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My Reviews

 
Book Club Recommended
Morning Glory a Beautiful Bouquet

In true Sarah Jio fasion, Morning Glory is a beautiful story - well really two stories. The author beautifully weaves a story of the past and a story of the present together to beautifully that it is easy to see how the two entertwine. Morning Glory is a story of finding love where you least expect it and not being afraid of falling in its wake. Mystery, intrigue and secrets abound in this beautifully woven story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
The Help

I did not find the book slow, but it took me some time to get in to the rhythm of the writing style. It was a poignant story surrounding the lives of several woman who, while separated by racial barriers, cultural perceptions and diverse upbringings, all shared a common invisible thread -- to be accepted and appreciated as themselves. For some that acceptance was hampered by years of prejudice and bigotry, and for others social status and rivaled wealth was ignorantly disguised as acceptance. The Help inspires one to be true to your heart, to act upon your convictions and to not be afraid to speak the truth.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Beautiful
The Book Thief

I like to feel engulfed by a book and its emotions. I found this a difficult read at first but once I found the flow of the narration, I was captivated. I found it to be a tearjerker, heart warming and very thought provoking. Definitely one I would like to pick up again and re-read just to relive the emotions brought on my the story, characters and circumstances.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Beautiful
The Art of Racing in the Rain

Any book that makes you laugh, think and cry HAS to be a good book. It was a wonderful, sweet story spanning the depth of love and definitely made me hug my dog a little longer each day since.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Life Changing
The Shack

A very insightful story that makes the heart examine not only your personal relationship with God, but the expectations that we place on our personal relationships. A thought provoking book that takes your soul on a journey of unconditional love, forgiveness and compassion.

The Lost Hours by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Beautiful, Interesting
The Lost Hours

A wonderful tale about how pain affects our relationships, about looking at someone from the inside, the value of friendship, and the strength of heartstrings.

These is My Words by Nancy Turner
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Inspiring
These is my Words

I found this a very difficult read at first. However, after about 70-80 pages, I couldn't put it down. Because it is written as a diary, I found myself caught up in her character, her struggles and her victories. It was a very realistic viewpoint of life in the Territories and gave you a great appreciation for the strength, courage and fortitude of those who look that era's lifestyle in stride.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Optimistic, Beautiful
Heaven is For Real

A very insightful book that causes one to reconnect with the promised beauty, serenity and peace that will be ours in heaven. Oh, that we could all be children again and view the world without sceptism, without question, without need of explanation - just believe and accept. Jesus DOES love the little children.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Pointless
The Distant Hours

An intoxicating novel and that I just COULD NOT put down. I was captivated by the images of the historic castle and you could almost feel yourself walking its dampened halls. Full of excitement, drama, the strength of family ties, this story held me in its grasp until the last page. Full of unexpected events, the plot was unexpected and brilliant. I was sad when the story had to come to an end.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Romantic, Interesting
the House at Riverton

I love stories that let you slip into yesteryear and surround you with the sights, sounds and lifestyle of times gone by. A dramatic story of locked-away secrets and loyalty. I love all Kate Morton novels.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Dramatic, Informative
Unbroken

I found the book interesting and informative and at the same time very disturbing. It was a long, difficult read for me. My son has completed two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan (each a 12 month deployment) and knowing the mental anguish these soldier endure being away from their families and knowing the risks of falling into enemy hands, this book left me very uneasy and even more worrisome for their safety than before. The ability of certain soldiers to forgive and place the human nature of revenge aside and in God's hands, gave me some comfort. However, for every soldier who learns to forgive, there are way too many who are tormented by such experiences.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful
A Northern Light

I enjoyed the book but I didn't feel like I really got to know the characters until the very end. The story line was pretty predictable but still a fun, entertaining read.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Dramatic, Epic
The Distant Hours

I love Kate Morton's books and this one was exceptional. Full of dark mysteries that captured my intrigue and imagination from page one. Great read full of many twists and turns.

The Beach Trees by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Brilliant
The Beach Trees

I love all Karen White stories. This story was excellent and, as always, blends both past and future, secrets that need to be told and secrets better kept silent. The book kept me coming back at every spare moment to savor another chapter. A great read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Dark
Before I Go to Sleep

I found this book captivating. It had my attention from the first chapter and I couldn't put it down. I ached for the main character's feeling of abandonment from her memory wanted to battle with her as she fought to retain her sanity, a glimmer of newfound hope and her knowledge that death was an inevitable death. A moving story that stays with you long after the cover is closed.

Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes
 
Interesting, Pointless, Unconvincing
Easter Island - went nowhere

I was gravely disspointed by the story. I felt betrayed by the characters I encountered and came to enjoy throughout the book that left me flat and saying "is that is?" at the end. I thought the book had such a potential for the weaving of lives and stories but I closed the book feeling like I was holding a string only and no needle with which to stitch the pieces together.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Informative, Beautiful
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I opened this book expecting one kind of story and closed the book having digested a completely different, unexpected tale. I can't say that it was a story that kept me anxiously awaiting each new chapter butyet there was something about the development of the characters, the depth with which I felt their emotions, that made me want to delve a little deeper into the story. It was an easy read, a story of family, of miscommunication, of trust and mistrust, of overcoming shadows and learning to walk in the light. A story of survival.

Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Beautiful, Optimistic
Emily and Einstein - what a joy!

Sometimes we just need to smile and laugh. This story certainly did both for me. Relationships are often hard to define and a woman's perspective can be totally different than a man's perspective of the same relationship. This was a wonderful story of personal growth, learning independence, accepting disappointment, and discovering unconditional love - even if it's in the form of a pet. A delightful story with much more depth than meets the eye.

 
Boring, Slow
The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

This was just an okay read. For me it appeared a hodgepodge of short stories that never really developed. Surface stories with only surface characters. It wasn't totally boring, but I was glad when I finished it and could go on to another story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Fun
Dog On It

Cute - cute - cute. I LOVE dog stories and this one rated right up there. It's no prize winner, but if you're in the mood for a fun read and love dogs, you'll laugh right along with Chet.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
Family Ties run Deep

By far NOT the best book I've ever read but I did enjoy the story at surface value. However, I felt the character of the older brother was deeply underdeveloped and while the storyline emotional maturity of the two younger children grossly overdeveloped for their ages. I was captivated by the devotion to family. I had a hard time creating a mental image of the timeline for the book because, intermingled with the old western stories and poems of the little girl, it kept feeling like the whole experience was happing in a much earlier time than 1963. I was left confused about the theme of the story .. it is okay to "run" from our sins as long as you're not caught? to aid and abet is okay if it's family or done in the name of the Lord?

 
Book Club Recommended
Epic, Dramatic
Oak Leaves - definitely a part of the mighty oak

A very touching story of the boundaries of love, blind faith and acceptance. I loved the interaction between present day and generations ago. Having spent much time doing genealogy, I found the secrets uncovered while exploring a family's past fascinating and exciting. It was only when I finished the story and read the close ties between the story and the author's personal experiences that the reality of the story hit home. A great book of faith and God's blessings and power.

The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Inspiring, Interesting
Stay a Recluse

I didn't really dislike the book, I just found it a bit predictable and many story lines going at the same time. The book left me feeling a bit down and feeling pity for the "recluse" and irritation towards others for not engaging in her life more. All in all, it was a quick, easy read but I don't know if I would recommend it to others.

War Horse: (Movie Cover) by Michael Morpurgo
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Optimistic, Dramatic
War Horse - A Story of Bonds

This was a very moving story that drew you in and almost made you feel the field clover beneath your feet and later the rumble of the grounds as the cannons and bombs explode around you. A simple story of the bonds that can develop between man and animal. I loved how the story was told from the horse's own words, which at first could sound strange, but it gave you such a profound sense that animals have feelings of joy and disappointment and fear, just like we do. While at times the story was disturbing to have the pain and torment of over working animals to such an extent and yet your heart keeps filling with an emotional anticipation that no war, no amount of miles, no amount of time will break a bond between two hearts and two lives.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Inspiring, Beautiful
Secrets of The Secret Garden

While The Secret Garden is looked upon as a children's story, adults are never too old to be reminded that it is far too easy to set limitations upon ourselves and others than it is to believe that everything is possible. It is a wonderful, sweet story of the innocence of children, overcoming boundaries set by overly cautious adults and the beauty and blessings that are out there waiting to anyone with an open mind.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Beautiful, Dramatic
Violets of March

After about 10-15 pages, I was hooked on this book and could not put it down. I love a mystery and especially one that deals with strong emotions and family ties. This is such a captivating story about uncovering the past so that the present will have meaning and the future can be more than a dream. The story unfolded in such a way that I never saw the end coming. Truth be told, I finished it and was so sad to see it end, I immediately had to skim through it a second time just to unlock all of my unanswered questions. And the answers are there - hidden in such a seductive way. A must read for anyone who likes a good mystery. I can't wait for her next book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Interesting
Water for Elephants

It took me a very long time to get the feel and flow the book. But I must confess, that about half way through I began to connect with the characters, had compassion for some and detest for others. The book was well written and made you feel part of the circus family. They are like their own society and upper class, lower class and the working class. I found some of the cruelty to animals almost more than I could bare. The book left with me a different look, however, on the circus and zoo animals - I fear we do them an injustice. My favorite parts of the book were those stories of th "old" Jacob in the nursing home and his outlook on life and growing old.

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson
 
Book Club Recommended
Optimistic, Inspiring, Insightful
One Good Dog (a difficult read)

I usually love a good dog story. I'm a sucker for the emotional bonding that transfers between owners and their pets. "One Good Dog" is an emotional story about overcoming pain, putting life into perspective and struggling to remain victorious. I picked the book up and then put it down several times before finishing the story. The descriptive nature of the dog fighting, the aftermath of wounds and death, the total disregard for an animal's life was, at times, more than I could bear. The intertwining of the lifes of both man and beast was a beautiful tale but the underlying "fighting" history was something I had difficulty letting go of. I'm not sorry that I read the story, but don't think it is one I would recommend to others. While all ends well, it still left me uneasy, bitter at the insensitivity of others and almost angry.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Fun, Beautiful
The Noticer

I found this book to be a delightful and entertaining read. Any book that stops and makes you think had fulfilled its duty and this book certainly did that. After reading this book, I have found myself taking great pains to "notice" others in proper perspective. I now notice I try to categorize people into what types of "love givers" they are and it has helped me understand the actions and reactions of certain loved ones and friends when it comes to showing love or admiration. How amazing that life and the lives of those around us can take on a different perspective when we, too, become a "Noticer".

The Girl in the Lighthouse by Roxane Tepfer Sanford
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Epic, Adventurous
The Girl in the Lighthouse

I did so enjoy the saga story of this family. From the first few pages, the author made me feel a part of their lives to the point you could almost taste the salted sea air around you. The curves, disappointments, opportunities and tribulations endured by this girl kept me wanting more, made me beg for torturous times to stop, and kept me hanging on to see if she continued to grow in her inner strength and convictions. I was disappointed when it ended, but am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Inspiring
Remarkable Creatures

I almost felt a better name for this book was "unremarkable creatures". I even struggled giving it a thumbs up, but the book did have its moments. While the story of Mary's struggles in poverty, her love for the sea and the secrets it washed ashore for her was interesting, I kept waiting for that "big" moment and it never arrived. Her near death experience on the beach was exciting and I almost thought that the author was going to let Mary become swept away in the very waves that held her future and her heart. It was a story of friendship, kinship, and a passion for something that is bigger than ourselves but I still found the book failing to draw me in. The one redeeming factor for this book (for me) was finding out (after the story was ended) that Mary was a real person and based on some real events. That fact alone, allowed me to give it a thumbs up. Just knowing that some of the struggles and trials faced by her were real and that she redeemed herself as an accomplished woman in spite of her adversities, made me saw it was a worthwhile read.

Leaving Before It's Over: A Novel by Jean Reynolds Page
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Leaving Before It\'s Over

I suggest you don\'t leave this story until it\'s over. Leaving Before It\'s Over is about the strength of family bonds - and how they can remain untouched over time, separation and alienation, no matter how far they are buried. I immediately fell captive to the story about two families, while seemingly thriving on their own, would eventually have to face their past and determine if there is a future. A father has to swallow his pride to ask for help from his estranged family and in turn receives much more than he bargained for. But there is a price to pay for everything and when faced with the challenge of building a relationship with a child he abandoned years ago or putting strains on the unsuspecting girls who now call him \"Dad\", the game and the rulebook is dictated by hearts, public opinion, priorities and bloodlines. An easy read that left me feeling glad I read it and reaffirmed the goodness that resides in all our hearts if we but listen.

The Memory of Water by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Adventurous
The Memory of Water

Karen White once again has written a wonderful story. Her books are always interlaced with family relationships, family secrets, and beautiful and descriptive settings. The Memory of Water is no exception. I think after reading just the first 20 pages I had a sense of living on the shore's edge and the lapping of the water was almost audible. There are 4 distinct characters in this book and it is divided among their individual thoughts and stories. It was a bit different flow than her other books, but I rather liked it. It gave me an opportunity to personally delve into the personalities of each one and be a part of their sorrow, fears and accomplishments. It is a story that continuously lures you to the water to unravel the mystery that happened 16 years ago that so affected the lives of once inseparable sisters. One sister remembers that night way too vividly while one has allowed time to wash away the memory in the manner in which the ebb and flow of the ocean's current can remove a footprint in the sand. But, alas, even the tide has a habit of returning bits of the seas's content back to us. Sometimes it just gets a little buried in the sand. Like the effects of an artist's hand, a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words - color this book worth the read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Fun, Informative
A Walk in the Woods is no walk in the park

I don't know when I have laughed so hard while reading a book. There is a style to Mr. Bryson's writing that is full of satire, friendly banter and sarcasm and it is impossible to read and not find the humor in humans and our reactions to our environment. This is a witty story of personal growth, achieving goals, finding true inner strength, and bonding with nature. While the factual parts of the book can seem a bit slow or dry, I did find that I walked away with a new awareness of our need to preserve and protect our forestry and a knowledge of just how much devasation and destruction we have caused for the sake of selfish and/or economic gains. I would best describe this book as a journey. Did it inspire me to want to don hiking gear and head for the hills? Definitely not - I'm not a noodle fan nor do I eat Snickers (read the book and you'll understand), but it did make me want to slow my life down and take in all of the beauty, serenity and open space that is there for us to enjoy if we would but take the time to breathe it in. It did make me realize that true friendships or relationships don't mean that we have to be constantly talking - that sometimes just time spent together in silence can be just as nurturing and fulfilling as conversation. "A Walk in the Woods" is a must read for men and women and don't try reading this with a compass in hand. You need to just read it and let it take you where it leads. Explore this story with an open mind, a compassion for human frailities and shortcomings, a desire to feel connected to nature, an ability to laugh and the knowledge that you don't have to sleep under the stars to appreciate their beauty.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Insightful, Interesting
What Alice Forgot (or is it chose to forget?)

How many times have we looked at some of our life choices and decisions and said, "If I had the chance to do it all over again, would I react or choose the same?" The answer is pointless, because it can never happen. But WHAT IF?????? "What Alice Forgot" is a poignant story about a women who awakens from a head injury to a world that was years ago, back before she had her first child, back when she was still in love with her husband, back when life was slow and easy. It is a wonderful story about several lives that have taken separate and lonely paths and along the way have forgotten to even miss those things that used to make them happy. Throughout the book the reader is drawn to the familiar image of a wife and mother whose life takes on changes and alterations in order to cope with hectic schedules, family demands and multi-tasking. But in the end we must all ask ourselves if the changes we make as we grow in our relationships and lifestyles are voluntary or a product of our environment? Has what used to be the center of our happiness been overlooked or taken for granted? What has been sacrificed in our lives in order to be perceived as 'successful"? This is a thought provoking story that speaks to you long after the cover is closed. Which is a good thing - lest we forget what Alice forgot.

Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Defending Jacob - Blind Justice

This was a gripping story that had me from the first chapter. I didn't think I would like the story line but found myself wanting to find guilt with everyone but Jacob. It is so easy as a parent, as a spouse, or just as a friend to be blinded to what is right before our eyes for the sake of what we call "love". Even when the truth strikes us in the face, it can be easier to explain away the reasons why rather than to think "why not?". The story is filled with emotions that tear away at your heart and you want to weep with the characters. An exciting read, "Defending Jacob" proved that in the depths of our souls, even if the depth is not comfortable, recognizable or appealing, that love is NOT always blind - even if justice says otherwise.

Pieces of the Heart by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Slow, Inspiring
A Piece of the Heart - Missed the Beat

I have always loved Karen White's books. However, I found this one much too predictable and I had the entire plot figured out during the first chapter. I was hoping for more and walked away with less. I can't say that I didn't like it, but it did not captivate me and draw me in like her normal stories.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic
A Secret Kept - a better secret than a book?

I dearly loved "Sarah's Key" and was excited to read "A Secret Kept". While the story was captivating, it in no way measured up to Sarah's Key. I found the story a bit slow and predictable and without an proper ending. While I think the book offers a lot of room for discussion, I can't put it among my favorite books.

The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Interesting
The Language of Flowers - a beautiful bouquet

The Language of Flowers was a beautiful yet sad story of the struggles of one girl, Victoria, while she tries to overcome a life of abandonment. Her lack of self-worth leads her on a road to destruction wherein she is determined to keep everyone at a distance and allow no one near her heart. Her only solace is flowers. Her knowledge and ability to speak with flowers creates a language unto itself. This was a heart-warming story that caused me to study the flowers I feel drawn to and wonder what story they tell. Sometimes words unspoken can be just as powerful (or more) than those uttered aloud - so goes The Language of Flowers.

A World I Never Made by James Lepore
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Insightful
A World I never Made

My son has served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and I sometimes have difficulty reading stories that deal with terrorists and/or fanatic Muslims. However, I was drawn into this story from a parent's perspective as the father searches so diligently for a daughter who missing. Though her disapperance has just made itself known, the fact that his daughter has been "lost to him" since childhood haunts him and offers him one last chance to reconnect. A moving story about the lengths one can go in the name of love.

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Interesting
A Heart Warming Story

I found this book in the bargain bin and it ended up being worth a fortune. The book covers the life story of one Hennie Comfort and what a "comfort" she truly is to all those around her. It is filled with stories of laughter and tears and brings home the hardships and tribulations lived by those in early America, those who ventured out West and those who gave up all in search of a dream. The theme of quilting is gently woven through out the story like a thread that ties all of the stories together, creating almost a kite string that leads up to the anchor that holds it all in place. As much as Hennie inspires those around her with wisdom, truth and friendship, she carries her own anchor that has weighed heavy on her heart for a lifetime. Her quilted life cannot be complete until she mends the threads that became unraveled in her past. Her journey is insightful and the outcome beautiful and moving.

The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal
 
Poorly Written, Boring, Pointless
Reluctant Reader seeks more than Reluctant Matchmaker

I found The Reluctant Matchmaker extremely predictable and poorly written. It read like a dime store romance novel but with even less romance. The author could have given the reader so much more by delving into the history, agony, pros and cons of arranged marriages, but instead she appeared to have scaled down the story to be appealing to a junior high level reader who hasn't discovered adjectives and descriptive writing. For me a story has to grab my attention, hold me in its grasp and make me want more. Unfortunately, it only made me want to know how many more pages until it was over.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Romantic, Beautiful
Perhaps what it needed was a few MORE words

The story was an easy read, a light romance that brought together both the present and the past. It reminded me somewhat of a Karen White story, but with much less intrigue and mystery. I enjoyed the story but felt there wasn't much depth to the plot and had the potential to be much more. All in all, however, it was enjoyable and told the story of forgiveness, regrets and unspoken thoughts. A good relaxing summer book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Dramatic
"Truly" a Giant of a Story

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is a captivating story or endurance, perseverance and personal strength. Unusually large since before birth, "Truly" proves to have a heart in proportion to her size. The attention given to each character in this story is beautiful (while the characters themselves might not be) and by the end you have collected a large bouquet of persons whose lives are so intricately woven with one another. This story shows in black and white how cruel we can be to those who appear different from the mold we have set for our peers, how quickly we judge and how even "thick skin" can't always absorb the painful jabs spoken from another's lips. It was a life journey story and I did so enjoy all the lives I got to meet along the way of Truly's journey. I was sad when the story had to end and I just wanted to rest a while with her and cherish her victory.

Sea Change by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Dramatic, Interesting
Sea Change was a Wave of Emotions

Like all Karen White stories, they draw you in immediately and contain such descriptive visuals that you can swear you are standing amid her imaginery scenery. Once again she weaves a tale of family ties, unspoken and unexplained connections that almost defy human nature. I firmly believe that there are some instances from the past that continue to scream out for justice, for a voice to be heard to set things right. Sometimes it just takes a soul willing to open itself up to welcome visions from the past. Sometimes we have to close our eyes in order to see the truth staring us in the face. Karen White creates characters with such depth and sensitivity and makes you feel you've known them forever. Sea Change was a story of the power of love, the bonds of commitment and a burning desire for the truth.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Slow
To Know or Not to Know - that is the question

Things I Want My Daughters to Know was an interesting story of what words, memories, advice, etc. you would leave your children if facing a fatal disease. I enjoyed the individual stories of the 4 daughters but kept waiting for their lives to innertwine in some way. In that respect the book missed the boat, but it was a thought provoking story and left you wondering if some secrets should just go with us to the grave.

 
Interesting, Slow
A Bit too Slow for Me

I thought the premise of the book had a good theme but I found the story line a bit slow and pointless at times. It is a story riddled with lost loves, lost family, lost dreams, lost ambitions and lost books. Usually I can get "lost" in any story about books, and frankly it was the only theme that held my interest. While it wasn't a bad story, when I closed the cover my immediate thought was, "okay, what can I read next". A GOOD book should leave you pondering the story, asking questions, and finding that a bit of the story lingers with you.

The Color of Light by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Beautiful, Insightful
Grab your Sunglasses because The Color of Light Shines

I am such a huge fan of Karen White stories and this one did not disappoint. Her stories are always filled with strong family bonds (whether old, new or renewed). The story of Jillian whose less then perfect childhood (described as a child whose sharp bones of her face and body jutted out like those of a starved child but it was known even then that she was only starved of all those things that were freely given to other children) trickles into her adult life with doubts of her ability to love and be loved, to nurture, to be a mother. Full of mystery, intrigue and hidden secrets, this story tells of the story of the strength found in overcoming adversity, the will to endure through the encouragement of others and finding your place in life. A hearty warming story that will keep you guessing until the end.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Optimistic
Harold Fry - my new hero

Oh, to have the courage of Harold Fry -- to embark on a journey of such understanding, self-awareness and to open your eyes to a world you forgot was there, was truly a walk to remember. The author creates such a visual atmosphere that after a few chapters the muscles in your own legs ache from the feel of taking each step along with Harold. It is a must read for all those whose lives have been redirected over the years due to circumstances, desires (or even lack of desires). It is almost a spiritual awakening to those things that used to give your life meaning and reconnecting with the feelings and people who fulfilled you as a person. As Harold says, "Life is very different when you are walking through it." We could all take lessons from Harold and learn to stop and smell the roses. This story will make you laugh and it will make you cry. Most important, it will make you feel, it will make you think, it will make you want to pick up your walking shoes and begin a pilgrimage of your own. (However, I suggest you start out with something in the 10-20 mile radius to begin with.)

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Fun, Beautiful
Firefly Lane was a walk down Memory Lane

I can't quite put my finger on exactly why I liked this book - there was no mystery, no cliff hanger moment and yet I couldn't put it down. I was filled with nostalgia and began to get lost in my own childhood friendships - those that last a lifetime -- that friend whose name comes up when you mention your "best friend" even though you may not have spoken in years. This was a beautiful story of two girls coming of age, a life-long bond of friendship, the need for a sense of family and the ability to heal a broken heart with a smile. It's not a deep story, there is no hidden secrets, and yet it clings to your heart strings and leaves you wanting more. I laughed, I cried and I had many moments when I just had to stop and ponder my youth -- with a smile.

Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson
 
Book Club Recommended
Difficult, Confusing
Hanna's Daughter - a bit disjointed

I can't put my finger on exactly why I didn't like the book. I loved the first part about Hanna but after her tale, the story seemed a bit disjointed - running back and forth and there were sentences and paragraphs that seemed to misplaced - like something was lost in a translation. I gave it a thumbs up because there were some good book club discussions topics to be found, but all in all, I was just waiting for the book to be over. On my own personal book club rating, I gave it a thumbs down.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Beautiful
Invest in some good Walking Shoes

Some loved the book and others were just so-so. Not so sure that the book isn't more meaningful to those of mid-life age and older. The need to see your life in full view, to accept what has been and to plan for what will be, is a bit more believable and understandable to those who have "lived" life and are now at a crossroads. Harold tale is a beautiful story of a journey of purpose, of opening your heart and sharing your life with those around you. A heart warming (and heart wrenching) story that will make you laugh and cry and hopefully inspire you to pick up your walking shoes and begin a journey of your own.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
You'll want to grab a life jacket for this one.

If you don't don a floatation device before reading this story, you are sure to get sucked in by the aftermath of the storm. What a beautiful story that centers around a man who has seen "more than any human should have to see" during WWI. A man confused as to why he survived the war and his battle buddies did not - he looks to a life of solitude as a lighthouse keeper. Before leaving for his home on the seas, however, he meets and falls in love with the woman who will ultimately bring hope and love to his suffering heart. The love story is beautiful and touching, but then the tempest of the waves ensue. The old saying that "for ever action there is a reaction" is never more true than in this story. It is a heart wrenching story of longing to fulfill a void in your life, doing whatever it takes to fill that void, and then facing the repercussions of your actions. And there you have the premise of "A Light Between Oceans". You have a lighthouse representing stability, shelter from the storm, a beacon of hope and an anchor of safety. But rarely do we get a chance to forever stay in our comfort zone. And the view from the lighthouse clearly depiucts on one side a calm ocean full of hopes, dreams and happiness and on the other side a violent whiplash of waves bringing betrayal, despair and loneliness. Who are we to decide who gets to reside on which ocean? This is one of those stories that will tug at your heart strings long after the cover is closed.

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Inspiring
The Time Keeper Wasn't Timeless

I enjoyed the book and it was a very fast read. I don't think it makes for a great discussion book as it is more of a personal perception of how we often live our lives around a time schedule rather than living through our heart. The book invoked thought and reflection but I was expecting much more from this story.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Interesting
The Kitchen Daughter simmers with great flavor

This book was a fun and interesting read about family, grief and connections. Whimsical at times, it flowed with the sweet consistency of warm cocoa and at times gave off a scent of pungent sizzling garlic. It speaks of the lengths we go to protect our children without thought of how that protection can become an imprisonment to them. It speaks of dealing with grief, the value of memories and the promise of a tomorrow.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Romantic
The Secret Keeper was Secret to the End

Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors and this book now sits at the top of my all time favorites. I love the lengths she goes to develop her characters and my favorite parts were those in bomb torn London. They were so descriptive you could almost hear the nightly shellings. This story intertwines so many lives and wish such subtlety that you don't even see it happening. This story weavs a tale of friendship, family ties, buried secrets and a need for the truth. I didn't want the story to end and came up with every possible explanation for the "secret" but end the end I was still absolutey blown away. Didn't see that finale coming at all and read the "truth" page 3 times to make sure I was reading it correctly. Wow - Kate Morton outdid herself on this one. A must read for every lover of generational stories, historical fiction and mystery solvers.

Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
 
Book Club Recommended
The Rose Garden bore no thorns

I've read this authors book, "The Winter Sea" and loved the historical aspect of the story. Much like Winter Sea, The Rose Garden also deals with past and present and weaves a captivating story. A beautiful love story that transcends time and space to ask the question, "where do I belong?" With some unexpected twists at the end, this story kept me wanting to come back for more. And when the cover is finally closed you are left with the realization that the places and times in our childhood (and adulthood) that seem to bring to mind such wonderful memories, have nothing to do with the location or time, but merely the people with whom we shared those moments.

State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Dramatic
Much to Ponder (or Wonder)

I can\\\'t explain why I got sucked in to this story, but it happened. I think at first I thought there was going to be some mysterious climax at the end (which there really wasn\\\'t) but for whatever reason, the author made me feel I was taking the journey along with Marina. I kept wanting to swat bugs and insects; I could almost hear the humming as unknown species in the jungle called out to one another. I thought the author was very descriptive and that the story opened up many topics upon which to \\\"wonder\\\", e.g., the morality of drug testing, the sacrifices made in the name of science, the ethical ability to alter one\\\'s child-bearing years, the paths we choose for ourselves and our careers based on fears, actions of others and a need for acceptance. I actually grew to like the book even more once the cover was closed and I had time to ponder all of the elements of the story. It was not a book I would have chosen for myself to read, but I am VERY glad I read it and was captivated by the story.

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
 
Book Club Recommended
Life Changing, Dramatic, Inspiring
Beautiful Wildflower Bouquet

This was a beautiful story of a woman who overcame obstacles to find her inner strength, the ability to say "I can" and true love. This was a rich story that made you feel compassion for the character and disgust for how quickly we pass judgment on others. It was a story of "unconventional" predicaments and circumstances in a world that accepted only "conventional" ways of life. The story of one woman's struggle to be a mother, to be independent, to find joy in life, created the foundation for a modern day woman to find the courage to overcome similar obstacles. The author did a good job of character development but I felt the story fell a bit short in the end. I am not crazy about books that leave the ending up to the reader. All in all - it was a most enjoyable read.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Confusing
"Life of Pi" Missed the Boat

I found the book an interesting read that posed many self-evaluating questions. It was filled with symbolism and interwoven stories. For those reasons, I gave it a thumbs up. Unfortunately, I felt the story dragged on forever, was overly gruesome and graphic in its depiction of eating animals, people, etc. I'm not sure what all of the hype was about over this story - but I can at least say I gave it my best shot.

The Devil's Cradle (Kendall O'Dell Mystery series) by Sylvia Nobel, Max Lebowitz, Christy Moeller
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous
The Devils Cradle Rocked

This was a Free Friday book on my Nook that had been sitting in my library for some time. In between book club picks, I opened it up and the story began. I found this a captivating story with many possible outcomes. Just when I thought I had figured the mystery out, I would be thrown another curve. It was a fun read but I did find some parts of the ending to be a bit far-fetched. Overall, it was very entertaining and made you think about human behavior when it comes to greed and keeping secrets.

The Island: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Romantic
The Island Was a Great Get-Away

While the story was fairly predictable, the author did a wonderful job of developing the characters and creating a realistic feel of spending quiet solitary days on the shore. A story of four females (a mom, her two daughters and her sister) who each are dealing with their own internal turmoil, find a way to bond together and strengthen not only themselves but their family ties to one another. A good summer read.

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
 
Interesting, Slow, Confusing
Lake of Dreams Caused Insomnia

This book kept many of our readers up at night and not because the story was so engrossing, but because we all had trouble following the plot, the characters and their purpose. The book left so many unanswered questions and most all agreed the characters were without depth. Everyone lived in "The Lake of Dreams" but their entire lives appears to be unfilled dreams and unattainable wishes. Our club agreed perhaps we had read too many Karen White books and few match up to her writing technique - this one included. The weaving of the past and present in this story found many loose threads and frayed edges.

Tangled Ashes by Michèle Phoenix
 
Book Club Recommended
Epic, Insightful, Interesting
Tangled Ashes Comes From Woven Secrets

This is a tale of two stories intricately woven together that entales family ties, inner demons and overcoming fears. I loved both stories of France during WWII and the renovation of a 12th century French castle. A bit predictable, the story found credibility in the strength of its characters and the challenges they faced. Sometimes we all need a cold slap in the face to bring us back to reality and we learn that what we feared the most is what makes us strong.

The Lifeboat: A Novel by Charlotte Rogan
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Poorly Written, Insightful
The Lifeboat - Don't Abandon the Ship

The Lifeboat was a dramatic story of a young new bride who escapes a sinking ship along with 39 other passengers. Their 21 day journey is filled with a gamut of emotion -- faith, abandonment, horror, despair and a bit of hope. A heart wrenching story, this tale gives rise to many moral and ethical issues that people must cross in the face of mortal peril. This was not a "feel-good" story, but is packed full of great discussion questions and the unpredictability of human nature. This was a quick read for me - only because I couldn't put it down.

Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolin
 
Book Club Recommended
Executive Privilge Worth the Price

I received this book as one of the Free Friday books on my Nook. It has sat in my library for some time and while browing for something new to read, I opened it. I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the mystery of the story (event though I had it figured out about half-way through). The book was very entertaining and follows the pitfalls when dealing with breadth of governmental arms that leave little room in which to hide. Well worth my "free" cost, but I would have enjoyed it had I paid full price.

The Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Romantic, Optimistic
Stars Shined for The Moon Looked Down

This was a quick read but a good story about how the prejudice and biased opinions of one against a race, religion or culture can wreak havoc and despair on the lives of innocent people. A heart-warming story about how love, trust and courage can prevail, even in the face of the enemy. No mysteries to this story, pretty predictable, but a good read all the same.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Fun, Beautiful
A Purposeful Story

A Dog's Purpose was a beautiful story of life through a dog's eyes. I like to think that we all have a purpose in life, something we were meant to achieve or bring to the world -- and who is to say that it is any different for animals. It may have taken the dog 4 or more lives to find his purpose but what a heartwarming and learning experience he got along the way. A delightful read that made me smile, cry and laugh.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Romantic
The Secret's Out

All of our members agreed they really enjoyed Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper. We were split between some feeling the book held too much unneeded details and other feeling the detail of the book help create a more graphic picture of the scenery and characters. The story deals with three time frames, war-torn London in 1941, a country farm in 1969 and modern day 2011. There is a thread of mystery combining all the eras that is beautifully displayed by Miss Morton. The descriptive nature in which she weaves the stories of WWII London were so realistic you could almost smell the dust and smoke of the bombings' aftermath. A beautifully written mystery that leaves you hanging until the end. This is a story of abandonment, redemption and forgiveness and lets us know that we all deserve happiness and need to learn to accept it when it presents itself.

The Time Between by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Time Spent Between Cover Page to End Well Worth the Journey

Karen White is one of my favorite authors and her latest The Time Between did not disappoint. Two separate stories dealing with loss, guilt and secrets locked away in the heart, Eleanor and Helena find a common thread that draws their lives to one another like a magnet. We have all experienced great loss in our lives and, for those losses that hurt the most, have experienced the 'All shut-eye ain't sleep' mode. But like Eleanor and Helene, we all must accept that life is for the living and to merely exist in fear, in solitude or a mundane life without purpose is to like walking in your sleep. For some the shut-eye period can be a few days, a few years, or in some cases, like this story, years or even a lifetime. This is a beautiful story of the depth and strength of love between family; it is a story of loss; it is a story of hidden guilt; it is a story of forgiveness and redemption. The two strong-willed female characters in this story together discover forgiveness, acceptance and renewed hope for the future. A beautiful read and a great discussion book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Adventurous
Seduction Delivers

Seduction was a somewhat dark story shrouded in intrigue and mystery. With three distinct stories, each with their own voices from the past, the thread of seduction becomes woven so tight that it pulls the 3 stories together through a romantic yet eerie process. I am not a fan of the occult, but this historical fiction grabbed my attention from the first page and there was such a poetic feel to the sections regarding Victor Hugo. A beautiful story of the depth of grief a heart can reach. A wonderful story and the makings of a great discussion book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Brilliant
Strangeness abounds with the Strange Case of Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde

A timeless classic, Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde shows us the potential we all have to leave the bounds of human decency, forget compassion for others and delve into the madness that comes with self absorption, no conscious and no shame. This may be a short story, but is long and powerful in its message.

Falling Home by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Romantic, Insightful
Fell in Love with Falling Home

In true Karen White form, this book speaks to the depth of family ties and the internal need we all have to belong to some place or someone. This is a beautiful story of the love of two sisters, though estranged for nearly 15 years, who still share a common bond of love. This is a story that makes you laugh and makes you cry. A bit of a Sweet Home Alabama story, but made me long to live in a place like Walton where heritage and compassion is as everyday as coffee and cream.

 
Book Club Recommended
Didn't Make Me Want to Move to Alaska

If You Lived Here I Would Know Your Name was not a nobel prize winning book, but it was a fun read. A non-fiction story about a family who lives in small-town Alaska. The wife-mother writes the local obituaries and through her eyes you get to know the townspeople, their way of life and the hardships endured by living in Alaska. I loved the closeness that comes with neighbors in a small town and the amount of compassion shown towards one another. Life is hard and accidents and death seem to be plentiful in this town, but together they pull together. There is nothing captivating or dramatic about this story, but it did give me respect for their way of life and appreciation for my own.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Inspiring, Romantic
Can find no fault with this story

The Fault in our Stars is a moving story of a group of young teens/adults who are suffering from cancer or in remission. The story is fiction but gives great insight into the mindset of not only the disease and the diseased patient but the effect it has on the caregivers as well. It is obviously not a FEEL GOOD or a HAPPY EVER AFTER story, but it delivers many moments that will make you laugh and some that will make you cry. A gripping story that would make a great discussion book. Above all, it provides an outlet in which to count your blessings and those who bless your life.

The Entitled by Frank Deford
 
Book Club Recommended
A Bit TOO Entitled

The Entitled is several stories rolled into one. It begins as a story about a man whose life dream is to make it in the big leagues. When that dream falls short, he spends the remainder of his adulthood striving to make it big as an MLB manager and these efforts cost him his marriage and relationships with his children. Enter a big star player whose feats have gone to his head and you have the makings of this book. Each man, old and young, has their own haunts, fears and obstacles to overcome and each must decide what (or who) they must give up in order to obtain their goal. I love baseball, so I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspect of a players life, but was disappointed when neither character stepped up to the plate to defend or admonish a young woman who was raped. I personally don't feel that any of us are entitled to anything more than the next person. What we receive in life is usually measured by what we give in life. I felt this story fell a bit short when both men felt entitled to skip over the truth in order to further themselves and their careers. I wasn't sure what kind of message the author was trying to send. I thought the story was well written, but was disappointed by the lack of character or backbone of both men. I am not a feminist, but it was obvious that this book was written by a man who could not possibly comprehend the magnitude of emotional and internal scarring that follows being raped. I am afraid he missed the boat in the end. Had it not been for the baseball aspect, which I enjoyed, I probably would have given this a thumbs down.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Fun
Simmer at a Low Heat

From the Kitchen of Half Truth emerges a beautiful story of a mother\'s love. Seductively hidden amid the magical, mystical stories she has created for her daughter all of her life, is hidden the truth of Valerie\'s life -- and the hurt, rejection and abuse have caused her to create a world for her daughter void of anything but fantasy, flavors and laughter. Daughter Meg struggles with the endless imaginery stories of her childhood and upon the impending death of her mother seeks answers she feels she needs in order to bring order and meaning to her life. Little does she realize that what her mother gave her will inspire her to forge ahead in life and open her eyes to the beauty and lives around her. This was a whimsical, beautiful story that caused me to laugh, shake my head in anger at times and made me shed tears. Fact is stranger than fiction? Perhaps. And the truth shall set you free? Be careful what you ask for. Either way, there is much truth to be had in the Kitchen of Half Truth -- an inspiring read for all mothers.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
A Few Too Many Straight Answers in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was an interesting and dramatic story about two boys (one white and one black) who developed a friendship one summer. Little did either realize the invisible bonds between them and the secrets each would carry that impacted the other's life. Larry has been under suspicion for years over the disappearance of a young teenage girl. Silas has returned to the town of his mid-teens as a constable when, 25 years later, another young girl comes up missing. Naturally Larry is the first suspect on the list. I thought the author did a good job presenting a very vivid image of each character and I felt both compassion and disgust for each. I was expecting a few more twists or plots within the story and felt it had a pretty predictable ending. I would have much preferred a bit more mystery and felt the ending was weaker than the rest of the story. Even with that being said, I think that it provides much in the way of a good discussion book.

The Rockin' Chair by Steven Manchester
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring
The Rocking Chair was Rock Solid

The Rocking Chair is a story of a family that has become estranged over the years. With the impending death of the Grandma (from Alzheimers) the family must finally face the obstacles that have kept them apart. The wise Grandfather is the patriarch of the family, but even he has unresolved issues with his own son. The story is touching and full of sound advice. I found it pretty predictable and there is no earth shattering mystery to it all, but I did feel that it could make a good discussion book on how easy it is for families to drift apart with thoughts and feelings are left unspoken. A feel good read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Scary
Little Symmetry for this Reader

I gave the book a thumbs up because I liked the historical stories of the old cemetery and how it was described. However, I felt the story lacked in many areas. The story started off with hope of a good mystery (and there were some "gotcha" moments) but I felt the story fell flat in believability and human nature. Throughout the entire book there is dialog and immediately following in italics what the speaking person is thinking. That writing technique drove me crazy. Without giving the story away, it had some interesting twists in the end, some predictible, others not so much, but I generally felt that the book was leading up to some pinnacle ending and then just died off. I was expecting a story of a mother's love, the unseen connection between twins but was given a story of deceit, selfishness and lifetimes of heart-felt longings.

Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Interesting
Gone Girl

The setting is a 5-year wedding anniversary when the wife suddenly comes up missing. Police are focused on the husband and the story begins. This book is so much more than just a who-done-it. In all honesty, there was not a character in the book that was a GOOD character. Everyone had their flaws, weaknesses and secrets -- perhaps that is what made this book so captivating. A very deep, well-thought out plot, this story takes you through the lives of two individuals (and their families) all struggling to find out who they are, how to break from the past while trying to keep their heads above water, financially and emotionally. This book was a roller coaster ride to say the least and in the end there was no GOOD guy, just an appropriate justice for the crimes committed. Be sure and find yourself some quiet time to read this, because you will NOT want to be interrupted. I think this book has the makings of an excellent movie. A must read!

Flora: A Novel by Gail Godwin
 
Book Club Recommended
Flora

Take a 10-year old girl, who lost her mother at age 3, a father who is present but spiritually absent, raised by fostered by her grandmother who has just recently died, and you have the story of Flora. Little Helen's father takes a job in another town and hires his late wife's cousin, Flora, from Alabama to come spend the summer with his daughter. Flora is a simple hearted girl and it is sometimes difficult to see who is the adult and responsible person, the grown cousin or the 10-year old child. Either way, it is a summer of complications, misunderstandings and a learning experience for both. There was not a lot of depth to this story and at times it felt like it read a bit too elementary, but all in all, the story was enchanting, heartbreaking and interesting. A good discussion book on how the events of our lives shadow and shape our future.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Beautiful
The End of Your Life Bookclub

This is a moving and heart-warming story of one mother's journey at the end of her life - a journey of learning, growing and giving. While the outcome is known from the start, it was a beautiful story of the girst we leave family in the way of thoughts, deeds and insight into living - truly living. A good discussion book and a book that, for me, has offered a wide selection of additional books to put on my reading list.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Boring
Empty Mansions Full of Information

This is the story of Hugette Clark, sole surviving child of copper-baron W. H. Clark. While unknown to most, she was perhaps the wealthiest woman in the world. She passed away just 2 weeks shy of her 105th birthday. I really liked this book, especially because it spanned the life of her father as well as Hugette, so you came to know where the family's wealth started. The book affords a glimpse into the life of the rich and famous (and not-so-famous) in vivid detail. I closed the book not knowing whether to feel pity for Hugette that she lived such a recluse life or be glad that she lived the life she wanted and chose (IF that is the life she actually wanted). It was an interesting story with gift amounts, monthly living expense amounts and donation amounts that were mind boggling. What was more mind boggling was the length of her life and all of the technology she must have witnessed in nearly 105 years. I am intrigued by her life, her story and am determined now to watch for the outcome of her estate settlement. The rhythm of the book was a bit choppy, moving around from time to time and there appeared to many stories that got repeated, but all in all it was a very informative story describing a life that few of us will every know or understand. It must be a good book if it leaves you wanting more or spurs a desire to research the subject more in-depth.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Difficult, Dark
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

The Picture of Dorian Gray is an old classic story and yet still speaks today of the ugliness and unattractiveness that becomes a person when morals and ethics are set aside for want of pleasure. The reality is that there is no fountain of youth and no means by which we can escape the aging process. There is also no way in which our soul can escape the reaction to choices we make in our lifestyle. While truly a fiction story, this tale depicts how we are unable to hide - even from ourselves -- when we let evil, ruthlessness, envy and deceit into our lives. While the writing holds the old English descriptive style of writing and entails many French poetic lines, the meaning still comes through loud and clear -- we cannot run from ourselves.

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
An Affair of the Heart

Where We Belong is a beautifully written story that tells the tale of young love, an unplanned pregnancy, an adoption and a life of something missing. Pregnant at 18 Marian, with the help of her mother, adopts out her baby girl to someone who is better equipped financially and emotionally to raise her daughter. Hidden from everyone, never a word is spoken of the child until 18 years later when she arrives at Marian\'s doorstep. The story displays the lives of many who were effected by Marian\'s decision, the emotional tole it has taken on others and the realization that sometimes the truth IS better than fiction. It is a heartwarming story that shows forgiveness is always possible, that blood is thicker than water and that honesty, openness and even humility are traits that make us all human. A feel-good book with much room for good discussion.

Six Years by Harlan Coben
 
Book Club Recommended
Unconvincing, Dramatic, Romantic
Six Years Was Worth the Wait

Imagine meeting the love of your life, only to watch them suddenly marry another. And dig the knife in a bit deeper, you actually get an invitation to the wedding but following the cermony you are made to promise to forget them, never come looking for them, forget they existed. So starts the story of Six Years. A riviting story where nothing is as it seems and even when you think you have it figured out - you don't. This story tells the ends a person will go to follow their heart, no matter the danger, no matter the consequences. Some loves are worth dieing for and some just need to stay buried. Six Years was worth digging for the truth.

Bellman & Black: A Novel by Diane Setterfield
 
Book Club Recommended
Better the Second Time Around

I dearly LOVED The Thirteenth Tale and made the mistake of reading Bellman & Black with the expectations that I would receive a similar story. Not going to happen. I closed the book disappointed and confused because I kept waiting for the big wow factor and it did not materialize. The next day I was plagued with the thought that I had missed something in the story - that there was a substance I failed to inhale as I swept over the pages. So I cleared my mind of any pre-conceived notions, tried to forget completely the authors first book and closed the cover with a total different frame of mind. While the story still held no big plots, and really no characters with whom I found much depth or substance, except Mr. Bellman, I think I found the meaning. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone so I won't enter my final opinions. Suffice it to say that Bellman & Black is the story of one man's journey in life, his joys, his sorrow and his own internal torment. I found no ghosts - just the hauntings he brought upon himself. With a hint of Dorian Gray and a sprinkling of the story of the Devil and Daniel Webster, Bellman & Black makes one pause and give thought to the memories they will leave behind when the rook comes to call. I am so glad I gave the book a second chance to speak to me. For Setterfield fans, I hope you will read with an open mind too.

 
Dark, Slow, Dramatic
The Goldfinch Didn't Fly For Me

I knew when I started a book that was 737 pages that I was in for a long read. However, I had hoped it would be worthwhile. I was drawn in during the first 100 pages as you are introduced to the main character, his non-existent relationship with his run-away father and the closeness he feels to his mother. I felt the beginnings of a very moving story - even after the death of his mother. This happens early in the book so I am not giving anything away. But after about 200 pages a life filled with too much alcohol, then pot, then pills, then on to harder drugs seemed to take over the book. The author is very descriptive (thus the 737 pages) but I truly tired of all of the drunken and drugged out days and nights. There were some interesting characters in the book who had the possibility of depth and morality, but the author seemed too keen on showing nothing but individuals with no morals, ethics, backbone or common sense. The ending was a bit too far fetched for me. It was filled with scumbags whose lives revolved around drugs and yet they miraculously had the know-how, money and connections to lead them to international black market high-end art dealers? I just didn't find the story very convincing and overall had a very dark and lonely feel to it.

 
Book Club Recommended
Scary, Confusing, Fantastic
The Ocean at the End of the Lane Not a Dead End

A whimsical story that on the surface speaks of spirits, timeless creatures and places and a mystical childhood for one little boy who befriends a little girl who is not all she seems. When you close the cover you begin the journey to find the story within the story. Much like Life of Pi, what is a story of finding strength in times of darkness, of overcoming fears, of losing innocense and catching the first glimpse of man's cruelty to man? Or -- was it just a fun story of the unimaginable, the unbelievable and the brief hope that magic is real? It may be a quick read but it is long on discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Beautiful, Insightful
The Obituary Writer

This may have been a quick read but the story sticks to your ribs like bread. Two lives intertwined that may up a beautiful story. The story of 1916 and the Obituary Writer was so beautiful. Her talent for presenting such a beautiful and memorable story of a person's life, no matter the span of that life, was absolutely beautiful. I loved the compassion she felt for her subjects and the respect and compassion I had for her character the more I read. The story from the 1960's was a different story all together. Having grown up in the 60's, I enjoyed all of the talk of Kennedy, Jackie's clothes, etc., the serene description of neighborhood evenings in the summer with all of the families on the porch and kids playing. However, I struggled with the less than loyal attitude of the wife and the turmoil her actions brought to her home. It was beautifully written and the crossover from one time period to another was handled with ease and grace. A beautiful read with much room for discussion.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Addictive
Mum's the Word on The Husband's Secret

Wow - what a great story. I won't spoil it by telling the secret and by the end it is more than a husband hiding secrets. At first I was concerned about the number of husband-wife scenerios being described but once they all came together, it created a beautiful story. The book was full of raw emotions that make you cry and make you laugh. Three couples - all dealing with different obstacles in their lives and relationship - and each with unspoken words, pent-up anger and frustration with a blind eye approach that leads to destruction, broken hearts and pains of guilt. A moving story that needs to be absorbed slowly and methodically. It causes one to pause and take notice of those things we take for granted, our ignorance to acknowledge shifts in our relationships that seem small until the earthquake hits. An excellent book for discussion and personal insight.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Adventurous
No Charity Cases Here

The Philanthropist's Danse is a story of a multi-millionaire, whose last wish is to have 12 people decide the fate of his monetary legacy. A simple enough task, until you factor in a most annoying human trait we call greed. Many rules and time limits apply, whereby available funds are reduced and benefactors can be eliminated. An interesting read that delves into the human mind and how greed, dishonesty, cruelty and even hatred can rule our actions, thoughts and deeds. It brought to light the fact that we all have secrets we would prefer not to share for fear that others would look at us differently. Let's face it - humans are judgemental. I found it ironic that the only people who seemed to be content with their lives and their accomplishments were those without great wealth and the millionnaire himself. All who took no part in building the wealth but only benefited from it, were the ones most deceitful and unhappy. I think this book would make an excellent discussion book on human nature and the heart. There is a wealth (pardon the pun) of interesting characters to digest and they bring new meaning to persons void of morals and ethics. An excellent backdrop for a movie. I nominate Alex Baldwin for the nasty brother who rants and raves, etc. A fun read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Dramatic, Interesting
Weight of Blood Lacked a Few Pounds

Two stories, two women, two generations, one Ozark country town full of secrets and there you have the premise for The Weight of Blood. Enter Lila, whose parents were killed, grandparents die and she is left in the circle of foster homes until she lands a job in a backwoods Ozark town where neighbors aren’t always as they seem and friendship is just a fascade, not an act of kindness. Skip forward to Lucy (Lila's daughter) who is being raised by her father after the mysterious disappearance of her mother many years ago. Also missing is a distant friend of Lucy’s, Cheri, who disappeared nearly a year ago. Cheri was one seam short of normal so her disappearance caught little attention of the community. Lucy is not only looking for clues for her missing friend but feeling a pull to learn more of her own mother and her disappearance. Townspeople are of little help, family even less forthcoming and she feels she is being told what they want her to hear. The mutilated body of Cheri is finally discovered in the hollow of a tree and the mystery intensifies. Playing amateur sleuth, Lucy and a couple of friends set out on their own investigation only to find themselves deeper in the muck and mire of deceit. While I felt the story had some credible possibilities, I was disappointed by the length of cover-ups the townspeople and family used to absolve themselves at any cost – even if it meant the physical or mental destruction of others. Without giving away the premise of the story, or the ending, I just found some characters unbelievable – if not downright blind. My takeaway from the book was that it was a story of abandonment – whether intentional or unintentional. Lila was abandoned by her family, later by a farmer woman and her employer. Lucy was abandoned by her mother, her father who was away trying to provide for her and by people who wouldn’t speak the truth to her about her mom. Even Cheri was abandoned by her own mother and the townspeople who found her to be different than the norm. Suffice it to say that The Weight of Water sat heavy on my heart once the story ended. A dark story with little redemption and what there is comes a bit too late with little consolation.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Interesting, Adventurous
The Snow Child - a bit too cold

Mabel and Jack and childless couple in the heart of Alaska are having trouble making a go of farming. Following the death of their stillborn child, they seem to just go through the motions of life. Then one night in the midst of a snow fall, they put on the images of youth and build a snow man - a snow girl to be exact. Then the story takes many turns. Did the snow girl come to life or is there actually a girl living among the wild by herself? If taken as a fantasy story, it was beautifully written and executed. However, when you bring in to the mix outsiders, a romance and a child, the fantasy becomes a bit far fetched. I felt the story was more of a fish out of water story. That we, as individuals, are all different and require different elements and environments around us to bring happiness and fullfillment to our lives. What seems the ideal life for one can be construed as boring or tedious to another. An interesting story that can lend well to many discussion sessions.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Beautiful
A Beautiful read

Louisa Clark is out of a job and her family desperately needs help from her income. She takes a short-term job as a quadriplegic man who is only slightly older than her. She is out of her element and several economic status levels below him and his family. The story unfolds to present a beautiful coming of age story as Louisa tries to enjoyment back into his life in the way of outtings and entertainment, but in reality, finds herself to a world she has never known. This is a beautifully written story that made me laugh and made me cry. A wonderful discussion book on the morality of assisted-suicide, what constitutes a life and who has the right to decide how much a person has to endure in pain and suffering just to satisfy an existence for the sake of someone else. A most heart-warming story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Can't Stay Wrapped in a Cocoon In This Book

The Butterfly Sister was a great book that grabbed me from the beginning. It is really a story that involves many females - even though they didn't know their lives were entertwined. A botched suicide attempt looms over and shadows the life of a former college student. But when she learns of the disappearance of one of her college friends, she is forced to confront her past and all the fear, anxiety and guilt she has been trying to cover up. The story was like a jigsaw puzzle, and just when you think you have found the piece that fits, you learn it wasn't quite what you thought. Some of the story line was predictable and some parts you never saw coming. A captivating story of the effects that deception, betrayal and rejection can have on a persons life and the length in which a person will go to relieve the pain.

 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Boring, Adventurous
The Cuckoo Was Wound a Bit Too Loose For Me

I usually read a book a week and it took me two weeks to finish this book. Part of the time I was ill, but frankly I just had a hard time really getting involved in the story and characters until the last 100 pages - and by then I was just ready for the story to be over. The book was full of tormented and unhappy characters, all trying to get ahead at the expense of someone else. I thought the plot had some potential, but for me it was woven at a snails pace only to kick in to overdrive at the very end. I try to find my own personal take-away from each book, and all I could conjure up for this one is that it is better to be poor and happy than to be wealthy and without scruples.

The Archivist: A Novel by Martha Cooley
 
This Book Should have Stayed Archived

Perhaps I was just expecting too much from this book, but it gave me little. I am used to, and actually like, a book that gives me several stories that weave together eventually, but this book did not deliver that. Instead I spent over 300 pages reading about mental issues brought about by disjointed parents providing misguided childhoods that lead to confused and saddened adults. The middle section is nothing but the writings of the Archivists wife as she falls deeper in her mental anguish but it felt out of place. All in all, I was just glad to close the cover on this book and move on to something else.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
The Orphan Train

The Orphan Train was a beautifully written, heartwarming journey. Pressed between the pages of this book lies two stories, told years apart, but both speak to the loneliness of being orphaned and the courage it takes to survive. A modern day foster child who has been in the system for too many years encounters a 91 year old widowed woman with her own plight - a childhood of sorrow, disappointment and grief that she can't escape. This is one journey you won't want to miss as you experience, what seems first hand, the trials and tribulatons of the orphan trains on the 1920's. Based on historical and factual happenings (though the story characters are not real), you cannot walk away from this book without appreciating your own childhood and the abundance of your love and support you were given.

After the Rain by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Nothing like a Soft Rain

Being a huge Karen White fan, I have not read a book of hers that I didn't like, obviously some more than others. After the Rain is not a complicated story, no big mysteries, the story line is pretty predictable, and yet there is something about the way Ms. White can describe a town or beachfront that just makes you feel like you are a part of it. After reading some heavy stories, this was a breath of fresh air to just sit back and enjoy the image of life in a small town where everyone knows everybody and life is easy. This read was a cool drink of water that certainly quenched my thirst.

The Billionaire's Secrets by Meadow Taylor
 
Book Club Recommended
The Billionaire's Secrets Weren't Really so Secret

I bought this on one of those ebook discount days as I enjoy a good mystery and a story surrounding a large mansion set on the sea coast sounded interesting. It was a bit too much of a romance novel for me, and yet there was something that held my attention for its short 200 pages. A down-on-her-luck 30's school teacher answers an ad for a live-in tutor for a 6-year old girl being raised by her widowed billionaire father. While there are a few interesting tidbits offered in the story, the plot of the story is pretty hard not to miss. A quick read but sure didn't challenge the mind or soul.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Confusing, Boring
The Firebird Has Wings

I have read several books by Susanna Kearsley (The Winter Sea is my favorite), and she never fails to include so much rich history in her stories. Some aspects of the story were a bit far fetched (reading minds, etc.) but one just has to take the story for what it is meant to be -- a beautiful story of discovering who you are, learning to fly with the wings you were given and to listen to your heart. This story shows that the manner and degree with which hearts can bond together is not affected by time, place or history. The workings of the heart are the same today as in yesteryear. A beautifully woven story that is sure to entertain.

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett
 
Book Club Recommended
The Secret is in the Book

This story started out very interesting, bogged down a bit in the middle and then redeemed itself in the end. I love books about books and THIS book did not disappoint. With a tale that spans the 1500's to present day, it weaves a tale of Shakespeare himself, of a family and friends torn apart by jealousy, greed revenge in the late 1800's and a present day book collector trying to bury himself in his books and work to avoid dealing with the loss of his soul mate. A journey of words, an act of deceit and many lifetimes lived in darkness -- put them together and you have the making of The Bookman's Tale.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Beautiful, Brilliant
You will take this story to the grave.

Burial Rites was a heart-wrenching story of a woman sentenced to death for the murder of her employer/lover. Sending chills up your spine as cold as the Icelandic area in which this story takes place, you cannot help but be left with mixed feelings of compassion and a sense of justice. All actions have a reaction, and who are we to determine what acts are justified or simply self-imposed? Based on a true event, Burial Rites will leaving you begging for more time to say that an eye for eye might possibly need some exceptions. Listen to her story and judge for yourself and in the aftermath remember the old saying, "judge not lest ye be judged."

The Comfort of Lies: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
What a Wicked Web We Weave

Take a single young woman, a married man with a family and let them have an affair. Let the young woman announce she is pregnant, watch the man run home to his wife and sons. Let the young woman give up her daughter for adoption. And there you have the beginning of The Comfort of Lies. Three points to a triangle, each point representing a different set of circumstances and lies, but eventually they must each meet their opponents. A rich story of selfishness, selfless acts and the heart of a child. This story proves that children are the perfect image of truth and innocence. Sometimes we have to look at the world through the eyes of a child to see the right thing to do. This was a moving story that should make all step back and evaluate what is important in your life.

Oxygen: A Novel by Carol Cassella
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Interesting
Hard to Come Up for Air

Oxygen is a story of an ananesthesiologist who lost an 8-year old girl on the operating table. While legal battles unfold, the real story is in the telling of the life of such a doctor. It is the untold story that is often overlooked because we seem to point our attention to the surgeon only. Every patient has a fear of undergoing surgery but the fear lies in the thought of what if I don't wake up. I didn't realize until after I finished this story that the author is an actual anesthesiologist. No wonder she was able to take the reader on such a journey around the OR. A beautiful yet chilling story of dedication, precision, endless work days and accountability. Oxygen is worth every breath you will take while reading it.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Addictive, Optimistic
A Plot Still Missing from Lost Lake

Don't get me wrong - the story was entertaining and would make a good quick summer read. A younger mom with an 8-year old daughter is desperately trying to resume life after losing her husband a year earlier. The thought of living with a very controlling mother-in-law helps make her decision to take her daughter to a lake-cabin setting she visited as a young girl. The cabins are owned by a great-aunt of hers from whom she has been estranged for many years. The story itself was pretty predictable and without any twists or turns. However, there were some interesting characters at the lake, like Selma who is looking for husband #8 and Lisette who can't speak but writes notes and then burns them. While I didn't find this a page turner, I did think it could be an interesting discussion book about how we sometimes want to revisit a place from our childhood that holds fond memories. As a rule we find such places less intriguing in adulthood than they were perceived as a child. We find it is not the place, but the memory of the place. It is where we were at in our lives while making the memories that has the appeal. Where would our lives be without memories? And happy memories are the best. You won't get lost in the the story Lost Lake but perhaps you WILL get lost in your own memories of your most fondest summer from your youth. Happy time travel.

The Dinner by Herman Koch
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Slow, Interesting
The Dinner's Dessert Was Very Satisfying For Me

The Dinner was a dark story that shed little light on a happy ending. Two grown brothers, one a well-to-do politician and the other a school teacher on what seems to be a permanent leave of absence, and their wife deal with the fate of their teenage sons who have committed a terrible act. It ran a close race with the theme of "Defending Jacob" but with much less of a plot. I did, however, like the rhythm of the story, the style in which it was written - even a bit humerous at times, and the dinner theme was a new approach to telling a story. Each course gave you a bit more insight into the trouble at hand. The appetizer was just that -- a teaser to the characters at hand, course 2 dug a bit deeper and by the main entre the characters inside and even outside the restaurant were feeling the turmoil. I loved the waiter who served everything with his pinkie sticking out and how he would wave it across and close to the contents of each plate as it was served. I felt it was a subtle accusatory gesture by the author to question how much, if any, the table guests played a role in the downfall of their respective sons. A unique writing concept, a story that had much potential, but the dessert and after dinner coffee just didn't satisfy me. The Dinner left me hungry for a bit more of the hows and whys of the story. Perhaps the author should have let the story simmer a bit more before commiting to paper.

Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel by Kimberly McCreight
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Amelia Is Constructed Perfectly

Reconstructing Amelia is a fabulous story that captured my attention from the first chapter. A single mother is notified that her daughter has been suspended from school. She arrives to retrieve her daughter only to find she has supposedly jumped to her death from the roof of the school. Or did she? This story weaves the tale of the backdrop of Amelia's life, her friends, her relationship with her mother and unanswered questions in her life -- the things that all teenagers her age struggle to come to grips with. She senses voids in her life and independently takes steps to fill those voids, only to find herself more unsure of herself and her actions. This should be a must-read for every parent of teenagers and for teenagers as well. It is a wake-up call for parents to remain involved in their children's lives. It is a reminder to teenagers that their only TRUE source of encouragement, support and faith lies in the hearts of their parents. Especially in today's society that is rampant with physical and verbal bullying and even cyber-bullying, this story should serve as an example of the repercussions of certain actions. While a fictional story, Amelia could be any child you see on the street. Beautifully written - this book just landed on my "favorites" list.

 
Book Club Recommended
The Yard

The Yard was a gripping book about London in 1889. Only a year following Jack the Ripper a series of murders have occurred involving two of Scotland Yard's own. Alex Grecian has a way of writing that paints such a vivid picture of the streets and alleys of London in its dark past. You can almost faintly hear the horse hooves clopping along the brick roads at night. The story introduced an Inspector Day who is new to the precinct and assigned to the new murders. Anxious to prove himself, he sets out to make his mark. Along with the help of the local medical examiner, the plot twists and turns down dark pathways to uncover many unseedy characters. A bit dark, a bit gruesome, but what was London at that time if not dark and a bit ghastly. An exciting story that won't disappoint. I look forward to further adventures of Scotlant Yard.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Adventurous
This Book Definitely has the 4 M's

Murder, madness, mayhem and mystery. The second in a series of books by Alex Grecian, The Black Country finds Inspectors Day and Hammersmith on a devilish case outside of London in an old mining town (thus the "black" country) that is slowly sinking in the pits of despair and Mother Earth. From eyeballs found in a birds next to disappearing adults and children to the dark fabled superstitions and stories of Rawhead and Bloody Bones, this story is captivating from the first chapter. As in Book #1, The Yard, the story is never quite what it seems with many pieces of the puzzle not showing their face until the end. Again Grecian has captured the feel of 1890 England, the bitter cold winters and the dark musty tunnels of coal mines. I look forward to future adventures and hope there that soon there is another game afoot.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Informative
Burning Prospects Burns Bright

Based on a true story, Burning Prospects tells the story of Capt. Isaac Ross' cotton plantation in Mississippi, built on Prospect Hill. With over 200 slaves, his last wish was that his slaves be set free, the plantation sold and the proceeds used to pay for passage to Africa (Liberia). But after his death, some family members are not so keen to give up the family plantation they feel should rightfully be theirs. The slaves know of their master's wishes and patiently (and impatiently) wait for the courts to grant them freedom. A compelling story of human bondage, human nature, comfort zones and fear of the unknown. Told from all angles, this story gives you a view from every prospective. The story begins with the demise of Prospect Hill and then takes you back on a journey of life in the 1840s in the south. I longed for a bit more character development (or background) on Captain Ross, certain family members and some of the slaves. I felt the author adequately skimmed the surface of characters, but I wanted to know more about them. Perhaps that is the makings of a good story -- when the reader is intrigued enough to want to know more. A good story of greed, pride, tradition and a desire to find happiness and freedom. The fact that the premise of the story is based on the author's own family history makes the flames from Burning Prospects burn a bit brighter and a bit longer. A good read and a good discussion book.

Wynn In Doubt by Emily Hemmer
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting
A bit too much room left for doubt in story

WYNN IN DOUBT was several stories intertwined together. Lola a mother who abandoned her child and husband in the hopes to build a life void of fear and mental suffocation. Her daughter who could never truly forgive the desertion of her mother. Her granddaughter whose views of Lola were only those unkind visions passed down in the name of family history. And her great-granddaughter Wynn who, while generations later, found herself in a similar predicament as her unknown great-grandmother. Wynn has lived out much of her life doing what others expected her to do, making others happy, helping fulfill other people's dreams. When she happens upon a newspaper article of long ago, it opens the door to family secrets, unfilled dreams, unconditional love and pleas for forgiveness. A heart-rendering story that causes one to evaluate how much one's own life is made up of your own dreams or those of the people you love. Nicely written but I couldn't quite give it 4 stars for several reasons. My main objection (resulting in 3 stars) deals with a personal issue. As a mother and grandmother, I cannot possibly conceive how a mother could walk away from a child. I feel that when a woman makes a decision to have a child, her purpose in life for many years becomes molding that child, shaping their mind and soul to feel self-supporting, confident and equipped physically and emotionally to contribute to society. I cannot conceive walking away from that responsibily and therefore had difficulty fully understanding the character's reason or rationale for doing so and found her actions to be selfish and insensitive to the needs of her child. While I know the story is fictional, I need to read a story and feel the characters are believable and their actions valid. Regardless of the few "doubts" I had in Wynn in Doubt, I feel the book would make a good book club read and create some interesting (if not controversial) discussions.

The Things We Save by Joanne E. Zienty
 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Dramatic
The Things We Save is definitely worth saving

Childhood memories stick to our ribs like honey and remain ingrained in our soul no matter our age and Claire Sokol is no exception. Through a turn of events that involved, among other things, the tragic drowning of her older brother, a new found friend in the image of a cousin and the painful ringside seat for her mother's slow mental disappearing act, she has collected more than her fair share of memories and not all pleasant ones. Subconsciously, the abandonment she experienced with the loss of her brother and the fading of her mother, left a protective covering on Claire's heart that refused to fully trust again. The fear of being left is too great and her brave facade too fragile to risk breaking. She is estranged from those whose very image opens wounds but at the news of her grandmother's passing Claire is forced to return to her childhood home and open her memory box -- or is it a Pandora's box. But as the story states -- everyone has a box - that object that contains subtle links to the past. It might be an old-fashioned steamer trunk, a heart-shaped box or just a manilla envelope - but we all have one and what's inside varies with the owner. And maybe it's not even the contents that are important -- but more how they got there, who they belonged to, why they were saved instead of discarded or why they were put in the box in the first place. The Things We Save is a story of humility and removing blinders, an eye-opening journey of forgiveness and seeking the truth. It is a quest to bring light to the forefront and leave the darkness behind. The author did a beautiful job of creating characters whose feelings and emotions felt as raw and touchable as a pile of sawdust. The scent of fresh cut wood permeates through the pages as you experience the ghosts from the past being whittled away to expose the core of Claire's soul. A masterfully written story from which no reader can walk away unscathed from its journey. The Things We Save was a lengthy story but, in this reader's opinion, worth every step.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring
The Words of A Written Letter Still Linger

In today's society of, what seems to be, little communication but instead small blurbs and abbreviations sent in text messages or e-mails, Love Letters shows what many have forgotten -- the true art of real communication can be life changing. Love Letters tells three separate stories. The first of Jo Marie, a young widow now running a bed and breakfast. Her part-time handyman, Mark, is nice and mysterious at the same time. Jo Marie desires to know more about him but the wall he has built up around himself is hard to break through. While she attempts to move forward with her life, she seems strongly tied to the memory and connection of her late husband. Ellie (a guest at the B&B) is there to meet a man (Tom) with whom she has been corresponding with via e-mail, Facebook and other social medias. Ellie's mother is domineering and controlling. Still hurt and angry at her husband leaving when Ellie was but a child, she pushes her fear and untrust of men onto her daughter. Maggie and Roy (also guests at the B&B) are in the midst of marital misgivings where trust seems to be running thin. The premise of all three stories lies in written letters, non-verbal communication that is incapable of distorting the truth, speaks from the heart and creates a moment of brutal honesty, devotion and love.

I enjoyed all three stories and situations and felt the character development was good. I struggled with the friendship (or possibly more) between Jo Marie and Mark. It felt a bit disjointed and I could never get a real sense of either person's true self. I am not a fan of sappy romance stories and this story had just enough to make it interesting. I love a story that makes you feel, cry or think and this book did all three. I have always felt that letter writing is becoming a lost art. I pity the soul who has never received (or written) a heart-felt letter because it is something tangible that can be held, touched and read and re-read. The words never fade like the spoken words you retain in your head. For many it is easier to open heart strings and speak the truth through written words rather than orally. When a person puts their soul on paper, it is there for as long as the recipient chooses to keep it. Love Letters portrays this theory through the value, sheer emotion and honesty found in a soul-bearing letter. A quick read but not quickly forgotten.

The Burgess Boys: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Slow, Insightful
The Burgess Boys Felt Lacking

I had such high hopes for The Burgess Boys and was rather disappointed. I thought the premise of the story had potential (thus the 3 stars) but the story barely skimmed the surface of a most dysfunctional family with little background, little character development and too many unanswered questions. Three siblings involved (or not involved) in the accidental death of their father - one is to blame and lives with the mental anguish of his actions (like a three year old can really be held accountable for anything), older brother treats him like scum for the rest of his life and his twin sister hates everyone. The on-again, off-again relationship between these three siblings was more than this reader could take. When the sister's teenage son is accused of a hate crime, however, they all come to her rescue while at the same time berating each other and no show of real emotion, appreciation or compassion. I picked up this book numerous times at the book store and sat it back down. I wish I had left it on the shelf. Shallow characters, no depth, no explanation other than move to Sweden and all of your troubles will be solved. I gave it a rating of 3 stars because I felt the plot had potential but could have been better served by digging deeper into the hows and whys of each siblings behavior and feelings. I expected more from this author.

Don't Say A Word by Barbara Freethy
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous
Much to Say About Don't Say a Word

Don't Say a Word was an adventurous story that left you wondering who, if anyone, is telling the truth. In a land where the bad guys don't always wear black, finding the villian was not an easy task. A story spanning over 25 years wraps around a photograph taken of a Russian orphan that eventually opens up a mountain of unanswered questions and unseemly deaths. This story was a roller coaster of a ride. I had some difficulty believing the depths that some people went to to protect the truth in this story, but it still made for an exciting and very entertaining read. Knowing secrets is just one human element. The biggest obstacle we have to overcome is knowing what do with those secrets. To what lengths will a person go to protect those they love or to merely see justice served? Once you have figured out if the cost justifies the means, then you can understand why you don't say a word.

Fallen Women by Sandra Dallas
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic
Fallen Women Did NOT Fall Short

This is the second book by Sandra Dallas I have read, the first being Prayers For Sale, and it won't be the last. Picture yourself in Denver, CO in 1885, on the streets where high society meets the dregs of society, and you have the backdrop for Fallen Women. When wealthy older sister Beret, living in New York, learns of the death of her younger sister, Lillie, she travels to Denver and learns the horrible truth of a gruesome murder. The author does a beautiful job of painting a period picture complete with descriptive homes, streets and dress of the time. The story is drenched in mystery with multiple suspects. I felt the author did a good job with character development. Had she dug any deeper into the characters, the plot would have unraveled. Even though with just a few clues I was able to figure it out early, I enjoyed the journey of watching the clues unfold to reveal the face of the real demon. A dramatic read that emphasized how blind love can be, that human nature causes us to see only what we want to see in others and what a sight we behold when the blinders are removed.

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Adventurous, Addictive
Boy's Life - An Incredible Read

Every once in awhile it is good to take a walk down memory lane - back to a time when life seemed easy, when fun started at sun up and didn't end until well after sun down; when small town folks knew everyone and looked out after one another and every Saturday night found families in the front yard churning homemade ice cream. Such is the story of Boy's Life. What a nostalgic journey back to the early 1960's. I was sucked in to this story the moment I felt the "clink" of the brown glass milk bottles being left on front porches by the milk man. This author did such a beautiful job of presenting the endless imagination of young boys, the mischief they can find, the monsters they can imagine and the courage and integrity that finds itself clinging to their hearts like dust that collects on their blue jeans. This story offers a bit of everything including the hardships placed upon families and communities as the automation and technology industry begins to emerge. It portrays the coming of age of young boys who have to come to terms with death no matter if it involves that of a stranger, a dog or even your best friend. This is a story that will make you laugh and cry. The book is rich in human drama and drenched in the lifestyle of a by-gone era. A summer of murder -- a summer of friendship -- a summer of loss. Every child has their "summer of 64" when life takes on a different hue, when your eyes are opened to more around you than a ride across town on your favorite bicycle you call Rocket. This may be the story of one boy's journey - but it is sure to open up the flood gates to any reader's turning point in their childhood. We can never go back -- but this author made it possible, if only between the book's cover.

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
 
Book Club Recommended
An Interesting Read

A student is assigned to write a research thesis on a massive outdoor garden originating in the 1500\'s in Italy. Upon arriving, the student (Adam) finds himself confronted with a feisty estate owner who gives him free reign to her estate and resources. In an effort not to give the plot away, one of the estate owner\'s son was murdered in an upstairs floor of the house and it is rumored that the orignator of the garden\'s wife mysteriously died at a young age. The theme of Dante\'s Inferno, The Divine Comedy and Greek mythology play a huge role in the outlay of the book. I felt a bit disadvantanged having not read Dante\'s works but felt the author gave enough information so that the reader could follow. I enjoyed watching the unraveling of the two mysteries, even though it didn\'t seem to start coming together until about half way through the book, but I couldn\'t help but feel that the story was a bit disjointed. I felt the estate owner knew the outcome before the student arrived, so why go through the charade? The 1500 garden design, while elaborate and meticulous, seemed a bit too well thought out and I had trouble convincing myself that anyone would go to that much trouble to tell a story. Regardless of some of my objections, I felt the book was well written, was a good fictional story and worth the time spent ingulfed in its words.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Adventurous
Definitely a Force to be Reckoned With

The Reckoning was a gripping mystery set in London and involving Scotland Yard. A series of execution style murders too similar in nature to not be connected baffles the Yard. A retired detective becomes involved when his name is found on an unfinished letter penned by one of the murder victims. This was a great read with some unexpected twists and has the makings of a good movie. The Reckoning did NOT disappoint.

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Beautiful
Walk - Don't Run Through This Story

The Memory of Running is a story you will want to take your time with. Let the emotions and characters wash over you slowly to absorb every drop. Smithson Ides (Smithy) is a middle-aged man whose life has been compounded with constant obstacles surrounding his sister, Bethany, who deals with severe mental issues. The toll taken and damage inflicted on Smithy and his parents was, at times, unbearable and as the story progressed I felt actual pain as Bethany struggled with her internal voices and wanted to scream out "don't". Bethany disappears in her early adult life, Smithy's parents die from an auto accident and Smithy is left a lonely, obese, aging man with no direction and little ambition. Upon finding a letter addressed to his now-deceased father, he discovers his sister's body has been discovered in Los Angeles. Alone and adrift, one night he uncovers his old boyhood bicycle and suddenly takes off down the open road to air the tires. Like a faint image of the book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, he can't seem to stop and without realizing why, sets off on a bicycle ride that will take him from Providence, Rhode Island to California; a ride that will take him from floundering to freedom; a ride that will fill his lungs to capacity with love and life. The chapters bounce back and forth from Smithy's childhood, to his early adult years and the drama his sister played in everyone's lives to his present situation and location. I will admit that I didn't read this book but listened to an audio version of it narrated by the author himself. Through the author's voice and diction, he made the constant and sometimes bumpy obstacle course from past to present, from present to past and from past to future seem relatively smooth and his voice lent a very descriptive feel to the image conjured up for Smith's appearance and personality. His journey was filled with numerous characters that I wanted to know better and follow as well. Needless to say, this was a story of coming of age (even at 43), embracing life without fear or reservation, accepting what has transpired in one's life and hope for what may be ahead. It was a beautiful story that I did not want to end. I was so engrossed in the story that I hurried through the 11 CDs and will now have to buy me a copy of the actual book so that I can re-read it at some time and savor every bite like a fine chocolate. A wonderful story for all ages.

The Other Typist: A Novel by Suzanne Rindell
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Brilliant, Confusing
A Bit Unbelievable

While I felt the premise of the book had some great possibilities, I felt the realism of the story was a bit far fetched. The story revolves around Rose (a typist and transcriber for the local police) who is a perfectionist, takes her job very serious and has great pride in her work. It also revolves around Odalie (the other typist who is eventually hired and who is NOT a Rose). Neatly dressed, obviously from a different rank in society as the others in the typing pool, Odalie has an auro about her that causes people to want to be associated with her. Do opposites attract? Obviously so, because these two characters could not have been more different in their morals or upbringing. It was obvious that something dramatic happens -- the author states such continuously throughout the book. What really happened, it seems, is up for the reader to decide. However, I felt the author took too many liberties with Odalie's character in allowing her access to too many people, places and unsavory occupations and lifestyles. The Dr. Jekyl by day and Mr. Hyde by night theory just didn't work for me and I didn't like the self destruction Rose brought on herself, with the help of Odalie. I think the book could present lots of discussion about personalities, the need to be accepted, stepping over the line, etc., but I just felt that Rose's character was built up so much at the beginning to be the honest, forthright individual, that I had trouble seeing her crossing the street, so to speak. An interesting read, but not one that I would want to pick up again.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Plain Truth was Plain Good

A burned out defense attorney watching her biological clock ticking too fast, takes some time off to visit an aunt in the midst of Amish country. The aunt, having been excommunicated from her Amish family because of marrying someone outside their religion, still has close ties to her family. A dead baby is found in an Amish barn, wrapped in a shirt and covered with horse blankets. Soon an 18-year old girl, who no one even suspected was pregnant, is accused of murdering the baby that she denies she even birthed. Obviously the burned out attorney volunteers to defend her and there you have the outline of Plain Truth. But the simple truth, no pun intended, is that is merely the shell of this story. The meat of the story is the simple lifestyle of the Amish, their ability to forgive, to be disciplined in their beliefs and always putting themselves last. The story of attorney and client was a beautiful story of friendship, respect, and admiration. A long story that was a quick read for me, because I could not put it down. I was reeled in after the first chapter and the pace of the story never slowed down. I love stories that open your eyes. I love stories that move the spotlight ever so slightly that it cast a different shadow on your perspective of a people or a place. This book did just that and was an amazing story. This was my first book to read by Jodi Picoult and will not be my last. If her character development, attention to detail and ability to place a reader inside the story is as strong in all of her other books as it was in Plain Truth, she will soon be among my favorite authors.

The Last Word by Paul Combs
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fun
The Last Word

This was a fun read full of interesting and, at times, comical characters. A pair of cousins (from different ends of the globe) inherit an old, dilapidated bookstore from a distance uncle. Both struggling, or should I say running, from obstacles and people in their past, they set out to see if they can make a go of this new business thrown in their laps. There is no great mystery to be solved in this book, no "gotcha" moments, no real villian or entrancing love story ... just an enjoyable story with employees you grow to love and appreciate, especially the old fart that everyone thinks is interested only in antiquated books. I love books about books and I enjoyed the creative characters and the motivation they had to share their love of books with others. It made me want to just go and sit in a bookstore for a while with a great book and a large cup of coffee. There is something about the solitude of a bookstore, much like a library, and this story created some real visuals on what a mid 1900's dusty, dark wood, not your "Barnes and Noble" bookstore must feel and look like. I will carry that image with me for some time.

I received this book free of charge for an honest review.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fun, Insightful
Full of Stories

This book was a quick read but was most enjoyable. A. J. Fikry is a strange man, very much a loner and feeling lost after the loss of his wife. The owner of a small island book store, he has few customers, few friends and even fewer goals. His only love is his passion for the written word. Then a miracle falls into his lap in the form of an infant and his life is changed forever. I loved all of the references to various books in this story - many of which I read as a child and glad to know that they meant something to someone else besides me. I don't want to give away the entire story, but suffice it to say that A.J. Fikry learns to share his passion for books and in doing so finds purpose and meaning in his life. A short but sweet story that reaffirms to me that my own feelings about books and continuously reading is not an obsession but merely a passion. And what great fun when we find others with whom we can share our passion.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
A Story that Needs to be Told

The Storyteller is quite an emotional ride. This is my second book by Jodi Picoult and it won\'t be the last. This is a book of many stories. It is a story of a middle-aged Jewish female who is scarred both physically and emotionally -- so much that she works as a baker at night, a trade learned from her father, so that she can reduce the amount of personal contact with other people. It is a story of a fictitious un-dead monster who preys on the blood of innocent victims. It is the story of an SS officer, who works in a concentration camp in WWII; and a story of a concentration camp survivor. Above all it is a story of human nature. The realism that is created in the telling of how a young adult male could go from an average man to a sadistic killer and participate in genocide acts was both fascinating and eerie and, at times, hard to digest. The courage and fortitude shown by survivors was applaudible and a testiment to the depth of a human soul. This book was an exceptional journey of just how much the human heart is capable of bearing. With the exception of The Book Thief, I don\'t know when I have cried so much while reading a book. And when I wasn\'t crying, I was aghast at the horror of what was placed upon the Jewish community during this time and yet amazed at their resilience and bravery to continue as long as their bodies allowed. This book is a wonderful piece of literature that is sure to move you. It is a thought provoking work of art that is sure to leave you counting your blessings for all of the loved ones in your life.

The Sea Garden: A Novel by Marcia Willett
 
Unconvincing, Confusing
The Sea Garden lacks water

The Sea Garden lacked way too many waves for me. I had a difficult time getting into this book as there were over 20 names mentioned in less than 30 pages. I finally had to draw out family trees to keep everyone straight. I have read many many books that go from present to past but this book seemed to do it without cause, pause or reason. I had trouble keeping track of what time tense I was in. The author also repeated scenes from the past so many times that I questioned if I had forgot my place and was reading a chapter over again. There was some potential to the story plot, but too many things that were so coincidental that it lost the feel of reality. I rarely have difficulty finding something positive to say about a story, but this one has me stumped. The book cover was nice. I wish I could submit a better review, but I felt I was being nice with two stars.

I received this book free of charge by Goodreads for an honest review.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Inspiring, Insightful
Fun and Interesting

In all fairness, I could have given this book 4 stars, but that is generally reserved for books that I immediately want to tell my friends about and I'm not sure I feel that strongly about this story. Objects of My Affection pivots around two women of different ages, different backgrounds, different lifestyles and at different stages in their lives. Sound like complete opposites? Only on the surface. First there is Lucy who is a single mom of a teenager/young adult who clearly is a drug addict. Lucy subconsciously is aware of what is going on but is living with blinders on and in reality becomes a bit of an enabler. When her son's addiction brings about the end of her own relationship with boyfriend, Daniel, she finally has to step up to the plate and put plans in motion to address the issues. Lucy has sold her house and most of her possessions to pay for rehab for her son. Out of work and out of money she desperately needs a job. Lucy's only claim to fame is that she published a "How to Get Organized" book (NOT a big seller) when ironically it is her own life that needs to be organized and prioritized. She lands a job helping an aging famous artist organize and clean our her household. A prize horder, the artist is reluctant to let go of anything and the battles ensue. This is actually a beautiful story of the bonding of two women who on the surface seem so different and yet are both void of a purpose and direction in their lives. They both share failed relationships with their only sons and somewhere along the way, learn to share respect and friendship for one another. This is not a complicated story but one that makes you evaluate those things you hold on to and why. It is a story about accountability and discipline -- a good discussion book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Interesting, Insightful
The Tumble Inn

Tumble Inn reads much like a journal, but in reality is a story of a life journey. The story is told by husband, Mark, who is married to Fran. The couple are going through the motions of responsible adults who teach school but feel that something is missing. Seeing an advertisement for innkeepers at a lake many miles away, Fran fudges a bit on a resume for them and they find themselves thrown into a lifestyle that is both overwhelming and a bit out of their league. The couple, before and after landing the job, experience great disappointments as month after month finds Fran without child. Suffice it to say that a child does eventually come their way, but it seemed that much of the child's life was skipped over and ignored. The book is a short 166 pages, but had the author given the same attention to the child as he did to the parents, it could have been a 366 page book with a better understanding of the family's relationship. In less than 5 pages she went from a baby to a teenager. I know the story was about taking risks, stepping outside of your comfort zone, finding strength within, overcoming adversities and finding what makes a home, but the story seemed a bit rushed at times.

I felt the author did a beautiful job of painting the serene, tranquil feel of the lakeside lodge in his descriptive style of writing. I am a reader who likes visuals and this author supplied that and more. I loved the openness this couple had and the courage it must take to make such a leap of faith in changing the direction of your life. The fact that the author did not make it an easy transition for the couple, made it all the more realistic. After reading this I'm not sure that I am willing to give up my career to run a lakeside lodge (or follow some other out-of-character whim), but the peaceful setting and friendly atmosphere described on the pages between this book's cover, sure makes me want to make a weekend reservation.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Inspiring
Great is not good enough for The Great Santini

Every man, woman and child is shaped and molded by things and people in their past; there is no escaping it. Sometimes it is not until we are grown that we realize sometimes the very things we hated or dreaded, actually made us stronger. As we mature we find that things don't have to always be colorful, soft and gentle to be good -- even rocks with sharp jagged edges can be beautiful. The book The Great Santini evokes a full gammut of emotions. It is a humorous, sad, engaging and even enraging story. Bull Meachum "The Great Santini" is a hard man, a marine first and foremost, a courageous fighter pilot, a husband and father. His children shake at the sound of his voice and yet they know that no one will protect them more vigorously than their father. The sweet gentle southern mom, Lillian, is ever trying to sooth the ruffled feathers produced by both her husband and children's outbursts. This is a heart rendering story that at times makes you want to place a foot in the Santini's face and at other times makes you want to hug him and tell him you see through his gruff exterior and see the compassion and love he has for his family. Definitely a dysfunctional family, but together they find ways and reasons to bond them eternally in spirit, in love and in faith.

Letters from Skye: A Novel by Jessica Brockmole
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Beautiful, Adventurous
Letters From Skye Was More Than Letters on a Page

To write a book that is nothing but letters is tough. To write such a story that doesn't eventually lose the reader's attention is quite a feat. Letters from Skye is a beautiful love story that takes place in WWI between a married author living in Scotland on the Isle of Skye an an American lover of poetry. I found some of the letter communications between them to be too sparse and felt that the distance between them would have warranted more words than found on the paper at times. Needless to say, it is a story of love, but it is also a story that deals with deals with marital betrayal, forgiveness, duty to principles and commitment. Obviously a book that is nothing but letters is going to lack the descriptiveness of scenery and of characters, but surprisingly enough, as the letters go from general conversations to more indepth opinions and feelings, you begin to build your own image of the principal players in the story. I can't say that I would want to read many books that contained only correspondence, but this style of writing was a so different that it became a breath of fresh air and for a moment, I found myself cheering for the characters even when I knew their actions would prove hurtful to others.

Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Dramatic
Loving Frank or Should it Be Hating FranK?

Loving Frank is a book full of questions - questions about morality, questions about responsibility, parenthood and questions that ask how far can I go without being selfish. Frank Lloyd Wright is married with a family. Maymah Cheney is married with a family. Frank Wright is commissioned to build a home for the Cheneys and an affair/love connection begins that wreaks havoc and tragedy for all. While fictional in nature, but much like Mr. Wright's real creations, this story holds many windows that lead to the soul. Those windows cast shadows on what is morally right. The symetric walls hold hidden doorways that help block out the repercussions of their actions. The rolling topography that seems to contour itself to the flow of the outer walls begs not forgiveness, but forgetfulness for those left behind in the aftermath of their selfish acts. It is my opinion that every great artist has some degree of idiosyncracy; how else are they able to delve so deeply and passionately into their respective work? This story takes you on the journey of Frank Lloyd Wright and his quest to be understood and appreciated. It also tells the tale of the sacrifices that are sometimes made in the name of invention, notariety and creativity. I can't say this is a "feel good" story, but it is definitely a story that begs for discussion and pondering, long after the last page.

 
Difficult, Slow
Art in America Lacked Vivid Colors

I read the Memory of Running (or rather listened to it via audio books) and fell in love with it. I purchased Art in America because I wanted to read more by this author to see if his same creative writing style remained but it fell a bit short for me. Art in America is story of Steven Kearney who is an overweight man who doubts his abilities, talents and self worth (hmmm, sounds like Memory of Running). He takes on a momentous job of writing and directing a play about the history of a town -- to be played by the townspeople and in turn finds himself (hmmm, sounds like Memory of Running). There are some colorful characters (my favorite being the most elderly couple Ticky and Minnie Lettgo who can't seem to let go of the past) but I just felt I could never really connect with any of them. Throughout the book, I just kept feeling like I had read a similar story, that was leading in a similar direction and in the end, had a similar closure as something I had read before. I think it was the author's other book, The Memory of Running. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed that I spent as much time as I did to read basically the same story but in a different setting. Oh well, I can't say I didn't give the author a chance.

And Then I Found You: A Novel by Patti Callahan Henry
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful
The Boundaries of Love

And Then I Found You is a beautiful story of love, loss and redemption. The story revolves around a couple who in their teens realized they were soul mates. But people mature, interests change and sometimes the heart forgets to change with you. As Kate and Jack slip into early adulthood, their career paths and geographical foundations find themselves miles apart. A short reconciliation leaves Jack knowing that he can wait no longer and soon he finds himself married. The short reconciliation for Kate finds herself with child. Between the covers of this novel lies the story of choices, secrets, first loves and lasting loves. A beautiful story that tests the boundaries of love and the meaning of sacrifice. This would make a great discussion book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Interesting
Good historical fiction

Due to some serious family illnesses, it took me well over a month to get through this book. The length of time had nothing to do with a difficult story, shallow characters or lack of an author's talent. I love historical fiction stories and this book did NOT disappoint. In Italy towards the end of WWII, the story takes you on a journey of one wealthy family's plight of survival in the toughest of times. Some 10 years later a murderer appears to have a master plan and one that involves the same family. Two stories -- one family -- and one Estrucan tomb ruins. The weaving of both time periods is beautifully performed and there is much image projection relayed by the author as to the effects and ravages of war on a country and community. What does one do to survive? How far is one willing to cross the line to protect loved ones? How does one live with the repercussions of such decisions? You can't stay in the dark for long when reading The Light in the Ruins.

The Peach Keeper: A Novel by Sarah Addison Allen
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Romantic, Beautiful
The Peach Keeper is a Keeper

A touching story about the depth of friendship and the strength of forgiveness. Agatha and Georgie were best friends back in the summer of 1936 until the appearance of a stranger seemed to have torn them apart. A women's society club founded in friendship begun in 1936 begins to unravel years later as husbands and children take a front row seat to the club. Seventy five years later the women's club is throwing a celebration of its origins but in the midst of the celebration plans mysteries from 1936 begin to surface. The present day players are forced to face the truth in both what has happened in their grandparents' past, what has happened in their own pasts and what their hearts desire for the future. This was a quick read but a beautiful story about friendship, endurance and hope.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Inspiring, Beautiful
All you could wish for and more

This was such a moving story of the lives of three very different women who have nothing in common, or do they? Each woman is looking for happiness or has found it and looking for ways to hold on to it. But sometimes fate deals a card that we forgot was int he deck. Without spoiling the plot, suffice it to say they find themselves on the same path whether by choice or coincidence. A beautiful powerful story that measures the weight of a friend in need.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Inspiring, Romantic
A Moving Read

Then and Always was a bit of a surprise read. I loved the idea of a life changing experience, a instantaneous choice that changes peoples lives forever. Such was the life of Rachael Wiltshire. A car crashes through a restaurant wall and in a mere split second futures are altered and time stops. This is a story of the power of love, whether in life or in death. It is a story of finding that it is never too late to heal your heart and that happiness can be found in the strangest of places. Everyone deserves second chances -- or do they? This story had me scratching my head at times and trying to make it more than what it really was. I suggest you just sit back and inhale the beautiful love story that passes through its pages -- the love of a boy and a girl, the love of a girl and her widowed father and a love that has no boundaries.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Graphic
Touching but graphic story

Alexandria spends her waking hours trying to make a difference in the lives of children. Being a social worker unfortunately exposes her to a variety of home environments, with most being less than desirable. An adoptee herself, she understands how a child can feel that they don't fit in, what it can be like to not know unconditional love. One three year old girl, Ottille, touches Alexandria's heart so deeply that she involves herself in the girl's case more than she should. In the midst of her attention to Ottille, Alexandria's boyfriend leaves her, her sister tells Alexandria that she has to move from their deceased parent's home and she finds that her birth mother whom she hasn't seen since she was 3 is looking for her. The author did good job of letting you feel her pain and uncertainties but unfortunately, for this reader, did too good of a job describing the horrors of child sexual abuse that at times I considered closing the book. All in all, it is a touching story about how a soul longs to belong and to be loved and how sometimes love comes along when and where we least expect it.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Inspiring, Interesting
Thumbs Up for Evan

Garth Stein's book, "The Art of Racing in the Rain" is one of my favorite books. I have read through it numerous times. How Evan Broke His Head is NOT ...Racing in the Rain but, then again, who said it should be? "Evan" lacked the comical and somewhat philosopical aura about it that "Rain" held for me and many times I had to tell myself to reset my expectations. Perhaps I was looking for a sequel? Perhaps I was trying to tie the two stories together? Whatever my motives, once I accepted the story for the mere words on the page, I realized what a powerful and moving story it truly was. Evan lives his life in fear, he hides behind fascades and lies and blames everyone and holds himself completely blameless - like a victim.

Sometimes we need a purpose in life; sometimes we just need someone to need us. The death of Evan's first love, who he hasn't seen in nearly 15 years, brings light and perspective to Evan's life. A child he didn't know he had, paternal heartstrings he didn't know existed and the realization of a life yet lived are the backbone of this story. It is a story of redemption and of forgiveness. It is a tale of acceptance and removing barriers. It is an awakening -- a journey, and one that I am glad I got to make as I waltzed through its pages.

And while the books may appear to lack a common thread, this reader realized that even Evan learned to fight his battles and learned the Art of Racing in the Rain.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Inspiring, Dramatic
A BEAUTIFUL READ

Wow - what a journey. This is definitely a coming of age story but, oh, so much more. The author has a both a comical and, at times, almost a poetic descriptive nature to his writing. An example is likening the wrinkles on an old man's face to the sight of a well worn, loose carpet. 14 year old Kevin and his mother have witnessed a fatal accident that resulted in the death of his little brother. Kevin's mother is unable to recover from her loss and Kevin's father sends him and his mother to spend the summer in the Appalachian Mountains with his material grandfather. It goes without saying that the summer becomes a turning point in his life. But the real treasure is how the author walks you through the tribulations of a small town fighting corporate greed, how deception and even murder are not reserved for just the big cities. He provides such a visual of the life of a miner, the effects of coal dust, living with pain and anger and how to remain true to your heart and your morals in the process. It is a story of friendship, of opening your eyes to our earth and all that she offers and the respect she so deserves. There is murder, unforeseen secrets and betrayal. It is a tale that covers a lifetime, but I SO wanted to stay in the hills with Kevin and his grandpa for a day. I longed to pull out my cast iron skillet and cook fresh fish over an open fire with a bit of bacon grease. I wanted to sit in the treehouse with Buzzy and Kevin and talk about the telling cave. A beautiful story that this reader feels could transfer to the screen with ease. I received this book four months ago free of charge in return for an honest review. I deeply regret that a family illness caused me not to be able to read it until now. This book is going on my list of most loved.

 
Pointless, Difficult, Boring
No Family Story Here

Vanessa and her Sister is a story of Vanessa Stephen and her sister Virginia (Virginia Wolfe). I had heard various stories about the demise of Virginia Wolfe and was anxious to read this story. Suffice it to say, I was not impressed. The book is made up of a plethera of diary entries, letters, small notes, etc. with little dialogue. I found the unconventional writing style difficult to read and spent way too much time paying attention to the dates of entries and trying to figure out how much time had elapsed than interpreting the mainstay of the diary entry or letter. The story was filled with bi-sexual liasons, homosexual pining and stuffy English commentaries. I vow to always finish every book I start and made no exception with this story. I can say that the ending had some redeeming qualities when at least each character's fate was put on paper and I could close the cover. I received this book free of charge for an honest review of the story and I wish I could be more positive. I concede that my opinion will probably not be in line with other readers, but I did not find this story captivating, informative or of much interest. I found the characters shallow, self-centered and uncompassionate. If I am to assume that their portrayal was to be considered somewhat accurate, then I have to ask myself why I would want to read about people who have no redeeming qualities and whose stories leave you feeling saddened and regretful for their loss and lack of fullfillment in life.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Interesting
All Aboard

Don't forget your ticket for this ride. I was totally emersed in The Girl on the Train. I like stories that don't read necessarily in chronological time frames. Some people get lost in the forward and backward motion, but I felt the author gave a good flow to the pace of the book. I thought the premise of alcohol and blackouts was well placed in this story and gave credence to the devastation and demise that it can have on not just the consumer's life, but the lives of those around them. A thriller from the get-go, I was clueless until about three quarters through the book, and even then wasn't exactly sure who the real evil one was. This was a quick read for me because I couldn't put it down. This book has all of the things that may a good thriller ... mystery, motive and madness. I'll never pick an aisle seat again -- there is WAY too much to see from the window seat.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Addictive, Dramatic
Nothing little about this book.

Oh what a wicked web we weave .... Beverly Hills Housewives meet Mayberry. Fill a beach community with ritzy, "my kid is smarter than your kid" parents, throw in a few parents (mothers) who have never had an original thought and jump on the closest bandwagon and then sprinkle in a few average, every-day, run-of-the-mill mothers who take life in stride and are vying for the Suzy Homemaker of the year award and you have the setting for Big Little Lies. This 400-page journey in just how callous, low and self-serving humans can be when backed in a corner kept me reading for hours on end. The author did a beautiful build-up to the end, filling in the time lines leading up to the big event with flavor, passion and intrigue. Each chapter kept you hoping the victim's name would be revealed and yet you want to figure it out yourself. This is a powerful story that puts on paper the depth of pain that comes with dishonesty and lies. It screams out the injustice of abuse and the lengths people will go to cover it up. Mostly, however, it begs for forgiveness when we fail to show compassion and thoughtfulness to our friends and neighbors. A very thought-provoking story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Romantic, Interesting
The Glass Kitchen Didn't Fill Me Up

The Glass Kitchen was a bit too transparent for me. The story revolves around three sisters who were raised by their grandmother when both of their parents die. The grandmother runs The Glass Kitchen, a small cafe where grandma apparently bakes that day what she knows her customers are needing. Grandma has what is called "the knowing" that allows her to know just what to fix when someone is hurting emotionally or physically -- sometimes she gets a premonition of what to cook beore she even knows who it is for or why. It is discovered that one of the daughters has inherited the "gift". The real story begins once the grandmother passes away, the girls are grown and all going through life's growing pains -- cheating husbands, financial woes, boredom, employment crisis, etc. On the surface it is a romance story waiting to happen with a bit of whimsical sprinkles on top. A predictable story with some unexpected bits thrown in at the end but it lacked enough bite for me. Sandwiched inbetween the covers does lie a story about the strength in family, believing in yourself, being yourself and not what someone else wants you to be and the importance of trust. The best (or perhaps the worse for my waistline) is that the book gave me an uncontrollable urge to bake pink cupcakes.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Inspiring
Nothing Ordinary Here - Great Read

Wow - nothing ordinary about this book. Perhaps it is because I was a child in 1961, much like Frank, the narrator of this story, but this story spoke to me on so many levels. First of all I connected with the lifestyle of a small town family when riding your bike miles from home and spending the afternoon at the pond swimming or just skipping rocks was considered a good time and you had no fear. Secondly I could relate with being raised in a God fearing home where grace with every meal was considered ordinary and you were taught to give thanks for blessings that came your way. Frank, age 13, and his younger brother Jake, who suffers with severe stuttering, experience the summer of '61, a summer that will change their lives forever. The author does such a beautiful job of placing you so close to them that you can almost feel the mud squishing between your toes as you walk the banks of the river with them. A father fighting his nightmares from WWII finds solace in the ministry. His friend, Gus, who fought beside him finds his solace in a bottle. Frank and James' mother struggles to accept her role as a preacher's wife when her husband gives up his law practice. There are emotionally scarred characters and some with quite visible physical scars. This story covers so many emotions from childlike bliss, to accepting death, to feeling betrayed and feeling the outcast. It is a story of forgiveness, love and redemption. Tragedy strikes, mysteries abound, grace conquers all and in the end you realize it all comes down to one breath, one inhale, one exhale, one final puff of air and we start all over again.

An Absent Mind by Eric Rill
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Brilliant
A Powerful Read

An absent mind is definitely not absent emotion. This is a beautiful story of a family struggling with a loved one with Alzheimers. Having a mother in early stages of Alheimers myself, this book especially struck home. It seems most books on this subject are written either for or from the perspective of the caregiver. The book \"Still Alice\" was excellent because it was from the patient\'s point of view and I thought it spoke volumes. An Absent Mind combines all aspects when the journey is shared with the thoughts and feelings of the patient, spouse, children and doctor. If there is a redeeming factor in having Alheimers it would be that there is little, if any, physical pain involved for the inflicted. The amount of emotional and pyschological pain is an different story entirely. This story is a short, quick read but a powerful one. I highly recommend it to anyone of any age. Woven in the story of Saul\'s plight, is also the reminder of how powerful our connections are to family -- even as we grow up and sometimes apart. Like a slight shake of sprinkles on a cupcake, the story is topped with the added flavor of how much a word or touch can make to someone\'s feeling of selfworth. It reiterates how important it is that we not only show our loved ones how much they mean to us, but tell them. A great discussion book or just one to enjoy and ponder, \"An Absent Mind\" does not miss the mark.

Belong to Me LP: A Novel by Marisa De Los Santos
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fun, Optimistic
A Decent Read

This is a story of four couples: Couple 1 has two children, fairly upper class, wife a bit snooty, husband easy going. Couple 2 has two children and the wife is suffering with terminal cancer. Couple 3 is a doctor and his wife, new to the community, childless and trying to fit into the neighborhood. Couple 4 is actually a mother and her genius of a son who have moved there to place the boy in a gifted school. The drama and the lives of these couple unfold individually and begin to interweave as the story progresses. It was an entertaining story, but was nothing out of the ordinary for me. I can't place my finger on it because it was well written, character development was good, there was an interesting plot in the story but it just never reached that "wow" factor for me. It is, however, a thought-provoking book that delves into the importance of trust, the depth of friendship, and the power of commitment.

Where We Belong by Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
Book Club Recommended
Optimistic, Interesting
A Bit Less Than I Hoped For

Angie is a young teenage girl whose father is deceased and her younger sister is autistic. Her mother is dealing with trying to support two children -- one with very severe disabilities -- and making a life for them. The autistic daughter never speaks but and is known for her "keening", which is a siren-pitched scream that lasts for hours. When they move in temporarily with the mother's aunt, the young daughter, Sophie, bonds with the neighbors dog, Rigsby, and a new friendship is formed. The backdrop of this story had potential and I was hoping for much more than I received. I thought the author created wonderful images of the characters, especially Angie, the mom and the dog's owner, Paul. Perhaps her attention to detail in characterization was too good and that is why I grew to dislike some characters, find disappointment in others and others were just too unrealistic. I found the mother to be childlike, leaving the mainstay of the young child's wellbeing to her eldest daughter. With odd jobs that the teenager would get, the mother felt she had every right to her pay and I found her very self-centered, selfish and thoughless.
The story of the love and friendship between the girl, Sophie, and the dog, Rigsby, was the best part and was heartwarming and touching. Their relationship was the redeeming quality of the book. The teenager (who turns 17 before the book ends) was WAY TOO mature for her age and I felt the way the author portrayed her reasoning, conversation levels, interpersonal skills, etc. were not believable. I had trouble with a 65 year-old man learning to confide in a teenager, especially a female, about his own life. I could have believed a mentoring type of a relationship, but the strong bonds of friendship between two completely different age groups just didn't fit. I have marked several books by this author as "want to read" because the story lines sounded promising. This book was a bit of a disappointment, but I most likely will not let it stop me from reading more of her work. I do feel like she has a good grasp of human emotion. Her writing style is smooth and flows well so I'll give her books another shot at another time. I'm sure there is much to reflect upon in this story -- friendship, trust, overcoming adversity, positive thinking, etc. so don't let my less-than-perfect review deter you. Make your own judgement -- perhaps in the middle of this book is right where you belong.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Romantic
Not This Author's Best Work

Having read "The Husband's Secret", "What Alice Forgot" and "Big Little Lies" by this author, I was expecting a bit more than I received. Her stories always have a character or two that seem somewhat outside the norm, but for me most all of the characters were a bit disjointed in this story. A 60+ year mystery on an island with few inhabitants is at the center of this tale. An abandoned baby, parents who disappeared while a warm cake is still cooling from the oven, and two teenage girls who take the baby in and raise her as their own finishes out the circle of mystery. The Dougherty family has been deeply immersed in the money-making, tour-guiding business of exploiting the mystery for years, even going so far as to coordinate an anniversary party each year commemorating the day the baby was found. But is the story of the mystery really as portrayed? Are the players in the story hiding the truth? Will the mystery of Jack and Alice Munro ever be solved? When you look at the surface questions, the journey seems like an interesting one. However, for this reader I found the characters to be wanting. There was not a family member one whose life was fulfilled, who was not struggling with internal demons, biological clocks, dissatisfaction with chosen paths and decisions. While the mystery finally revealed itself (I won't spoil it for anyone wanting to read it), I did not feel that the old saying "THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE" really rang true. By the end of the story, I still found most characters pitiful, unfulfilled, settling for second best or beyond help. I gave the story three stars because it did hold my interest as I continued to hope there would be more to it, but my expectations fell a bit short when encountering what I perceived as a less than perfect ending.

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fun, Dark
No Stop Watch Needed

I only read about 3-4 thrillers a year and this was a good choice. A hospital psychiatrist finds himself caught in the wake of a depressed and possibly disturbed teenager, a vindictive soon-to-be ex-wife and doctors taking bribes from pharmaceutical companies. This book is rich in complicated characters and moves at a pretty good pace. I must confess that I spent so much time trying to play super sleuth as I read it that I over looked the real culprit. This is a pretty fast read but that doesn't mean that it is short on story and reiterates that we all have our "odd behaviors", even if it doesn't show itself every fifteen minutes. I wish the author had gone a bit deeper with the plot and the unraveling of it. I thought it was a bit rushed in the end and I think I would have picked a different culprit (can't say who or it will spoil it). Regardless - it is still a very worthwhile read.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
A Powerful Read

Wow what a powerful story. This is my third book by Jodi Picoult and it rates right up there with The Storyteller. Lone Wolf is actually two stories intricately woven to create a beautiful quilt. Luke is a protector of wolves and has even lived the life of a wolf. But Luke is also a father and, at one time, a husband. He struggles with his responsibility to his children and his love and understanding of the animal kingdom. Involved in a tragic car accident that leaves him in a comatose state, his dysfunctional family is thrown together to weather the storm of his prognosis and future. A heart wrenching story drenched in misunderstandings, misspoken words and missed opportunities, it is sure to reel you in. But so delicately laced throughout is the story of the wolves. I found myself even more taken by the knowledge of their rituals, the makings of a pack and the similarities in a pack vs a family. I have read certain stories that seem to imbed themselves in my heart long after I placed them on my bookshelf. This story is one such tale. I don't know whether to smile or cry as it has left me with a wide range of emotions. I usually pick up another book within minutes, hours or a day after finishing a book, but something tells me I will have to give myself a few days to let this tale digest because like your favorite dessert, it is sometimes good to take it in slowly to savor all its ingredients. A great discussion book that will run the gamut from what constitutes a life to the hierarchy platform in a family and each level's purpose.

The Nightingale: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Inspiring
Oh So Beautiful a Story

A Nightingale is often known for its powerful and beautiful song. If that statement holds true, then this book was very appropriately named because it boasts a powerful message and a beautiful refrain of the courage, fortitude and unselfish acts performed by many during WWII. This story revolves around two sisters torn apart, at first, by the repercussions that WWI had on their family and especially their father. Later the ravages of WWII create an even larger barrier between the two as each fights for what they believe in and for that which they hold dear. This was a most gripping story that, I feel, will have a profound effect on my definition of "hero". For a generation whose numbers are dwindling each day and within another decade will most likely be gone, their story deserves to be told and remembered. And in today's society where it feels most people are concerned about no one but themselves, we need to be reminded of a day when there was compassion and reverence for our fellowman. We need to feel what it is like to be united in a common cause and to be a part of the solution. The Nightingale is a moving story that is sure to speak to your heart and makes for a wonderful discussion group.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Insightful
Deeply Woven Story

I had a difficult time getting in to this book, but perhaps it came from too many interruptions. Once I got into the flow of the story (about halfway through), I was hooked. It is a combination of several stories -- a factual murder over 100 years ago, a childless actress obsessed with the stage but especially the stage production of this murder and the actress' goddaughter, an author and lover of the arts as well. The goddaughter, Josephine, inherits the estate of the recently deceased actress, Hester. Through the process of cleaning out the estate, Josephine slowly finds herself being pulled into the mystery of the age-old murder (of Maria) that continues to affect so many lives. Wrapped in the story is the mystery of who is Lucy Kyte. Hester's will states that Lucy can have whatever she wants from the cottage. But who is Lucy? Where did she go? How does she fit in to the picture? The story speaks to the lives of 4 women (including Lucy) who lived different lives, followed different paths and yet were all marked by tragedy, wanting, regret and a need for forgiveness. Can voices from the past still be heard? Does a spirit have the ability to still touch a heart or does the heart they are speaking to have to already be cracked in order to let it in? This was a touching story about how there are times that the truth just has to be told -- no matter how long it takes to surface. What did Lucy take from the cottage? I hope she took the knowledge that even in death we can learn to breathe again.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Dramatic, Beautiful
An Emotional read

"If I Stay" was an emotional story that pulled at my heart. A lone family survivor of an automobile accident leaves a teenage girl teetering on death's door. Her voice is removed from her ailing body and you witness her eye-opening experience as she watches her friends and family mourn the loss of her parents, younger brother and possibly her. She tries to balance what she might have to live for and the ease of joining her family that has left her. She takes you on a journey to the chords that made up her musical family and how they blended together to make a four-some that overflowed in trust, love and companionship. But her will to hang on and the strength to do so is quickly fading. This was a very short read but long on message. Having just lost a loved one to ALS just 6 months ago, I had to watch her make the same decision. It was an emotional roller coaster for everyone then and this story just reiterated that there could come a time when we all are given a choice -- "Do I go or do I stay?"

Breakwater Bay: A Novel by Shelley Noble
 
Book Club Recommended
Optimistic, Insightful, Beautiful
An Enjoyable Read

Sometimes we are shaped by our surroundings, sometimes by circumstance and sometimes by fate. Breakwater Bay tells the story of several people whose lives were altered by the decisions of others and elements out of their control. This is a story of a grandmother who has been carrying secrets for years, a middle-aged man coming to terms with a bad marriage that produced two good kids, living alone and feeling the void, and painstakingly seeing a promise made as a young teenager coming to an end. It tells the story of a girl whose life has been altered by her mother's death, a need to keep those she loves close to her side and living out her dream in the conservation and preservation of century-old homes that, even while empty and bare, still have a voice and a story to tell. Little does she know that while she slowly and meticulously peels the old layers of paint to reveal the true beauty of the home, that layers of her own life will soon be chipped away to reveal a life she never knew. There is always a question of whether it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, but the truth is that once the lid of Pandora's box has been removed, there is no going back.

Lantern, The by Deborah Lawrenson
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Beautiful
The Lantern Shines

I really enjoyed The Lantern. It was a combination of a mystery, drama and love story. The premise of the story revolves around a family that inhabited a cottage and surrounding acreage years ago. One of the daughters is stricken with blindness in her early youth and actually grows up to be an admired and successful perfume maker. She uses her sister and other friends to help describe colors to her. A favorite quote in the story was: "I finally went blind when I was thirteen years old and it was the loss of my sight that took me to places I might never have seen." Because people were forever describing the lavender fields or the color of blue to her, the book and the author's writing style began to take on a very poetic feel for me. It was like an artist painting a picture and the descriptions were like looking at a blank canvas and watching a scenic view slowly appear. Another favorite quote is: "Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear. Some scents release a rush of half-forgotten memories. And then there are the scents that seem to express truths about people and places that you have never forgotten -- the scents that make time stand still." They say that when a person loses one sense, that another of their senses will magnify itself. The blind sister's sense of smell was so keen and she so aptly could mingle various scents to create a particular atmosphere of feelings. It brought back memories to me of how the smell of yeast draws me back to the days of my grandmother baking rolls; how the smell of an iris takes me back 50 years to the days of a grandmother's iris bed that spanned an acre. I love how the smell of cinnamon reminds me of my mother baking pies and the smell of sawdust takes me back to days spent with my father in his workshop. I guess when we lose a loved one, we keep them with us in the scents that hold memories. Don't get me wrong - this book is NOT a melancholy, "good old days" story. It is ripe with mystery, murder and questions but somewhere in the midst of the story it spoke to me and, at least for now - if you can pardon the pun, has awakened a desire to stop and smell the roses.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Addictive, Slow
Letters to the Lost is a Good Find

This story sucked me in from the first chapter. I love stories that intertwine two separate times and lives. It is really the story of a love found during WWII in London. Orphaned at a young age, Stella has learned to survive and not hope for much happiness. Her life-long friend from the orphanage, Nancy, wants more from life than just getting by. Through the orphanage she receives a job as housekeeper at the vicar's house. Eventually they marry but the union is not what Stella expected nor desired. Enter a young American flyer who finds himself in London helping the RAF and on a lonely night with only his camera as a companion, takes a picture of a woman who's face and soul continue to haunt him. For some they say that love can be at first sight. Of course, we all know that life can be cruel and soul mates are not easy to find. Flash forward to 2011, a young woman, Jess, trying to escape the snares of an abusive boyfriend when she stumbles upon an abandoned home and realizes it is her answer for temporary shelter and safety. Inside she discovers an array of letters from a man on his deathbed who is desperately looking for his lost love. The gentle words and unspoken passion found on the pages of the letter so speak to Jess that she feels she has no other recourse but to try to find the one who is lost.

I felt the author did a wonderful job bringing to life full and rich characters, even if all appeared somewhat flawed or wanting. Their image and the reality of each of their souls just seemed to jump from the page. I always seem to be drawn to stories surrounding WWII but perhaps it is because it was such a monumental time in history. Never have so many lives been touched and altered by war. Sacrifice became a way of life, not only in the human sacrifice of soldiers and innocent citizens caught in the crossfire, but those left at home having to sacrifice goods, food, loss of income, etc. How I would never wish that for our world again, but how I would love to bring back that sense of brotherhood, compassion and unity among people.

This story is about sacrifices made in the name of love and commitment. It is about finding love in the most inopportune times and places. It is not a sappy love story (I hate those), but a very moving story about people who discover that life is not always about thinking of yourself, but the happiness and welfare of others -- even if they are only a name found in a letter.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Interesting
Dead Wake

Dead Wake is a non-fiction story of the sinking of the Lusitania. I had a somewhat hard time getting into a full-blown reading mode with this book, possibly because I already knew the outcome. However, I did learn much about how submarines operated during WWI and their strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed being introduced to many of the passengers on the Lusitania and wondering if they would survive. It was interesting to hear most of the story from the viewpoint and diary of the German u-boat commander, his thoughts and rationale behind his actions. I was relieved (if that is even the proper word to use) to find that he was haunted by his actions for the rest of his life. I think sometimes the aftermath of war can be just as cruel, or more, than the destructive act itself. My heart hurt for the attempted blame they tried to put on Captain Turner of the Lusitania but even more it hurt to know that they consciously didn't send a larger, faster ship to their rescue so as not to give up the knowledge that they were decoding German messages. It is hard to justify the actions of many involved in this disaster. It is hard to find justification for sinking a passenger ship full of innocent men, women and children. But in reality is there true justification in war? I feel there is no "just" war -- there is just War. All in all it was an interesting read but how can you feel good when you know that more than half of the passengers will perish? My only disappointment was that the author didn't mention the older woman who was rescued still floating in a deck chair. She simply washed off the deck and continued floating. The story of her plight always brings a smile to my face -- something this book did not. In the stories defense, sometimes we have to hear and be knowledgable of the bad side of things to appreciate the good and to serve as a reminder of what humans are capable of both in crimes against humanity and the courage and survival traits some possess.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Inspiring, Insightful
Language of Sisters a good discussion book

Every girl wants a sister, but what if that sister isn\'t quite what you expected? A severely mentally and physically challenged baby sister wasn\'t quite on Nicole\'s list. Little sister, Jenny, required the bulk of her Mom\'s attention and Dad gets frustrated from his inability to control or correct the situation. When she is old enough Nicole leaves home, moves away and attempts to start a life of her own, void of her mother, father AND sister. But a phone call from her Mom with whom she hasn\'t spoken with in 10 years, opens the floodgate to her unanswered questions, feelings of guilt and heartbreaks that she thought she boxed up some years ago. This is a heart-warming, and at times heart-wrenching, story that speaks to the heart of every family that has had to deal with any type of mental or physical handicap within their family. Nicole learns the hard way that no matter the distance you put between yourself and those you think you want to hide from, that the genes shared between all concerned creates an invisible thread that binds everyone together. Sometimes it takes a moment or a cause to pull us away from our day-to-day grind to remind us of what\'s important and to evaluate the direction our life is taking. A predictable story, but worthy of the read just the same.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Slow
It\'s all in the eyes of the beholder


I must admit that after 100 pages I was still waiting for a story to begin. I felt the author was giving nothing but flashbacks of Scout\'s childhood and the history of the town and people of Maycomb. For me it took more than half of the book for the real story to evolve and it was at that point that I gathered the validity and value of the stories in the first 150 pages. Most people will only give a book 50 or 75 pages (at most) to draw them in or else they will shelve it. I\'m glad I\'m not one of those people or I would have missed a good story. Even though I failed to see the relevance of some of the childhood memories, I was thoroughly enjoying being taken back to a time in history when life seemed simple and uncomplicated -- when kids enjoyed playing outside all day and could spend afternoons entertained with nothing but their imaginations.

The guts of Go Set A Watchman revolves around Scout, who at age 26 is now living in New York, comes home to Maycomb to visit her father, Atticus Finch - an aging attorney severely plagued with arthritis. While Scout enjoys her job and life in New York, she always seem to feel like a fish out of water and her times spent in Maycomb make her feel like she is \"home\"

It is this reader\'s opinion that Scout is dealing with similar issues that many of today\'s youth (and some not-so-youth) deal with -- that of never truly growing up, maturing with both your heart and eyes, living realistically and not idealistically. Scouts youth was, to her, a time of having a pure heart where you assume all are honest, compassionate and equal. What a shock to the system when you discover that once blinders are removed, the world has taken on certain shadows and a fog that represents the evil that has lurked in our world since Adam and Eve took their first bite of an apple. So for Scout, Maycomb feels like her safe haven because of what it represents in her mind. When confronted with the fact that perhaps her perceptions could be somewhat distorted or prejudiced, it is a source of great anger and confusion. Scout is forced to see what HER eyes are seeing and not judging the world through the eyes of her father.

I think this story would make a great discussion book but be prepared because the discussion could be controversial and personal.




 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Interesting
Another "Can't Put It Down" Book by Kate Morton

Kate Morton does it again -- another 600 page book that you read in 2 days. Just when I thought Kate Morton couldn't do any better than The Secret Keeper, she shows me that she is still the master of creating suspenseful, secretitive stories that keep you hanging until the last page. I only found one small flaw in the story (even when it was first mentioned I pondered that it seemed a bit contrived), but it did nothing to affect the outcome. The Lake House revolves around two generations of one family that have owned and inhabited a lake house for many many years. There are secrets held by everyone and for different reasons. Some secrets are the truth while others are later found to be what some "assumed" to be the truth. Grandmother, mother, father, daughters all house their guilt, shame and burdons in shadows and in silence. The mystery of a baby boy who disappeared from his crib in 1933 is at the center of the story. Seventy years after his disappearance the cold case is revisted by a detective who has been "asked to take a leave of absence" because of a case she was working in which they feel she stepped over the line. Intrigue, intuition and pure instinct are rooted in the detective's motive for trying to solve the case. Little did she realize the pandora's box she was about to open. While reading this story I cast blame on basically every character in the story (some characters more than once) and still did not see the ending coming. Entwined in the story is the thread that binds all families together, the genetic DNA parallel between kin that conjures a spiritual devotion, attachment and compassion no matter the geographic distance or circumstances that may separate them. Some people seek forgiveness for secrets kept. Some people take secrets to the grave. And some just need to visit The Lake House and see what real secrets are made of.

The Sound of Glass by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Dramatic, Unconvincing
ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL KAREN WHITE STORY

Wow - that was an emotional roller coaster ride. The Sound of Glass is a story of courage, overcoming obstacles and adversities. It is a story of finding your way. It is a book FULL of words of wisdom. Some of my favorites:
Everybody carries their hurts in different ways, but everybody's got them. Everybody. Some people are just better at hiding them.
Turning the page is always better than rereading the same page over and over.
Everybody dies but not everybody lives.
The greatest moments in life are usually the smallest.
There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.
It is in the darkness we find light.

Merritt finds she has inherited a house in South Carolina that belonged to her husband's grandmother. Having lost her husband a couple of years earlier she picks up and moves to SC to begin a new life and hopefully to leave some scars behind. Soon after arriving she is confronted with her stepmother, Loralee,(close to her own age) and half-brother who is 10, who suddenly appear on her doorstep hoping to crash for a short time. Merritt had been estranged from her father (who has passed away) since he married Loralee and doesn't even know her half brother. Little do the two women know how much they need each other and how their lives are entwined, even if one tries to break the tie that binds. Both women must learn that sometimes to face the future, you must face your past.

Fire and references to fire run rampid through this story. Fires can be stopped in three ways -- exhausting the fuel source, taking away the source or starving the fire of oxygen. Fire is an event, not a thing. I loved how the fire theme fit so perfectly into the story. "Never let the fire get behind you."

Sometimes the scene behind closed doors is not what it appears. We all have our secrets -- and sometimes secrets kill. Sometimes they just need to be told, but at whose expense? Like all Karen White stories, this tale is full of secrets and some that have been waiting lifetimes to be heard. A moving story about the effects of abuse and the lives impacted by trying to hide the truth.

One of my favorite lines: "To survive out here as a plant you have to be tough. They've adapted to take all they need from nature while at the same time fighting it back. It's not easy to be covered with water for half the day and then baked in the broiling sun for the other half. They couldn't survive if they behaved like ordinary plants. Actually they really are just ordinary plants but have learned to survive unordinary events, which makes them like the strongest plants in the world."

I thought one of the best pieces of advice came in the wisdom of Loralee... She remembered her safety training as a flight attendant, how if they found themselves in water to roll on their backs and lead with their feet so they could see where they were going instead of where they'd been. She'd always thought that was a good way to approach life, too.

A Long Time Gone by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Powerful story

Karen White creates emotional, deep south, family-tie stories and she has set the bar even higher for similar authors when she wrote A Long Time Gone. This story covers four generations of women, all held together by a sense of "home". How I longed to enjoy the 1920's with Adelaide and witness her adolescent years spent with Sarah and watch her relationship with John take shape. I wanted to dip my hands in the damp earth with Bootsie as she planted her seedlings and help her pull weeds that may encroach on the vegetables' ladder to maturity. I desperately wanted to shake some sense into Carol Lynn and show her that her love for her children was stronger than her afflictions and other dependencies. My heart hurt for Vivian who so badly needed the love and acceptance of her mother but couldn't recover from the hurt and isolation that her mother's frequent absences brought to her life. This is a beautifully written story showing the power and strength of women. And when you throw in the mix an additive called motherhood to their make-up, you find they possess fortitude, endurance and compassion beyond measure. A heart-warming story that will make you want to go lie beneath a cypress tree and count the stars and, if you're lucky, count the crows as they fly.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Adventurous, Inspiring
Great Read

Sometimes I find it ironic how we get drawn to a certain genre of storylines without a conscious effort to do so. For some unknown reason I have recently read two books that have been intertwined between the real world and the spiritual world. The first was A Sudden Light (Garth Stein) and now The Memory Thief (Emily Colin). Both have been very enjoyable stories but from total opposite spectrums. The Memory Thief is told from the perspective of three different people: Madeleine (mother, wife, freelance writer and now widow); Aiden (husband, father, mountain climber, dare-devil, now deceased); and Nicholas (single, not happy but not unhappy either, uneventful lifestyle and motorcycle accident survivor with no memory). The author does a beautiful job of pulling you into each of their stories and as you bob and weave through their lives you almost become one with their passion and their compassion (and trust me there is a difference).

Let’s pretend for a moment that perhaps it IS possible for people to reach out to us after their death. What would you want them to tell you? What would you want to tell them? Would you be receptive and able to open your heart AND your mind to hear or feel their presence? Is it wise for them to linger here after death? Is it practical for us to WANT them to remain? Now take the word “pretend” out of the equation and you have the floorplan for The Memory Thief.

I loved the depth of all the characters, even the innocence of the young child, Gabe. Oh, if we could all only continue to see life through the eyes of child. If we could all see the positive side of life and not be limited by what we think is not possible or achievable. The amount of happiness we receive in life is sometimes commensurate with the amount of effort we put in to finding it. The Memory Thief never really stole memories – it merely brought light and clarity to those who were willing to receive it.

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring
The Dressmaker Lacked a Few Stitches For Me

So you come from a poor family. Your only skills are the seamstress skills taught to you by your mother. You take a job requiring you be a maid for a wealthy family - a job you detest and, quite frankly, aren't very good at. Fed up with a job going nowhere and far from your dreams of fashion design, on a whim you walk out on your job and head towards the docks where you've been told a ship is leaving for America and they are in desperate need of workers. As luck would have it, you arrive too late for employment on the ship. The stars must be in perfect alignment because you spot one of the most famous designers heading towards the ship. As you make your way toward the woman, wanting to confirm the designers identity, you overhear the designer's worried conversation. It appears her maid has come down with an illness that will prohibit her from traveling to America with the designer. With only hours to find a suitable maid to accompany her, you -- the out-of-work seamstress/maid, volunteer your services. Sounds like a story too good to be true? Well, not exactly considering that it is April, the year is 1912 and the ship heading for America is the Titanic.

It was an interesting story about the differences in social classes and what appears to be a difference in values, honor and integrity among the classes as well. It is not a complicated story -- no mystery here. We all know the ship sunk, some survived, most did not and blame was tossed quickly and more violently than any oceanic storm. Tess, the lowly want-to-be seamstress and designer is torn between remaining loyal to her heart on the events of that fateful night or turning a blind eye to the greed and selfishness exhibited by some of the rich in an effort to save only themselves.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but this book just didn't draw me in. It was well written, the characters were nicely developed and it was obviously (at least for me) about an interesting subject. However, I just didn't find myself wanting to put my daily tasks on the back burner just so that I could lose myself in the story. It was an easy, quick read and would probably make a good discussion book for a book club regarding human nature and how quickly our actions and motives can change from what we THINK we would do in a crisis to what we ACTUALLY do when survival is key.

The Third Angel: A Novel by Alice Hoffman
 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Interesting
Good but not Great

I have mixed emotions about The Third Angel. It is actually three short stories that become threaded and connected at the end. It is basically a story of love and life. If we are honest, love (and life) can sometimes be unconventional - which is how I felt about the storylines. Sometimes we don't choose who we are going to fall in love with, life and circumstances have a way of bringing two hearts together. This story dabbles in disappointments, hidden secrets, the heartaches that come with guilt and regret and all wrapped nicely with a bit of spirituality. Three stories, one hotel, three loves, one angel. I'll not go into the premise of each story, you can read the stories synopsis and figure it out for yourself, but basically it deals with the theory that there are three types of angels. There is the Angel of Life, the Angel of Death and then there is the third angel -- the one who walks among us. The book was well written, rich in descriptive scenery, but for me I just felt something lacking. I can't put my finger on it -- perhaps it was because all of the stories seem to have a not-so-happy ending; they were full of people hurting and living in the past and pain. For me the most positive takeaway I received from the book was in the life of the doctor who met everything in life with an open mind and accepting attitude of "Well, what have we here?" Don't let my less than enthusiastic thoughts of the book discourage you from reading it -- perhaps it just didn't work for me.

Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Insightful, Fun
Imaginary Things is Worth The Read

Who hasn't had an imaginary friend? Five year old David has two imaginery friends -- and they are dinosaurs, King Rex and Weeble. The only problem is that his mother can see them too. And then something else imaginary appears, but it doesn't look like a friend and certainly doesn't act like a friend.

This was a story of a journey between mother and son, both trying to find their way in life while searching for security and peace of mind. I didn't find it nearly as entertaining as I did "Memoirs of an Imaginery Friend" by Matthew Dicks, but it was an interesting concept of how deep the bond between mother and child can reach.

For me it brought back wonderful memories of my own children's imaginary friends -- my daughter's Skippy Rabbit, who hung around for months on end. Then there was "John", my son's friend who lived with us for at least 2 years. I'm glad I hadn't read this book when my kids were young because perhaps I would have worried about the imaginary friends they chose and why. Suffice it to say, that I reveled in their love for their playmates and made the best of it until it was time for them to fade into the sunset. Let's face it, we all need a security blanket from time to time -- and sometimes even after we are grown.

Imaginary Things was not a spectacular book in my opinion, but it was a good escape from the daily grind and anything that takes me back to the memories of my children's childhood days is a good read. If you read it -- I hope it conjures up some interesting friends from the past for you as well.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Informative
Loved the Walk into History


I am always amazed when I read a book thinking I am going to be get one type of story and receive something completely different. This story had a bit of everything -- mystery, romance, history lesson, time travel, etc. I became immediately hooked with the clarity and vision obtained in Bryan's painting episodes. I am clearly not an artist but I can only imagine the passion with which one could paint if your subject matter was that deeply ingrained in your soul.

I'm not a believer in reincarnation, but have to admit that the concept worked beautifully in this story. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories of the lives from the past that came calling during slumber. I found it a bit too contrived that each past episode seemed to be surrounded with such significant or popular figures in history. (In other words, I found it ironic that none of their past lives involved just ordinary people living ordinary lives.)But if you look at the story as being about the power and strength of true love -- true soul mates, then I guess it makes sense that the story would follow some of the greatest loves in history. I've done enough geneology in my lifetime to actually feel connections to loved ones from the past that I've never known, especially when you read something about their talents or hobbies or careers. But I accept this as a DNA connection only and nothing more.

I'm sure every reader will have their own interpretation of The Memory Painter. For me it was a historical journey, a captivating travel through time and a story that heightened my awareness and pride in the times and places from which my ancestors have lived and my hope and anticipation for what the future holds for my family and future generations to come.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Interesting
Mrs. Poe - Nevermore

I was excited to initially begin a book about Mrs. Poe and the grim, mysterious and unnerving husband, Edgar Allen Poe. However, when it takes nearly two weeks to finish a book, when a normal reading lasts only 1-3 days, at most, then surely something in the story was amiss for this reader's taste. Poe's stories, like his life, have a very tragic, melancholy air about them. I felt this story lent credence to his known life and writings, but also depicted him as very much a "lady's man" and I had difficulty accepting him as such. The flow of the story seemed extremely slow to me and I felt it could have been shortened considerably with the same effect. All in all, it was an entertaining read, with what could be considered a different viewpoint of the dark Mr. Poe, but it is important to any reader to separate the fact from the fiction. For a book club, it could have the makings of a good discussion -- or lead to other Poe stories or poetry selections. For me, I have marked it off of my "to read" list and will probably think of it nevermore.

 
Book Club Recommended
Poorly Written, Unconvincing
A Fleeting Memory

I feel a bit guilty having to give this book only two stars when other reviewers clearly seem to have loved it. Perhaps I had higher hopes for the story, but it seemed a bit simplistic to me -- something along the lines of a Hallmark made-for-TV story. I had difficulty when the chapters moved from first person to third person and then back again and there were times when the author would state ahead of time what was about to happen, as if the reader couldn't figure it out for themselves. I didn't feel that the characters had enough depth to me -- although I did have fun picturing what Miss Ophelia must have looked like (to me I kept picturing my paternal grandmother). I love history, genealogy and antiques, so the premise that items can hold memories of others was both inviting and intriguing. I have many items belonging to loved ones I have lost and the mere sight of them can bring a flood of emotions and memories. I do often sit in some of my old old rockers and even try to envision the host of mothers who have sung their babies to sleep in them. I can line the drawers of old dressers and be filled with thoughts of all of the baby shoes, hand-made presents and love letters they have kept sacred in the past. For the walk down memory lane, I am grateful that I read the story. For future reading material, I fear I may have to look elsewhere.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Informative, Interesting
A Great Historical Read

My favorite line in the book was one apparently quoted by H. G. Wells during a dinner party thrown by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. He said, "We all have our time machines, don't we? Those that take us back are memories ... And those that carry us forward are dreams."

I received this book free of charge for an honest review. Had I known the story between the covers, I would gladly have purchased it on my own. While the cover states that it is a story of the real life Gladys Spencer-Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, it was actually a story of life, directions we take, choices we make, dreams we hold and disappointments we hide. This book is filled with lines from, and mention of, many of the world's classic literary works. For this reviewer, any story that deals with books and/or authors has my attention and this one grabbed me from the start.

The life lived (or endured) by the Duchess of Marlborough seems like a fairy tale story on the surface, but underneath you realize that loneliness, emptiness and disgrace are emotions from which even money, clout and title cannot hide. The Duchess of Marlborough wants to be left alone. She wants to be remembered for who she is and not what she was. She is looking for acceptance, friendship and possibly forgiveness. Pru is an American girl without a family, whose fiancé has forsaken her to serve in the Vietnam war and later declared dead. A literary scholar headed nowhere and no one to share her future with, she accepts a job across the oceans as a caretaker/companion to an old woman in France, who also shares a love of the written word. Both women have more in common than meets the eye as they are running and hiding from their pasts filled with secrets and a future that looks dim.

Laurel Haley is hiding secrets of her own too. A horse ranch owner in the US, she makes plans for a trip to France to unload some property she inherited years ago. Her daughter, Anne, who has just graduated from college and looking for work, agrees to tag along in hopes of drawing closer to the mother she feels is drifting away from her. Anne's fiancé has just left for a deployment to Afghanistan and the timing is right to create a closer bond with her Mom.

Two stories told 30 years apart that somehow contain a common thread that is neatly, most of the time, sewn together through a maze of life in the ruins, life on the rocks and life at the top. This was a beautiful read that has left me wanting to read more about the Duchess. In my opinion, any book that inspires the reader to pursue additional knowledge on the given subject matter HAS to be a well written story.

See Me by Nicholas Sparks
 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Romantic, Adventurous
Take a Closer Look at "See Me"

Meet Colin Hancock. He's rough, he's troubled and he's as brutally honest as he is brutal inside a fight cage. Having dealt with anger issues his entire life, Colin is working toward a path that will lead him to redemption and a purpose. Channeling his temper hasn't been easy and he knows the parole officer meant business when he said "one more incident and it will mean a long time behind bars". Life is tough when your worst enemy is yourself.

Meet Maria Sanchez. She is beautiful, a law school graduate and had her heart broken by a man she thought was the one. She submerses herself in her work, setting goals for where she wants to see herself in the future. Remaining close to her immigrant Hispanic parents and her slightly younger sister, she reserves little time to build a life for herself outside the office. Life is tough when you can't let yourself trust others.

There is a stalker. He is on a mission. He has no name. He has no face. But he's out there -- and he doesn't care who gets in his way. His only goal is to exact revenge.

That is a quick synopsis of the story "See Me". For me this story had a much different feel from the normal Nicholas Spark stories -- a bit more drama, a bit more mystery. I would say that it was easy to figure out, but I ran a complete circle while reading it pointing blame to nearly everyone. What I really loved about the story, however, was Colin. The honesty of his character was remarkable and so refreshing. I loved that he didn't try to mask his past but accepted it like a person accepts the color of eyes. He pulled no punches (except in the ring), he laid himself out for all to see with a "like me or don't like me" attitude that never waivered. He was resigned to the fact that you can't change the past and yet determined to change his future. The story was filled with a menagerie of characters with both open and closed minds, who withheld judgment on someone until they really knew them to those who were so closed minded that seeing a bruised or mangled face could spell nothing but disaster and fear to them. I found the story both enlightening, inspiring and more than "okay". (Read the story and you will understand.)

A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Insightful, Fun
HARD TO KNOW WHETHER TO LAUGH OR CRY

A Man Called Ove filled me with every emotion known to man, sheer joy, sorrow, excitement, grief, uncontrollable laughter, unconsolable tears and gratitude that I am only 58 and have the desire to live out my 59th year in the same manner as Ove did. What a remarkable story of a lonely man, a man who knew right from wrong and expected others to behave with the same mindset. He was often disappointed and frequently misunderstood. Looked upon as a busy body, a know-it-all, or just a crotchety old man, his life seems worthless following the death of his wife and his so-called "early retirement" he was forced to take. The neighborhood is changing, foreigners are moving in, his only friend on the block is in the latter stages of Alzheimers and life is looking pretty grim. Determined that he would be better off to go meet his Maker and, more importantly, his wife, Ove sets things in motion to further his plans. But people and circumstances have different ideas for Ove and it is there the journey begins. This was just such a heart-warming story full of compassion, the depth of grief, the boundaries of friendship and the need we all have to feel of value.

One of my favorite lines states: "Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it is often one of the most motivating factors for living. ..... For the greatest fear of death is that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone."

I'm so glad I chose this book to be one of the last I read this year. Perhaps I will take a breather for the remainder of 2015 and just let the wisdom of Ove and the lessons he not only taught but discovered himself wash over me like a soft winter snowfall. Yes, the world needs more angels like Ove so I think snow angels are just what this occasional calls for.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Gloomy
Handle With Care Needs Kid Gloves

This book package needs to have "Fragile" written all over it. It broke my heart in more ways than one. Meet Willow, a six year old born with a rare genetic mutation called osteogenesis imperfect ("OI"), which in short means soft or brittle bones. Willow contracted 7 broken bones while in the womb and even more during delivery. A condition that will plague her all her life, Willow and her family must deal with the reality that something as small as a sneeze could cause a bone fracture.

A mother whose life is consumed with protecting her younger daughter as best she can, an older sister who feels neglected and overlooked just because she is "normal" and a husband who can't possibly make enough to support the financial burden of treatment and hospital bills make up a family headed for disaster. An attorney who is fighting her own internal turmoil and anxiety while looking for her true birth mother, agrees to take on a "wrongful birth" case wherein the mother hopes to cash in for dollars to help with her daughter's care. The only problem with the case is that in order to claim a wrongful birth, the mother must prove that the doctor should have discovered the prognosis earlier and allowed her the opportunity to terminate the pregnancy, if she so desired. The biggest problem -- the female OBGYN is also the mother's best friend.

There are many moral and ethical issues that lie seductively hidden in this story. Some issues I could nod my head and say "that's right" and others left me wondering how I truly felt about the cost (emotional and monetary) of pursuing. This is a good discussion book and an excellent insight to the toll that any disability takes not only on the disabled but the caregivers as well.

It is always easy to say that we would react a certain way given a set of circumstances, but the truth is that thinking how one would react and actually finding yourself in that situation and having to truly make a snap decision on a matter are two different things. As a wife, mother and grandmother, I am very much aware of the sacrifices we make in our daily lives to bring about fulfillment or enrichment in the lives of our loved ones. I know what it is like to put your own desires or wants on the back burner in order to further the advancement of someone else. But this story poses many scenarios to the age old question, "What price glory?" How much is too much to ask? Where do you draw the line?

This was a very emotional and moving story that left me with a renewed sense of appreciation, gratitude and respect for all caregivers and their relentless energy and patience. Kuddos to the author for yet another eye-opening story that will make any reader count their blessings.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Pointless
Our lives should never be left unfinished.

I'll admit it -- I love to journal. They are a release, a conversation with yourself. I journaled daily when my son was deployed for 15 months in Iraq and then another 12 months in Afghanistan. It was important for me to know that he knew that he was utmost in our thoughts and prayers. I journal thoughts, stories and poems. Because of my passion for the written word, I am always elated when I run across a book dealing with letters or journals from the past.

Elizabeth D has been killed in a plane crash. Her husband and 3 children are devastated and her best friend, Kate, from the old neighborhood is in shock. Elizabeth and Kate spent much time shopping together, swapping stories, engaging in Mother's Clubs, babysitting for one another, etc. Though they no longer lived across the street from one another, the connection is still there -- especially for Kate.

Elizabeth D loved to journal. She has been writing in journals since her adolescent years. She has a trunk filled with her life's stories. Her husband respects her privacy and the privacy of her journals. However, when she accidentally dies, he finds she has willed all of her journals to be given to her friend, Kate, who can then decide what to do with them. He is suddenly faced with a feeling of betrayal that he will never know what words are inscribed within them and anger that his wife did not entrust them to him. Kate is confused as to her friends request and afraid of what she might find inside.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves just how well we know other people. Do we truly know our friends, family, co-workers, even our spouse or are they merely showing us the sides of them they want us to see? And if we are true friends -- true listeners, then why the need to keep feelings and experiences hidden? Is it deceit? Mere omission? Fear of criticism or rejection? Or are some things just better off left unsaid?

Journals can oftentimes be a conversation with yourself. An opportunity to divulge your feelings without the opinions of others. It can be a cleansing experience to relieve stress or fears without burdening others. Perhaps there are times when there is much more people would like to say in a conversation if others would just remain quiet and listen.

Elizabeth D's life may be over, but her story lives on in her journals. This is a beautiful story of how we, far too often, find ourselves attached to the surface of a person without realizing that it is the inner makings and life experiences of that individual that brought beauty and character to their surface.

The Lightkeeper's Wife: A Novel by Sarah Anne Johnson
 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Interesting
Held Little Light for Me

My first instinct was to give this book only one star, but in all honesty, I did enjoy the images projected of life as a lighthouse keeper and even that of life on the high seas. Obviously, my opinion differs greatly from others who have read this book.

Hannah was a strong woman who felt that being a woman should not bring limitations to what she was capable of achieving or doing. A father who raised her to feel at home in the water and to take pride in honest hard work, Hannah's mother felt she would be better served working in their on-land store and learning the ropes of being a lady rather than learning the ropes on a sailing ship. What a treasure was in store for her when she marries the lighthouse keeper and she is able to feel a part of the sea again.

Annie was in a marriage not of her liking. Her husband is a ship's captain and life aboard a ship with her as the only female is lonely. Pregnant and afraid of having to give birth on board her husband's whaling vessel, he sets her ashore with a promise to return for her after she has given birth and ready to sail again. Heartbroken and feeling abandoned, she finds comfort in the females to whom her husband has entrusted her care to. The birth of her daughter brings limited joy as the baby soon succumbs to ailments stemming from premature birth. Annie is determined to change outcome of her life, no matter the cost.

So for this reader, at least the beginning of the story presented two strong women who were not afraid to face adversity, trials and tribulations and saw no boundaries for their accomplishments. In researching the original of names, I found that Hannah means "grace, or in God's favor". Ironically, Annie is actually another version or form of Hannah. So I immediately begin to see a connection between their characters. And that is about where my interest and favor with the book ended.

I like to think that I read books that give me pause to think. I think value is found in literary works when a reader is moved, emotionally uplifted or gains insight from a story or theme from a book. I felt the story had validity and strength on its own accord without having to bring in sexuality issues better left for other works. Unfortunately, I finished this book disappointed by the outcome and directions taken. Oh well - as a reader, you win some and you lose some.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Unconvincing, Romantic
Good Mystery -- Just Unbelievable

A millionaire father, a daughter who has been polished to someday take over her father's company and a business merger about to take place at the Inn at Ocean's Edge starts the story.

A long-time widower's dementia and inability to care for himself is escalating, a daughter who has given up her dream of a career to play caregiver and a son who has escaped to the coast guard to avoid being trapped in a life not of his choosing soon enter the story. Then it gets messy.

A murder, a missing child, a missing wife and mother and several attempts at murder bring to light a string of lies, cover-ups and deceitful, selfish behavior that affect (as it seemed to this reader) nearly everyone on the island. Geez, was no one immune?

This story is full of multiple plots, twists and turns that at times were a bit too farfetched, mighty coincidental and just inconceivable to me. If you can set aside the implausible actions of characters, it could be construed to be a good mystery. I just had difficulty understanding the paths taken by family members in the book and the sheer blindness of others. I also felt the story switched gears in midstream. The last third of the book seemed to draw in a strong religious feel to it that was absolutely missing in the first two-thirds of it. Was it supposed to be a story about faith or were references to faith inserted in order to get it a "Christian book" category? I found that rather confusing and felt the concept should have been transparent throughout or forgotten.

It was an entertaining story but unbelievable to me on so many levels that, for once, I am left without a personal take-away from a story unless it would be "honesty is always the best practice"; therefore I felt compelled to write an honest review.

Noah's Wife by Lindsay Starck
 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Unconvincing, Confusing
Noah's Wife

Noah's Wife was an interesting book to say the least. Noah is a minister who takes a position at a church in a small town where the past minister has apparently "gone missing" in the ever-rising waters. It appears it has been raining in this town for what seems like an eternity and there looks to be no end in sight. Hope is dwindling, faith is waning and raindrops keep falling. Noah (accompanied by his wife) have been assigned to the local church to help bring unity and hope to the town's people. There you have the beginning of the story. You meet some comical -- and some not so comical -- characters along the way that collectively create a colorful township. My favorite moments occurred when the townspeople took in all of the animals from the zoo when disaster strikes without complaining, without a second thought -- just because it was the right thing to do at the time.

My greatest difficulty with the story was that, for the most part, only the men in the story had names (Noah - the man sent to save everyone from the torrential rains; Adam -- who like the Biblical Adam and first keeper of the animals, is the town's zookeeper; and Jonah -- the weatherman who arrives to warn everyone of their fate due to the rising waters but gets swallowed up in his own guilt and remorse in not being able to make them evacuate). All of the women were referred to as "someone's wife" as in "Noah's wife". It reminded me a bit of Daphne Du'Maurier's Rebecca where we never knew Mrs. DeWinter's first name. What struck me odd was that while few of the women were referred to by first name, they were the ones portrayed as the stronger sex, the keepers of faith, the glue holding it all together, the axis from which everything rotated. (Was there an underlying feminist statement being made?)

I think the story was supposed to show the strength of relationships, taking chances, facing the unknown, have faith and courage for whatever lies ahead and working together for a common good. But quite frankly, I just wanted to go stand outside and turn my face towards the sun and feel something other than the gloom and despair showered upon this town and their plight. Maybe I just need to ponder it for a few days and let the story soak in - pardon the pun.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Informative
A MOVING STORY

I've had this book in my library for nearly two years. I don't know why I waited so long to read it. The story of The Baker's Daughter travels across time and oceans. From war-weary Germany during the height of WWII to a small town in present day El Paso, TX, both worlds hold secrets, fears and a chance for new beginnings. It reminded me of a cross between Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.

Elsie Schmidt is from a German family, a family that believes in their Fatherland and all are happy to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure the future of their country. However, Elsie's family encounters one heartbreak and disappointment after another. The author did a beautiful job painting a picture of life in Germany in the early 1940's. You could almost catch a hint of yeast and cinnamon as you turned the page as each day in the bakery unfolded. You could feel your pulse increase at the thought of the SS banging at your door. You look at every character with skepticism not knowing who can be trusted.

Fast forward to 2007 where Elsie and her daughter are continuing the family business but in the U.S. Reba, a local journalist, has come to do a story on how different ethnic groups celebrate the Christmas holidays. Despite their grave age differences, the two women share a common burden -- that of covering up the past, of unspoken events and untapped fears. Reba is running from her past and memories that only bring sorrow and the realization that everyone carries inter-demons.

Each time period has its own story but I personally longed to dwell in Elsie's stories from the past. The war years were written with such passion that you could almost feel the hunger of patrons standing in line with their ration stamps for bread. You could almost (ALMOST) find it conceivable how the nation's occupants could turn a blind eye to the human cruelty being dealt on their soil. There is much to be said of this story -- but non more important than a call to read its words and let it speak to your sense of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude to those in the past who have stood for what is right --no matter the cost. Sometimes we have to look to the past in order to move forward.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Interesting
Use Your Words -- Listen

Everything I Never Told You perhaps should have been named "Everything You Never Thought to Ask or Notice". This was a beautifully written story about what I perceived as a deeply dysfunctional family. It broke my heart on so many levels because I fear it speaks to a great many American households these days. I never thought I would be one to say the dreaded phrase "in my days" but unfortunately in my days when we raised our kids, the dinner table was a place to share our lives and thoughts with one another. We recognized the importance of knowing what was going on with our children and hopefully helped them feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and fears. As a part of the duo "husband and wife", and 40+ years together, you learn that the key to a healthy relationship is not being afraid to share feelings - even if they may not be what the other half wants to hear. This story brought to light the importance of communication in a family, the need we each have to feel loved, important and accepted for who we are and not who someone wants us to be. This should be a must read for all parents to learn to "use your words" and not assume anything. It should be a wake up call for all parents that you can't relieve your life through your children. If somehow you missed the boat and your life took a different direction than planned, well now is a good time to pull up your big girl panties and make the best of the hand you have been dealt. In all honesty this was not a feel good book for me, but was an very realistic and honest look at everyone's human side that screams out a need to be heard and accepted.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
A Great Story of Human Frailties

This is my second book by Kristin Hannah (first read Firefly Lane). Both stories had a bit of the same feel to it – traditional family teenage girl befriends a teenage girl from a dysfunctional background. And while the stories didn’t exactly follow the same pathways, I had to deduct a star for lack of originality. That being said, it was still a beautiful story full of raw emotion and human frailty and certainly stands on its own as a testament to good writing. As in Firefly Lane, the characters in Night Road were well developed and the reader can easily connect with them. I felt about two-thirds into the book the story got a little rushed when the span of 5-6 years was accomplished in 2 pages, but I suppose it was necessary to bring closure to the story.

Two girls, both loners, find one another during their first week in high school and a kindred friendship evolves. One girl (Mia) comes from a wealthy family who enjoys all the amenities that come with money and education. The other girl (Lexi) comes from a life in foster homes while her drug-addict mother bounces back and forth out of her life. Mia has a twin brother, Zach, and the three become bosom buddies throughout their high school days. Graduation is upon them and Mia and Zach are looking forward to moving to California together and attending the same college. Lexi’s dreams do not include money for out-of-state tuition so the local junior college is the best she can do. Through much of the story, I wanted to strangle Mia and Zach’s mother. I found her manipulative, unreasonable and extremely selfish. Even when she eventually finds a “lightbulb” moment, her redemption was a bit too late for me. (Again, the author did such a fantastic job writing the mother’s character that I still don’t like her after the book is finished. Now that is good writing.)

It would be hard to divulge much more about the story without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that events occur, hearts break and lives are altered in such a way that the future is hard to see. Night Road takes you on a journey of grief, first love and true love, courage and forgiveness. It is only through the innocence of youth and a bit of Grace that redemption is found.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Dramatic, Brilliant
A Great Story

This was my first book by David Bell and it won't be my last. After reading several "female" stories, I thought I would change direction and read a mystery. What a good choice. Point A finds a young college couple embracing their relationship and youth. The girl "Marissa" suddenly breaks off the relationship and within a few days she and 3 other students die in a house fire. Point B begins 20 years later and the long ago boyfriend has tried to move on, even marries another girl years later, but the memory of Marissa still haunts him and his marriage dissolves. It's a quiet weekend night and he visits the local grocery story to pick up his usual snack foods when he catches sight of a girl in the grocery who is the spitting image of Marissa, complete with mannerism and expression. He approaches her but his forwardness scares her and she runs out of the store and into the night. Point C begins the next day when the police arrive at the same man's door and asks how he knew the girl from the grocery store. She has been found murdered and his name and address are in her pocket. The only problem -- he never told her his name.

From there the story takes an addictive ride that is well worth the ride. I was hypnotized by the plot and thought I knew the direction it was headed. I found the real story behind Marissa and her family's sudden disappearance not as believable as my own theory, but the bits of clues uncovered along the way were just as intriguing and fascinating as any Sherlock Holmes story.

This was a good detour from my usual family relationship stories and a road I hope I visit more often. The author knows how to let a story flow at a pace that is easy, doesn't get stale and doesn't move to swiftly. I look forward to reading further writings from this author.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Brilliant
A Beautiful Story


I ran hot and cold through this story – perhaps it was because I had to put it down and pick it up many times over the course of 2 weeks due to some unforeseen issues. The fact that I kept coming back to it must support my 4 star rating. This was an epic story of one family, three generations and an inherent desire for knowledge. I found the history of plants and mosses incredibly interesting and walked away with an appreciation I didn't have before of something as small as a clump of moss on a rock. I envied Alma and her family’s thirst for learning. The story was littered with a menagerie of characters who ranged from charming to quirky to self-sacrificing. It dabbled in some areas that I prefer not to read about, but for the sake of the greater picture, I tried to overlook it. The greatest difficulty for me was the book’s push to try to not just prove the evolution of plants but humans as well. Certainly any story that incorporates the field of science is going to somehow question the Christian faith in God and an original creation and I get that, but since my heart believes in one God and one creation, it became a bit off balance for me in some parts. That being said, it was truly a beautiful story of life, of dreams of experiencing and pondering all that was created (by whomever you choose to believe created it). It was a lengthy story, but flowed quite well and necessary to bring the story full circle. The ending had almost a poetic aura to it. For me it eloquently addressed Alma’s theory that only the strongest of plants survive – that they take on the strengths, protections and life-sustaining forms needed to continue on and thereby create the hardiest strain of themselves – a “signature specimen”. But in reality, her family’s story read the same as her plants – each generation possessed a will and hunger, greater than the person before, to grow in knowledge and understanding. Each generation’s reflection was a bit clearer than the one before. Each generation’s contribution brought added validity to their assumptions and beliefs. In the complete life spans of two fathers and a daughter, they molded and shaped what they believed to be a plausible plant evolution hypothesis. Ironically, what they actually created was a better, stronger version of themselves with each passing of the baton – a signature specimen of a living object with the power to think, question and reason.

Two If by Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Optimistic
A Great Story of a Parent's Love

I wish I would have put this book down and then picked it up later so I could have savored it more deeply. I normally finish a book in 3-5 days and this one took me a month -- but only because of a family illness that kept me from reading. Because I was reading only small bits at a time, it took me a while to really get into the rhythm of the characters and the story. However, about half-way through, I fell in love with them all. I didn't realize until after I finished the book that the author also wrote "The Deep End of the Ocean" but it should have been apparent. She has an overwhelming knack of portraying just how far a parent's love can extend and be stretched -- even if the child isn't biologically yours.

Frank, an ex-cop and one-time horse trainer, loses his wife and unborn child during a tsunami in Australia. During his volunteer efforts to help other survivors, he sees a car submerged in rushing water and mud. Approaching the vehicle, a young boy pushes his even younger brother out of the car towards Frank and says, "take my brother -- he's important". After seeing that the small lad is on safe ground, he attempts to rescue the other brother, but another strong wave washes the car and its occupants into the muck and mire. Much like the story "The Light Between Two Oceans", Frank is faced with an uncanny urge and need to keep the small lad and not release him to the custody of officials. He soon finds that the boy is more than important -- he is "special" in ways that most people can't fathom. And no matter how far he travels around the globe, there is always someone looking for his special child.

I thought the story was well written with characters who mastered the meaning of courage and compassion. It was a testament to unconditional love and the control a mind can have over matter. For me the book was a bit rushed in the end but perhaps it was because circumstances caused me to not jump into the story with both feet at the beginning so I was just hesitant to let the tale run its course to closure. Regardless, it was a most enjoyable read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Life Changing, Insightful, Interesting
A Profound Read

This was a very powerful read about the effect a cloudy mind can have on a person. Maude is suffering from serious dementia (or Alzheimer's) and every day is a struggle for her. No task is ever completed. Concentration is nonexistent and her mind and thoughts skip around like a DJ playing hip-hop on speed. Her best friend, Elizabeth is missing. Or is it her sister, Sukey? The stories and event recaps that span a period of over 70 years are so haphazardly intermingled within the book that at times I had to assess my own mental clarity. In all honesty, I wouldn't have had it any other way because it made the confusion that Maude felt every day that much more real and agonizing. I actually felt fear and a sense of helplessness for her as I spent an hour with her just walking to the store for eggs and returning with peaches.

For the most part I just wanted to cry for her. My own mother recently suffered a very severe stroke that has left her a vague shadow of who she was. Couple the physical limitations with the mid-stages of Alzheimer's and I got an up close view of what a typical day must be for her after reading this book. Perhaps it is not a book for everyone, but it did my heart good to read it. Hopefully it has brought to light the need for unlimited patience and understanding when dealing with a mind that has been wounded. Perhaps it just re-iterated that there will come a day when all of us may find that our "Elizabeth is missing". May we all be lucky enough to have compassionate caregivers who will walk that journey by our side when the time comes.

The House of Secrets by Brad Meltzer, Tod Goldberg
 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Adventurous
House of Secrets

The House of Secrets is just that. It is hard to describe this book without giving the true plot away, but I'll try. A father tells his children an old story passed down from his father about a farmer 150 years ago who finds a body that has frozen in the cold. He brings the body home, wraps it in a blanket and seeks the country doctor. When the doctor arrives and examines the body for identifying marks, his autopsy discovers a small object the size of a deck of cards encased in wax inside the man's chest. When the wax is removed, it is found to be a small bible with an inscription, "property of Benedict Arnold." The only thing is that there was no scar on his chest or his body, so how did it get there?

Fast forward 200 years from the original farmer story and you have the family of Jack Nash, the host of a TV Show "The House of Secrets". Jack and his son Skip travel the world trying to solve mysteries and uncovering secrets. A car crash kills Jack and has caused severe brain injuries to his grown daughter, Hazel, leaving her without memories from the past.

In Canada a man in a revolutionary war style jacket has been found dead and inside his chest is a small Bible.

In Dubai a man is found dead wearing a red revolutionary war jacket and, you guessed it, there is a small Bible in his chest.

Without giving the story away, suffice it to say that they are all connected. Nothing is the truth and no one can be trusted. Benedict Arnold and his "Bibles" become the key to unraveling the mystery. However, the House of Secrets hold many secrets and once a window has been opened to expose one secret, more continue to follow. This was a captivating read that kept me trying to guess the ending. But the true secret lies within.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dark, Addictive
The Far End of Happy

Twelve hours in the life of a wife and mother, and two life-long friends, The Far End of Happy was a painful yet awakening experience. Jeff and his wife Veronica (a/k/a Ronnie) are dealing with a broken marriage and a crumbling relationship. Today marks the day that Ronnie has asked Jeff to leave the house so that she and their two sons can move forward with their lives. Jeff’s alcohol abuse and mounting abuse of credit cards has left irreparable damage to Ronnie’s heart and pocketbook. The morning of Jeff’s departure, there is a strange cloud hanging in the air and the darkness finds their family torn between a husband/father threatening to kill himself and a wife and sons fearing his rage could turn on them. The story takes you through the next 12 hours in not only their lives but the lives of Jeff and Ronnie’s mothers – lifelong friends who have been there for each other through thick and thin. It seems that no one is immune to pain -- some just cover it up better than others. It isn't necessarily a feel good story, but an addictive walk filled with communication breakdowns, invisible blinders that distort the truth and a sense of failure passed down from generation to generation.

My favorite line: You cannot force a man to drink something life-sustaining if he thirsts for something different. You can't force him to stay afloat if he won't swim.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting
Perhaps should have turned one more circle?

This book fell a bit short of my expectations. A family made up of people with little ambition and even smaller accomplishments. Divorced parents composed of a self-serving mother and a father who thinks himself a playboy and balanced by two grown daughters who appear to have attended a school promoting small business opportunities for underachievers. The highlight came about 80 pages into the story when Dawn (a dog walker, bather and sitter) began hearing her canine clients speaking to her. Now THAT was comical. I found the story a bit shallow with the strongest characters being the dogs. Dawn has a habit of making poor decisions when it comes to relationships and after 3 failed attempts, finally heeds the advice and opinion of one of her dogs. And like a dog that will usually make 3 circular motions before lying down for a long nap, sometimes we have to follow the circles of life before we find our comfortable spot in life. I can't say that the book left me pondering the mysteries of life, but it did make me want to communicate with my dogs -- especially when I ask them who chewed up a newspaper in the middle of the floor and they all three look the other way.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Addictive
Some Secrets Just Can't Say Buried

If the saying is true that two wrongs don't make a right, then it is obvious that just ONE wrong will never make a right. But what if the one big wrong you did in your life turned out for the best? What if the one secret you have kept for 30 years would only cause pain to those you love the most if they knew and no one would be the worse off if it remained a secret?

This is a story of relationships -- mothers and daughters, motherless young girls, substitute fathers and unconditional love. I pretty much had the plot figured out half way into the book, but that didn't keep me from pressing on. The author did an outstanding job of portraying life on the poor side -- no real family -- no real career -- no real future. I was never one to experience the free love and organic movement of the 60's (although I lived through it - just didn't participate in it), the visuals painted by the author of that era gave credence to how one could have come to enjoy such a simple and easy lifestyle.

A mother is helping her daughter cope with what has been diagnosed as post-partum depression. In an effort to help her daughter come to grips with her feelings (or lack thereof) for her own child, the mother soon is called to address secrets of her own hidden from all who know her. Just when she thought they were buried for eternity, a voice from the past stirs the dust from under the carpet. When one stands at the crossroads marked "Damned if I Do" and "Damned if I Don't", there is only one solution -- speak or forever hold your peace.

The Secrets We Left Behind is an emotional journey sure to make you ask yourself, "What would I have done?"

The Edge of Lost by Kristina Mcmorris
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
Get Lost in the words of the Edge of Lost

What a beautifully written story about one boy's journey from childhood to manhood. A young boy, Shan, finds himself in Ireland, orphaned and taken in by an ill-tempered, miserly uncle. The next years find him walking full circle in life as he experiences poverty, abandonment, fear, acceptance, redemption and hope. Always the outsider, it seems he is forever standing on the outside looking in at those who have found their way in life. His story crosses the oceans when he finds his way to America, but his luck shows little in the way of improving. He catches a break here and there, but there always seems to be a cloud hanging over his shoulder ... that nagging feeling that something is missing. I was captivated by this story and spent every extra moment I could spare walking through its pages. I was pleased to see Shan's life come full circle but almost hated to see it end.

The title was so appropriate for this story. In life there are probably many like Shan, who feel they spend all their lifetime standing on the edge of lost. But being the eternal optimist, I hope for those who feel like Shan did that they will always know if you look at it from the other shore, that being on the edge of lost really means that you are standing on the edge of being found.

The Language of Light: A Novel by Meg Waite Clayton
 
Book Club Recommended
Unconvincing
The Language of Light Shed Little Light


Perhaps I speak a different language than "The Language of Light". This story had a decent start -- a young widower finds herself trying to build a life for her and her two sons soon after her husband dies. Leaving the urban city for the rural country life in the old family home of her father's family, the Mom is looking for the meaning of life. Her father was a professional photographer and absent from home for much of his own children's upbringing. (I guess a man has to have his priorities.) The daughter, now the widower, has always had a passion for photography and is feeling a pull to follow her father's footsteps. She is torn between knowing if she is good enough to make it a career and wondering how to balance a career and motherhood at the same time. There are varying characters, circumstances and romances intertwined in the story, as well as regrets and remembrances but I just could never quite get the story to click for me. The basis of the story had potential, but it just seemed to fall flat. The ending seemed very rushed and I didn't feel that there was much resolution in the personal issues presented. For this reader, someone forgot and left The Language of Light on the dimmer switch mode.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fun, Inspiring
The Art of Crash Landing

I found this book both comical and thought provoking. I have been challenged with much in my life time (and always the victor) and have learned to laugh in the face of adversity and smile in the face of sorrow. It brought a smile to my face to watch the main character (Mattie) take her lumps in stride. In my personal opinion, everyone in this story was scarred, scared and scandalous and age held no privilege or immunity. It seemed everyone was holding secrets or held a blind eye to what was right in front of them. There were times I wanted to reach through the pulpy page and just slap the crap out of some characters and then there were moments I just wanted to hug Mattie and tell her to just cry it out.

The story encompasses Mattie, whose life has been adrift and afloat since the death of her mother -- a mother she soon discovers she didn't really know or understand. The mother spent much of her life running from her past and hiding her future in a bottle. Stepfather Queeg was the one redeeming, quality character who seemed to have a minute grasp on reality and the anchor to whom Mattie gravitated. Between the pages of this book, friends are made, lovers are lost, fate plays its hand and cards are tossed. Thirty and pregnant, Mattie is given another chance in this ride we call life. Does she take what she's learned and plot a new course? Or walk in the familiar footsteps of those before her? It makes no difference whether it is smooth sailing or a crash landing -- sometimes you just have to land the plane first before you can figure out where you are really headed.

Lucky Us: A Novel by Amy Bloom
 
Slow, Pointless
Lucky Us was not lucky for me

Don't even know where to begin -- except to say that the beginning of this book held promise. A mother leaves her daughter on the doorstep of her father and half-sister (who didn't even know she had a half sister). The half-sister has just lost her Mom. I said to myself, "this could be interesting", but the thought never entered my mind again in the course of this book. I found the book very disjointed with all of the pieces of the puzzle lacking a common denominator. I felt like I was given a hodge podge of story lines that never really went anywhere, skipped around and across the globe with no rhyme or reason.

I know this book has received some great reviews, so perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind when I read it or perhaps the author's writing style just didn't appeal to me. Suffice it to say that when I finished "Lucky Us", I thought to myself .... "Lucky Me".

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
 
Book Club Recommended
Boring, Pointless, Poorly Written
Lily and the Octopus - A Fun and Moving Read

Lily and the Octopus was like a breath of fresh air. A bit whimsical, a lot comical and extremely emotional. For anyone who has ever loved and lost a four-legged friend, this story is a testament to the bond between human and canine. Lily is a wiener dog who is 12-1/2 years old. The runt of the litter, she picked out Ted when he came to pick out a puppy. She has had her share of obstacles that even included the ruptured disc surgery so many of her kind encounter in their lifetime. But one morning she enters the kitchen wondering what is for breakfast when her owner looks at her and says, "why is there an octopus on your head?"

The grueling journey begins for both recipients on either end of this line they call friendship. Lily is oblivious to the magnitude of the intruder who has appeared on her head and Ted is unstoppable in his efforts to rid the octopus from their midst.

Having had dogs with ruptured discs, epilepsy, seizures, brain infections, paralysis, etc. this story brought to mind the emotional roller coaster rides I have shared with my furry friends over the years. Having to come to terms with the circle of life is so very difficult but, in essence, reminds us that it is more important to celebrate life than to spend too much time fearing death.

And let's face it - if we look hard enough, if we keep the door open long enough, we encourage -- almost invite, the appearance of the octopus. We allow fear, uncertainty and insecurity to cast shadows on our lives and minds and it slowly encroaches on our souls. Perhaps we should all learn to live with the attitude of Lily -- who swore she was unable to remember any bad memories -- only the good ones. Now THERE is the key to a happy life. Grab a hanky and dig in -- this is a heartwarming story that made me laugh, made me cry and made me smile.

What the Waves Know: A Novel by Tamara Valentine
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
It's not Just What the Waves Know

Izabelle is a young girl who has not spoken a word since the day her father disappeared from her life. Her Mom is hanging on by a thin thread and her grandmother IS a thin thread as she continues to live a carefree life which includes dancing around her house in the nude. (Sounds strange, but her character is sometimes more grounded than meets the eye - she is just enjoying life.) All three females return to the island from where something "happened" and you don't uncover it until the end. It was a sort of coming of age story for Miss Izabelle as she discovers the meaning of friendship, the effects of mental illness and her own strength. The story is filled with other small town, island inhabitants with their own quirks and it made me want to don a bathing suit, grab a book and relax by the shore as the waves rush over me. Just as the ebb and flow of the waves take and return bits of yesterday's sands, you realize the waters hold secrets too. Izabelle's journey through summer was one of adventure, understanding and releasing yesterday's secrets of the sand.

Be Frank With Me: A Novel by Julia Claiborne Johnson
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Optimistic
Like Watching a Turner Classic Movie Marathon

I don't know when I have read a book that made me smile as much as Be Frank With Me. "Frank" is a young autistic, eccentric young man whose love is old black and white movies and whose mind is like a walking encyclopedia. Every day Frank dresses in the style of some movie star or historic figure -- some days Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. Being a lover of old movies and movie lines myself, this book could have been written just for me.

Frank's mother authored a best seller some years back and her publisher is pushing her to finally write another novel. His mother tells her publicist that she is going to need help at her home with household chores and someone help look after her son, Frank, if she is to attempt such a task. The publicist sends a young female employee named Alice to be his eyes and ears.

The friendship and antics that ensue throughout the Summer and Falls months between Alice and Frank was such a learning experience for them both. Full of humor, wisdom and lines from old movies, it reminded me of the more modern movie "The Truman Show". It was like having a front and center seat in a true reality show that is unscripted, true human nature and honest emotions.

I felt the ending was a bit rushed and fell a little flat, but perhaps it was just because I didn't want it to end. If you feel a need to escape or just want to take a trip down nostalgic movie road, then this book is definitely for you. I hope to carry the innocence and spirit of Frank with me always, but should his image start to fade, I hope I'm reminded that, "We'll always have Paris".

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Interesting
An Eye-Opening Story

If I had not read a previous book by this author, "Still Alice", I could have given this book a 5-star rating. However, I felt I was walking down the same path of a genetic hereditary disease with much of the same dilemma as "Alice". That being said, I was still inspired by the story and hold great respect for all who have, or are affected by, this devastating disease. It was an emotional walk with a family facing life-altering situations.

It was two years ago that I watched a sister-in-law be taken over by the ravages of breast and lung cancer. Two months later, I witnessed the inevitable end of my mother-in-law as she succumbed to the torture of ALS. Several months ago, I myself was diagnosed with Leukemia and life with the knowledge that cancer is showing and reproducing its face within my body every day and there is nothing I can do about it, is a daunting fact to swallow. While my outcome is not as horrific as that of Huntington's or ALS (although eventually fatal), it has brought insight and understanding to the impact it can also have on my loved ones. For that, I thank the author for casting a light on those around me.

While I know that "Inside the O'Briens" is a fictional family, I also know that the trials and tribulations they faced in this story are similar to those who live with HD on a daily basis. I thank the author for bringing to light the strength of those afflicted, the compassion of those who are caregivers and the need for further research.

The ultimate question and obstacle for the family of those with HD is the underlying question of whether or not they want to know if they have inherited a gene that will some day ravage their body. How easy it is for those who are not emotionally attached to such a decision to say what they should do. I recently became aware that my own illness had been detected nearly a year before I was confirmed and told. A part of me was upset that it was missed in the initial report and then my husband had to remind me that at least I had a worry-free year, therefore I should be grateful. My advice to anyone facing similar decisions faced by the O'Briens? Follow your heart but first and foremost, don't follow the disease -- make the disease follow you.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Dramatic, Insightful
A Captive Read

Well that was certainly a crash and burn read -- but in a positive way. A private jet takes off carrying a pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant, a multi-millionaire with his wife, two small children and their bodyguard, another millionaire (who is unknown to anyone is about to be indicted for money laundering) and his wife and a want-to-be artist who crates human disaster paintings. Approximately 16 minutes into the flight it crashes into the water and burns. Two survivors. Seems simple enough until you start delving into the lives, patterns and mental state of each person on board. They all seemed relatively normal before the fall -- but after is when things start to unravel.

This was a very engrossing story that I couldn't put down. A birds-eye view of each passenger in the following chapters reveals that everything isn't always as it seems. It opened up many cans of worms that shed some light on human nature, human frailties and human greed. It emphasizes how the power of the press can influence the minds of so many who aren't smart enough to think for themselves or are just too lazy. It screams for justice and begs for compassion.

For some life is snubbed out because of the fall. Others learn they weren't truly living Before the Fall.

The Photograph by Penelope Lively
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting
The Photograph

A 10-year widower (Glyn), while looking for something packed away in boxes, uncovers an envelope marked "do not open - destroy". Not recognizing it, he did what any person would do - he opened it. Inside is a photograph of his late wife (Kath), her sister (Elaine), Elaine's husband (Nick) and a few other friends. Glyn is NOT in the picture. The photograph shows his wife and Nick standing in the midst of the group picture, but their entwined hands and flushed faces were not as invisible to the camera as they thought. Thus begins a husband search for the truth and a remedy to the sense of betrayal that now floods his heart and mind.

This book had a hint of Daphne Du Mauier's "Rebecca", in the respect that it gave you insight to the presence and impact that this now non-living person had and still has on those she knew. The book also had touches of Liane Moriarty's "What Alice Forgot", when a person is forced to look how they have let people, work and circumstances alter the directions they've taken in their lives.

I will admit that I nearly put this book down several times. I felt that it wasn't really going anywhere and, in the end, what purpose was going to be served by finding out that your spouse had been unfaithful to you years ago when they aren't there to defend their actions? In addition, this was the first book I have read by this author and her writing style was difficult for me to follow at times. At times the story line (especially conversations with a person? a memory? a phone call?) seemed a bit fragmented and disorderly, so much so that I pondered putting it aside. In the end I was glad I finished the story and was left with the knowledge that betrayal works both ways. And sometimes betrayal can come, not from what was done to us, but what wasn't.

 
Book Club Recommended
Difficult, Interesting
Life Among Giants Fell Short

I find myself in a pattern of reading stories that skip around so much I feel I must precede each book with a dose of Dramamine. Perhaps I have somehow fallen out of sync in the rhythm of reading? Or have writers started putting a story on paper, tossing the pile in the air and then putting it together in the order that they pick up the fallen papers?

This book had the backbone of a decent story, a good mystery, and a lot of sex (if that's what you're looking for in a book). A young boy's parents are gunned down before his eyes - that is Chapter 1. It stands to reason that when Chapter 2 starts and it is a conversation with him and his Dad that we have now advanced back in time (pre-murder). But the story kept moving to and fro that I got dizzy at times. Somewhere tangled amid the pages WAS a story of a murder, a cover-up, millions of dollars made and millions lost, the coming of age of an 8-foot tall football player, the downfall of a world class ballerina and a lesson in how to cook meatless dishes.

I gave the book three stars because the mystery was a decent one and did finally come full circle but the journey along the way was hard for me to follow and left much unanswered. Life Among Giants had a vague resemblance to a carnival freak show -- where you pay your money thinking you are going to see the world's largest man and in the end you feel like you've been fooled by mirrors and illusion. The story and writing still just fell "short" for me.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Inspiring, Insightful
A Feel Good Read

This is a story about two half sisters (emphasis on the "half") and the eccentric mother they share. Juliette, eleven years older than her half sister, lives in England in a small village where she runs a bed and breakfast. Lucy is 25, struggling to discover what she wants to do in life, lives in the States, and recently had a row with her now ex-boyfriend along with her mother. She escapes to her half sister's B&B where they discover they really know nothing about one another and what they thought they knew it seems was misconstrued. There was no big mystery here, no "gotcha" moment, but it was a tender story about the bond of siblings, even if they are continents apart. It was a story of taking risks and stepping outside the box. I personally wanted to slap some sense into their mother, but I suppose we would be hard pressed to find interesting books if every character acted as we thought they should. A quick read but time well spent among sisters.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Graphic, Interesting
The Witch of Painted Sorrows

This is the second book I have read by M. J. Rose (Seduction) and I also have two more in my "to read" list. I have to say I think I liked Seduction a bit more. The Witch of Painted Sorrows revolves around an ancient old family secret involving females pleasuring wealthy men, the love of art, the longing for immortality, the occult and the need to find a willing human vessel. I found the book engaging, truly loved the way art was described and articulated as if telling a story on canvas and enjoyed the descriptive feel of London in the late 1800's. Stories of the occult, the supernatural and the unexplained aren't really my cup of tea so perhaps that is why the story didn't truly resonate with me. From a different angle, if you enjoy a fairly erotic and sensual mix in your books, then I suggest you bring out the sugar and creamer bowl along with your teapot, because you are going to be here for awhile.

What She Knew: A Novel by Gilly Macmillan
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Gloomy, Informative
An engaging and addictive read

This book could have been titled "What Everyone Knew But Never Told". A divorced mother (for 10 months) is struggling to get over the fact that her husband up and left her and their 7 year-old son for another woman. Life is hard when there are so many unanswered questions. One Sunday she and her son are on a hike in the woods -- something they do on a regular basis. Her son, Ben, asked if he could run ahead and meet her at the swings in the clearing. Realizing her first reaction to any request is usually "no", she decides to help build some confidence in both Ben and herself, and says yes. The only problem is that when she arrives at the swing, there is no Ben. There is absolutely no trace of Ben, just a lone swing whipping back and forth in the breeze.

The story then takes up the lives of the Mom, Dad, aunts, neighbors, teachers and even the police officers assigned to the case. It seems that no one is exempt from secrets and blame. Motive, revenge, jealousy and madness are at the top of the list for several characters in the story. Minutes matter, hours tick away like seconds and as the days mount with no sign of young Ben, you find that during hours of desperation, people are likely to say anything.

The story moved around frequently from person to person but the transition was smooth enough that some times you rarely felt the switch. For the most part, I felt the characters were well developed, except for the Dad whose character remained a bit foggy to me. I never felt like I knew him well or his motives. All in all, it was a suspenseful read that put you front and center of all the numerous lives involved in a child abduction case. You got to ride the gamut of emotions felt not only by the family and friends, but law enforcement as well. The involvement of the detectives assigned to the case was an eye-opener as I found them to be very engaging while battling not getting too personally involved.

An emotional roller coaster, What She Knew, was well worth the read. It was a heart-wrenching, moving story of the power of love, intuition and a mother's fortitude.

Our Souls at Night (Vintage Contemporaries) by Kent Haruf, Alan Kent Haruf
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Adventurous
Our Souls at Night

This was a very quick read (2 hours max) and for the moment, I am undecided on its affect on me. It was a beautiful story of finding friendship, companionship, and maybe even love in the Winter season of your life. Two neighbors, alone, feeling the loss of their spouses for several years, take a stand and agree to meet each night at Maddie's house. The meeting isn't of a sexual nature, isn't for physical pleasure -- just merely a hand to hold to help get a person through the night -- mere human conversation, the sound of another's breathing to confirm that one isn't alone. A touching story that was a pleasure to read and yet I got frustrated that the author gave Addie such a strong character, someone who wasn't afraid of what others said or thought and yet didn't let her stand up to her own grown son -- who was rude, inconsiderate, judgmental and totally out of line in his words to his Mother. (Can you tell I didn't like him?) This gross fault in her written character kept me from truly accepting her or the story in its entirety.

I hate to even nag about this, but my biggest peeve about this book is that it comes across as one HUGE conversation and yet nowhere in the story are there any quotation marks. (A silly thing I know, but irritating, nonetheless.) You had to pay close attention to follow who was doing the talking at times. I know that punctuation and/or grammar shouldn't make or break a story, but I really had a hard time getting past this intentional oversight.

Flight Patterns by Karen White
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Fantastic, Dramatic
An Awesome and Beautiful Read

Wow - such a potent story. I'm speechless and want to just pick up the book and start it over again. Karen White has again proven why she is one of my favorite authors and this one may be my favorite so far. Her ability to speak to a heart through her poetic, descriptive style of writing is a true gift and talent.

This story crosses oceans and generations. Two half sisters (Georgia and Maisy) who have been estranged for nearly 10 years are forced to see one another again but reconciling is another story. They share the same mother (Birdie) who has been non-verbal for years, lives in a world of her own silence and her only audible voice being in the form of song. A grandfather who has been a beekeeper for many years and whose life has taken on some of the characteristics of the bees. Bees protect and serve -- they look out for the queen, they keep trouble and turmoil at bay so that harmony can abide within the hive and the bounty of honey can be fruitful.

Secrets abound in this story, coming from every angle. No one is immune to pain and each afraid to take that first step towards redemption and forgiveness scared that it could be refused or rebuked. Karen White writes of her stories characters, "our cracks were proof of our survival, evident only to those we allowed close enough to see where we'd been patched."

Her books are always so full of words of wisdom -- "We have a choice. We can count the years we have lost, or we can count the years we still have ahead of us." "There is no limit to starting over. That's why the sun rises every day -- unless you're running in circles, and then the outcome never changes." And she writes so descriptively so that her words literally take on a feeling or an emotion -- not just words on a page. She has the ability to paint a picture with words, "The wooden floorboards complained like the bones of an old woman." "Dead bees fell from the bruised dusk sky, their papery bodies somersaulting in the air, ricocheting like spent shells off the azure-painted roof of the hive."

Each chapter holds an except from a Bee Journal that only serves to emphasis how much the life of a family can emulate the lifestyle and culture of bees. Love, devotion, sacrifice, life and death -- everyone knows their part and everyone knows their duty.

Flight Patterns has definitely earned a place front and center on my bookshelf where I keep my most prized collection.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Confusing
The Mapmaker's Children

The Mapmaker’s Children explores the lives of the family of Reverend John Brown, the abolitionist, after he was hung for his role in the massacre at Harper’s Ferry and his efforts to relocate and defend both freed and owned slaves. While the most of the details of the story were fictional, the author certainly did her homework in creating the essence of opposing lifestyles and beliefs during the few years leading up to the civil war and after. With three of her siblings killed during the battle at Harper’s Ferry and her father captured, Sarah Brown accepts her promise to her father to further his work in whatever way she can. She is obviously not a soldier and not a fighter but she is a good artist. Her efforts to create concealed maps that would help direct and bring about the first steps towards freedom for many was both courageous and admirable. Unable to have children of her own, Sarah finds satisfaction in giving continued life to others in her service to humanity. I enjoyed that you can search Sarah and her family and put faces to the names.

This book also has a modern story co-mingled with Sarah’s story of the mid-late 1800’s. Eden and her husband purchase an old house once occupied by the Brown family. Eden, like Sarah, finds herself unable to successfully conceive and carry a child. Like Sarah, Eden must search to find purpose and contentment in a world full of disappointment and discouragement.

I felt the story ended rather abruptly and left some items hanging – or at least some loose ends. For the most part, I found the book entertaining and it gave good insight to a time when people had principles and understood the value of commitment.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Fun
Sometimes Even Words Are Not Enough.....

This was a moving story of the bonds between family -- a family whose roots start in the Soviet Union and whose path leads them to the U.S. It is a story of an educated husband and wife, trying to make a living for themselves and their three daughters in a time in Russian history that finds most in want for food, shelter and the simple amenities in life that we take for granted. Without spoiling the story, there are circumstances surrounding their need to leave Russia and thus they begin working their way to America where other family members have already fled. They take with them secrets that will follow for years to come.

Fast forward to Antonia, one of the Russian daughters, who now writes crime stories for the local newspaper, and finds herself living on a tugboat along a dock whose neighbors include an aging woman shadowed by dementia, a prostitute, a family with 2 children, two gay women and an uncover police officer. Another sister is a district attorney known for her bullheadedness in the courtroom, married with two children and another sister who finds herself constantly having to breathe in a brown paper bag to avoid hyperventilating when she thinks or talks about her impending marriage.

The sisters share a kindred spirit, secrets they swore not to tell and a special gift inherited from generations before them -- the ability to hear each other in times of danger or despair. I loved all of the bruised souls in this story -- each hiding secrets and fears. I enjoyed watching the story unfold and especially liked the "family nights" when all of the extended family gathered. It was like watching edited scenes from "My Fat Greek Wedding". The broken English segments made me laugh and watching the romance continue to spark between Mom and Dad (at the embarrassment of their daughters) was touching.

Full of humor, tears, intrigue and mystery, this story wove a thread around everyone and bound them together in a sense of devotion, commitment and compassion that is far too often absent in today's family unit.

& Sons by David Gilbert
 
Boring, Pointless
Yadda Yadda Yadda

Have to be honest - I couldn't finish this story. I gave it my best effort (200 pages) but it was going absolutely nowhere. I kept thinking it would all fall into place soon, but after another 20 pages I was asking myself the same question??? Why am I wasting my time? It felt like a menagerie of random thoughts, sons and father's lives bouncing back and forth between present and past, and each generation more screwed up than the one previous. I got the concept -- we make mistakes, we spend more time in our occupations than with our children -- our children paint us in a picture and either see no flaws or see every one plus some they merely imagine. Some are forced to be seen as a mirror image of their parent. We can have regrets in the winter of our lives if we don't make amends but frankly, I just couldn't spend any more time with the characters. Suffice it to say, I can only pray they set things right, forgiveness was given, apologies were accepted and they all moved on. Whew - thumbing through my library for something with a bit more "umph" to it.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Addictive
A Good Suspense Story

The Woman in Cabin 10 was both entertaining and intriguing. Laura Blaylock ("Lo"), a reporter with anxiety issues, prone to panic attacks and trying to catch her breath from a recent break-in at her apartment, gets a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a maiden voyage on an extravagant and lush ocean cruiser, along with other reports and social moguls.

The first evening finds her preparing for a formal dinner with no hint of mascara in her make-up bag. Knocking on the cabin next door, a woman answers, flustered and nervous and gives Lo a tube she can keep. A noise in the night from the cabin next door, a blood smear on the adjoining glass veranda divider and a splash in the dark waters proves to cloud Lo's memory and sanity. Just what did she see? Or did she see anything at all?

I enjoy a good mystery and this story provided some interesting characters and was well written. However, I felt that the outcome and circumstances were fairly easy to figure out. I kept hoping there might be another twist that I hadn't anticipated, but none really appeared. Perhaps I have just read too many conspiracy books thus I've heard every plot? Regardless of being able to predict the final outcome, the story was still one that made you want to keep reading -- whether to prove your theory right or prove your theory wrong.

It felt a bit drawn out at the beginning and then a bit rushed at the end, but the story still played out well. I look forward to future works by this author. This is a solid 4-star book that is sure to please most suspense readers.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Adventurous, Dramatic
A Beautiful Story of Past and Present and New Beginnings

The Seven Sisters is a whirlwind journey through Paris, Rio and Geneva. It is the story of one of six sisters (I'm sure the seventh sister will be explained later by the author), who has been forced to deal with the death of her adoptive father. Their Dad, "Pa Salt", as he is referred to had created a beautiful home and lifestyle for six orphaned girls, each from different areas around the globe and each gifted and beautiful in their own right. Maia is the oldest daughter and, unlike her sisters, has never strayed far from home. In the wake of her father's death, she is forced to open her eyes to questions and secrets surrounding her origins. She feels a pull to venture to the only known place of her beginnings.

This story overlaps between the present (2007) and the past (1928) and the author does a good job of making the transition seamless and painless. I got totally engrossed in the story of old and loved the historical ties to the building of the statue of Christ in Rio. The author's descriptive talent gave the air of walking the streets of old with the characters.

I didn't realize when I started this book that it was a series. I don't usually read series as I want to experience new stories. I thought because there were actually six sisters, that this book was going to tell the story of each one and I kept thinking the author was expending too much energy on just one sister. It was then that I realized that each book will have its own unique story and origins, so now I'm excited to read the story of each sister's life and beginnings.

I felt the story was a bit rushed in the end - or maybe it just felt rushed because I hated for it to end. This was a solid 3-4 stars. I gave it four because it is the first book in a series that has be actually waiting to read the sequel.

 
Unconvincing
Not Your Normal Christmas Letter - better off not mailed?

I don't usually read a "Christmas" story, but I ran across this one in one of my daily special e-mails and decided to give it a try. I'm glad it was a novella (only 88 pages) because I don't think I could have handled much more. It is a short story depicting annual Christmas letters sent to relative and friends and covers 3 generations continuing the tradition.

I am familiar with Christmas letters wherein you hear of the year's celebrations and news of family and friends who are separated from you by miles. It is like a year-in-a-glance moment. However, these ladies took the year's events to a higher level and divulged way too much information and personal drama. I kept thinking that much of what was captured on paper was better transported over telephone wires and not for everyone's ears. On a positive note, I think the story would have come across much better as a 350-450 page book that walked you through the lives of these three women. They did, in fact, have stories to tell, obstacles to cross and lessons to be learned. I just think the concept of relaying their trials and tribulations in the form of a Christmas letter felt a bit out of place.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Inspiring, Boring
More Than a Walk Down Memory Lane

The story of Lillian Boxfish isn’t a mystery nor does it contain a closet filled with secrets – but it is full of life. New Year’s eve 1984 finds Lillian taking a familiar walk (miles in length) around her beloved Manhattan neighborhood that provides her an opportunity to reflect on her life, accomplishments, disappointments and dreams. In her mid 80’s, Lillian has achieved much in her life -- making a name not only for herself but for woman, in general, in the field of advertising. Her witty remarks, poems and advertisements become a household name in the 1930’s. Somewhere along the way she finds love, loses her love and almost loses herself. Old and alone she is still a self-made woman, still trying to make and find her way in life. She is eager to embrace the future and is slowly losing her foothold on the past. The long night of December 31, 1984, is more than a walk down memory lane – it is a journey into the past, a glimpse at what might have been and a dream of what will be. It is a story of relinquishing one’s hold on the world and passing the baton to the next generation. It is a story of courage and fortitude. Oh, if we all only had the eyes and heart of Lillian.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Slow, Dramatic
What a difference a day makes......

Truly Madly Guilty was written in true Liana Moriarty style. She is so adept at capturing the inner workings of individuals and families. Once again she has taken an ordinary day in the lives of three couples and extracted those few moments so seductively entrapped between glances and unspoken words yet hold the potential to ruin marriages, friendships and lives. A BBQ, six adults, three children, one cranky neighbor and lives that will never be the same. We all have secrets, we all have thoughts that never touch human ears and we all carry regrets for those words unspoken -- and at times -- those that should have remained unspoken.

I find it difficult to write a review without including a spoiler (and I hate spoiler reviews) but suffice it to say that dysfunction shows its face in many ways. This story opens the door to several lives forever changed, forever altered and all for love of a child.

Sweet Water: A Novel (P.S.) by Christina Baker Kline
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Beautiful
Sweet Water needed more sweetner

Well let me start out by saying that I loved this author's book, "The Orphan Train". I was expecting another outstanding story but I'm afraid the author missed the boat on this one.

Cassandra, who lives in New York City and works in a small, struggling art store, receives word that the grandfather she never really knew has passed away and left her his land and old home in Sweet Water. When Cassandra was a small child, her mother was killed in a car accident in which her grandfather was driving. With a life that is lacking luster and with nothing to lose, she sets out for Alabama to meet her mother's family that she doesn't know but with a personal motive to help solve the mystery surrounding her mother's death.

Secrets and cover-ups seem to be the norm not only throughout her mother's family, but the town as well. I felt the story had great potential for a good plot as the secrets involved more than one death. But that's about where my positive comments end. I'll admit I was glued to my Nook screen hanging on every word and praying for a resolution to the pain inflicted on so many so long ago. Unfortunately, it ended somewhat like Gone With the Wind. Like we all hoped that Scarlet would eventually win back the heart of Rhett, we were left not knowing what really happened -- it was left to the imagination and creativity of the reader. Well this story ends just as abruptly, perhaps even more so. There are no lose ends tied up. What you are left with is acknowledgement that Cassandra has made a decision on the new found love in her life and Grandma says she has lots of story to tell but the following page is a bio on the author. I don't usually read a book to write my own ending and when I purchase a book, I expect a beginning AND an end.

I gave this 3 stars because it did hold my interest until the end (or lack of one) and I did like the author's ability to tell the story from both Cassandra and her grandmother's voice and make it a smooth transition. I'm not counting this author out yet because she certainly told a great historical fiction story in The Orphan Train so I know the talent is there. This story showed promise, but I think her follow-through resulted in landing in a sand trap.

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous
A Good Mystery

This is the 4th book I’ve read by author Susanna Kearsley (Firebird, The Rose Garden and The Winter Sea). My favorite was The Winter Sea followed with a tie between The Rose Garden and Named of the Dragon. Lynette (Lyn) is a book publisher/agent whose client, Bridgett, a contrary children’s book author has just invited her to come to Pembrokeshire in South Wales with her for the Christmas holidays. Lyn is a young widow and also still mourning the loss of a son she lost in childbirth. Her client, Bridgett, is spending the holidays with another well-known author, that rumor has it, could be looking to change agents. With no better options or invitations waiting for her, Lynn packs up and heads to Wales.

Tormented by dreams of a woman in a blue dress speaking to her about protecting a child, Lynn hopes for a reprieve from her restless sleep and anticipation of gaining a new client. A peaceful sleep is not in the cards as mysteries abound in Wales while tales of Arthur, Merlin and dragons are intricately woven into the story leaving the reader to wonder if the voices coming from the mist are real or if the moonlight playing tricks.

In past books by this author there has always been a feel and imagery of the paranormal – an abyss filled with mysteries that transcend time and space. Her books are always filled with castles of old, history and ancient folklore and a longing to roam the cliffs of yesteryear and feel the clover beneath your feet and the rushing of the waves as they crash into the seawall. I kept waiting for the dragon of white to appear but his presence was never made known to me. It was when the story ended I realized that the dragon can take on many shapes and personifications. We all have our dragons to slay. We all have our battles to fight and we all have fears we must overcome in order to move forward. But as much as I felt a sadness at the end of the book for receiving no real dragons, I had been given a story of compassion. I was given a mystery and the truth behind the mystery. I was given a story of people who need a reason to live and a reason to feel. I was given courage to live to fight another day.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Fun
Beautifully Written - Beautiful Story

I've read several books that are made up of nothing but letters and it is a difficult thing to pull off. This author did it beautifully and seamlessly. It had a strange resemblance to the book "The Readers of Broken Wheel Suggest" in that it was filled with colorful characters who were filled with rare honesty and a delight to spend time with. The story revolves around the occupation of Guernsey during WWII. The pages contain stories of raw emotion and the bonds of friendship and kinship that evolve during times of despair. The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child never rings more true than in this story.

This book gives insight to, perhaps, the first attempt at a book club and it was a thrilling adventure to watch non-readers discover the world of literature -- to find a way to remove themselves from the overwhelming stress of war and enter a world where life is easy, good wins over evil and the guy always gets the girl.

Even more entertaining was getting to know the simplistic lifestyle of the townspeople, discover their background and catch a glimpse of what you pray is in their future.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Pointless
A Spool of Blue Thread

This is a story of the Whitshanks family of Baltimore. It could be have been the Jones or Smiths or any American family. The name isn't important but what IS important is the people who make up the family. The patriarch of the family is a builder. He built the perfect house but perhaps not the perfect family. He built a house to weather any storm and keep out the brazen winter winds and yet overlooked cracks in his own family that had difficulty weathering the storms of life.

There is no great mystery to this story, no hero, no villain - and yet I enjoyed the opportunity to glimpse the generations of this family, their plight, their choices and their vision. Relationships are built on various levels of trust, convenience and superficial dreams.

He's Gone: A Novel by Deb Caletti
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic
He's Gone

Two failing marriages, one abusive and the other just a matter of drifting apart – an unhappy husband and an unhappy wife. Put them together and you have broken hearts, broken promises and broken families. Dani was a good mother but couldn’t take the verbal and physical abuse of her spouse. Ian was a good father of two girls but felt that he and his wife were growing in opposite directions with opposite goals. An acquaintance begins, then feelings grow and then all hell breaks loose. Dani divorces her husband. Ian divorces his wife. Dani and Ian marry. End of story? No, that’s just the beginning. Dani wakes with a hangover, vague images of a company party (which she entered mixing pain pills and alcohol) and a brief spat on the lawn with her husband. Was it a dream or reality? She can’t be sure. The only thing she IS sure of is that her husband is missing without a trace.

At first I was a bit put off by the writing style and format this book took and then it begin to grow on me. The story starts at the end and works backwards. There is little dialogue and pages and pages of reflections of the past. By the end of the story I realized it couldn’t have been written any other way. By the end of the story, I wasn’t sure if I truly liked any of the characters but I’m okay with that too. There doesn’t always have to be a hero or heroine. Perhaps it just emphasizes the fact that we are all flawed, that we all have idealistic visions of how life and marriage should be and then can’t understand when we are blindsided by the truth. And it is always so easy when things go south to lay the blame on the actions of someone else. It is always easier to blame another than to look within.

I can’t say this is a feel good story. I can say that it is a story of how one act, any act, can have a lifelong effect on so many. It is a story of discovering that you can’t look to another for your own happiness – that, too, lies within.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Interesting, Optimistic
Makes you Want to Go Star Gazing

What a beautiful and courageous story - a bit magical - a bit whimsical, but beautiful just the same.

Emily is a teenager standing on the threshold of adulthood when she loses her Mom, a mother who has spent all of her adult life serving and helping other people, constantly giving and constantly caring. Alone and afraid she can never live up to her mother's image, Emily is told she has a grandfather she never knew existed and her only option is to return to the small town birthplace of her mother and live with her grandfather. Emily's mother never talked about her own childhood or her family and Emily soon discovers the mother she knew is not the person the town remembers.

Julia grew up in the same town as Emily's mother - in fact they were schoolmates. She couldn't get out of the small town fast enough and moved to Baltimore with dreams of opening up her own café. Baking cakes and pastries is her saving grace. It warms and soothes her like a steaming hot bath in the cold of winter. Her father has passed away and she has returned home briefly to tidy up his affairs and hopefully sell off his BBQ business he owned in town. She soon discovers his debts add up to more than a business sale will cover. She resigns herself to a 2-year plan to build the business up and pay off debt in order to make a profitable sale. She runs a small bakery business in the morning before the BBQ crowd arrives and her concoctions are the talk of the town. I loved how when she baked she would leave the windows open, no matter the weather, in hopes that the rich aroma of her baked goods would find their way to those she has loved and lost.

My favorite character was Grandpa Vance. He was a giant of a man - literally - standing 8 foot tall. I so enjoyed that the author made him a giant because his character was tall enough to see past the petty thoughts and past indiscretions of others. His true character towered over the shallow minds of the townspeople like his own shadow on a sunny day. I laughed at his eccentric habit of checking the clothes dryer (you'll have to read to understand) and found it rather touching and comforting.

Secrets abound in this tiny little town, secrets that one family hoped had nearly run its course and was on its way to be forgotten. But some secrets are just dying to be told.

I've heard it said that "you can never go back", but what if you never really left? What if you left a piece of you behind and merely need to reclaim it, let the truth speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may? If you are lucky enough to go back home, you just might find that you are finally AT home -- for the first time.

I would have loved to have given this story 5 stars but there were some actions by characters that were just too unbelievable or unexplainable and I won't mention for fear of spoiling the story. In spite of a few oversights (that this reader had trouble overlooking), this was just a wonderful, feel good story and a joy to read.

Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
Probably a good discussion book

I have read several books by Kristin Hannah and this one seemed a bit distant (pardon the pun) from some of her other stories. The story revolves around a couple who have been married 24 years; their two daughters are now in college and the couple is now dealing, or NOT dealing, with themselves as a couple and not parents anymore. It is an honest look at what can happen in a marriage or relationship when you don't divide up your time and attention in proportion to the needs at hand. Most mothers know that from the moment of giving birth, life - as they remember it - will never be the same. It seems your time and devotion is to your family and spouse and there is little time left for yourself - especially if you're a working Mom. Typically the male spouse spends much of his male adult life consumed with work, house and car repairs and providing something solid to live on when the kids are gone. Akin to the book "What Alice Forgot", this story tells how in the midst of doing what you perceive as your duty as a parent or spouse, it is easy to lose sight of who you were in the beginning.

The story flowed well and gave the perspective of both spouses -- and at times the children. I can't say the story "wowed" me and it is one I have heard before and after 41 years of marriage, lived through some of it. There were some great words of wisdom and a reinforcement of building a good base to a marriage that will stand strong in troubled times. While it probably should be read by the younger, less than 5 years married, crowd to serve as a reminder to keep sight of your true North, it probably will be appreciated more by the seasoned adult who has learned to don a lifejacket and float inland and stand on the distant shores once more.

Definitely not her best book, but worth the read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Adventurous
Unexpected Guests are never welcome

I’ve been an avid fan of Karen White stories for years but this was the first I have read in her Tradd Street series. (Leave it to me to start at the end and work my way backward.) Now I understand what all of the hype is about. Her stories are always so rich and full of character and emotion and this book is no different but with a sprinkling of paranormal activity.

A new mother of twins (Melanie) reeling with self-doubt and approaching her time to return to work as a realtor sets out to find a nanny that can live up to her expectations and OCD processes. Melanie’s husband, Jack, is an author and has accepted his wife’s “abilities” to sometimes see or feel things that others cannot. Melanie’s gift is apparently an inheritance from her mother.

Jayne, a newcomer to Charleston, arrives at the realty company where Melanie works and informs her she has received word she inherited an old manor on Guest Street from someone she never met nor heard of. Having no regard for big old homes, she wishes to sell the house, sight unseen, and hopes to employ Melanie for the task. Needless to say there is a story twisted so deep in the home with a dusting of secrets yet to be revealed to others, this is not going to be a quick or easy sale.

I’ll be honest and say that it actually did take me a few chapters to really get my feet wet in this story. But once I got used to the water temperature, I couldn’t escape its grasp on me, even when I could hear the rapids calling in the later chapters. Another excellent story telling by an exceptional author. I can’t wait to see what she’ll come up with to top this one.

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive
Don't be Left Standing at the Gate

Wow - that was an awesome ride. It was like a combination of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meet True Detective sprinkled with a psychic reading. Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, is swimming in a sea of despair and grief over the loss of her young son. Unable to find the strength to go back to work she sinks deeper into gloom at home until a strange dream surrounding a young boy adrift in a row boat, floating gently in a swamp, whispers "help me". Is it a dream? Is it a sign meant from her son? Is she going crazy?

A call from a long-ago boss at True Crime magazine with a freelance project offer kindles a spark of life in Charlie. The job pertains to a wealth family in Louisiana and the cold case of their young son who was kidnapped 30 years ago and never found.

I changed my mind many times in the course of this story on who was the murderer, the true course of events that fateful night 30 years ago, but I didn't see everything that was about to be revealed. This was a great mystery filled with the mystic atmosphere of the deep south. You could almost feel the Spanish moss dripping off the trees brush your face as you walked the gardens of Evangeline. I'd had this book on my to read list for a couple of years. I'm glad that, just like Charlie in the story listened to her dreams, I listened to my gut feeling that said, "Now is the time to welcome this story into your library." I can't wait to see what other stories are on the shelf by this author.


 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Insightful, Adventurous
A Beautiful "Life Lessons" Story

This story touched me so deeply -- maybe because I'm a grandmother in the latter part of my life, maybe because I have two granddaughters who are "almost eight years old" or maybe because I still enjoy delving in fantasy and the world of pure imagination.

Elsa is almost 8 years old, as she likes to say, and lives in an apartment type complex with her mother and her mother's common-law husband who are about to have their first child together. Elsa's mother runs a hospital and Elsa spend much of her time with her grandmother, who also lives in the same complex. At first I thought Elsa's granny was just a kook with her silly fairy tales and stupid stunts like breaking into the zoo at night with Elsa. But Granny introduces Elsa to a world of fantasy, a world at night that comes alive and gives Elsa comfort when she sleeps and brings relief in daylight when the world and bullies are casting shadows on her self-worth. Through her fellowship with Granny she finds the "World-of-Almost-Awake". In this world there are 6 kingdoms, each with their own purpose and each is filled with special characters, monsters and dragons with names like the Cloud Animals, the Sea Angel the wurser and Wolfheart. There is the Kingdom of Miamas where they export fairy tales, Kingdom of Mirevas where they stand guard, the Kingdom of Miploris where they store sorrow, Kingdom of Mimovas where music comes from, Kingdom of Miaudcas where courage comes from and the Kingdom of Mibatalus where the bravest solidest are raised.

As the story progresses you begin to put the pieces of the kingdoms together and see that Granny is showing Elsa life -- life in its rawest form and in the only form a child can understand. Granny dies of cancer (no spoiler here - it is in the beginning of the book) but it is after her death the real story begins. Granny has left Elsa a series of letters to deliver after her death. Letters that paint a picture of Granny's life before Elsa knew her, letters of apology and letters that bring the six mythical kingdoms together. Elsa learns some stories about her Granny that hard to accept. She learns about sacrifices. She learns that some sacrifices are the hardest to make but are made for the greater good.

I loved the way the author let Granny be a beacon and storyteller, even after her death. I loved how Granny had stories to tell and lessons to teach that will be far reaching for generations. I loved how, even through the innocent eyes of a child, it is possible to see how we are all connected by a common thread, a common denominator called compassion. Most coming of age stories deal with someone much older than an "almost eight year old", but this story used the sorrow discovered from the loss of a loved one to be the catalyst that cracked the egg shell surrounding the baby chick and provided room to grow and an opportunity to spread her wings.

Granny told Elsa that people in the real world say when something terrible happens that the sadness and loss and aching pain of the heart will lessen as time passes. But Granny told her that isn’t true. She said sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we would not be able to stand. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it. That is what the Kingdom of Miploris is – the place where lone storytelling travelers come slowly wandering, dragging luggage full of sorrow. A place where they can put it down and go back to life. (Now who couldn’t love a Granny that that can explain survival in such beautiful words?)

I smiled a lot through the book and at the end I cried -- not like an almost eight year old, but like a baby. It felt good and it felt cleansing. Tonight I can't wait to sleep and if I'm lucky, perhaps, the cloud animals will whisk me away to the World-of-Almost-Awake where my soul can once again be enriched with wisdom and knowledge and, if I’m lucky, a bit of make believe.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fun, Romantic
Just didn't work well for me.

Perhaps I was trying to make more of this book than was necessary. Perhaps I've read too many mysteries lately so I was overthinking the plot of this story. Whatever the case, when I finally closed the book, I just kept thinking, "Was that it?" I kept waiting for that revelation or twist that was going to give me one of those V8 moments when you smack your head and think that you should have seen that coming. Suffice is to say, that moment never arrived.

I've read many books by this author and her writing skills did not regress in this story, but the story line fell a bit short for me. The idea that a hypnotist was dating a young man who is being stalked by an ex-girlfriend, only to find that the stalker is one of the hypnotists clients, leaves a lot of room and possibilities to play with. It was interesting, at times a bit edgy, but it just didn't leave me screaming for more. In the end it was just wrapped up in a too tight of a bow with that happily ever after icing. Don't get me wrong -- I love happy endings, but sometimes I just like my characters to be a bit flawed and not just the bad guy in the story. It makes it a bit more believable and realistic. Because let's face it, who couldn't get a good night's sleep with a pea under the mattress? But if I was being stalked day and night by my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend you can bet that I'd be trading that pea for a handgun. Apparently the characters in this story just liked pea soup.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Beautiful, Adventurous
An Inspiring Read of Courage and Fortitude

What a beautiful story of courage and fortitude. Maggie was 17 and traveling with 13 friends and relatives from their Ireland homeland to experience an adventure and a life of promise and opportunity in America. Accompanied by her adult aunt, Maggie is filled with mixed emotions about the voyage. She longs to see the America she has heard her aunt talk about and yet her heart is heavy to leave the boy who has won her heart at home. She is about to leave behind the only life she has known and embark on a journey full of questions and unknown answers. She steps foot on a boat that will take them to the liner anchored far out in the harbor. The massive size of the liner is too large for any berth along Ireland's shore. The month is April. The year is 1912 and the ship is the Titanic.

The year is 1982. The place is New York. The girl's name is Grace and she is leaving her dreams of college and journalism to return home to Chicago following the news of her father's death. Her mother suffers from MS and Grace makes the sacrifice to withdraw from college, forego an opportunity to write a story for the local NY newspaper in order to care for her mother. The biggest regret she leaves behind is the boy who had won her heart.

Time passes and Grace has taken on the role of caregiver but a piece of her heart lies somewhere else. Grace often visits her great-grandmother in town and begins to share her sorrow for a life put on hold. It is then that her grandmother begins a story of what it takes to close the doors behind you and build a life anew. She shares stories of what it means to be a true survivor. She tells her the story that defines courage. She tells her of her own escape from the depths of hell when she arose as a survivor 70 years ago from one of the world's worst sea disasters.

I love stories about the Titanic. There was something so majestic about it and yet from the start seemed to be shadowed by an unknown spell of disaster. This was a great story, well written and full of raw emotion -- a story kept hidden by a survivor who felt more like a victim. Sometimes we have to open the door to the past in order to be assured it can't hurt us anymore. Like the courage it took for those who jumped in the lifeboats, we have to make a leap of faith to feel whole and worthy of the life that has been bestowed upon us.

Perfect A Novel by Rachel Joyce
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Confusing, Interesting
Less Than a Perfect Read

Perfect was everything but. But in an imperfect world, perhaps it never hurts to dream the impossible.

Byron is young boy with grown-up eyes. He sees more than most but keeps it to himself -- and his best friend James. A father who is rarely at home and a mother that wishes she wasn't, leaves Byron to fend for himself and a task of how to fix what is wrong. In this case the means doesn't justify the end. The truth is that everyone is broken -- whether they realize it or not. And there are some people you just can't help. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

Another story runs parallel to Byron's -- that of a grown man who is known as Jim. Autistic? Perhaps. Severe OCD? Most definitely. Broken? No more than any other person walking the streets - it is just that his imperfections are more visible.

This story comes from the same author that gave us "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", but I can't say it spoke to me like Harold's journey did. I had great difficulty trying to put the two stories of Byron and Jim together and the confusion kept getting in the way of the words on the page. I'll give the author credit; she eventually wove them together in the end, but it was a little late to leave a lasting impression on me.

Suffice it to say that "Perfect" was not the word I would use to describe this book. However, hidden deep within the words on the page was a message worthy of reading, but I like my coffee with a bold flavor that makes my senses go "wow". This read more like a weak cup of decaf.

Cover of Snow: A Novel by Jenny Milchman
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Addictive, Dramatic
Chilling Story

I have found me a new mystery author to follow. $1.99 on my Nook allowed me two days of a great story and wanting more.

Imagine living in a small town, your husband is on the local police department and you are taking the first steps in opening a home remodeling business. You have a memorable romantic evening with your husband to wake up in the morning and find that he's hung himself. Sympathy from the town's people abounds but answers are few and far between. The more the wife asks questions, the more things aren't adding up. How well did she know her husband? Was he keeping secrets? Are the police protecting her feelings or protecting themselves? Some secrets can't stayed buried, no matter how frozen the ground.

Sub-zero temperatures, winter storms and heavy snows are at the theme of this story, but even the cold temperatures can't cover up the heat that ignites as the author weaves you through a maze of deceit. I love it when an author doesn't play all their cards up front and keeps a little something special held back to entice and intrigue you. If this is indicative of her writing style, count me a fan.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Beautiful
A Beautiful Story of Strength and Compassion

This was my third book by this author (Fallen Women and Prayers for Sale, which is still my favorite). Grace is an extraordinary woman. Raised and trained by a midwife, Grace helped bring her first baby into the world when she was only 10. Naming her character Grace was no accident because her heart was overflowing with compassion for others, especially mothers and their babies and she sacrificed most all of her own life helping others bring new life to the world around her.

The story begins with an aged Grace being called to the house of a prominent mining company owner to attend to a newborn. Grace arrives to find the baby choking and with her expert hand she suctions the baby’s small lungs and soothes not only the baby but the home’s occupants as well. Just a few days later she receives word that the baby she attended has died. But not only did the baby die, he was strangled and they are accusing Grace of the act.

From there the story leads you through Grace’s life, her experiences as a midwife, the strength she possessed and the strength she was able to pass along to weary birthing mothers. I am still astounded at what mothers of old had to endure to get their babies to maturity. The birthing was only the first of many obstacles to cross in a world with few doctors, even fewer medicines and the only true hope was prayer.

I enjoyed the story immensely and had never really thought about all the aspects of life to which a midwife was subjected. I loved the strength of her character and her passion for the gift she clearly received. At the same time I wept for whatever it was that was clearly a burden or severe sorrow that she tried so gracefully to cover up. It wasn’t until the end that her true story is revealed and I admired her all the more. I’ve often heard that GRACE means God Revealed at Christ’s Expense and that definition couldn’t have been more appropriate than the story of Grace found in this story. Some people are self-serving, others are self-sacrificing and for Grace, sacrificing her feelings, happiness or comfort was never an issue when it came to helping others.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Confusing, Addictive
The forgotten Room

First of all, I love all Karen White stories. I was intrigued to see how three authors would coordinate the collaborative process of writing a book together. I loved the suspense created trying to weave three stories together and yet had difficulty keeping all three separate. I am accustomed to having to intertwine two stories together – a past and present – but to weave 3 was a bit like trying to French braid with only two fingers -- awkward and mind boggling at times.

There are three distinct stories told in 3 different time eras. I think for me the confusing part was that there wasn’t much time dividing the 3 time partitions, therefore I kept trying to put the same person behind both door number and door number 2:

1892: Enter Olive who has come to work as a servant in the Pratt Mansion. Her father had been the original architect on the building of the Pratt Mansion, but was never paid in full for his efforts and was eventually slandered via the Pratt family to the point he eventually committed suicide. Olive is working under an assumed last name to find out the truth about her father’s dealing with the Pratt family. Whether right or wrong, in the midst of her madness she begins an affair with one of the Pratts nearly-grown sons, Harry.

1920: Enter Lucy, the daughter of Olive, and recently been employed by a law firm that now manages the Pratt family trust. Lucy has long believed she is the daughter of Harry Pratt. She has taken this job to help in her quest for answers and resolution. She ends up with feelings for both her boss and one of his clients, a John Ravenal from Charleston.

1944: Enter Kate, the daughter of Lucy, who is a female doctor working at a hospital during WWII and has been assigned a soldier with a severely injured leg, Capt. Cooper Ravenal. The soldier tells her she is the exact image of a family heirloom miniature portrait passed down from his grandfather, to his father and now to him.

The three stories are beautifully written, in and of themselves, but the tie (or necklace) that ties them all together had a bit of a too long chain for me and it kept getting tangled up with the story preceding and proceeding it. I found myself having to read slower and slower at the end just so that I could keep the pieces of the puzzle straight. All in all, it was a beautiful story of living with regrets, living out a life without passion and the repercussions of not following your heart.

I commend the authors for seamlessly writing three stories without there being a noticeable change between writing styles and character formation. The premise of the story and heartfelt emotion of the loves and lives of Olive, Lucy and Kate deserves 5 stars. The sometimes confused and convoluted facts and locations discussed in the story line, however, definitely caused the 4 star rating.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Dramatic
The Mother's Promise

Kate is a nurse and coordinator for patients needing assistance as they progress through an illness, injury or cancer treatments. She can organize help while patients are in the hospital or at home. She is married with two stepchildren and desperately wants a child of her own. Two miscarriages are casting billowing dark clouds over her dreams and her husband is ready for her to stop trying.

Sonja is a social worker who assists Kate with patient's needs. She is married to a wealthy businessman whose behavior and sexual manners became somewhat aggressive and controlling since they married. Daily she doles out words of advice and encourage to others in abusive relationships and yet lacks the courage or insight to see the reflection in the mirror of her own life.

Zoe is a teenage battling severe anxiety issues. Afraid to make eye contact with anyone other than her mother, a social life that is nearly non-existent and suffering the smirks and side jokes of all her classmates, her life is the epitome of stressful and lonely -- to say the least. Zoe hasn't a clue as to who is her father. Her world revolves solely around her mother who provides her refuge from her fears and anxieties.

Alice is Zoe's mother. She is a caregiver to the elderly and sick. Her gift in life is her ability to bring comfort to others in both her professional and personal life. Alice struggles daily to bring order to a world that is void of order and peace for her daughter. Alice is the rock and safe harbor for Zoe and is Zoe's only chance for a normal survival. But Alice has just been caught in her own avalanche with little hope of rescue. When the dust settles at her feet, the signs are as visible as a neon sign shining through the darkness and it spells stage three ovarian cancer.

This is a powerful story about the strength and courage of three women and a child. Each are struggling with their own internal disappointments, fears and shame. Each shares a common bond of guilt -- guilt for not being strong enough to say "enough, guilt for an inability to bear a child, guilt for having drawn the short straw in life and leaving a child to fend for herself and guilt for being afraid of everything.

There is little to be revealed in this story that an avid reader can't figure out and yet it was a sad but enjoyable journey to take with all of the characters. Short but to the point chapters kept this story moving at a good pace. It affords an opportunity to laugh and to cry but even more -- to hope, to reflect on what you have been given and to cherish each day with those you love.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Dramatic, Adventurous
Great Crime Mystery

I’d had this book sitting in my Nook library for some time now and I don’t know why I never read it – but I’m sure glad I decided to give it a whirl. There is nothing better than a good crime/murder mystery and this story would make a great movie. It had a bit of everything -- good cop/bad cop, reformed prisoner/unreformed ex-prisoners, revenge, kidnapping, shootouts, clues/fake clues and more.

The story starts with a prominent attorney’s daughter being kidnapped while leaving work. The following day the chief of police’s daughter is kidnapped. And then the fun begins. When it is discovered that the kidnappers may have crossed state lines with the girls, the FBI is called in and a desperate manhunt begins. A ransom request is imminent, the girls have been buried alive with nothing but an air vent, one of them a diabetic and desperately in need of her insulin, and the seconds are ticking off the clock faster than anyone can count.

This was a well written crime mystery – my first by this author. While I did figure out who the bad guy was, it was still a captivating and intriguing story and well worth the read.

Harbour Falls by S.R. Grey
 
Interesting, Unconvincing
Harbour Falls Fell Short

Give me a book with a picture of the sea and a lighthouse on the cover and I feel I can't go wrong. But, alas, Harbour Falls fell short for me. Maddy is an author, an accomplished fiction mystery author. Having left Harbour Falls some years ago, she now calls Los Angeles home. Four years ago there was a much publicized scandal in her home town. A local girl engaged to a local wealthy business owner on the island goes missing the day before their wedding. Rumor has it there was friction and deadly riptides flowing between groom and bride. Maddy returns home for a short 3-month visit in hopes to write her first true mystery story and has high hopes of trying to solve all the unanswered questions. Under the guise that she has returned for a short visit in hopes to overcome writer's block, caution and discretion are the tools she must employ to put her sleuth skills to good use. But sometimes when you go looking for trouble -- you find it.

My first problem with the story came when it seemed within 24 hours of arriving on the island, she immediately begins having feelings for the groom who was left without a bride -- who just happens to be a guy Maddy knew from her high school days and always had a crush on. The relationship that blossomed rather abruptly between the two just seemed a bit contrived to me. It moved faster than a sports car on the Autobahn. Within days the author had the main character thinking she was in love with him and then 2 minutes later was doubting his innocence and honesty. The story played out like a soap opera cat and mouse game and I got the sense that Maddy's character lacked character.

The circumstances around the mystery were interesting and had some validity but got lost in the sexual teasing and on again, off again trust issues. The clincher came when I was on the last chapter of the book and realized that the author opened up new questions and new mysteries only to tell you the answers could be expected in the next book. What? Really? I don't do series books and am not going to "fall" for another episode of Harbour Falls or its inhabitants.

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