Sunday, February 26, 2012


Story Description: 

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941.  She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys.  Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known.  Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia.  Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.  It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart. 


The Soviet Union occupied Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, known as the Baltic states, in 1939.  The Kremlin drafted hundreds of people and deemed them anti-Soviet.  They eventually would end up either murdered, sent to prison, or sent to labour camps being forced to dig for beets and potatoes under Josef Stalin’s orders. 

The first deportation happened on June 14, 1941 when 15-year-old Lina and her family were taken.  She and her family were not as lucky to escape Lithuania like her cousin, Joana and her family.  They had escaped through Germany to refugee camps. 

Those who survived spent 10 to 15 years in Siberia under below zero temperatures in nothing but poorly constructed jurtas.  There was really no heat and after working long days, each person was only given 300 grams of bread rations per day.  Hardly a sustaining meal for people doing hard labour in severe conditions.  

Although this book is fiction, it was based on “true” events that were well researched through documentation that was found buried in the ground by people who were there, and from people brave enough to speak out.  The book is written like a memoir. 

In Lithuania on June 14, 1941, Lina Vilkas put on her nightgown and sat at her desk to pen a letter to her cousin, Joana.  Suddenly there was such a loud banging on the front door that Lina jumped out of her chair.  When her mother opened the door it was the NKVD, otherwise known as the Soviet Secret Police.  Three of them came in holding the passports of their mother, Elena; their father, Kostas; her 11-year-old brother, Jonas; and Lina’s.   

They were transported in a truck along with other people and deposited at a train station.  It was complete and utter chaos as families were being separated.  Children screamed and mothers pleaded for their offspring.  Everyone was herded onto cattle cars -  the stench of body odour was overpowering.  There wasn’t any room to move and the NKVD kept piling more and more people onto each car.  Lina counted 46 people in their car which she called the “prison box.”  Eventually these poor people ended up in Siberia in the fight of their lives.  The treatment was cruel and vicious!  

This beautifully written, sad story is a dark reminder from the past.  The hard thing about reading the book beside the fact the story is based on truth is understanding that these horrible things did actually happen to these people.  I thank those brave enough to bring stories like this into the open.  As kind, compassionate, decent, and caring people, we must NEVER, EVER allow anything like this to happen again. 

You will not be able to put this book down.  Although hard to read, believe me, you’ll be so absorbed that you’ll want to keep reading.  Be sure to read the “Author’s Note” and the end of the book for important information.  Be sure to have kleenex standing by for this book!  Absolutely excellent.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Story Description: 

Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Linwood Barclay brings terror closer than ever before in a stunning thriller in which murder strikes in the place we should feel safest of all….

In a quiet neighbourhood, in the house next door, a family is brutally murdered for no apparent reason. You can't help thinking, It could have been us. And you start to wonder: What if we're next?

Promise Falls isn't the kind of community where families are shot to death in their own homes. But how well did Jim and Ellen Cutter really know their neighbours-or the darker secrets of their small town? They don't have to look further than their own marriage to know that things aren't always what they seem. Now the Cutters and their son, Derek, must face the unthinkable: that a murderer isn't just stalking too close to home…but is inside it already. 

My Review: 

As the Langley family was busy packing up the car for a trip, seventeen-year-old Derek Cutter snuck into the crawlspace when the family thought he’d left.  Albert and Donna Langley had a son, Adam, who has been friends with Derek since childhood.  The only person who knew Derek had hidden in the Langley’s crawlspace was, Penny Tucker, Derek’s girlfriend.  The two teenagers planned to use the Langley home as a sex get-away for the week. 

Derek was so excited to have the Langley’s home all to himself for an entire week.  He could go home at night after Penny left and return during the day anytime he wanted.  He not only looked forward to the uninterrupted sex with Penny, but also talking to her for long stretches of time without anyone telling him what to do.  While waiting for Penny to come over, he took a walk through the Langley home.  After seeing the huge bathtub in Albert and Donna’s bedroom, he wondered if Penny would consent to taking a relaxing bath with him, “bubbles” and all!  Derek left the bedroom and went back down to the basement to watch some t.v. while waiting.  After watching a show, playing a video game, and taking a short nap, his cell phone rang.  It was Penny and she wasn’t coming over after all.  She’d been grounded by her Dad for putting a dent in the family car and hoped she could somehow make it over the following day or later in the week.  Derek was totally disappointed and decided he might as well leave and go home for the night.  He turned off the television then heard a noise that sounded like tires on gravel.  Peeking through the window he sees that the Langley family has returned, but can’t run up the stairs, disengage the security alarm, then get back down to the basement to crawl through the window.  He heard the front door open, a conversation taking place between Albert and Donna, and discovered they’d returned home because Donna was sick.  Just then the basement light clicked on, Derek barely made it back into the crawlspace before his best friend, Adam, reached the bottom of the stairs to return the ice packs from their cooler to the downstairs freezer.  No big deal, Derek thought, he’d just wait until the family of three went to bed.  Once everyone was asleep for the night, he’d sneak upstairs, turn off the security alarm and beat it out the back door. 

Suddenly, Derek heard Mr. Langley say:  “Who the hell is that?”  Derek thought he was talking to him until he heard car tires in the gravel outside and thought it was company dropping in on the Langley’s.  He heard the front door open, heard snippets of conversation and then…? 

Sorry, this is where my review ends.  This book is much too good to reveal anything else.  I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat AND stayed up all night to finish it!!  This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time.  Linwood Barclay’s writing incites terror in the reader and you feel as though you are transported into the story.  There are many characters in this novel and each one is so well developed, you understand their personalities well.  If you’re looking for a great thriller, then this is the one to read.  However, don’t make the same mistake I did and begin the novel before bedtime as you’ll end up staying awake all night!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Story Description: 

In Will Allison's critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, a happily married man makes a split-second decision that sends his life into a devastating tailspin.  

Life can change in an instant because of one small mistake. For Glen Bauer, all it takes is a quick jerk of the steering wheel, an impulsive move intended to scare a reckless driver-not kill him. But when Glen realizes no one saw the deadly accident, he lies to the police, to his wife, even to his six-year-old daughter, Sara, who was in the backseat at the time of the crash. As his wife's panicked plan to save their family instead threatens to tear it apart, Glen can't help wondering: What if the accident wasn't really his fault? What if someone else were to blame? Struggling to understand the extent of his own culpability, Glen finds himself on yet another collision course, different in kind but with equally terrible potential. 

Long Drive Home is a stunning cautionary tale of unintended consequences that confirms Will Allison's reputation as a rising literary talent.  

My Review: 

The story opens with letter written to 8-year-old, Sara, from her father, Glen.  He is writing the letter in the hope that she will understand when she’s older, why he did what he did. 

Two years prior when, Sara, was 6-years-old, Glen had picked her up from Grade 1 at the end of the school day.  It was October and Sara had been part of a Thanksgiving Day play about the Pilgrims. 

On their way home a Jaguar driven by an 18-year-old young man came toward Glen and Sara’s car and swerved into their lane.  Glen was irate and swerved his car purposely into the Jaguar’s lane but the Jaguar was still a bit over the line in Glen’s lane.  The Jag kept swerving until his front right tire hit the curb.  Then his back end came around, the car went up on two wheels and began rolling side over side coming right at Glen and Sara.  The driver of the Jag was killed. 

Glen had only intended to scare the young driver not kill him but when he realizes that no one saw the accident he lies to the police, his wife, and Sara.  This one lie ultimately changes the entire course of his life.  What’s that old saying: “Oh what tangled webs we weave when we practice to deceive.” 

Will Allison has taken a very real life situation and turned into a stunning and gripping novel.  As they say: “The truth will always set you free!”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Story Description: 

As students in 1970’s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable, but the quartet has since drifted apart.  When Armaiti, now living in America, learns that she is gravely ill, she hopes to see the friends she left behind thirty years ago. 

For Laleh, reunion is bittersweet, but she promises to fulfill her friend’s wish.  She convinces Kavita to put aside the past, and the two search for Nishta, who has long been hiding in a bitter, oppressive marriage.  In the course of their journey to reconnect, the four women must confront the truths of their lives and acknowledge long-held regrets, secrets, and desires.  And they will have to decide what matters most, a choice that may just help them reclaim the extraordinary world they once found. 

Exploring the enduring bonds of friendship and offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India, The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar. 

My Review: 

Laleh, Kavita, Armaiti and Nishta were once inseparable during college but over the years they had drifted apart.  Armaiti is terminally ill and lives in America.  Nishta is missing and the only one still in Laleh’s life is, Kavita. 

Laleh and Kavita still live in India and go to visit Mrs. Lokhanwala, Nishta’s mother.  She wasn’t exactly sure where her daughter lived as the family is estranged.  However, she gave them an envelope addressed to her with a return address circled in red. 

Armaiti is divorced from her husband, Richard, as he had been unfaithful to her.  After 5 years apart, he, along with their daughter, Diane, are taking care of her.  Richard and Armaiti only broke the sad news to their daughter 5 short days ago and told her that her mother only had 6 to 8 months to live.  Compounding the problem, Armaiti is refusing treatment.  Diane is totally shocked and can’t understand her mother’s reasons for not having the treatment but Armaiti is “firm” in her decision. 

Armaiti picked up the phone one day to call Bombay, India to invite her 3 friends to come to America to see her.  Laleh and Kavita are coming but they didn’t know about Nishta yet as they had yet to find her. 

Once Nishta was found, she was living in a crowded run-down neighbourhood and had changed her name to Zoha and wore a full burqa at the demand of her husband, Iqbal, who isn’t very kind to his wife. 

Laleh and Kavita finally convince Zoha to go to America with them but Iqbal isn’t going to allow Zoha to go with them and has taken her passport.  Will Zoha ever get to America? 

Beautifully written, explaining the bonds of friendship, this is a stunning novel for all to read.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Story Description: 

The groundbreaking discovery that shows why women need fat to lose fat A resonant memoir of the ways untimely good-byes echo through the years by a writer who has considered every nuance of grief. 

At age fourteen, Claire Bidwell Smith-an only child- learned that both of her parents had cancer. The fear of becoming a family of one before she came of age compels Claire to make a series of fraught choices, set against the glittering backdrop of New York and Los Angeles-and the pall of regret. When the inevitable happens, and Claire is alone in the world, she is inconsolable at the revelation that suddenly she is no one's special person. It is only when Claire eventually falls in love, marries, and becomes a mother that she emerges from the fog of grief. 

Defying a conventional framework, this story is told using the five stages of grief as a window into Smith's experience. As in the very best memoirs, the author's powerful and exquisite writing renders personal events into universal experience. 

My Review: 

In 1996, 18-year-old, Claire, gets a phone call from her father telling her that her mother is back in the hospital.  Her cancer had gone too far and there wasn’t anything the doctors’ could do to help her. 

Claire immediately flashes back to the previous weekend when her Mom had come from Atlanta to Virginia to visit her on campus.  They went out to dinner, took a drive along the winding mountain, and her mother was acting “chipper”.  At the end of the weekend, Claire couldn’t wait to get rid of her so she could get back to her own life.  A thought she’d come to regret and little did she know that her entire life was about to change in 7 short years. 

Losing a parent is life-altering.  We always think our parents will live forever but the sad truth is that we all lose our parents at some point.  I was at least able to have my Mom until I was 43 and my Dad until I was 48. 

This was an incredibly sad story as Claire lost both of her parents before she was 25-years-old.  Ms. Smith’s book should be read by everyone because at some point you too will experience the sad, heart-wrenching pain and grief of losing your parents.  Even for those like myself who have already suffered the loss of both parents this beautiful and touching memoir will lead you to be a better person.  Excellent!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Story Description: 

By the first day of kindergarten, Olga Trujillo had already survived years of abuse and violent rape at the hands of her tyrannical father. Over the next ten years, she would develop the ability to numb herself to the constant abuse by splitting into distinct mental “parts.” Dissociative identity disorder (DID) had begun to take hold, protecting Olga’s mind from the tragic realities of her childhood.

In The Sum of My Parts, Olga reveals her life story for the first time, chronicling her heroic journey from survivor to advocate and her remarkable recovery from DID. Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, DID is defined by the presence of two or more identities. In this riveting story, Olga struggles to unearth memories from her childhood, and parallel identities—Olga at five years old, Olga at thirteen—come forth and demand to be healed. This brave, unforgettable memoir charts the author’s triumph over the most devastating conditions and will inspire anyone whose life has been affected by trauma. 

My Review: 

This was a very difficult book to read because my heart went out to Olga Trujillo for what she went through.  Diagnosed with dissociative disorder (DID) in 1993 at the age of 31, Olga has spent many years learning about her disorder.  She is now a professional speaker and consultant who educates other people about trauma and how to “craft thoughtful community support systems for survivors of violence.” 

Olga developed dissociative disorder after enduring a tragic and violent childhood.  She watched her father beat her mother and then he sexually abused her.  Her brothers abused her and she was prostituted.  She dissociated herself from the “violations and sexual attacks by her family.”  She experienced panic attacks, severe abdominal pain and tightness in her chest that “would leave her gasping for air.”  

When she began counselling with Dr. Summer, she wasn’t even confident about attending her sessions because she didn’t like leaving her safe environments of either home or her office.  She said that “everything outside of those safe places felt unpredictable and scary.”  She couldn’t even tell Dr. Summer how terrifying the trip was to his office for her.

The first time Olga ever spoke publicly about her childhood was in 1996, although she was still in therapy at the time, she was finally beginning to “function well again.”

Olga’s main hope in writing about her personal story is to aid other people in not feeling alone and to educate them about this disorder.  She wants people to learn that no matter what happened to them they CAN survive! 

Ms. Trujillo is a survivor and has shown great resilience during her healing.  My hat goes off to her for her bravery in seeking help and for now being a spokesperson to help others.  Olga is one courageous, gutsy, and brave woman.


Story Description: 

Chronicling a 25-year career of capturing more than 6,000 fugitives--as well as starring in his own reality show on A&E--Chapman reveals his violent and inspirational journey in this extraordinary "New York Times"-bestselling memoir, all told with his trademark bravado. 

My Review: 

Duane “Dog” Chapman has led an unbelievable life.  Many times he was destitute, feeding his kids’ cat food, living on food stamps, and welfare.  Somehow he always managed to pull himself up by the bootstraps and climb out of whatever dark hole he was in.  At times he was so down and at times ready to give up but his faith in God kept him going. 

He cared deeply for his mother and loved her deeply and never wanted to disappoint her but like all children, he did disappoint her at times.  However, her unconditional love for her son shone through every bad thing he ever did. 

It’s no secret that the Dog loved his woman and he was quite explicit in telling of his forays with the many, many women he had in his life and is proud of the fact that he has fathered 12 children with different women.  Underneath the scary looks, the bad dude image, Duane “Dog” Chapman is a family man at heart who cares for and loves his family beyond measure.  There is nothing more important to him than his wife, Beth, and all their children. 

This was an honest look at a man who himself admits to making a lot of mistakes in his life but the difference is, he learned from those mistakes.  The fugitives he captures today always get a second chance with the “Dog”.  This was a very interesting read to say the least.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Story Description: 

Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele's twins were granted the privileges of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiments or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp. In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child's endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil. The book also includes an epilogue on Eva's recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world. 

My Review: 

Twin sisters, Eva and Miriam, are crammed into a cattle car with their mother, father, and two older sisters, Edit and Aliz.  They are from Romania and think they are being taken to Hungary.  When the doors open they see the German soldiers and realize they are in Auschwitz in Germany.  They thought they were being taken to a Hungarian labour camp to work but now realize they’ve been taken to a concentration camp to die.  The twin sisters were pulled away from their family and never saw them again.  They were only ten-years-old and born on January 31, 1934 in the village of Portz in Transylvania, Romania.  They were a Jewish family and the only Jewish family in their village of Portz. 

Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany as the head of the Nazi party in 1933.  He hated Jews.  In September of 1939, Word War II began when German Nazi troops invaded Poland. 

The twin’s mother never believed the Nazi’s would ever come to their tiny village of Portz, but when she heard news broadcasts over the radio that Hitler was killing Jews she began to worry.  Then in the fall of 1940 the twins began school and their two new teachers were Hungarian and were sent by the Nazi’s.  With them, they brought books that contained slurs against Jews.  They were even shown a film titled: “How to Catch and Kill a Jew.”  These were known as propaganda films.  Their math book even contained a problem that said: “If you had five Jews, and you killed three Jews, how many Jews would be left?”  The other students who were all non-Jewish began to call the twins names and beat them up at every opportunity. 

The family was taunted endlessly.   Late one night in September of 1943, their parents woke the children in the middle of the night and told them to get dressed.  They were to wear as many layers of clothing that they possibly could.  Their father had determined it was time for them to leave and try to cross over the border to the non-Hungarian side of Romania where they would be safe.  When they reached the gate at the back of their property someone shouted: “Stop!”  There stood a Hungarian Nazi youth with a gun pointed at them.  A group of teenage boys wearing Hungarian Nazi armbands with swastikas on them had been guarding their property to ensure the family didn’t get away.  They were marched right back to their house. 

In early 1944 two Hungarian policemen came and ordered them to get their belongings because they were going to be transported to a transportation center.  They were given two hours to pack.  Soon they were on their way to Auschwitz. 

Once in Auschwitz two older Jewish twin girls explained to Eva and Miriam what the gas chamber and crematorium was for.   Eva and Miriam were terrified and realized then what had happened to their parents and two older sisters.  The older twins informed them that the only reason they and everyone else in their barracks were alive was because they were all twins and would be used in “experiments” by Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the “Angel of Death.” 

What Eva and Miriam endured was barbaric treatment, starvation, humiliation, sickness and disease, random gun shots, and living in a barracks covered in lice.  The courage, stamina, hope, and love they had for one another is what made them survive this terrible time in their lives. 

The book was riveting and had me hooked from the very first page.  Although a lot of us don’t like to read stories about the atrocities done to our fellow humans, this is an important story that everyone should read.  Remember, Eva and Miriam actually LIVED this and we’re only reading about it from the comfort of our homes as free people.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Story Description: 

Traveling to be reunited with her family in the Arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It's been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers.

Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, "Not my girl." Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider.

And Margaret is an outsider: she has forgotten the language and stories of her people, and she can't even stomach the food her mother prepares.

However, Margaret gradually relearns her language and her family's way of living. Along the way, she discovers how important it is to remain true to the ways of her people -- and to herself.

Highlighted by archival photos and striking artwork, this first-person account of a young girl's struggle to find her place will inspire young readers to ask what it means to belong.   

My Review:  

Olemaun Pokiak was named for a stone that sharpens a knife and it is an Inuit name. 

In Tuktoyaktuk Olemaun is looking for her family who she hadn’t seen for a long time.  As she disembarks from the boat she recognized her mother’ voice and looked up.  She saw her two-year-old brother, Ernest, strapped to her mother’s back and her sisters, Mabel age 7, and Elizabeth age 8.  Her father wasn’t with them.  Her mother didn’t recognize Olemaun and refused to come toward her, she hadn’t seen her for two years.  

Olemaun and her family lived on Banks Island in the Arctic.  Olemaun has been away at school in Aklavik.  She was desperate for her mother to recognize her and stared at her but her mother kept repeating: “Not my girl.  Not my girl.”  Olemaun blamed the brothers, priests and nun at the school she was attending for her mother’s non-recognition for they had turned her from a: “…plump, round-faced girl her mother knew into a skinny gaunt creature” through the chores she did and the type of food she had to eat.  They had also cut her long hair short.  Olemaun was now ten-years-old and taller than when she left.  Suddenly her father showed up in the crowd, recognized her, and hugged her tight.  Her father called her Olemaun, it was the first time she’d heard her name in two years as the teachers at the school called her Margaret. 

Once home in their tent Olemaun realizes she is no longer “Olemaun” but “Margaret” the English speaking girl from the school.  She has forgotten her mother language and doesn’t seem to fit in with her family anymore.  She can’t communicate with them, can’t eat the food she grew up with, no longer has any friends, and struggles to regain all that she has lost. 

This is a wonderful memoir for children.  They will learn a lot about the people of the North.  Even in my 50’s I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the book.  At only 126 pages it was a quick read complete with illustrations and about ten pages of actual photographs at the end of the book.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Story Description: 

The Edgar® Awardwinning and New York Times bestselling author delivers a thriller about a troubled cop trying to save his son from a killer in Yellowstone. 

Cody Hoyt, while a brilliant cop, is an alcoholic struggling with two months of sobriety when his mentor and AA sponsor Hank Winters is found burned to death in a remote mountain cabin. At first it looks like the suicide of a man who's fallen off the wagon, but Cody knows Hank better than that. Sober for fourteen years, Hank took pride in his hard-won sobriety and never hesitated to drop whatever he was doing to talk Cody off a ledge. When Cody takes a closer look at the scene of his friend's death, it becomes apparent that foul play is at hand. After years of bad behavior with his department, he's in no position to be investigating a homicide, but this man was a friend and Cody's determined to find his killer. When clues found at the scene link the murderer to an outfitter leading tourists on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip into the remote corners of Yellowstone National Park-a pack trip that includes his son Justin-Cody is desperate to get on their trail and stop the killer before the group heads into the wild. Among the tourists is fourteen-year-old Gracie Sullivan, an awkward but intelligent loner who begins to suspect that someone in their party is dangerous. In a fatal cat and mouse game, where it becomes apparent the murderer is somehow aware of Cody's every move, Cody treks into the wilderness to stop a killer hell bent on ruining the only thing in his life he cares about. 

Back of Beyond is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Mysteries title. 

My Review: 

This was an edge-of-your-seat who-dunnit!!  I was pulled in right from the first chapter until the last.  Cody Hoyt is an alcoholic cop attending AA meetings and has two months of being sober under his belt.  His sponsor Hank was good to Cody who could call him at any hour and he would talk Cody down from the temptation of alcohol.  But when Cody finds Hank dead he realizes that something is amiss and it looks like a homicide. 

Clues at the scene lead to an outfitter who takes groups of people on remote wilderness tours via horseback deep into the forests of Yellowstone Park.  Jed is the group leader and this time he seems to have a rather eclectic group of folks in his care. 

One of the people on this trek is Gracie, a 14-year-old girl who is cute, talkative, intelligent and she soon figures out that some of the people in their group could be dangerous.  Cody eventually makes his way to Yellowstone to try to save the group and the tension and suspense will keep you turning the pages faster and faster. 

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone and I will be reading more of C.J.’s novels in the future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Story Description: 

Raymond Chandler meets David Sedaris-the first in a dynamite new cozy series that's "a lot of fun, full of unexpected depths and twists." -Josh Bazell, bestselling author of Beat the Reaper

Amy Carter is missing.  And there's no one less capable of finding her than Max Bravo. 

Max Bravo is a mid-rung opera singer with a diva's towering ego. And he doesn't do favors. Not until the day he visits a troubled friend in Berkeley and offers to walk her dog.
Max quickly discovers the local dog park. It's an odd, private little world-a preserve for neighborhood crackpots and lay-abouts, and, incidentally, their dogs.

But, the park regulars are friendly. Clubby. They even serve beer. Before long, Max can't stay away.
When one of the regulars disappears, Max's interest in the dog park turns to obsession. Amy Carter - beautiful, adored, pregnant, has vanished. The circumstances bode the worst.

What happened to Amy? The dog park club has brewed up a theory. And they mean to prove it.

My Review: 

I thought the cover of this book was great which was what drew me to it in the first place.  However, the story inside was not at all what I expected.  The writing was sloppy and the main character was very annoying.  For a man, he was selfish, vain, jealous, and very cruel to some of the other members of the group. 

I heard this was going to be a “series” but I won’t be reading it. 

Very disappointing!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Story Description:

For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires

For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents. In the enclosed world of the Sang household—a place of public ceremony and private cruelty—fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir.

The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society—even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

Both a sweeping historical novel and an intimate portrait of one woman’s struggle against tradition, All the Flowers in Shanghai marks the debut of a sensitive and revelatory writer.

My Review:

Feng is forced to marry a man who was supposed to marry her sister, but after her death her parents didn’t want to lose face and she therefore was thrown into what would have been her sister’s future life. 

The family was wealthy and she was unliked by her father-in-law’s first and second wives and often had to take very negative comments in stride without striking back.  She was pressured to produce a male heir for the family but unfortunately her first child was a girl.  Feng made the choice to do something that she would later come to regret for the rest of her life. 

A few years later Feng did produce a boy but he was born with a deformed foot and her in-laws were not at all impressed and wanted nothing to do with the child.  Feng through herself into motherhood, spending lots of time with her son and seeing that he was schooled and they enjoyed a very close relationship. 

When her son was a bit older, a servant was hired just for him, but the girl was quite young.  At first there weren’t any problems but then Feng saw the girl going into her husband’s room one day and assumed that this young servant and he were having an affair.  At the same time she realized that her son and the servant were very friendly with one another.  Feng was irate and assumed this young servant was having an affair with both her husband and her son.  Her anger was all consuming and she beat the girl with a belt leaving a permanent scar down the side of the girls face. 

Feng could no longer cope with her life and left her wealthy in-law home and took a train to Shanghai to look for the seamstress who had made her wedding dress.  This was a time in China was there up an uprising and things were changing drastically.  Everyone had photos of Chairman Mao up in their stores and homes and young people were taking over and holding get togethers to shout out the new politics.  Feng ended up finding the woman who now managed a sewing sweatshop and she became employed there.  Having brought nothing with her but the clothes on her back, the seamstress invited Feng to live with her but they were very, very poor.  They had no heat and had to sleep together under one blanket each night huddled together to keep warm.  Working at the sweatshop and trying to meet the demands of the large quotas everyday was taking its toll on her.  Then there comes a reckoning in the end that Feng must accept. 

This was a great novel which I read in one sitting and would highly recommend it to anyone.  For a debut novel it was well written.