I Must Betray You

Ruta Sepetys has written a sobering account of life in Romania in 1989 under the ruthless dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It is told through the eyes of a young man, Christian Florescu, who dreams of life beyond the grey existence that Romanians were subjected to on a daily basis. Electricity was routinely turned off, hours of time spent standing on food lines would yield a dented can of beans out of date by 2 years, or maybe an onion the size of an olive. Worst of all were the Secu, the secret police who amassed thousands of informants, even family members, who would turn in family for a benefit such as extra food. Yet the heroics of many Romanians in 1989, after learning of neighboring Communist Bloc countries who revolted against oppressive rule to earn freedom, enabled Romania to finally overthrow the evil Ceausescus, whose daughter had gold-plated bathroom faucets, while most of her fellow countrymen were starving, or being tortured in prisons for speaking out. Christian’s character keeps a hidden notebook of all the atrocities, and delivers it to an American diplomat, in order to highlight what was happening in his country. This is a must read for all, as a wake-up call to not take for granted the freedoms we enjoy in this country, especially in 2022, with Ukraine fighting for their freedom from another ruthless dictator.

New YA Novels in Verse

One of my favorite genres are novels in verse. The mix of poetry and a story appeal to me. Here are several new YA novels in verse from the past year to try.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam tells the story of 16 year-old Amal sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Based on the Central Park jogger case, Salaam was exonerated for the Central Park case and released after spending years in jail.

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh is the story of a Nigerian American teenager and her family struggles. A National Book Award finalist.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo describes two girls who discover they are related after their father dies in a plane crash. A National Book Award winning author

The Murder of Mr. Wickham

If you are a fan of Jane Austen and enjoy murder mysteries, this title by Claudia Gray will be of interest. Several of her characters have married, and are guests at a house party given by Emma (Woodhouse) Knightly and her husband, George Knightly. The first couple attending is Elizabeth (Bennett) Darcy and Fitzwilliam Darcy, along with their son, Jonathan. Next is Emma’s cousin Colonel Christopher Brandon and his wife, Marianne; Captain Frederick and Anne Wentworth; and finally Edmund and Fanny Bertram. Rounding out the party is Miss Juliet Tilney, the daughter of a friend of Emma’s, and about the same age as Jonathan Darcy – Emma clearly is playing a bit at matchmaking.

Enter Mr. Wickham’s character, a dastardly schemer who delights in cheating people out of their money, and who has had dealings with several of the characters, much to their dismay. He just happens by on a horribly rainy night, and winds up yet another guest at the manor, but an uninvited and unwanted one. When he is found murdered after a few days at the Knightly’s Donwell Abbey, Jonathan and Juliet decide to investigate to find the murderer. Suffice it to say that since I have only read Pride and Prejudice, I had a very hard time keeping all the couples straight. I think you have to be a well-read fan of the author’s to keep up with all the drama…

Two Nights in Lisbon

What do you do when your newlywed husband suddenly disappears on your honeymoon? Ariel Pryce wakes up one morning in Lisbon, Portugal, to find her husband John missing — no note, phone call or text, and she can’t reach him on his cell phone. She is sure that something horrible has happened, and after quizzing the hotel employees, her next stop is the local police station. The two detectives she meets with are very sceptical, but as time goes on, agree to take her seriously. especially when Ariel receives a ransom call. Pavone weaves a solid story, and the reader is left wondering exactly what happened, especially the further one delves into the novel. Recommended for those who enjoy a good mystery.