Book Review: The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry @penguinrandom

The Alexandria Link
Cotton Malone #2
Steve Berry
Ballantine Books, January 2007
ISBN 978-0-345-48575-5

Steve Berry is a celebrated writer of international thrillers and a New York Times bestselling author. He writes long and complicated novels, often with enough characters to fill a small assembly hall. So readers have to pay attention. This is not a criticism, just a comment that you shouldn’t pick up this novel looking for a quick beach read.

This novel concerns good folks and a lot of very bad guys in several of the major combatants of the Twenty-first Century, namely, the U.S., Britain, Palestine, Israel, and Austria. Within each of these nations operate nefarious criminals, secretive organizations, and talented individuals.

Cotton Malone, a former agent for the U.S. has retired to Copenhagen, Denmark, and become a bookseller. Malone has a secret—he is the keeper of a vital link to the location of the greatest, most complete library known to ancient man—the Alexandria Library. That collection of books and scrolls was created nearly two thousand years BCE, making it over four thousand years old and the repository of a great deal of the histories of our major religions and our very civilization.

The Alexandria Library supposedly contains knowledge that would resolve all of the questions and controversy about the Old Testament. People will do almost anything to acquire such knowledge, believing it will give them unlimited power and wealth. Malone’s ex-wife appears in his shop to tell him his son has been kidnapped and will only be returned safely if the kidnapper receives the key to the location of the library.

Malone’s quest to rescue his son, trap the bad guys and solve numerous other fraught problems is thus the substance of this well-written, convoluted, and complicated novel. Malone and the other characters encounter an amazing host of well-thought-out and dangerous situations that will keep readers attention.

There is a good deal of political intrigue and intrigue which may raise some hackles but I found it even-handed and well sorted. Criticism of all the political entities seems to me even-handed and largely accurate. A well-done, thoughtful, and intriguing work.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2020.
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan—and a Giveaway!

the-bookshop-on-the-cornerThe Bookshop on the Corner
Jenny Colgan
William Morrow, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-246725-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

Sometimes a book just reaches out to you because it triggers things within, you know? No one who knows anything about me will be surprised that I wanted this one, considering my past as a bookshop owner, but there was another enticement pulling me in….one of my all-time favorite countries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting is Scotland. So, I ask you, did I have any hope of resisting? In fact, as the Borg would say, “resistance is futile” 😉

Just a side note before I forget: this book is also available in hardcover but, if you think the synopsis sounds a little familiar, it came out back in February in the UK under a different title, The Little Shop of Happy Ever After.

Ahh, Nina, what a lovely protagonist. She is by turns overly shy, brave, vulnerable, adventurous, a little sad with life and especially with the closing of the library, and full of quixotic hope for her future. Nina overcomes her reluctance to stand out in the world and throws caution to the wind, reinventing herself while she brings treasure to a small corner of Scotland. She personifies librarians and booksellers everywhere with her passion to share the right book with the right reader.

So, Nina sets out to Scotland to the little village of Kirrinfief, a place where people are mostly content but don’t know what they’ve been missing until Nina brings books back to the community. Slowly but surely, Nina finds her new home and heart and is surrounded by folks who take in this newcomer and perhaps give back as much as they’re getting.

Another side note: Ms. Colgan includes a Message to Readers that’s an absolute must-read. Trust me, don’t skip over this even if you’re so inclined—you will be rewarded 😉

I’m adding this to my favorite books read in 2016 list and it may just be #1 because it gave me pleasure in so many ways including charming characters and a setting…and dream…that took me back in time in my own life. The Bookshop on the Corner is my introduction to Jenny Colgan but it certainly won’t be the last book I read by her. She has an extensive backlist and I intend to get started on it ASAP.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.



Purchase Links:

  Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Amazon

HarperCollins | Indiebound


About the Author

jenny-colganJenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Follow the tour:

Tuesday, September 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, September 21st: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Thursday, September 22nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Friday, September 23rd: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, September 26th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, September 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, September 28th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, September 29th: Buried Under Books

Monday, October 3rd: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 4th: BookNAround

Wednesday, October 5th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Thursday, October 6th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads

Friday, October 7th: A Bookish Affair


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I’d love to send somebody my very
gently used print advance reading
copy of The Bookshop on the Corner.
Leave a comment below and I’ll draw
the winning name on Sunday evening,
October 2nd. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Reviews: Pride v. Prejudice by Joan Hess and The Door by Andy Marino

Pride v. PrejudicePride v. Prejudice
A Claire Malloy Mystery #20
Joan Hess
Minotaur Books, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-01195-4

As a Jane Austen lover, I was curious to see how this book compared to hers. Here’s what I think.

JA Three or four families in a country village (plus assorted visitors)

JH Check. Claire Malloy gets involved with two families, one sundered by murder. Mysterious strangers dart in and out. Claire really gets around that village.

JA Lying, cheating, secrets and plots.

JH Check. It seems like everyone has secrets and is plotting or has plotted something nefarious.

JA Wit and humor.

JH Check. Despite the gravity of the situation–Claire believes a woman about to be tried for murder is innocent–
she is incapable of being anything but her funny, snarky self. And then there’s Claire’s teenage daughter Caron. Of the Capital Letters. And assorted others, lawyers, suspects and deputies.

JA Characters like Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine that you love to hate.

JH Check. Among them, Prosecutor Edwin Wessell, whose pride in his own judgement and prejudice against Claire make her determined to prove him wrong.

JA Romance. Oh, Darcy, oh, Elizabeth! And Bingley and Jane are kind’a cute, too.

JH Claire and Peter? Married love at its best.

Conclusion. Pride v. Prejudice may not be the classic Austen’s is, but it is darned good. It has depths. It has laugh-out-loud humor. I recommend it highly.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.


The DoorThe Door
Andy Marino
Scholastic Press, April 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55137-3

Where do we go when we die? An age old question, an utterly unique interpretation.

The two member Silver family is beyond eccentric. Twelve year old Hannah and her apparently hapless mother Leanna exist together in the sprawling Cliffhouse. Their lives, however, are quite separate with Hannah essentially orbiting Leanna, tuned to her many moods easily identified by the state of her fingernails and cuticles and counting “big-girl” glasses of wine.

Because of her unconventional upbringing, it isn’t particularly surprising to find that young Hannah is quite the quirky kid. She has two distinctly different voices in her head, not-so-affectionately dubbed “the old woman” and Hannah’s very own “twin sister”. Meticulous rituals are required to descend stairs and maneuver hallways. Room entry may require a password and the “three” share a secret language they call “Muffin”.

The reason for the peculiar life-style was difficult for the intelligent, ever inquisitive Hannah to accept. The Silvers were the Guardians of the lighthouse. Obsolete for decades since ships no longer sailed the waters surrounding the mammoth structure, the need for guardianship seemed a bit superfluous to Hannah’s thinking. Besides, there was a ridiculous design error with the lighthouse. A door. That could not possible go anywhere. Silly.

Tragedy comes with a lightning strike and everything changes. Hannah has only one choice. Walk through that door to nowhere. Nowhere, being The City of the Dead. Unlike any concept considered, Mr. Marino tugs the reader along like a sibling stubbornly choosing each path in a choose-your-own-adventure story.

As Hannah, emphatically not dead, plows through The City streets, single-mindedly determined to right a wrong, the reader is immersed in a clever kaleidoscope. The scenery isn’t the only continuous change. Characters Hannah once deemed trustworthy must now be watched with suspicion. Those she was wary of may well serve as her true friends, with only her best interest in their hearts. Or not.

It is impossible to think. Information is inconsistent, often contradictory. The environment assaults all senses and –Hannah’s most horrific realization—she is losing her memory of the Cliffhouse with its useless lighthouse and why she is even here in the first place.

This page-turning, mysterious, fantastical journey will be widely received. Avid young readers yearning for something different will welcome this tale that, much like The City of the Dead, has many thought-provoking layers.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2015.

Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-61620-451-8
Trade Paperback

A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on an island off the Massachusetts coast, which hasn’t been doing too well lately. Neither is Fikry, whose wife died a couple of years ago and whose prized possession, a rare Poe volume, has been stolen. When a toddler is abandoned in his store, changes take hold of his life. Funny, moving, a delightful surprise for readers who enjoy books like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.

Fikry asks the social worker who comes to collect the child if he can be little Maya’s foster father, although he has no experience with small children. “How hard can changing a diaper be?” he muses,” I know how to gift wrap a package.” But a toddler had round and wiggly contours that a stack of books lacks. He googles what to feed her, and ends up calling his sister-in-law, who brings over tofu lasagna. Fikry complains to the police chief that Maya has terrible taste in books. All she wants to read is The Monster at the End of this Book over and over.

When he enrolls her in dance school, his bookstore sponsors the recital. The local mothers offer him advice, and he begins to stock books on parenting and adds a growing selection of children’s books. The police chief, who discovers Maya’s mother was a young woman who drowned herself in the ocean nearby, stops by to check on the girl and to discuss books with Fikry. The question of why Maya was left at the bookstore is answered at the very end of the book, when the reader has totally forgotten how she came to stay.

Little by little the stand-offish and somewhat curt Fikry is drawn into town life. The transformative power of love works on Fikry’s relationships with his neighbor, his sister-in-law, and with a publisher’s representative with a soft spot for lost causes.

Each chapter of the book starts with the title of a short story and Fikry’s thoughts about it, and why it is important to know. Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter” and Fitzgerald’s “Diamond as Big as the Ritz” are two of the stories that Fikry has on his “must read” list. This is a literate and witty book with a heart, and one of my favorites of this year. The author has written eight adult and young adult novels.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.

Book Review: Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon

Adrien English Mysteries
Josh Lanyon
Loose ID, May 2007
ISBN 978-1-59632-465-7

This edition contains the first two novels in the series, Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing.

Fatal Shadows introduces us to Adrien English, who lives above his Old Pasadena bookstore and is rudely awakened one morning by a pair of detectives, Chan and Riordan, The pair have come to give him the bad news that his employee and long-time friend has been murdered. Not only do they want to know Adrien’s whereabouts at the time of the crime but also whether Adrien was sleeping with Robert. It becomes obvious that the detectives think Robert’s homosexuality had something to do with his death and Riordan in particular seems to have a need to show his manliness. It soon strikes Adrien that he himself may be a target of the murderer but Riordan doesn’t take him seriously. In the meantime, small facts here and there lead Adrien to suspect a connection to his and Robert’s high school days and the body count begins to grow. That’s not all that’s growing though—Adrien can’t help an increasing attraction to Jake Riordan who may or may not be interested in return.

In A Dangerous Thing, Adrien takes a brief vacation to a ranch he inherited near Sonora, leaving his rather strange employee, Angus, in charge of the bookstore. He hopes the peace and solitude will help him break the writer’s block he’s having with his second novel but, just before arriving, he discovers a body lying in the road. Not being a stupid man, Adrien races back down the road and finally reaches someone in the Sheriff’s office. Unfortunately, by the time the sheriff and his deputy arrive, the dead man is gone. A long-lost gold mine, a trespassing team of archaeologists who think Adrien is the trespasser, a field of nicely-growing pot, an 1857 stagecoach robbery and more missing bodies (alive or not) ramp up the tension that Adrien was hoping to escape for a few days. Will Detective Jake Riordan come to the rescue or will perhaps Adrien be the one who rescues Jake after a fashion?

In case it isn’t obvious the two main characters (and some others) are gay but this really is no surprise if the reader does a minimum of research first. The mysteries are light but intriguing puzzles and, although there is some romance (and just plain sex), it’s a pretty good blend. I don’t particularly like to read sex scenes but, in this case, it’s not because the characters are gay—I don’t like it with hetero couples either. So, how did I deal with it? Simple. I used my trusty finger and the touch screen to move on down the road. On the other hand, as a former bookseller, I really enjoyed the details about Adrien’s bookstore, especially the squirrelly writing group and the peculiarities of Angus.

The author has an extensive body of work, plenty to keep a reader going for quite some time, and these are the first two of five installments of the Adrien English Mysteries. I’ll be looking for the next three which, unfortunately, will take me to the end of the series and then I’ll just have to try a lot of Lanyon‘s other books. I expect they’ll be every bit as entertaining as Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2012.