Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Two Five Star Books - Book Review

**I received complimentary copies of A Bend in the Stars and The Poison Thread from the publishers.**

Life is stressful. Sometimes life is overwhelmingly trying. For years, I have found stress relief in reading. It's cathartic to lose myself for a few hours in someone else's story. However, for the last few months I haven't really been able to quiet my own mind enough to really engage with a novel (or a movie or TV show, for that matter). I've read and listened to lots of books but it's been awhile since I've been in love with a book. I'm distracted by my own worries or the more immediate indulgence of online social media.

But I just have to make an increasingly rare stop at the blog to tout the virtues and qualities of two very different books that have recently captured my attention; kept me reading late into the night and brought moments of relaxation even in the midst of stressful times.

A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum surprised me with the intensity of the story and the quick pace. World War is looming. Jews in 1914 Russia are being persecuted and abused and conscripted into military service. Miri Abranov is a brilliant young woman trying to prove herself as a surgeon. She's engaged to her handsome surgeon instructor, Yuri. Her grandmother and her scientist brother Vanya are trying to find a way to get them all out of Russia and to America and safety. Vanya is in a race to prove Einstein's theory of relativity. If he can just get a picture of the stars during the next eclipse and work the equations, he can earn passage to America and a place at Harvard. The mission is dangerous but Vanya is obsessed and Yuri is willing to accompany and aid him in his quest.

I was entranced by the beautiful writing and loved the characters are their obsessions. Miri and Vanya are faced with so many major decisions and actions. They are noble and flawed and easy to root for their success. There was so much life threatening danger that was thrilling and horrific and kept the pace moving rapidly. The chapters are short and I couldn't help turning the pages even late into the night. I worried that the science and math would be tedious or boring but it was presented in a way that was continually fascinating even if I didn't always understand the intricacies.

The story has it all--danger and intrigue, love and romance, adventure and intellectual stimulation. I devoured this novel and would recommend it to anyone. It is just so so good. Barenbaum is a genius story teller.

A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum is published by Grand Central Publishing and released on May 14, 2019.

I really enjoyed Laura Purcell's The Silent Companions last year. It was a wonderfully ghost story. So I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest novel The Poison Thread. Dorothea Truelove is a young and beautiful benefactress who prefers to serve in the prisons. While helping those imprisoned, she is fascinated by their crimes and the size of their heads. Hoping to prove her theories of phrenology, she meets with a young murderess awaiting trial.

Ruth is a talented seamstress who was sold as an indentured servant to a cruel and barbaric dress maker. Ruth believes that with her stitches she can kill and maim with carefully placed stitches and her wicked, revengeful thoughts. Dorotha becomes obsessed with Ruth's story of murder and suffering in this incredibly well-plotted, sinister novel.

The twists and turns in The Poison Thread kept me delightfully on edge throughout the entire novel. Purcell has sewn a plot that reveals itself slowly and surprisingly and left me gasping at the end. Could it be the perfect novel? I loved every gruesome word.

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell is published by Penguin Books and released June 18, 2019.