Category Archives: Reviewed by Lois

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

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I seldom read biography, and certainly not sports biography, but this book was so highly recommended that I picked it up.  I’m so glad that I did.  This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  While it focuses on the life of Joe Rantz, one of the crew members at the University of Washington, it also presents the other crew members, captures the depths of the hardships filling this country during the Depression, and paints a grim picture of Hitler’s Germany.

Who knew crew was such a grueling sport?  I certainly didn’t.  These college men worked incredibly hard and sacrificed much to earn a place on the team that ultimately triumphed in the Berlin Olympics.  I was inspired by their dedication and by their commitment to each other and to their goal.  This is a story about strength of will, teamwork, and values.  Read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's Secretary

It’s wartime, 1940.  Maggie Hope, raised in America, is actually British and, due to the unexpected inheritance of a house, finds herself in London and in need of a job.  Most unexpectedly, she winds up working as a typist for the prime minister, Winston Churchill himself.  Maggie’s background is actually math, and she soon finds herself caught up in intrigue and ciphers.  This book contains marvelous period detail and interesting characters.  It is both a first-rate historical novel and a fine murder mystery.  Recommended.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor

This is a classic tale of a discarded son being suddenly thrust into the limelight and a position he was never trained for.  Maia’s world is turned upside down when an airship crash kills his father — the emperor —  as well as all those in the line of succession before Maia.  Maia, who has been raised in the harsh and unloving home of his uncle far from the capital, is awakened by a courier and whisked off to the imperial court to take his place as the new emperor of the elves.  Maia himself is half goblin on his mother’s side.  Maia, a young man of integrity and intelligence though woefully uneducated, struggles to learn the endless things he doesn’t know in order to preside over the empire effectively.  The court is full of intrigue and danger, but Maia also finds some allies.

The world building and character development in this fantasy novel are excellent and drew me in.  Names of people are long and rather foreign, but there is a pronunciation guide and glossary in the back.  Though the book doesn’t say so, I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a series.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife

I knew very little about Anne Morrow Lindbergh before reading this book, other than that she had written Gift from the Sea and that she was Charles Lindbergh’s wife.  It turns out she was much more.  Anne was the first licensed female glider pilot in the U.S. and served as Charles’s co-pilot and navigator on numerous flights as he traversed the globe.   However, she was overshadowed by her husband’s fame, the tragic kidnapping and death of their son Charlie, and her husband’s domineering personality.

This novel brings the time period to life and rounds out both Anne and Charles — he comes across as something of a tyrant.  It takes many years for Anne to find her voice and come into her own.  I enjoyed this book very much, but also found myself wondering how much of it was fact and how much was the author’s imagination.  Perhaps I’ll have to read a biography of Anne in the future.  Recommended.

 

Witness by Nora Roberts

The Witness

Elizabeth Fitch always did exactly what she was supposed to – except for the day that she didn’t, and that changed everything forever.  While her mother was out of town at a conference, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth rebelled for once and used fake I.D. to get into a club.  One thing led to another . . . and then she witnessed a mob murder and was running for her life.

Twelve years later, Elizabeth goes by another name, works from a super secure home, and minds her own business.  The trouble is, the small town she has just moved to is nosey about newcomers, and getting noticed could blow the cover she has cultivated for so long.  An engrossing read.  One of Nora Roberts better books – which do vary in quality.

Me Before You: a Novel by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You

When the cafe where Louisa Clark works as a waitress closes, she winds up working as a companion for Will Traynor, a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair.  Before he was struck by a motorcycle, Will had been an Alpha male, an aggressive businessman who traveled the world and enjoyed mountain climbing and other demanding sports.  Now his girlfriend is gone, he can only move one hand slightly, and he is subject to serious and painful infections and medical complications.  Upbeat Louisa eventually figures out that her role is primarily watcher — Will is depressed and suicidal.  She determines to prove to him that life is worth living, even given his current limitations.  She actually gets Will to laugh, they have a variety of outings, and Louisa finds herself falling in love.  But is this enough for Will?  What if it isn’t?  Who decides if he lives or dies? A powerful, thought-provoking novel.

Pines by Blake Crouch

Pines

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke comes to by the side of a river.  He is badly injured and has no i.d., no cellphone, no wallet.  He remembers coming to the town of Wayward Pines on a mission, and being involved in a car accident, but nothing more.  When he makes it to the hospital, things continue not to add up.  Why can’t he reach his family by telephone?  Why is there an electric fence around the town?  Why does everything feel so “off?”  The answers are stranger than anything he could imagine.  This one will keep you guessing and reading long into the night.