Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Starlite Drive-in by Marjorie Reynolds

Callie Anne wasn’t looking forward to yet another boring summer at the drive-in theater her father managed, but was it really going to be boring?

Callie Anne was pleasantly surprised that this summer was completely unlike any other summer once Memphis arrived.  She was twelve, and Memphis was a drifter that had been hired to help her father with some of the chores at the drive-in.  Callie Anne was enamored by Memphis, but didn't like how he seemed to care for her mother more than he cared for her.  He was always polite to Callie Anne and her much nicer than her father who was gruff and condescending to them both. 

The book centers on Callie Anne and her life with her domineering father and agoraphobic mother.  Callie Anne is an endearing, innocent, tomboyish character and is the story's narrator.  

Through the author's skill, you can feel Callie Anne’s emotions when things happen to her...things that were caused either by her father's cruelty or from her mother's fears of venturing outside the house.   

Descriptions of the characters, their feelings, and every day events are very vivid and at times gripping.  It is an enticing read that took me back to the time of drive-in movies and stay-at-home moms. 

Callie Anne's mother, Teal, is a pathetic woman that you can't feel anything but sorrow for.  She won't leave the house because of her fears, and her husband, Claude, is always critical to the point of being cruel to her. 

Claude is not a likeable person at will want to put him in his place.  Memphis is a likeable character and brings a different component to the story....sweetness but wariness on the part of the reader.  A few minor folks appear at times and add that extra touch needed to round out certain scenes.  Aunt Bliss was Teal's rough sister and Virgil was the concession stand worker.  Both Aunt Bliss and Virgil helped add essence to the story and to Callie Anne's character.

The book is a quick, nostalgic read that begins in Callie Anne’s adult life during a police investigation occurring on the drive-in’s property and then shifts to Callie Anne’s childhood.  Her childhood is the main focus of the book, and is the connection to the opening pages.   

I truly enjoyed the book's theme, the characters, and the storyline.  The storyline was indeed interesting because it combined bitter and sweet, nostalgia, childhood fears, suspense, innocence of the era, and misfortune on each character's part each in his/her way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Welcome to Fred by Brad Whittington

What a refreshing, inspirational book with many amusing situations that anyone will be able to relate to.  Welcome to Fred, which is a town in Texas, allows the reader to follow Mark Cloud through the years, the different towns his family lived in, the pain of being the new kid in town, the “mark” of being a PK…Preacher’s Kid, and his need as every teenager of trying to fit in.  

The main focus of the book is on Mark and his escapades with Mark as the narrator.

Mark is a precocious character full of life and energy.  He meets a friend named M on their first move, and they share adventures together....he lamented that he never found a friend like M ever again.  They share their knowledge of the Bible, secret visits to a homeless woman, and their love of reading.  The adventures he and M shared were described in detail, and the character descriptions are wonderful.
  The book is filled with great stories and adventures that pertain to everyday life.   It is a quick read and keeps your interest.

Mr. Whittington did a very nice job of developing the story, and he will make you think about everyday things while giving them a new meaning for you. 

If you need a book that will lift your spirits, make you think, appreciate everyday occurrences and life itself, and also make you laugh, please take the time to read Welcome to Fred.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti

 This book has been placed on my all-time favorites list.  
To purchase from Amazon, click on the book cover.

 A true story from Philadelphia in 1938 that puzzled the police. 

Lovers, drugs, gangs, the mafia, secret meetings, big insurance policies, dead husbands….that is what the Wicked Wives were made of.

These wives had many things in common and one of them was planning how to murder their husbands and not get caught so they could collect the insurance money. All this resulted in one dead husband after another, and the doctor listed the deaths from a rampant bout of pneumonia occurring in the city of Philadelphia. The wicked wives were not alone in the planning, though. The mastermind of the wicked wives’ plots was Giorgio…a tailor who was only out for himself and who had women wrapped around his lies.

The book is filled with corruption and “seedy” dealings and characters. It is very character-driven with each character more interesting than the next. Despite their flaws and wicked ways, every character made you want to learn more about their past. You won’t hate any of the characters….you will want to learn why and how they turned out the way they did. They actually are quite an interesting mix.

The character descriptions were outstanding. Each of the wicked wives came packed with a lot of interesting details and mischief. The wives are mostly well-to-do, bored and unsavory underneath, but you can’t put the book down because you will want to find out what they are up to next. There actually is a “wives” club with a leader named The Lady in Black. She is always disguised and no one will reveal who she is, but you do find out in the end…AND…you will be surprised. The male characters are also colorful, humorous, mostly Italian, and deadly. All the characters are based on real-life people.

The book is a mix of history and personal lives. If you are a history buff, you will definitely want to research this era. The police work, the courts, and the way medical advice and “doctoring” was done will definitely be of interest.

The main characters Lillian and Giorgio are quite a pair. Lillian always gets her man/men. She even has an affair with her uncle before and after her husband’s demise. Giorgio is a gigolo who won’t stop with one woman. He has a past of ruthless killings. Since he is Sicilian, he states that he won’t kiss and tell nor will he “rat” on anyone. He keeps everyone anonymous…his women and his deeds.

The good guys are far and few in between. Even the police are corrupt except for Tom Rossi, who was Giorgio’s childhood friend. They both suffered ethnic slurs and tormenting as they grew up, but Tom made something of himself….he actually became the Assistant D.A. Tom was an honest District Attorney and had a girlfriend who became quite an interesting person in the Philly Poison Ring and in her connection with the wicked wives.

Uncle Bill Evans, was a cop on the take and was always doing underhanded things to make himself look good and to protect himself and Lillian. He gave Tom a lot of trouble because of his girlfriend and because Tom was interfering with the investigation of the death of Lillian’s husband.

This book was very well written and fast-paced. I really enjoyed this book despite all the corruption and “seedy” things going on. It definitely held my interest especially because of the depth of the characters, but also because of the subject matter, the time in history, the humor, and how people lie and commit horrible acts for money and love. I highly recommend reading this book if you are a history buff and/or of Italian descent. This would make a fantastic movie.  5/5

Sunday, December 11, 2011

City of Whispers by Marcia Muller

To purchase the book from Amazon, please click on the cover.


What could he have done now?  Where has he been?  Why does he show up when he needs something and then not allow us to know where he is? 

Those were questions Shar asked herself after she received an e-mail from her constantly absent half-brother, Darcy.   She always helped him out, but she couldn't help if she couldn't find him.  She was worried that this time he was truly in deep trouble.

The story takes place in San Francisco in wealthy neighborhoods and also in squalor.  You can guess where they were looking for Darcy.  The book centered on the search for Darcy and also on his role in the murder of Gaby.  His return to the city prompted the re-investigation of Gaby's murder.

The chapters were divided into the book’s characters describing each character's role in the search for Darcy.  Luckily Shar and her co-workers were good at detective work.   

Each suspect in the murder had something to hide and each suspect kept quiet.  Gaby had been dead for two years, and opening up the investigation caused those involved to become alarmed and to hide more secrets and cover up what happened with more murders.  There were some characters who you would readily suspect and others that will surprise you.  The characters were likable, and they all had their secrets….”Secrets, damned secrets.”  Page 193   According to Sharon, secrets were the root of all evil….she even had some of her own.

This is the first Sharon McCone mystery I have read.  Not bad, but not a gripper.  

The author, Marcia Muller, has a good writing style, and I liked how she set up each chapter.  It became more gripping toward the end.  I would not be opposed to reading more of Ms. Muller’s work. 4/5

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Child of Eynhallow by Anne Kinsey

Being an outcast isn't pleasant.  Being an outcast in twelfth-century England is twice as bad. 
Isabel Cole was an outcast from the beginning of her life and had to deal with many things alone.  She didn't know about her family's life before she was born, but the villagers had their ideas. 

Isabel had to endure unpleasant half-brothers. She had to endure a father who never smiled except at his sons; and she had to endure life in a convent.  Isabel was an outstanding student at the convent and learned to read and to become a lady.  She  visited her village at times on her few hours of free time. 

When Isabel was in the village, she always wondered why the woman labeled as a witch smiled at her whenever she saw her.  Isabel found out why she smiled at her....she was related to this woman. The woman was the sister of Isabel's grandmother, and her name was Alis.

One night after Isabel escaped from the convent and went to see Alis, Alis gave Isabel the details of their family history.  The story describing these women and how their difficult lives and their herbal cures, which were defined by the village people as witchcraft, was quite intriguing.  In fact, each of the book's characters, the men included, was interesting.

The way of thinking during the twelfth century is quite different in terms of religion, unmarried women, and specifically witchcraft.  Anne Kinsey takes the reader through the lives of Mara, Alis, Nan, and Isabel, and ends in the present with Isabel's life.  Learning about their complicated, different lives as twelfth-century women kept me turning the pages.

The book also kept my attention because of the time period, because it was set in Scotland and northern England, and of course because of the storyline.  I totally enjoyed the descriptions of the Scottish mainland and the islands.  I always enjoy reading about Medieval times and how people lived and worked.

 Anne Kinsey has a great way of writing that draws you in.  She is very descriptive, and she weaves you into the story.  You feel as though you have put yourself in the scenes and also into the characters' hearts.  From her descriptions, you will take on the emotions of every character.

 Her writing style will keep you interested and anxiously waiting to learn more about the family, their daily life, and how the generations all came about.  It is an enjoyable, distinctive read.  Don't miss out on this book. 5/5

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Defector by Mark Chisnell

Games, drugs, risks, and lots of illegal money....that is what Janac was made of, and what he underhandedly pulled Martin into whether Martin wanted in or not.

Martin had flown to Thailand because of his guilt from a traffic accident, a girl, and the loss of his lucrative job.  Martin had been a successful financial banker until an accident that ruined his life.  He wasn't in this accident, but he had been the cause of it and the cause of the deaths of eighteen people.  You will like Martin and feel his agony and concerns about what he unintentionally got himself into with Janac and how he realizes there is no way out.

Janac is someone you at first think is going to be a good friend since he saved Martin from some thugs.  It turned into exactly the opposite...Janac was evil and someone to be feared and someone who made it lethal and fatal if you didn't comply with his requests. You will hate Janac as quickly as you were thankful for his appearing on the scene to rescue Martin.

Janac is a player of dangerous mind games.  The "games" Janac plans for Martin and others get more dangerous each time, and Martin can't escape Janac's grip and power.  Much to Martin's disgust, the games continue with nothing he can to do but comply.

The first and recurring game Martin's fate was hinging on was a game called:  The Prisoner's Dilemma.   This game involved decisions of choosing to care only for oneself or caring for others with major consequences for either choice.  Janac's games were a means of control that gave him the power he wanted and gave his "victims" no choice but to play along.

Martin described the evilness of Janac like this:  "I can't convey the nature of that voice.  It was beyond bad, beyond threatening, beyond evil.". Page 57

THE DEFECTOR is an outstanding thriller right until the last never know when Janac or any of his counterparts may appear or who really is working with him.  It is all about control, cruelty, and payback in the name of money and drugs.  You will follow Martin through all of the terror and hope he makes the correct decision in Janac's games.   

This book has a decision after decision plot.....decisions that yield only an outcome of life or death.....nothing in between.
So, dear reader, you have no choice but to read this book….make that very smart decision.  You won’t regret it….gripping, intense, intriguing. 5/5

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wallflower by Holly-Jane Rablens

Molly Lenzfeld always considered herself a wallflower.  She said no one ever asked her to dance or paid attention to her since she was so tall.  Coming from New York City and being in Berlin while her father was working as a theoretical chemist was an adventure for her in more than one way.

On Thanksgiving Day, she was on her way to see where her mother had lived as a child.  She was not to be gone the entire day, but as she rode the subway system, a handsome young man caught her fancy and she caught his.

The book tells of their day and how Molly turned a trip to visit the town where her mother lived into a love story.

The book is a quick, sweet read.  You get to experience the emotions Molly experiences as she is with this stranger whom she feels is her real first love. 

The author did a great job with conversation which made up the most of the book.   I really enjoyed the chapter titles....they were clever and stretched your imagination concerning what was going to happen in the next few pages.

You will love Molly...a sweet, innocent character who wears her emotions on her sleeve.  Mike her friend from the subway is an interesting character as well.  He is unique in his dress, his humor, and his manner.  

I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in love...and that would probably be just about all of us.  

Excellent book...well written and interesting content.  It is a true love story with added suspense and hope.  5/5

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chasing the Red Car by Ellen Ruderman

A book about politics, a young girl's life, her liberal attitude, and US history during the McCarthy Era. 

Kim's liberal attitude started at home.  She called her parents by their first names without any objection from them, but even though Kim was free to call her parents by their first names, she had to walk on egg shells because of her mother.  She never knew what would set her off.  Her parents' constant fighting was very unsettling for Kim and her younger sister.  The summer before Kim was to enter high school, her father had a job change, and a move was necessary.

Their move from New York to California was quite traumatic for Kim, but her mother was excited.  The move/drive to California actually was a humorous part of the book. 

When they did arrive at their new home, not much had changed with her parents, and the teenage concern about school and finding friends was utmost in Kim's mind.  She did find a good friend with whom she shared adventures….they remained friends into adulthood.  Kim commented:  "No matter how bad things get at home, when I'm on this trolley and were going someplace, life is good."  Page 55. 

School also became a haven for her writing and for her political views that were published in a school newspaper.  Her haven became as chaotic as her home life after tragedy struck her favorite teacher, Mr. Samuels. 

High school ended, and Kim enrolled in UCLA.  The troubles at home continued, but she met a man who helped her through them and through school.  He made her forget what was going on at home and what had made her the way she has been her entire life.  Lucien made her realize she had to live her life and complete whatever she needed to do for herself.  He was the love of her life and she of his….so they thought.

The book moves through Kim's life at the university and then jumps forward to her adult life.  She had a great deal of heartache in her life because of family problems...tissues needed at times.

The story of Kim Lebow kept my interest for the most part, but since I am not political or liberal, portions of the book were not to my liking.   The storyline veered away from liberalism as it moved into Kim's adulthood and was on a more personal level, but then her life and the story came full circle and many answers were revealed to her.  The book was very well written and brought attention to social as well as mental issues which can ruin lives.

Not sure what to rate it....I liked the personal level, but truly didn't like the political and liberal aspect.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig

To purchase the book from Amazon, please click on the book cover.

Welcome to the 50's.....Grandma and Grandpa taking care of children, Mom gone, only Dad.  Doesn't sound like the 50's to me....sounds more like the way families are today.

Moonlight on Linoleum is a nostalgic trip back to a life that should have been filled with stable families, but it had two sweet girls who were left with their father and grandparents in Iowa while Mama fulfilled dreams of her own.

And…..Mama wasn't done fulfilling her dreams...more sisters arrived and more new schools. Mama liked to go out and leave Terry in charge.  One year the girls were in their third school, but at least with this move they had a house to live in instead of a cramped apartment.  That didn't last too long, though.  They moved again, and Mama kept on with her antics and with Terry in charge of the girls.

Wow...what an outstanding memoir.  This memoir definitely held my interest and made me feel for the children and how they had to endure their childhood as always the new kid at school and not really a kid at home since they always had to do chores that were an adult's.  It is hard to believe how resilient we are as children.

This sentence stuck with me: "How was it possible that moonlight on linoleum, washed with my tears, could be so achingly beautiful?"  Page 218  I shed and shared Terry’s tears as I read this incredible book.

I have to call you marvelous, Terry.  Being able to live like you did as a child and to turn out like you did is truly amazing.  You are such a goodhearted person and such a good daughter and above all a WONDERFUL, loving sister.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff

To purchase the book from Amazon, please click on the book cover.


Maurice had never met anyone like Laura and Laura had never met anyone like Maurice.  They were from two different worlds.  Laura doesn't know why she stopped and turned back after Maurice asked her for some money, but she is glad she did.  

Through Maurice, Laura learned about the life he and thousands of others were living on a daily basis....not a pleasant life at all.  Laura was helping Maurice to live a better life at least one day a week, and it seemed to be paying off since she could see a change in him even though he had to go back to his horrible living conditions after he left her.

As well as learning about the living conditions of others, the author also gave the reader a chance to find out that her childhood/family life was not very easy.....her father was an abusive alcoholic, and her mother sat by not being able to defend herself or her children.  Obviously the author's childhood and the childhood of her brothers and sisters had an impact on their entire life and on her decision to turn back and fulfill Maurice’s plea for help.  
The descriptions in the book are very detailed and heartbreaking but also heartwarming.  You will become a part of the lives of every character and you will feel their pain and happiness.
An Invisible Thread is the perfect title for this book.  The book brought to the surface that we all have a connection to other human beings even though that connection may not be outwardly visible. 
I truly enjoyed the book because of the honesty of feelings and of human kindness and human connection.  This is a must read.   Laura Schroff is a brave woman to reveal all this about her life, but it definitely will make you realize that no matter how small the gesture may be, we can make a difference for someone else.  5/5

Friday, October 14, 2011

While I Was Learning to Become God by Roxana Jones

A beautifully written and detailed book.  A story that will make you feel as though you are actually living that specific moment with Sybil. 

You will find out about Sybil's unhappy, overly protected childhood and how she dealt with it all and how it affected her entire life.  You will find out about the angel Sybil listened to and the angel she doubted as she got older.  Her strong-willed mother, loveless childhood, and times of poverty definitely affected her life decisions.

Despite any setbacks in her life, though, she managed to find her inner peace.

This quote early in the book sums up the emotional state of the book.  It is an enjoyable read as well as a heart wrenching and soul searching book.

Page 16 - "It was the beginning of her emotional relationship with people other than the family she'd been born into.  Aura was the first person who hurt her.  From her, she would learn about bitterness and frustration, about the failure of some human beings to see that hate is only an inch from love, and that we have in us the power to join them or keep them apart."

If you want a book that will make you think and listen to your inner yourself, you will want to read Sybil's story.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Eleanor Roosevelt's Life of Soul Searching and Self Discovery by Ann Atkins


Just in time for Eleanor’s birthday on October 11.  :)

A childhood of neglect and a feeling of inadequacy is how Eleanor Roosevelt grew up. 

Her marriage to her fifth cousin was no better for her self-esteem....Franklin Delanor Roosevelt was a womanizer with a mother who had control over him and also Eleanor.  Eleanor was a woman of the era in which she lived, and she live it well and the way a woman was expected to live even at her expense.  She was a powerful woman despite the way she had to live, and then she realized she could make a difference and came out of her shell to do remarkable things in history.  She thankfully is our history. 

The book was very well researched....I learned many facts I was not aware of.   It was a splendid re-living of history for me.  I didn't know Eleanor was at the heart of the New Deal and many other programs....I must not have been paying attention in history class.  The beautiful photos also enhanced the story. 

The author, Ann Atkins, asked if you want to order a book it is best to do it from her web site - better price, free shipping and some of the proceeds go to charity. 

Ann Atkins

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty by Neil Hanson

"Standing beside the bed with Julie, I felt Erik's spirit as clearly as I saw his face, and it was obvious that a circle had begun to close - a circle that had been incomplete before he entered the room." Page 40 & 41.

I believe in this circle too...I believe we begin to come full circle with our life and the lives of our brothers and sisters when the circle is complete with love for each other that is there, but many times not expressed. I think it is a beautiful closure for everyone.

This is an extremely introspective book that will make the reader think about his/her life and the relationship with family and especially one's parents.

Do you we really know another person the way we should know they feel, how they perceive/perceived things? it better to not know the "all" about the life of our parents as we grew up and our relationship with them.

There is also a theme of forgiveness throughout the book. It was difficult to get started, but once you begin reading this short book, you will want to continue so you can compare your life to what is going on in the book and perhaps make changes in relationships before it will be a regret for you. 4/5

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daughters of Iraq by Revital Shiri-Horowitz

A novel of three women who were staunch believers in their families and their religion.

Daughters of Iraq allows the reader into the lives of Farida, Nao, and Violet.  Their lives were shared through everyday situations, through diaries, and through memories.  Each woman had a dream of her own, but they all had their family and their religion as the base of all of their dreams.  You learn how each woman is different yet the same. The descriptions of the characters in terms of physical as well emotional is phenomenal...that definitely is the strong point of the novel.  Shiri-Horowitz's writing is flawless.

I really enjoyed learning about each woman.  You will be able to clearly visualize each one of them as their stories unfold.  A few poignant  pages that contained a letter from Noa's father could apply to any son or daughter and will make you do some strong actually brought tears to my eyes.   Learning about the immigration from Iraq to Israel  and information about the Jewish holidays and celebrations was truly educational. 

The only negative for me was that I couldn't keep all the characters straight, but the author thoughtfully placed a glossary indicating which character was which and in what chapter they were introduced.  She also had a dictionary with explanations of the words and expressions used throughout the book.

The book definitely held my interest, and even though the difficulty of identifying who was who did cause a stumbling block for me, I am rating the book a 5/5 simply because of the exceptional content and lesson learned from each of the women.  I eventually did figure out the connection between everyone.  ENJOY!!!