Review: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, by Jan Karon

This is the latest in the Mitford series about Episcopal priest Father Tim, his family, and the people of the tiny village of Mitford, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Mitford is modeled on the author’s hometown of Blowing Rock in that state. Father Tim finds himself volunteering at the local bookstore to help out the owner, Hope Murphy, who is in the midst of a difficult pregnancy. He also tries to forge a better relationship with his adopted son Dooley’s brother, Sammy, a troubled seventeen year old. I listened to the book on CD narrated by John McDonough who did a superb job. Do yourself a favor and take time for a “visit” to Mitford, you will enjoy it.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: I Stand Corrected: How Teaching Western Manners in China Became Its Own Unforgettable Lesson, by Eden Collinsworth

The author has had a varied business career that includes dealings with China over the past few decades. In her latest venture she was in China with her young adult son when his idea for an afterschool etiquette program evolved into teaching Western business etiquette in China and writing a book on that subject for a Chinese publisher. Choosing what advice she found necessary to highlight illuminates the wholly different worldview that the Chinese have from Westerners. Some of the topics she covered were personal hygiene, rules of the handshake, making sense of foreigners and behavior that is considered universally rude. She also tells interesting stories from her own life as a wife, mother and businesswoman. As the world’s fastest growing major economy and one of the United States’ main export partners, we all need to be informed about China, its economy and people.

RATING: * * * A good read

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo

Marie has a very successful consulting business in Tokyo to help clients declutter their homes and get rid of excess possessions. In this book she outlines her method of assembling and examining all one’s things by category (clothes, books, papers, miscellany and things with sentimental value) and then asking of each one “Does this spark joy?” If not, out it goes and “once you have learned to choose your belongings properly, you will be left with only the amount that fits perfectly in the space you have.” There are other benefits accrued including a more serene, happier outlook on life and the ability to find the mission in life that speaks to your heart. This book is just the thing for spring cleaning inspiration.

Translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano

RATING: * * * A good read

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: The Submission, by Amy Waldman

This book won literary prizes and was on several best of the year lists when it was published in 2011. Waldman, an American journalist and author, chose a provocative theme for this, her first novel; what if the winner of a juried design competition for a memorial to thousands killed in a 9-11 type attack turned out to be a Muslim-American? Waldman focuses on Claire, a young wealthy mother widowed in the attack who is a member of the art jury and Mohammad Khan, born and raised in Virginia, the talented architect whose design the jury selected from among the thousands of entries. They are swept along by politics, the emotions of the victims’ families and the struggle of our society to separate evil doers from the religion they espouse. I found this book to be timely and thought provoking.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife, by Adriana Trigiani

Loosely based on the lives of the author’s grandparents, this novel follow Enza and Ciro and their families from the time they are children in their native Italian Alps to their later meeting in New York City. They had first met in Italy as teenagers but Ciro is suddenly forced to leave when he witnesses the local priest acting in a most unpriestly way. Enza comes to New York to earn money to help her family buy a home back in their Italian village. She works for a time at a blouse factory in Hoboken and later finds work in the costume shop of the Metropolitan Opera as a skilled and creative seamstress. Ciro is apprenticed to a shoemaker in New York City’s Little Italy. The story starts in the early 1900’s when great waves of Europeans, including some of my relatives, came to the United States. I found this story warm and a satisfying read.

RATING: * * * A good read

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, by Judith Flanders

Very complete and detailed is how I would describe this book. Flanders herself admits to “a lifetime of London-loving and Dickens-loving” and it shows in the detailed and frequent references to Dickens’ novels in her descriptions of 19th century London. It was a city that went from one million plus inhabitants in 1800 to 6.5 million in 1900 with six million houses built, as well as miles of new roads, shops, offices, railway and underground systems, sewers and water mains. Flanders matches up actual locations and historical events with scenes from Dickens’ novels such as the pauper burials in Oliver Twist that Dickens saw in a graveyard in the Chatham area of London. It is a world as far away and strange as any foreign country but at over 400 pages plus 100 pages of notes, allow yourself time for the journey.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: Uniform Justice: A Commissario Brunetti Novel, by Donna Leon

Originally published in 2003, and number twelve of now 23 mysteries set in present-day Venice, this volume tackles the question of the military mindset and how it fits into larger Italian society. Another theme here which Leon often touches on is the rampant corruption in Italy’s government and bureaucracy. A cadet, of the same age as Brunetti’s son, is found hanged, presumably a suicide. His father served briefly in the Italian parliament, and was the rarest of all birds there, an honest politician. For this particular book you may download the eBook or audiobook to your electronic device, read the paperback, hardcover or large print edition, or listen to the book on audio CDs.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

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