Friday, March 29, 2013


Story Description: 
Washington Square Press|March 12, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4516-6178-1 
Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years in this “compelling…unvarnished, resonant” (Book Page) story of a childhood spent torn between two parents and two countries.  As her parents make the dangerous trek across the Mexican border to “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced into the already overburdened household of their stern grandmother.  When their mother at last returns, Reyna prepares for her own journey to "El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father. 
Funny, heartbreaking, and lyrical.  The Distance Between Us poignantly captures the confusion and contradictions of childhood, reminding us that the joys and sorrows we experience are imprinted on the heart forever, calling out to us of those places we first called home. 
My Review:  
This story captured my heart from the beginning to the end.  It was so eloquently written with such a descriptive narrative that I could literally feel and smell and see the sights around me.  From the dust on the ground to the feel of the dirt and mud clinging to my feet to the taste of the medicine Abuela Evila used to rid the children of worms. 
When Reyna was four-years-old she didn’t know yet where the United States was or why everyone in her hometown of Iguala, Guerrero referred to it as El Otro Lado, the Other Side.  All she knew back then was that El Otro Lado had already taken her father away.  What she did know was that prayers didn’t work because if they did, then El Otro Lado wouldn’t be taking her mother away too. 
Both Reyna’s mother, Juana, and her father, Natalio had gone to the United States leaving Reyna and her siblings: sister Mago, eight-and-a-half-years-old; and her brother, Carlos 7-years-old behind with their miserable grandmother, Abuela Evila.  By June of 1980 the children had been with her for six months.  During that time they were never taken anywhere.  The three children all had head lice and instead of cleaning their hair properly to rid them of the lice, Abuela Evila dosued their hair in kerosene, wrapped their heads in towels and plastic bags and forced them to sleep that way.  Halfway through the night, the children couldn’t stand the burning of their scalps and would remove the towels and bags so in the morning, their grandmother shaved all their heads bald as punishment.  The little girls were horrified. 
One night the children received a phone call from their mother and father in America.  They called to tell them they were going to have a baby.  The three children felt as if they were being replaced.  They’d now been at their grandmother’s house for eight long months. 
The children’s parents sent money regularly from the States to buy clothing and shoes but Abuela always spent it on something else forcing the children to walk around in old, torn, and tattered clothes looking like orphans.  Abuela wasn’t a very nice woman at all. 
The children received word that their mother had just given birth to a baby girl whom she named Elisabeth (Betty).  The kids were so upset it sent them to their rooms crying for the night.  It had now been a whole year since they’d seen their mother and with this new baby they were afraid she would forget about them altogether. 
Their cousin, Elida turned fifteen so a big quinceanera party was planned to celebrate.  The kids other cousins came and gramma Abuela Evila spent all day making new dresses for the girls on her sewing machine.  Elida’s dress was made in the United States because her mother, Tia Maria Felix said she had to have the best for HER daughter.  By the end of the week everyone “except” for Mago and Reyna had a new dress.  The day before the party, Abuela Evila bought a few yards of silver material, shiny like a brand new peso and began making dresses for Mago and Reyna.  She made a mistake on Reyna’s dress and sewed the dress inside out and made the child wear it like that.  And poor Carlos didn’t get any new clothes at all.  Reyna was so upset at being forced to wear the inside-out dress at the party that she sat, hidden underneath the table and cried about the dress, and the fact that her parents had replaced her with Betty.  Reyna was now no longer the youngest child. 
The children were missing their parents something terrible and they asked their grandmother if she thought they’d ever return and she said “no.”  When Reyna gets bitten twice by a scorpion,  is burning up with fever and on her way to the hospital in a taxi with her aunt, she asks her if she believes her grandmother is telling the truth.  Aunt Tia Emperatriz said she didn’t know, but Reyna felt that although where they lived was pretty, it was just a place of “broken beauty” without her Mom and Dad.  It had now been two years since her Mom and Dad had been gone. 
Eventurally, their mother comes back with little Betty in tow but soon leaves again.  This pattern continues over and over again until one day their father returns after many years.  He decides to hire a mule to smuggle himself and the three children back across the border to live with his new wife who has three children of her own.  After three attempts they finally make it but the children’s dream of living in American isn’t the dream they had in mind.  Natalio wasn’t the kind father they had remembered from their younger years.  He was distant and extremely abusive and after years of having neither a mother nor a father the children didn’t deserve this type of treatment. 
The experiences these children have during their childhood, and I’ve only just barely touched on what they went through, remained with them their entire lives.  This memoir is one I won’t soon forget and is now part of my permanent collection.  I loved ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls but The Distance Between Us has that beat by a long shot.  If you want an unbelievable read, don’t miss this one, it definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Story Description: 
Baker Publishing Group|April 1, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-8007-2241-8 
In March 2010, thirteen-year-old Taylor Storch’s life was tragically cut short by a skiing accident.  With only a few minutes to consider their options, her grieving family made the life-changing decision to donate her organs.  Knowing Taylor’s caring spirit, they were sure this was what she would have wanted.  Over the course of the next two years, Tara and Todd Storch connected with four of the five people who now live because of Taylor’s gift.  And through these encounters, the Storches have discovered unexpected blessings that are changing countless lives. 
Now Tara and Todd share their inspiring story, shining a light at the end of the tunnel for those enduring the suffering of losing a loved one.  Through the stories of the donor recipients, readers will discover hope in the midst of pain.  Honest with their struggles, the Storches show readers that life is a gift and our response to grief is a choice.  They also speak with a clear voice about the important and the blessing of being an organ donor, telling the inspiring story of the creation of Taylor’s Gift Foundation and its goals to raise awareness of the need for organ donation, to re-gift, renew health, and restore families.  They are changing the conversation around the globe that organ donation is not about death - it’s about life.  Foreword by Max Lucado. 
My Review: 
Thirteen-year-old Taylor Storch was killed in a snow skiing accident.  The really sad part is that it was Taylor’s last run of their very first day on the slopes.  As a parent myself, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to suffer the loss of one of your children.  Life isn’t supposed to work that way – parents don’t bury their children. 
Taylor’s parents, Todd and Tara’s grief was all encompassing and each grieved in different ways.  At first, both Todd and Tara were like zombies just moving through each day as best they could.  Todd was eventually able to become more productive in his life caring for the couple’s other two children, making funeral arrangements, accepting callers at their door who had come to offer condolences or food and generally trying to keep one foot in front of the other. 
Tara, on the other hand, closed herself off from life and took to her bed for a year.  She just wasn’t able to function with any sense of normalcy at all, or even take the proper interest in her other two children.  Taylor’s death was just too much for her to bear. 
There is no right or wrong way to grieve and each person grieves at their own pace and in their own time.  What might take six months for one, might take five years for another.  Too often we hear people say “Oh, just get over it’s been a whole year.”  Don’t ever allow anyone to say that to you when you’re grieving.  Grief is a personal and individual thing. 
For Todd and Tara grief was difficult until they made the decision to donate Taylor’s organs and then things began to change.  They began to understand why they lost their daughter and why God had chosen to call her home at this time.  Taylor would have been so proud of the decision that her parents made on her behalf.  Luckily for Todd and Tara, they were eventually able to personally meet four out of the five donor-recipients of Taylor’s gifts!  In most cases this doesn’t happen but it did for this one very lucky family. 
Although it was a hard and sad story to read in parts, I was awed at the strength and fortitude that this family showed in setting up Taylor’s Gift Foundation to encourage other  people to sign up for organ donation so that other families can be saved like the five in this story. 
If you never do anything else when you finish reading this beautiful story, at least please consider and sign-up for organ donation and make your wishes known to doctor’s, family and friends.  Be an advocate for Taylor’s family and help them spread the word about organ donation.  If we each told just one person, we’d go a long, long way in keeping many family’s together. 
Thank you Todd and Tara for sharing your story with us.  I’ll never forget Taylor.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".


Story Description: 
Penguin Press (HC)|March 12, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN:: 978-1-59420-512-5 
Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan.  He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun.  He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father.  He would be an avid skier like his mother.  Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education. 
But all of these plans changed when Ronan was diagnosed at nine months old with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder.  Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months.  Rapp and her husband were forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about parenting.  They would had to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future. 
The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond it.  Rapp’s response to her son’s diagnosis was a belief that she needed to “make my world big” – to make sense of her family’s situation through art, literature, philosophy, theology and myth.  Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and writers, from C.S. Lewis to Sylvia Plath, Hegel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rapp learns what wisdom there is to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child.  In luminous, exquisitely moving prose she re-examines our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life. 
My Review: 
Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease at the age of nine-months.  Tay-Sachs is a rare and always fatal degenerative disorder, and precious little Ronan wasn’t expected to live beyond the age of three, and would be permanently stalled, developmentally at the age of six-months. 
Emily and Rick Rapp had taken their little bundle of joy to see a pediatric ophthalmologist on January 10, 2011 at the urging of their family pediatrician.  They drove from their home in Santa Fe to Albuquerque.  Ronan had been missing important milestones for a baby of his age and this worried Emily a great deal.  The doctor thought Ronan had great “fixation” but was more interested at looking at his “retinas.”  Upon looking, the doctor immediately said: “Oh, boy.”  Emily’s heart dropped and she asked: “What is it?”  She knew by the look on his face that it wasn’t going to be good news.  The doctor replied: “He has cherry-red spots on the backs of his retinas…I’ve only seen this one other time in fifteen years of practice.  It’s Tay-Sachs, I’m so sorry.”  Rick was confused and had no idea what the doctor was talking about but Emily did.  Rick wanted to know how they could “fix it”, but Emily stuttered out: “They die.”  In that one moment, Emily and Rick’s entire life was about to drastically change and they faced a sad road ahead of them – their child had just been handed a death sentence before his life had even begun. 
As the disease progresses it takes a lot to care for a child with Tay-Sachs: head supports, bath chairs, seizure medications, suction machines and other medical equipment.  Emily questioned how you parent a child without a future, knowing that you are going to lose your child little by little.  Could she even call the role she now found herself in as “parenting?” 
One quote from the book hit me especially hard in regard to terminally ill children that said: 
“For parents of terminally children, parenting strategies incorporate the grim reality that we will not be launching our children into a bright and promising future, but into early graves.  The goals for OUR children are simple and terrible and absolutely grounded in the everyday: dignity and minimal discomfort.” 
After speaking with other mothers, Emily was made well aware of the horror of what was yet to come for her and Rick.  The other Moms had been blatantly honest with her about what to expect.  In their case now, their parenting goal wasn’t to celebrate the awesome milestones that Ronan wouldn’t meet but instead to “do your best to keep your baby alive.”  They were about to face health issues such as: paralysis, blindness, deafness, spasticity, seizures and death.  And one thing Emily learned is that parents of terminally ill children are rarely asked for parenting advice.  I ponder to myself why that would be so?  Just because your child happens to by dying doesn’t mean that you don’t have great parenting ideas to share.  I wonder if people do this out of fear? 
Emily and Rick often acknowledge that while holding a sick baby, especially when that baby is yours, you accept that this bundle of joy is going to die.  Emily compared it to attempting to escape from jail everyday even though you know your efforts will be for naught.  However, regardless of Ronan’s impending fate, Rick and Emily marched forward as a normal family as much as possible going on road trips, to parties, coffee shops and restaurants.  Ronan was their: “companion, our child, our beloved.” 
Emily and Rick decided part of their job as Ronan’s parents was to: “not be responsible for managing other people’s rude reactions or misconceptions.”  They were unable to mitigate other people’s fears, but they could certainly love Ronan.  THAT was their only job.  Babies with disorders like Tay-Sachs don’t care about perception, or in measuring up, or looking a certain way.  Rick and Emily tried to remember this when people stared at Ronan. 
Emily mentioned the morning after Ronan’s diagnosis as they both awoke and snuggled with Ronan between them in bed she said they both cried.  First Rick, then her, then Rick, then her again.  They didn’t know what to do, how to be with each other or how to be with themselves.  They were completely bereft and didn’t know how to fill in all the blanks they could think of.  I myself could not imagine being in their shoes, how do you empathize in this type of situation?  Emily’s struggle to accept Ronan’s diagnosis was difficult.  She said she sometimes “tried to literally kick out her grief; scratch my way out of it, rock away from it, scream it away, cry it out…” 
The Still Point of the Turning World is a beautiful story that is a true testament to Rick and Emily’s son.  It stirred up so many emotions in me and I longed to befriend the couple.   Not to be nosey or seek information, but just to be an extra ‘someone’ for them to count on who didn’t judge, prod, or ask questions.  Just to “be” in silence or conversation, whatever they needed at any given time.  I will admit that I had a few sniffling moments while reading this gorgeously, bravely, written memoir.  This definitely gets a huge thumbs-up from me!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Story Description: 

St. Martin’s Press|March 26, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN’s: 10:1250021529 & 13:9781250021526 

There are some things you can’t leave behind… 

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember.  The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival.  All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency.  Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive.  Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys. 

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go…a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year.  Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down. 

My Review: 

Fifteen-year-old Carey Blackburn and her younger sister, six-year-old-, Jenessa, live in a run-down, beaten-up old camper in the middle of Obed Wild and Scenic River National Park where their mother took them after abducting them years before.  Their mother is mentally ill and often disappears for days or weeks at a time leaving Carey to fend for herself and her little sister.  The only food they have to eat is beans or anything that Carey can kill off the land like rabbit or squirrel. 

Little Jenessa depends on Carey for everything, her very existence and survival depends on her older sister and Carey takes this job very seriously.  Her love for Jenessa whom she calls ‘Nessa’ is endearing.  Carey displayed patience, understanding, and even disciplined her when it was needed.  Carey is a sweet, grown-up, mature girl who looks after Jenessa as if she were her very own child.  

Then, one day their mother disappears and doesn’t return.  Weeks and weeks go by until two strangers turn up and before they know it, they are whisked into a brand new life.  Living in a beautiful home, going to school, wearing new clothes and ones that are ‘clean’ and even a dog as a pet which Jenessa falls madly in love with.  However, the family’s concern over Jenessa’s silence is worrying and they ask Carey why her sister hasn’t spoken a word in over a year.  Carey knows she’s made a vow to herself to always keep the secrets but is it time to tell and unburden herself?

If You Find Me was a beautiful story of the immense love and trust between two sisters, survival in horrible conditions, and hope for a future filled with good things that will override the past. 

This story touched my heart like no other.  Carey was an amazing young woman whose care of her little sister was paramount in her survival.  I had to keep the Kleenex close at hand during this read.  My prediction is that If You Find Me is going to be a big hit and I’ll certainly be recommending it to all my friends and family.
I'd like to thank St. Martin's Press and The Reading Room for the Advanced Reader's Copy.  I received no remuneration for my review.  All opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Story Description: 

Kensington|December 25, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7582-7843-2 

A deeply moving and masterfully written story of human resilience and enduring love, The Plum Tree follows a young German woman through the chaos of World War II and its aftermath. 

“Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma.  But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village.  It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for.

Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations.  In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime.  Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job – and from having any relationship with Isaac.  In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive – and finally to speak out. 

Set against the backdrop of the German home front, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake. 

My Review: 

The war began on a September day in 1938, the same day seventeen-year-old Christine Bolz received a surprise invitation to the Bauerman’s holiday party.  On that day it was utterly impossible to imagine the horrors to come. 

Christine worked as a domestic for Isaac Bauerman’s family and she always wore one of her two best Sunday dresses in case Isaac was there – she loved him.  The Bauerman’s were one of the last wealthy families in town.  Isaac’s father made sure that his children knew the virtues of labor.  He gave Isaac and his younger sister, Gabriella, regular chores. 

Christine had a younger sister, Marie age 15; and two little brothers, Heinrich age 6; and Karl age 4. 

Christine’s mother told her that her relationship with Isaac could never work because she was the daughter of a poor mason, and Isaac was the son of a rich lawyer.  His mother grew roses and raised money for charity, while her mother scrubbed his family’s floors and washed their clothes.  He had attended school for 12 years and was now in university studying to be a doctor or a lawyer.  Christine had good grades as long as she wasn’t hauled out to gather a late harvest or pluck potato bugs from the farmer’s fields and couldn’t afford university.  Christine, looking back, found it ironic how hard she studied.  Her foolish hope had been to become a teacher or a nurse.  By age 11 she realized it cost too much to attend school and knew that all she’d ever be was a good mother and a hard-working wife. 

The other problem Christine’s mother saw that would prevent her and Isaac from ever marrying was the fact he was a Jew and she a Christian. 

Christine shared everything with her best friend, Kate, or Katya Hirsch and they were only 2 weeks apart in age.  Their mothers had been friends before they were born, and as newborns, they’d slept together in prams, as toddlers, they’d played together on a blanket in the sunny yard while their mothers picked plums.  And as adolescents they jumped rope for hours on end, dared each other to wade beneath Hangman’s Bridge, cut each other’s hair and scared themselves with spooky stories.  Little did Christine know that this friendship would come to a grinding halt within a couple of years’ time. 

Hitler was changing Germany and making new laws.  Christine was heart-stricken when she read the posters put up all over town that read: “No Jew Can Be A Reich Citizen.”  The center of the poster showed crude outlines of men, women, and children with questions: “Who is a German citizen?  Who is a Jew?”  These new laws meant that Christine and her mother could no longer work for the Bauerman’s.  German women were forbidden to work for Jewish families.  Christine’s mother told her in a very, clear and concise manner that she was no longer allowed to go to the Bauerman home or to see Isaac or she’d be arrested.  However, Christine’s mother was allowed to attend the Bauerman home one last time to pick up their last pay cheque but she refused to allow Christine to accompany her.  Christine was so heartbroken to know she couldn’t see Isaac again.  What was she going to do?  She asked her mother if she would please take a note and give it to Isaac when she went to collect their pay cheques and she agreed.  Christine wrote a note asking Isaac to meet her somewhere late that evening after dark when they wouldn’t be seen. 

Soon, Christine and Isaac were meeting on a regular basis and spending time together under the cover of darkness which would have seen them both arrested if caught.  Soon enough, Isaac and his family are gone from the village due to all the propaganda.  Later on in the story, Christine ends up hiding Isaac in their attic and is caught and sent to Dachau where she witnessed unspeakable horrors and this is where the story really gets interesting.  You’ll be heartbroken, shocked, shake your head, and feel the pain of the prisoners as the conditions they live in are described and their skeletal bodies are revealed in written words.  This was a very sad period in history and one that will never be forgotten and hopefully never repeated. 

The Plum Tree was 367 pages of unbelievable writing that was so well-done.  I read the book over two days just so I could make it last a little longer.  Although sad and heartbreaking, the writing was so spot on that I didn’t want it to end.  I’ll definitely be recommending The Plum Tree to everyone and keeping it as part of my permanent collection.     



Story Description: 
Berkley Trade|February 5, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-425-25969-6 
Life can turn on a dime.  It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough.  People die or move away.  Investments go south.  Affairs end. Loved ones betray us…Stuff happens. 
Daisy McCrae’s life is in tatters.  She’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been reduced to living in the attic above her family’s store, the Union Street Bakery, while learning the business.  Unfortunately, the bakery is in serious hardship.  Making things worse is the constant feeling of not being a “real” McCrae since she was adopted as a child and has a less-than-perfect relationship with her two sisters. 
Then a long-standing elderly customer passes away, and for some reason bequeaths Daisy a journal dating back to the 1850’s, written by a slave girl named Susie.  As she reads, Daisy learns more about her family, and her own heritage, than she ever dreamed.  Haunted by dreams of the young Susie, who beckons Daisy to “find her”, she is compelled to look further into the past of the town and her family. 
What she finds are the answers she has longed for her entire life, and a chance to begin again with the courage, and desire she thought she lost for good. 
My Review: 
The Union Street Bakery has been owned by a McCrae since 1852.  First was, Shaun McCrae, an Irishman who lost his wife in the potato famine in 1842.  He found work in a slave auction house but over time lost his taste for trading human flesh.  For a few years, no record of Shaun surfaced but then in 1851, the City of Alexandria records mentioned that Shaun McCrae was the new proprietor of the McCrae Bakery, later to be known as the Union Street Bakery.  His specialty was sea biscuits or ship’s bread, a hardy cracker that fed sailors who labored on the barges, schooners, and other ships docked in Alexandria’s thriving harbor.  In 1865, Shaun married his second wife, Sally Good, and they passed the business to their eldest son, and he did the same when he retired.  Ever since, a McCrae has operated the business.  And now Daisy herself has returned to the city to what so many of her family did before her: bake bread. 
Daisy’s birth mother abandoned her outside the Union Street Bakery when she was just 3 years old.  As she sat eating a cookie her mother told her to “Be a good girl. I will be back soon.”  It was Sheila McCrae who had 2 daughters of her own at ages 5 and 3 who took her in after an extensive police search and a few rounds with social workers.  The McCrae family legally adopted Daisy.  
A long-time 99-year-old customer of the bakery, Mabel Woodrow, was searching through her old wooden trunk for a journal that had been packed away in newspaper dating back to 1922.  When she finally located it she could barely contain her excitement.  Underneath the newspaper it was wrapped in blue calico fabric.  Her own grandmother had given it to her and told her to put it away someplace safe until the time was right.  Mabel passed away and left strict instructions with her nurse of 40 years to make sure that Daisy McCrae received the journal.  The following morning the nurse appeared at the bakery and handed over the ancient journal to Daisy explaining that Mabel had left the strictest of instructions that she receive this journal.  Of course, Daisy, had no idea why but accepted it with a grateful heart. 
Inside, Daisy found the words written by a slave girl named, Susie, written over 150 years ago and she had no idea what this journal was going to end up meaning to her.  
The next morning, Daisy awoke at 3:30 to get ready to head downstairs to the basement to begin the process of baking bread, buns, cookies, cakes and pies for the 7:00am opening.  However, this morning, her attic room had very distinct chills and cool breezes as she moved about the room.  Then suddenly she saw him – the hair on the back of her neck tingled.  She had a sense that someone was lurking there in the shadows staring at her.  The sensation burrowed down to her bones.  She stood for several seconds, her heart thumped and then at the edge of darkness she saw the outline of a man.  His hair was combed back and accentuated dark and expressive eyes.  His partial grin revealed crooked, small teeth.  His dark suit appeared hand tailored as did his shirt and vest.  He shook his head, she shook hers and said: “Do I know you?”  He stared as if assessing her and she sensed she came up short in his book.  “What’s this about?” she asked.  He eased toward her, assessing.  “This is about the journal?” Daisy inquired.  He nodded.  “I didn’t read it last night, I was too tired and annoyed.  I suppose you’re here to tell me not to read it.”  The man’s expression darkened and the shadows around them thickened.  The walls undulated ad moaned and suddenly the air in the room smelled of rotting eggs. 
Fear dug into Daisy’s gut and triggered a set of worries she never had considered.  She’d never been afraid of any bump or squeak in the night in the attic room, but now she was.  “Just leave”, she said.  For seconds, maybe minutes, they stood staring at each other and in the next instant he was gone.  Daisy’s heart thumped and her breathing quickened.  She felt confined and afraid.  Several books piled high on the table tumbled to the floor, making her jump.  This presence wanted her to leave.  And that ticked her off.  She told the ghost to leave, to get the hell out of her room.  Seconds ticked as watching eyes stared at her.  “Beat it”, she said.  The air thickened and then in a blink cleared.  Whatever it was had gone.  She’d never felt unwelcomed in this house but she did now. 
What on earth was she going to find in this journal about a slave girl and what did it have to do with her that she now had ghosts visiting her? 
This was a well-written and extremely interesting story that kept me turning page after page and provided me with both chills and thrills.  I never expected what Daisy was soon to find out.  The Union Street Bakery is highly recommendable. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Pamela Dorman Books|January 1, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-670-02660-9 
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose.  Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life – steady boyfriend, close family who has never been farther afield than their tiny village.  She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe, Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident.  Will has always lived a huge life, big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel, and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. 
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy – but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected.  When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. 
A love story for this generation, Me Before You, brings to life two people who  couldn’t have less in common – a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
My Review: 
Louisa Clark loses her waitress job and her family is desperate for money.  Her father was also laid off from his job and her sister, Treena has returned to university so she isn’t contributing any income to the family at all.  Plus her Mom is at home taking care of her grandfather. 
Lou visits the local job seeking agency and takes on a couple of low paying mundane jobs that only last a few days at a time.  Just as she has exhausted the list the agency has for her, a new job comes through that pays more than the minimum wage.  Someone is needed to care for a quadriplegic man on a daily basis but Louisa doesn’t want to take on a job where she has to clean up bodily fluids and help someone to the toilet.  The agency checks and finds out that none of that will be required of her as they have a male nurse who comes two or three times per day to perform those dreaded tasks.  All Louisa has to do is keep Will Traynor company, never leave him alone for longer than 15 minutes at a time, and do some light housekeeping and makes Will his meals.  She takes the job. 
The first day she meets, Wil,l she can’t stand the man.  He is rude, arrogant, offensive, and belligerent.  No matter what Lou does it doesn’t seem to make Will happy.  He makes fun of her clothing, her shoes, what she says and even what she doesn’t say.  Will finds something to complain about or to get his “poor me” message out there into the world. 
As time passes, things begin to change and Louisa begins to understand what it’s like for, Will to be trapped in the wheelchair 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  She thinks about never being able to scratch her own nose again, to never being able to pick up a pen and write down a quick phone number, or to just get up and take a quick stroll around the garden. 
Will is very unhappy and doesn’t want to live but Louisa decides before her six-month contract is up that she is going to change his mind and prove to him that life really is still worth living for.  However, she didn’t expect that they’d fall in love which would ultimately ruin her longstanding seven-year relationship with her boyfriend, Patrick. 
Louisa begins to search the internet for activities that quads can do.  She’s willing to even take him overseas on a trip if she has too just to prove to Will that he CAN still do the a lot of the things he used to, just in a different way. 
However, when Louisa finds out exactly why her contract to care for Will is only six-months, she completely cracks under the pressure and is totally, totally devastated.  She immediately tenures her resignation and returns home.  Camilla Traynor, Will’s mother, comes to Louisa’s home and begs her to reconsider and to come back because she’s the only person they’ve ever had that has been able to change Will.  He has actually been happy and pleasant and quite lovely to be around.  Louisa agrees to return and with a vengeance she once again restarts her search for places to take Will. 
In the end, will her love for Will be enough to make him really understand and realize that although he is trapped in a wheelchair that he can still have a fulfilling life and that he still has a lot to give to this world? Or, will she give up knowing that somehow she is going to be hurt too deeply? 
I didn’t expect the ending of this book at all, it was quite a shock to me to be quite honest and I cried for about ten minutes.  The author has done a fantastic job at penning this novel and you won’t be able to put it down once you’ve started and I was sorry to see it end.  I’ll definitely be recommending it to family and friends.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Story Description: 
Philomel|February 12, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-399-25692-9 
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old, Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own.  Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.  She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. 
Jose is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld.  New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.  
With characters as captivating as those in her internationally acclaimed bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny. 
My Review: 
Josie Moraine’s mother, Louise, began working as a prostitute in 1940 when Josie was just seven-years-old – the same year they moved from Detroit to New Orleans.  Josie says her mother isn’t the “filthy, streetwalking kind” of prostitute and sleeps with men for “money and gifts” but according to the “dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.”  She is actually quite pretty, fairly well-spoken and has lovely clothes according to Josie. 
Their second day in New Orleans, Louise received an invitation to visit someone and a cabbie named, Cokie, showed up to escort Louise and Josie.  They pulled up to a house on Conti Street that was painted a pale yellow with black lattice balconies.  Josie was quite taken aback with the place and asked her mother whose house it was.  “It’s her house.  Willie Woodley’s” said, Louise.  “HER house?  But Willie’s a man’s name”, Jose said.  “Stop it, Josie.  Willie is a woman’s name.  Now keep quiet!” replied her mother. 
The inside of the house was opulent, gaudy, with deep green brocades and lamps and black crystals dangling from dimly lit shades.  Paintings of nude women hung from the foyer walls and cigarette smoke mingled with stale Eau de Rose.  Louise and Josie walked through a group of girls who patted Josie on the head and called her sugar and doll. 
Stepping into the next room, the first thing Josie saw was a veiny, pale, hand draped over the arm of an upholstered wingback chair.  Her nails were glossy red like pomegranate seeds that could pop a balloon with a quick flick.  Gold and diamonds clustered every finger.  Her voice was thick, her plantinum blond hair was pulled tight in a clasp engraved with the initials W.W.  Her eyes were lined with charcoal and she had wrinkles fringing out from the corners, and her lips were scarlet red.  Willie made it quite clear that she didn’t like children which therefore meant Louise and Josie could not reside in Willie’s house with the other girls.  Willie told Louise about a small apartment on Dauphine that one of her bookies had been renting but he’d just recently gotten himself shot and killed so wouldn’t be needing the apartment anymore.  Willie told Louise to settle in and they’d talk again at the end of the month. 
By 1950 when Josie was seventeen-years-old, she was living alone above the bookstore where she worked.  Her mother was prostituting for Willie and had no interest in Josie whatsoever.  Josie’s big dream was to escape the Big Easy and head for Smith college but the tuition was two-thousand dollars a year and where would she come up with that kind of money? 
In the meantime, her mother, Louise has gotten herself involved with a man named Cincinnati who was one bad dude.  Someone you certainly wouldn’t want to cross.  Although he beat Louise, she could look over that due to his generosity with his big money, fancy restaurants and the best hotels New Orleans has to offer. 
One day a tourist stops into the bookstore where Louise works and purchases two books but winds up dead on New Year’s Eve. At first his death is ruled as a heart attack until police get word that something else is up.  His body is exhumed, an autopsy done and it’s concluded that he was murdered.  Everyone in the Big Easy is on edge and being questioned by the police.  Willie, wanting to protect Josie sends her away to her summer home until the heat dies down.  She didn’t want Louise dragging Josie into something she wasn’t responsible for.  What Willie doesn’t know is that Josie is already involved.  She took something that belonged to the tourist that the police and dead man’s wife are now looking for and Josie doesn’t know what to do with the evidence.  What transpires in this story will knock your socks off.  I read this book in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down.  It was the best 4.5 hours I’ve spent in a long time. 
Out of the Easy is one story I won’t soon forget.  The characters are endearing each in their own way and one in particular is an absolute doll.  You’ll love this book and will want to pass it on to friends and family, I know that’s what I’m going to do. 
Ruta Sepetys’ first novel was titled “Between Shades of Gray” and if you haven’t read it, you might want to pick it up at the same time as ‘’Out of the Easy”.  Ms. Sepetys is well on her way to becoming a well-known bestselling author and I can’t wait to read her next book.