Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas: Book Review

The Oracle of Stamboul
by Michael David Lukas
ISBN: 978-0-06-203683-4
Published: February 8, 2011

Description: Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, and Eleonora Cohen is ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. "They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch." But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora's mother dies soon after the birth.

Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy.

When Yakob sets off by boat for Stamboul on business, eight-year-old Eleonora, unable to bear the separation, stows away in one of his trunks. On the shores of the Bosporus, in the house of her father's business partner, Moncef Bey, a new life awaits. Books, backgammon, beautiful dresses and shoes, markets swarming with color and life—the imperial capital overflows with elegance, and mystery. For in the narrow streets of Stamboul—a city at the crossroads of the world—intrigue and gossip are currency, and people are not always what they seem. Eleonora's tutor, an American minister and educator, may be a spy. The kindly though elusive Moncef Bey has a past history of secret societies and political maneuvering. And what is to be made of the eccentric, charming Sultan Abdulhamid II himself, beleaguered by friend and foe alike as his unwieldy, multiethnic empire crumbles?

The Good Stuff
  • A librarian protects his library while other people cower from invaders --that endeared me to the book right away
  • Reminds me of an old fashioned good story but written WITHOUT the over flowery language 
  • I love the look and feel of the actual physical book
  • I am incredibly jealous of the Beys library. The author does such a fantastic job of describing the look and feel of it, that it feels so real to me
  • Obviously the author did his research, and you can really feel his fascination with this period of history and of the land
  • Unusual ending 
  • Fascinating characters
  • I recommend reading this story over a longer period of time instead of reading it through just to find what happens, I think it will be a more enjoyable story this way

The Not so Good Stuff

  • would have liked a map included as I was confused at times where places were
  • A little overly descriptive at times, but that is just my opinion - if you like that you will love this 
  • Extremely slow at times and I think people will put it down because of it
  • I know quite a few people will not like the ending
  • I felt like the history and the land were more important than the actual main character
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"..the library was the only municipal building that survived the Third Division unscathed.  Not because of any special regard for knowledge.  The survival of Constanta's library was due entirely to the bravery of its keeper.  While the rest of the townspeople cowered under their beds or huddled together in basements and closets, the librarian stood boldly on the front steps of his domain, holding a battered copy of Eugene Onegin above his head like a talisman."

"But such is the season. In spite of our best effort to smother its growth, to lie down on the tracks of its progress, life persists. And enduring, it issues a cruel taunt to the memory of death, to memory, and to death."

What I Learned
  • about Hoopoe birds
  • Some fascinating historical information about the Ottoman empire

Who should/shouldn't read
  • Definite for lovers of historical fiction
  • Not for someone who wants a quick paced story, this is something to savor slowly
  • Also I think this would be appreciated by someone more scholarly than I
3.5 Dewey's

TLC Book Tours (For Full Tour Schedule)

Monday, February 14th: Living Read Girl
Monday, February 14th: Life is Short. Read Fast.
Tuesday, February 15th: Melody Likes Books
Wednesday, February 16th: Jenny's Books
Thursday, February 17th: Man of La Book
Thursday, February 17th: Book Sake

About Michael David Lukas

Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a Rotary Scholar in Tunisia. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and the Georgia Review. He has received scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. He currently lives in Oakland, CA, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn’t writing, he teaches creative writing to third and fourth graders.
Find out more about Michael at his website.

I received this from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review


  1. I think that section about the librarian protecting the book would have made me love this book too!

    I like how your review includes the good and bad points - it really helps to see if the book is a good fit for a potential reader. Thanks so much for being a part of the tour!

  2. Thanks Heather!! I agree, I also do it because that is how I like to hear about books. I'm a busy mom and library worker, I don't have time to read long reviews -- I just need to know some basic points, a sample of the writing to know if it is something I might be interested in

    Thanks it was fun!

  3. Hm, I'm on the fence about this one, but I really like how you formatted your review.

  4. Thanks Carol! I say get it from the library that way if you don't like it you won't have wasted any money -- I know I know - I just can't help myself - must promote libraries : )