Hypocrisy by D.M. Annechino an iRead Book Tour

hypocrisyDr. Lauren Crawford is a brilliant research scientist who discovers a revolutionary treatment for cancer that not only extends life, but much improves the quality of life for terminal cancer patients. The treatment, in some instances, can even cure certain cancers. On the evening before Dr. Crawford holds a press conference to announce that the FDA has given preliminary approval of her new cancer treatment, somebody follows her to her car and puts three bullets in her head. Was it a planned murder with a motive, a mugging gone badly, or merely a random act of violence? Two New York City homicide detectives, Amaris Dupree and T.J. Brown, are assigned to the investigation. The detectives evaluate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Crawford’s death, and follow a trail of clues that exposes a sequence of startling facts. One by one, the detectives carefully examine each suspect and piece together a puzzle with unimaginable implications. As the investigation gets more intense, and the detectives get closer to solving the murder mystery, someone threatens Dupree’s life. The detectives now realize that Dr. Crawford’s murder was much more than a homicide. And if they don’t arrest the murderer soon, Dupree might be the next victim.

I love me a good mystery and that’s what I found in Hypocrisy.  Detective Amaris Dupree is believable as the female lead detective in this novel.  A detective that has some family issues of her own but manages to keep it together and do this case justice.  T.J. Brown, her partner of only a few months is likable as well and they have good chemistry together which is what’s needed for a pair of detectives to be interesting.

The mystery in this book is all about the death of a scientist who has made a very important discovery.  A discovery that could sink her competition (the drug industry) and cost them to lose billions in prescription costs.  Mr Annechino says this several times throughout the book so I’m not giving anything away.  In fact, there are so many players in this book, I went back and forth as to who I thought was ultimately responsible and this is what a good mystery lets you do.  It lets you judge the characters to see if they are killer material, if they have a good motive (which several of them did), and if ultimately you think they are the ones who “pulled the trigger” literally or figuratively.  A good mystery also gives you an opportunity to change your mind as new facts come to the surface.

I enjoyed reading Hypocrisy.  I enjoyed the twists and turns it took and I enjoyed having to change my mind again and again as I thought I had it all figured out only to discover I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about!  Pick it up, read it, enjoy it.  If you figured out who is responsible right away you are a much better Detective than I am!

 

iRead

Mailbox Monday March 10th, 2014

mailbox mondayMailbox Monday is a great place to take a peek at other people’s loot without breaking into their homes!!  It’s a central place where book lovers can link their posts on what they received from the mailman (or UPS, or Fed Ex…) this week.  Stop by the host of Mailbox Monday and link up, if you like, or just drool over what other bloggers were lucky enough to nab.  I have to warn you though,  you’ll want to add these titles to your “I HAVE to read that” list!

Another “feast” week for books, although I will have to say this is just about the oddest combination of books I have had the fortune of receiving!   Should make for some fun & diverse reading in the weeks ahead though!

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Dead Between the Lines        book clubs and murder!

Falling for the Wingman       a switched identity romance

The Winter Horses         wartime survival in the Ukrainian forest   (and the one I most excited about this week!)

Ice Dogs              survival of a 14 yr old girl/musher in the Alaskan wilderness  (this book was a gift from the author.  Thanks Terry!)

A Snicker of Magic     a middle grade novel of a magical place called Midnight Gulch

Psycho Mommy                 a comedy about an obsessive first pregnancy

The Bohemians     the story of the pioneering writers who created the new American literature

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen *Review*

still lifeRebecca Winter, a famous photographer is aging. Her work is not as popular as it once was and the money is not as plentiful. On top of having to pay for her apartment in New York (which she loves and can’t even entertain the thought of getting rid of) she has to pay her father’s hospital bills and the fees for the nursing home care for her mother who is suffering from dementia.

No longer able to afford her apartment, she rents it out and moves to a cabin in a small town outside the city while nervously watching  her bank balance dwindle as she has to pay for a roofer to help with an attic hole that a raccoon manages to work his way into and heat for the cabin for the winter.

A little embarrassed with her financial situation , she takes a side job snapping photos of eagles for a wildlife organization pamphlet, even though still life black & white photography is what she does, never wildlife. Rebecca spends some time in a tree stand with Jim, the  roofer who hooks her up with this gig, and she gets to know this kind gentle person, and in the process ends up learning even more about herself.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs starts out slow and I felt it to be a little disjointed at first. But in coming to know Jim, and the locals – Sarah the owner of an English style tea house and Kevin, her husband  the con artist/crook, as well as  Tad the clown with a beautiful operatic voice, I was able to watch Rebecca’s life start to unfold and bloom as if I was a part of that process. Life isn’t always rapid paced, continuous activity, especially as you start to enter your 60’s. It kind of meanders like a back country road, narrow, a little bumpy and kind of rutted.

I enjoyed Anna Quindlen’s novel of love, life and personal discovery.  I’m glad I stayed along for the ride.

North of Boston by Elizabeth Elo *Review*

north of bostonWhen the fishing boat Pirio is on is rammed by a freighter, she finds herself abandoned in the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours in the water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. But the boat’s owner and her professional fisherman friend, Ned, is not so lucky.

Compelled to look after Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina,  Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking—and Ned’s death—was no accident. It’s a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, who tells her that nothing is ever what it seems. Then the navy reaches out to her to participate in research on human survival in dangerously cold temperatures.

With the help of a curious journalist named Russell Parnell, Pirio begins unraveling a lethal plot involving the glacial whaling grounds off Baffin Island. In a narrow inlet in the arctic tundra, Pirio confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself. 

Pirio is the kind of character I like,  tough as nails on the outside, but with a warm heart on the inside especially when it comes to her sensitive,  ten-year-old godson,  Noah.  Even though she doesn’t feel like she’s cut out to be a parent, not now, not ever- she’s sucked in when Noah’s father dies and her best friend Thomasina can’t seem to stay sober  long enough to be there for him.

Determined to do what’s best for Noah, Pirio starts to investigate the boat “accident” that killed Ned and left her for dead and hypothermic in the cold ocean waters.  Convinced this was no maritime hit and run, Pirio starts to uncover clues that convince her she’s on to something bigger than she thought.  When people start getting hurt and lives are threatened, she decides to infiltrate the business that just may be responsible for Ned’s death…and more.  North of Boston is a skillfully written, captivating debut thriller.  I look forward to more of Elizabeth Elo’s writing.

Mailbox Monday 2-24-2014

mailbox mondayMailbox Monday is a great place to take a peek at other peoples loot without breaking into their homes!!  It’s a central place where book lovers can link their posts on what they received from the mailman (or UPS, or Fed Ex…) this week.  Stop by the host of Mailbox Monday and link up, if you like, or just drool over what other bloggers were lucky enough to nab.  I have to warn you though,  you’ll want to add these titles to your “I HAVE to read that” list!

Some weeks it’s feast some weeks it’s famine!  I only received 1 book in the mail this week.  One lonely, lonely, book.  No matter how many times I trotted out to the mailbox nothing more appeared.  Usually when I post my Mailbox Monday books I pick which book I received that week that excites me the most.  This week is kind of a no brainer!  But seriously, even if I had received more, I think this one would still have been my pick.  It looks so intriguing!!

when shadows fall

Dear Dr. Owens, 

If you are reading this letter, I am dead and I would be most grateful if you could solve my murder… 

Forensic pathologist Dr. Samantha Owens thought life was finally returning to normal after she suffered a terrible personal loss. Settling into her new job at Georgetown University, the illusion is shattered when she receives a disturbing letter from a dead man imploring her to solve his murder. There’s only one catch. Timothy Savage’s death was so obviously the suicide of a demented individual that the case has been closed. 

When Sam learns Savage left a will requesting she autopsy his body, she feels compelled to look into the case. Sam’s own postmortem discovers clear signs that Savage was indeed murdered. And she finds DNA from a kidnapped child whose remains were recovered years earlier. 

The investigation takes Sam into the shadows of a twenty-year-old mystery that must be solved to determine what really happened to Timothy Savage. Nothing about the case makes sense, but it is clear someone is unwilling to let anyone, especially Samantha Owens, discover the truth.

What did I tell you??  Looks good doesn’t it?  Well, I’m off to check out what the rest of you found in your mailboxes this week.  Have a great week and happy reading!

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd *Review*

hunting shadowsHunting Shadows is a classic eerie mystery whose main character is not Inspector Ian Rutledge as the book synopsis would have you believe, but the thick, cloak of fog that envelops the town so completely that you can’t see your way home. The type of fog that hides a killer walking as he maps his escape and the squeak of a bicycle is all that alerts you that you are not alone.

Inspector Rutledge from Scotland Yard is assigned to the small English village of Cambridgeshire to help solve the murder of Captain Hutchinson who was gunned down while attending a society wedding. A second murder occurs not far from the first, another man shot in cold blood while campaigning for office in the public square. Nothing links the two men together. However, a witness to the second shooting initially claims she saw the shooter, or rather, the monstrously grotesque appearance of something with a gun in an upper window. Something that terrifies her so much that she clams up and refuses to repeat her initial story.

Inspector Rutledge interviews local townspeople and the constables who have so far failed to solve this case in order to come up with any clue that can link these two murders together so he can come up with a common suspect. Full of 1920’s intrigue, crank up cars, windmills, horses and sniper shots, this was a good under the covers read with a sinister tone.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

glitter and glueWhen Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the family dynamic as “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” This meant nothing to Kelly, who left childhood sure that her mom—with her inviolable commandments and proud stoicism—would be nothing more than background chatter for the rest of Kelly’s life, which she was carefully orienting toward adventure. After college, armed with a backpack, her personal mission statement, and a wad of traveler’s checks, she took off for Australia to see things and do things and Become Interesting.
 
But it didn’t turn out the way she pictured it. In a matter of months, her savings shot, she had a choice: get a job or go home. That’s how Kelly met John Tanner, a newly widowed father of two looking for a live-in nanny. They chatted for an hour, discussed timing and pay, and a week later, Kelly moved in. And there, in that house in a suburb north of Sydney, 10,000 miles from the house where she was raised, her mother’s voice was suddenly everywhere, nudging and advising, cautioning and directing, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother, turning it over in her hands like a shell, straining to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its spiral.
 
This is a book about the difference between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. But mostly it’s about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.

I have always had a fantastic relationship with my mother.  She’s always been my best friend, the one I confide my fears in, my idea bouncer, and my advice giver.   I know for some women, that’s not always the case.  I have friends who have very tenuous relationships with their mothers and I feel bad that they don’t have the same relationship that I was blessed to have.

And sometimes, that appreciation of who your mother is and what she has done for you does not come until you’re older and have children of your own.  Such was the case with Kelly Corrigan.

I loved the way Kelly wrote.  With her mother’s euphemisms sprinkled liberally throughout the book (in italics so there was no mistake who these words of wisdom came from) I felt like I was sitting in the Corrigan’s Philadelphia kitchen listening to her mother utter them herself.  Sayings I could reach back in time and hear my own mom speak.

It was interesting to watch Kelly journey around the world to finally discover herself right there at home.  Relatable for daughters and mothers alike, you’ll be nodding your head throughout this memoir.

Mailbox Monday 2-17-14

mailbox mondayMailbox Monday is a great place to take a peek at other peoples loot without breaking into their homes!!  It’s a central place where book lovers can link their posts on what they received from the mailman (or UPS, or Fed Ex…) this week.  Stop by the host of Mailbox Monday and link up, if you like, or just drool over what other bloggers were lucky enough to nab.  I have to warn you though,  you’ll want to add these titles to your “I HAVE to read that” list!

This week was a good book week for me.  Here is what I scored:

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A Lifetime to Die by P.S. Meronek

The Isolation Door by Anish Majumdar

Evening Stars by Susan Mallery

Poison Town by Creston Mapes

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris   (isn’t this one totally different!  I’m most excited about this one this week!)

The Diet Fix by Yoni Freedhoff, M.D.

So in other words, this week I received books about the Russian mob, schizophrenia, complicated sister relationships, a cancer causing chemical leakage,  a stolen identity, and a self-help book to make your diet more effective..  Now really,  what more does a girl need?  🙂

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes *Review*

me before youLou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Having never read Jojo Moyes writing before, after finishing this book, I had to ask “Why?”  What has kept this author off my radar?  Primarily, I believe it’s because the description of her novels always sounded like just a sappy, romantic love story.  I can assure you, Me Before You is not just a sappy love story, and if the rest of her books have depth like this one does then I will assuredly add them to my book shelf.

Me Before You not only broke my heart, but opened my mind as well.  What do you do when you all choices are taken from you?  Do you adjust…can you adjust?  And what problem does falling in love add to the equation?  I urge you to read this book and tell me that there is only black or white, yes or no answers.  A beautiful story of love and life, Me Before You deserves to be treated as more than a romance book.

Mailbox Monday February 10th, 2014

mailbox mondayThank God for books.  Seriously, what else is there to do in a cold Minnesota winter like this?  The weatherman on channel 11 news just said we have had 43 days in a row of zero or below zero temperatures.  Sometimes opening my mailbox and seeing a padded envelope which I know contains a book is the only bright spot of my day.  That being said, here is what graced my mailbox this week:

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The Fitness Fun Busy Book  My granddaughter and I should have fun with this one!

A Little Help From My Friends  Hmm..young adult romance…we’ll see

The Plover  Looking forward to this one the most this week!

The Sun and Other Stars  Only seen a few reviews for this one so far, but they’ve been good ones!

If you’d like to link up to mailbox Monday and show off what you got this week just click here.

The rest of my week after work is very tame, which is good because with wind chills in the -25 to -35 range, I don’t want to go anywhere.

Monday, I’ll be working out with my cousin Janeen, Tuesday I have my TOPS meeting and a book club meeting  (I’m in charge of dessert for book club and have no clue what I’m bringing yet), Wednesday the men’s Olympic USA hockey game will be on (USA! USA!)  Thursday is another workout with Janeen, Friday I’m making a special surf & turf Valentines dinner for my family whom I heart very much, Saturday I’m hosting a birthday party for my mother (Happy 68th mom!) and Sunday I serve at church in the morning.   GULP!  Maybe not as tame of a week as I originally planned!  🙂

Regardless, you know I’ll be fitting in a little reading time here and there throughout as well.  Have a great week!

People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity by Alan C. Fox *Review*

ALAN C. FOX PEOPLE TOOLSIn ten thousand classrooms we teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but we leave solutions to the universal problems of human relationships to be discovered, if at all, by trial and error. The trial is typically painful and the error is often costly. As Benjamin Franklin noted, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity defines, explains, and provides examples of 54 easy-to-grasp behavioral techniques that readers can use to improve their relationships, and their lives. It is the perfect resource for busy people looking for fast and effective solutions to the challenges they face every day.

People Tools is time proven, inspirational, practical and easy to understand. From building self-esteem, to developing better communication skills, to finding effective ways to cope with anger, each “People Tool” addresses a specific issue or problem. Each tool provides a simple, straightforward strategy that readers can adopt to immediately bring about desired change and positive results. Every tool is illustrated and supported by anecdotal examples that are relevant and relatable.

Although readers may recognize some of the more intuitive techniques in People Tools, this source book provides explanations and helpful examples of many different tools so that the reader can build and expand his or her existing repertoire of skills. Some of the useful “People Tools” in the book include:

1. The Belt Buckle. When words say, “Yes” and action (The Belt Buckle) says “No,” trust the Belt Buckle

2. The Ticker Tape. At times honesty and completeness are not merely the best policy–they are the only policy

3. Catching a Feather. An alternative to an endless chase, this Tool allows solutions to float into your life

People Tools is organized into 54 chapters. Each chapter contains short, engaging stories using humor and personal anecdotes to illustrate the “People Tool” presented. The language is friendly and non-intimidating. Each chapter presents a unique solution to a specific problem. The reader could open the book to any page and find practical solutions they can immediately apply to their own lives.

When my son was struggling with Tourette Syndrome and the pediatricians and specialists I had brought him too could not find the right medications to help him out we ended up seeking help from a neurologist at a well-known hospital several hundred miles away. He told us we were right in seeking a different type of doctor. “Every doctor has different tools in his toolbox” he said “we’ll keep trying different tools until we find the one that works.”  It took a few tries, but we eventually found the right one and my son’s life became a whole lot easier.

People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity has a lot of tools to try. Will all of them work for you? Probably not, but you have plenty more to choose from! I enjoyed reading through this self-help guide at looking at our life from a different perspective. The chapters were quick and easy to read and the examples and advice were written in an honest and humorous way. But a word of caution: just because this is a quick and easy read shouldn’t mean you can read it and set it back on your bookshelf. This is one that should sit by your bedside so you can thumb through it and absorb the tools that best fit your situation and life experiences.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons *Review*

galleryLondon, 1958. It’s the eve of the sexual revolution, but in Juliet Montague’s conservative Jewish community where only men can divorce women, she finds herself a living widow, invisible. Ever since her husband disappeared seven years ago, Juliet has been a hardworking single mother of two and unnaturally practical. But on her thirtieth birthday, that’s all about to change. A wealthy young artist asks to paint her portrait, and Juliet, moved by the powerful desire to be seen, enters into the burgeoning art world of 1960s London, which will bring her fame, fortune, and a life-long love affair.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands started out slow and continued at a leisurely pace. But that doesn’t mean it was not a good book. The novel follows the life of Juliet Montague from when we meet her on her thirteenth birthday in 1958 throughout her entire life. While most books rush to some kind of climax or conclusion, The Gallery of Vanished Husbands was like trailing your toes in the water as you walk along the beach. Slow, steady, comfortable, but in the end a bit cool. More “gallery” than “vanished husbands” the novel is about Juliet, her love of art, and her talent in seeking out new artists. But all the while she’s doing this there is the stigma of her being an aguna (a jewish woman whose husband has deserted her or disappeared but still considered by others to be anchored or chained to her marriage)

When after eight years alone Juliet decides to take a lover she earns the disappointment and scorn of family and neighbors in her Jewish community, and ultimately her teenage daughter Frieda. Juliet knows that if she’s ever going to live again she has to do things her own way, no matter what others may think.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands will not leave you at the edge of your seat, but its quiet manner will allow you to sink into it’s cushions.

Mailbox Monday January 20th, 2014

mailbox mondayI have never participated in Mailbox Monday before, I’ve always just been one who has drooled over the stack of books everybody else has been getting in the mail.  But over time, I have come to realize that my mailbox is getting fuller and fuller every week.  So I guess now is as good a time as any to link up with this meme.  If you would like to link up as well please click here.

This is what made its way to my mailbox this week:

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Independent Study

Traveler  I have a friend who is chomping at the bit to get his hands on this one!

Shotgun Lovesongs   Looks good doesn’t it?

People Tools

The Other Language

North of Boston  This is the one I’m most excited to dig into!

Did you get any of these in your mailbox this week?  Which one looks the best to you?

 

Breathless by Anne Sward *Review*

breathlessLo was just six when she met thirteen-year-old Lukas the night a brushfire threatened their community. Both the children of immigrants, both wild with love for the land, theirs was an easy friendship despite the fierce injunctions of Lo’s family. Meeting in secret at an abandoned lake house, they whiled away their summers in the water and their winters curled up inside, reenacting dialogue from their favorite film, Breathless.

How a friendship so innocent and pure—and so strictly forbidden—could be destroyed is a mystery that unfolds across Lo’s travels from Berlin to Copenhagen to New York, from tryst to tryst, as she seems fated to roam the outside world she blames for tearing her and Lukas apart. Haunting, resonant, full of humor and heartrending depth, Breathless explores how childhood acts can stake an unimpeachable claim on our older selves, and how atonement might be wrest from the past.

How do I even begin to describe this book?  As I was reading it I found myself caught between feeling bored and feeling transfixed.  I didn’t really like it but I couldn’t put it down.  I loved it but I was afraid to pick it up again.  My emotions ran hot and cold throughout the book.  I knew little about what was going on, but I understood it all.

I realize as I am attempting to write this review that I can’t pin down what I want to say, and therefore I am not going to try, other than to throw out a few adjectives: haunting, beautiful, tragic.

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen *Review*

Imagine this, you and several of your closest friends are invited on an all expense paid trip to Jamaica.  No kids, no worries, nothing but time to relax.  Imagine now, how much time that gives you to think about your life…

An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage. 

Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.

boa2I recently got the opportunity to meet the author, Sarah Pekkanen at the Wine & Words fundraiser put on by my friend Sheila of Book Journey and our local Friends of the Library.  So I was excited to read this book, although I think you get a little biased about a book after meeting the author.  The authors are always so nice and you really want to like their book!  But I did like this book and I’m sure I would have even if I hadn’t met Ms. Pekkanen.

I could relate to a couple of the characters and the swirling winds in their own hearts.  Who can’t relate to occasionally feeling overwhelmed with work, kids, sports, church, classes, volunteer activities…?  Who can’t relate to feeling like you are just not good enough if you can’t do it all, and do it all perfectly?  That’s what makes this book so believable.  We have all felt something these characters are feeling at one point in our lives.  It’s how we deal with those feelings that make us different.

The way Tina, and Allie and Savannah deal with the troubles they are having in life and in their marriages would not have been how I deal with things, but in this book alcohol flows freely and alcohol can skew your judgement.

By the end of the book they all come to life changing decisions.  Will Tina cave under the demands of motherhood?  Will Allie find out she has the gene for a fatal disease?  Will Savannah take back her unfaithful husband and risk having her heart broke again?  Will Pauline finally come clean to her husband about the secrets she has been keeping?  Pick up Sarah’s book and escape for a while yourself!    4/5 stars

 

The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden *Review*

wgWhen prestigious plantation owner Cornelius Allen gives his daughter Clarissa’s hand in marriage, she takes with her a gift: Sarah-her slave and her half-sister.  Raised by an educated mother, Clarissa is not the proper southern belle she appears to be with ambitions of loving who she chooses and Sarah equally hides behind the facade of being a docile house slave as she plots to escape.  Both women bring these tumultuous secrets and desires with them to their new home, igniting events that spiral into a tale beyond what you ever imagined possible and leave you enraptured until the very end.

Narrated by two women with a unique and compelling bond- Sarah, the slave and Theodora the wife of plantation owner Mr. Allen, you see two different viewpoints of plantation life in Alabama in the mid 1800s.

Sarah yearns for freedom.  She is treated differently from the other slaves because she is not only the master’s daughter, but the playmate  of his other daughter Clarissa.  Clarissa likes having Sarah by her side and even requests Sarah’s presence during her school lessons.  Thus, Sarah learns to read and write, an activity that is actually illegal for Negroes during this period of time.  Learning awaken’s Sarah’s mind to the possibility of someday escaping her life of servitude and becoming a free woman.

Theodora, initially resents Sarah and most of all, Emmaline, Sarah’s mother for taking Cornelius’ attention away from his wife and his marriage bed.  But soon Cornelius begins to change and become mean and distant.  Theodora throws herself into teaching her daughter her studies, and Sarah along with her.

What I liked about this book was I didn’t get the dark, heavy depressing feel I normally get when reading books about slavery.  Yes, there were beatings, yes there was mistreatment of slaves but because that wasn’t the focus of the book so it was never dwelled on and drawn out.

I enjoyed hearing life from Sarah’s point of view and learned some about what it took a slave to be able to escape their bonds and all the people who helped along the way.  The ending, though a little bittersweet has a remarkable twist,  Based on a true story, The Wedding Gift was an easy summer read with a potent ending.  3/5 stars

 

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara *Review*

Very disturbing read. Hanya Yanagihara is a very talented author and at times I was convinced what I was reading was a non fiction book (it was all those footnotes that convinced me!), but even though this book is based on a true story, the novel itself was fiction.
trees
Dr. Norton Perina travels as a university student(and a poor one at that) to Ivu’Ivu, a Micronesian Island to help an anthropologist search for a lost tribe of people who have a longer than normal life expectancy.

Dr Perina’s discovery of what causes these “dreamers” to live exceptionally long lives and what he does about it is ultimately what causes the demise of the Ivu’Ivuan culture, island, and its peoples.

But even more disturbing than the ruination of this beautiful jungle home is Dr. Perina’s adoption of over 40 “lost” children and his treatment of them. Fantastic writing, but I found Dr. Perina to be a totally selfish, egotistical, arrogant character and I just could not get past his personality.  2/5 stars

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall *Review*

My grandmother said she prays for me every day.  Which was funny, because I’d only ever heard Mamie pray “Dear Lord, give me strength.”  That sure sounded like a prayer for herself- and Mrs. Knopp in Sunday school always said our prayers should only ask for things for others.  Once I made the mistake of saying that out loud to Mamie and got slapped into next Tuesday for my sassy mouth.  My mouth always worked a whole lot faster than my good sense.

graveSo starts the novel by Susan Crandall entitled Whistling Past the Graveyard, a coming of age story featuring nine-year-old Starla Claudelle whose  sassy mouth and need to stand up for what’s right tends to get her in trouble more often than not.

Seeing a girl she knows getting picked on by a bully Starla steps in and clocks the boy in the nose.  Her grandma grounds her and fearful that she’s going to miss all the fun on the fourth of July she sneaks out to watch the parade,  However, one of her nosy neighbors sees her and is getting ready to cart her home to her Mamie to face the music.  Scared that she’ll get in even more trouble and have to be sent to boarding school, Starla runs away.  She believes if she can make it to Nashville her mother Lulu, who is trying to become a country star in Nashville, will help her set things straight.  On her journey she meets Eula, a black woman in 1963 Mississippi, who is traveling with a white baby.  Eula has more secrets than where the baby comes from though!

Along their journey, Starla and Eula form a friendship and a bond so close that even the prejudices of the time can’t tear it apart, and Starla learns a valuable lesson about family.

Narrated in Starla’s voice, I was instantly drawn in by the opening paragraph.  The voice Susan uses for Starla is so believable I can easily picture Starla’s personality- and she has a big one.  Even though she’s a smart mouthed little bugger she has a heart of gold and can’t help opening her mouth when things aren’t right even when she’s warned it will cause less trouble if she just stays quiet.

Eula immediately captured my heart as a woman who has so much love to give that her heart is overflowing because she has no one to give it to until Starla comes along.  Eula has a troubled past and with the help of Starla she learns some lessons about herself as well.

I love, love, LOVED this book!  I took this novel camping with me and left it next to my sleeping bag while we ran to the nearest town for an hour one sunny afternoon for supplies.  By the time we got back to camp the skies had opened up and it was pouring…and I had forgotten to shut the windows in the tent!  The last 100 pages or so of this book where sopping wet.  I had to stand over the fire and dry the pages out so I could turn them without them tearing and disintegrating in my hands!  But well worth every extra minute I had to stand over the campfire while the smoke rolled! (let it be noted that I did not take the time to dry my sleeping bag!)

Please pick up this book.  I am predicting it will one day be a classic.  Starla is being compared to Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and with the echoes of the Deep South that run through both stories I think it’s a fitting comparison.

5/5 stars

 

I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan *Review*

be seeingIt’s January 1943 when Rita Vincenzo receives her first letter from Glory Whitehall. Glory is an effervescent young mother, impulsive and free as a bird. Rita is a sensible professor’s wife with a love of gardening and a generous, old soul. Glory comes from New England society; Rita lives in Iowa, trying to make ends meet. They have nothing in common except one powerful bond: the men they love are fighting in a war a world away from home.

Brought together by an unlikely twist of fate, Glory and Rita begin a remarkable correspondence. The friendship forged by their letters allows them to survive the loneliness and uncertainty of waiting on the home front, and gives them the courage to face the battles raging in their very own backyards. Connected across the country by the lifeline of the written word, each woman finds her life profoundly altered by the other’s unwavering support.

I loved this story of these two  long distance letter writing ladies who through tears, trials and time became “sisters” and best friends!  Glory picks a name out of a hat at a support group for military wives and starts writing to “Garden Witch” a woman in Iowa with a knack for gardening.  Soon “Garden Witch” a.k.a Rita starts writing back.  They pour out their dreams, fears, and souls to each other.  They pray for each other in times of sickness, give each other advice on victory gardening and even share recipes in times of rationing.   The bond they share is one that can not be broken by differences in age or distance in miles. They share a love for each other that is very strong.

I was intrigued to learn that the co-authors, as of the printing of this book,  had not met!  It makes the book more genuine to me to know they are not sitting next to each other on their laptops sharing ideas over the tops of their monitors.  For the most part they e”mail” letters back and forth to each other and that is how the story develops!

If you like books about friendship and the war years (but mostly about friendship) you will love this story and the women it.  4/5 stars

Already Home by Susan Mallery *Review*

Recently the book club I am in did its 2nd annual book swap.  This is not like a swap meet where you go to buy and choose the things you like.  This is “book swap” as in you get handed a book by someone else and you’re stuck with it.  You must read it.  Each year, The Bookies are asked to bring a favorite book of theirs all wrapped up.  These books are put in a pile and we take turns choosing a book out of the pile without knowing what we are getting or from whom.

Everyone in our book club has vastly different tastes in books which I think is one of the things that makes us so successful.  Many different opinions makes for very good book discussions.  And while you may not always agree with those opinions, you respect them and learn from them.  But, it can make a book swap a little scary!

already  homeThis year the book I picked out of a pile of wrapped up books was Susan Mallery’s Already Home.  Not as scary as a few of the other books that got picked…but not really my type of book.  It looked like a straight up starry eyed romance.  But I have learned to never judge a book by it’s cover!  🙂

Already Home had me almost from the beginning.  The author’s writing style flowed so easily.  It was simple to consume large amounts of text at one sitting.  But even better than the ease with which the words flowed was the strength of her characters.  I knew them and I loved them right away.

Already Home is about a woman named Jenna who left California to move back home to Texas after a divorce that shook her confidence.  Without thinking, she signs a three year lease on a retail establishment  intending for it to become a kitchen store  before she remembers she has no retail experience.  She’s just a chef, and questioning whether she’s even a good one.

Shortly after she opens her store a couple walks in and introduces themselves as her birth parents; people she has never had any desire to reconnect with because she loves Beth and Marshall, her adoptive parents unconditionally.  This kind of shakes her world.

Along with all of this, there is a strong subplot going.  Her employee Violet meets up with a man who is different then the bad boys she’s used to being involved with and she sets out to impress him.

I was emotionally invested in each of these characters.  From her loving adoptive mom Beth who encourages her to spend time getting to know her kooky, kind of hippy birth mother Serenity, to her employee Violet who becomes her best friend  and part of the family.  Each character had a warmth about them that I cherished.

I enjoyed this year’s book swap.  Hopefully, the book I put into another’s hand will be as loved  as this one was.     4/5 stars