Monday, July 30, 2012

SWEET MANDARIN - The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West (HELEN TSE)

Story Description: 

St. Martin’s Press|October 13, 2009|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-312-60481-3 

Spanning almost a hundred years, this rich and evocative memoir recounts the lives of three generations of remarkable Chinese women.  Their extraordinary journey takes us from the brutal poverty of village life in mainland China, to newly prosperous 1930 Hong Kong and finally to the UK.  Their lives were as dramatic as the times they lived through. 

A love of food and a talent for cooking pulled each generation through the most devastating of upheavals.  Helen Tse’s grandmother, Lily Kwok, was forced to work as an “amah” after the violent murder of her father.  Crossing the ocean from Hong Kong in the 1950’s, Lily honed her famous chicken curry recipe.  Eventually she opened one of Manchester’s earliest Chinese restaurants where her daughter, Mabel, worked from the tender age of nine.  But gambling and the Triads were pervasive in the Chinese immigrant community, and tragically they lost the restaurant.  It was up to author Helen and her sisters, the third generation of these exceptional women, to re-establish their grandmothers dream.  The legacy lived on when the sisters opened their award-winning restaurant Sweet Mandarin in 2004. 

“Sweet Mandarin” shows how the most important inheritance is wisdom, and how recipes – passed down from the female line – can be the most valuable heirloom. 

My Review: 

This family suffered tragedy after tragedy but managed to pick themselves up and keep moving forward in spite of the most horrible conditions and abject poverty.  The strength of these Chinese women is astounding and a tribute to the culture they were born in to. 

Lily, the matriarch of the family was a strong, stubborn and courageous woman who taught her children the value of hard work and making a dollar in spite of the long hard hours that had to be put in to make the minimum amount of money.  Lily never gave up and after tragedy she picked herself up and kept moving forward.  This ability to forge ahead in times of trouble and utter chaos was handed down to the next generation and the next, making for 3 generations of women whose courage, strength, fortitude, and resilience won out in the end. 

This story was so enjoyable and so interesting that I read it one sitting.  Helen Tse’s writing flowed well and made for a very pleasant experience.  I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.  Sweet Mandarin is her debut novel.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Story Description: 

Random House UK|August 1, 2011|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-846-55476-6 

A best seller in Italy, a beautiful, heartbreaking novel based on the true story of an Afghan boy’s journey in search of safety.  One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah’s mother tells him three things: “don’t use drugs, don’t use weapons, don’t steal.”  The next day he wakes up to find she isn’t there.  They have fled their village in Ghazni to seek safety outside Afghanistan but his mother has decided to return home to her younger children.  Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. 

In a book based on a true story, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah’s remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistant to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum.  His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey, and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains.  A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, where he found help from an Italian family and met Fabio Geda. 

The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah’s engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda’s subtle storytelling.  In Geda’s hands, Enaiatollah’s journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable. 

My Review: 

The true story of Enaiatollah Akbari is one wrought with immense courage.  At the age of ten, Enaiatollah is abandoned by his mother.  One night before going to bed she told him three things: “don’t use drugs, don’t use weapon, don’t steal.”  The following morning when Enaiatollah woke up his mother was gone.  Fearful and not knowing what to do, he asks the man in charge of the place where they are staying if he could hire him to work so he could make some money.  The man grunted and said he’d only allow him to work the one day and not for  money but for food.  Enaiatollah worked himself to death that day and the following day he walked across the street to another business establishment.  There he met a man who agreed to allow him to sell various items such as: cigarette lighters, fans, decks of cards, and other small items from a box.  It was agreed that Enaiatollah would receive a cut of what he sold.  Unfortunately, this job didn’t pan out so well so he instead decided to leave and try to get to Italy. 

For a ten-year-old, Enaiatollah was a very intelligent little boy who was well-mannered and wasn’t afraid to work.  Through connections, and working at various construction sites for a few months at a time and saving his money to pay off people-traffickers, his journey took him over mountains and terrain that was extremely difficult to navigate.  Finally reaching Italy, he finds a family that is willing to help him and also there he also meets the author of this book, Fabio Geda who is a journalist. 

It took a great deal of courage, fortitude, determination, and resilience to accomplish what Enaiatollah did at such a young age.  It boggles my mind that a very young 10-year-old child could accomplish such a feat.  All he wanted was somewhere to live and somewhere to belong. 

I’ll definitely be passing word of this book along to other people.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Story Description:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|March 20, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-307-59273-6
Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. 

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe – and built her back up again. 

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything.  In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.  Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – and to do it alone.  She had no experience as a long distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.”  But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.  Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humour, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. 

My Review: 

This was a phenomenal memoir!  A page-turner that I read in a day and a half packed full of drama, suspense, emotion, and great fortitude.  Cheryl Strayed showed unbelievable strength in pushing herself to the limit on this solo walk of eleven-hundred miles across the Pacific Crest Trail.  Her ability to stare down the pain of her feet during her walk was unbelievable.  That alone would have forced me to give up. 

Wild is a memoir you won’t soon forget nor will the character that Cheryl showed during this incredible solo journey.  I’ll most definitely be recommending this to everyone. 


Story Description: 

Broadview Press|January 4, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-55481-054-3 

Ruth grew too fast. 

A young girl over seven feet tall, she struggles to conceal the physical and mental symptoms of her rapid growth, to connect with other children, and to appease her parents, Elspeth, an English seamstress who lost her family to the war, and James, a mailman rethinking his devotion to his wife.  Not knowing how to help Ruth, Elspeth and James turn inward away from one another.  As their marriage falters, Ruth finds herself increasingly drawn to Suzy, the dangerous girl next door. 

Ruth is not precocious, nor a prodigy, but her extraordinary size affords her extraordinary vision: a bird’s eye perspective that allows her not just to remember but to watch her past play out.  Possessing an uncanny ability to intuit the emotional secrets of her family’s past and present, Ruth gently surfaces Elspeth and James’s vulnerabilities, their regrets, and their deepest longings. 

My Review: 

I felt so bad for Ruth in this story.  As a young girl starting out in school she longed for friends but no one wanted anything to do with her.  She stood and watched the other children play wishing upon wish that someone would become her friend.  It wasn’t until her teen years that she met, Suzy, the girl who moved in next door and they became fast friends.  Suzy was a rather odd girl that balanced out Ruth’s oddity of extreme height which made them a likely pair for friendship. 

Ruth’s parents, Elspeth and James, began to drift apart not knowing what was wrong with their daughter, how to help her, or why she kept growing and growing to eventually 7 feet tall!!  Their doctor had kept telling them she would be fine.  They had spoken of getting a second opinion but never pursued that avenue. 

Elspeth and James’s marriage begins to crumble and James is re-evaluating his love and commitment to his wife when he makes a terrible decision.  How is his decision going to affect Ruth and Elspeth? 

This was a lovely story and one I will be recommending to friends.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Story Description: 

McClelland & Stewart|July 6, 2010|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7710-6902-4 

Baking Cakes in Kigali is a tale in fourteen confections, and behind each cake lies a story.  As baker Angel Tungaraza busies herself with her customer’s orders, we learn about their lives: Ken Akimoto – with his penchant for partying, her best client – and Bosco, his lovesick driver; Dr. Rejoice, without whom she’d never cope with the hot flashes that send her delving into her brassiere for a handkerchief so often these days; Odile, an AIDS worker whose love life Angel has taken a keen interest in; and not forgetting young Leocadie, Modeste, and their baby boy, Beckham.  Angel works her magic, solving problems for all around her, and in turn, they help her lay her own demons to rest: perhaps she can finally face the truth about the loss of her own son and daughter, and achieve a sense of peace… 

Hauntingly charming, funny, and involving, Baking Cakes in Kigali is a novel about the real meaning of reconciliation – about how, in the aftermath of tragedy, life goes on and people still manage to find reasons to celebrate. 

My Review: 

This was a funny, sad, heartwarming read.  Angel Tungaraza bakes and decorates the most beautiful cakes.  As each of her customers come to see her to ask her to bake one, she hands them her portfolio to look at while she makes them tea.  Her best client is Ken Akimoto who regularly holds parties and loves karaoke and the people of the apartment building are usually invited, but those that aren’t never complain about the noise because at one time or another they have been invited. 

Each person that comes to see Angel has some sort of problem that she helps them solve.  She seems to have an air about her that makes her easily approachable and easy to talk to, however, at the same time, she comes to accept, in her own way, the deaths of both her own daughter and son. 

Even amongst all these problems, terrible illnesses and death, it shows us that life does go on and people still find reasons to celebrate regardless of the hardships they’ve faced.   

I would recommend this book to others.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Story Description: 

HarperCollins (UK)|April 16, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-744263-8 

When Cathy is first asked to foster one-day old Harrison her only concern is if she will remember how to look after a baby.  But upon collecting Harrison from the hospital, Cathy realizes she has more to worry about than she thought when she discovers that his background is shrouded in secrecy. 

She isn’t told why Harrison is in foster care and his social worker says only a few are aware of his very existence, and if his whereabouts became known his life, and that of his parents, could be in danger.  Cathy tries to put her worries aside as she looks after Harrison, a beautiful baby, who is alert and engaging.  Cathy and her children quickly bond with Harrison although they know that, inevitably, he will eventually be adopted. 

But when a woman Cathy doesn’t know starts appearing in the street outside her house acting suspiciously, Cathy fears for her own family’s safety and demands some answers from Harrison’s social worker.  The social worker tells Cathy a little but what she says is very disturbing.  How is this woman connected to Harrison and can she answer the questions that will affect Harrison’s whole life? 

My Review: 

A BABY’S CRY is one of Cathy’s best books yet.  She has managed to outdo herself yet again!  Harrison is shrouded in such secrecy that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough wanting to know more and more information about him and wondering if Cathy was ever going to receive the answers to the questions about him and his reasons for being in care were ever going to be replied to. 

Cathy’s own children became so attached to Harrison and called him ‘Harry’ for short and soon looked at him as their ‘little brother’.  They so loved coming home from school to play with him and help Cathy take care of Harrison. 

Suddenly a strange woman begins appearing across the street from Cathy’s home which frightens her own children but each time Cathy looks out the window at her or opens the door, the woman dashes off before Cathy even has the chance to call to her and ask her what she wants or who she is.  Then one night, this very same strange woman knocks on Cathy’s door late at night when her own children and Harrison are asleep in bed and Cathy is terrified!  Should she call the emergency number at the agency she works for?  Or should she call the police. 

Harrison is eventually placed but after almost a year, leaving Cathy’s home is extremely hard on her own children who ask why they can’t adopt Harrison because they still feel he is  their  ‘brother’ but Cathy tries her hardest to explain to them that it wouldn’t be in the best interest of little Harrison. 

This one was definitely a page-turner and I’ll be highly recommending it to my friends and anyone else who’ll listen!  Congratulations on a well-written page-turner, Cathy!!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Story Description: 

Simon & Schuster|May 8, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-2818-0 

Join one of America’s beloved storytellers on a walk like no other: one man’s unrelenting search for hope.  Reeling from the sudden loss of his wife, his home, and his business, Alan Christoffersen, a once-successful advertising executive, has left everything he knew behind and set off on an extraordinary cross-country journey.  Carrying only a backpack, he is walking from Seattle to Key West, the farthest destination on his map. 

Now almost halfway through his trek, Alan sets out to walk the nearly 1,000 miles between South Dakota and St. Louis, but it’s the people he meets long the way who give the journey its true meaning: a mysterious woman who follows Alan’s walk for close to a hundred miles, the ghost hunter searching graveyards for his wife, and the elderly Polish man who gives Alan a ride and shares a story that Alan will never forget.   

Full of hard-won wisdom and truth, THE ROAD TO GRACE is a compelling and inspiring novel about hope, healing, grace, and the meaning of life. 

My Review: 

As always, Richard Paul Evans has penned another fine piece of work.  The story is amazing and the people Alan meets during this 1,000 mile trek will be people you won’t soon forget.  The one that struck me the most was the Polish man and his story will wrench and twist your heart.  This is book #3 of the series of 5 books with book #4 coming out in the spring of 2013 which I’ll definitely be picking up.  This whole series has been phenomenal. 

Excellent reading!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Story Description: 

HarperCollins Publishers|April 9, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-06-208814-7 

A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin.  A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town. 

For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups.  Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump.  Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to see, an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s.  It is a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared.  While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he knows what a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well. 

Told by three resonant and evocative characters: Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barfield, a sheriff with his own painful past.  A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all.  These are masterful portrayals written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.   

My Review: 

Brothers Jess and Christopher are as close as any two siblings can be.  Christopher is the oldest but is a deaf mute whom everyone has nicknamed Stump.  Always in trouble for spying on adults, Christopher once again does some spying and sees something that was not meant for eyes of his age throwing him into confusion full of turmoil and angst. 

The town minister, Pastor Chambliss believes in preaching with rattlesnakes and having the congregation prove their love, faith and trust in God by handling these snakes without fear of being bitten until one day just that happens.  However, he manages to convince his congregants that the Lord just happened to call one Miss Molly Jameson home to glory that very day.  It was during one of Pastor Chambliss’s services that he convinced Christopher’s mother that he could provide a ‘healing’ for his lack of speech that something terrible happened, leading to the heart-pounding conclusion to the story along with what Jess and Christopher saw that last day they were spying on their Momma and Daddy. 

The town midwife, the lovely old Miss Adelaide had long taken the children out of the church and was holding Sunday services at her home for them as she didn’t trust Chambliss and all his goings-on at the church. 

The author did an excellent job at conveying to the reader the emotions that people show when they’re riled up and in the spirit of the moment and how things can be over-looked when caught up in the emotion packed moment of loud music, hand clapping and rattlesnakes.  A family is shattered, a town has hung its head in shame, and a lot of healing needs to take place in this small town of Marshall, North Carolina. 

For a debut novel, Wiley Cash has written a book that grabs you, pulls you and doesn’t release its grip until the very unexpected end.  I’ll be looking for more of this authors work and recommending this novel to my friends. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Story Description: 

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|July 10, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-385-53551-9 

New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava returns in a blaze of glory with a gripping, action-packed thriller featuring special agent Maggie O’Dell, who is leading the search for a serial arsonist whose crimes threaten Maggie dangerously close to home. 

When a building bursts into flames on a cold winter night in D.C., investigators see a resemblance to a string of recent fires in the area.  There is one difference, however: This one has a human casualty.  The local tem insists they’re looking for a young white male, suffering from an uncontrollable impulse to act out his anger or sexual aggression.  But when special agent Maggie O’Dell is called in, everything she sees leads her to believe that this is the work of a calculating and controlled criminal. 

Jeffery Cole, a reporter looking for his big break, is also at the scene of the crime and decides to make Maggie part of his news piece, digging up aspects of her past that she would rather forget.  Maggie’s brother, Patrick, is also back in DC where he is working for a private firefighting company and is frequently called in as these fires continue to light up around the city. 

As the acts of arson become more brazen, Maggie’s professional and personal worlds begin to collide dangerously.  The killer may be closer than she imagines. 

My Review: 

Alex Kava has outdone herself again with this fast paced, action-packed story of fires lighting up the night sky.  Maggie O’Dell doesn’t realize the arsonist may be closer than she thinks and isn’t prepared for what happens near the end of the story. 

Her brother, Patrick, is back and is staying at Maggie’s home providing a slightly unwanted distraction and her mother, once again, has attempted suicide, all this taking time away from Maggie’s investigative skills, and her pounding and relentless headaches from being shot in the head at a previous crime scene leave her feeling under the weather making it difficult for her to concentrate on the job at hand. 

Thrown into the mix, her boss is actually worried about her and insists her undergo a psychological check-up which leaves Maggie completely annoyed and when she arrives for the interview, finds out it’s none other than her old teacher! 

I thought I had the arsonist pegged in this one but as usual, I was wrong and didn’t expect the outcome of the story at all which makes for a well-written and thought out story line.  Way to go Alex, you stumped me again.  Great read!! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Story Description: 

Berkley Trade|August 2 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-425-24129-5 

A mother daughter story about the strong pull of tradition, and the lure and cost of breaking free of it.  When Shoko decided to marry an American GI and leave Japan she had her parents blessing, her brother’s scorn, and a gift from her husband – a book on how to be a proper American housewife. 

As she crossed the ocean to America, Shoko also brought with her a secret she would need to keep her entire life… 

Half a century later, Shoko’s plans to finally return to Japan and reconcile with her brother are derailed by illness.  In her place, she sends her grown American daughter, Sue, a divorced single mother whose own life isn’t what she hoped for.  As Sue takes in Japan, with all its beauty and contradictions, she discovers another side to her mother and returns to America unexpectedly changed and irrevocably touched.   

My Review: 

A most enjoyable story that is mixed with both a bit of truth and a bit of fiction on the part of the author, Margaret Dilloway.  In real life her mother Suiko O’Brien always told her that her life would make a great book and she was right as this is exactly what she accomplished with “How to Be an American Housewife”. 

As she was growing up her Mother told her stories of what happened to her during her youth in World War II – era Japan.  But when Margaret was in college, her mother’s health left her confined to bed and she asked her mother to record her stories about her life on tape.  It was from these stories that How to Be an American Housewife was born.  Not all of the stories have been incorporated into the book but a few of them have and rest is fiction. 

In the story, a young Shoko was in love with Ronin and became pregnant but could not marry him and instead married an American GI and fled Japan to live in San Francisco where she thought she could make a better life for herself.  She had her son, Mike and later a daughter, Sue.  Her husband, Charlie, was understanding of Shoko’s plight and accepted Mike as his own son and put his name down on his birth certificate as his biological father.  He loved that child like his own. However, Shoko didn’t love Charlie at the time she married him, she just wanted to escape Japan and hoped to build a better life in America but love was built over the years they spent together.  Charlie was good to Shoko. 

She became estranged from her family back in Japan and when she became ill later in life wanted to make amends but was too ill to make the journey back on her own so she asked her daughter, Sue, to go in her place.  She’d written a letter to her brother and asked Sue to deliver it to him and to return with an answer.  Sue and her teenaged daughter, Helena made the sojourn, tracked down the brother but he was less than happy to see them and at first just walked away from them.  He had been a high school principal but retired and had since become a Priest.  After thinking over his rude treatment of Sue and her daughter, he returned, apologized and the visit resumed.  Sue gave him the letter from Shoko and he did respond but during the visit Sue received a phone call that her mother was in the intensive care unit back home and possibly dying so their Japan trip was cut short and the two women returned to America immediately. 

What we learn in this novel is how mother’s and daughter’s communicate, how difficulties in families and not just between mother’s and daughter’s is universal; that Japanese mothers raised their sons differently from their daughters and how prejudice and sterotypes are prevalent in all societies, not just Japanese and American and the cost of keeping secrets and how the power of love within a family can heal even the oldest of wounds. 

How to Be an American Housewife provides us with a lot of food for thought and it is one book I’ll definitely be recommending to my friends.  It was a well-written, descriptive, straight-forward read that left you feeling and realizing that every society experiences the same problems, upsets, estrangements, and familial controversies the world over, but like the old adage “blood is thicker than water” is a good summation of this story. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Story Description: 

Baker Publishing Group|May 1, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-0974-1 

A Sensational CBA Debut in Contemporary Romance Kate Donovan is burnt out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure.  When her grandmother asks Kate to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance, takes a leave of absence from her job as a social worker, and the two of them set off.  Upon her arrival in Redbud, Kate meets Matt Jarreau, the man her grandmother has hired to renovate the house.  From the first moment she meets Matt, Kate can’t help but be attracted to him – he’s got a combination of good looks and charisma that draw and tug at her.  But she knows there’s zero chance of a romance between them.  Matt’s in love with his dead wife, and even if he weren’t, Kate realizes that she’s way too ordinary for him.  For Matt Jarreau is no ordinary guy.  Kate discovers that he was once a great NHL hockey player who left the sport when his wife – an honest-to-goodness former Miss America – was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Matt’s been hiding from people, from God, and from his past ever since.  Yet Kate is absolutely determined to befriend him, to try to reach him to help him in some small way.  No, Kate’s not looking for love.  She knows better than that by now.  But when the stilted, uncomfortable interactions between Kate and Matt slowly shift into something more, is God finally answering the longing of her heart?  Or will Kate be required to give up more than she ever dreamed?  

My Review:  

I totally loved this story and fell in love with both Kate and Matt.  Both were looking for a relationship that neither really thought they were but slowly over time, discovered that their penchant for each other was more than they originally thought it was. 

Kate, who lived in Dallas, Texas and worked as a social worker enjoyed her job but had lost some of the pizazz she felt about helping the children she worked with after one of her kids committed suicide.  A hard blow for anyone to take, so when her Grandmother asked her to take a 3-month leave of absence and travel to Rosebud, Pennsylvania to help her restore the old homestead she’d grown up in, Kate jumped at the chance. 

Upon their arrival, Kate meets one handsome, hunk of a man named Matt Jarreau who appeared to be a tad arrogant, non-conversational, and didn’t appreciate being bothered while he working restoring the house.  Beverly, Kate’s Gramma had hired him since she’d known Matt since he was a young boy. 

Kate could clearly see that Matt was not a totally happy man inside and that there was a real sadness about him which she was determined to somehow fix.  What she didn’t know at first was that Matt used to be a famous NHL hockey player and was married to a former Miss America who had sadly passed away from brain cancer at the young age of twenty-seven.  Kate figured her work as a social worker gave her a leg up on helping kids with all sorts of problems so why not befriend Matt and help him.  However, Matt proved to be a much tougher client than Kate had counted on.  His answers to her questions were short and often bordered on out-right rude until he finally just came out and told her that she was bothering him while he worked and that he much preferred to work alone and in “silence”.  Kate however, wasn’t to be deterred that easily and kept up the daily banter until Matt finally gave in realizing that this skinny, red-headed, bubbly woman just wasn’t going to go away. 

Over the three-months that Matt was restoring the old home, he and Kate slowly began to open up to each other and what would happen next will blow your socks off!!!  What a beautiful story. 

Becky Wade’s descriptions were amazing and to the point that I could picture clearly in my mind’s eye the entire house and the little church chapel at the back of the property.  Her group of old folk friends who came for Friday night poker games proved to be a hoot in and of themselves and provided much of the comedy in the novel. 

MY STUBBORN HEART is a lovely story about having faith in God and realizing that He doesn’t always answers our prayers the way we want Him too, when we want Him too, but that He does answer in His own time; and it’s a book about love and having the faith to put yourself out there and allowing yourself to experience the romance that is waiting.  I’ll definitely be recommending this to my friends and look forward to reading more of Ms. Wade’s novels.  Well-done!! 

A big “thank you” to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a preview copy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Story Description: 

Other Press|May 10, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-159051466-5 

Winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel Award. 

When their mother catches their father with another woman, twelve-year-old, Blessing, and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced to leave their comfortable home in Lagos for a village in the Niger Delta, to live with their mother’s family.  Without running water or electricity, Warri is at first a nightmare for Blessing.  Her mother is gone all day and works suspiciously late into the night to pay the children’s school fees.  Her brother, once a promising student, seems to be falling increasingly under the influence of the local group of violent teenage boys calling themselves Freedom Fighters.  Her grandfather, a kind of misguided man, is trying on Islam as his new religion of choice, and is even considering the possibility of bringing in a second wife. 

But Blessing’s grandmother, wise and practical, soon becomes a beloved mentor, teaching Blessing the ways of the midwife in rural Nigeria.  Blessing is exposed to the horrors of genital mutilation and the devastation wrought on the environment by British and American oil companies.  As Warri comes to feel like home, Blessing becomes increasingly aware of the threats to its safety, both from its unshakable but dangerous traditions and the relentless carelessness of the modern world. 

TINY SUNBIRDS, FAR AWAY is the witty and beautifully written story of one family’s attempt to survive a new life they could never have imagined, struggling to find a deeper sense of identity along the way. 

My Review: 

This was an extremely well-written book with lots of character detail.  I fell in love with Blessing and her grandmother who became such good friends and shared a special bond.  The family struggled through such difficult times that their ability to continue on in the face of such dire adversity was illuminating. 

Blessing and her brother, Ezikiel were very close and shared every story, every happening of every day together until Ezikiel started to become interested in a group of local bad boys who seemed to have an undesirable effect on him.  Blessing missed their conversations and closeness and eventually ends up losing him altogether which devastates her.  Ezikiel had such high aspirations.  He loved school and was going to study to become a medical doctor until being shot and missing so much school that he failed his exams.  After that he lost his passion for school and became one of ‘the boys’. 

Thankfully, for Blessing, her beloved Grandmother decided to teach her the old ways of becoming a mid-wife and at this time Blessing was introduced to the horrors of genital mutilation, which unfortunately, still does go on in today’s age. 

At over 400 pages, TINY SUNBIRDS, FAR AWAY was a novel that captured the characters and place so very, very well that I felt like I was there.  I could even taste the horrible “magic cube” soup Blessing made the first time!  I will be highly recommending this book to friends.