A Tudor Christmas, by Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke

Eight stars

A great holiday re-read!

At this time of year, it is always nice to learn a little something about the holiday season and the traditions that we—specifically in North America and perhaps some of the other Commonwealth countries—undertake on an annual basis. Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke join forces to explain how many of the traditions we undertake are not Victorian, but rather from the era of the Tudors.

Choosing to address the origins of this winter festival, Weir and Clarke help inform the reader that Christmas-like festivals preceded the celebration known to many Christians these days. Thereafter, the authors divide the learning amongst twelve chapters—one for each day of Christmas—and provide poignant information that pertains to the specific day, as well as key events that readers might recognise in their current celebrations. Use of the fir tree dates back to Tudor times, though decorating it was not common, save for the odd candle. However, holly and ivy boughs could be found on a regular basis and were used to create a festive home.

Fowl was not roasted and served, but rather boar’s head served to feed guests and help spurn excitement at court. There was much dancing and frivolity, though fasting on certain days helped keep people mindful of events and saint days that fell between December 25th and January 6th each year.

Besides feasting, such lesser known facts as the delay of present giving until New Year’s Day was popular in Tudor times, something Henry VIII took much pleasure in doing, as is explored in the narrative. One extremely interesting fact was the puritanical negation of Christmas in England for so long after the Tudor era, something that bled into America until after the Civil War.

How mindsets can significantly alter such a glorious celebration, I will never know. A wonderful book, brief but thorough, for those who want to know a little more about Christmas from another era. Recommended to those who love all things Tudor, as well as the reader who finds a passion in the history of Christmas celebrations.

What a great little book that I stumbled upon and which I hope to make part of my annual reading. Weir and Clarke do so well to educate the reader while keeping things highly entertaining throughout. Weir’s vast knowledge of the Tudors and Henry VIII specifically, helps to flavour the stories and she pulls him into the narrative throughout. Not only will the reader learn of the traditions started or continued in Tudor times, but also songs from the era and how their wording helped to describe the atmosphere, some of which are still used today.

Clarke can seemingly complement this with some of her own knowledge and historical research. The season comes alive with this book and I am better educated about many of the little celebrations and traditions, both those still actively done as well as things that seem to have been lost in a bygone era. With short chapters and wonderful sketches, Weir and Clarke do a masterful job here of bringing the Christmas season to life.

Kudos, Madams Weir and Clarke, for this wonderful book. I loved it and I cannot wait to share it with others who also have such a love of Christmas traditions.

A Conspiracy of Ravens (Avery Byrne #1), by Dharma Kelleher

Eight stars

Having discovered the work of Dharma Kelleher a few years ago, I have not been able to keep from devouring anything she publishes. In this, a series debut, Kelleher introduces a new protagonist who is still faced with criminal goings-on while trying to stay one step ahead of those who mean her harm. Kelleher addresses many social issues from the acceptance of being transgender to non-traditional stereotypes in 21st century society, perfect for the open-minded reader. Another successful publication by an author whose modesty matches her ability.

Avery Byrne has made a name for herself in Phoenix as one of the city’s great goth tattoo artists. When her girlfriend, Sam, is brutally murdered by a local mobster for stealing a large sum of money, Avery must go on the run. Struggling to stay one step ahead of those who are hurting her, Avery also addresses the reaction that many have to her being transgender.

While trying to keep her family safe and steer Sam’s killers towards the authorities, Avery finds herself trying to see who she can trust. This mobster has fingers in many pies with a long payroll. Turning to an acquaintance, Avery is able to cobble a path back to the city, though even that is fraught with issues.

Trying to avenge Sam’s death, Avery puts her neck out to lure the killers into the open, only the wonder if she made the right decision. Avery will have to work alongside Jinx Ballou, a former Phoenix cop turned bounty hunter, to make it right, with members of a Mexican cartel joining in on the action. Dharma Kelleher does well with this new series, holding true to her foundations while keeping things unique enough for readers to enjoy the journey.

I have enjoyed the work of Dharma Kelleher for the last number of years, enjoying the large learning curves she presents and moments to education myself about lifestyles with which I know little. Kelleher can write and spin a story without getting caught up in soapbox preaching or flogging an issue to death. With great characters and strong narrative direction, these novels read with ease and keep the reader engaged until the final chapters.

Kelleher has always presented strong direction with her work, aided by clear narrative focus and quick delivery. Short chapters push the story along, teasing the reader to enjoy even a little more as things progress. A handful of strong and unique characters differentiate Kelleher’s other series from this one, but there are moments of connection that keep the reader referring back to other books published by the author. Plot twits throughout and a non-linear direction to get to the solution provide entertainment and action for the reader who seeks something unpredictable. I am eager to see that there is more to come with this series, as it caught my attention and has me wanting to discover Avery Byrne‘s interesting backstory.

Kudos, Madam Kelleher, for a great launching point for a new series. There is lots to learn and you have my attention when you choose to educate.

Look Both Ways, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

Always eager to read Linwood Barlcay’s novels, I made some time in my schedule for this one. Combining his well-established talent with a life-long obsession of cars, Barclay entertains the reader while forcing them to think on just how technology could turn against us. With his stellar writing style leading the way, Barclay shows us a different side to his craft, which is equally as enthralling as his usual publications.

It’s a big day for Garrett Island, a small community that is about to help launch a new innovation in transportation. With all gas-consuming automobiles banned from the island, locals have been using Arrivals, the latest in self-driving technology. Operated by voice commands, Arrivals transport people all over the island, obeying all laws and virtually taking any worry out of being on the road. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

While many have been panning the experiment of self- driving vehicles, Sandra Montrose is counting on it to boost her image as a press relations exec with Arrival. She needs something good in her life, after the loss of her husband and straying of her teenage children. Sandra cannot see anything that could go wrong, as the cars appear perfectly in tune with what they need to do, which is garnering a great deal of positive feedback all over the United States.

However, disaster strikes and things go horribly wrong. With no other form of transportation on the island, the glitch has left people running for cover as the Arrivals appear to take on a life of their own. Panic ensues and people are soon targets for these dream cars. It’s only a matter of time before things turn deadly and there are many around the island who are fighting their own battles with these machines.

Part Christine and part Terminator, the story takes on a life of its own from a variety of perspectives. As each sub-plot inches closer to the centre, things come together and the truth behind the Garrett Island disaster becomes clear. However, could anyone have predicted what the end result would be or who might end up on the losing end? Linwood Barclay at his best in this one, which stirs up as many questions as it does answers.

There’s something about the work of Linwood Barclay that always has me coming back for more. His acerbic wit combined with a great ability to tell a story keeps the reader inthe middle of the action. Always eager to see how his plots will develop, I devour his books and find myself captivated with whatever is going on around me. I can only hope others see the same thing and end up just as taken aback.

Linwood Barclay provides a strong opening to lure the reader in, while keeping them guessing what is to coming. The narrative gains momentum and provides the perfect guide to what is sure to be a soapbox moment on technology and the sacredness of automobiles. However, with a cast of characters ready to explore all angles of vehicular technology, the story keeps developing while plots emerge. It is only when the reader is neck-deep into the tale that they find themselves unable to put the book down, waiting as new issues arise and any sort of resolution seems futile. As the multiple narrative perspectives collide, Barclay brings things home effectively and with purpose, leaving the reader fully embedded in the story at this point. A chilling tale that has hints of past car-based horror stories worth a few twists to keep things uniquely Linwood Barclay.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for keeping me hooked until the very end. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for fans soon.

The White House Plumbers: The Seven Weeks That Led to Watergate and Doomed Nixon’s Presidency, by Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh and Matthew Krogh

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh, Matthew Krogh, MacMillan Audio, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As an avid history buff, I was eager to get my hands on this book about the White House Plumbers. While I have read a great deal about Watergate, never have I taken the time to explore anything written by those men who were involved in the break-ins that would one day bring down a sitting US president. Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh and his son, Matthew, tell a great story in a handful of chapters, explaining how Nixon became paranoid about national security, which snowballed into worry about the Democratic Party leading up to the 1972 general election.

It was the summer of 1971 when Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh found himself sitting in a top-secret meeting within the White House. While Krogh expected to be talking about some part of the Vietnam War, things soon took a turn. President Nixon was highly worried about the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, a covert history of the war in Vietnam. Krogh was handed a file and tasked with heading up the Special Investigations Union—SIU—nicknamed ‘The Plumbers’. Their job would be to find the leak and plug it once and for all. This began a series of events that Bug Krogh would never forget.

Fuelled by a dedication to his country and president, Krogh blindly followed the direction of those above him as he sought to find proof of the security leak. The primary goal was to sully the name of Daniel Ellsberg, presumed to be the core of the leak and a potential Soviet spy. Working to do whatever was asked of him, even when it was highly illegal, Krogh began by organising a break in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, in hopes of finding damning evidence. These steps would one day bring down Nixon’s presidency and leave an indelible mark on the country for decades.

After committing this crime, Krogh left the SIU and chose to work within the Administration, lying when called upon to testify during the Watergate hearings. When the truth about his involvement surfaced, Krogh pled guilty to his actions shedding some unique light on what happened during those late night meetings and just who gave the orders, as well as who knew what was happening at any one time. His frankness and eagerness to tell all is both intriguing and resonates just how corrupt the Nixon inner circle turned out to be.

Exploring his attempts to put his life back together after time in prison, Bud Krogh explains his meetings with Nixon in 1974-75, as well as trying to regain his ability to practice law. While it was a superficial exploration, the reader can take something away they likely did not know.

Having now died, Bud Krogh’s story went with him to the grave, but this written account helps shed some light on the actors long deemed guilty, even if they deflected any responsibility at the time. While short and somewhat crafted as a primer, it was a refreshing look at Watergate, the role of paranoia in the early 1970s, and how Richard Nixon’s intoxication with power proved to be his downfall.

While this was not a stunning publication, full of revelations and finger-pointing towards new and mysterious actions in the Waterhouse debacle, it was still worth my time. Bud Krogh provides some blunt admissions and interesting insider views from 1971 and 1972, particularly related to illegal break-ins that Nixon could use for his own power games. Using short chapters and a clear narrative, Krogh presents eye-opening tales of events, naming names and eagerly explaining just what happened. His views, while surely tainted from years passing between the events and this publication, prove forthright and well worth the reader’s time. Surely a way to ‘ease one’s conscience’ before death, Bud Krogh was able to leave this world with a clean slate and likely allowed Matthew to see what happened when the younger Krogh was just a child. Short and to the point, the read was swift and a decent piece of writing, but lacked the depth and intensity I had hoped I would find with a piece of this nature.

Kudos, Messrs. Krogh, for this piece. While little was shocking, the entertainment value that emerged while reading and piecing things together proved well worth my time.

Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975, by Neal Gabler

Nine stars

A long-time fan of anything biographical about the Kennedy family, I eagerly turned to this, the first of two volumes about the life and times of Edward Kennedy. Neal Gabler explores the youngest Kennedy child, the one Joseph and Rose Kennedy deemed their ‘great accident’. Gabler uses this first volume not only to lay the groundwork for how Ted rose from familial oblivion to become a powerful force in American politics, but also counters it with some of the significant foibles he had during an era of liberalism. Full of stunning anecdotes and detailed accounts of political and social events, Gabler treats the reader to a stunning piece against the backdrop of how Camelot was still within the reach of the third Kennedy brother, though many things stood in his way.

As with any Kennedy biography, Gabler spends the opening portion laying the groundwork and exploring the lives of earlier Kennedys, particularly Joseph P. Kennedy and how he tried to develop the golden pathway for one of his offspring to sit in the White House. While Gabler spends a great deal of time exploring these topics, it serves well to glance over it for those who are well-versed in the family and their rise to power. Ted Kennedy, the ninth child and labelled as the ‘ultimate oops’ had a great deal to do in his life to prove himself and make a name worth of Kennedy glory,. While he was trying to fill the shoes of his brothers, John and Robert, as well as try not to be forgotten, Ted Kennedy forged his own path, complete with family rule bending and attempts to get away with what others could never fathom. This would set a small sense of entitlement for Ted Kennedy, though he would, at times, push the crutch away and make sure truth rang true.

When John ascended to the presidency, the Senate seat in Massachusetts needed a new face and Ted Kennedy provided the perfect man to fill it. While some felt him a place keeper, Ted Kennedy had high ambitions to use a Senate seat to help further those curses he found to be dear to him. A gritty fight in 1962 saw Kennedy cut his teeth on the hard work required to win political office, all while he sought not to let his name usher him into the seat without effort. It was this victory, coupled with the tragic death of JFK that left Ted Kennedy keen to make a difference and help keep the Kennedy name in good standing.

Gabler explores the early years of Kennedy’s time in the Senate as ones not only to forge a difference, but to find battles worth his time. With Vietnam growing exponentially and getting out of control, Kennedy tried to wrestle control and hear those whose growing voices of discontent could no longer be ignored. Walking a tightrope between the people’s wishes and President Lyndon Johnson’s leadership, Ted Kennedy tried not to come out to harm the Administration, but not appease them by pretending things were fine. Gabler uses these years as a wonderful contrast between Ted and Robert, two brothers fighting for the same thing, but taking such different approaches to criticism of Johnson.

While Ted Kennedy became a strong politician, he always deferred to Robert’s ambitions for the presidency in 1968, choosing to support his brother, especially with President Johnson chose not to run for re-election. Gabler explores the run-up to ‘68 and the year that was possibly one of the most political in modern US history, with the death of Martin Luther King, Vietnam’s bloody escalation, and the eventual assassination of Robert Kennedy. Crippled by the loss of another brother, Ted Kennedy entered another stage of mourning, while the country sought him to pick up the pieces and run as a Kennedy on the presidential ticket. While Ted would not do so, he harboured future ambitions and kept the Democratic Party wondering until the summer as to whether he would fill the void Robert’s death left on an almost sure victory at the polls. However, without a Kennedy on the ticket, the Democrats were trounced by Richard Nixon and a new era of American politics began. However, Ted Kennedy was no muted politician, eyeing 1972 as his time!

Events in the summer of 1969 changed all that. After Ted wrested control of his first leadership role in the Senate—that of Majority Whip—things took a turn. A party one night that led to a drunken car crash and young Mary Jo Kopechne trapped in a vehicle while Ted left the scene and informed the authority hours later, changed the narrative. As Gabler explores in a key chapter, all Kennedy aspirations ended as news reports came out about Kopechne and Kennedy’s murky reporting of her being trapped therein. Media took their pound of flesh and left Ted wondering if his senatorial career might be over. While it was a blemish, Kennedy appeared to weather the storm, albeit with a great deal of self-loathing and some punches in the headlines. Still, it left him bruised and kept White House officials certain that they had neutralized any Kennedy run in ‘72.

While Kennedy continued to push for liberal ideals and led the Nixon Administration to the edge, forcing admissions to protect those in need, there was a sense that Ted might be the poster boy for the little guy and that liberalism was not dead. As Gabler cites throughout, Nixon tried to push conservatism on America, in hopes that they would see the need after too many years of Democrats in the White House or appeasing policies pushed by Eisenhower. Nixon began to show his true colours as the 1970s began, helping Ted Kennedy to reclaim his title as ‘Shadow President’ coming into the 1972 Campaign. While Kennedy did not want the mantle of Democratic nominee, the Party and many around him sought to push him into the ring. Might this be Ted’s turn to shine?

While Kennedy did not take the electoral bait, he did raise the concern of Nixon. Gabler explores how the Watergate antics may not only have been about general Democrat spying, but more specifically related to th Kennedy wave of support, which needed to be neutralised. Kennedy remained in touch with the goings-on and would not stand down as Congress began hearings in order to get to the bottom of it all. It was also this time that Kennedy also found a new passion to champion; health care. Specifically, the role of public health are in America proved to be something that Ted Kennedy could not ignore. He pushed for more legislation on the topic, as The Nixon Administration tried to tap the brakes and keep the country from moving too far to the left. While the topic did show Kennedy’s colours, Ted wanted to keep those who felt through the cracks from being lost and left to live in squalor.

As politics never stands still, Kennedy found himself in a whirlwind. Nixon fled Washington in disgrace, a new president—Ford—sought to turn America back into a moderate nation, and 1976 was just around the corner. Ted may finally have his crack at the White House, where liberalism could flourish and the country could put the nightmare that was ther Nixon presidency aside. However, it would not be a foregone conclusion, nor would the Democrats embrace him as their knee jerk saviour. It would take time and effort to red the political tealeaves and see if the country might yet be ready for another Kennedy on the campaign trail. Ted Kennedy had done so much in the Senate that this could be a gamble without a guaranteed victory. Neal Gabler teases the reader as the tome ends with the happenings of 1975 and how Kennedy stood at a crossroads, though he had vocalised 1976 as ‘not being the right time’. It was time to check the winds of power, which had been blowing towards liberal victory, but there was a gale on the horizon which could bring a gust of conservative sentiment and force Kennedy to stand firm to keep America on course.

While I have read many political biographies in my time, Neal Gabler’s opening salvo about Ted Kennedy has got to be one of my favourites. It lays extensive groundwork, while also telling stories in such an easy fashion. Kennedy’s ascension to power and repeated stumbles are illustrated in a clear narrative style, while addressing things in a chronological fashion. There is so much material here that many readers might find themselves in a panic, but Gabler synthesises things with ease, offering clear direction throughout. The themes develop effectively and the attentive reader can see where things are headed, without being too overwhelmed. Kennedy’s passions can easily be understood, as can the impediments he had during an early consideration of higher office. With a second volume to come, I can only hope that it proves as captivating and full of anecdotes. There is a great deal yet to come and I am eager to see how Gabler handles it. Let’s get it loaded and see how the story progresses, with Kennedy’s most important decisions to come in an era of staunch conservatism.

Kudos, Mr. Gabler, for this first volume of the life and times of Edward Kennedy. You have me itching to get to the second volume in short order!

Take Your Breath Away, by Linwood Barclay

Eight stars

Always a pleasure to read the work of Linwood Barclay, I reached for this book. Barclay spins quite the story, exploring a case in which a woman long-thought dead appears and how her six years away can be explained. Struggling with piecing it all together, the protagonist does all he can to keep his name clean while getting to the bottom of what actually happened Barclay uses his great writing style to pen a winner that will pull the reader into the middle of the mystery before offering a larger perspective and answers to all the questions. An entertaining read that will surely leave the reader wondering where the time went as they fly through the story in short order.

When Brie Mason disappeared while her husband, Andrew, was away, everyone was sure he’d killed her and hidden the body. Andrew vowed that he had nothing to do with it and did all he could to clear his name. Unable to quiet all the critics, Andrew changed his name and tried to begin anew.

When, six years later, Brie appears outside her old home, the neighbours begin talking and reach out to Andrew. Could Brie be back, after leaving no trace for the last number of years? Andrew rushes to follow-up on this, but must also explain the situation to his current partner, who knew nothing about Brie’s disappearance or the allegations made against Andrew.

As Andrew’s life shatters once more, he is left to wonder if his wife is back and what’s happened to her for all these years. The detective working the case has new questions, as does Brie’s family. When, in the heat of the moment, another body is found murdered, many wonder if this is all part of a larger plan to implicate Andrew and resurrect the allegations that he had his wife killed while he was away. It’s a fast-paced story with so many threads that must be tied off, the reader will surely get a little whiplash as Barclay weaves his tale for all to enjoy. A chilling piece that had me flipping pages just to get answers, before it all fell into place!

I have long enjoyed the work of Linwood Barclay, usually because things take on such a high intensity, there is little time to relax. The stories are always well-plotted and the narrative speeds along, forcing the reader to hold on or get lost in the dust cloud that is created. Stellar storytelling and eerily strong plot releases prove that Barclay is at the top of his game and genre.

Linwood Barclay opens his novel with what could only be called an innocent vignette, which turns out to be the hint at something more sinister to come. The narrative builds from there and soon there is little hope of stopping things to catch one’s breath. A handful of strong characters, none of whom are all that out of the normal realm, emerge and the plot thickens, as layers of narrative development overtake what appeared to be a simple case of a missing woman. As past and present collide, Barclay balances both effectively and the reader is able to piece things together with some ease, while still scratching their head to determine how it all happened and what will bring things together in the present. Never disappointed with a Barclay read, I add this to another winner for me, which has me itching for more, when I can find something of his I have not read.

Kudos, Mr. Barclay, for another winner. I cannot wait to locate another of your novels to continue this electric feeling.

Hidden in the Shadows, by Angie Vancise

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and A. D. (Angie) Vancise for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After having A.D. Vancise reach out and request I read this ARC, I was both honoured and curious about what was to come. An eerie story that spans two time periods, Vancise takes the reader on a journey and jolts them with what they will discover. Part mystery, part horror thriller, the story develops quickly and leaves the reader wondering if they have any control over what they are reading. My first piece by A.D. Vancise and what a ride it was.

Evie Day is back in her hometown, five years after she vowed she would never look back. In Woodsville, Arkansas to attend her grandfather’s funeral, Evie discovers an old photo in his belongings. This leads to other oddities, including a vial of blood, presumably from a case he was working as a local cop many years ago. Now, Evie is pulled into the middle of the mystery that her grandfather left for her, albeit inadvertently.

While she delves a little deeper, Evie uncovers a secret life her grandfather may have been living, or at least a case that remained unsolved. What begins somewhat innocently soon unravels and keeps Evie from being able to stop herself. Mysteries abound and people she’s never heard of become the centre of her world.

Meanwhile, in a flashback narrative, the story of what happened back in 1933 comes to life, with horrible situations and a witness there to recount the tale. Torture, murder, and a taste for blood all come to the surface while a killer (or group) runs rampant around town. How will it all connect with Evie‘s discoveries and what does it all mean? A.D. Vancise has the answers, but demands patience and full attentiveness of her audience to discover the truth.

I try to keep an open mind when I discover a new author, in hopes that they will click for me. A.D. Vancise did so in some regards with this uniquely framed story that had me scratching my head throughout the reading experience. Some crime fighting and even more baffling revelations left me wanting to know more, while being jarred by what I was learning. I can only wonder if some of Vancise’s other books pack the same punch, as she is sure to have quite the following if this is the case.

It takes a strong narrative to keep the reader connecting with a piece through to the very end. A.D. Vancise does that in her own way, luring the reader with some jolting information and hopes that it will be enough. The pacing of the book proved useful to help digest some of the larger and more problematic parts of the storytelling, content, not delivery. Vancise uses a handful of interesting characters to portray the jarring effective of her story and left me asking myself what I was reading on more than one occasion. Plot twists and reveals helped keep me on my toes throughout and left me to wonder if there will be more in this vein, if not in the form of a series. Vancise is a new author for me, but I have not yet decided if I will be back for more, or if this is one novel I need to allow some digestion before committing to something else. Well worth a gander, if only to see what the hype is all about.

Kudos, Madam Vancise, for a unique journey well into the depths of the genre. I liked it, i think!

The Jeffersonians: The Visionary Presidencies of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, by Kevin R.C. Gutzman

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Kevin R.C. Gutzman, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In the early years of the American Republic, the Founding Fathers sought to craft the foundation of the country, then lead it in their own image. Once Washington had laid some of the essential groundwork, it fell to a few men to build on it and create a strong nation. Kevin Gutzman explores three of these men throughout their presidential tenure: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Gutzman argues that they were intertwined under the ‘Jeffersonian’ umbrella, while still being independent from one another. Gutzman presents, in detail, their respective presidencies, which occurred consecutively, thereby creating an era of government, legal precedents, and development of a country from its thirteen colonies into a geographic juggernaut. Full of anecdotes and well-placed arguments, Gutzman does a stellar job of connecting these three men together for the reader.

While all were strong political allies, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe had different outlooks for the country they helped develop. As Gutzman opens the tome exploring the presidency of Jefferson, there is a strong view towards setting the scene and building on core values the country had developed under Washington, while also exploring some of the newer ideas that came to the surface. Many of the constitutional questions that shaped a more modern America came from the Jefferson period, as interpretation of laws and the foundational rules of the country were being hashed out and challenged. Jefferson was also keen to create a mark on the international scene, using his ambassadors to form pathways for the still youthful country seeking to stand on its own. Gutzman effectively shows how Jefferson mandated this and made the country one that Washington would have been happy to see still progressing.

James Madison took up the torch when Jefferson, eager to create the two-term precedent that Washington began, stood down for new blood to take over governing. Madison’s impact was to keep trying to fill Jefferson’s shoes and keep the country on track, while also being faced with the first major international crisis to befall the country, a war with the British. Madison had to develop keen leadership skills and rely on many of his military men to keep America ready for any attack, and to fend off a reverting back to British control. Gutzman shows that the battles of the War of 1812 were hard fought and Madison was not one to get into the fray, but he valued the importance of America remaining independent and ready for whatever was tossed its way. Building on the Jefferson presidency, Madison sought to push America out of its infancy and into rugged adulthood, where it could grow and prove its prowess.

James Monroe was a leader who looked back as much as he did ahead, trying to keep the momentum going without losing much of what’s his predecessors forged for him. A man of great intellect, but not as gritty as the others, Monroe held his head high and focussed his attention to ensure that the work Jefferson and Madison did was not lost. Gutzman shows him to be the less impactful of the three men, but still trying to keep things running effectively and helping to shape Jeffersonian policies to keep Congress working effectively and with a detailed purpose. Gutzman shows how Monroe used the life lessons from his predecessors to shape America into the power that it would be moving towards its most tumultuous years. Monroe did all he could to keep things steady, without toppling too many apple carts along the way.

While the book was well written and full of formidable themes, there was a huge amount to digest. The history and the day-to-day exploration of things in a detailed narrative could, for some, get to be too much. Kevin Gutzman does well to leave the reader feeling as though they are a part of the action, but there is just so much going on that it can be overwhelming. While this is not an academic tome, its detail and analysis could keep only the most dedicated readers holding on. I was so pleased to be able to pluck something from each chapter, which helped me see how things are interconnected. The theme of three independent men directing the country through their respective presidencies is a stellar undertaking and Gutzman easily argues that this occurred. However, the names and places, as well as historic events, proved a great deal, as I sought to synthesis all that I read. Thankfully, he uses relatively short chapters, permitting the reader to launch themselves through the tome with relative ease, should their interest persist. I would gladly explore some of Gutzman’s other works to see if I can take more away from them, but I cannot say enough about this tome and the effort invested in it to give the reader something about which they can feel highly educated by the end of the reading experience.

Kudos, Mr. Gutzman, for piece of historical writing that left me hungry for more, even though I needed to pace myself to absorb it all.

A Tale of Sorcery (A Tale of Magic #3), by Chris Colfer

Eight stars

Back for another Chris Colfer novel, I relaxed my views and plunged into another young adult story. Colfer uses his phenomenal imagination and some interesting plot lines to provide the reader with vivid imagery in a world far from our own. The third in the series, Colfer has been able to build on the themes from the past novels and sets the groundwork for what could be another book in the series.

Time is not on Brystal Evergreen’s side as she has yet to fulfil the promise made to Death. Seeking the Immortal to save her own life, Brystal works with her fellow fairies to locate the evil being, with little luck. There is also another evil menace lurking around them, one that presents itself in the form of fire and destruction.

When Xanthous Hayfield discovers the root of this evil, many presume that he is part of the group, as his specialty is fire, which begins raging around the Four Kingdoms. With Xanthous on the run to keep himself from being captured, Brystal works with a select group of others in the kingdoms and territories to locate her friend. They re sent on a mission that could be full of danger, but an especially secretive group of sorcerers promises their help, keen to learn more about Xanthous and his abilities. Brystal wonders if it’s too good to be true, but has such a trusting heart.

Brystal begins this epic journey, learning a great deal about herself and those around her. She worries for Xanthous, who has not had an easy life himself. It will surely be a challenge to set the record straight, while still looking for the Immortal to save herself. Brystal makes a number of new friends, while also finding new enemies along the way, in this great addition to the ‘A Tale of…’ series. Colfer at his best in another novel that let me rest my brain.

While I originally started reading these books with my son, I found them captivating enough to want to continue on my own. Neo is always eager to have me read them, so that we might discuss them together. Colfer’s imaginative style of writing pulls the reader into the middle, while also providing a key exploration of social themes prevalent to the young person of today. I am eager to see where the series is headed, while also learning more about Brystal Evergreen and her close friends.

While young adult and fantasy are two genres I do not read a great deal, I always find myself enjoying the work of Chris Colfer. A little silly, a tad out of this world, but always grounded in social and societal analyses that is aimed at the young person, Colfer creates something well worth the reader’s time. The narrative flows well and keeps me on my toes as I am immersed with a number of well-described character, each with their own personality that comes to the surface. Colfer does well to keep things light, with a peppering of evil goings-on, as is typical in something fantasy-based. Strong themes and plots emerge throughout, providing the reader with some time to wonder, rather than predict everything. I was quite impressed with the topics Colfer tackles herein and am pleased that Neo had the chance to read about them as well. Now then, Neo awaits me to talk about the book and where we want things to go in the next piece.

Kudos, Mr. Colfer, for another winner. You’ve come a long way since I first discovered you on a television program.

Lessons from the Edge: A Memoir, by Marie Yovanovitch

Nine stars

Always keen to expand my knowledge of world politics, I gladly picked up this memoir by former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, which highlights a powerful career, even in the face of significant adversity. Yovanovitch explores her life working in the foreign service, from a low-level lackey at an embassy in Africa through to her ultimate job as Ambassador in Ukraine when Trump was ruining America for the first time. A wonderful read with many anecdotes perfect for the reader who loves to dig a little deeper into issues and see how things work behind the scenes. Yonvanovitch may have received a great deal of slack for her pushback against Trump, but she can also be seen as a hero for many who refused to let the man ruin the country.

Marie Yovanovitch grew up with two very strong-willed parents, having seen a great deal during their young lives. The Yovanovitches had Russaian and German roots within them, having done the best they could n authoritarian regimes. Yovanovitch grew up idolising her parents’ passion and found herself learning from their stories and life lessons, as she eyed a life where she, too, could play a role in international politics.

After attending school and preparing for the workforce, Yovanovitch found herself drawn to the foreign service, which would open so many doors for her as well as provide an education like no other. Yovanovitch recounts the hard training she undertook before she was placed in the US Embassy in Somalia, which would prove to be the first of many postings where her eyes were opened to the way things actually worked. The grittiness that Yovanovitch expressed cannot be lost on the reader, as she sought to change the world one day at a time.

After some junior-level assignments back in the US, Yovanovitch was given the chance to work briefly in the newly-democratised Russia, which proved to be quite eye opening for her. A country that had spent so long under the auspices of authoritarian Soviet rule, Russia was not quite sure how to digest the freedoms that democracy brought to the table. Yovanovitch sought to use these experiences to enrich her understanding of international politics and the world around her, which would prove essential when she had other postings in the region. The theme of authoritarianism to democracy and the wobbly back can be found in much of the latter portion of the tome, which is sure to be noted by the attentive reader.

Yovanovitch speaks of the times she struggled to climb the ladder within the foreign service, in hopes of landing an ambassadorship of her own. When she was noticed and offered a spot, it would be some of the hardest and most valuable work she could imagine. Working in old Soviet republics helped Yovanovitch sharpen her teeth to see just how intense the struggle was for those who sought to toss off the yoke of authoritarianism, but also the amount of corruption that surrounded her. Yovanovitch helped stem the tide repeatedly, but also came to see that Russia and its new leader, Putin, were seeking to move more towards a stronger dictatorial regime, even without the communist undertones.

Yovanovitch found herself butting heads with many who did not feel she could do the job, but also pushed parts of the old Soviet satellite states back into controlled environments. She vowed never to let that happen on her watch as America’s representative in the region. This helped propel her to the crown jewel position in her tenure, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, at a time when Russia was trying to annex parts of the country for itself. It would also prove to be a time when sentiments in the US were changing an an ignorant quasi-despot found himself seated in the White House.

Yovanovitch offers up many sentiments about how she saw Trump and his new administration, not one of which were positive. While she tried to remain neutral, it can sometimes be difficult when one sees their country being dismantled or turning into an authoritarian regime, a term Yovanovitch does not use lightly, but also one she can use effective as she had lived through this leadership style in her past postings. Trump wrote his own rule book and spat on those who did not follow it, making his sentiments known both domestically and on an international front. When Putin came calling, Trump could not cozy up fast enough, which also included trying to go on political witch hunts to remove anything standing in his way. This I where Yovanovitch could not take the pressure and had to act, subtlety at times. It would cost her a great deal, but left Yovanovitch wanting to tell her story so that others could see the horrors that befell her for trying to speak for America first and POTUS last. The last few chapters are perhaps the most intense and worth a slow and intricate analysis by the reader, as Yovanovitch sought to tell her side of the story, even as the Trump Administration attempted to muzzle her.

While I knew only a sliver of what happened in the latter part of Yovanovitch’s time in Ukraine, I was happy to have been able to take this story to heart and educate myself. Yovanovitch has a powerful way of writing that keeps the reader in the middle of things. The chronology helps pace the book along and keeps the reader in the middle fo what is taking place. Yovanovitch pulls no punches and keeps the reader entertained while also educating them from the opening pages unti lthe very last sentence. There is something to be said for such a strong-willed woman and the rollercoaster she wet through while serving her country. I found many of the stories insightful and it helped me get a better idea of the shape in which America finds itself nowadays I can only hope that I will find more books of this caliber that pull me into the middle of US and international politics, particularly as we ramp up for what is sure to be a hellish 2024 presidential election campaign.

Kudos, Madam Yovanovitch, for a stunning portrayal of America and the move towards authoritarianism. You are a hero to many, even when you want to be modest.

Murder by Definition (42nd Street Library Mystery #4), by Con Lehane

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Con Lehane, and Severn House for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always eager to read another of Con Lehane’s stories, I reached for this ARC, hoping it would be as exciting as some of the other novels in the series. Using New York’s 42 Street Library as a backdrop, Lehane weaves a mystery that is full of action and even some simple moments of book loving to provide the reader with something well worth their time. Unique and to the point, Lehane does well to keep things interesting throughout and provide readers more to ponder when it comes to protagonist Raymond Ambler.

Raymond Ambler loves is job as the crime-fiction curator within the prestigious 42 Street Library in New York City, but is always looking for a new edge. When approached by Will Ford, a rough around the edges writer with some critical acclaim, the discussion turns to Ford’s old manuscripts. While the author is known for his gritty writing, he also has a history of womanizing that has left many with a sour taste in their mouths. However, as Ambler soon discovers, Ford has penned a controversial short story that has more fact than fiction to it, including talk of a cop who’s covered up a murder they committed. No wonder Ford does not want this story to see the light of day.

As Ambler tries to discover the truth behind the story, he trips upon a handful of cops who may not want the truth coming out either. Ford has taken too many liberties and might reveal some of the darkest parts of New York’s underbelly, painting cops and criminals with the same brush. The more Ambler pushes, the more is revealed, before Ford is eventually shot and killed. Was he silenced as revenge or so that he cannot tell anyone else of his escapades?

As Ambler rushes to get to the truth, he convinces his long time friend, Mike Cosgrove, to help, Cosgrove, a former NYPD detective, is reluctant, but feels that there is something to the investigation. Together they turn over some rocks, only to learn that some things are best left in the dark. Ambler soon feels he has put himself in even more danger and risks the happiness he is building in his personal life. With some family matters of his own to digest, Ambler will have to play his cards right or end up with a bullet in his own head for his amateur sleuthing. Lehane keeps the series alive with this latest piece, sure to pique the interest of many.

The debut novel in this series fell into my lap a yew years ago and I was eager to see where things might go. Lehane paints a great picture while using the somewhat bucolic backdrop of the library as an odd setting. Mixing a library with murder might seem odd, but it works and Lehane has done well to keep Raymond Ambler in the heart of the action, while also passing in some personal foibles to show his bumbling nature. I am eager to see where things are headed, as there is never a clear path put out for the reader, even with a cliffhanger in the final chapter here.

Lehane tells his stories in a quick paced manner, while also adding some meandering for good measure. Sure to impress some readers, the narrative moves along at a steady pace and provides the reader with something they can follow with ease. Great characters and some well-placed plot twists keeps the reader from getting too comfortable, as things prove highly intense by the latter half of the novel. With more to come, I am eager to discover Lehane’s plan for both the series and Raymond Ambler’s personal situation. I suppose I will have to wait a but but hopefully not too long.

Kudos, Mr. Lehane, for keeping me guessing throughout this one! I cannot wait to see what you have coming next.

Next in Line (William Warwick #5) , by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

Always eager to get my hands on anything by Jeffrey Archer, I devoured the latest book in the William Warwick series. Archer has Warwick offer more insight into the wonders of British policing in the late 1980s, climbing the ranks on his way to the ultimate promotion. Warwick has his hands full with this one, showing how versatile he can be, alongside his team, as they face some of their most daunting work to date. Archer proves that he’s got many ideas to share and I hope he’s able to finish this series before laying down his pen.

It’s 1988 and Britain is in the middle of their love affair with Diana, the People’s Princess. While many in the Royal Family prefer to keep a low profile, Diana attracts the flashbulb like none before her. This nothing new, but something is on the horizon, lowing the tabloids to feast on all the crumbs tossed their way.

With all the hype, Scotland Yard and the Met will have to ensure they are ready for the heightened security issues that await them as they guard Diana’s every move. While the Royal Protection Command is tasked with keeping the royals safe, there appear to be some issues, which could prove disastrous. Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick brings his team along to investigate the Command, trying to root out those bad apples who are more concerned with padding their pockets than jumping in front of a bullet.

While Warwick sends one of his most trusted detectives to protect Diana, there’s much to be done to keep the peace. As Diana rushes all over with her newest paramour, someone is planning something that could turn Britain, and the world, on its head. Trying to keep the peace so the general public is unaware, Warwick will have to diffuse the plot before things get out of hand.

All the while, one of Warwick’s old nemeses is working through some legal issues all his own, wrestling for control as he seeks to get the upper hand on Scotland Yard. However, there are many others who have equally conniving plans that could stymie an open and shut case, leaving many to wonder what the future holds. With a handful of other Warwicks and a few retuning faces, Archer dazzles in this latest story that advances the plot and heads towards the ultimate finale.

I have long admired the work of Jeffrey Archer, which mixes an intensity alongside something highly entertaining. This series, which has a unique angle known well to those who loved Archer’s Clifton Chronicles collection, never ceases to amaze me and keeps things speeding along with strong plot, sensational storytelling, and a cast of characters who use actual historical events as a great backdrop to deepen their own presence. I can only hope there is enough time to get this series to its ultimate ending, which I know will be worth the wait.

Archer knows storytelling and has pulled me in on many an occasion with his flights of fancy and historical perspectives. A strong narrative guides the reader throughout a great deal in short order, never stopping long enough for the reader to catch their proverbial breath. A cast of characters that improves and deepens with each passing book offers the reader something they can enjoy, complaining progress and recession throughout the novels. A set of well-honed plot lines keeps the story electric and provides some forks in the narrative progression, keeping the reader on the edge of their seats throughout. I can only hope the intensity continues as the book continues, rocketing towards the ending Archer has in mind.

Kudos, Mr. Archer, for another winner I could not stop reading. How you have such control over me!

Blast Wave (Alex Morgan #3), by Leo J. Maloney

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Leo J. Maloney, and Kensington Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always eager to get my hands on anything by Leo J. Maloney, I rushed to read this ARC. Maloney extends the Alex Morgan series with the novella, keeping the excitement high and the backstory ever-developing. Maloney has done well already with the elder Morgan (Dan) in a previous series and this collection is following in its footsteps with the same stellar outcome.

As Alex Morgan is in London for an international security conference, she can only wonder what’s going on. Smoke billows around the city, with explosions in the background, while a sniper has been trying to mow down members of the Zeta Group. While Alex does her best to neutralise the threat from the Ares network, there are apparently larger threats that require her attention on the other side of the world.

After being sent to Japan to help Yoki-Dyne, a significant tech company in the region that finds itself being targeted through cyber attacks, Alex realises that there is more to protection than guns and bullets. She soon learns that Ares has been working to dismantle this company as well, in hopes of siphoning off large portions of its profits, likely funding terrorist efforts around the world. As Alex learns more, she discovers that Ares is using a female operative of their own. This clash of women could turn out to be Alex’s most difficult mission to date.

Working with some locals, as well as members of Zeta, Alex seeks to get to the heart of the matter and stop events from getting out of control, all while seeking to remain one step ahead, of the operative targeting her. While Alex’s father, Dan, was a master at keeping the enemy at bay, she is still earning all the family tricks of the trade, with little time to ponder her next move. Zeta Group is relying on Alex, as are many others, to keep Ares from retrieving some of the most delicate intel and Yoki-Dyne’s profits to fund their future terrorist plots. Alex not only has the Morgan name, but also the grit and determination to get it done. Another stellar piece by Leo J. Maloney that will have series fans begging for more.

I cannot remember how I came across Leo J. Maloney and his early work, but I have never looked back or missed a book. Maloney mixes an intense counter-espionage thriller with something that adds depth to the Morgan family through the eyes of their daughter, Alex. Gritty in its delivery, Maloney pulls out all the stops to keep the reader enthralled with this novella, where there is little time to stop and take a breath. I can only hope that both Morgans will be back soon, in another adventure that keeps me occupied as I delve into the world of terrorism and high-stakes espionage.

Leo J. Maloney has always had a great handle on his narrative, telling a story that keeps the reader on their edge of their seat until the final page turn. As the narrative builds, key characters add something to the story that provides direction where there is little time for stagnancy. A few plot twists occur within the story, keeping the reader wondering as Alex Morgan tries to untangle herself from the web that Ares has spun for her. Strong storytelling and suspenseful writing are two keys to Leo J. Maloney’s work, which are present once again. I can only wonder what Zeta Group and Maloney have in store for readers in the coming months.

Kudos, Mr. Maloney, for another great piece, show as it may have been. I await more, which I am sure is close to completion.

Played in Seattle (Dr. Julia Fairchild #6), by P.J. Peterson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and PJ Peterson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Back with another Julia Fairchild novel, P.J. Peterson dazzles once more. A cozy mystery, perfect for a quick read, Peterson adds depth to her series with this addition that, as Julia Fairchild mentions throughout, ‘does not include a dead body’. Quick chapters and a narrative that flows with ease, P.J. Peterson shows that her writing ought to be taken seriously, or at least enjoyed by many.

Dr. Julia Fairchild and her sister, Carly, are away in Seattle for a girls’ week. While everything appears to be going well, they notice a man entering a cub one night, who turns up unconscious in the water the following day, a scrap a paper lodged in his hand. It will take all in Julia’s power not to play amateur sleuth, though Carly knows this may be a lost cause.

The plot thickens even more when Julia’s old college beau turns up, a professor of nuclear engineering, who has ties to an old Navy communication project that was shelved in the 1960s. When messages begin emanating from one of the Navy’s old beacons, no one is quite sure what to make if it all. It’s made even more problematic when whispers of espionage could be on the horizon, as intel appears to be going to the Chinese.

While Julia and Carly want to enjoy their time in Seattle, they become enmeshed enmeshed in the investigation, only to be stymied with the lack of progress. It will take a great deal of sleuthing and some risk-taking to get to the bottom of this case, while keeping Carly from getting too upset at the lack of sightseeing that’s being done.

The race to the truth leaves many trails, including a few missing people and a kidnapping of a small child. Whatever has happened, it’s sure to keep everyone on their toes and asking what awaits them. Julia and Carly have surely ended up in the middle of a major mess, but this seems to be just what the doctor (Julia) ordered for their vacation. A great mystery that will keep series fans begging for more!

I discovered P.J. Peterson through my connection to a mutual friend and devoured some of her early mysteries in short order. Now, as each book is ready to be released, I receive an ARC to offer my own views and have nothing but positive things to say. Peterson writes with ease and develops a story that works, without the need for a great deal of minutiae. Quick, enticing, and great for a mystery reader on the go, P.J. Peterson is one to take note of for all who enjoy the genre.

While my mystery reading tends to take me on the deeper trolls through crime scenes and police experts analysis, I thoroughly enjoy these shorter and cozier stories as well. Peterson develops a strong narrative that is easy to digest without all the extra that distracts the reader from the central plot. Quick chapters push the story along and keep the reader wanting to know more. Characters who develop with ease add something t the story, while the protagonist (perhaps we can add Carly too, as she has been in repeated novels) continues to add depth to a story that has been in the works from the beginning. Plot twists throughout help keep things from being overly predictable and leave the reader feeling entertained as they power through the book. I can only hope there are more to come, as Dr. Julia Fairchild is fast becoming a character whose adventures I impatiently wait for as I read to pass the time.

Kudos, Madam Peterson, for a great piece that kept my attention until the final page.

The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel, by Kati Marton

Nine stars

While I love all things political, I have come to realise that I ought to expand my knowledge related to some of the world leaders outside North America. When I noticed that Kati Marton penned a biography of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, I leapt at the opportunity to learn more about her and how Europe’s most powerful leader during her tenure kept the trains running on time. Marton does a fabulous job explaining the life of Merkel, as well as those topics that make her tick. Well worth a read by those who love political biographies.

Angela Merkel spent her early years as a pastor’s daughter in East Germany, behind the Berlin Wall. Her time living in a communist regime allowed Merkel to see how she did not want to live life, but would also provide insight in the Russian ethos, which would prove useful when dealing with the likes of Putin. Merkel used her time behind the Wall honing her life skills and becoming a top-rate scientist, choosing to question the world around her.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel sought a new career for herself, finding a spot in the first united German cabinet. Merkel may not have had a great deal of political experience, but she made up for it in determination and a passion to see change in the new and fragile German Republic. Merkel was known for not fitting in and challenging norms, but never stopped trying to make changes that would help those around her. One of her key attributes that followed Merkel throughout her public life was a push to remain private. Many did not know the personal Angela Merkel, nor did she try to flaunt her life. She remained grounded and quiet, keeping to herself outside the role as Chancellor, which would baffle many as time progressed.

As she rose through the ranks of her party, Merkel found herself in a position of power and would become a rarity in German politics, a woman in a position of power. Merkel climbed into the role of Chancellor while others around her whispered their doubt that she would last. However, Merkel was less concerned about what others thought, choosing to turn her attention to fixing many aspects of the German state. As Marton explains throughout the tome, Merkel made an impact as she moved to change the way Germany was seen within the European community, as well as on the world scene. She stopped at nothing to push for economic reforms and a stronger sense of equality within the German Republic, turning away from the dark stain that was the Nazi regime.

One thing that Marton makes clear throughout the biography is that Merkel would stop at nothing to ensure the world did not slip back into the perils of authoritarianism or leave any part of the population homeless. Her own experiences resonated loudly and she would not stand for any bullying. Facing off against the likes of Putin and Trump, Merkel stood her ground and made sure not to let their snide remarks go without a response. Marton does contrast this with a softer view on China, one of Germany’s great trading partners. One can suppose that economic output would supersede human rights violations.

While Merkel never saw herself staying in power forever, she did have a list of things that she wanted to accomplish. Merkel served four terms as chancellor, buoyed by parliamentary governments who supported her enough to stay in the job. Merkel saw a great deal of change in the warld, in Europe, and even in Germany throughout her tenure, but also saw the next generation slink onto the scene in the latter years of her fourth term. Merkel may have been very involved in Germany’s progress, but she also had passions all her own that she wanted to share in the latter portion of her public life. Marton hints at some, but is clear that Angela Merkel is a private person and would likely enjoy her privacy as well. A public life well lived, Kati Marton has shown me a new and intriguing side to this woman who appeared to hold Europe together at the seams for long periods of time, while also providing compassion to those around her.

While there are many who purport that they can pen a political biography, only a handful are usually successful. Kati Marton does a formidable job exploring the life and times of Angela Merkel, breathing life and personality into a politician known primarily for her hard-line approach to governing. The tome exemplifies a much more personal side to the woman and her rise to power, as well as the topics into which she delved to keep the country and world together. Pulling on both professional and as many personal experiences as Merkel would allow to come out, Marton builds a strong and all-encompassing narrative well worth the reader’s time. An easy to follow format keeps the book from becoming too sluggish and there are many wonderful anecdotes woven into the larger tome. I must applaud Kati Marton for her detailed approach, which offers a personal side to a woman thought to be all work and little play in the eyes of the world.

Kudos, Kati Marton, for this stellar piece. Your time with Angela Merkel is shown in the great political biography I’ve just finished.