The Silence of the Choir by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr


The Silence of the Choir by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Seventy-two men arrive in the middle of the Sicilian countryside. They are “immigrants,” “refugees” or “migrants.” But in Altino, they’re called the ragazzi, the “guys” that the Santa Marta Association have taken responsibility for. In this small Sicilian town, their arrival changes life for everybody.

While they wait to know their fate, the ragazzi encounter all kinds of people: a strange vicar who rewrites their pasts, a woman committed to ensuring them asylum, a man determined to fight against it, an older ragazzo who has become an interpreter, and a reclusive poet who no longer writes.

Each character in this moving and important saga is forced to reflect on what it means to encounter people they know nothing about. They watch as a situation unfolds over which they have little control or insight. A story told through a growing symphony of voices that ends only when one final voice brings silence to the choir.

Can you imagine what life would be like for immigrants? You don’t know the language or culture, and you are a stranger in a new land. Mohamed Mbougar Sarr immerses us into this situation with skill and sensitivity.

“The Ragazzi” show up at the doorstep of a cast of characters in a small Sicilian town based in the countryside. These people are unique, as are their new neighbors. They interact differently with them.

The Ragazzi are trying to start a new life, but things aren’t so simple. Problems come up, and readers could be moved emotionally by their plight. There are issues one may not even consider. Will the conflicts ever find resolution?

As the story unfolds, we feel tension for those involved. We are also treated to the personality quirks of those who make this tale come alive. This is an interesting book that many are sure to enjoy.

The Excitements by CJ Wray


The Excitements by CJ Wray
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Meet the Williamson sisters, Britain’s most treasured World War II veterans. Now in their late nineties, Josephine and Penny are in huge demand, popping up at commemorative events and history festivals all over the country. Despite their age, they’re still in great form—perfectly put together, sprightly and sparky, and always in search of their next “excitement.”

This time it’s a trip to Paris to receive the Légion d’honneur for their part in the liberation of France. And as always, they will be accompanied by their devoted great-nephew, Archie.

Keen historian Archie has always been given to understand that his great aunts had relatively minor roles in the Women’s Royal Navy and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, but that’s only half the story. Both sisters are hiding far more than the usual “official secrets”. There’s a reason sweet Auntie Penny can dispatch a would-be mugger with an umbrella.

This trip to Paris is not what it seems either. Scandal and crime have always quietly trailed the Williamson sisters, even in the decades after the war. Now armed with new information about an old adversary, these much decorated (but admittedly ancient) veterans variously intend to settle scores, avenge lost friends, and pull off one last, daring heist before the curtain finally comes down on their illustrious careers.

The Williamson sisters, Josephine and Penny are quite a pair. In this novel, these two elderly World War II veterans are to be honored at an event in Paris. Their grandnephew looks out for them, and they keep him busy with their adventures.

Penny and Josephine may be in their nineties, but they are not done yet. They have more adventure ahead.

The book covers two timelines, past and present. In the past, readers get to know this fascinating duo as they play out their lives during the war. The sisters think they are ordinary, but they are anything but. The secondary characters are written in a way to help us get to know Penny and Josephine. The setting paints a vivid chronological picture, putting readers there in their mind’s eye.

Themes of family, friendship, and aging underscore the story. This is a tale that is well-written and entertaining. Recommended.

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret, audiobook read by Ira Glass


Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret, audiobook read by Ira Glass
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Read by an all-star cast and featuring a bonus story special to the audio edition, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door is a one-of-a-kind audiobook.

Bringing up a child, lying to the boss, placing an order in a fast-food restaurant: in Etgar Keret’s new collection, daily life is complicated, dangerous, and full of yearning. In his most playful and most mature work yet, the living and the dead, silent children and talking animals, dreams and waking life coexist in an uneasy world. Overflowing with absurdity, humor, sadness, and compassion, the tales in Suddenly, a Knock on the Door establish Etgar Keret—declared a “genius” by The New York Times—as one of the most original writers of his generation.

This is an interesting collection of short stories written by Etgar Keret about daily life. Daily life, as we all know, can be complex. Many tricky situations can occur.

Keret delves into various emotions and goes from the normal to the playful, wild, or mature. The themes vary throughout this collection, but there is an underlying knowledge of universal yearning to enhance the stories.

Each piece varies in length—some quite short, and some a bit longer. It is a unique set of tales, sure to touch many readers.

The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy


The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

The first day of autumn brought the fever, and with the fever came the voices.

Missouri, 1955. Loretta Davenport has led an isolated life as a young mother and a wife to Pete, an ambitious assistant professor at a Bible college. They’re the picture of domestic tranquility—until a local girl is murdered and Loretta begins receiving messages from beyond. Pete dismisses them as delusions of a fevered female imagination. Loretta knows they’re real—and frightening.

Defying Pete’s demands, Loretta finds an encouraging supporter in parapsychologist Dr. Curtis Hansen. He sees a woman with a rare gift, more blessing than curse. With Dr. Hansen’s help, Loretta’s life opens up to an empowering new purpose. But for Pete, the God-fearing image he’s worked so hard to cultivate is under threat. No longer in control of his dutiful wife, he sees the Devil at work.

As Loretta’s powers grow stronger and the pleading spirits beckon, Pete is determined to deliver his wife from evil. To solve the mysteries of the dead, Loretta must first save herself.

Set in 1955, Missouri, this story tells the tale of a housewife, Loretta Davenport, with gifts and the serious problems that come with it. Her husband Pete teaches at a Bible college. He is a traditional guy but is a bit unreasonable when it comes to his wife and his expectations.

When a girl is murdered, Loretta gets messages from the other side of the veil. Pete thinks she just has an overexcited imagination. When Loretta befriends Dr. Curtis Hansen, Pete is not happy about this. He becomes more and more difficult.

The pace picks up in this mystery as the danger unfolds for Loretta and a friend of the murdered girl who is also threatened. Can Loretta help her before it is too late? Things might be too late for herself as Pete becomes abusive and wants to lock her up.

Themes of mental health, family, friends, abuse, and forgiveness are weaved within the pages of this mystery. The characterization is done well, and this book has complexity and depth. It is also respectful of the times, being true to the setting.

Fire & Spirit by David St. Leonard


Fire & Spirit by David St. Leonard
Publisher: One Bright Life
Genre: Paranormal Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Dive into a mesmerizing journey of self discovery with Fire & Spirit and follow the life of a young musician-to-be.

Join Dave as his plans to head off to university and begin a ‘normal’ adult life take a drastically different course than anticipated. Discovering his passion for music, it becomes the backdrop to events that are overshadowed by tragedy and inner turmoil. As his world fractures into parallel histories, he questions the balance between fate and free will.

In a symphony of choices, follow Dave as he seeks to find the harmony that defines his true self amidst echoes of what could have been.

Dave stumbles into being a musician, and quite the unexpected happens. He goes on a self-discovery journey, making tough decisions about his life.

This is a down-to-earth look that brings readers inside the mind of a young man experiencing changes and choices. He forms relationships that are tested. Themes of friendship, family, love, life choices, resiliency, and music are prominent is this story.

There is a touch of the paranormal to bring Dave’s adventure to a deeper level, making things more complex for him. The tale is moving and sure to inspire emotions and questions about one’s own life choices.

Soul Ryder by Nita Lapinski


Soul Ryder by Nita Lapinski
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Inspirational Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

“Am I dead?” the young girl, Leah asks. Addie, a Clairvoyant Medium struggling with her own horrific loss, is compassionately hesitant to reveal the truth.

Join Addie and her insightful dog, Roka as they work to untangle the unimaginable tragedy that has left Leah bewildered and confused. They must race against time and Addie’s own unforeseen challenges to guide Leah to a very important crossroad.

This book is an interesting look into the life of a clairvoyant medium. Addie gets visions of dead people, all the while dealing with her own pain, the loss of a child. Leah visits Addie often, trying to give her a message.

Addie experiences people on the other side of the veil, and it affects her deeply. She must figure out how to help Leah, but it is taking her toll on her.

Soul Ryder is a short and easy-to-read story. This paranormal tale unfolds quickly and tugs at the emotions. Hopefully the author will write more stories, giving readers an inside view into her protagonist’s gift and how she helps others.

Feline Behaviour and Psychology (audio book) by Centre of Excellence (Author), Brian Greyson (Narrator)


Feline Behaviour and Psychology (audio book) by Centre of Excellence (Author), Brian Greyson (Narrator)
Publisher: Author’s Republic
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

The Feline Behaviour and Psychology audiobook provides a greater understanding of what is going on in the mind of your cat(s), why they do certain things, and how to improve your and your other pets’ relationship with them.

For cat lovers, part of the attraction to their feline friends is the very thing that sets them apart from other pets: their intelligence and behaviors, though this can also be an avenue of confusion, leaving you with unanswered questions:

“Why is my cat constantly spraying my curtains, even though he’s been neutered?”
“Why does my cat chew my plants?”
“Why does my cat sometimes bite me when I stroke her?”
Written by our feline psychology expert who has more than 12 years of experience in this fascinating field, this audiobook aims to give you the latest comprehensive, up-to-date knowledge that can help you answer many of you cat-related questions, aiding you to build stronger relationships with your feline companions.

Have you ever wondered why your cat does such strange things? It’s certainly amusing to watch cats in action.

This book gives us an inside view into cat behavior. We learn things such as: are certain personality traits of cats linked to certain breeds? What are the signs that your cat is unhappy? What are cats trying to express to us? Can cats ever be social creatures, and if so, how? Can they be trained?

Even people who don’t have cats might find this book interesting. It has many good points that are not so commonly known. Why not give this short book a quick listen and learn something while being entertained?

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi


Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Genre: Non-fiction, Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading—Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita—their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran.

Nafisi’s account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi’s class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of “the Great Satan,” she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.

Azar Nafisi’s luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.

Azar Nafisi left Iran in the late 1990s for America with quite a story to tell. She teaches at John Hopkins University and was a teacher of English literature in Tehran. Why did she leave?

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a touching story of the author’s experiences in Iran, especially as a woman. She defied authorities and prodded others to do so. Her account of this fascinating situation is underlined with discussions of literature and how it can open minds. She brilliantly tied the people in famous books with what was happening around her and tells a very human story of struggle and relationships.

Nafisi’s writing flows and is down to earth, bringing one in the moment. Readers will learn about the dramatic things happening in her country but will also be treated to learning about great works of writing. This author’s emotional narrative is smart and well worth the read.

Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 by Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas G. Brinkley


Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 by Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas G. Brinkley
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Non-fiction, Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Since it first appeared in 1971, Rise to Globalism has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The ninth edition of this classic survey, now updated through the administration of George W. Bush, offers a concise and informative overview of the evolution of American foreign policy from 1938 to the present, focusing on such pivotal events as World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and 9/11. Examining everything from the Iran-Contra scandal to the rise of international terrorism, the authors analyze-in light of the enormous global power of the United States-how American economic aggressiveness, racism, and fear of Communism have shaped the nation’s evolving foreign policy.

What are some important events concerning other nations that every American should know? In Rise to Globalism, readers learn about foreign policy over the past several decades. These facts are presented to a general audience and are very enlightening.

The authors begin with the World War II era and take us through to the election of Obama. Presidents had some hard decisions to make. How did Americans at the time react to those decisions. How would you have reacted?

Each president’s positive and negative points are laid out for readers as they happened, giving people lots to think about. Many people will remember living through some of these things. Events will be clarified, and holes in knowledge will be filled in. Why not give this informative book a try?

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle


In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Atria books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.

She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.

But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

Something strange happens to Dannie, a corporate lawyer. Dannie lives in New York with her fiancé, David, when one night she wakes up five years in the future with a different man. They spent some heated moments together; then Dannie wakes back up in her present. What happened to David? Why weren’t they still together?

Suspense is achieved with this in mind, and it increases when Dannie’s best friend Bella introduces Dannie to her new boyfriend, the man Dannie had woken up next to in the future. Dannie would never betray Bella or David, so she is determined not to allow herself and Bella’s boyfriend to become close, but they do—in a way. Dannie increases her efforts to get closer to David and speed up the time until she marries him, yet she still hesitates.

This story is a good exploration of friendship and being true to oneself. Dannie’s job is an expedient backdrop to the plot and offers a peek into a demanding industry. Dannie makes some hard choices, especially when she receives some shocking news. She discovers more about herself and faces strong emotions.

In Five Years is an entertaining book showing life in New York at its best. It is worth the read.