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 Electricity was routinely turned off, hours of time spent standing on food lines would yield a dented can of beans out of date by 2 years, or maybe an onion the size of an olive.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.

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.

Tinkerlab Art Starts: 52 Projects for Open-Ended Exploration

This book is a great aid for anyone who is looking for open-ended art projects for children. It covers all kinds of materials: crayons, paint, charcoal, paper scraps, felt, beads and building materials like toothpicks and blocks. My favorite was a painting project that uses cups and paper towel rolls to make circular designs. I enjoyed this quote from an educator: “Children need what we rarely give them in school: time for messing about.” Rachelle Doorley offers simple but satisfying prompts to encourage creativity and imagination.

Black Cake

Two siblings, Byron and Benny are summoned to a lawyer’s office after their mother, Eleanor Bennett, has died. Eleanor has been harboring secrets from her two now estranged children, and leaves behind a recording for them to hear. In this way, she explains her past and all its secrets, which come as quite a shock to both adult children. Eleanor’s legacy is her famous black cake, which she had learned how to bake as a young person living in Jamaica., and in turn, taught her own daughter, Benny. Can Byron and Benny set aside their resentments and anger at each other and come together as a family after learning the details of their mother’s life? Charmaine Wilkerson has authored a very engaging novel in this debut performance. I highly recommend it for fans of historical fiction and of novels that delve into family dynamics.