February 10, 2013
Thanks to NetGalley I just finished an ARC of this very poignant story Sarah Thebarge tells of a short period in her life after a chance meeting of a destitute Somali immigrant mother struggling to adjust to the US with her five young daughters. Sarah weaves back and forth through the telling of her present life with the Somali girls and her past few years of a life threatening bout with breast cancer. After having all her hopes and dreams for her own life dashed with the devastating effects of cancer she moved to the west coast to try and start over. She herself felt invisible and relates to the lives of the Somali family as they struggle to get out of the invisible life. Watch for the April publication of The Invisible Girls. Sarah is planning on using money raised from the book’s publication to help put the five young Somali girls through college. Find out more about Sarah’s invisible girls on her blog, http://theinvisiblegirls.wordpress.com
June 10, 2011
Being an avid reader of historical fiction I was pleased to receive this book for review and was not disappointed. Though at first glance it may appear to be just another historical romance, Ms. Fiorato brings much more depth to the novel. The 18th century life in Siena is vividly recreated with careful attention to historical accuracy and detail. I so enjoy being educated in the history and culture of the time and this book enlightened me immensely. I had no prior knowledge of this time and place and now I am intrigued by the history and hope to learn more from this author. The characters are richly drawn and believable. She skillfully moves through the active plot leading the reader into the world of Siena in 1723 full of the culture of class distinction and family pride. I highly recommend this as an excellent example of very readable historical fiction and look forward to reading more by this author.
March 6, 2011
Author Lisa Napoli accepts an opportunity to travel to Bhutan, a little known third world country tucked into the Himalayas between India and China. She is hired as a volunteer to train students in the newly established radio station of Kuzoo FM. Bhutan allows only a very restricted number of outside visitors and travel there is available on one small airline at a considerable cost with a daily tariff added for tourists. One of the more unusual aspects of this country’s governing philosophy is the notion of GNH or Gross National Happiness which means that quality of life is to take precedence over any attempt at financial gain. Many of the country’s residents live on very little and there is assistance from the government. Lisa found that families live together with adult children living at home for long periods of their lives. The most appealing part of this book for me was the exposure to the lifestyle, dreams and accomplishments of the citizens of this country which has attempted to remain isolated from the damaging influences of the Western world, especially internet and media control. However, over the course of Lisa’s visits over the several years covered in the story we come to learn that even tiny Bhutan is undergoing modernization due to the unavoidable exposure to television, internet and media attention. Another aspect of the story which is very unique is the experience of the Bhutanese when they come to the United States and discover unimaginable wealth and material goods. The effects of their exposure to our culture prove to be both good and bad. I found this book to be a pleasurable read which provides the reader with a chance to become immersed in the life and culture of real Bhutanese citizens and experience the wonder of an innocent people in a place that can truly be called the last Shangri-La.
For more information on this book and author: www.lisanapoli.com
January 20, 2011
It seems like everyone is talking about this book. I recently participated in a book discussion on this book and will share some other thoughts besides my own. Shocking!! Yes to some people. Some of my friends could not get past the first chapter. Some refused to finish the book. Some were so caught up that they had to keep reading. This is a very unique story in that it is told from the point of view of a five year old boy. Not only does that make it original but the plot which is slowly revealed is that the mother and child have been locked in a “room” for the entire life of this boy. I do not give away plot in my reviews so you will have to read the book to discover if there is any hope of escape from their dire straits. There is criticism of this book that the child’s language is not believable but everyone in my discussion group found it very fitting. This child has insights beyond what would seem possible for a child of his age but given the unusual circumstances of his development he has an ability to see things differently from other children. His views expressed are those of honesty and innocence and truly “hit the mark”. Depending on your background, your emotional state, etc. some of the content may be very unsettling but for those who want to adventure into the disturbing background of the story you will find much to stir the senses and the story will not soon be forgotten. It is definitely a great book group book and I would recommend it for groups but you may have some members who won’t join you for this discussion. It is also helpful to have in hand a copy of an author interview where she explains about the research she conducted for this book. In my opinion this is a book not be missed.
For more information: www.emmadonoghue.com/room.htm
January 8, 2011
If you loved The DaVinci Code you will want to read this amazing first novel by author Paul Keefe. Main character Angie Cooper, archeologist/detective extraordinaire, is one tough, stubborn and independent woman in this highly suspenseful action adventure story. Mr. Keefe has also centered the story around a plausible archeological find that could change world history and religious beliefs. Angie finds herself being pursued by a hit man working for a U.S. senator as well as a religious lunatic on a mission to save the Catholic church. She must outrun and outwit the two men as well as try to solve the mysterious clues to the archeological discovery her beloved friends were working on before being brutally murdered. She gets a little help from her friends along the way, resulting in a trip to Jerusalem, Germany and Washington, D.C. Mr. Keefe has included every story element one could wish for with suspense, intrigue, detective work, romance, surprising plot twists, scientific and religious historical background and well-developed characters. This is certainly a worthy debut for this new author and I hope we will see much more of Angie Cooper in upcoming novels.
August 25, 2010
Growing Up Bin Laden: Osama’s Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World by Najwa Bin Laden, Omar Bin Laden and Jean Sasson (2009). What an eye opener!! It would appear that Osama was a very loving husband and devoted father in his early years but was overcome by his loss of position with the Saudi government and began to blame all Western culture for his failings, particularly Americans. There is a great deal of insight into how his hatred was formed as witnessed by his son Omar. His family has suffered as much as those in the Western world from the prejudices and misinformation that plagues all Muslims. This book should be read by all to inform how such a madman could rise up from humble beginnings. This story puts a human face on the media blur surrounding Osama bin Laden. It is also the story of a wife’s devotion to her Islamic religious beliefs and thus her faith and trust in a husband that would prove to be totally destructive to both society and his family. Only because she finally found her son Omar to be more truthful than her husband did she make a personal choice to be safe and free. This story gave insight into how many people can be brainwashed by their religious views and their own inability to accept the advice and viewpoints of others. This was what began Osama’s deterioration into violent Jihad and the loss of emotional attachments for even his family. He cast off his own sons in the face of his all consuming war on Western influences.
August 12, 2010
Somaly Mam tells her story in The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine (2009). In this shocking memoir Somaly tells of her own experiences as a sex slave. After her escape she returns to try and save many of the girls who were left behind. The story tells of her efforts to lead them into a new life. Somaly ends up sacrificing much of her personal life to continue her goals of making a better life for abused girls in Cambodia and still works against many difficult roadblocks today. She describes the hardened emotional state of Cambodians who suffered so much degradation and loss during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and the many wars before then. She even interviews men and discovers why they feel no remorse at using young girls as sex slaves and supporting the brothel trade. She has tried to start a campaign against this point of view. You can learn all about her work at the Somaly Mam Foundation at http://www.somaly.org
Warning: You will come away from this book with anger and frustration about women’s rights and feel a need to join the fight!
August 9, 2010
Just finished reading Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez and I highly recommend this historical fiction novel based on the history of slave life before the Civil War. A large part of the setting is Tawawa House, a resort in Ohio which catered to rich landowners who came for a summer retreat and brought their slave wenches or mistresses as they were represented in the story. The wishes and dreams of each of four women mistresses are brought to life in a very realistic manner for the time. The main character Lizzie has a master for whom she thinks she has real romantic feelings. She has been well cared for by the standards of the day with her own bedroom in the master’s house after bearing him his only two children. She has received special treatment since her early teens and has never known true suffering as a slave. Her friends, whom she meets summers at Tawawa House, have different stories of their experiences and over the years she becomes more enlightened to the hopes and dreams of being a free woman. She shares her ability to read by reading the pamphlet obtained from an abolitionist to her companions. Further events which I will not reveal result in all of them being split up as the story is told. Lizzie must make a decision as to running for freedom or staying with her life on the plantation where she is close to her children. The story explores the difficult choices that these slaves must make. Freedom, is it possible and at what price? I found the story compelling in that it brought to light many practices that I was not aware of between white masters and their black mistresses. The setting of Tawawa House is a place that really existed much as described in the novel. It was closed as a resort in 1855 and then sold to the Methodist Episcopal Church who established the Ohio African University. After the Civil War it was renamed the Wilberforce University which continues today.
July 26, 2010
Meet the McClellans, A True West Adventure in Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy
This was my first read by Mary Connealy and I am hooked. Her characters bring the days of the Old West to life. This is a fast paced story about the McClellan family and the trials and tribulations of making a life in the rough days of 19th century West Texas.
Beth McClellan is returning to her family home to become a doctor but on the way she discovers the love of her life. With many twists and turns, always guided by her strong faith, she finds a way to fulfill her dreams. Her sister Mandy, another strong and independent daughter of Sophie McClellan, meets a different fate in a parallel story. Her story is left unresolved to be taken up in the next book in the series. The book is hard to put down with suspenseful plot that keeps you wanting more. Upon finishing this story I found myself anxious to read the next installment of the Sophie’s Daughters series. Mary has done excellent research into the time period as the historical setting details definitely add to the memorable characters and plot tension. I highly recommend this book for those who want a historical romance and suspense combined for a good read.
July 4, 2010
Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran
This is a first novel by a new author of promise. She has written a superb, historically accurate and tantalizing novel of the Middle Ages. It takes place in France in the medieval town of Narbonne. It is also the time period when the Inquisition was being enacted instilling fear in all the land. Auda is born an albino and must hide her features from the public view as Inquisitors are frequently about looking for witches. Those who see her are afraid of her appearance and with the superstition of the times call her the “white witch”. An interesting twist to making this story unique is that Auda is unable to speak, as the assistant to the midwife upon seeing her strange appearance at birth, snatched her away and cut off her tongue believing she would speak of the devil. Her mother having died in childbirth, Auda is brought up by an older sister and her father who is a scribe. Her sister has married well and feels a responsibility to provide for Auda’s future. She and her father both try to find a way for Auda to live as normal a life as possible but be safely away from those who would turn her in to the Inquisitors.
Auda has learned to read and write from her father and has become an excellent scribe through his tutelage. This puts her in a unique position in the community as women are not educated at this time.
Auda is quickly revealed to be more confident and resourceful than she would at first appear to an outsider. She knows she has skills and talents in papermaking and scribing and wants to spend her life working with her father. She lacks confidence in behaving as a normal young woman when it comes to romantic involvement. However, she finds herself attracted to an artist and soon becomes involved with him without fear. She has definite ideas as to what she wants and though her sister and father feel they should be responsible for her safety it begins to appear that Auda can take care of herself. She is intelligent and emboldened if somewhat naive because she has been kept out of society for so many years. She becomes angry when her family tries to control her life. She feels that she can wish for a normal life in spite of the dangers of being captured by the Inquistors. She exhibits bravery in the face of these dangers and is willing to take risks to further her life and the success of her father’s papermaking business. She is devoted to her father and the recognition of his talents. Not only do we learn a great deal about the culture of the times but we also get a good understanding of the history and importance of papermaking through this story. I definitely look forward to the next novel by Sankaran which is to take place in Renaissance Venice.
Find out more at www.vanithasankaran.com/Watermark.html