"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Coffee Trader

TITLE:  The Coffee Trader
AUTHOR: David Liss

This book is a prequel of sorts to the author's first book, A Conspiracy of Paper. The main character,  Miguel Lienzo, having escaped Spain and the Inquisition, is the trader of the title and an ancestor of the protagonist in the aforementioned first book. Living in Amsterdam, in 1659, with other displaced Jews, he is now able to practice his religion. To ply his trade, he often crosses lines set by the Ma'amad, the group of elected leaders in the Jewish community who set lifestyle rules and protect the community from anyone wishing to do them harm.

Having lost his funds and ruined his reputation in a deal gone wrong, Miguel is forced to live in his brother's flood-prone basement, a bad situation made worse by the enmity between the brothers and by Miguel's growing affection for his brother's wife. So, when a Dutch widow he's befriended wants to partner with him in a scheme to make a fortune in trading the new drink made from coffee berries, Miguel agrees, setting in motion a twisty endeavor full of intrigue and betrayal.

I haven't really read historical fiction set in this time period, so it made for an interesting read. And Lisss's pacing and plot twists kept me turning pages. 

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Conspiracy of Paper

TITLE: A Conspiracy of Paper
AUTHOR: David Liss

It's a bit embarrassing to say I've had this book for two decades, but I have and now I'm trying to read my older books along with the newer ones.

The narrator/protagonist, Benjamin Weaver, is a former boxer now chasing down debtors and thieves for well-to-do clients in 1719 London. A Jew, he is estranged from his family, but when a new client hires him to investigate the suicide of his father and the accidental death of Ben's wealthy stock-jobber father, Ben is forced to make peace with his uncle in order to learn more about his father's activities.

Ben knows next to nothing about the fairly new stock market, so there is a fair amount of explanations and info-dumping in this story written in formal English to fit the time period. The more Ben learns, the more he realizes he doesn't know, but attempts on his life convince him to keep pushing for answers. The are enough plot twists, some I saw coming and a couple that surprised me, to keep the story moving and like Ben, I wasn't sure who could be trusted. With its attention to period detail, this historical novel is worth reading.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Books for Maui

Books for Maui is a bookish auction to help Hawaii recover from the storm that wiped out the historic town of Lahaina on Maui.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Infinity Gate

TITLE: Infinity Gate
AUTHOR: M. R. Carey

This reads as it is, the first book in a trilogy. I enjoyed it immensely, but have given it only 4 of 5 stars due to its incompleteness. Some opening volumes for trilogies end on a more definite point, the immediate threat ended, or the main isue resolved, with hints of trouble ahead. This ends more like a first chapter in a very long novel, its main function being to gather together the main characters for the story to come.

The premise is deceptively simple. Scientist Hadiz Tambuwal, in trying to find a way to save her dying Earth from out-of-control climate change, stumbles upon the discovery of the multiverse, and the Step technology that can take her to and from any of the millions of alternate Earths. Unbeknownst to her as she explores multiple Earths, seeking a solution for her Earth's dilemma, she comes to the attention of the Pandominion, a  political and trade alliance of multiple Earths that maintains order through its military force: the Cielo.

The prose is very accessible, except for some early techno talk, and there is a fascinating variety in the multiverse, with many, many Earths where simians were not the species that evolved to become the dominant lifeform. There is also a nice variety of AIs to deal with. The characters all seem real, and my favorite is Topaz Tourmaline FiveHills, an adolescent rabbit who I hope plays an even larger role in book 2, due to be published in 2024. I am eagerly looking forward to reading how the rest of the story plays out.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Shrines of Gaiety

TITLE: Shrines of Gaiety
AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson is one of my favorite authors and she has yet to disappoint me. As always, her prose sucks me into whatever realm she's created. This time, it's 1926 and London's notorious nightclub owner, Nellie Coker, has just been released from prison. With police Chief Inspector Frobisher determined to put Nellie back in prison and enemies just as determined to steal her night clubs from her, along with trying to secure the future of her six mostly grown children, Nellie has a lot on her plate and few people she can trust. There's a nice Dickensian feel to the narration, with darkness underlying the gaiety of the clubs. Bodies of girls are being pulled out of the Thames, and other girls go missing. Gwendolen Kelling, a librarian from York, shows up at Frobisher's office, hoping the police can help her find two girls who have runaway to find fame and fortune on the London stage.  Atkinson pulls all the plot threads together in a satisfying way. As with all my favorite authors, the characters linger with me after I read the last page.