The Objects of her Affection
By Sonya Cobb. (Sourcebooks Landmark, 352 pages, $14.99 paperback.)
It's a lesson many of us learn time and time again: What we think we want doesn't always make us happy. Such is the case with Sophie Porter, a freelance Web designer with two young children. When Sophie falls in love with a fixer-upper home in a quaint neighborhood, she and her husband, Brian, stretch their budget to buy it. She tells herself that her business will pick up, even though she neglected her clients while tending to her babies. Brian, a curator for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has serious doubts but goes along with the purchase to placate Sophie.
They finance with an adjustable-rate mortgage, and the predictable happens: They soon have trouble making the payments. Sophie visits Brian at his office one day to find his work area in disarray. Items in the museum's collection, not valuable enough for display, have been haphazardly left on carts while awaiting permanent storage. When she accidentally ends up taking one of the items home, she eventually sells it to pay the bills and realizes how easy and profitable the crime could be. It's a downward spiral from there, and the reader just can't look away. Some parts of the story seem contrived, especially how simple it was for Sophie to find a buyer and how clueless Brian chooses to remain, but the novel moves along quickly. In the end, Sophie realizes that the objects of her affection aren't really objects at all. What she values most are her family and integrity.
Judy Romanowich Smith
THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION & THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA
By Candace Fleming. (Schwartz & Wade, 292 pages, $18.99, ages 12 & up.)
Candace Fleming, the award-winning author of "Amelia Lost" and "The Lincolns," delivers a riveting look at the epic fall of the last tsar of Russia, a man whose life of almost unfathomable wealth and power ended ignominiously when he was massacred along with his wife and children in 1917, casualties of the Russian Revolution. As Fleming tells it, when Nicholas II inherited the throne in 1894, he was woefully unprepared, having been alternately browbeaten and ignored by his father.
Nicholas had little taste for the business of ruling and little understanding of the troubles of the Russian peasantry. His obliviousness was only accentuated by his deeply religious and reclusive wife, Alexandra. As the country hurtled toward economic ruin and World War I raged, the Romanovs were largely oblivious, ensconced in various jeweled palaces with tutors and servants, troubled only by the hemophilia that repeatedly threatened the life of their youngest child and only son, Alexie.
As Nicholas and Alexandra searched for relief for the heir to the throne, they turned increasingly to Grigori Rasputin, a mystic and soothsayer whose influence would become just another element of their undoing. "The Family Romanov," for ages 12 and older, tells this fascinating and complicated story with drama and sweep. Fleming's book includes ample testimony from primary sources and fascinating photos of the family's life, both during the reign of Nicholas and after he stepped down. It's a romantic tragedy writ large, a story that will appeal to young readers as well as adults.
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