August 4: Books with Colors In the Titles
For this week’s topic I decided to go with the last ten I read with colors in the titles.
1. The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth-Shortly before the Terror of the French Revolution, Viviane, daughter of the Marquis de Ravoisier, falls for David, the landscape architect at her family’s chateau in Brittany. Though he returns her feelings, her father will never allow her to marry the young Welshman. When they’re parted, Viviane is forced to marry another, and joins the court of Louis XVI in Versailles, where she becomes a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette. Meanwhile David joins a trip to China, with a British ambassador who hopes to open up trade with the east. Though his job in China is to get seeds, in Canton, David hears a fable of impossible love, called The Blue Rose. This inspires him to find Viviane again.
2. Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra– Natalya Azarova grew up privileged and happy in Stalin’s pre-war Russia. During WWII, she became one of Russia’s top fighter pilots, before her plane was shot down. No plane or body was ever found, but her reputation in Russia was tarnished by rumors that she was a German spy. Her lover, Valentin Orlov, does his best to combat these rumors and discover the truth of what happened to her. In his 80’s, in the year 2000, the remains of her plane, along with her sapphire broach are discovered. But still no body. Meanwhile, the same year, Lily, the daughter of a Russian refugee in Australia, who works and works in Moscow, meets and old woman who may know the truth of what happened to Natalya all those years ago.
3. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller– Frances is a middle aged spinster in 1969, when she goes to Lytons, a recently sold British country estate, to catalog antiques. Her only companions are her colleague, Peter, and his wife, Cara. Frances finds herself enthralled with couple and the three become fast friends. But Peter and Cara have secrets that trap them, and may entrap Frances as well.
4. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith– This is the fourth Cormoran Strike book. It begins when a young, mentally ill man named Billy, asks Cormoran to investigate a crime that he witnessed as a child. In spite of the man’s troubled mental state, Cormoran is worried enough to investigate further, even though Billy flees the agency in a panic. Along with his now partner, Robin, Cormoran sets of on an investigation that brings them from the streets of London, to Parliament and to a manor house in the country. I’ve got some not so positive feelings about the author at the moment (Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling) but if you like the Cormoran Stike series (which I do), you’ll probably like this one.
5.Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik– Miryem’s father is a hopelessly inept moneylender. So, desperate to do what he cannot, she takes over the business. She collects what she can from everyone. From one farmer, she takes the service of his daughter, Wanda, until his debt is paid off. Miryem also makes a boast that is overheard by the Staryk, magical, wintery creatures that control the forest lands. To protect her family, she must complete an impossible task. Meanwhile, Irina, daughter of a duke, is turned into a pawn in her father’s desire to gain power. All of these plots come together in a unique and complex Rumpelstiltskin retelling.
6. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -Set in Nigeria, this book tells the story of 15 year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja. Kambili and Jaja are wealthy and privileged. Their father is an important person in their local community, known for his generosity. But with his family, he is a religious fanatic and a tyrant. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent outside the city to stay with their aunt. Aunty Ifeoma is a progressive university professor whose home is a relaxed place of laughter and lightness. In her home, Kambili and Jaja experience life without their father’s oppressive presence for the first time. When they return to his house nothing can be the same again.
7. The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen– In The Emerald Circus, Jane Yolen includes stories about existing stories and historical events and people. The title story is about Dorothy Gale’s return to Kansas, seven years after the twister took her away (the delay was due to amnesia from a bump on the head.) In another story we read about a feminist labor organizer who travels to Neverland and leads the lost boy’s female counterparts in a strike. We see a geriatric Alice attempt to return to Wonderland one last time. In other stories Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe and Hans Christian Anderson all take center stage. Yolen also includes poems and notes about each story
8. White Hot Grief Parade by Alexandra Silber– Actress/singer/novelist/blogger Alexandra Silber turns her skills to memoir, in her most successful literary venture yet (IMHO anyway.) At the age of 17, Silber lost her father to cancer. This intimate memoir covers the year after that loss, during which her three best friends move in with her and her mother to help out. The household supports Silber and her mother through the most difficult period of their lives. Silber recalls the year in many forms, using “straight” prose to tell parts of her story and telling other parts in the form of a play, lists, puzzles and more. She offers us stories and snapshots of her life with her father, interwoven with the “now” of the text, exploring the year after his loss. This book is sad, but it’s surprisingly funny too. Much like the titular “parade” the emotions come one after another in this, sometimes with seemingly little logic. But we’re left with an understanding that’s ultimately hopeful: grief is the price we pay for love, and it’s worth it.
9. The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan– This was the first in Logan’s Celtic Booch series.I haven’t read any of the others. Make of that what you will. Kit MacKlenna is the only survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents. Grief stricken, she discovers a legacy that includes a faded letter and a journal that reveals that Kit was abandoned as a baby- 160 years earlier. She is also left a blood spattered shawl, a locket with a portrait of a 19th century man inside, and a Celtic booch with magical powers. Kit decides to use that brooch to travel back in time and get some answers. Cullen Montgomery is a San Francisco lawyer, who seems familiar to Kit. He helps her join a wagon train headed West. But on the dangerous journey he becomes convinced that there’s something that Kit isn’t telling him. Like how can she save lives with medical knowledge no one else possesses? His accusations are dangerous. But the fact that she’s falling for him may be even more so.
10. The Blonde by Anna Godbersen– In 1949, Alexei Lazarey met Marilyn Monroe, before she was famous, at Schwab’s in Los Angeles. By the end of the day he got her signed with a talent agency, and the poor, unknown actress was on her way to being a household name. Ten years later, at the peak of her success, Alexei contacts her for repayment. His instructions to her are to find out something about the favorite for the Democratic nomination for President; John F. Kennedy. Something no one else knows. This book re-imagines history in a combination of biography, spy novel and love story.