intention is not visible to those whose only contact with this novel is viewing the cover. Yet it seems to me that associating a human being with an animal is only racist, if you accept that animals are inferior to humans.  I have never accepted the idea that humans are the culmination of the process of evolution.  On the scale of evolution, humans are recent.   Human dominance may also be very temporary. Sadly, some key dominant humans seem intent on committing species suicide by ignoring climate change.                      

 But let's get back to Nyira and the Invisible Boy.  The  female central character, Nyira , was a small child when she was  permanently separated from her father. Her village in the Congo during the 18th century, was attacked and destroyed by slavers.  Nyira fled the slavers, and encountered wild animals who were more humane than those humans who were most invested in maintaining slavery.  For a powerful book which focuses on wild animals parenting human children, see my review of the Australian novel Into That Forest here.

Nyira is eventually enslaved and is later transported to what is now known as Haiti where we meet the male protagonist, Enriquillo.

Enriquillo is a Taino.  Wikipedia and numerous other sources will tell you that the Taino were extinct by the  18th century, but Taino genes certainly survive in contemporary Haiti and Puerto Rico.  There are also numerous Taino cultural survivals.  So could there have been secret villages of Taino hiding in the mountains, as we see in Harrell's book?  We don't know for certain.  This is also a fantasy novel that involves paranormal gifts.   I am willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story, and this is a humdinger of a tale.  There is some cultural verisimilitude. Harell includes a bibliography of books that he consulted on Taino society and customs.  Yet he doesn't claim to be completely authentic.

I believe that the cooperation of Africans and Taino symbolized by the relationship of Nyira and Enriquillo is laying the ground for the future revolution in Haiti.  This is Haiti as I've never seen it before. Despite the horrors and degradations of slavery, I found Nyira and the Invisible Boy inspiring.   I consider it the best indie book that I've read in the first half of 2018.

                         


Friday, June 15, 2018

Illegal Holdings: UN Investigator Fights Corporate Plot In Mozambique

I  once took a MOOC  (Massive Open Online Course) on the Hague's international courts.  So I know that there is investigation of international crime.  I didn't know anything about U.N. investigation of fraudulent misuse of U.N. funds. It certainly makes sense that they would investigate if they received a report of possible fraud.  A brief search confirmed that there are such investigators.

Author Michael Niemann has been writing a thriller series about the cases of  fictional U.N. fraud investigator Valentin Vermeulen.  Publicist Wiley Saichek asked me to review Illegal Holdings, the third novel in this series which takes place in Mozambique.  This sounded like an unusual focus for a thriller, so I accepted a free copy from the publisher via Wiley Saichek.

                       

Vermeulen had been sent to Mozambique to determine whether a non-profit NGO (non-governmental organization) had fraudulently misappropriated $5 million of the U.N.'s funds.  This sounds like a routine case that is unlikely to generate much suspense.  Yet someone who has committed $5 million worth of fraud would be willing to do some pretty awful things to cover his or her tracks.

There  also turns out to be some underlying motivations for the fraud that involve agricultural and land use policy which are controversial and have tremendous impact.   Which is the best way to feed the world?  Should farming be family based and small scale with a large variety of crops, or should farms be large industrial single crop operations?  What happens when large corporations who are mainly concerned with their bottom line are pitted against the interests of local communities?  This is the central conflict in Illegal Holdings.

I admired Vermeulen for his commitment to justice and his willingness to take risks on behalf of marginalized people who need someone to advocate for them.   I also very much liked his relationship with investigative journalist Tessa Bishonga whose work overlapped with Vermeulen's and helped to bring about a successful resolution of the case.


Since I believe that the issues that Vermeulen faces in Illegal Holdings are crucial ones that will decide the future of humanity as a whole, I was very much invested in this story line.   I considered the underlying conspiracy behind these events completely believable and extremely chilling.   Michael Niemann has written an immensely powerful thriller.  I can't imagine what he'll do for an encore in his next Vermeulen book.

                           

                              

                         

Friday, June 8, 2018

The White Mirror (Li Du #2) --Review of Mystery in 18th Century Tibet Plus Giveaway

So I said at the beginning of this year that I probably wasn't going to hold a giveaway, but I decided that I wanted to commemorate the 200th post on this blog.  It seemed appropriate somehow to do a giveaway of the second book of the Li Du series by Elsa Hart since my first giveaway was a copy of her first Li Du novel, Jade Dragon Mountain. See that review and giveaway here. Scroll down below my review to find out how to enter this giveaway and win the hardcover copy.

The copy I am giving away comes from the F2F mystery group that I attend.  The facilitator of that group receives many more review copies from publishers than she has the time to review.  So members get the opportunity to claim review copies for themselves.

A digital ARC of City of Ink (Li Du #3) recently arrived on my Kindle as a result of a review request from the publisher who sent it to me via Net Galley.  So I prioritized The White Mirror in order to catch up on the series.  I should have reviewed it some time ago, but late is certainly better than never.

                           


Tibet is a setting that particularly interests me.  I have read a number of Eliot Pattison's  Inspector Shan series which take place in contemporary occupied Tibet.  I have never read any book dealing with 18th century Tibet.  So this sets The White Mirror apart.

Before starting this book,  I knew relatively little about the pre-20th century history of Tibet or the history of the Dalai Lama.   Let me say that there were some eye openers in White Mirror.  I wasn't aware that the Fifth Dalai Lama  (1617-1682) was the first to rule all of Tibet.  Elsa Hart portrays a Tibet that was enmired in a ferment of factions.  The young sixth Dalai Lama and his regent had been overthrown by Lhazang Khan also known as  Lha-bzang Khan who had allied himself with China.  See his article on Wikipedia.   Some Tibetans still supported the Dalai Lama, and others supported neither ruler.

Into this chaotic situation comes the protagonist Imperial Librarian Li Du who is traveling to Lhasa with a caravan.   There is an atmosphere of fear and suspicion at the manor where the caravan takes shelter from a storm. As the caravan arrives, an apparent suicide of a visionary painter is discovered.  Li Du becomes convinced that the painter was murdered.  His investigation uncovers more than one secret conspiracy.

I have always been intrigued by the concept that Tibetan Buddhist lamas are tulkus.  What is a tulku?  Each lama is supposed to be a single reincarnated spirit that has been reborn for centuries and must be re-discovered as a child who will then become the next lama.  The process of discovering a tulku is a significant plot element in The White Mirror. 

 I wondered if  the history I discovered in this novel was consistent with the idea that the Dalai Lama is actually one reincarnated individual.   The conquering fifth Dalai Lama was certainly nothing like the pacifistic fourteenth Dalai Lama who holds court in contemporary Dharamsala.  Yet it's at least possible that the fourteenth Dalai Lama is the same individual who has evolved spiritually.  After all, spiritual evolution is supposed to be the goal of reincarnation.  Other readers may reach a different conclusion about tulkus.

I felt that The White Mirror had historical and cultural depth which makes it a solid candidate for one of my best reads of 2018.


                                       GIVEAWAY!

If you want to enter  for the giveaway of a hardback copy of The White Mirror, there are two requirements for entry.  You must fulfill both of them.

 1) You must visibly follow this blog which can be found on the right side of the page.  You will need to have a Google account in order to become a visible follower.

2)You will also need to:
a) either comment on this post telling me what interests you about the book with a contact e-mail.
b)or you can private message me on Goodreads.  In order to do this you must be a Goodreads member.  You can then go to my profile which is at the link I've given and click on More. The first menu item is Message.  Use "White Mirror Giveaway" as your subject and include a contact e-mail.

The deadline has passed with no one interested in this book.  Tuesday 6/26 this copy gets donated to the library.