Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Healing: A Novel by Jonathan Odell

This was a five star read. 

In my opinion, a book has to be well above very good to rate five stars.
Life changing maybe, or heart healing,  or something that strikes a chord might
rate five stars.

The story told in this book has found a place in my heart and it will stay firmly
planted there. Polly Shine is one of the most remarkable characters I have met in
any book, by any writer, in my over fifty years of reading.

To be very honest, I picked this book up and read a few pages and then set it aside.
It wasn't calling out to me the way I expected it to when I read the blurbs. I was
frustrated, because I had expected more. Well, shame on me for being impatient. If I
had read beyond the first fifteen or so pages, I would have found my way into this
wonderful story much sooner.

We hear the story of Polly Shine's arrival on the plantation though stories told to
the girl Violet by Gran Gran. Granada was a child when Polly arrived and was chosen by her
because Polly saw the glimmer of something special in the small girl. Granada, who grew to
be called Gran Gran wanted no parts of the woman Polly at first, and in fact disliked her.
She blamed Polly for having lost her comfortable place as the favored "pet" of the mistress.
Children can be so foolish! As time passed, Granada learned to see, she learned to listen and
she grew into wisdom of her own.

I don't want to tell any more, I just want to entice you and let you find the gems that are scattered
throughout this story on your own. Once you fall into the story, you will want to stay, as I did.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Dovekeepers

                                                                     By Alice Hoffman

Romans defeated of the Jews at Masada in the year 70C.E., and this is the
story of some of the women who were there. Women who had come together to be
the Dove keepers. To care for the animals who were kept to provide eggs and fertilizer
for the crops raised within the walls, and to be spread around the trees. The doves
gave sustenance to all who lived there in one way or another.

Those who kept the Dover were Shirah and her daughters Aziza and Nahara. Shirah
had been born in Alexandria and was educated not only in reading and the knowledge
of languages, but of magic as had been her own mother. Her story, and that of the
birth of her daughters alone, is worth the price of this book.

There is Revka, a woman left to raise her two young grandsons, after the world
as they knew it was taken from them. To say that things were never to be the same
for them is an understatement of vast proportion. Again, their story alone deserves a book.

Yael was born of a woman who no longer had breath in her body and that moment of her birth
was to affect each choice she made and all the days of her life.

These women worked together to care for the doves who were the basis of life
or those who lived on the mountain. Who can say how it was that these women
were brought together, and how it was that they were perhaps the strongest of
all. They carried within them their own secrets, and in the end, it fell to some of them
to carry and then share the story of what happened when the Romans came finally to Masada
and scaled the mountain. Stronger than the warriors, the leaders and in the end, the conquerors.

The stories that were left behind that historic event are the basis of this
glorious novel. They say that there were seven who lived. Seven who survived
months of siege and then attack by the Romans of their people. The Jews who had already
torn from their homelands, and found refuge together on this great mountain. Seven
who refused to die either at the hands of the Romans or of their own people, and
who found a way to live.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Only Time Will Tell

 by Jeffrey Archer

Only Time Will Tell is book one of a new series by Jeffrey Archer.
As anyone who has ever read Archer can tell you, he tends to write
can't miss this one books!

Harry Clifton is a child from a very poor family. His father died
before Harry knew him, and he and his mother live a subsistence existence
in a shabby little home with his mother's parents and her brother. Food
is not only not plentiful, but barely available. A bit of toast and the
leavings in his uncles bowl are all that there is for Harry's breakfast.

Despite all of this, Harry shows himself to be a remarkable child. Although
he is determined not to sit in a classroom, and as often as possible runs off to the docks,
he is a particularly clever and we are to find out, talented boy. He also has good
instincts. Despite being warned away often by his Uncle Stan, Harry befriends
Jack Tar, who lives in a railway car near the docs. Jack is no more than a penniless
ne'er to well, were Stan to be believed. But Harry and Jack become firm friends, and
Jack helps to steer Harry on a path of learning, during their hours in the rail car.

As time passes opportunities com Harry's way. It turns out that he has the voice of
an angel, and this small twist of fate begins to open doors that will improve Harry's
future. What a lucky boy, you say? Well, yes.. but he is also a good and caring young man,
and this too, helps him pave the way to better roads ahead.

Friends are important, and never more so than to a child. Harry's Best friends are Giles Barrington,
who comes from a wealthy family and A. Deakins, who like Harry has had a rough start. They meet in
school and form a fast and enduring friendship. This is yet one more thing that will change Harry
Clifton's life. But nothing will change it more than a decision that Harry himself makes in the
early days of WWII.

I have barely closed the covers on this book, and I am already anxious to see what the next book
in the series will bring. Archer is quite a storyteller. Let his words carry you along...

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Lantern

By Deborah Lawrenson

The words are like flowers, as is perhaps appropriate in a story where
fragrance and its composition is nearly a character in and of itself. But
there are moments of casual cruelty hidden within the flowery language. There
is darkness, mystery and and the whispering of the ghosts of lifetimes lived and left.

He called her Eve. They met in the depths of a labyrinth and that too, was appropriate,
given that that their life together was wound between secrets she dared not explore. She
was happy enough, more than happy, in fact. At least in the beginning. Before the darkness
that secrets exude began to swirl around them. She was happy before the doubts began to creep in,
before the bones were uncovered in the garden.

This story is a journey that begins in the distant past, and ends with a promise for the future. IT
is a journey that I recommend that you take, if you like mystery touched with romance and dusted with
petals of flowers long since gone.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Knowledge of Good & Evil

by Glenn Kleier

Another fast paced, though provoking, action packed thriller from Glenn Kleier!
Back to the Bible, and of course the Vatican for source material, add a daring, and dashing
young ex-priest with a pure heart and a crisis of faith and you have an idea about what this
book in about. Ian Baringer made a name for himself when he was still a priest by performing
an act of heroism, and saving lives.

Despite the acclaim heaped upon him by the church, he still struggled. Having lost his parents in
a tragedy that could well have taken his life as well, he longed to see them again. He left the church and began a quest to find a way into the afterlife. His research and personal experiences convinced him that only by experiencing a NDE, near death experience, could he find them. They had lost their lives protecting him, saving his life. He felt that it was impossible to go on with his own life, until he did all that he could to thank them, even traveling beyond death itself.

Angela was not only a co-worker, but his fiancee. They made up a paranormal investigating team for
a popular television show. This and his own personal wealth gave him the tools he needed on
his quest to journey beyond physical death. He had an ingrained goodness and belief in miracles, and
Angela was a skeptic. This gave balance to his mission, and to his life. Then things got even more interesting. Friends in high places were able to help him, even as others were trying to take his life away for good. Are there some secrets that should never be revealed?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Man with Pointy Teeth

by M Juanita Taylor

I read this authors first book Last year. It is called Cogslea Revisited, and is about a group of atists referred to as The Red Rose Girls.Malindi is an African Wild Dog in Cogslea, and was perhaps my favorite character of all. Malindi is of course sweet, loving and intuitive, as are so many dogs.

We meet up with more African Wild Dogs in this story, but they resided in a zoo and are part of a behavior study.
Caitlin is an art student who volunteers nights to watch the dogs and take notes on their behavior. She is befriended by Eddie, an employee of the zoo, who frankly seems a little like a man up to no good.

We learn that Caitlin has a good heart and is impulsvie, perhaps too muh so, as she allows some dubious characters to stay with her when they are down and out. I further questioned her common sense later in the book, when after a series of unfortunate events resulting in more than one death, she follows the advice of another dubious seeming character who suggest she hold back some information from police.

I have to say that I was clutching the book and trying to turn pages more quickly than I should when Caitlin herself seems to be the target. She has a new love interest and things are looking too good to be true. That's when things always happen right? Romances come crashing down, the mil spoils and the roses die. I just happens that way.

This story has Taylor's typical cast of quirky and interesting characters, and her love of animals shines clearly
throughout the story. The mystery held up pretty well for me and the story held my interest to the end. Do i recommend this one? Why yes I do! If you like mysteries, zoos, quirky characters and bonus... The Philadelphia area, read it. I think you will like it.

It is dark around the edges, just enough to take in a sharp breath from time to time.. but, it won't keep you up at night. Sounds about right , don't you think?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coffee with Thunderbolts

By Marianne G Petrino

 Here we follow part of the journey of Elena and her Aunt and mentor Rosemarian. The cast of characters who each play a role in this journey are interesting and magical. By magical, I mean in the literal sense, not just an adjective for a well thought out character. Elena feels that she has failed to live up to her mothers ambitions for her, and in fact she has. The most important aspect of this is that her mothers ambitions and Elena's are worlds apart, literally.

Elena and Rosemarian and company journey to some mystical areas of our country in pursuit of Mayan truths. The adventures they have along the way are well worth reading, but perhaps even more so the antics of the beings they encounter, both corporal and non.

I would say that this may not be a book for everyone, but really, what book is? And how do you know unless you give it a try? I enjoyed spending time with these characters and think that anyone who has a curiosity about the Mayans, 2012, magic, metaphysics, labyrinths or for that matter family dynamics will enjoy this story.

Broken Tees and Mended Hearts. A Life's Journey Serving Wounded Warriors and Injured Spirits

I found this book to be a truly inspiring collection of stories about a small group of people
who refused to allow a physical handicap to define them. Armed with courage and support of
friends and family, this group of athletes prove to themselves and others that you cannot allow
the opinions or doubts of others to keep you from challenging yourself. Not even if these naysayers are
medical professionals.

Having worked with special needs children and young adults for several years, I have been witness to many everyday miracles. This author has seen quite a few of her own and she shares them with her readers. I think this is a wonderful book for those facing physical challenges and their families. One cannot help but to be filled with admiration and respect for individuals profiled. Hopefully they will find the optimism and inspiration they need to create a miracle of their own.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beneath the Hallowed Hill by Theresa Crater

What you will feel when you read this book is enraptured. That is a feeling
I haven't had since I read Crater's last offering, Under the Stone Paw. These
books have more than the story in common, There is a basic feeling of rightness

First, if you have not read Under the Stone Paw, I urge you to do so. That is
not only a wonderful book in its own right, but it lays the groundwork for this
story. If you choose not to, and just read this as a stand alone, that will work
for you as well.

Atlantis. Who hasn't wondered about Atlantis? Have you ever wanted to visit Merlin's
Crystal Cave? How about Avebury, England or Stonehenge? Well, pick up this book and
you will be there. You will meet faerie, and the Maidens of Avalon, too. Like Avalon
itself, this book seems to be a sum of magic, as there are far too few pages to hold
what you will experience if you read the story.

Michael and Anne travel to Glastonbury to visit the home left to Anne Le Clair by
her mother's sister. This is where the story begins, or should I say takes off?
Once in Glastonbury, they find that there is a problem with one of the Sacred Springs.
They take time off from their pursuit of the Illuminati to lend a hand. Here is where
the story begins and ends. But, ends is perhaps not the right word? I think the ending
lies somewhere in the future. I think you will enjoy the journey, but each journey has a
beginning. Pick up the book and see where your beginning lies..

Strongly recommended

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Heart Specialist by Claire Holden Rothman

The inspiration for this book was taken from the life
and work of Dr Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbot. She was one
of Montreal's first female physicians. This is not at all
the story of her life, but a novel that takes us along the
path with a woman of that time who wanted to become a physician.

Those were still the years when women were expected to make a home
for their men, and considered ill equipped or not intelligent enough
to consider more than minimal education. To think of those times now,
it seems impossible. We have women like Dr Abbot to thank for the
fact that women are now understood to be the equals of men.

Agnes White and her younger sister were being raised by their paternal
grandmother. But although her younger sister was quiet and considered
to be ladylike, Agnes was more inquisitive. She wanted to know how things
worked. Specifically, she was interested in the human body and even as a
child revered her father, who was a doctor. She had in face taken some
of his equipment for her own. In particular she took and hid away, a microscope.
She had quietly removed it from among her fathers belongings which her
grandmother had given away, long after the man himself had disappeared.

There was a scandal, but of course Agnes believed that all of the talk was
wrong, and that her father, Doctor Bourret was not guilty of the murder of
his sister. A happy circumstance of a new governess, who was herself well
educated, but that at the knee of her own father, is what helped to set Agnes
on the path to become a physician, herself.

This is a well told and extraordinary story of a women whose struggle
to enter medical school seemed to be blocked at every turn. Finding out if
she would prevail, was a more than worthy read.

I recommend this extraordinary book to men and women alike.
Anyone interested in history, or just a good strong story will
be glad to read The Heart Specialist

Friday, June 3, 2011

Charlie St. Cloud: A Novel by Ben Sherwood

This was a book remarkable in it's beauty.
It is insightful, hopeful and filled with tragedy, but the message
I believe is to remember that things are not always as they seem.
Endings are beginnings too, and whatever we believe, truth is truth.

Charlie and his brother steal a neighbors car and sneak out to a baseball game.
their beagle was smuggled into the game too, in a backpack. They had a wonderful
time and were headed home when it happened. The thing that would change life
as they knew it forever.

Charlie lives the life of a lonely man, but it is also filled with
love and beauty. He is a good person who did a foolish thing,
This thing has been the center stone of his life until one day, another
tragedy happens. But remember, things are not always as they seem.
One seeming tragedy took away what he knew, could another tragedy
change his life yet again? Or will it be the end of Charlie?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sister: A Novel By: Rosamund Lupton

Beatrice has moved to America from England. She has become
used to the distance both geographically, and emotionally,
from her sister Tess and their mother. She uses it as an excuse,
in fact. After all, she is busy with her career and her own life.
A phone call from her mother calls her back across the Atlantic
when she learns that Tess is missing. Tess, who was pregnant, and
struggling, has not been seen for far too long.

It would be unfair to suggest that it was only guilt that sent
Beatrice to the airport, because she did love her family, when
it wasn't too inconvenient. So, leaving life, career and fiance
behind, she arrived in England as soon as was humanly possible
after she received the call.

Before long, Bea realizes what she has been missing, while letting
her family get on without her all of this time. All of the love and
closeness to Tess comes flooding back. With it there is fear. She truly
did love Tess, and when she found her sister's body, could not believe the
verdict of suicide due to psychosis after after the death of her baby. Tess
would never kill herself, Bea was sure. Even after finding the body, and learning
that the baby Xavier had died, Bea felt something was being missed, and so she
set out to find the truth on her own.

What follows is a griping story, one that has you sure that you have
come to the end of the mystery, only to find that there is yet another twist.
By the time this breathtaking story concludes, you will be breathless with the
build up and the climax.

Don't miss this one.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey by Patricia Harman

A time or two, I almost gave up on this book.
The author and I are of an age, I think..
and I remember the days where the book began, remember them clearly.
I remember the idealism and the search for freedom and love. Her
journey was far more productive and inspirational than my own, however.

I am sure that the the author did not intend that the most commonly felt
link between author and reader be fear. I think that it is a very personal
thing. I fear. I fear the things that cannot be stopped. I fear the demise
of this planet due to the greediness and blindness of those who walk on
her skin.

I fear not being able to protect my children. I fear that the most. I
too, can be accused of being a hyper worrier, and in fact have been. I
almost gave  up on the story. I think that the very pure and optimistic
energy in the beginning of the book nearly drove me away. It became easier
to read however, the deeper into the story I went. Sadly, it was because
of the current reality that began to creep in, and the admission of fear.
I felt as if I have a comrade out there somewhere. Someone else who knows
the feeling of loneliness, missing her children, and the inability to change
what is into what a mother wants it to be.

This is not as much the story of a midwife, as it is of a woman who
happens to serve other women by helping them have their children. She
is real, and she is vulnerable. Maiden, Mother and Crone, she is woman.
And she tries.. she tries hard to hold on,onto the optimism of the early days.
She reached me on a visceral level with this, her story of being woman.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Tiger's Wife: A Novel by Tea Obreht

I should simply have gone to the last page, and not wasted the
last several hours of my life. This is a story of .. well I wish I knew.
There is a young girl, who is close with her grandfather. The grandfather
is a doctor and the girl would be someday as well. He told her stories of his life.

The mishmash of stories revolves around a time when her grandfather was a
boy in a town in the Balkans. And ther eare stories of when he was an adult,
a doctor and well respected. It swings back and forth through time so often that
it takes concentration to sort out where or when you are.

It is a story of murder, of evil and of children who are not loved.
There is a fantasy or maybe a legend that is the thread that runs through the
book. The thread is more the Tiger, than the young woman who came to be referred
to as the Tiger's Wife.

I admit it. I got sucked into the hype, the marketing and I suffered for it.
This is a book I requested from the vine program because it sounded like
it would be a faery tale or lovely story. There was nothing lovely about it.
The story is was like a salad, One made of iceberg lettuce. A salad with little bits
and pieces of this and that. But the bits and pieces are so small, and so widely spread
throughout that they have no hope of adding interest or flavor.

The man who couldn't die, turned up now and then for a bit of spice. Other
than that, the very best part of this book is the final paragraph. That earned
the book a star to add than the single star rating I had planned to give it.
The final paragraph was beautiful.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm Over All That: And Other Confessions by Shirley MacLaine

When Shirley Maclaine writes, it feels more like a conversation with her. So, this won't be a review so much as a comment or two. I feel the need to mention that I love her madly, and feel that she has never written a book that was not at least interesting, if not fascinating. I also feel that she has never given a performance on screen that was anything but stellar. I guess you could say that I am a fan. I have been a fan since I saw her on tv, way back in the distant past. It was either the movie My Geisha, or a clip. I am not sure of anything except I saw her and was immediately drawn to her and have never lost that feeling of connection. Past life connection perhaps? Maybeso. Like Shirley, that is part of my belief system. 

I have read all of her books except Saging While Aging , because somehow that one fell off my radar. 
I have enjoyed them all, and always feel that the most recent is my favorite. This hasn't changed. As in her other books, I'm Over All That is full of her thoughts and opinions. She share freely and she explains why she feels the way she does. I love the  idea of her "wall of life". I saw it on Oprah when she was there to be interviewed recently. She has a lovely home. It looks right for her. And the idea of having a place to go in your home to simply remember times and people who have shared your life is 
brilliant. I might just try a variation of it myself. I am not a celebrity, but my life is mine, and the people and times are my own. I like it.  Stay tuned. 

We hear about her relationships with some of the leading men in her life, as well as men she has met and men she simply fell in love with at the time. There were a lot of them, but I truly believe that she loved them all. She is so open and honest, and interested. Yes interested as well as interesting. I share her trait of being an individual who questions. I want to know why, how and when. I want to learn . There are many things like religion, politics and spirituality where we share similar questions, Shirley and I . 

There are some references to journeys she has taken in other books, in fact there are references to journeys he has taken in other lifetimes. So often she is validated in strong and simple, yet meaningful ways.  For instance, a cross she had owned in a previous lifetime came back to her this time. How much more validation can you get? To find out how this happened you need to read the book. I encourage you to read the book, because it is filled with answers. And questions, and love. She is a loving person, and a down to earth one. She is still beautiful, by the way, she isn't over that.. 

I am over many of the same things she is, by the way.. Thanks Shirley!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Black Swan by Chris Knopf

This is the first book in the Sam Acquillo series that I have read. I enjoyed it from the first page.
The reader is drawn into some fast action and witty dialogue immediately. The book opens with
Sam , girl friend Amanda, and Sam's lively mutt Eddie, delivering a sleek, new, sailboat to a friend.
A storm came up with no warning and Sam and Amanda have their hands full keeping the  boat on the
water, instead of under it.

Obviously, they do manage to survive or it would have been a very short book, and that would have
been a shame. This was a good Sunday afternoon read. It was fast paced, very fast paced. No time
to be bogged down, as every page was filled with either charming and witty dialog or pertinent events.
It was filled with improbable situations that only made the story more fun. Who needs a fun read to be

If you are looking for deep drama, or a literary challenge, avoid this book. You won't be impressed.
If you want a good fast paced mystery on an island being rocked by sudden storms and an even more
sudden spurt of serious crime, give it a try. The solution to the mystery is interesting and has a unique

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

This was a book from the Vine Program. I freely admit that I had no interest in reading
anything remotely "Western" in flavor. I had no interest in John Henry "Doc" Holiday. I
requested this book because it is my opinion that Mary Doria Russell is not capable
of writing anything but a wonderful book. I was not disappointed.

We have all heard of Doc Holiday and the the gun fight at the OK Corral. For many of us,
that is as much as we know. Gun fight, shooting, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday. For many
of us, that has been enough. Who cares really, what a couple of gunslingers did during
one of their less then stellar moments?

Let me say that I care a lot more now than I did before. Doc is a novel. And of course a
certain amount of license was taken with the materiel available. This is not to say that
this is a work of pure fiction. Russell states that much of her research was based on a
biography that was written by a member of Doc's own family. That biographer was privy to
much family information and many letters and stories that another researcher might not
have available. This explains how the character of Doc Holiday and those around him are
so rich and full and real. This also explains why Doc is portrayed as so much more than
previous movies and novels suggested. We are shown a good, and in fact, sickly man who had some
bad times. He lived during a time when law was often taken lightly, when in fact there were
laws or lawmen to be found.

John Henry Holiday was well educated. He came from a good family, and he loved and was
loved. He left them, and the relative comfort of his family home in order to try to
keep his health. He like his mother before him suffered from tuberculosis. He was
a practicing dentist when he left home, and continued with the practice of dentistry
over the years, although it was not his main source of income. Doc will introduce you
to a much different man than the one you think you know. This is a page turner like all of
Russell's books. You will find yourself caring about the characters and wishing them well.
I found myself wondering how it would end, and sorry when it did.


And you might want to find yourself more books by this author, once the last page has been read

Monday, April 4, 2011

Galore by Michael Crummey


Newfoundland always has a bit of a magical ring to me. When I had the opportunity to read
this for the Vine program, I was intrigued. It takes place in Newfoundland,in a place called
Paradise Deep. It opens with a beached whale being carved into for oil and food by the starving
inhabitants of this fishing community.

As they all worked for their share, and arugued with the man who said he owned that part
of beach, A woman, known as Devine's Widow, cuts into the belly of the poor whale, and out
came a man. He was an albino. He is a central character to the story, and yet, nary a
word passes his lips. Despite this, a more extraordinary man is seldom found.

The story leads us down through the generations of the family of Devine family. Suffice to say
that few men of the family manage to make much of a name for themselves, and certainly no one
is quite like the albino, who came to be known as Judah. The women of the family are another
story altogether. They are a force to be reckoned with, each and every one.

Although we watch as some leave the community for other ports, including the United States. Eventually,some of the men head for Europe. We follow them through good times and bad. We find characters to loveand other that we can barely tolerate, just as we would in any town. I suspect that some of us would notagree on which was which.

An ongoing theme is poverty, and want. Each generation will face it and tragedies of their own. I
was sorry to see the story end, and would not have minded seeing it continue to the present. I felt
that as much as the story offered, I would gladly have accepted more.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

This is a story filled with the magic of full rich characters,
most of them strong and loving women. Much of it takes place
on Willow Island, a barrier island off the shores of Georgia and
South Carolina. The residents of Willow Island live a life similar
to that which their ancestors lived a hundred years before. While they
did have modern conveniences, they certainly didn't depend on
them for happiness. Love, family and tradition ruled their day.

Mama day, Abigail, Cocoa, Ruby and more. They all have their own
story, and they tell it, or have it told in rich mellow voices. I
don't know how anyone can read this book and not love Mama Day and Abigail.
And they have within them a magic all their own. A knowing that has been lost
to most over the generations. I have to believe that they are based on
women known by the author, otherwise how did she make them so real? And
if they are not, all the more kudos to their creator.

Cocoa, a younger woman from their family spends most of her time in New
York City, where she lives, works and falls in love. She too, is quite
a force, but often more negative then she should be. We find out in the
story how life changes her.