Books: The Walnut Tree, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, Mullah’s Storm, Distance Between Us

Spent my free time during the holidays catching up on my reading since TV offerings were unbelievably sappy and insipid (Lifetime and Hallmark especially).

“Princess Elizabeth’s Spy” by Susan Elia MacNeal, second in her series of Maggie Hope novels, with a World War II setting blending historical figures with fictional characters and events, was a pleasant diversion and I plan to read book one and three.

“The Walnut Tree,” by mother and son team known as Charles Todd was also set during wartime, in this case The Great War–WWI. The title is lame and misleading and some idiotic editor slapped “A Holiday Tale” under the title, probably as a marketing ploy, but nevertheless it was a mildly entertaining book about an aristocratic English woman who becomes entangled in the hell of war while juggling two lovers.

In between those two lightweights I tackled Thomas Young’s “The Mullah’s Storm,” an action-packed present-day novel about a rescue mission in Afghanistan’s treacherous Hindu Kush. With the Taliban in hot pursuit Major Michael Parson and an army interpreter, sergeant Gold, survive a plane crash and must take a high ranking mullah to the authorities to stand trial. Definitely Hollywood script material, but  no, they won’t be making a musical version. NRA fans will enjoy Young’s commanding knowledge of firearms. Excellent writing!

Foolishly believing the great reviews, I picked up Reyna Grande’s “The Distance Between Us,” a harrowing memoir about her childhood in rural Mexico, and instantly regretted it. Child abuse, parental neglect and overcoming the odds are the themes of this nightmare-inducing book. My husband, a Mexican from a dirt-poor family, went ballistic when I read him some passages. If the story is true the neighbors would have interceded in the children’s behalf and never stood for such horrific abuse, he says.

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