Monday, March 31, 2014
Authors Online|November 4, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7552-0682-7
In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father's decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Wittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria's initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustaines her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.
It is Spring in England, the year 1910 and sixteen-year-old Victoria's parents are arguing as to whether she should attend university or not. Her father wanted her to attend whilst her mother did not but father won the argument. Victoria would be enrolled, however, little did her parents realize then that doing so was about to hurdle her into "a world she was totally unprepared for."
Victoria's father was a doctor and thereby valued higher education. He was also an "ardent reformist and a progressive thinker." He had a private practice in central London, but also believed the poor should have access to health care and therefore devoted some of his time to the less fortunate in the East End.
Victoria's mother, on the other hand, did not want to see her daughter over-educated. She felt that a girl of Victoria's class would never be expected to make her own living. She viewed having a career as "masculine" and felt Victoria's only concern was in lookoing for a suitable husband - marriage would be her career.
Victoria was enrolled at Caufields which was a residential ladies college that specialized in higher education for women. This would be Victoria's first time living away from her parents and she realized she'd no longer be under their rule but that of her tutors instead. She did realize, however, that she'd have blocks of unsupervised time where she could be herself. She did not tell her parents of the mischief she got herself into during these alone times for her mother would blame the college.
It was at Caufield's that Victoria met Beryl Whittacker a "willowy redhead" who was openly opinionated and had radical ideas. She was also involved in "The Women's Social and Political Union" and would "smuggle" their pamphlets into the school at the risk of being expelled. Beryl wanted to live her life without having to conform to a man's ideals. Beryl wasn't opposed to marriage only that it was offered to women as their only option in life.
Victoria met Gerald Avery at a neighbouring college when he got up to recite a poem he'd written. Victoria was instantly smitten to this tall, broad shouldered man. Gerald noticed Victoria's glances and sought her out at the end of the evening.
As Victoria and Gerald used every opportunity to continue meeting, rumors of a developing war began. Neither of them could believe that the "political unrest in a place like Serbia...could somehow plunge the whole of Europe into a war..." It was to them simply crazy that "superior nations like Britain and Germany would come to blows over nothing more than an unpopular Archduke and an insignificant blot on the map."
By age nineteen, Victoria had completed her last year at Caufield's and Gerald asked her to marry him and she accepted.
The war did come after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been assassinated by a young Serb. All of Europe was getting involved and on August 4th Britain declared war on Germany. Volunteers were needed to enlist and Gerald was one of them, for no true patriot could fail to answer the call. Victoria knew in her heart of hearts that Gerald would respond to the call. She tried arguing with him even telling him he might be killed. She was in tears but Gerald's sense of duty won out.
Due to his education, Gerald was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the West Sussex Yeomanry. The day finally arrived for Gerald to depart and after exchanging momentos with each others photos, a long-lasting kiss, Gerald was gone. Nothing would ever be quite the same again.
It wasn't long before Victoria got word that Gerald was missing. She didn't know if he was dead or alive. Was he a prisioner of war or had he been killed or was he missing in action? Her heart was broken to say the least but she refused to believe he was dead.
Although Gerald had left Victoria with some money, it wasn't enough to provide for her lodgings and food long-term so she was forced to find work. She ended up on Orchardlea farm where her entire life was about to change. It is at Orchardlea that she befriends three women who become inseparable and share the most intimate of details of their lives and share a special bond. One of them in particular, saves Jen from an unspeakable act of desperation.
DANCE THE MOON DOWN deals very well with the sorrow and grief that the women left behind go through when men trudge off to war. When your husband, father, brother, or son are sent off to war you don't often think of the wives, the mothers and sisters left behind and what they experience and go through. It would be heartbreaking to find yourself in such a circumstance.
I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I just couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting! I just had to keep turning the pages to find out what was happening next. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Victoria and her three friends at the farm. They had a bond like no other. It was well-written, engaging, engrossing, well-paced, and the characters were well developed and I fell in love with the women of Orchardlea and the bond they shared. It was a phenomenal novel!!
I would like to thank R.L. Bartram for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The words written here are completely my own. I will be highly recommending this book to friends and relatives.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
ForWard Publishing|January 11, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-9789008-0-9
Ward Foley was born with multiple birth defects and very little chance to live. But he did, only to undergo decades of surgery, agonizing rehabilitation, ridicule, and humiliation. He was also severely burned in a deep fryer, beat up, and almost killed by a drunk driver. But that's not what this book is about.
It turns out that each "scar" in his life brought Foley one step closer to the people and experiences that would give him what he wanted most.
After the death of a close friend, Foley found himself entering the world of hospice care and a circle of people who had more to teach him than he ever imagined.
You can be in the wrong place at the wrong time...a lot. In fact, your whole life can seem like one, big, wrong turn. But that's exactly what it takes to get you to the one place you want most.
Lively and warm-hearted, full of dry humor and unexpected twists, THANK MY LUCKY SCARS is an exuberant look at what we all ultimately want from life and the story we have been handed.
What a powerful book with a powerful message. Ward Foley was born with multiple birth defects and very little chance of living. He was born with: Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita also known as AMC; and clubbed feet and hands. Arthrogryposis means the joints are curved or crooked. Multiplex means it affects more than one joint, and Congenita means the condition is present at birth. Arthrogryposis means the person is born with contractures. This means some of their joints don't move as much as normal and can even be stuck in one position. Very often the muscles around the joints are thin, weak, stiff, or missing. Extra tissue may have formed around the joints, holding them in place. About 1 in 3,000 babies are born with AMC.
Ward doesn't believe in beating around the bush. He just lays it all out on the line. He firmly believes that just because you are born with defects does not mean that even more bad things can happen to you because they can. For Ward Foley, it was like being born under a black cloud that followed him throughout his life. He was almost killed by a drunk driver, fell into a deep fryer, was beaten up by some cruel teenagers that he had been trying to help.
It would have been so easy for Ward to just curl up in a ball, close the blinds, lock the doors and say to heck with the whole world. But, that's not what he did for Ward Foley is a positive and optimistic man with a deep faith in God and what He teaches us. Ward works with hospice patients, gives speeches to adults, teenagers, and school-aged children and passes along his powerful message of hope for the future, love, faith, and his belief in having the true grace of God Almighty.
Ward's wit, humor and positive attitude is infectious and you'll find yourself grinning and snickering at what I term the "Ward-isims" throughout the book. You'll also love the "God moments" that Ward talks about where time and time again miraculous things happen. He doesn't try to cram anything down your throat he just tells his story like he was sitting across the table from you enjoying a cup of tea which is what makes him so endearing to those reading his story.
Ward Foley is a great example to all us! Grab a copy of THANK MY LUCKY SCARS and pay attention people, pay attention.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Brilliance Audio|April 8, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1477848999
The third book of the 'Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters' series, BITTER WINDS continues the saga of Chinese couple Benfu and Calli, and the abandoned young women in their care. Since the night her sister was almost burned alive in a fire and they were taken from their mother, Ivy has been the self-appointed guardian and guide to her blind twin, Lily. When Lily is snatched away and put behind locked doors, Ivy will do whatever it takes to get her sister home, even if it means putting her own life in danger. After Benfu and Calli's long-lost daughter, Li Jin, is finally reunited with her birth parents, she opens a shelter for displaced people, turning her fortune from destitution and abuse to family and fulfillment. But her friend, Sami remains consumed by bitterness and Li Jin soon realizes she needs to make a difficult choice between revisiting the past or nurturing her own future.
BITTER WINDS is book three in Kay's "Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters" series.
Lily is sixteen-years-old and blind and wants to exert her independence. Ivy is her twin and has been Lily's eyes since they were born, and there was no one she trusted more in her life. She knows that Ivy will always protect her and look out for her. Being blind is a big deal to other people but not to Lily and she is very happy that she can't see the pity in their faces. She didn't even like carrying her white cane because she felt it was like a huge advertisement telling people to look at her becasue she was blind.
Today, Ivy is escorting, Lily to the park so she could put on a concert playing her prized violin. She worried about her Mom and Dad getting older and not always being around to take care of them. She really wanted to make her own money and learn to be independent so Ivy too could go and make her own life. If no one gave her money for playing her violin today, the she'd go home, practice some more and return another day to try again.
Arriving at the park, Ivy deposited Lily on an empty bench to play her concert and she strolled off to look around the park. She didn't want to make Lily nervous by standing there, staring at her while she played.
Lily was playing her concert when she was suddenly arrested by the police! A terrifying ordeal for a blind girl. They threw her into a temporary locked cage while they rounded up more offenders and then transferred them to a paddy wagon and off to jail. When Ivy finally returned to pick up Lily and found her gone she began to panic. Someone in the crowd finally told her the police had taken her away as they thought she was a beggar, but that was not the only reason they had arrested her. Ivy took off running, heading home to break the news to her father, Benfu and the rest of the family.
Meanwhile, Lily wasn't the only family member waiting to exert her independence these days. Li Jin, was, Benfu and Calli's only birth child who had been abducted when she was just a toddler was finally back in their lives with a son of her own. Li Jin was also wanting to exert her independence too and had opened up 'Rose Haven' - a shelter for homeless or displaced people. She charged them nothing to stay at her shelter and relied on donations and what she could afford to purchase. Li Jin did all the home-made cooking herself and any one of any age was welcome at Rose Haven from babies to seniors, However, Li Jin had one ball and chain around her ankle in the form of, Sami.
Sami, had come with Li Jin, home to her family but she was a desperately and deeply angry young woman who "...still burns for revenge against the man who corrupted her."
How is, Benfu going to get Lily released from jail when the fine is set out of his reach and the police firmly believe she is involved in more than begging? And how is, Li Jin going to decide whether to help, Sami and leave Rose Haven and her life-long dream behind or let Sami go her own way?
BITTER WINDS is an absolute page-turner! I was so invested in the story I felt as though I was in the book with the characters. I could see the park, the jail and the conditions there. And, I could see, hear and smell all that went on at Rose Haven.
Kay Bratt is one of the most expansive and joyful writers around these days. BITTER WINDS gracefully unravels how tradition, culture, and sense of place affect the human heart. Kay Bratt celebrates the joys and boundaries of storytelling and I look forward with excited anticipation to her next novel. She has never disappointed me yet. Another book well done, Kay!
I would like to thank the author for providing me with a copy of this book in trade for an honest review. All opinions are mine and mine only.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
WestBow Press|January 20, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4908-1096-6
Michael Salter appears to be living a normal, respectable life as a devoted husband and psychologist when he finds his brother's lifeless body inside an abandoned cabin in the middle of the desert. As his faith in God shatters, Michael's entire life begins to unravel. From his wife to his career, everything he relies upon for stability and sanity begins to fall away. Beaten to his knees, Michael flees to a remote region of the Sierras, where he descends deeply into despair. But after an intuitive dream, Michael is compelled to return to civilization. There, he meets the woman of his destiny at a party celebrating her engagement to a wealthy business tycoon. Laura and Michael's attraction to each other cannot be denied, but the obstacles seem insurmountable as deeply personal challenges lead each on an intense, spriitual journey to ultimately discover Christ's Spirit in their hearts. THE DIVINE SUMMIT is a story of intrigue, romance, and adventure. It is a tale of the miraculous power of Christ's love to heal us of our deepest pain and fears, and reveals a profound intimacy between a man and a woman that can only be experienced through the grace of God.
Michael Salter found his brother, Brian dead in the middle of the desert where he'd been living. The moment, Michael saw the dead body, his heart, his mind, and his soul shattered into a million pieces. Michael felt his life would never be the same again.
One night, Michael had a dream. He was supposed to attend an engagement party at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a man named, David Granik. David was one of the most "influential tycoons in the city of Los Angeles." As, Michael stood in the Crystal Room he wondered to himself what he was actually doing there for he knew he had absolutely nothing in common with anyone in attendance. Other than David, he knew he wouldn't know another single person there. His dream had led him to believe he was supposed to meet someone important at this party. After having just spent thirty days backpacking through the High Sierras alone, he felt even more out of place at this gathering. Michael was a completely shattered man. He'd lost his faith, he'd lost his brother, and he lost his wife, Patricia when she walked out on him and moved to San Francisco.
Michael could barely believe that just three short months ago he was a successful clinical psychologist at UCLA with a prosperous practice in Westwood Village, a beautiful home, and a beautiful wife. How could one man become so beaten down in such a short time?
Soon the orchestra started up and David and his fiancee, Laura entered the room. Michael was immediately taken with Laura and her intense beauty, especially her "...brilliant blue eyes..." He couldn't understand what had come over him but he felt an extremely strong attraction to Laura, but yet did not know her at all. He had never reacted in such a way before and it startled him. He was utterly "mesmerized" by her. Later in the evening, he danced with, Laura and he knew that she felt something for him too.
One saving grace for, Michael was having met, Laura's Uncle Hermann at the engagement party. The two had sat together at dinner and Hermann told, Michael a little bit about Laura. Michael admitted to Hermann that he had never before felt this way about a woman like he did, Laura and just didn't understand it. At least now, Michael had a sort of confidante in Hermann, someone he could share his feelings with.
Hermann hadn't had a perfect life either and had at one time become disillusioned with God himself so he understood how, MIchael felt. He offered to be Michael's mentor in Christ and Michael took him up on the deal. Herman advised, Michael that it wouldn't be an easy thing to go through and that ridding himself of his anguish and angry feelings toward God would be painful but something he must absolutely go through in order to understand what true "grace" was. Hermann understood that God was doing some work in Michael, but Michael couldn't see that yet, just as he himself couldn't when God was working in him. He felt that the Lord was directing him to help Michael find his path to healing which is why he offered to be his spiritual mentor. Hermann told Michael that he needed to depend on God, completely, for all support but Michael didn't trust God so wondered how he would rely on HIm at this moment in his life? Hermann told Michael that the reliance would come in time.
Over the next while, Laura too realized just how attracted she herself was to, Michael and couldn't understand it either. She was supposed to be marrying David in five short weeks, not having these intense feelings for another man.
One day on a picnic to a beautiful lake near Malibu, Laura confided in, MIchael that she had been thinking about the connection between them. She said she'd completely blocked out her spiritual experience on a Christian retreat she'd been on. But it wasn't until, MIchael asked her if she had received Christ that it came back to her. During her times of meditation she prayed that God give her peace. She was so used to saying this prayer that she didn't even think about it, but now realized that God had answered her prayers, many times. Michael asked Laura "...in what way?" and she responded "It's almost as if His Spirit merges with my heart and then I'm at peace and my mind is perfectly still. I think I did receive the Holy Spirit" and then told, Michael "maybe you see the Spirit in me and that's what's attracting you." Laura then commented how odd she thought it was that Michael could see the light in her but, David couldn't. Michael could often see the Spirit of her soul glowing in her face.
Michael and Laura both had a lot of spiritual work to do. In reading the rest of this wonderful story you'll see how each of them comes to Christ and how their awareness of God's great word and the gifts he bestows upon us can heal us for a lifetime. Like Hermann reminds, Michael in the story that once you've received Christ and His Spirit, that is totally "irreversible!" When we give up on God, God does NOT give up on us. He uses every situation to teach us lessons for life. When we're suffering and feel miserable, we should be thanking God for the experience, not being angry with HIm. God's grace is always with you. Michael is a beaten down man and Laura is a confused woman. They both need to surrender to the grace of God.
I would like to say "thank you" to Dr. Steven Panzer for sending me a copy of THE DIVINE SUMMIT in return for an honest review. I hope you all enjoy this book and learn as much as I did.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Scribner|February 18, 2014|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-9356-0
Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman's THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decade of the twentieth century.
Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impressario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's "museum", alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.
The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a milor's apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes enbroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignities the heart of Coralie.
With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.
THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS is a partial historical account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire that took place in New York in 1911. The author wrote within a historical context while using imaginary lives and fates.
The story is told alternately betwen Coralie Sardie and Eddie Cohen who eventually meet in the story.
Coralie lives an extremely sheltered life with her very strange and bizarre father. Her only saving grace is, Maureen, her caretaker/mother. Coralie's father owns and runs a literal freak show on Coney Island and is constantly struggling to keep his head above water. Along with a weird cast of characters in the museum, he also has Coralie performing in a tank as a mermaid.
Eddie Cohen is a Russian immigrant who is Jewish and is struggling as an apprentice tailor under the tutledge of his father.
I felt so sorry for Coralie who is constantly subjected to her father's abusive ways and he lords his power over her. She was born with webbed hands making him all the more intent on Coralie performing daily as the mermaid. He'd been training and grooming her for this role her whole life. I was so grateful for, Maureen, who at least showed some love toward Coralie. Without her, Coralie would have been completely alone in the world.
Eddie eventually gave up the tailoring business and became a photographer. He finds his father to be a weak man and a coward and completely distances himself from him. However, Eddie also has garnered a reputation as someone who can find missing people with relative ease which is how he eventually meets up with Coralie.
The prose in this novel is simply beautiful and I can see this becoming one of the biggest bestsellers of 2014.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Simon & Schuster|August 6, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4516-2138-9
An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery. BRAIN ON FIRE is the powerful account of one woman's struggle to recapture her idenity.
When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life; at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family's inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. "A fascinating look at the disease that...could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life" (People). BRAIN ON FIRE is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.
Susannah's story is almost unbelievable, but it is real. It just shows how complex our brains really are and how quickly something unexpected can happen. During her month into hell, I wasn't sure she was going to make it out the other end. If it hadn't been for the dedication and devotion of one specific doctor she most likely would have lost her mind forever and never regained her self.
The story was riveting to say the least and kept me glued to my seat. The medical jargon was explained in layman's terms so it was easy to understand exactly what was going on with Susannah each step of the way.
I would highly recommend this book to friends and relatives.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014