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Thursday, July 10, 2014

FIVE DAYS LEFT (JULIE LAWSON TIMMER)


Penguin USA | September 9, 2014 | Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-399-16734-8



MY REVIEW:
 
Mara, a lawyer, has been diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. There is no cure and she will eventually lose all control of her body and mind and die. Her husband, Tom, is a dermatologist and they have one daughter, Lakshmi who is five-years-old.

Tom is a patient and kind husband who loves his wife with all his heart but little Lakshmi doesn't understand why her mother falls down and often looks like she's drunk. She is somewhat ashamed of her mother and asks her not to come to her school anymore because the other children tease her and call her mother "a drunk." Mara is devastated and tearful but understands that Lakshmi and other children her age don't know what Huntington's is or how it affects the body. All Lakshmi knows is that her Mom doesn't act like all the other Moms do.

Mara decides that she wants to be in control of her own demise and so begins a list of things she needs to do to prepare to die at her own hand. She is giving herself five days. Mara doesn't want to suffer at the end and doesn't think it's fair to have Tom and other people caring for her very personal needs and decides it would be kinder to herself, her parents and her friends if she was gone before she got to that stage.

Mara gets support from an online community she joined called "Not Your Father's Family Forum" where she has met some nice people but they don't know that she has Huntington's or that she is planning to kill herself. She involves herself in the other people's lives, especially that of Scott.

Scott, a middle school teacher and his wife, Laurie are expecting their own child soon and are currently foster parents to eight-year-old, Curtis. Curtis's Mom is serving a year's jail sentence and will be taking Curtis back upon her release. There are five days left til her sentence ends and Scott has big plans for Curtis over the next five days to celebrate the year that he has lived with himself and Laurie.

Curtis is a troubled boy and gets into lots of problems at school and at home, but Scott and Laurie have been good for, Curtis. Being young they have the patience and understanding to cope with the problems Curtis displays.

Curtis has an older brother who attends university and plays football so he is unable to care for Curtis.

As Scott is excited about his plans for the next five days, Curtis's Mom gets out of jail early and arrives at the school and takes Curtis throwing a complete monkey wrench into all Scott's plans for his last five days.

FIVE DAYS LEFT is a story about what people can and will do under extraordinary circumstances. It's about love, faith, and understanding but also about what it's like to lose control of your life. We all like to be in control and when that control is taken away from us we often find ourselves floundering around not knowing which direction to take.

I couldn't put this book down. I began reading and when I looked back up at the clock I was astonished at how much time had passed by. I expect FIVE DAYS LEFT to be a big hit. I think it would make a great book club pick as there are so many aspects and different issues to be discussed in a novel such as this. I'll be keeping this one as part of my permanent collection as I'll definitely want to read it again.
 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

LITTLE MERCIES (HEATHER GUDENKAUF)


MY REVIEW:
Harlequin|June 24, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7783-1633-6

Ellen Moore, a seasoned social worker has seen the best and the worst in what one human being can do to another. She has seen things people should never see in their lives but this is her daily reality. Dealing with dysfunctional families, drug addicted parents who beat or neglect their children, alcoholics who leave their children unsupervised and a whole host of other horrible scenarios. The decision to remove a child(ren) from their family home is never an easy one but she takes her job seriously and does what needs to be done. Ellen is lucky as she has the support of her family.

Ellen's husband, Adam is madly in love with his wife and supports her in her work and all her decisions. After a long hard day at work, Ellen looks forward to coming home and holding and hugging her own three children: Lucas, Leah, and Avery.

One particularly busy morning and late for an important meeting, Ellen is rushing around the house trying to get dressed and out the door within five minutes. Being late for this meeting will not be seen in a favourable light as far as her boss is concerned. Finally ready, Ellen dashes out the door and hops into her van and takes off. While on her way, she receives a call about a family in distress and makes a detour to the home to see what assistance she can be and to perform the very job she is hired to do as a social worker. The temperature is stiffling hot and humid and she feels like a washed-out dish rag.

As Ellen is watching the first body bag being carried out of the home, she hears some commotion and breaking glass down the street. When she turns to look down she realizes that people are breaking into her van in broad daylight. Using crowbars and other tools they are smashing the windows out of her van. Ellen takes off on foot and just as she arrives at her vehicle she sees baby Avery, her own child, unconscious, being dragged out of her car and layed on the ground. She'd been locked up in a hot van in the sweltering heat for a goodly amount of time and Ellen wasn't even aware that Avery was in the vehicle with her that morning. She certainly didn't put her in and she didn't notice her in the vehicle as she drove because Avery still sat in a rear-facing car seat.

A neighbour, whom Ellen had had dealings with before through her job began performing CPR while someone called 911. Thus began a nightmare that Ellen wasn't prepared for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old, Jenny Briard has been living with her father who was well meaning but often irresponsible. Not being able to keep a job nor provide an ongoing home for Jenny to live in but he was good to her. One evening Jenny finds herself totally alone and is forced to live on nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's world's collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

While Ellen is charged for leaving Avery in the sweltering car, Jenny is trying to get back to her father. Each of them is living with a great deal of stress and there are some very tense moments in the story.

LITTLE MERCIES is a poignant, powerful, and emotionally charged novel about motherhood and justice. I couldn't put this book down and read it in one sitting, it was just too good to stop for any reason. I even passed up the opportunity to stop for a cup of tea which is something I would never normally do.

Heather Gudenkauf has written a truly spellbinding story that will hold your attention from the first page to the very last.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A LONG WAY HOME: A MEMOIR (SAROO BRIERLEY)



MY REVIEW:
Penguin Group Canada|June 17, 2014|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-670-06820-3

Five-year-old, Saroo wanted to be with his big brother and decided to tag along to his job working the trains one day foraging for food and selling the toothpaste packs he had. Getting tired, Saroo sat down on a bench to wait for his brother to come back from somewhere but became restless and hopped on a train sitting in front of him on the tracks. Next thing you know he falls alseep and the train is moving! Saroo gets lost and remains lost for the next twenty-five years!

After being placed with a couple of orphanages, Saroo was finally adopted by the Brierley family who lived in Hobart, Australia. He had a wonderful life with the Brierley family and bonded wtih them quickly. They shared many fun times over the years but, Saroo felt he was still missing something and made the decision to try and find his birthmother in India.

Using 'Google Earth' of all things, Saroo spent many, many months searching through Google Earth using the "B" name of the town he could remember living by. Finally recognizing something he thought looked familiar, he got on Facebook where he'd met a guy who was supplying him with information and he was able to confirm the place, Saroo had found what he thought was his hometown.

Soon, Saroo was on a plane flying off to India to reunite with the mother whom he hadn't seen in twenty-five years. This was a beautifully written memoir and I read it one sitting. It's impossible not to read this book in one sitting, you just have to keep turning the pages, the story just flows so well and is so interesting. Well-done, Saroo and congratulations on finding your family, may you enjoy many happy years together.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT (PATTY FRANCIS)



MY REVIEW:
HarperCollins|April 28, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-228130-2

Nine-year-old, Hallie Costa is growing up on Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts when a crime shakes their close knit Portugeuese community. Codfish Silva, the captain of the town's most prolific fishing boat has strangled his wife, leaving behind a solitary witness: their son, Gus. The traumatized boy remains mute until the daughter of the local doctor shows up with her version of a cure: two fish Gus is charged with keeping alive, and a copy of David Copperfield. Hallie returns every day to read aloud until Gus is finally coaxed back to speech. Thus begins a lifelong, almost mystical bond that will evolve from childhood friendship to passion, and finally to a deeper love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.

Hallie and Gus reconnect and fall in love at age sixteen. By then, Gus is a popular student at the regional school thirty miles away, known for his talent as a quarterback, his high spirits, but most of all for the powerful kindness he exudes. Only Hallie understands that beneath his easy smile, lies his guilt over his failure to save his mother and his fear that he will turn out like his father. An incident on prom night seems to confirm those fears as it shatters the future Hallie and Gus have planned. When Gus catches his best friend making an aggressive pass at Hallie after a long night of drinking on the beach, he reacts with violence that will alter their lives in obvious and unseen ways. The friend is badly beaten, but it is Hallie who suffers a life threatening injury when she tries to intervene.

She survives only to discover that during her long recovery, Gus has made a choice that will shock everyone who thinks they know him and devastate the girl who loves him: He has decided to enter the seminary. Hallie is heartbroken, angry, and confused, but after a few months, she rediscovers the resilience that made Gus fall in love with her. She is not a religious believer, but is determined to live a meaningful life and follows her father into medicine, moves away, and eventually marries.

Gus, meanwhile, finds solace in his work and the few friends who are his new family. However, his hard won truce with the past ends, when Ava Cilento appears at the rectory with injuries that are eerily similar to his mother's. But it is the photograph of her daughter, Mila, that really rattles him. When he looks at the little girl, he feels as if he's staring directly into the pain and vulnerability of his own childhood. In an effort to save them from his family's fate, he becomes more personally involved than he should; and when Ava disappears, leaving a horrifically bloody crime scene, Gus is charged with her murder.

Fate brings Hallie and Gus together again; this time at Gus's trial, and it is clear that nothing - not their mutual resolve, nor the thirteen years they've been apart - has changed their passion for each other. Gus is convicted and sentenced to life in prison, while Hallie suffers a different kind of exile; the loss of her marriage and the life she has worked so hard to build. Bereft, she returns to the austere beauty of Cape Cod to take up her father's practice. She writes to Gus many times, but eventually gives up when she receives no reply. It is only after Gus receives a troubling message from Ava's daughter, Mila, that he breaks his silence and contacts Hallie, asking for help. Little does he, or Hallie, realize that Mila holds the key to the truth and to his freedom.

Told in three voice: Hallie's, Gus's and Mila's, THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT is a novel of suspense, betrayal, and the different ways we find transcendence and meaning in our lives. But most of all, it is a gorgeous and unforgettable love story that spans several decades.

I felt that the above synopsis from the Chapters website could do the review justice much better than I could. This was an unbelievable story and one that I won't soon forget. I couldn't believe how quickly the time was passing as I was reading. I just kept turning page after page after page. I believe THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT is going to be a big seller.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

THE GLASS KITCHEN (LINDA FRANCIS LEE)



MY REVIEW:
St. Martin's Press|June 17, 2014|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-312-38227-8
THE GLASS KITCHEN was a beautifully written, whimsical, and absolutely charming novel.

Portia Cuthcart's grandma owned a restaurant called The Glass Kitchen in Texas where patrons came to dine and get exactly what they needed. Grandma had "the knowing" and had three recipe books with recipes and sage advice written down in them. She would get "feelings", which she referred to as the "know" of certain meals she should prepare. These "knowings" were like an incessant itch that she couldn't scratch and had to rush immediately to cook up the meal or dessert she got "the know" about. Once made, she'd sit back and wait to see which customer or person came in requesting such a meal.

One day, Portia vowed to move to Manhattan, New York and open up The Glass Kitchen with her two sisters, Olivia and Cordelia. When Grandma dies and her Aunt Evie dies in Manhattan and leaves her an apartment there, Portia makes her move.

Portia becomes involved with the man upstairs in her duplex. Gabriel is a widow and has two teenage daughters. Things begin to heat up and soon a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs life like chocolate mixing with cream.

THE GLASS KITCHEN was absolutely impossible to put down. And, even at 373 pages I read it in one day. I just kept wanting to know: "...and then what happened, and then what happened." I couldn't stop myself. Don't miss out on this delicious and stirring novel. There aren't enough stars to rate this one!!
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

IN DOUBT (DRUSILLA CAMPBELL)



MY REVIEW:
Grand Central Publishing | August 26, 2014 | Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4555-1033-7

I have read every book Drusilla Campbell has written and all of them have been top caliber and IN DOUBT was no different.

So, Sophie Giraudo is a defense attorney who has just opened a new practice in San Sebastain, California. She desperately needs new clients to pay the bills for all the new furniture and plush carpeting she just purchased. It isn't long before Sophie gets her wish when a quiet, introverted teenager named, Donny Crider, shoots the Governor at a crowded venue with lots of witnesses. He was arrested on the spot.

Sophie is intriqued as to why a seemingly quiet, layed-back boy would commit such a crime. Against the wishes of family, co-workers, and friends, Sophie decides to take on Donny's case. She knows it's going to be difficult to defend the boy but she delves in head-on vowing to learn all she can about this boy.

Obtaining the information she needs to mount a defense almost blows up in her face after meeting, Donny and discovering he is not a talker and not one to divulge information that could possibly save his own life. His mother is a nightmare and his father has been absent from his life for fifteen years.

According to the Prosecutor, this kid doesn't have a leg to stand on and is going to jail for a long, long time. Can Sophie somehow find a way through all the muck and mire to mount a proper defense to help, Donny?

In Doubt did just that, kept me in doubt throughout the entire story. I always think most books end up the way we think they should but not all. Read this one to find out what happens, it'll shock you to your core.
 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (RICHARD C. MORAIS)



MY REVIEW:
Scribner|August 9, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4391-6565-2

"That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."

And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life's journey in Richard Morais's charming novel, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

Born above his grandfather's modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumiere, a small village in the French Alps.

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumiere by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restuarant opposite an esteemed French relais-that of the famous chef Madame Mallory-and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restuarant, and slew of new adventures.

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages-charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.

I don't have much to add to the Chapters synopsis of the book above other than to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think Madame Mallory had a lot more to do with Hassan's success than everyone suspects, she was a very well-known and well respected chef in her time. I'll admit that I had no idea what half the dishes described in the pages of this book were but some of them sure sounded good and ones I'd certainly give a try. That is, if someone else cooked them for me! This is a book that would appeal to a large audience of folks and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.