Book Review: The Angel Makers, by Jessica Gregson

December sure is flying by!  I’ve been having a blast writing stories for Looseleaf, not to mention taking care of the usual holiday preparations.  But I wanted to make a quick stop here and point out a great novel that was just released this month.

The Angel Makers is the story of a small village in Hungary during the early 1900s.  Sari is the daughter of an herbalist, and when he dies she partners up with the village midwife.  When the men of the village go off to war, the women experience unexpected freedoms.  Then the men return, and Sari’s fiance becomes abusive.   Without, she feels, any other recourse, she poisons him.  But when the rumor spreads, the other women of the village want help with their husbands too…
This book is based on a true story.  You can read more about that here.

When I first read the back of this book, I thought it sounded pretty nightmarish, but it’s actually a very human story.  Author Jessica Gregson does a wonderful job of developing memorable characters and a distinct sense of place but her greatest achievement in this book is managing to neither vilify nor justify Sari’s actions.  This book is a wonderful read and ideal for discussion.

PS:  You can click on the cover image to find this book at an indie bookstore near you.

Book Review: The Night Circus

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Imagine, if you will, a circus.  Or maybe a carnival, since you walk through it from act to act.  This carnival has the artistry of Cirque du Soleil, is completely in black and white, only opens at night, shows up unannounced – and some of the acts might be real magic.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, has an interesting and compelling story with a satisfying ending, but the real reason I kept turning the page was that I wanted to spend just a few more sentences in the richly-textured world of this carnival.  This book has as strong a sense of place as any story I’ve read – and you won’t want to leave.

The Night Circus has been getting a lot of buzz, and is already a bestseller, so maybe it doesn’t really need more attention.  But this book is the most delightful novel for adults that I can think of, so I’m posting this anyway :)

Why’s it particularly boho?  Who hasn’t, at some point, at least daydreamed of running away to join a circus?  (Extra points if you or a friend has actually done this.)

Book Review: Better Basics for the Home

This is the book that I use most often. Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living by Annie Berthold-Bond is a recipe book for everything from hair dye to car wax and sink scrubbers to under-eye cream. The vast majority of these recipes are simple and user-friendly; much cheaper than an off-the-shelf product; and use gentle, easy-to-find ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, salt, lavender oil, and aloe vera gel. With this book, making your own toiletries and household cleaners is a lot easier than worrying about what’s in the store-bought stuff – not to mention a helluva lot more fun!

Click on the cover image to buy this book from your local, independent bookseller. :)

Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, by Isabel Fonseca

Shop Indie BookstoresThis website is most concerned with the character of the gypsy, the bohemian, the wanderer. But for a contemporary portrait of the Romani – the group most often labeled as ‘Gypsies’ –  this tome, in which Isabel Fonseca describes the four years she spent with Romani from Albania to Poland, listening to their stories, deciphering their taboos, and befriending their matriarchs, activists, and child prostitutes – is fascinating. Don’t go to this book for any lyrical generalizations: Bury Me Standing draws its strength from its detailed, specific portraits of diverse Romani individuals. Fonseca’s writing is articulate and interesting, but be prepared: The contextual material (mainly involving the political upheavals in Eastern Europe during the latter 20th century) makes for a dense read.

(Click on the cover image to buy this book from an independent bookseller.)