Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

If you care to purchase the book from Amazon, please click on the book cover.


Three sisters, three different outlooks on life, three different opinions about working, three different attitudes concerning just about everything, but they all had the same reason for coming home.....their mother needed help because of her breast cancer. 

Rose was the practical, organized sister, Bean was the attorney turned thief, and Cordy was still the spoiled child she always was.  They all had some secret or concern as they returned to their childhood home.

Their childhood home was one of love, of books, and Shakespearean quotes....the entire family quoted Shakespeare as they spoke and thought nothing of doing so.  None of the girls was ever without a book in her hands.

Just as in childhood, the adult lives of each sister went opposite ways in terms of interest and responsibility, but their love and concern for each other was evident.  The emotions of the characters and the descriptions of situations especially during childhood flashbacks was perfectly depicted allowing the reader to experience the hominess of small town connections and the nostalgia of coming back to your roots.

You will enjoy each sister for her strengths and shortcomings, and you will admire their parents for their love of each other and for the love of reading they instilled in their daughters.

I really enjoyed this book...if you have sisters, you will cherish it, and you will most likely be comparing these characters to see which sister you are!!  If you don't have sisters, the bond between all the characters will "warm your heart" and have you thinking about your own family and sibling relationships. 5/5

 P. S. The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (c. 1603–1607)...information taken from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Killer of Orchids by Ralph Ashworth

"A little forensic investigation, conducted from the safety of the Cloisters, might excite things a bit.  He and Xander could puzzle out the tricky little murder reported in the paper." Page 144 
It definitely wasn't a little was something out of the ordinary. 
A Samurai running through the parking lot swinging a sword and deliberately targeting two men then slicing them to pieces definitely would not be a typical occurrence in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Who could the murderer have been...two men are dead and not a clue where the killer went.  Why would these two specific men be chosen as victims?  One person knew the whole story.
As the tale unravels and the mystery is solved, you get to enjoy the characters and share a part of their unusual and interesting lives.  It is a mystery, but is also is more about the investigation and characters' lives than a description of the murder.
Jeff, a computer expert and Xander, an 11-year old, wanted to discover who was responsible for this brutal evening.  They went back to the scene of the crime and even to the homes of the victims to look for clues.  They also went to the funeral home of each victim, and definitely did some wild and dangerous detective work.
Vernon Roman's wake was quite a show beginning with the funeral home to the will actually make you laugh at what happened.  Roman's family was undeniably made up of an eclectic group.  
The wake of Marshall Chester was completely opposite and filled to the brim with students and colleagues paying their respects to one of their distinguished and well-loved faculty members. 
This book doesn't seem to be well known in reading circles, but it is a good read.  The comedy and the mystery hold your interest.  It gets a little tense at times, but isn't that how mysteries work?  If you are a mystery lover, you will definitely enjoy the book.  5/5

Monday, December 13, 2010

Angel Harp by Michael Phillips

What a lovely, lovely book...I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Widowed at 40, lonely, wondering what to do now after she had let years pass by since the death of her husband, "Angel" Dawn Marie decided to vacation in Scotland. Her car trip through the Highlands and towns was calming for her. She found the town of Port Scarnose to be magical, and instead of continuing to other places, she decided to remain there for the rest of her vacation. She chose Port Scarnose because of its quaintness and mainly because of a bench overlooking the sea where she first played her harp on Scottish soil...this is where the magic began for her.

All too soon, though, her three-week vacation was coming to a close. She had fallen in love with Scotland and its people, but she had to make a decision about extending her stay or heading back to Canada...what should she do? Should she stay or leave?

Her decision was definitely affected by circumstances and the people she met. Her dinner with Iain Barclay and her new-found friendship with 12-year-old Gwendolyn undeniably made the decision a little easier. She decided she "had" to stay for sweet Gwendolyn's sake....Gwendolyn loved to play the harp and had a natural talent. What she didn't know, though, was that her decision may have been more complicated than she realized because of a connection between Iain, Gwendolyn, and the Duke, who invited her to his castle to play the harp. The secrets of the relationships among these three interesting characters unravel as the story continues.

Marie's adventures continued with these characters and others, and she felt she was finding herself spiritually as well as becoming happy in the midst of the magic of Scotland's people and its landscape. To the extent that Scotland was making her blossom and was good for her, Marie was good for the town of Port Scarnose and its citizens. Everyone she came in contact with became a happier person and found things in themselves they didn't know existed.

If you enjoy Scottish history and listening/reading the written Gaelic brogue, you will fall in love with the book and definitely the characters. The characters were amazing and made you wish you could actually sit with them for the day and enjoy chatting and working along with them. Hearing the author mention different places in Scotland was also a treat knowing that I had been there as well.

The Gaelic brogue used by the town's people was the only, but minor drawback.…it was a little difficult to read and understand, but you could get the gist of the exchange. Nonetheless, it did add an authentic touch to the characters during their conversations with Marie. The religious theme throughout the story will have you examining your own personal beliefs. 5/5

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

A privileged childhood, a wonderful friend, a doting father, her own cottage by the lake...what more could a girl ask for......Carolina's life was like a fairy tale come true. All was perfect until she knew something was wrong with her one believed her, but she knew she was going blind. No one except Turri her childhood friend that is...he believed everything she said.

He told her that she would be totally blind by New Year's Day....she didn't want to accept it would happen, but Turri was correct as usual. New Year's Day was when it happened.

Carolina's days were never ending. The nights were better because she was able to see again in her dreams, but all remained dark the minute she woke up. She began to roam the house at night feeling for familiar things. What was frightening about her nightly roaming was she would hear footsteps that would stop when she stopped and doors that kept creaking in various rooms. Then one day Carolina HAD to see Turri, and she made her way to the lake and the cottage where she and Turri had always met. Right after the trip to the lake, whenever she tried to leave the house, she but wasn't able to get out...the door was locked.

One night while she roamed, she chased someone into the basement and found a surprise. The following day Turri visited her with another surprise....a writing machine....she could now type out notes to friends without spilling ink everywhere, and most importantly she could write to Turri..

The book turned from a story about a girl held prisoner by her blindness and her husband to a mystery about the characters and the person who roamed the house at night.

I enjoyed the book…it was a heartwarming read even though the blindness factor was distressing.

I would recommend reading it while wrapped up in a blanket on a cold, winter’s night next to the warm fireplace. 5/5

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Old Border Road by Susan Froderberg

Old Border Road has exceptional descriptions of characters, situations, and Arizona scenery.  The characters are unique, and the storyline is appealing.

The main character, Katherine, lives with her in-laws in southern Arizona and must work with them in their everyday routine of keeping up their ranch while her husband is habitually absent at night.  Katherine has to work hard, deal with unhappiness, deal with loneliness, and with THE KNOWING.  

As time goes on, could her second thoughts as she walked down the aisle as a seventeen-year-old bride have been an omen for her life's path?

Katherine....aka as "Girl" learns how to rope cattle, ride horses, make dinners, repair clothing, and cope with a drought plaguing Arizona.  All characters mesh well together even though they are distinct in their own ways.

Ms. Froderberg's style is splendid...her beautiful prose reels you into the tale and allows you to become absorbed in the lives of Girl, Son, and Rose's Daddy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the is one you will want to read as well.  5/5

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

A brother that disappears, a father who works all the time, a bored mother who works in a wood shop, and Rose who tastes feelings in food.

"So every food has a feeling, George said when I tried to explain to him about the acidic resentment in the grape jelly."  Page 36

Poor Rose...besides not liking her favorite cake anymore and having an aversion to food because of what the taste brings out, she had to try to stay clear of  her older brother so she wouldn't bother him and "make him flip."  Her brother didn't want any parts of her, but his friend George helped her with finding out what was going on with her taste buds.

With George's help, Rose figured out that she could tell what kind of  mood someone was in and what stage of life the ingredients in food had been simply by tasting the cookie or whatever food she happened to be sampling.  She hated food because of this.  Later on she found out something about her grandfather that gave her some insight into her “problem.”

Rose could taste her mother's feelings in all the food she made each night and found out something that she really didn't want to know about her mother.

The book was a sweet read sharing all the good and bad things that go on in families with the adults and the siblings. It also had some odd situations, which I am still confused about, but on the whole I enjoyed it and will give the book a 4/5.   Overall, a very creative and different idea for a book.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Todos Santos by Deborah Clearman

Guatemala, a mother's love, summer, painting, having fun, fear, daily life, superstitions......

A summer in Guatemala....this definitely sounded exciting to Isaac and much better than spending it in summer school in Iowa.  Isaac accompanied his mother to Guatemala and stayed with his aunt while his mother made a trip to Todos Santos to do some painting.

While his mother was away, Issac met another American boy who was bad news, but whom Isaac continued to befriend.  The boys planned a trip of their own without actually telling anyone the truth about their destination.  Their adventures as well as the adventures of Catherine made up most of the book...Catherine found things she wasn't expecting and Isaac did as well.  The trip Issac and Bernie took was frightening to me....seeing the risks they took in a foreign country made my heart race.

Meanwhile, Catherine was enjoying herself and learning many things about the culture of Guatemala...both good and bad aspects.  The book had vivid descriptions of the beautiful landscape of Guatemala and the lifestyles of its people. The characters were interesting and colorful.

The book took me a while to read not because it was difficult, but because I was afraid to see what was going to happen to Catherine and her son. It also was heart wrenching to learn how the citizens of Guatemala actually lived on a daily basis and how the leaders were so self-centered, corrupt, controlling, and superstitious.

 Deborah Clearman is a very talented author...she has fantastic descriptions of characters, scenery, and emotions.  You could feel the emotions of each character as they were dealing with the situation occurring at the moment......the well-described scenes and emotions made the book unique for me.

I truly enjoyed the book except for the fear factor that I brought on myself.  :)

Also stop at Black Lawrence Press to view Ms. Clearman's video of the background for her novel...quite intriguing. - go to the side bar and choose Authors.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Solomon's Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson

"The chapel had been Dan's final project. One summer morning over his oatmeal he'd said, "I've got a bug to build myself a chapel. Nothing fancy, just a place to worship out of the rain." Page 9

Thanksgiving day, the oldest white oak tree on the Solomon property, a chapel built by Dan Solomon, a wedding, and now a foster child dealing with grief just like Glory Solomon.

Glory had to do something since Dan died...her savings was gone, and her part-time job didn't really pay the bills.

One day she was asked/begged if a wedding and a reception could be held in the chapel that Dan had built. Glory hesitated and then decided the $3,000 she would get would definitely help pay the bills that were mounting. The wedding party wanted a Thanksgiving dinner and also a reception with a pirate theme and a sword fight.

The wedding was a huge success and brought a few surprises as well.....a former policeman who happened to be photographing the oak tree and a new foster child that unknown to Glory had some connection to her family dog. The connection was too close to home, and Juniper wasn't going to be too bad to have around or so she thought, so Glory told Caroline she would keep the new foster child.

Joseph the policeman was also pretty interesting...his grandmother had lived a few miles down the road from Glory when Joseph was a child, and he remembered the oak trees of California and especially the one on the Solomon property.

Solomon's Oak told the life stories of the three main characters who definitely fit and worked well together even though the connection was through their misfortunes. The book was a cozy read for life, real-life situations, talents we all have hiding inside and waiting to emerge, and just plain heartfelt warmth in the book.

You will fall in love with Glory, Juniper will drive you crazy, and Joseph's patience will amaze you.

Enjoy the book....I definitely did.  Solomon’s Oak was very touching….it will make you smile, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will restore your faith in mankind’s goodness.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Great House by Nicole Krauss


An empty apartment, a friend who has furniture to give away, and now a furniture-filled apartment with lots of stories and a wonderful desk.

Then....after twenty-five years, the desk that she loved was being claimed by a relative of its original owner...she knew it would happen one day, but now that it has happened, she wasn't sure how she felt about it...not having the desk would cause a hole in her life.   She couldn't even be there when the original owner's daughter came to pick up the desk, and physical as well as mental things began happening after the loss of her beloved desk.

After the desk was gone, she got on an airplane to Ben Gurion airport...then the book went to another story.  This second story opened with a funeral in progress.

I thought it was going to be a great read since the desk plot sounded intriguing, and the cover caught my interest.

I really was lost reading this book... the beginning was good, but as the book continued, it was very puzzling, and the sections seemed detached from each other.  I had no sense of what the author was saying....the narrator talked to a "your honor," and she referred to characters by letters...R and S.

I really didn't enjoy the book because of how each chapter really wasn't connected to the others....not a continuous flow throughout the book.

I do have to say, though, that Krauss is a fantastic author....very deep and descriptive.  Krauss’s book was too over the top for me....I don't read fluff, but the book was very profound, complex, and to me disconnected.  I enjoy a flowing story that fits together.

I have seen great reviews for the book, but I just couldn't connect or follow the plot.

Best of luck with the book...I am sure it will be a best seller, but I guess I missed the point...I tried but was not able to continue reading it.  2/5.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Almost Home by Pam Jenoff

She HAD to get to London but had no explanation for her boss.  He granted her permission, and she left that very evening.

Jordan arrived in London ready to take a cab to see her very ill friend, but her co-worker met her at the airport....oh no, they do have an assignment for her.  An assignment in London wasn't the real reason she wanted to return to London, and when she does arrive, all the familiar landmarks she remembered when she was at Cambridge, make her heart twist and bring tears to her eyes as she remembers the reason that made her leave right after graduation.  Seeing Chris, a former college classmate, and then seeing him disappear from a dinner party, also didn't help with the memories.

When Chris finally does appear, he tells Jordan something that she can't ignore, and she must return to Cambridge University to find answers.  The journey back to her college days is emotionally painful, particularly since she wanted so desperately to never have to re-live an experience that changed her entire life and up to now had almost been put out of her conscious thoughts.

Meanwhile as Jordan is dealing with this information from Chris, her assignment and this situation seem to have some connection...people go missing, papers disappear, someone is following her, betrayal among friends and lovers, people are dying in "accidents" and more information comes to the surface along with a direct order to stop the investigation of a company who they know has something to hide. 

The story unravels, the mystery is solved, Jordan's pain doesn't disappear but she finally does have some hope about what caused all this in the first place.

To me the book was not as good as her other two really didn't get interesting until page 200 or so…it didn’t seem tied together until toward the end.   The ending was suspenseful and a surprise, though.

I will give it a 4/5 only because it did come together toward the end of the book.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Don't Blink by James Patterson

Another masterfully-crafted Patterson (Roughan)....suspense, tension, surprises, twists and turns at every page.

“In the horror of those moments at Lombardo’s, as well as in the haze and commotion of the aftermath on the killing floor, I’d forgotten that I had already been recording when Vincent Marcozza and those cops were murdered.”“I didn’t get my interview with Dwayne Robinson.  But what did I get? Page 66

Lombardo's?  Really?  How could this happen in Lombardo's restaurant in the middle of the afternoon.  And to top it off with a reporter close by and a famous baseball player waiting to be interviewed....really?

Nick Daniels was the unlucky reporter who had been in the restaurant when the murders occurred...he actually had recorded it and didn't realize it....he hoped the murderer didn't realize it either....but could that really be kept a secret when it is common knowledge that reporters carry habitually-on tape recorders especially when they are planning to interview someone?
Restaurants, tape recorders, reporters, organized crime, a woman...all this wrapped up into one to make Nick's life miserable and dangerous, but thrilling.

Don't Blink was very fast paced (maybe in honor of its title?) and a gripping page turner....the author(s) left a thought hanging at the end of one section and immediately picked it up within two sentences at the start of the next chapter.   Storyline was excellent.  I really enjoyed the book.  5/5 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

What hold could Old Nick have over Ma that would make that room her world? Why didn't she just leave? Or maybe she wasn't able to leave?

Jack's fifth birthday definitely wouldn't be what a normal five-year-old would be delighted with, but Jack was happy to spend the day with his Ma in their ordinary, same-as-always routine. They spent every day in the "room" with the food and clothing that Old Nick provided for them.

Ma doesn't allow Old Nick to see Jack but she never tells Jack why. Ma and Jack's days are creatively spent inventing things, measuring everything in the room that has been Ma's space for the past seven years, reading books and changing the characters to suit them, and watching the clock so they know when it is time to eat or sleep. They never leave their "room," and Jack really doesn't know any better or know anything about the outside world except what his Ma tells him when they read books.

As much as Ma tries to protect and shelter Jack, he begins to question what is beyond the walls they live in. Ma tries to divert Jack's attention to other things, but sometimes it is unavoidable......especially the night when Jack overheard a conversation between Ma and Old Nick about him and the life Old Nick provides for her.

One comment made by Old Nick that stuck in my mind was: "I don't think you appreciate how good you've got it here," "Do you?" Page 69 To me that would be highly good could life be simply living in a room and never going outside?

I grew to hate Old Nick and how he treated both of them. When you find out the "whole" story, you won't want to stop reading.

This book is about fear, abuse, control, a mother's love, and wanting the best for your child. At first you may want to put the book down, but don't do will share Ma's feelings of fear for Old Nick and her dependence on him and also the heartbreak of Jack's acceptance of the only life he has known. You will fall in love with sweet, innocent, literal Jack, and you will think about both characters and their experience long after you turn the last page.

To me this was actually a "creative" thriller...excellent storyline. I really liked the book. 5/5

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Wow...another remarkable read by Laura Lipmann.  Ms. Lippman has excellent portrayals of the characters, a great storyline, and vivid descriptions of situations and gripping scenes.  You can just feel the emotions of each character.
A perfect family, a tranquil life and then......after 20 years a letter arrives in the mail.   Not a friendly letter, but one from someone you would not want to remember. Eliza lives with her husband and two children in Maryland and has a secret from her teenage years that she wants to forget, but the letter brings the nightmare back and also brings a decision about whether to reply or just ignore the communication.   After she makes a decision, a phone call from the sender, along with his continued, manipulative influence further complicates the situation. 
We, the readers, relive Eliza's nightmare of the terror and control she had to endure as we also follow Eliza in her present life.
“There was a bond.  He could make her do anything.  Wasn’t that proof of something between them?  He had granted her life.”   Page 276   My rating is 5/5 – you won’t want to put it down.  It is pretty intense and frightening how someone could have such power over another human being.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Flying dishes, prom gowns, red high-heeled shoes, embarrassing school days....what more could a child take.  
Cee Cee Honeycutt lived with her parents who consisted of a mother who thought she missed out on life since she left her home town in Georgia to marry an older man and her father, an absent traveling salesman.  Life didn't really turn out very well for anyone in the family, but once Cee Cee met Great Aunt Tootie, her life was something she never would have imagined.

Here is how she happened to be with Aunt day as Cee Cee's mother was coming back from the Goodwill store wearing her newest prom gown, she absentmindedly ran into the street and was hit by an ice cream truck and died.  Cee Cee was then moved to Savannah, Georgia, with her Great Aunt Tootie, but not before her loving neighbor, Mrs. Odell, told her about the Life Book we all have with pages that need to be turned when the time comes. 

And what a page in Cee Cee's life was turned when she arrived in Savannah....loving people to surround her and protect her, especially Oletta, Aunt Tootie's cook, and of course Aunt Tootie who showered Cee Cee with hugs and affection that had been lacking in the previous twelve years of her life.  Cee Cee’s unconventional neighbors and a beautiful home also helped add pages to her Life Book.
You will absolutely LOVE this book especially if you like sweet, nostalgic, heartwarming reads with a Southern charm...some of the scenes were laugh-out-loud and others brought tears to your eyes with the tenderness.  

The characters were lovable and genuine.  It is a beautiful, touching read...just like a BIG hug. 
Going to end my review with a quote from Oletta, my favorite character:  "Don’t go wastin’ all them bright tomorrows you ain’t even seen by hangin’ on to what happened yesterday.  Let go, child.  Just breathe out and let go.”  Page 290    Cee Cee definitely had “bright” tomorrows to put in her Life Book thanks to all the loving women in her life.

Thanks, Miss Hoffman… This is going to be one of my all-time favorite books.


Monday, August 16, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What can you say about a 50-year-old classic such as this, nothing but FANTASTIC and lots of lessons learned about integrity and respect.

I remember reading it in high school, but appreciate it more as an adult...the relationships between the characters, their thoughts and morals, and the life style of that 1930's era is so charming and sweet as well as sad.

I loved Scout...she was just wanted to be with Scout, Dill, and Jem during their summer fun and antics, during their agony at the trial's outcome, and when events occurred in town after the trial.

Don't miss reading it for the first time or reading it again.  5/5

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

What a heartwarming, cozy, feel good read.....a sweet, nostalgic book...but with all good things there usually are regrets, heartbreak, and secrets.  I really enjoyed this will be surprised at who/what the "good daughters" turn out to be and will also learn some fun agricultural facts about fruits and vegetables.

Dana and Ruth were born on the same day, but they came from two completely different backgrounds.  Dana Dickerson had a childhood that wasn't stable, and Ruth Plank had one that was totally what a childhood should be.  Dana's parents were flighty, moved around, and their father never held a job for too long...her mother was an artist and acted as though she didn't even have any children.  Dana actually never even called her parents Mom and Dad.  Ruth's parents were very down to earth, had a farm to take care of, made sure their children were taken care of, and were called Mom and Dad.

Ruth's mother felt some sort of kinship with Dana's mother since their children were both born on the same day, even though Dana's mother laughed at Ruth.  Ruth's mother would make a point of visiting the Dickersons each year even though it was a long trip and as usual an uneventful, uncomfortable, and unfriendly occasion.

The book continued by describing the lives of the two families during the 1950's with the focus on the girls and their choices of careers and partners that of course had been affected by their family and childhood. 

I really enjoyed the was during the time I was a child, and I could relate to some of the situations...if you liked The Glass Castle, you will like this as well.  My rating is a 5/5.   Great story.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Fairies, trees, switching places, family, trust, secrets, longing to return........

Henry Day was tired of babysitting his sisters and ran into the woods after his mother insisted that he help more with them.   The changelings took him that very afternoon. 

The changelings steal children after watching their daily routines for about a year to see if the child is the right one for the change and if it is the life the fairy would want to live.   The "stolen" child who replaces the fairy has to adapt to new surroundings, learn new things, and become used to a new life without any familiar people or family.  The fairy duplicate usually makes out better since he knew everything about the stolen child and his family thus making acclamation to the new life in the human world a lot easier.

The changelings that lived in the forest were scavengers, thieves, and had mean dispositions....they ate bugs, berries, killed rabbits and squirrels, and stole things from the humans…they went directly into homes and businesses.  The descriptions of their antics, how they lived, and what they did “grabbed” you so much that it made you afraid to go into the back yard in case they were hiding there doing their nightly stealing of clothes off the line or food in the houses since they could slip through any cracks by making their bodies squeeze thin.  :)

The book goes back and forth describing the lives of the switched children...each telling his story...the one growing into adulthood and the other remaining a child.

A childhood stolen is what I would call what happened...I felt bad for the AniDay (Henry Day), the child who was taken by the changelings and went into the fairy world...he seemed to have a difficult time with the change…he wanted to go back, but couldn’t…he had to wait his turn.  It would be difficult to forget everything from your past, but eventually they do.

The book was interesting, definitely different, and also so mysterious that you couldn't stop reading, but you also kept looking over your shoulder....4/5.

I enjoyed it as the pages continued to turn…the ending was thoughtful and heartwarming.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

I absolutely loved this book...couldn't put it down.

You will fall in love with the characters and share their joy, sadness, triumphs, and will want to be right there with the ladies in the kitchen house preparing meals and being loved by them.

The book is during the time of plantation owners and slavery. On his boat trip back from Ireland, James Pyke brought Lavinia with him...she is a seven-year-old white child whose parents died on the boat during the return trip.

Lavinia is sent to work in the Kitchen House, and the black families learn to love her and she learns to love them as the only family she knows...her memory is gone when she arrives and remembers nothing about her parents and her childhood.

Lavinia works alongside the ladies in the Kitchen House and then learns to take care of the Mistress of house's new born baby...the Mistress begins to teach Lavinia how to read and write. Lavinia is the main character along with Belle, Mama Mae and Papa George and of course the harsh plantation owners

The book takes you through the loyalties the black families have for each other and their Master and his family. It also makes your heart ache at the truths of what really occurred on the plantations concerning the relationship between the slaves and the plantation owners.

A lot of tragedies throughout the story, a terrific account of occurrences, excellent depictions of the surroundings and people.

Through the author's wonderful descriptions, you feel you are right there......the novel is fabulously written.

If you loved THE HELP, you will love this book as well or you may like it even more.

ENJOY!!!! It is wonderful.

The Clouds Beneath the Sun by Mackenzie Ford

An archeologist excavation in Kenya filled with brilliant paleontologists is the setting of the book…the characters' work, cultural differences, and inter-personal relationships encompasses the main plot. In the first few pages the main character, Natalie Nelson, is on her way from Cambridge University to the camp, and she comes across a herd of elephants actually carrying out a mourning ritual...her first glimpse of the mesmerizing sights and sounds of Africa. The descriptions of the wildlife in Africa and the land itself was vividly and beautifully described by Mackenzie Ford.

When Natalie does arrive at the camp site, she is happy to see everyone has his/her own tent with private bath facilities. This is especially comforting the following evening since she didn't get a warm welcome at dinner as a result of her being the novice paleontologist and making a comment that was viewed as criticism of one of the veteran archeologists.

Just as things got better with that situation, and as the excavating continued, two veteran paleontologists, Richard and Russell, do something unthinkable, and a murder occurs. The sole witness happens to be Natalie. Natalie tries to relax and forget about the trial each night with a drink and a cigarette while listening to the African animals that circle the camp. The trial gets pretty complicated and worrisome for Natalie....a plea made to the Maasai chief concerning the trial is denied....the legal and cultural issues are of the utmost concern.

The book was a little slow, but does become a lot better in terms of "action" as you turn the pages to the final chapters....the focus of the archaeological dig, the murder trial, Natalie's turmoil dealing with it, the power of money, societal issues within Africa, relationship issues among a group of people working and living together, personal secrets, and family issues that included sibling rivalry, betrayal, and deceit keep your interest.

It wasn't a riveting novel, but it was intense at times, and it did bring you culturally into another very interesting society. The characters were well developed, and you could feel their pain, fear, triumphs, comradery, and all emotions that may have been felt from living in the middle of a beautiful, exotic African landscape. Being a passionate, knowledgeable paleontologist would have been even more helpful for enjoying the book.

My rating is a 4/5 because the "dig" was very interesting and the cultural aspect made you think how we are all the same, but also different. Even though the ending depicted the beautiful symbolism of the Maasai people, it will haunt you and make you realize what cunning, cruel, jealous, self-motivated creatures we humans can be.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Nigeria, London, Little Bee, Sarah, Lawrence, Andrew, and Batman....all different lives all connected through good and bad situations.

Friendships, suicide, family life, choices, oil, and government...put these all together, and you have a powerful story about how lives inter-twine and are touched no matter what the distance is between all parties.

The story is told by Little Bee, a sixteen-year-old Nigerian refugee and Sarah, a successful journalist....everything isn't given away at once, because the author lets both women "talk" to the reader about events.

The beginning pages are very clever and creative and you think it will be a funny is intense.

You will be drawn into the story very easily, though, through excellent descriptions and situations. You will live and feel all the heartache, emotion, and fear of the circumstances for each character.

It is a powerful, thought-provoking novel.

The Scent of Rain and Lightening by Nancy Pickard


Rose, Kansas, the Linder Ranch, and the Linder family.....

..............Jody Linder was left an orphan at the age of three, and the man who had been accused of killing her parents 20 years ago was being released from jail on this hot, muggy, rainless day in Rose, Kansas. Her uncles arrived together at her home to tell her the news.

The story then moves from the present back to the events that led up to the murder of Laurie and Hugh-Jay Linder. The Linder family owned a huge cattle ranch, and every family member except Belle along with hired hands, which included Billy Crosby, worked for them. Hugh-Jay Linder woke up one morning to broken fences and a dead, pregnant cow....he KNEW it had been Billy Crosby. Hugh-Jay planned a scenario to get Billy at the ranch and have him arrested for the crime.

As a thunderstorm is raging outside the tavern where the Linder children are enjoying their evening, along comes Billy Crosby saying there was no evidence that he broke the fences and killed the cow, and he was free and clear....he was also very drunk, crude, and loud, and was thrown out by the tavern owner. When everyone woke up the next morning, Annabelle Linder was rounding up her children to get some pancakes at a local restaurant. She had to go to her son's house to waken him and his wife but found the doors all locked, and that was unusual. She then found her son dead in an upstairs bedroom.....her screaming roused the neighbor, and he came running over to find the grisly scene. Billy Crosby was of course the sole suspect because of his previous actions and drunkenness from the night before and a trial took place.

The trial of Billy Crosby got him forty plus twenty years in prison for the murder....meanwhile the Linder family and the town of Rose, Kansas had to try to carry on.

It was always difficult when Annabelle Linder ran into Valentine Crosby and Collin Crosby....Billy's wife and son. Valentine and Collin were ostracized in the town, and poor Collin had a rough time at school as well.

Along with mourning their son and his wife, the senior Linders had to raise Jody and help her cope with the tragedy. It was a difficult ordeal for everyone. When things finally started getting back to normal, Billy Crosby is released from jail and the fear, memories, and pain all surface again. What made the release worse was the talk that some folks believed Billy never did kill Jody's parents, and that he had been framed.

Events lead to more trouble for the small town of Rose, Kansas, and the Linder family. The ending is a little predictable, but also a surprise. You will like the story. The ending is definitely a page turner. The love and the kindness the Linder family has for everyone draws you into the storyline. I am going to rate it a 4/5 because it was a little slow at times, but the mystery keeps you guessing.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Julie saw Umberto at the back of the room as she was leaving the stage. She knew this wasn't going to be good news because he wasn't smiling like always. "Aunt Rose has died" were the words that tumbled out of his mouth. As sad as Julie was, she also knew there would be something even more distressing....she had to face her twin sister Janice. Janice was four minutes younger than Julie, but she always upstaged her no matter what, and there was always conflict when Janice arrived on the scene.

It was pouring down rain the day they buried Aunt Rose. As soon as she was buried and they were leaving the gravesite, Janice demanded to see the will right then. The attorney did have the will and showed it to both girls, but nothing had been left to Julie...everything was left to Janice.

Julie was devastated, but then Umberto said he had something that her mother had left for her....a key, a passport, and a letter. The letter wanted Julie to go to Italy, but Julie knew she couldn't go to Italy because she had been thrown out of the country when she was 18. Umberto had another means to get her to the country she was born in and to carry out her mother's wishes that Aunt Rose kept secret until she had passed away. Julie had no desire to go to Italy, but Umberto insisted...who couldn't resist a trip to Italy...mama mia :)

Julie Jacobs aka as Giulietta Tolomei was on the plane to Italy the next day and met Eva Maria, an Italian citizen. She informed Giulietta that she knew her family and that her family and Giulietta's family were rivals back in the Middle Ages. Eva Marie took her under her wing and insisted that her grandson show Giulietta the town of Siena and keep her safe.

The next day Giulietta went to the bank with her key. The bank manager had known Giulietta's father, and he took Giulietta to the safety deposit box with the matching key. What Giulietta found was her family and frightening and wonderful adventures. The key, the box her mother left her, and the story of Romeo and Juliet is the novel's main theme with lots of mystery and intrigue surrounding them.

Your interest won't wane especially if you look at Random House's website ( that corresponds with the book in pictures from the scenes of the book. I loved it as the mysteries unraveled.

This book is outstanding...the storyline, the descriptions, the characters, and Italy.

I loved how the book went back and forth from the 1300's to present day using the story of Romeo and Juliet as the main plot and how the main characters unraveled family and life-long will love the present-day characters Julie and Janice Jacobs also known as Giulietta and Giannozza Talomei.

I couldn't put it down. I loved "being in Italy" again, and could just see the buildings and all the quaintness of the country and the city of Siena. The web page Random House set up for the book adds to your interest because the pictures go along with the pages of the book.

I can't see how it wouldn't be is a book you won't want to miss. It has something for everyone...history, romance, mystery, betrayal, life in the 1300's in Italy, ancestors, middle-age family feuds, suspense, and a great author. Ms. Fortier did a superb job with her novel.

It is absolutely wonderful right up to the last page. You will not want it to end. What an extraordinary novel. ENJOY!!

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

"Twindar," bipolar, secrets, family life, manslaughter....

Birthdays and phones...two things Karena likes to forget about, but her birthday and the phone ringing off the hook with bad news both happen on the same day.

The news did help in other ways, though. Karena was learning about what stormchasers do, and she was closer to finding her twin brother who she hadn't seen for twenty years since he too is a stormchaser.

Karena is invited, or rather she invites herself, on a stormchasing tour in the role of newspaper woman, which she is. She meets people who knew her brother, but she didn't get good news about him. The book mainly talks about chasing storms and finding Karena's brother. It also flashes back to Charles and Karena's childhood describing what their life was like as twins and what the life was like with their "absent" parents. Love of course comes into the picture as well...brotherly and sisterly love as well as romantic love.

It wasn't bad, kept your interest....4/5.

Small Island by Andrea Levy

Small Island begins with a chapter about Post-War London and Hortense, a Jamaican bride, arriving in London to meet her husband whom she married but hasn't seen for six months. The reunion is quite a tale.

The book then moves back to the time period at the beginning of Hortense's life as a child, her life in teacher college, her life as a teacher and then how she met Gilbert....the way Hortense and Gilbert meet and decide to get married is amusing.

Gilbert is not the most reliable man, though. He has big ideas about making money, which he needs to get a boat to London, but his schemes never amount to much money. Gilbert arrives in London first and tells Hortense he will send for her when he is settled. Gilbert had been in the RAF and knows what it is like to live in London....Hortense isn't as keen on "the way the English live." Gilbert and Hortense were the main characters at the beginning, and then Hortense "falls" out of the book for a while and Gilbert and Queenie take center stage.

The story continues and tells about the lives of the four main characters before and after the war....Queenie, Hortense, Gilbert, and Bernard....their lives are interesting and complicated. The characters grow on you, and you get caught up in their life stories and are eager to see what happens next and at times hope for a different outcome.

Queenie was my favorite character. You will find a favorite character as well as you get absorbed in their pre- and post-war stories.

The book brings to light how immigrants were treated and viewed during Post-War in England. It was an education into how and what went on during that period in history.

At first it was a little difficult to get completely into the times it was just plain confusing, but Andrea Levy has fantastic descriptions of the characters as well as the era. Very profound book. It also makes you laugh out loud at some of the things that happen and some of the things the characters say.

The book is a little slow at the beginning, but as you continue it draws you in and you "need" to know what happens next. The chapters are divided into sections for each character to tell his/her story.

Just as the book BEGINS, it ENDS with Hortense's story. Hortense became my favorite character as you got to know her better...she was sweet, trusting, and very likeable.

Andrea Levy is an excellent author and storyteller.

I really enjoyed the content even though I was confused at times.....4/5 for interest, but 5/5 for the historical aspect and explanation of the Post-War Era in London

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Eleanor was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but oh what a strict, boring silver spoon it was for her as a child.

As she grows, she wanted her life to be: "A Firework. I wanted to live in an explosion of color and light." Page 319. As the book continues, I believe she gets her wish about her life.

Eleanor lived in Tintenbaum with her father...her mother and sister had died of augu....her father then died, and she was left under the guardianship of Mr. Merrill who was even more strict than her father. Tintenbaum was a marshland in England...Mr. Merrill always wanted to have the land drained, but Eleanor's father forbade it.

Once her father was dead, Mr. Merrill knew the only way to get the marshland to be drained was to marry Eleanor off to someone who agreed about draining the marshland. Edmund came into the picture, and Eleanor having no experience with men or any social outings, fell madly in love with him. Edmund was very cold and unaffectionate and would leave for long periods of time. Meanwhile, his friend Richard was quite passionate as well as charming, and Eleanor couldn't get him out of her mind.

The book focuses on Eleanor Glanville's life and her passion for science, butterflies, her family, and RICHARD.

An historical novel and an interesting one for women of today whose careers and interests are an important part of everyday life which wasn't so for our female ancestors. Eleanor was noted as an out-of-the ordinary/strange woman because of her love of butterflies and science and it caused her trouble because of the lifestyle of 1600's concerning the constraints and rules for the conduct of women and the narrow-mindedness of the commoners.

The book will hold your interest, and you will cheer at what Eleanor does even though she herself feels guilty about everything and claims things are her fault because of her strict upbringing.

Included for all the romantics is a pretty interesting love life for a woman of the 1600's. My thoughts about yearning for something or specifically someone is this: What you yearn for is not always the best or not what it might can read between the lines. :)

You will be glad you read all of the 527 pages. :) I really enjoyed the book.

The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah


Love, mystery, secrets, betrayal, ghosts, letters, smugglers, Scottish history and life in the 1800's.....Sara Stevenson was a privileged Scottish lass who wasn't one to conform to the norms of Scottish rules for young ladies.

Her father was a famous lighthouse engineer and had Sara accompany him on a boat trip when she was 18 years old. While on the voyage, she fell in love with one of the sailors who of course was not of her social rank. Her father suspects this love affair and is completely against their relationship since he has another wealthy man in mind for Sara.

Sara gets herself pregnant by this sailor, and her father banishes her to Cape Wrath which is a remote place on the northwesterly point of Great Britain north of Edinburgh, Scotland. Cape Wrath had terrible weather no matter what season it was and is a place that had no luxuries Sara was used to. Sara, along with her maid, Katie, and the maid's husband, Robbie, endure the life at Cape Wrath. Sara has to cook and clean which is something she never had to do. Sara yearns daily for Thomas, her lost lover. She hasn't seen him since they planned a never-to-be elopement.

Sara, Katie, Robbie, and Mr. Campbell, the lighthouse keeper, are four of only a few inhabitants living there. A few cottages are also on Cape Wrath. Sara and her maid venture out one day during an awful snowstorm to find their neighbors because Sara is feeling so lonely and isolated. They take off on horseback and do meet a woman that they befriend and who will trade cooking lessons for learning how to read and write.

The woman they visited (Mrs. MacKay), her husband, and their two children appear at the lighthouse one day and Sara finds out some things about Mr. Campbell during a heated argument with Mr. MacKay. Apparently Mr. Campbell and Mr. McKay had some sort of mariner disagreement last fall and Mr. Campbell "lured" him and his family to the lighthouse to try to make amends.

Meanwhile Sara and Mr. Campbell develop some sort of trust relationship, and Mr. Campbell knows he has the responsibility to keep Sara safe and take care of her during her pregnancy. One morning a package and a letter arrive at the dock from a man named Mr. Seawell, and this brings more mystery about Thomas and why he never showed up the day they were going to run away. Afterall, Thomas said he loved her and would move heaven and earth to be with her. Sara writes back to Mr. Seawell questioning about Thomas and the watch that was in the package....the very watch that Sara had given Thomas and had inscripted a lover's message on the back. Sara asks Mr. Seawell to shed some light about Thomas and if he is alive. They began a correspondence that tells of Mr. Seawell's life and Thomas's life.

After all the tension about the package and letter and also a letter to Katie from Sara's mother, Sara takes off from the lighthouse and goes to Mary MacKay and her family because she is disgusted about what she finds out her family had written to Katie and something about Mr. Campbell. Sara stays for a week, and Mr. Campbell is fuming about this visit since he is to be taking care of Sara according to Sara's father who had made these arrangements before Sara's original arrival.

Another letter was in post at the jetty when Sara returns from the visit, and she begins to become suspicious about who is really sending her these letters. The letters, Sara, Thomas, and Mr. Seawell make the ending confusing, unbelievable, but unforgettable....terrific writer.

You will enjoy the book, and I want to end my review with this quote that is from Page 56, but rings true until the end of the book: "But all too soon it came back to me, and once again I found it hard to sleep at night knowing he was out there....somewhere."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

When I picked up the book I thought for sure they were going to be talking about an attorney that Abraham Lincoln used, and when I mention the book to others, they think the same thing.

But....the Lincoln is his car. :)

This book was the first I ever read of Michael Connelly's and just couldn't put it will love the story and the ending.

It is frightening how innocent people can get "framed" or blamed.

Excellent read. (

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Three wives, all three are different. Ken Kimble marries these ladies for different reasons and also leaves them. One he leaves with children and the other one he doesn't. Despite his leaving they manage to carry on their lives. You want to hate him, but you can't....the story is well told. I love the cover with the three dresses that are depicting the three women. Not sure which woman I like the best, but you will love the kept my interest. Gifted author.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

I never was aware about the life of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick..I only knew of his talents as an architect.

It was a good read, but how could ANYONE leave their children and run off with another me that was totally irresponsible and unthinkable.

She may have re-thought her decision the last time she went to visit her children since they almost totally ignored her and were just being polite, but it was too late.

And....the ending....oh my...what a question, though, is this: Did that really happen at Taliesin?

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Loved the is in journal form and tells of how the government asked the American Indians to trade one thousand white women for horses...their main reason was to "civilize" the Indians and make them aware of and become familiar with the white people's way of life.

Very interesting book...topic not as bad as it sounds.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

A murder in a bistro during a busy Labor Day weekend in Three Pines, Quebec, makes for a great novel...add in beautiful Canadian landscapes, quiet village life, artists, hermits, bed and breakfasts, Inspector Gamache and his team, secrets, codes to break, antiques, and you can't stop reading.

Louise Penny has an intriguing method of keeping your interests through the descriptions of the characters, the settings, and the lives of those involved in the story.

Absolutely LOVED the book...a lot of life's lessons as well.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Excellent author...everything flowed smoothly...too bad history wasn't as smooth and kind.

The book was about when France was occupied and specifically Vél d'Hiv when the French police were instructed to carry out the horror at the camps by the Germans...July 16, 1942, was the roundup of Parisian Jewish Citizens.

It makes you cry and hope that history won't repeat itself.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Down River by John Hart

Mystery, Suspense, Murder.....loved this book....lots of surprises at the end. :)

Adam Chase returns to North Carolina after five years and his acquittal of murder.

Little does he know that his troubles haven't disappeared and the mysteries of family members and friends is overwhelming.

He finds things out that he never knew...most of them not good. The characters pull you in and make you want to keep reading to find out what makes them "tick," what they are about, and what they are experiencing.

Excellent writing...I want to read more of his books.

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Oai deki te ureshii desu ....How are you today, beautiful?

That quote from the book says it all....what an incredible, heartfelt, interesting story...this book is set during during World War II and is about the childhood love of a Japanese girl and a Chinese boy during World War II and takes place specifically during the encampment of the Japanese people who lived in Seattle, will keep your interest and teach you some history...I learned about The Panama Hotel in Seattle, Washington.

It also is about the conflict between Henry and his Chinese father and the beauty of also has some music facts in it for all you jazz fans.

I don't want to give too much away, but it is a nostalgic book and one you will want to tell others is similar to Snow Falling on Cedars.

You will absolutely enjoy it and love it. I loved the story and the lessons learned.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I recommend this to everyone who asks.

Great read...gothic, murder, mystery, twists and turns.

Vida Winters tells a great tale that will keep you interested non-stop. You don't want it to end. Loved the characters.

You will be confused and think you have it figured out and then ah were wrong.

I loved this book...I would put it in the same category as the classic: REBECCA

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley

Eastern Jewel was a head strong woman from childhood. All her actions were for herself, but you can't really blame her...she was not loved by her mother and her father sent her away because of some infraction when she was a child....but she found out that was not the only reason she was sent away...but not going to tell what that reason was. :)

The look into how different the life is in Japan and China is very interesting and makes me thankful I live where those customs are not practiced. I liked the book, but the erotic descriptions were a little too much.

I read MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and SNOWFLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN....similar in content but not totally.

I liked the book.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

"Everyone's past, I try to rationalize, is nothing more than the collection of memories they choose to remember"...pages 487 and 488...paperback edition.

A porn star burned in a car crash, a wealthy schizophrenic, undying friendships, and beautiful love stories.

The Gargoyle was full of creative ideas, love stories, life lessons, and strange thoughts and happenings, but the title doesn't allow you to even think these things would be inside the book.

The Gargoyle goes back and forth in time and is a story about the treatment of a burn victim and how another patient from the mental health ward visits and eventually takes care of him at her home. There had been a previous connection between them according to the schizophrenic, Marianne Engel, that leads back to the 1300's.

Quite interesting storyline...don't want to tell too much because don't want to give the ingenious story away.

Book was different and strange, but made you think anything is possible. :) It definitely holds your interest after you get through the first 50 pages.

ENJOY!! It was an excellent book.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

"Beto nki tutasala? What are we doing?" quote from Page 523......and...I asked myself that question throughout the book as the Price Family continued with their missionary work and all the hardships and heartache the family endured.

The Price Family...Father Nathan, Mother Orleanna, and their four daughters pack for their mission in the Congo trying to figure out what they should take...not knowing that most of the things they take will be useless and not knowing what is in store for them in terms of day-to-day living. While they are there, the country fights for its independence from Belgium.

Nathan Price is a very controlling, mean person....he treats his wife and his daughters like second-class citizens while he preaches to the people of the Congo. He is oblivious to what he is putting his family through. The family endures the hardships of a third world country while enduring the abuse from Nathan.

It was interesting to see how the people in the Congo live. I definitely wouldn't want to live there for even a niceties of life at all. I know the book was about more than the family's living arrangements and treatment of them by Nathan Price, but that encompassed all of it for me. :)

I enjoyed the Price family...all except the father...the daughters made some life decisions that definitely had their father's influence.

The book is superbly won't want to put it down. You also learn that your childhood and what you learn does follow you throughout your entire life, influences your decisions about career and spouse, and that you are like your parents no matter how much may not want to admit it.

A definite must will haunt you long after you have completed the last page.

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

The book is fun, clever, and a feel good theme throughout....Andy Dunne's life is revealed through all the episodes in his personal and professional also carries the theme of how important family is.

.....AND as quoted from page 347...."But nothing is certain and there's no such thing as absolute." I believe most everyone's life really can be described by that quote.

You will like the book and the characters...ENJOY!!

Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline

4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written

Two couples, friends, an accident, a change in lives.

Bird in Hand seemed to be more about the relationship between Ben and Claire and Charlie and Alison than about the accident that happened at the beginning of the book.

The book was well written, but I thought it would be more about how Claire was dealing with and healing from what happened in the accident she was in.

I enjoyed the book, though. I was also amazed how Alison's mother could read Charlie, Alison's husband, better than Alison herself and how she knew an affair was going on and Alison didn't.

The ending really had a lot of good advice and thoughtful insights.

I will give it a rating of 4 out of 5 because I did like how the book was written with the back and forth in time, and Kline did do a good job with the events that were going on.

My Wife's Affair by Nancy Woodruff

I was wavering between a 4 and a 5 the entire way through the book, and then the ending brought it all the way up to a 5/5.

The book is narrated by Georgie's goes back and forth telling about the life of Dora Jordan also an actress/comedian who Georgie portrays in a one-woman show and Georgie's life with her husband and three boys.

Georgie left the stage in New York to be a stay-at-home mother, but now that her husband has been transferred to London and the children are enrolled in London schools, she wants to go back to work in the theater.

Georgie lands the role as Dora Jordan on her first tryout. The play is a hit for Georgie, and she ends up traveling and leaving her husband and children for long periods of time and having an affair with the director. Her heart aches every time she leaves her children, but she still won't give up the touring. The ending will haunt you long after you turn the last page. will enjoy the book and not want to put it down.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Using this horrible era in history as the basis of the book, it takes you into the homes and into the lives of the people in the 1600's who had old myths about witchcraft, awful ways of curing illnesses, and describes their ignorance of medical procedures and cures and lack of them.

The main character Anna Frith takes in a lodger, George Vicars, after her husband was killed in a mine accident. He was an itinerant tailor and had a bolt of cloth delivered from London to Anna's home. The cloth had the plague fleas and eggs inside and thus began the epidemic. The tiny, remote village had entire families wiped out from this one incident.

The clergyman talked the townspeople into isolating themselves from the rest of the surrounding villages to protect others from the one was allowed in or out of the village. Anna, the clergyman, and his wife helped with all the deaths and also births that occurred during this year of death and mourning.

The characters are described in detail and are quite interesting. It definitely isn't a boring historical account of this epidemic...the weaving of the lives and the history makes you aware of what it was like to live during that period of time in Europe and encourages you to continue reading.

Here is a website describing Eyam village and the crisis that fell upon them....Geraldine Brooks definitely did her research. will love the book.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I would give this book a 10 if I could. Loved it...absolutely amazing....the writing is a masterpiece.

All the mysteries and secrets of the Mountrachet family are revealed....the ending is superb.

The story goes back and forth in time telling the story of how little Nell was put on a boat to Australia without an adult and how the portmaster and his wife in Australia took her in as their own. Nell's life makes a complete turn around for her when her father tells her on her 21st birthday that she isn't really his child.

The book tells of the generations before and after Nell. It is masterfully don't want to put it down until you find out who Nell really is and until you find all the secrets about how she arrived on the boat and in Australia and the significance of the forgotten garden....the garden plays a huge part in the unraveling of the secrets and mysteries in the book.

I usually don't re-read books, but I would re-read this just to be sure I "got" all the facts was just fantastic....the story was very clever and the characters unforgettable....I didn't want the book to end.

Cathedral of the Sea by Idelfonso Falcones


Proud Spanish families, medieval times, the feudal system, lords, serfs, peasants, submission, the plague, and, of course, beautiful Barcelona....all of this and more are the makeup of Cathedral of the Sea.

Beautiful Barcelona was the salvation and dream of all peasants and promised freedom if you lived there for one year and a day. Bernat Estanyols and his infant son Arnau fled to Barcelona to obtain their freedom after they lost everything to the Llorence de Bellera, lord of Navarcles. Llorence was a brutal, greedy man.

Luckily Bernat's sister lived in Barcelona and was married to a wealthy potter. His sister allowed him to live in their complex....Bernat worked for his brother-in-law but had to live with the peasants and slaves. Arnau was educated along with his cousins and was allowed to live in the mansion.

Bernat and Arnau achieved their year and one day in Barcelona with hardships and heartaches happening in that time frame and then Arnau was forced out of the house because of an incident, became sad because of the incident, and was no longer allowed to live in the mansion and be educated along with his cousins. Arnau has nothing to do during the day but watch his cousins play. One day he meets a tattered young boy with nothing to do either, and they become friends. During their daily searches and playtime, they find the Santa Maria church under construction. They are fascinated with the way the HUGE stones are pulled to the top and put into place. They spend their days at the site providing water to the workers and enjoying their company.

As much fun as they were having and despite the friendships they were making, Arnau's father was still despised by his brother-in-law's NEW wife and so was Arnau. She tried to get them in trouble and forced her serfs to do things that would make Bernat and Arnau look like the guilty party. Misfortune continued to plague Arnau and his father as everyone in Barcelona except the rich and noble were starving because there was no wheat to feed anyone or it was at an unreachable price.

Arnau gets into some trouble of his own, and the heartache continues in beautiful Barcelona....serfs were never respected and blamed for things they didn't even commit. One piece of good fortune does come to Arnau through his friendships with the bastaixos, the workers who carry the giant boulders for the building of the great cathedral, and Father Albert's kindness and feelings for young Arnau.

Arnau becomes favored among his fellow bastaixos and his adopted brother, Joan, studies for the priesthood. Arnau becomes enamored by a girl whose father won't let him marry her and then marries another since his brother said he won't go into the priesthood until Arnau is married and has someone to take care of him. Arnau can't refuse his brother or let him not become a priest so he marries someone he really doesn't love. His wife, Maria, was so kind, affectionate, loving, and trusting and Arnau was not being faithful. He got tired of being unfaithful to his wife since she was such a good person and decided the only way to get away from his mistress was to join the army. His wife was accepting, but his mistress was not.

Adventures continue for Arnau...good and bad adventures that include his mistress.

When the war was over, Arnau came back home to his wife but happiness still avoided him...the plague had arrived in Barcelona. The Jewish people were blamed for the plague...the citizens of Barcelona were killing the Jewish children and adults...Arnau came between three small children and a citizen who was going to kill them. Arnau was hurt while defending the children, but it turned out to be the best thing that happened to him. The Jewish family nursed Arnau back to health and became very fond of Arnau. To repay Arnau for saving his children, the children's father helped Arnau become a money changer.

Another Jewish child had no parents and Arnau was asked to adopt her. Mar lived with Arnau and was educated and very happy. Mar was devastated when the King demanded that Arnau marry his ward, Eleanor, for repayment of saving Barcelona from another invasion. He didn't want to get married, but couldn't refuse the King so he married. As you can imagine, it wasn't a happy fact, they rarely talked to each other or slept together. Eleanor got tired of waiting to consummate their marriage not because she loved Arnau, but because she was worried what would happen to Arnau's fortune if he died. She didn't want Mar to receive all the riches, and that could be done because under the law at that time, if a marriage was not consummated, then the wife had no right to anything. Because of this concern, Joan and Eleanor devised an unthinkable plan for Mar.

Everything went downhill for Arnau after the incident with Mar...friends betrayed him, the de Belleras came back for revenge along with others, and his business was in jeopardy, but his beloved church was progressing and his Virgin of the Sea was still there for him.

The book was a little slow at first, but the history of Barcelona, the building of the church, and the way people lived and were ruled was fascinating. It also makes one glad to not be living during that era.

It is a long book, but it gets better so don't give up. I enjoyed the history lesson and, of course, the descriptions of ancient Barcelona...what a beautiful, historical city then and now. 5/5