Friday, March 30, 2012

FRANTIC (MIKE DELLOSSO)


Story Description:

Will Marny Toogood be able to stop a deranged kidnapper and a serial killer before it’s too late? Gas station attendant Marny Toogood thinks it’s just another ordinary day on the job until an urgent message from a young girl in the backseat of a car draws him into a daring rescue attempt. Now he is on the run with Esther and William Rose from their insane uncle who thinks it is his mission from God to protect William, a boy with incredible faith that gives him supernatural powers.  They flee to Esther and William’s estranged father, Harold Rose, only to find him also out for murder.  Later their nightmare gets worse when Harold kidnaps Esther and takes her to an underground lair where he is part of a grisly occult group who is stealing the blood of their victims and infusing themselves with it.  In the end, William’s gift saves them all.  Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you’re being chased by something and no matter what you do or how fast you run, you just can’t seem to get away, can’t seem to put distance between you and them? That’s the feeling this story evokes. 

My Review: 

I was totally enraptured with this story when I began its first pages.  I was turning the pages rapidly, trying to read faster and faster it was so captivating.  Suddenly, the story began to downslide into a silly, unbelievable fantasy world that just ruined the entire book for me.  I did finish it only because I’d already invested my time and didn’t have anything else left to read so I pushed on. What really annoyed me was that the beginning was so good and this could have been an absolutely exciting novel had the author re-thought the path he was going down and sticking to more of a realistic type theme. 

If I had the chance to choose this book all over again, I’d leave it on the shelf.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

THE GOOD FATHER (DIANE CHAMBERLAIN)



Story Description: 

A beloved daughter.  A devastating choice.  And now there's no going back.

Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown made a choice: to raise his newborn daughter on his own. While most of his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home, changing diapers and worrying about keeping food on the table.  But he's never regretted his decision.  Bella is the light of his life.  The reason behind every move he makes. And so far, she is fed.  Cared for.  Safe.  

But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he's worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble….  

Then a miracle.  A job in Raleigh has the power to turn their fortunes around. It has to. But when Travis arrives in Raleigh, there is no job, only an offer to participate in a onetime criminal act that promises quick money and no repercussions.  

With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter's sake. 

My Review: 

Travis Brown is 23-years-old and raising his daughter, Bella on his own.  Bella is now four-years-old and her mother, Robin isn’t in the picture and Travis lost his mother in a house fire.  He and Bella are on their own and he takes his responsibility for Bella very seriously. 

Travis is working a construction job every day to make enough money to keep his beloved daughter in clothing and food.  One day, he loses his construction job and doesn’t know what he is going to do.  How is he going to keep feeding his sweet little, Bella?  Just when he’s worried, Travis gets word that there is a good job for him in Raleigh, North Carolina but when he gets there, there is no job.  Instead he is confronted with an opportunity to participate in a criminal act that will make him a lot of money. 

Will Travis turn to criminal behaviour to keep his daughter feed or will he turn it down for something else?  If he does decide to participate, will he also lose Bella?  Travis’ situation is dire and I’d never wish to be place in that type of scenario myself. 

Once you begin reading ‘THE GOOD FATHER’ you won’t be able to put it down until you’re done.  Very well-written!


Monday, March 26, 2012

A LIGHT TO MY PATH (REFINER'S FIRE SERIES - BOOK #3) LYNN AUSTIN



Story Description: 

Refiner's Fire Book # 3.  Kitty, a house slave, always figured it was easiest to do what she'd always done--obey Missy and follow orders.  But when word arrives that the Yankees are coming, Kitty is faced with a decision: will she continue to follow the bidding of her owners, or will she embrace this chance for freedom?  Never allowed to have ideas of her own, Kitty is overwhelmed by the magnitude of her decision.  Yet it is her hope to find the "happy ever after" ending to her life--and to follow Grady, whom she loves--that is the driving force behind her choice. Where will it lead her? 

My Review: 

This book was very difficult for me to read because of the terrible inhumane and disturbing persecution the Negro people received from their white owners during the American Civil War.  For the slightest thing these poor souls endured physical punishment that was so undeserved.  The emotional abuse they suffered was equally as horrifying but their unwavering “faith” carried them through these dark times. 

The story centers mostly around Kitty and Grady.  Kitty was a house slave to a white, spoiled, brat, named Missy Claire.  Kitty figured it was easier to obey Missy’s every command no matter how trivial, that way she wouldn’t be given “40 lashes” or sent back to the deplorable conditions on “Slave Row”.  She wasn’t allowed to learn to read or write, to have any thoughts or ideas of her own as she was “too stupid” and as a result found it impossible to make any type of decision on her own.  Eventually, Kitty is faced with a decision that SHE MUST make for herself—a chance at freedom!  Will she stay with Missy Claire where she is comfortable with her surroundings, knowing what each day would bring, or will she take a chance on freedom and never have to be “owned” or “obey” again in her life?  Is familiarity and oppression less scary for her than her own freedom? 

Grady is only nine-years-old when he is ripped away from his mother and sold at a slave auction.  His life is filled with beatings that bring him to his knees in pain, lashings that rip the skin and muscle open on his back exposing bone and almost bleeding to death.  His first master is a violent slave trader named, Coop.  But by the time, Coop loses Grady in a poker game, Grady is already filled with such rage, anger, and hatred all the time.  Although the other slaves often tried to instil a faith and love for God in him, Grady wouldn’t have any part in religion whatsoever.  If this God was supposed to be so loving and caring, He sure didn’t feel that way about Grady, or so he thought.  Will Grady ever have a chance in life to experience freedom and be able to exact the revenge on white people he so deeply desires, or because of his deep-seated anger and hatred will he stay locked in a life of perpetual abuse? 

This novel broke my heart and made me cry in agony for the suffering of people just because their skin was a different colour.  However, the book is also filled with many examples of deep faith, courage, strength, and an undying hope for a future that is filled with determination and freedom. 

The last in the “Refiner’s Fire Series”, A LIGHT TO MY PATH, is not a historical fiction novel I will soon forget.  The amount of research that went into the writing of this novel is amazing as the details are extremely accurate.  I would highly recommend this series to anyone but especially those whose favourite genre is ‘historical fiction’. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

FIRE BY NIGHT (REFINER'S FIRE SERIES - BOOK #2) LYNN AUSTIN


Story Description: 

Book 2 of Refiner's Fire. The drama of the Civil War unfolds through the eyes of two very different Northern girls.  Lovely Julia Hoffman has always enjoyed the carefree life of her well-to-do family, but when she fails to attract the attention of Rev. Nathaniel Greene, a fierce abolitionist, she determines to bring meaning to her empty and shallow existence. When she becomes a Union nurse, her eyes are opened to the realities of war and suffering. She also meets Phoebe, who has entered the army under false pretenses--and whose journey to understanding herself, as well as the tumultuous world about her, is revealed with sensitivity and drama. 

My Review: 

Lynn Austin continues to be one of my most favourite authors. Her novels are well written with such depth, and the characters are always well developed. The story lines are memorable and the message in each novel leaves us with important lessons. 

This is a beautiful story set during the American Civil War. Julia Hoffman, the daughter of a Judge, lives an extraordinary life in a mansion in Philadelphia with maids and dressers at her beck and call. Julia desperately wants the new young and handsome minister, Nathaniel Greene to notice her with the hope of marrying him some day. After overhearing Nathaniel having a private conversation in her father's study, she hears Nathaniel describe her as selfish, self-centered, immature and that she thinks of no one but herself. Julia is crushed but sets out to try and prove to the new minister that she is just the opposite. 

Julia runs off and enlists in the army as a Nurse but soon finds out that she has no idea whatsoever what she was going to have to face and do. Men and young boys coming into the hospital by the truckload with missing limbs, burned faces beyond recognition, and holes in their bodies the size of grapefruits.
Phoebe Bigelow, “Ike” is overly tall, plain, and homely.  After her parents die and her brothers enlist in the war, Phoebe doesn’t want to be left alone to babysit a neighbours children for the rest of her life.  She decides that since she is so homely, no man will ever marry her anyway and disguises herself as a boy and enlists in the war.  She meets a fellow private, Ted Wilson and together they forge a bond of friendship like no other.  One day Ted discovers that “Ike” is a girl and their close friendship comes into question.
 
Can Julia continue her nursing and prove to Nathaniel that she can think about others and do for others?  Does Julia get the man of her dreams in the end?  What about Phoebe, where does she end up?

 I couldn’t put this book down and at 429 pages, I finished it one day!

Friday, March 23, 2012

CANDLE IN THE DARKNESS (REFINER'S FIRE SERIES - BOOK #1) LYNN AUSTIN



Story Description: 

Book 1 in the Refiner's Fire series.  The daughter of a wealthy slave-holding family from Richmond, Virginia, Caroline Fletcher is raised in a culture that believes slavery is God-ordained and biblically acceptable.  But upon awakening to the cruelty and injustice it encompasses, Caroline's eyes are opened for the first time to the men and women who have cared tirelessly for her.  Her journey of maturity and faith will draw her into the abolitionist movement, where she is confronted with the risks and sacrifices her beliefs entail. 

My Review: 

Twelve-year-old Caroline Fletcher awoke to ear piercing screams.  It was her Negro Mammy, Tessie screaming and begging someone not to send her nine-year-old son, Grady away.  Regardless of her pleas the group of men threw the boy into the back of a truck with other Negros of all ages.  Little Grady was being taken to an auction to be sold at the request of Caroline’s father.  She was heartbroken as Grady had been her playmate and friend since the time of his birth.  Caroline’s father believed that slavery was biblically acceptable. 

At age sixteen, Caroline lost her mother after she gave birth to a blue baby.  She’d lost her mother and playmate in four short years but she had Tessie, Eli, Ruby, Luella, Eli, Gilbert and the other slaves her father owned.  Caroline never viewed nor thought of them as slaves or possessions but as people and family that she loved dearly and they loved her in return.  She hated the fact that her father only saw them as something he “owned” to do with them as he pleased.  Caroline wished in every way possible that they could be set free.  After visiting extended family in Hilltop, Virginia and seeing “slave row”, the more Caroline strongly believed slavery was wrong and became a firm believer in the abolitionist movement.  

Caroline then began distributing abolitionist pamphlets and bumped into a handsome man, but when she attempted to give him one he told her it was against the law.  She later ran into the same man at a social gathering and they argued about slavery but didn’t even know each other’s name.  Caroline later learned this handsome man’s name was Charles and they began to feel much fonder toward one another however, Charles did not at all believe in the abolitionist movement and didn’t agree that slaves should be freed.  By the time the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, Caroline and Charles were engaged to be married. 

Caroline’s closeness to Eli (one of her father’s slaves), was such a touching addition to the novel.  She very often turned to Eli in confidence about her feelings and concerns about everything happening in her life and her worries about Charles fighting in the war.  Gentle Eli tenderly guided Caroline with his godly wisdom, his understanding of scripture from the Bible and affectionately imparted his wisdom and clarified what exactly those scriptures meant in Caroline’s life.  

One day Caroline received word that her cousin and friend, Robert Hoffman was being held in Libby Prison.  She began to visit him, taking food and newspapers so he could read what was going on with the war.  Robert and Charles were fighting on opposite sides and Robert eventually asked Caroline to ultimately become a spy for his side.  How is Caroline going to decide what to do?  How can she betray her father, her family, and her soon-to-be husband, Charles?  If she decides to help Robert and is caught, she would be arrested and most likely hung.  However, Caroline also realized that no matter what she decided, someone would eventually pay the ultimate price.  

I was deeply touched and impressed with this story.  Austin’s writing is phenomenal!  Although written as a work of fiction, the depictions of the Civil War were so accurate that it could have passed as non-fiction.  This was a wonderful book about deep faith, selflessness, forgiveness, courage, and strength during a time that was littered with hatred, injustice, bitterness, hostility, and prejudice. 

CANDLE IN THE DARKNESS is a novel that you won’t be able to put down until you’ve turned the last page.  I can hardly wait to read book #2 titled Fire By Night.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A PROMISE FOR MIRIAM (VANNETTA CHAPMAN)

Story Description: 

Amish school teacher, Miriam King loves her students.  At 26, she hasn’t met anyone who can convince her to give up the Plain school at Pebble Creek.  The newcomer Gabriel Yoder steps into her life, bringing his daughter, an air of mystery, and challenges Miriam has never faced before. 

My Review: 

Miriam King and Esther Schrocks taught together in a one room schoolhouse.  The two teachers looked similar in appearance, had the same temperaments and could have passed as family.  Esther was engaged to marry Joseph.  Miriam was still single and it bothered her that other people thought she should be married, but it was her own choice to remain unwed. 

Miriam taught grades one to four and Esther taught grades five to eight.  This particular morning a tall man neither teacher had ever seen before entered the school room holding the hand of his daughter.  He had a long beard which meant he was married.  The little girl’s name was Grace and she was eight-years-old, her father’s name was Gabriel Miller.  They had just moved to the area and purchased old Mr. Kline’s rundown farm on Dawson Road. 

Gabe chose to live a solitary life with little Grace after his wife, Hope died.  He wasn’t keen on making new friends in Pebble Creek.  He was a good carpenter and planned to repair the old dilapidated farm on his own and he wasn’t going to ask for help from anyone.  He and his daughter had left Indiana and come to Wisconsin to escape the looks of sympathy and now he had what he wished for – a new beginning with Grace.  

It didn’t take long for Miriam to realize that Grace didn’t speak.  She was very concerned and stopped at Gabe’s farm after school to inquire why he didn’t tell her that Grace doesn’t speak.  Gabe was quite put out and didn’t have an answer other than “she’ll speak when she’s ready.”  With that Gabe told Miriam he’d mind his business and she should mind her own then wished her a good-night.  Miriam decided the child had a right to speak and since she spoke before, she thought between herself, Doc Hanson, and even Gabe, Miriam was determined to set that voice free. 

A sudden and severe snowstorm blew in.  Everything for as far as the eye could see was blanketed in white yet the snow kept falling, heavily, and would for hours to come.  Gabe had to get to the barn to tend to the animals and told Grace she was to stay inside unless she needed to use the outhouse.  If she did she was told to hold onto the guide rope there and back.  Grace instead decided to go outside and play with her pet mouse, Stanley.  Stanley got away from Grace and by the time she found him she was lost in the forest.  Later that evening when Gabe realized how long he’d been gone from the house he hurried back only to find the house empty.  He called Grace’s name over and over, checking every room in the house.  He quickly discerned she must be in the outhouse but didn’t find her there either.  Realizing he needed help, he drove his horse to Miriam’s home and she sent out the signal that all the neighbours were needed.  Soon a massive search was underway in the middle of a blizzard for little Grace. 

Did they find Grace or was she another loss in Gabe’s life?  How does Miriam fit into the picture with Gabe? 

This was an exciting and well-written story that I would recommend to my friends. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the preview.  To be released July 2012.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BEYOND HOPE'S VALLEY:A BIG SKY NOVEL (TRICIA GOYER)


Story Description: 

After an extended stay in Montana, where Amish traditions are different than in her home state, Marianna Sommer returns to Indiana for two reasons, first to help her brother and his girlfriend prepare for a baby and their wedding.  Second, to plan her own wedding to Aaron Zook -- a marriage she’s been dreaming about ever since childhood.  And yet, although she had missed the idyllic farms and families of her upbringing, Marianna is surprised that Indiana is somehow making her long now for Montana.

As months pass, secrets that were hidden in winter’s frozen grasp thaw and take on a life of their own.  The truths about a child, about a past relationship, and about God’s plans are being revealed. Walking through a valley of questions, Marianna must hold on to hope as she decides where and with whom her heart truly belongs. 


My Review: 

This is the first Tricia Goyer novel that I’ve read and found it to be very disjointed.  The story line was difficult to follow, was very slow in places, and just didn’t hold my attention.  I found my mind wandering while reading and kept having to go back over the same material.  A disappointing read. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the preview copy.


Friday, March 9, 2012

LOST MEMORY OF SKIN (RUSSELL BANKS)


Story Description: 

The author of Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone and The Sweet Hereafter returns with a very original, riveting mystery about a young outcast, and a contemporary tale of guilt and redemption. 
The perfect convergence of writer and subject
, Lost Memory of Skin probes the zeitgeist of a troubled society where zero tolerance has erased any hope of subtlety and compassion.  Suspended in a modern-day version of limbo, the young man at the centre of Russell Bank's uncompromising and morally complex new novel must create a life for himself in the wake of incarceration.  Known in his new identity only as the Kid, he is shackled to a GPS monitoring device and forbidden to go near where children might gather.  He takes up residence under a south Florida causeway, in a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders.   

Barely beyond childhood himself, the Kid, despite his crime, is in many ways an innocent. Enter the Professor, a university sociologist of enormous size and intellect who finds in the Kid the perfect subject for his research. But when the Professor's past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two men's relationship shifts. Banks has long been one of our most acute and insightful novelists
Lost Memory of Skin is a masterful work of fiction that unfolds in language both powerful and beautifully lyrical. 

My Review: 

The Kid strolls into a public library one afternoon and enlists the help of a librarian to look up sex offenders in his area.  After typing and clicking for a couple of minutes, a map of his mother’s street comes up and along with it a mug shot of the Kid himself.  The librarian recognizes him immediately but isn’t afraid.  However, the Kid is and he beats it out of there and returns to his home under a Florida Causeway with the other sex offenders. 

He rides around on a Raleigh three-speed bike that he keeps locked to a pillar when he’s not using it.  He’d stolen the bike, taken it apart and spray painted it and bought a black carbon steel cable lock for it. 

The Kid also has a pet Iguana that he has leashed to a cinder block.  His name is “Iggy”.  When it was young it was only 8 or 10 inches long, bright green and cute.  Twelve years later it’s the length and weight of a full-grown alligator – six feet head to tail and twenty-seven pounds, but no longer cute.  Iggy was the only creature other than himself that he had ever cared for and he decided to care for it the way he wished someone had cared for him – as if the iguana were a human child and he were its parent.  

The Kid is a loner and prefers to keep it that way.  In his mind he’s a one-and-only one of a kind.  And even among loners he’s unique. Singular. 

Local folks don’t know him and even if they knew his real name it wouldn’t change how they treat him unless they looked it up online which is not something he wants to encourage.  Like most of the men living under the Causeway they are legally prohibited from going online.  But the Kid can’t get away as he has a GPS monitor clamped to his ankle.  One of the other guys under the Causeway has a generator and buys fuel for it and runs it every night from seven till eleven and sometimes later depending on business.  He has it wired to a twelve-volt outlet surge protector and all the residents pay him a dollar each to recharge their cell phones if they have one and their anklet batteries.  If you don’t recharge your anklet battery you violate a key term of your parole and you go back to jail. 

The Kid’s mother’s name is Adele but isn’t married to his biological father who was a roofer.  After he was born his mother had boyfriends pretty constantly who lived in her house with her and the Kid for up to six months on a few occasions but none of them stuck around long enough to claim the Kid as his own or take responsibility for educating or protecting him.  Adele needs men to want her but she doesn’t want men to need her – not even the Kid.  Although she does know that and would deny it if asked.  She feels she’s done what she can for him and is therefore not responsible for how he turned out. 

He visited his mother’s house only when she wasn’t home and he would gather food supplies, use the toilet, and every few days to shower and do his laundry.  Most of the time when he wasn’t at school or taking care of Iggy or the two of them were just sitting there staring at each other he watched pornography online and charged it to his mother’s visa.  He had a full-time job at a lighting store after he graduated right up until he enlisted in the army.  

One day the Kid meet the Professor who is studying homelessness and is well-known in the community as an absolute genius.  At this point the story takes off in a whole other direction and for me, almost seemed like two different books!  It became this convoluted mumbo-jumbo that ruined the entire book.  I was deeply disappointed and had a very difficult time finishing.  I only finished because by the time the Professor surfaced I’d invested a lot of time in this book.  I’m not sure I’d recommend this one to my friends, at least not without a warning.

Monday, March 5, 2012

INTERRUPTED:A LIFE BEYOND WORDS (RACHEL COKER)

Story Description:

Can love really heal all things?  If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time.  Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother.  She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept.  Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely.  But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her.  As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.   

My Review: 

Allie, 13-years-old stumbled outside half-asleep with her mother to look at the stars in the night sky.  Allie’s Mama wanted her to be a writer someday.  Allie was born in 1925, the same year her Mama turned forty-seven.  Mama always referred to Allie as her “miracle baby”.  All they had was each other.  

The next morning there was a knock at the door and when Allie opened it, much to her surprise was Sam Carroll.  “Happy Birthday, Allie are you fourteen now”?  “Yes”, replied Allie.  “Are you having a party”?  “No!”  “Are you expecting anyone else then?”  “No!”  Allie’s Mama directed the two of them out to the backyard to drink lemonade.  After pouring it into their glasses, one of Allie’s Mama’s hands began to shake.  She crossed her hands and put them behind her back and she was shivering.  Sam was thoroughly enjoying the homemade chocolate chip cookies that Allie had made.  It was her grandmother’s recipe. 

Allie and her Mama lived in Tennessee and Allie loved to sit outside to watch the sunset and take in the magnificent beauty of the Tennessee hills.  Allie took out her sketch pad and new set of chalks and began filling in the colours of the sinking sun going down behind the old white church.  Fiery red, burnt orange, creamy yellow.  

In the middle of the night Allie was suddenly awoken by a shrill screaming which she immediately recognized as her mother’s.  Hurrying to her Mama’s room she tried to soothe her as best she could.  Mama saw a bird and a snake but Allie told her they were both gone now and she was safe – Mama asked Allie: “Will you stay with me tonight?”  Allie swallowed a lump in her throat and replied: “Of course, Mama.  I’ll stay.” 

The next day, Sam came calling after being away visiting his Aunt Rachel for 3 weeks he was going to go on another picnic today with Allie and her Mama. 

Six years ago, Mama’s husband had left her and Allie, and now Mama had brain cancer and was dying.  There was no one to take care of her except Allie.  Dr. Murphy told Allie that her Mama: “...showed all the symptoms of brain cancer. Possibly even a tumor.”  Mama was dying and Doc Murphy told Allie she had to be: “…prepared for anything.”  The doctor also told Allie that without treatment, her Mama would decline quickly until she had to feed her, dress her, and take care of her full-time.  Allie, nor her Mama had enough money to pay for the treatments.  Allie’s job was to make her Mama happy in order to keep her with her.  The doctor said that as long as Mama could remember she’d be fine.  But she couldn’t remember. 

Mama fell out of a tree, she’s always doing crazy things and now she is in the hospital.  Dr. Murphy told Allie there was nothing he or Allie could do for her other than keep her comfortable.  He said he could arrange at-home-care with nurses working around the clock so Mama could die at home.  Mama’s breathing was becoming laboured and poor Allie was saying: “No, no! with all my heart I beg God to help her.  Fix her.  Heal her.  I’ll do whatever it takes.  Just please. Please don’t take her from me.”  It suddenly dawned on Allie to play the piano, she had been practising for her birthday.  She walked to the piano and began to play the cheeriest song she knew.  Song after song she played, her fingers stumbling as her tears threatened to burst forth. 

Mama had stopped breathing and Allie knew it, but shoved it down deep in her chest, refusing to believe it.  But on August 14, 1939 Mama died and Allie wished she had her back.  She felt like all the happy things in the world had died except for her. 

A Mrs. Pamela Dewsbury introduced herself to Allie at the funeral and said she was from the adoption agency.  She instructed Allie to pack her things so they could catch the six o’clock train.  Allie was going to live with what Mrs. Dewsbury called a compatible adult.  Allie was also informed that the majority of her things would be sold in order to pay for Mama’s funeral.  She was only allowed to take one suitcase of things with her, and she must leave her beloved cat, Daphne, at home as she was going to Maine! 

Soon they pulled into an unfamiliar driveway, they met Allie’s new caretaker, Miss Beatrice.  She was a middle-aged woman, about 50 or so, tall and very skinny with graying hair, high cheekbones, and blue eyes covered by steel gray reading glasses.  

After spending her first night in Maine, Allie awoke to a breakfast of oatmeal.  Once breakfast was done, Miss Beatrice took Allie on a tour of the huge beautiful home she now found herself living in.  Then Miss Beatrice took Allie to one of the “poshest” stores she had ever seen.  She purchased a Sunday dress, four or five school dresses, night things, underthings, and shoes.  Allie had never worn such fine clothes. 

The next stop they made was “Goodey’s” restaurant where Allie met Irene Goodey, Miss Beatrice’s daughter.  She and her husband, Daniel where given the money by Beatrice to start the restaurant up.  Allie suddenly felt very alone, tired, homesick, and empty.  Next stop was Allie’s new school, 9th Grade and she’d made a friend already, Charlie, short for, Charlotte

At the end of her first full day, Allie sat down on the window seat and wrote her deceased mother a letter:  “Sept. 19, 1939…They sky is alive tonight, Mama with thousands of sparkling stars.  Usually they’re grand and silent, but tonight they’re feisty and bold.  The last one on the Big Dipper keeps winking at me!  I know you said heaven doesn’t exist, Mama but I wish I knew where you were right now.  I heard a little girl once say that her baby sister died and became a star…Are you a star now, Mama smiling down on me?  Why did you leave me, Mama?  Why?  Why did you leave me by myself?” 

Soon Sam Carroll shows up a Miss Beatrice’s door, he is staying next door with his Aunt Rachel.  Come to think about it, have you wondered yet just how Allie ended up being adopted by Miss Beatrice who just happens to live next door to Sam’s aunt?  Keep reading, this is a powerful story and one that will tug at your heart-strings. 

Although this novel was geared for ages 15 to 18, I found it highly enjoyable and would recommend it for both youth and adults.  Great read! 

THANK YOU to NET GALLEY for the preview copy!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

GIANT GEORGE:LIFE WITH THE WORLD'S BIGGEST DOG (DAVE NASSER WITH LYNNE BARRETT-LEE)


Story Description: 

With his big blue eyes and soulful expression, George was the irresistible runt of the litter. But Dave and Christie Nasser's "baby" ended up being almost five feet tall, seven feet long, and 245 pounds. Eager to play, and boisterous to the point of causing chaos, this big Great Dane was scared of water, scared of dogs a fraction of his size and, most of all, scared of being alone.

GIANT GEORGE is the charming story of how this precocious puppy won Dave and Christie's hearts and along the way became a doggie superstar. In 2010, George was named by Guinness World Records as the Tallest Dog in the World-ever. He appeared on Oprah, and even has his own global fan club. But to Dave and Christie, this extraordinary animal is still their beloved pet, the one who has made them laugh, made them cry, and continues to make them incredibly happy. 

My Review: 

Dave and Christie Nasser wanted a Great Dane puppy but soon realized that there weren’t any Great Dane pups in their area of Tucson, Arizona.  As a matter of fact, there weren’t any in all of Arizona, period.  Christie perused newspapers from their old homestead in California and found an ad placed by a woman in Oregon.  After calling the woman, she emailed them photos of the entire litter of 13 puppies.  Twelve of the pups were all huddled together but one was standing alone by himself.  He was the “runt” of the litter but was also the “perfect colour” – blue!  Not only was his fur blue but so were his enormous eyes.  Dave and Christie immediately asked the woman to email a larger photo of this particular pup and they instantly fell in love.  They made arrangements to fly the Great Dane puppy from Oregon to Phoenix, plus shelled out $1,750 for the pup.  The flight was two hours and the poor 17 pound puppy arrived in his crate, terrified. 

On the way to the airport, Dave and Christie had settled on calling the newest member of their family, George.  Christie didn’t have the heart to put George back in his crate for the ride home after a terrifying ride in the hold of the plane in the dark, so she allowed George to lie in her lap instead. 

After a sleepless evening the first night home, the Nasser’s learned quickly that George didn’t like sleeping in his crate alone in the kitchen.  The second night they moved George’s crate into their bedroom where he was much happier. 

Dave and Christie never dreamed George would grow to be so big, as a matter of fact, he is now the “world’s biggest dog – ever!”  At 14 weeks of age he already weighed an incredible 34 pounds.  At 5 months, George weighed as much as a fully grown Labrador.  He appeared to be growing at a phenomenal rate of “one pound per day.”  (Great Dane “Adult” males usually grow to around 150 pounds).  By 9 months of age he weighed a whopping 147 pounds and still had two years of growing to do. 

In August 2006, George had hit doggy “puberty”, he was a “teenager” and became “rambunctious, moody, and almost psycho”.  George had discovered his “manhood” and began to hump everyone and anything in site! 

I loved that Dave Nasser made a point of saying: “..you knew when George liked you…his displays of affection could have you pinned temporarily against a wall or a piece of furniture”.  It was: “George’s version of a bear hug”. 

This is an endearing, heartwarming true story.  It will make you laugh-out-loud and you’ll be clambering for more and more.  Don’t miss this exceptional story of a dog who grew to be 245 pounds and whose heart is as big as the open sky! 

You can also check out Giant George’s own website at:


THANK YOU to NET GALLEY for the preview copy.

YELLOW CROCUS:A NOVEL (LAILA IBRAHIM)


Story Description: 

Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as
quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family
‘owned' her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her
deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her
came the fear that I would lose her someday. This is our story...


So begins Lisbeth Wainwright's compelling tale of coming-of-age in
antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her
enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth's childhood unfolds on the
line between two very different worlds. Growing up under the watchful
eye of Mattie, the child adopts her surrogate mother's deep-seated
faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition
of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. Yet
Lisbeth has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have,
though the color of the girl's skin cannot protect her from the
societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth
grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with
her parent's expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she
becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American
slavery system. When the inequality of her two worlds comes to a head
during an act of shocking brutality, Lisbeth realizes she must make a
choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned
from her beloved Mattie. This compelling historical novel is a richly
evocative tale of love and redemption set during one of the darkest
chapters of American history. 


My Review: 

Twenty-year-old Mattie was summoned to the big house to become a wet nurse for a white woman’s baby.  Mattie was instructed by the housekeeper, Mrs. Gray to call the newborn babe, Miss Elizabeth.  She was then taken to a dimly lit room where she was to stay while caring for the baby.  Given only 2 dresses and 2 nightgowns, it was made clear that her clothing would only be washed once every week.  Emily, the second-floor maid would bring Mattie her meals 3 times each day.  Mattie was told by, Mrs. Gray that becoming a “house slave” was a privilege. 

Poor Mattie was forced to leave her own 3-month-old baby, Samuel.  Her poppy was caring for him and her friend, Rebecca another black slave, was being a wet nurse for her precious son.  This pained Mattie terribly.  Cut-off from her own baby to care for and feed a white woman’s baby was heartbreaking for her. 

Ann Wainwright was, Miss Elizabeth’s mother and they lived on a Tidewater plantation which was hours away from her real home.  Her husband, Jonathan and their family lived in Fair Oaks in Virginia and the plantation sat on the northern bank of the James River. 

Mattie was only allowed to see her own baby on Sunday’s and then forced to return to Miss Elizabeth first thing Monday mornings.  Hardly enough time for a devoted mother like Mattie to spend with her son. 

Back in Fair Oaks, land grants were given in proportion to the number of people a grantee imported to tame the land.  Commander Theodore Pryne had the money to bring 30 European and Africans as indentured servants, so he was given 1500 acres to plant.  All of the indentured servants agreed to work off their debt for 7 to 15 years.  After that they would be released and given 5 acres of land, a bushel of seed, and the freedom to pursue their own fortunes in the New World. 

Quickly the landed gentry realized that their plantation would not be profitable if they paid their workforce.  Unfortunately, Mattie’s African ancestors were not turned free or given the means to farm for themselves but instead held in perpetual bondage. 

Family lore said that Mattie’s paternal great-great-great grandfather would have been free had the Virginia Assembly passed a law in 1705 clarifying once and for all the status of African’s  in a colony.  It said that all servants imported and brought into the country who were not Christians in their native country would be accounted as slaves. 

Mattie continued to nurse Elizabeth until she was weaned and put on regular milk.  She then became her full-time caretaker.  As she grew, Elizabeth learned to have a deep love of God and faith.  She had an incredible sense of right and wrong, thanks to Mattie. 

Elizabeth’s mother, Ann, was a strict woman and raising Elizabeth to be a proper lady.  When she was 12-years-old she began to attend dances and forced to dance with the list of young men whose names were written down on her dance card.  Elizabeth really enjoyed the company of Matthew Johnson but her parents had other plans for her.  They were determined that Elizabeth would marry Edward.  His family was well-known in society, they were rich, and ran and owned the most beautiful mansion of all. 

Once Elizabeth turned 19, the proposal was made and wedding arrangements began.  Elizabeth wasn’t happy.  A week before the wedding, Elizabeth caught her fiancĂ©, Edward raping a young black slave girl.  She was utterly disgusted and screamed for him to leave the girl alone.  Elizabeth was now more than ever determined not to marry this man, but what would her parents say and how is she going to get out of this wedding? 

Ms. Ibrahim has written a beautiful and compelling story of slavery, love, courage, hope, and learning that the reality of slavery was wrong.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to others.