The Historian

The HistorianThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unabridged audio version narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. I think it was a mistake to listen to this on audio. Even with two narrators, we are still dealing with 4 different time periods and events covering three generations. The tone and style was reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though I could not differentiate between the father’s letters and his mentors. It all sounded the same. The visual cues of reading might have helped this.

For those leery of vampires and horror novels, this is pretty mild suspense and nothing too graphic. Where the novel excels is in the descriptions of all the places visited and details of culture, food, buildings, folklore, and history. As a travelogue it’s great, as a vampire story – not so much. Too many coincidences drive the plot, and what could have been a great romance just didn’t satisfy.

Book description: Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.

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People of the Book

People of the BookPeople of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I have to get this off my chest first of all: do not get the audiobook! I got through it, but I would have enjoyed it much more without the narrator’s very annoying accents that made every foreigner (except Australian) sound stupid and drunken. Do Hebrew/Yiddish speakers really pronounce every single English word beginning with H as aspirated? I also had a very hard time following each shift backwards in time. I’m not sure that would have been easier in a print version. I simply could not get an overall picture of the travels of this remarkable haggadah (the telling of the Passover story) from place to place, and owner to owner. Much of that is probably supposition. I did enjoy the individual vignettes of each time period. I also liked the description of the modern-day researcher, Hanna Heath, as she puzzled over the tiny artifacts found in the manuscript. However, the other side-plots did nothing for me. The love story went nowhere. The relationship with her mother went no where. A good book, but I have read better ones from Geraldine Brooks.

Book Description: Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force” by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century S pain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

The Silent Wife

The Silent WifeThe Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Touted as a psychological thriller, but it’s really more of quiet puzzle. We’re already told at the very beginning who dies, so no suspense there… The puzzle is in what causes these two people, who have had a stable 20-year relationship, to come unraveled. They have both complacently accepted the status quo – a long-term live-in arrangement (never actually married). As long as Jodi gets to play housewife, and enjoy the luxury of a comfortable home, she has kept silent about his “extra-marital” affairs. But everything changes when Todd gets a girl pregnant and is badgered into actually leaving Jodi. Neither Todd nor Jodi are particularly likeable, and that made it hard for me to care about anything that happened to them. The story became much more compelling after the assassination, and although I had already anticipated the twist in the plot at that point, it was enough to raise this from 2 to 3 stars for me.

Book description: A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage, a way of life, and how far one woman will go to keep what is rightfully hers. Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater; she lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds; she likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps; she has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.

The Reincarnationist

The Reincarnationist (Reincarnationist, #1)The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

I REALLY wanted to like this book. With a topic of reincarnation I thought it would be right up my alley. I rate it a high 2. It was okay, but with some serious flaws. The author had a great concept, but the plot had serious holes, too many characters and characters in disguise to keep straight, and no real ending. Lots of loose threads and unanswered questions. As for suspense, there was too much switching of time, place, and point of view to build any tension. The main character, Josh, is just as clueless at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. The author desperately wants us to believe in reincarnation, but even her main character does not grow or learn anything from his experience. The best part of the book was the portrayal of ancient Rome and the Vestal Virgins. But who is Sabina? We never find out. Every other character seems to have a modern incarnation, but apparently not Sabina. The twist at the end makes no sense. And it just ends. There is no resolution of karma. In my experience, memories of past lives don’t just come out of the blue unless there is a reason. We have agreed to have that experience as part of our spiritual growth, to resolve karma, to heal self-karma, or to validate our connections with people we have known in the past. None of that happens here. It seems to me the author is like Malachai – desperate to have that experience for herself, but with no idea what it really means. The “Memory Stones” was so gimicky. I wish the author had stuck with historical facts. If someone can tell me the series gets better, I might try another one.

Book Description: A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white, and photojournalist Josh Ryder’s world explodes. As Josh recovers, thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the intimacy of memories invade him. But they are not his. They are ancient…and violent with an urgency he cannot ignore—pulling him to save Sabina…and the treasures she protects. But who is Sabina? Desperate for answers, Josh turns to the Phoenix Foundation—a research facility that scientifically documents past-life experiences. He is led to an archaeological dig and to Professor Gabriella Chase, who has discovered an ancient, powerful secret that threatens to merge the past with the present.
Here, the dead call out to the living, and murders of the past become murders of the present.