Saturday, April 30, 2011


Jill Murray is a single Mom of a ten-year-old daughter, Anastasia. Jill teaches cooking classes and helps her students, young and old, to make dishes from around the world. Just as Jill is wiping down the counters from her Chinese cooking class, she notices a man with dark wavy hair standing outside the classroom door. It was her ex-husband, Seth, who abandoned Jill and Anastasia seven years ago.

Jill's second job is working for GGG (Great Girlfriend Getaways), a travel agency that offers the: "...girlfriend getaway of your dreams." Joni Robertson, the owner, allows Jill to work from home the majority of the time so she can meet Anastasia's bus after school.

One day Jill receives a phone call from a male client, Billy Sanders, whose family wants to sell a line of suped-up bicycles in Japan. He is requesting Jill's help in understanding Japanese tradition and culture. Billy turns out to be quite the character.

After thinking about Seth for awhile and secretly reading something in Anastasia's diary, Jill decides that she needs to allow Seth back into their lives.

What will Jill find out about Billy and Seth? Will Anastasia welcome her Dad back after seven long years? And, where will Jill end up in all of this?

This is a story of love, loss, friendship, and reinventing yourself. Claire Cook is a master at creating funny, warm, and lovable characters that we can all relate too.

April 30, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Willow Yee lived in Chin-kiang, a small city far away from Peking, on the south side of the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province. She lived there with her father and grandmother, Nai Nai. Her mother had died after her father had rented her out to pay his debts and she became pregnant. He had given her "magic root powder" from the local herbalist. It was meant to kill the fetus but also killed her!

Willow was seven-years-old in 1897 and she was terribly afraid she was going to lose her Nai Nai like she lost her mother. Grandma was receiving men in the back of the bungalow they lived in. While Nai Nai was busy entertaining her men, Willow and her father worked as seasonal farm hands, he planting rice, wheat and cotton and Willow planting soybeans. In the off season her father stole and Willow, now 8-years-old, was herself a seasoned thief. Hunger does terrible things to people.

One day they met a missionary named Absalom Sydenstricker who walked the streets holding a Bible and proclaiming God was people's best friend. He held his church services in an old store. Willow's father befriended him for the sole purpose of stealing from him. Absalom's wife, Carie, was beside herself and in tears when he even stole the churches doormat. After stealing his wallet, Willow hurried down a side street and out of town. She felt as though someone was watching and following her so she took off running as fast as she could for the hills, after a couple of miles she stopped and sat down. As Willow began to open the wallet she heard a noise and new someone was approaching her. Suddenly she heard: " stole my father's wallet"! It turned out to be Absalom and Carie's daughter, Pearl. Pearl would eventually become known as, none other than Pearl S. Buck!!

I have read all of Pearl's books but had never really read too much about her personal life. I assumed she was a happy, contented, well-educated woman and author all of her life, but I was terribly mistaken. What I learned in this book about Pearl's personal life was truly sad and literally devastating. The book is rich in history, stories of wars and revolutions, love of family and the importance of friendship. The friendship between Willow and Pearl is all consuming and will touch the very deepest parts of your heart. The scene at the grave near the end of the book will have you weeping from the beautiful one woman service.

This was a smashing novel and well-written, I didn't want to put it down. If you haven't read any of Pearl's books, I would highly recommend "The Good Earth" along with this one, of course.

April 28, 2011



Moying Li was four-years-old in 1958 and lived with her maternal grandmother and grandather, Lao Lao and Lao Ye in a traditional Chinese house. It was also occupied by her mother, her father, her 3-year-old brother, Di Di, aunts and uncles, the families of a tailor, electrician, and a clerk.

In the fall of 1958 Moying returned home one day to find the backyard, her beloved playground, strewn with: "...bricks, holes, and scrap metal". A huge big black furnace as tall as her father, was standing in the center. Her family was gathering materials for the "Great Leap Forward", launched by Chairman Mao. The leaders believed: "they could catch up with the west..." mainly Britain: " just ten to twenty years - in a giant single stride. The family was trying to gather strong construction materials and using the furnace to melt them down into steel. Women were giving up their favourite frying pans and woks. Too little Moying, the furnace looked like: "...a roaring dragon"!

Between 1958 and 1961, China underwent a siege of disasters. A plague of insects, then a serious drought and finally far reaching famine in which millions of people died.

Moying remembers with clarity the day her childhood ended. It occured one evening in the summer of 1966, when her elementary school headmaster hanged himself. Moying was twelve-years-old.

In the summer of 1963 Moying was packing to attend a school two-hours away from her home. She would reside there Monday through Friday. Moying was one of many students selected to attend this school where they would learn nine languages! The expectation was that after: "...ten years of training, many of the students would continue their studies in leading universities, with the possibility of diplomatic careers".

In late Spring of 1966 disturbances at Beijing and Tsinghua universities began. Large character posters were accusing school authorities of: "...departing from Chairman Mao's teachings". The posters demanded that these educational institutions be opened to workers and peasants instead of the privileged minority. Classes were cancelled and the students began to form groups, calling themselves the "Red Guards", and displayed red arm bands on their sleeves.

In mid summer, Chairman Mao stood at Tinamen Square, on top of the "Gate of Heavenly Peace" telling large crowds that he supported the Red Guards. Like piles of newspapers catching on fire one after another, Red Guard units appeared in all universities and high schools denouncing authorities.

One afternoon there was a scuffle in the headmaster's office. Moying and her friends went to see what was going on. The high school students were pasting up a poster saying that he should confess his crimes, he was poisoning their minds with western ideology and that he was training students to follow capitalism instead of communism. Moying and her friends were shocked and wondered why their headmaster would try to poison them? After speaking to a friends sister, they were told she was denounced the right to become a Red Guard as they believed she was following the headmaster's teachings. Moying and her friends were even more confused.

Every day uncertainty abounded. There were posters everywhere and some now included not only their headmaster, but teachers as well.

The Cultural Revolution continued on with every family losing someone to a labour camp. I have left a lot of information out of this review as I didn't want to give away any spoilers, except maybe one.

Moying Li's memoir was penned with deep thought, deep feelings, and the love of her country which touched her heart and soul. This is an excellent memoir that I would recommend to all and at 176 pages you'll be done in two hours. This book had more information and histories packed into it than some books of 250 pages or more do, truly amazing!!

April 29, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Diana Highsmith hasn't left her house in more than a year. Her boyfriend, Daniel, had died while they were on a climbing vacation in Switzerland a year ago. Outside she had cameras which provided her with live video feeds. When someone was outside her residence, a Klaxon sounded and 'INTRUDER ALERT' would flash on her screen.

Diana, and Daniel's best friend, Jake, ran a successful Internet Security company. Diana meets her clients in a virtual world she created called: 'OtherWorld', and her character online is Nadia Varata. She assesses security breaches, potential and real, and offers her clients a way to protect their businesses and themselves from hackers.

Diana has a sister, Ashley, who had never seen the inside of Diana's office. When Ashley stopped over on Friday to visit, Diana was in a hurry as she had a meeting online in 4 minutes. Ashley was quite upset that Diana had never trusted her enough to see her office and began to cry. Not being able to stand seeing her sister cry, Diana finally relented and allowed her into her office. Ashley was stunned at the amount of technology Diana had set-up.

When Ashley had left Diana's, she inadvertently left her lap top behind and now it was Sunday and she handn't returned to retrieve it. Diana called and left her a message and sent her an e-mail which produced an automated 'out-of-the-office' reply. Monday morning Diana called Ashley's workplace but she wasn't there. Now Diana new in her heart that something was up and decided to call their mother in Florida. She hadn't heard from Ashley either. After opening Ashley's lap top, Diana buzzed off an e-mail to Ashley's contacts but no one had spoken to her since last Friday. Diana checked Ashley's e-mail and she had 181 unread messages so she knew something was terribly wrong as Ashley hadn't checked her e-mail in 3 days which was totally out of character for her as she was 'addicted' to e-mail.

From here the story is as suspenseful as you could ever get. A well-crafted tale that depicts the darkness and suspense well, and where nothing is as it seems. You'll be shocked and surprised and won't be able to put this one down!!

NOTE: Hallie Ephron was also author of "Never Tell A Lie", an excellent novel as well.

April 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011


Forty-year-old Sadie Maddox is an opera singer but isn't quite getting the high volume audience turn-out that she did when she was younger. Sadie called a meeting with Avi Feldman, a high falutin agent who Sadie said only signed: "...a new client only if six-figures were involved". She whole-heartedly agreed with Avi that she needed: "...a late career reinvention." Avi wanted Sadie to leave New York, go to Iowa and teach voice at Moravia College in Maplewood. Sadie was not impressed and this was not at all what she was expecting for a "career reinvention".

Supposedly, Avi had rented a bungalow for Sadie to live in while she was in Iowa. However, when Sadie deplanes she is met by someone from the University who tells her she's sorry but the bungalow had been sold, there is only one hotel in town and it's booked with students so Sadie will be staying with a family on a pig farm! For Sadie, this was akin to telling Queen Elisabeth that she had to live in an outhouse.

Then Sadie meets Mac, a veterinarian and she assumes they have nothing in common. He is a total country music fan and she's counting the days until she can return to New York. When the semester ends, Sadie packs up and decamps for the city that never sleeps then finds she can't sleep either. Will Sadie find the courage and grace she needs to embrace her Act Two?

April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Margaux Fragoso had a sexual relationship for 15 years with a pedophile. She was only 7-years-old when she first met Peter Curran. Margaux says she was: "...Peter's religion". He had 22 photo albums full of photos of Margaux.

Margaux and her mother, Sandie, began visiting Peter at his home every Monday and Friday after meeting him at the community pool. Margaux was completely taken with the number of pets Peter kept, everything from a dog to a small alligator. Visiting Peter was a nice break from Margaux's Spanish father, Louie, who was violent and full of put-downs. He especially treated Sandie terribly as she had a mental illness. Peter's live-in partner, Ines, worked full-time but Peter stayed home on a disability pension after being injured in the Korean war.

After a couple of months visiting Peter, he begins to kiss Margaux on the lips telling her that's what people who love each other do. That eventually led to Peter and Margaux spending more and more time in the basement together. While they played, Peter would tell her that the world lies and parents lie, that they should use the proper names for their private parts because they were meant to bring pleasure. Peter eventually talked Margaux into playing hide n' seek while 'she' was naked.

When a few months had passed, Peter took in a 6-year-old foster child named Karen. Who in their right mind places any child with someone like Peter? He obviously had more people duped then Margaux and Sandie.

At home, things were terribly intense. Louie was constantly berating Sandie and spent the majority of his time yelling and telling her what she couldn't do. He wouldn't allow her to cook, keep house, comb Margaux's hair and another whole list of tasks. He told her she was too stupid and had mental problems and therefore "he" had to do "everything". Louie's constant harassment made visiting Peter that much more appealing for Sandy and Margaux.

It absolutely made me angrier than a wet hen that Peter was outright molesting and lying to Margaux. On top of that, Peter knew how verbally and emotionally abusive her father was. Children are so innocent and believe everything that adults and or people in places of authority like teachers, police, clergy and others tell them. Peter was impressing upon Marguax how much "they" loved each other, and that "they" were made to be together and get married some day. Margaux at age 8 now fully believed she was quite mature and knew more than Karen did because she was only 6. You can see the amount of psychological damage Peter has already bestowed upon Margaux when she believed she was going to marry a man who was 52 and older than her own father.

This is just an overview of the story and believe it or not, there is so, so much more to this tale that you'll be utterly surprised, shocked and sickened. However, if you have a difficult time dealing with thoughts of pedophiles molesting young children, then this book would be far too heavy for you to read. I myself wasn't quite prepared enough to read this memoir.

April 24, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Note*** This is a Young Adult novel but is also suited to adults.

Viola in the Spotlight is the follow up to the fun and humorousViola in Reel Life.

Viola is fifteen-years-old and her summer is just beginning. She is extremely happy to be back in New York with her family and best friends. She had been away at boarding school for her freshman year. Soon she finds out that her home buddies aren't going to be around during summer vacation and her best bud, Andrew, is acting strangely toward her and she doesn't know why. Things are not off to a good start when her friend Caitlin talks Viola into lying for her so she can sneak off with her secret British boyfriend, Maurice. Viola knows it's wrong but Caitlin is a good friend, but at the same time, she knows she should be talking Caitlin into telling her parents but she doesn't. Viola doesn't know what she's going to do for summer vacation now that all her friends are going to be busy but then she lucks out and her Grandmother gets her an intern job at the theatre.

The one thing in this novel that I really liked was the fact that Adriana focused on the 'friendships' between the kids rather than 'romance' which is what you usually find in Young Adult novels. The focus on Andrew, Caitlin, her school friends and how their friendships work is a refreshing change from the norm. Just like in real life, teenagers think more of their friendships than they do their parents and what their friends think and do is very important to them.

The great character development, the setting, and the relationships make this an intriguing and engrossing read. There are plenty of surprises in this novel and Viola must make some decisions that may change her life, or will they? Another great aspect of this novel is the fact that Viola is really a regular ordinary teenager and Adriana has her dealing with everyday situations. I can't wait for the third book in this series to see what Viola and her friends are up to next. Well done!

April 21, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011


I grew up watching "I Dream of Jeannie" and was mesmerized by it. I always wanted to be able to cross my arms and blink just like Jeannie. However, try as I might, I was never successful. Barbara Eden has written a beautiful and honest autobiography. From her work as an actress, to her three marriages, to the death of her beloved son, Matthew, Barbara has spoken openly with honesty and integrity. She talks about the "hungry years" when she was struggling as a chorus girl; the famous and not so famous actors she worked with; and her relationship with Larry Hagman. Barbara reflects on the challenges she faced in both her personal life and working life and about the great joys she experienced. There are also sixteen pages of photographs that every fan of Barbara's will love to see! I enjoyed this book so much that I read it in one sitting.

April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Right from the beginning of the prologue I loved this book. The story of the rabbi is beautiful and one I'd never heard before and now will never forget. In her book, Naomi takes us on a journey through unbelievable horror, poverty, destruction, disaster, immense pain and sorrow. In the beginning Naomi is in Banda Aceh on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia just six weeks after the tsunami hit killing 250,000 people. This disaster wasn't caused by man but by nature and was the most destructive natural disaster in history. Just think what these people lost: furniture, homes, clothing, cars and the like, but these things can be replaced, however, our loved ones cannot. Did they, could they retain their faith and hope in Christ? In Amsterdam, Naomi met a woman named Annie who was a protitute and lived in a brothel. Naomi was there to meet a woman who was the Director of an organization that advocated for women who want to leave the life of prostitution. The organization provides financial support, counselling and other programs like 'Life Skills' i.e. cooking classes, sewing classes. But most importantly they are told of the love of God. In the Czech Republic, Naomi meets a young girl named Elsie, who is told by her mother to go and steal from her grandmother. On the way, Elsie is gang raped by a several boys each taking their turn with her. Elsie pulled herself together and stole from her grandmother. After seeing a doctor she was told that she would NEVER have children. This one horrible act caused Elsie to lose something precious, the abililty to have a baby and the right to have someone call her "Mom". Eventually Elsie meets a woman who told her about an organization that would help her. They applied for school, got her proper papers and then spoke to Elsie of the gracious and loving God for the first time and Elsie wondered if God might actually exist. The entire book is about abused and used women from all walks of life, and the indecencies that we as humans can bestow upon our fellow man. We all need faith, a belief in God, or a high power. Nothing in life is black and white and although as humans we struggle and demand for someone to tell us if the answer is black or white, sometimes we have to accept, whether we want to or not, that there is an "in between" with no clear determination of black or white. It's like a cruel gray that taunts and haunts us, driving our humanistic need for right or wrong, black or white, up the scale but gray is sometimes our only reality. We must be aware of our words and actions as we might unknowingly hurt another person, even when that is not our intent. We must accept ourselves and others for who we are and for who they are. Never expect anyone to change who they are to fulfull our own agenda of who we want them to be. If you're expecting someone to change for you then it's not a true and honest bond and nor should we change ourselves for the benefits of others. We must remain true to who God made us to be and the only one we should be striving to be like is Christ. Remember to "touch" the people in your life, give them a hug, pat their hand so they feel the human connection. It signals you care about them and love them just as God loves us all. There is great power in the human touch! Pray, but God doesn't always answer prayer when we want him too. He answers only when He thinks that you are ready to hear the response. This reminds me of a poem by Helen Steiner Rice: "There is no problem too big, no problem to small Just ask God in faith and He'll answer them all Not always at once so be patient and wait For God never comes too soon or too late." Listen carefully to Naomi in the story when she realizes the pain she feels when facing these "extreme injustices". Stand behind her as she fights within herself over her own identity and "comes face-to-face with redemption..." Some of the other situations in this book will shock and disgust you but we need to be shocked and disgusted to be moved into action!! There are so many lessons to be learned in this memoir and I encourage each and every one of you to read this with an open mind and an open heart. Note*** This book was sent to me by Zondervan "free of charge" for the purpose to reviewing the book). April 18, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The story centers around three main characters: Alice, Michela and Mattia. Alice lives with her parents and has always defied them in some way. When she was younger she hated attending ski school and at age fifteen she wanted a tattoo but her father told her "no", that when she turned eighteen and was paying her own way, she could then get a tattoo. Michela and Mattia are twins but Michela suffers from mental problems and is quite behind developmentally. One day Michela and Mattia are invited to a birthday party but Mattia is too embarrassed to take his sister so instead, he drops her off at a park and tells her not to move that he'd be back in half and hour to pick her up. When Mattia returns, Michela is gone! As Mattia and Alice grow they become friends but Pietro Balossino, Mattia's father, is tired of trying to infiltrate his son's strange and obscure world. He had spent many nights searching the house for sharp objects after seeing the scars on Mattia's arms. Pietro thought so much about one day finding his son face down on a blood soaked pillow that he is already thinking of his son as non-existant. This is a coming-of-age story, a love story, a story of loneliness with a touch of melancholy and a depiction of damaged soul mates whose hearts are kindred spirits. This debut novel was a complete joy to read!! April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011


Thirty-six-year-old Isabelle is leaving Cape Cod, her husband Luke, has a new baby with his girlfriend. All Isabelle is leaving with is: her cameras, one small suitcase of clothing, and money from the bank. She is heading for New York where she has a cheap, illegal sublet lined up that she can use for as long as she wants and she has her photography business. Driving westbound on US-6 the fog is thick making it impossible to see with headlights so Isabelle turns on her parking lights which provide her with much better visibility. About three hours from home, Isabelle very suddenly comes across a car in her lane, stopped and facing the wrong way! A woman is standing outside her car and her little boy climbs out when he sees Isabelle's car heading straight for them. With no time to stop on the narrow road, she has nowhere to go so she attempts to veer her vehicle around the stopped car. Unfortunately, the little boy begins to run and the mother tries to push herself closer to her own vehicle but Isabelle hits them head-on anyway. We find out that one of the people in the accident dies and the other two live. I was pulled in and mesmerized from the first page. After we get over the shock of the accident, the book goes on to sort out the lives of four different people. It's heartbreaking, riveting and deeply moving all at the same time. Leavitt's ability to write with a realness of life, its people and situations is uncanny. This was a masterfully created and told story! April 11, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I loved this story! Young David Kim immigrates to the United States from Korea in the 1980's with his mother and his sister. Their father has already been in America for the past five years trying to build a business and getting some money behind him before his family re-joined him. He owns a store in New Jersey called "East Meets West" in the Peddlerstown Mall and sells various items such as: kimonos, candles, vases, dragons, mirrors and other miscellaneous items. The chapters alternate between stories told by each family member and other people who own stores in the mall. Every character in the story is interesting, and has a convincing story of their own to tell. Mr. Hong, another business owner and his family, become friends with the Kim's and the near the end of the story, the Kim's suffer through a terrible tragedy with the Hong family. The story is gentle, funny, beautifully written and is about the coming of age story of David who is in between two very different cultures but meets them with both grace and humour. April 9, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Wow, this is a really hard book for me to review because I'm not sure I enjoyed it all that much. It was very hard to get through as it's long-winded in detail which I find very mundane. The meeting of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali in their late 60's and 50's, respectively, was a nice touch. We don't often think of people of that age finding new love interests and it shows that no matter how old we are, we all need some form of love. I think I'll leave my comments at that. April 5, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Twenty-year-old Nellie Augusta Lourdes Monroe is a fiery red-headed force to be reckoned with and an absolutely hilarious young woman. Nellie works at a golf course but yearns to be a Private Investigator. Her best friend in the world is her Nona who is suffering from some type of dementia and knows who Nellie is one day, but not the next. Her next best friend is, Matt, who has loved Nellie since they were young children but she doesn't even see that. Amos, a recent escapee from the nearby Amish order has learned that Nellie is a P.I. and asks for her help. He left behind is beloved Katie and recently learned she about to marry someone else and needs Nellie to find out if she truly loves this man or is her heart still with him? Nellie lies to her college Professor to get into the Amish Schroder family. She dons the traditional Amish garb, infiltrates the family and gains their trust in order to find and learn about Katie. However, all that is going to blow up in her face with heart-wrenching consequences. Will Nellie find Katie and once caught red-handed, can she explain and apologize her way out of trouble with the Schroder family and her Professor? Ms. Stuart has created completely believable characters and I absolutely adored Nellie! The story grabbed me from the first page and kept me reading until the end. I read the entire book in a few hours I just couldn't put it down. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ms. Stuart's work. April 3, 2011