The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

I am so glad that my friends David and Helen suggested that I read this book before our trip to the Czech Republic in May. They suggested this book because we will visit the famous Villa Tugendhat in Brno. The Glass Room is a novel that revolves around the famous glass room in Villa Tugendhat. While the principal characters are fictious, they are based on the real people who built and lived in this house.  

This story spans many years, starting in the years after World War I. The main protagonists are Czech citizens Viktor and Liesel Landauer, who have recently married. Viktor is Jewish and Liesel is not, but neither are religious and in fact consider themselves atheists. Viktor is well-do-do and owns the Landauer car company which is very successful. They have two children - a little girl named Ottilie and a boy named Martin.

Viktor and Liesel decide to build their ideal and original house on a piece of property near her parents. They use noted German architect Rainer von Abt who comes up with the idea of a house open and modern with extensive use of glass. It's wildly original and different, and Liesel especially comes to love it with all her heart.

The book follows this couple as the horrors of the Nazis and World War II arrive at their part of the world. Other important characters in this novel are Kata and her daughter Marika. Kata is a poor and beautiful Jewish woman who becomes Viktor's mistress, of sorts. She forms a close relationship with both Viktor and Liesel and their children. Also very important is Hana, Liesel's best friend who is also married to a Jewish man named Oskar. Although not a person, the house itself almost becomes a character in this novel - we learn a lot about architecture and history, and though this house we are present to see how the different political regimes and alliances affected the lives of the inhabitants and those nearby. Both house and people are changed.

This is a good read and suggest to anyone who like historical fiction.


The Rembrant Affair by Daniel Silva

Before I begin this review I want to tell you that this the 10th book in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series. Few series remain as fresh and exciting as the series continues. Actually I think that this is the best one that I have read, reading about seven books in the series.

The Rembrandt Affair is fascinating fiction, a blend of international espionage, art theft and murder that is well-written, fast-paced and populated with a remarkable cast of characters. Gabriel Allon, the protagonist, is an accomplished art restorer and a skilled Israeli spy and assassin who had retired after a long career.

The plot opens with Gabriel and his wife Chiara enjoying time in the scenic town of Glastonbury, England (a town I liked). They are recovering from the traumatic aftereffects of their heroic rescue from the murderous hands of a Russian oligarch (the previous novel "The Defector"). When Gabriel learns an art restorer has been found murdered and a priceless painting by Rembrandt is missing, he is unable to stand by and do nothing. 

The storyline is sad, emotional, and heart wrenching at times but this novel is well written and engaging. The sub-plots are also very interesting on their own; they mirror some of the information that sufficed about the role Swiss banks and the Catholic Church played during World War II and the looting of art by the Nazi elite. I recommend that you read this book after some of the previous Gabriel Allon books by Silva.


Twilight Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

I never thought that I would enjoy books with werewolves, magicians, and witches. Nonetheless, this is the third book in a series by the gifted author Sergei Lukyaneko. Twilight Watch follows the Russian magical reality books Night Watch and Day Watch. Again we return to Anton's mind and Anton's relationships with those around him. Focusing on interactions with the mysterious Inquisitors, this book takes Anton further along the path to understanding that there is only a little difference between Light and Dark. Twilight Watch is divided into three sections. In the final section, we find that a powerful vampire and member of the Inquisition has been murdered. We also find that a book thought to be the stuff of legends, that allows Others to turn humans into Others themselves, has been stolen from the house of the witch Arina. Anton, with the help of the vampire Kostya and the Inquisitor Edgar, has to try to find the culprit and the book. I will say no more other than this is a really great series that I highly recommend.



The City & The City

The City & the City by China Mieville is unique as it is challenging and difficult to read (listen). This book forces readers to understand all the nuances of the altered reality that Mieville creates. A solid understanding of this altered world is not obtained until you are well into the book

In a small corner of Europe, the cities of Beszel and Ul Quoma exist uneasily side by side but overlapping. These cities are divided by language, culture, and their perceptions of reality. Inspector Tyador Borlu, the main protagonist, of the Beszel police Extreme Crime Squad confronts his most vexing criminal case, the murder of young American archaeology graduate student Mahalia Geary. Initially it appears to be a routine homicide, but it turns out not to be the case. Borlu is thrust into complex conspiracies that threaten to shatter the uneasy coexistence of these two cities.

If you like reading books that are different and challenging, then this is surely a book for you.


Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

I am so glad that I found Jacqueline Carey and her fabulous trilogy: Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen, and this very worthy conclusion, Kushiel's Avatar. Ten years have past since we last saw our lash-loving lady, the true "anguisette," Phedre no Delauney, Comtesse de Montreve, peer of Terre d'Ange. She and her beloved companion, the Cassiline apostate, Joscelin Verreuil have been residing on their estates and maturing with grace and beauty. But neither is able to forget the fate of Phedre's childhood friend Hyacinthe and the terrible sacrifice he made in order that a queen be crowned and peace reign. Nothing less than discovering the most secret and holy name of the "One God" will do to free him - an almost impossible task to accomplish which will involve traveling over continents and seas, in what I believe is the most awesome adventure of them all. I strongly recommend that you read this trilogy including Kushiel's Avatar. I was very happy to discover that Ms. Carey continues this trilogy following the acquired son of Phedre and Joscelin, Imrile.