A Book Addict's Musings by Readinghearts

Reviews of books that I have read along with discussions, commentaries, book lists, and just general thoughts on books and reading. 

You Know Your Way Home - Suzanne Jauchius You Know Your Way Home is Suzanne Jauchius' memoir highlighting the struggles she faced throughout her life. To begin with, Suzanne had a very rough childhood. Couple this with the psychic gift of "seeing", and it is no wonder that she spent most of her adult life trying to find acceptance. Unfortunately, as every good psychologist will tell you, you first have to accept yourself. A lesson it took Suzanne a very long time to come to grips with. Through her 5 marriages and many ups and downs, it was she who most needed to accept herself and her gift. Once that was accomplished, she could begin to live a successful life.

The phenomena of the psychic is a subject that fascinates me, not the least because it is so controversial and so hard to prove or disprove. I think that was the main reason that I was drawn to this book. I never tire of hearing the stories of people who have had brushes with their sixth sense. Straight out memoirs, though, are not something that I am usually drawn to unless I am familiar with, or curious about, the person whose story is being told. In the case of You Know Your Way Home, what interested me was the fact that Suzanne is a practicing psychic and has participated in a few high profile missing person cases. Although I liked the portions of the book where Suzanne talked about this, there were too few of them in my opinion. The focus in this book is really more about the struggle that Suzanne dealt with. How it manifested itself throughout her life, how the people in her life either helped or hindered her development, and how she eventually was able to pull her life together and become more successful. As such, it read a bit more like a self help book than a memoir to me. For me, so much of the book was centered on the negative parts of Suzanne's life,that the writing actually came across as whiny. By the time she got to the part where she learned to accept herself, and therefore was able to improve her life, I found it hard to be uplifted.

Although this book was a fast read, and was reasonably well written, there was just too much focus on the negative for me to really become invested in it. There were so many things that Suzanne alluded to, but never really covered, that seemed much more interesting to me. For example, I would love to read Suzanne's case book, hear more about her "conversations" with her friend Bob, read more about her family history and the grandma's and aunts that had similar gifts. Even the life of the "brash mystery man" and his Lakota friends would have been nice to know more about. As a result, this was a 3.5 star read for me
You Know Your Way Home - Suzanne Jauchius You Know Your Way Home is Suzanne Jauchius' memoir highlighting the struggles she faced throughout her life. To begin with, Suzanne had a very rough childhood. Couple this with the psychic gift of "seeing", and it is no wonder that she spent most of her adult life trying to find acceptance. Unfortunately, as every good psychologist will tell you, you first have to accept yourself. A lesson it took Suzanne a very long time to come to grips with. Through her 5 marriages and many ups and downs, it was she who most needed to accept herself and her gift. Once that was accomplished, she could begin to live a successful life.

The phenomena of the psychic is a subject that fascinates me, not the least because it is so controversial and so hard to prove or disprove. I think that was the main reason that I was drawn to this book. I never tire of hearing the stories of people who have had brushes with their sixth sense. Straight out memoirs, though, are not something that I am usually drawn to unless I am familiar with, or curious about, the person whose story is being told. In the case of You Know Your Way Home, what interested me was the fact that Suzanne is a practicing psychic and has participated in a few high profile missing person cases. Although I liked the portions of the book where Suzanne talked about this, there were too few of them in my opinion. The focus in this book is really more about the struggle that Suzanne dealt with. How it manifested itself throughout her life, how the people in her life either helped or hindered her development, and how she eventually was able to pull her life together and become more successful. As such, it read a bit more like a self help book than a memoir to me. For me, so much of the book was centered on the negative parts of Suzanne's life,that the writing actually came across as whiny. By the time she got to the part where she learned to accept herself, and therefore was able to improve her life, I found it hard to be uplifted.

Although this book was a fast read, and was reasonably well written, there was just too much focus on the negative for me to really become invested in it. There were so many things that Suzanne alluded to, but never really covered, that seemed much more interesting to me. For example, I would love to read Suzanne's case book, hear more about her "conversations" with her friend Bob, read more about her family history and the grandma's and aunts that had similar gifts. Even the life of the "brash mystery man" and his Lakota friends would have been nice to know more about. As a result, this was a 3.5 star read for me
The Blood of Heaven - Kent Wascom Kent Wascom's aptly named debut novel, The Blood of Heaven comes with a ton on accolades from the publishing world, as well as large numbers of reviews singing it's praises. It has been called "a startling debut" and Kent Wascom an author with "the kind of talent rarely seen in any novelist". The amount of positive press surrounding this novel, the fact that it is historical fiction, and that it is set in the American South before it WAS the American South, all peaked my interest. When I began to read, I sat down ready for a treat the likes of some of my favorite historical fiction epics like James Michener's Hawaii, or Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. Unfortunately, for me, this book did not live up to my high expectations.

The main part of the book takes place in the area of the Louisiana Purchase and West Florida at the time when the land was mostly owned by the French and Spanish. It is the story of the birth of this area of America as the new country pushes to acquire the land in question, and a group of renegade settlers try to form their own country under the leadership of Aaron Burr. I have to admit, I have not read a lot about the founding of this area of the US, and therefore, there were a lot of things in the book that intrigued me and left me wanting more information. That, in a way, is one of the disappointments that I found in this book. The story was very ambitious, including many story lines, but not really doing justice to any of them. A few less pages and a bit more focus on one or two of the story lines would have allowed me to get more involved in the story.

On the whole, I found the flow of the book hard to follow. Wascom's writing had brilliant moments, but more often, I found it disjointed and harried. The book is told from the viewpoint of the main character, Angel Woolsack, in a linguistic style that was popular in the 1880s. Perhaps this unfamiliar linguistic style was part of the problem, but I was never really able to get into the rhythm of the character's story telling voice. In addition, the voice of the main character, and therefore the book, was very harsh. There was a lot of graphic descriptions of fighting, death, bodily functions, etc. which just didn't endear me to the main character, or any of the other characters for that matter. I will readily agree that the life of these people was not the "genteel" life of the planters and plantations, and as such, the main character's voice was appropriate, in the end, my inability to identify with the characters made it all the more difficult for me to get involved in the story.

The funny thing is, as disappointed as I was in this story, there were parts of the story that I enjoyed. The bond between Angel and his wife, Red Kate, which stood the test of time and weathered so many hardships, was a plus. In addition, I was intrigued by the politics that went into defining the future of this area of the country, and the fact that a group of renegades, lead by Aaron Burr, tried to put together a revolution in West Florida is something I would like to read more about.

All in all I would say that, although there were parts of the book I enjoyed, overall this was not the book for me. As I read it, though, I kept thinking that this would be the perfect book for either of my adult sons, my father, and many other people who like the rough and tumble, down and dirty, no sugar coating stories of the frontier. In addition, the flashes of brilliance throughout the book lead me to believe that Kent Wascom has a bright future. He definitely has already captured an audience for his story....it is just a group that does not include me.
The Light in the Ruins - Chris Bohjalian Chris Bohjalian pens another spectacular book with The Light in the Ruins. I have read several of Chris' books and have not found one yet that I didn't like. The story opens in 1955 with the murder of Francesca Rosati. Like Skeletons at the Feast,thought, his latest effort is primarily set set late in WWII, as the tide is turning away from the Germans and toward the Allies. The focus of the story is the life of the Rosati family, who are headed by a marchese and marchesa, and live in their Tuscan villa.

First of all, Chris is a consummate story-teller. In most of his books, the chapters alternate between viewpoints. Sometimes it is the differing viewpoints of the characters, but in this case it is between the events of 1943 and 1955 when Francesca is murdered in Florence. Chris is one of the best authors out there when it comes to telling a story from alternate viewpoints, and in The Light in the Ruins he does this by making use of both alternate time periods and alternate character viewpoints. I especially like the way that he threw in the thoughts of the murdered every once in a while. I found myself looking for clues in these small chapters to try to figure out who the murderer was. In addition, his descriptions really make the settings come alive for me. Another thing that I liked about this book, and most of Chris' books, is that there is usually a bit of a twist at the end. I have not been able to figure out these "reveals" in most of his book, and this book was no different. I really enjoy when an author can surprise me with something relevant at the end of the story. If I know this is coming, I find myself trying to figure it out throughout the book and it really keeps my interest.

As for character development and use, there is none better than Chris Bohjalian. Once again, in this book, he has crafted characters perfectly suited to illustrate the many sides of his story. In this book there are two pairings that do this well. There are the brothers Rosati, who are participating in the war in very different ways, but the best example is the pair of Cristina and Serafina. The similarities and juxtapositions between these two characters was a great way to show the alternate sides of the story. Both women were the same age, both women were heavily affected by the war, but their lives, both in 1955 and 1943, couldn't have been more different.

The thing that I like the best about Chris Bohjalian's work, though, is the way that he can weave a story around such different subjects. None of his books really resemble the others. Sure there are similarities, but when I pick up a book by Chris I know two things. One, that I will enjoy the stories, settings, characters, etc., and two, that it will not be a rehashed or retold version of any of his other stories. Most importantly, I know it will be an enjoyable experience that I will not want to end.
Not by Sight - Kathy Herman I need to start by saying that true "Christian" literature is not my cup of tea. It is just a personal idiosyncrasy, but they are usually too preachy for me. Therefore I hardly ever seek them out. What drew me to this book, though, was the setting. I grew up in the Midwest US and spent most of my summers in the Ozark Mountains. When I saw that this book was set in the Ozarks, it peaked my interest and I will readily admit that I did not look any further. So, I want to say upfront, this book is definitely Christian Lit and it never pretends to be anything else. Accordingly, although I would have enjoyed the book much better myself without the strictly religious references, that is my fault and not that of the book or the author.

The main protagonists in this story, Abby and Jay, are best friends and high school students. Abby has lived with the tragedy of her father and youngest sister's disappearance 5 years before the book is set. Jay has his own set of skeletons that he would like to keep buried. When Abby sees a girl in town that she feels HAS to be her missing sister, she enlists Jay in helping her to find out who she is and whether she could, in fact, be Riley Jo. The story that the author weaves around the sighting of the young girl and the subsequent search for her identity was well presented and kept my interest throughout the book. I really did become engrossed in the story, and found the mystery part of the book hard to put down. I found myself saying "just a few more pages.....and a few more.....and a few more...." In addition, the characters in the book were well developed and easy to identify with. Although I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out, I really found myself rooting for all of the characters and hoping that everything turned out just the way that they wanted it to.

In short, this story was well written, with engaging, positive characters who were good role models. If you are a fan of Christian Literature in all of its forms, I would highly recommend this book. Alternately, if you have middle schoolers and even young high schoolers and you would like to present them with a book that has a positive message and good role models, I would also recommend this book. It is the first in a trilogy, and while I am not sure whether I will read the others or not, I am keeping an open mind about it. To the author - the fact that I read a book so far out of my regular wheelhouse and enjoyed it so much is a testament to your writing skill and ability to tell a story.
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England - Dan Jones I am a self proclaimed history geek. Although my first love was, and always will be, Historical Fiction, over the years I have developed an intense love affair with many well written History books of the non-fiction variety. I have said many time, on here no less, that a good Historical Fiction book should peak my interest and make me seek out factual books on the given subject to fill in the gaps and give me the "true" picture. As a result, I am always excited when I found one of the said History books that I can not only enjoy, but recommend. The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England by British historian Dan Jones is just such a book.

When it comes to history, nothing is more fascinating to me than the history of the families designated as Royalty and their nobles. If you look throughout history, there are not many families or dynasties that you can find who would be more fascinating than the Plantagenets. From the beginning of their rule in England in the 1100s, to the splintering of their family into the Lancasters and Yorks, and on to the takeover of England by the Tudors, the Plantagenets have had a huge affect on the history of England and Great Britain. To me, they are the dynasty that all other Royalty, English and other, are measured by.

Dan Jones' book begins with the death of Henry I's son William and the demise of Norman rule in England. From there he deftly covers the history of the Plantagenet Dynasty, ending with Henry Bollingbrooke's takeover as Henry IV and the end of the reign of Richard II. Here is a family full of heroes and heroines, crusaders, thieves, murderers. Their lives had tragedies and triumphs. At times they were both brilliant in their rule and careless in their mistakes, but through it all, they made England into a force to be reckoned with. Dan Jones captures all of these events and their consequences and impacts, and he does it with a writing style that reads more like a good story than just the listing of facts and dates. That is perhaps the best thing about this book.....it reads like a good story, not like a textbook. I became so engrossed in the lives of the various members of this ruling family, that I would find that I had been reading for an hour or more without realizing it.

In the end, I enjoyed this one so much that, although I was given a free copy to read for review, I actually spent the $25.00 to buy myself a hardback copy to read and re-read at my leisure. I can say, that almost never happens when I am given a book to read for review. Dan Jones' book, though, is the kind of book that I can see myself enjoying more than one, while also using it as a reference on the Plantagenet Dynasty. My only complaint was that the book ended too soon, leaving out some of the more familiar members of the family. Although I understand the reason to stop at the point that this books ends, I am holding Dan Jones to his "promise" of a second book to finish the tale. I am highly anticipating this second book, and only hope that he meant what he said about writing it and that it comes out soon. This book is highly recommended by me to anyone who is interested in the history of the ruling families of England, but of England and Great Britain itself.

A Huge thanks to Viking Adult and Netgalley for allowing me the privilege of reading this book in exchange for my review.

The Dream You Make - Christine Nolfi [b:The Dream You Make|18074806|The Dream You Make|Christine Nolfi|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1371255818s/18074806.jpg|25378185] by [a:Christine Nolfi|4811669|Christine Nolfi|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1305671979p2/4811669.jpg] is more than just a romance story. Yes there is the traditional boy meets girl, push and pull, and eventual giving in of the traditional romance. There is also, however, the story of Annie and Dillon, her 5-year-old nephew which she has temporary custody of.

Annie's life has not always been easy. Her mother died when she was quite young, and growing up, her father seemed to be more focused on the life and problems of her older sister. After her father dies and her sister is brutally murdered, she finds herself both trying to keep the greenhouse business that her father built alive and to be a mother to Dillon, the 5-year-old son that her sister left behind. Needing extra cash and benefits for Dillon's care, Annie takes a job at a local marketing firm. Into her life waltzes Micheal Rowe, owner and CEO of said firm, and well, you can probably guess where it goes from there.

As far as the romance side of this story goes, Christine Nolfi is a top notch author. She has filled this book with just the right amount of chemistry between the main characters. There is just the right amount of push and pull, attraction and barriers, to keep even the most ardent romance readers happy. In addition, there are the requisite secrets that indicate the characters inability to just trust each other and the ultimate chipping away at each others defenses that make the modern romance story what it is. There are also a host of helpful, and unhelpful, supporting characters that are interesting, not juts because they have an affect on the romance of the main characters, but also in their own right. There were several of them who were interesting enough that I would have gladly read a whole book about them. In short, as a romance, this story delivers it all in spades.

What was equally, or maybe even more, intriguing to me was Annie and Dillon's story. Dillon's character, and his predicament, really tugged on my heartstrings, as did Annie's quest to provide for him and keep him with her. Alternately, I also felt sorry for the couple who were trying to adopt Dillon. Their lives weren't easy either, and I could truly feel their pain and confusion as well as Annie's and Dillon's. While the romance part of the story made me smile, and eventually feel happy and satisfied, this part of the story made me cry. It also really brought home to me that there is no "right" answer in custody battles. I In the end, I was thankful to Christine by giving me a glimpse, even if it was a little one, into the lives of those that are fighting to keep the ones that they love.

In the end, though, what I felt was that Christine really got it right. The two parts of the story combined to give it the right amount of good emotions, while still giving me something to think about. That is not necessarily the case in all romance books, and I really love it when it occurs. I am looking forward to reading more of Christine's books as I get the chance and would like to thank The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for introducing me to Christine and her work. Great job with this one, Christine!
The Dream You Make - Christine Nolfi [b:The Dream You Make|18074806|The Dream You Make|Christine Nolfi|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1371255818s/18074806.jpg|25378185] by [a:Christine Nolfi|4811669|Christine Nolfi|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1305671979p2/4811669.jpg] is more than just a romance story. Yes there is the traditional boy meets girl, push and pull, and eventual giving in of the traditional romance. There is also, however, the story of Annie and Dillon, her 5-year-old nephew which she has temporary custody of.

Annie's life has not always been easy. Her mother died when she was quite young, and growing up, her father seemed to be more focused on the life and problems of her older sister. After her father dies and her sister is brutally murdered, she finds herself both trying to keep the greenhouse business that her father built alive and to be a mother to Dillon, the 5-year-old son that her sister left behind. Needing extra cash and benefits for Dillon's care, Annie takes a job at a local marketing firm. Into her life waltzes Micheal Rowe, owner and CEO of said firm, and well, you can probably guess where it goes from there.

As far as the romance side of this story goes, Christine Nolfi is a top notch author. She has filled this book with just the right amount of chemistry between the main characters. There is just the right amount of push and pull, attraction and barriers, to keep even the most ardent romance readers happy. In addition, there are the requisite secrets that indicate the characters inability to just trust each other and the ultimate chipping away at each others defenses that make the modern romance story what it is. There are also a host of helpful, and unhelpful, supporting characters that are interesting, not juts because they have an affect on the romance of the main characters, but also in their own right. There were several of them who were interesting enough that I would have gladly read a whole book about them. In short, as a romance, this story delivers it all in spades.

What was equally, or maybe even more, intriguing to me was Annie and Dillon's story. Dillon's character, and his predicament, really tugged on my heartstrings, as did Annie's quest to provide for him and keep him with her. Alternately, I also felt sorry for the couple who were trying to adopt Dillon. Their lives weren't easy either, and I could truly feel their pain and confusion as well as Annie's and Dillon's. While the romance part of the story made me smile, and eventually feel happy and satisfied, this part of the story made me cry. It also really brought home to me that there is no "right" answer in custody battles. I In the end, I was thankful to Christine by giving me a glimpse, even if it was a little one, into the lives of those that are fighting to keep the ones that they love.

In the end, though, what I felt was that Christine really got it right. The two parts of the story combined to give it the right amount of good emotions, while still giving me something to think about. That is not necessarily the case in all romance books, and I really love it when it occurs. I am looking forward to reading more of Christine's books as I get the chance and would like to thank The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for introducing me to Christine and her work. Great job with this one, Christine!
The First Rule of Swimming - Courtney Angela Brkic [b:The First Rule of Swimming|15790880|The First Rule of Swimming|Courtney Angela Brkic|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352225480s/15790880.jpg|21512435] is the debut novel by author [a:Courtney Angela Brkic|142275|Courtney Angela Brkic|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1365356278p2/142275.jpg]. The title quote of the book comes from Luka, the patriarch of a Croatian family from the island of Rosmarina, "the first rule of swimming....is to stay afloat" is what he tells each successive generation as he teaches them to survive in the waters around the island. This is a very fitting metaphor for the book as a whole as Luka's family has been trying to do just that...stay afloat despite all of the turmoil and changes happening in Croatia and in their family.

The book centers on Luka's two granddaughters. The oldest of the two, Magdalena, loves everything about Rosmarina and is content to live her life their in much the same way that her family has for generations. She is the old, traditional Croatia. Jadranka, on the other hand, is a free spirit who has never quite fit in on Rosmarina or the old ways. Through the interactions of the two sisters, both with each other, and with other members of their family, a picture of the family begins to emerge. It is through this picture that we learn about the choices each member has made, and just how much they have all done to survive.

The story of Magdalena, Jadranka, and their family was an enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I thought the story was a bit uneven. The parts of the story that took place in Croatia, especially those that were set on the island of Rosmarina, were mesmerizing. This is where the author definitely warmed to her subject. Her descriptions of the island and it's inhabitants were very poetic and lyrical. The parts of the story that took place in the US, though also enjoyable, did not seem to me to be of the same caliber. Here the story was more in line with the average fare of many contemporary novels. In addition, although the ending fit the book well, there were no huge revelations or spectacular outcomes.

The same can be said of the characters. By far the most interesting characters were those that lived in Croatia. By far Magdalena was the character that I was able to connect with the most. Luka was another one and I especially liked what the author did with his character later in the book. Here the descriptions of feelings and life were the most vivid and interesting. Of the US characters, Marin was my favorite as he seemed to get the most detail and therefore was the most interesting. I would have liked to see the author do a bit more with Jadranka and some of the other characters, though.

All in all, I thought this was a good effort for a debut novel. It was an enjoyable read with interesting characters and a story that was at times mesmerizing, but on the whole interesting. I would definitely like to read more by this author, especially if she is writing about life in Croatia, or in Croatian settlements in the US. A job well done for a first book and I would give it 3.5 stars.
Spirit of Lost Angels - Liza Perrat After reading numerous mystery/thrillers, lately I have been on an Historical Fiction bent. I have been in love with HF since I was in my teams and first read the books of James Michener, Kathleen Woodiweiss, and Jean Plaidy. There is just something about reading a book that takes you back in time and allows you to feel, hear, smell, etc., what life was like for the people in that time period. I love immersing myself in other cultures and time in this way. Liza Perrat's debut novel, Spirit of Lost Angels certainly fits this bill.

As soon as I began reading the book, I instantly fell in love with the heroine, Victoire Charpentier. In a time when women were largely illiterate and considered as possessions, Victoire is an exception. Not only is she able to read and write, courtesy of her mother, but she also possesses a strong personality. I really enjoy books where the author uses women with strong personalities in order to illustrate how exceptional this occurrence was in medieval times. In fact, this book was filled with strong female characters. In addition to Victoire, there was her mother, the village midwife and healer, who insisted that her daughter learn to read and write in a time where that was not an acceptable skill for women. Another great female character in the book was Jean de Valois. Jean is, in fact a historical character, and while actual knowledge of how she thought and felt is hard to come by, in this case the author did a wonderful job of giving her a personality that fit her persona.

The story presented here was also top-notch. Through the eyes of Victoire, her family, and the many acquaintances that she makes through out her life, I felt that I was able to really get a good feeling for life in France during the time of the French Revolution. Her joys and pains were my joys and pains. Her confusion and depression were so well written, that I was immersed in the agony right along with her. In addition, the author's descriptions of life in France were wonderful. I really felt like I was in the small village of Lucie, the dungeons of a French prison, and the streets of Paris. Most of the books that I have read regarding this time period were from the perspective of the aristocracy or royalty and I really enjoyed being able to look at things from the perspective of the average French citizen. In this respect, I cannot believe there is a book that does a better job.

On finishing the book I was excited to find that it was the first in a trilogy of books about the women of the Charpentier family. In fact, I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, which is about the French Resistance during WWII. I am giving this book 4.5 out of 5 stars and it is going on my highly recommended list.

a huge thank-you to the author and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for making this book available for me to read and review.
Bristol House - Beverly Swerling The publisher's blurb for Beverly Swerling's new novel, Bristol House talked about the blending of historical fiction with a supernatural thriller in a "dual period narrative". For that reason alone, I would have read it. Then it mentioned that the historical part was set in Tudor England, a period of history that I am particularly fond of. At that point I was hooked.

Annie Kendall is a historical researcher who accepts a job to travel to London to verify the existence of a Jewish community in London during the reign of Henry VIII, a time when Jews were still forbidden to live in England. In particular, her wealthy patron is looking for information regarding a specific inhabitant of the community, know as the Jew of Holborn. It seems like perfect job to get her career back on track, but is it really?

Rather than one story, there were really four separate stories being told simultaneously in this book. Each one was interesting in it's own right, but the author also did a marvelous job of seamlessly weaving them together into one cohesive main story. Although I enjoyed the modern day story of Annie and Geoff Harris, it was the stories of the Jew of Holborn, Dom Justin, and Maggie Harris, Geoff's mother, that I enjoyed the most. It was definitely the historical bent of these stories that drew me to them. I found myself wanting to further research the possibility of a forbidden Jewish colony in Tudor England, and to further investigate the existence of the Kindertransports that Maggie was a product of. I am always excited when a historical story presents new material that I can further research. In contrast, the story of Annie and Geoff was a more contemporary romance sort of story, and, while well done, took second place in my mind.

The use of the historical characters to actually tell their own stories and present the historical perspective of the book was a brilliant move on the author's part. Giving the historical characters their own voice allowed me to connect with them in a more intimate way. This connection lent more realism to these stories, in my opinion. I really enjoyed hearing about the Tudor times from Dom Justin and The Jew of Holborn, much more than having someone else talk about them, and wish that more of Maggie's story was included in the book. Dom Justin, in particular, was an interesting character, although as a ghost, he was neither scary nor "haunting" as the publisher's blurb stated. In fact, this is the only place in the book that fell short in my opinion. I understood and enjoyed the author's use of the ghost as a story telling device, but I did not feel that the supernatural part of the story would have worked on it's own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Since it was the first book that I have read by this author, I researched her other work and was excited to see that she has written a series of books about New York that begins in the Pilgrim times and follows it's development through the years. I will definitely be adding this series of books to my reading list. I hope she does as good of a job with them as she has with Bristol House. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery story with a historical backdrop. I am giving it 4 stars.
What Matters Most - Bette Lee Crosby There is just something about a [a:Bette Lee Crosby|3222582|Bette Lee Crosby|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1348006878p2/3222582.jpg] book that allows the story to just slide off the pages. I think that I have read almost everything that Bette has written, and thoroughly enjoyed them all. [b:What Matters Most|17727404|What Matters Most|Bette Lee Crosby|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1364955978s/17727404.jpg|24495937] is another enjoyable and charming read from this master of southern literature.

Louise and Carl have an established life in New Jersey. He has worked at the local bank for his whole working career, she has successfully raised two children and is active in the local scene. That is until Carl's Uncle Charlie leaves them a house in Florida. Suddenly their life is in upheaval.

Like all of Bette's books, this story was easy to get into and flowed quickly for me. She has a wonderful voice which makes me feel like she is sitting in front of me telling me the story, rather than being miles away while I am reading her book. In addition, Bette's characters are always full of personality and pizazz. There were several characters in this book that really fit that bill, and although I had a bit of a hard time identifying with the main characters of Louise and Carl, there were several supporting characters who I identified with right off the bat. It's not that Louise and Carl were not great characters, they were. It was just that, in the beginning, they were not very likable. In fact, I remember thinking several times that they had to be the most self centered, clueless people in the world....but that was the point. As usual, Bette painted this picture in a true to life way that everyone can enjoy.

As I said, overall this book was thoroughly enjoyable. The story itself was told with Bette's customary charm and wit and the characters were incredibly real. My only regret is that I only have one more of Bette's books left to read. I can only hope that she writes and publishes more soon, so I don't have to wait too long.
Parallax View - Allan Leverone Tracy Tanner is a CIA operative who is tasked with what she feels could be the easiest operation she has ever been assigned to. All she has to do is deliver a letter from the head of one superpower to the head of another. What could be so hard about that, right?

Put yourself into late 1980's, back when the US and USSR were the "Superpowers" and the balance of the world depended to a large extent on their relationship with each other. I remember this time period quite well -- the interplay between President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev, the famous "Tear Down the Wall" speech, and the subsequent dismantling of the USSR. In [b:Parallax View|17734027|Parallax View|Allan Leverone|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1365208982s/17734027.jpg|24810162], thriller writer extraodinaire [a:Allan Leverone|3518969|Allan Leverone|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1330402570p2/3518969.jpg] has crafted an action packed and explosive back story to these events that definitely kept me riveted. The story that Mr. Leverone presents in this book is not only riveting, but entirely plausible, which only made it more exciting in my mind. From the first chapter to the last, I was never quite sure what was going to happen next, but I certainly knew that I couldn't wait to find out.

The setting of this book and the story were not the only things that drew me in, either. As he has in prior books, Mr. Leverone has thrown into the mix a cast of interesting characters that I quickly came to love or hate as the story dictated. CIA operative Tracy Tanner is the type of heroine I love to see in books. She is a strong female with many skills that has no trouble "keeping up with the boys". On top of that, she can really kick ass. On the other hand, Air Traffic Controller Shane Rowley is a surprise. Ordinary to the extreme on the surface, there is much more to him than you at first expect. As the book progressed he quickly became my favorite character, and in my mind, the hero of the story. By the time the book ended, I was wishing he was real....I really would like to have met him.

And then there is the author. [a:Allan Leverone|3518969|Allan Leverone|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1330402570p2/3518969.jpg] has quickly established himself as a thriller author extraodinaire, partly through his ability to write noteworthy books across several genres. Whether you are reading one of his psychological thrillers, mysteries, horror thrillers, or politically based thrillers, his work is always top notch with lots of twists, explosive action (and I do mean explosive), riveting story lines and masterfully crafted characters. His current novel, [b:Parallax View|17734027|Parallax View|Allan Leverone|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1365208982s/17734027.jpg|24810162], definitely fits this profile and is another successful chapter in his career.

I have been thinking lately that I missed reading the Tom Clancy political thrillers that I used to love so much. This book would hold it's own with any of them and definitely sated my appetite. Many thanks to Mr. Leverone and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for making this book available to me.

Amity & Sorrow - Peggy Riley The current cultural spotlight on polygamous cults has peaked my interest in the subject, and it was for this reason that I decided to accept the invitation of Little, Brown and Company to read an ARC of [b:Amity & Sorrow: A Novel|15790893|Amity & Sorrow A Novel|Peggy Riley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352225325s/15790893.jpg|21512448] ,[a:Peggy Riley|2600741|Peggy Riley|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357733696p2/2600741.jpg]'s debut novel, and review it. I started the book with trepidation as several of my friends thought that it was just okay. At first I thought I would agree, but the more I got into the story, the more that I realized that this book was going to be one that spoke to me on a certain level.

The success of cults in our culture is a subject that has fascinated me for quite a while. For this reason I am drawn to books where the cult phenomena takes center stage. I admit, my purpose in reading these stories is to try to shed some light on why cults are so successful.

Amaranth is the first wife of Zachariah, the patriarch of a polygamous cult. The central story in this book revolves around what happens to her when she decides to flee the cult and take her two daughters, Amity & Sorrow, with her. The three of them end up in Oklahoma, stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere with the man who owns the farm, his father, and his adopted son. The compelling story of what transpires between the girls, their mother, and the inhabitants of the farm, and how it transforms the lives of everyone involved, is only half of the story, though. The other half of the story is about their life in the cult, which is told through the memories of the three characters that escaped the cult. It is this part of the story where the author attempts to answer the basic question about the psychology of a cult that is my prime fascination. These two sides of Amity & Sorrow's story and the way that the author was able to successfully entwine them was what drew me into this book.

I also liked the way that the author used the characters of Amaranth, Sorrow, Amity, Bradley, his father, and Dust to represent the various layers of the story. Through the individual stories of these characters we see the contrast between the world of the true believer, the world of the non believer, and the world of those still trying to make up their minds.

When discussing this book with friend, the most common negative comment that I came across was the author's unconventional writing style. I do admit, the writing style was different, and for the first few chapters I found it a bit distracting. After I got into the story, though, it ceased being something to overcome and became an integral part of the story as a whole. In fact, as the story continued, I felt that the author's writing style, like the behavior of some of the main characters, became less strange and more -- normal, for want of a better word.

All in all, I found this book, its characters, and what it had to say about the psychology of a cult interesting. It showed me various sides of a question that fascinates me, and took me on a journey that I was glad to take. I thank Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to read and review it.
Life in the Land of "Is"...the amazing story of Lani Deauville, the world's longest living quadriplegic - Bette Lee Crosby Like every [a:Bette Lee Crosby|3222582|Bette Lee Crosby|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1348006878p2/3222582.jpg] book that I have read (and I have read all of them except two), [b:Life in the Land of IS...the amazing story of Lani Deauville, the world's longest living quadriplegic|13553228|Life in the Land of IS...the amazing story of Lani Deauville, the world's longest living quadriplegic|Bette Lee Crosby|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1332190611s/13553228.jpg|19122062] was an enjoyable read. You may ask how a book about the life of a quadriplegic can be termed enjoyable. Well, there are two main reasons why I see this book as an enjoyable read.

The first is it's subject, Lani Verner Deauville. Lani became a quadriplegic in the 1950s, in a time when people with severe disabilities largely retired from life. It was the time before the Americans with Disabilities Act, Political Correctness, or Equality and Equal Rights. Lani Deauville was different though. A diving accident left her in critical condition, her doctors holding out little hope for her. Not only did she survive, though, she went on to live an extremely full life and eventually become listed in the Guinness Book of World Records and the longest living quadriplegic.

When I first decided to read this book, knowing that it was about the life of a quadriplegic, I expected a book filled with angst, fighting against the odds, frustration and guilt. Instead what I found was Lani, a woman that is as upbeat and positive as a person can get. Yes there were many instances where she described herself fighting against not only the odds, but the societal paradigms that relegated most of the disabled to the back burner of life. What there wasn't though, was a lot of angst, frustration, or recriminations. In fact, I think that Lani actually had a more positive view of life and its possibilities AFTER her accident than she did before. Her spirit and enthusiasm certainly shine through in this book, making her story one that I enjoyed reading and will not soon forget.

Along with Lani's incredible enthusiasm for life, wit, and energy,Bette Lee Crosby's incredible ability to put the story together was the other factor that made this book so enjoyable. There is just something about Bette's wonderful way of telling a story that allows me to devour anything that she writes. I swear, I think that she could write about anything and make it an enjoyable read. While many writers stick to one genre, Bette is able to write successfully across many genres, and has. In this case, she has managed to put forward Lani's story is such a way that I felt I was sitting with Lani listening to her reminiscences in person. Another plus was the way that the book interspersed experiences after the accident with her life before the accident including many stories from when she was a child. I think it is the inclusion of these stories that allow us to see what a truly amazing person Lani is and how she was programmed to overcome obstacles way before her accident.

As I said, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it as a great read. It is ultimately the story of someone who has been handed a challenge, risen to the occasion, beaten the odds, yet manages to stay as normal as you or me. A big thank you to The Sisterhood of the Traveling book and Bette Lee Crosby for making this book available to me in exchange for my review.
Life in the Land of "Is"...the amazing story of Lani Deauville, the world's longest living quadriplegic - Bette Lee Crosby Like every [a:Bette Lee Crosby|3222582|Bette Lee Crosby|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1348006878p2/3222582.jpg] book that I have read (and I have read all of them except two), [b:Life in the Land of IS...the amazing story of Lani Deauville, the world's longest living quadriplegic|13553228|Life in the Land of IS...the amazing story of Lani Deauville, the world's longest living quadriplegic|Bette Lee Crosby|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1332190611s/13553228.jpg|19122062] was an enjoyable read. You may ask how a book about the life of a quadriplegic can be termed enjoyable. Well, there are two main reasons why I see this book as an enjoyable read.

The first is it's subject, Lani Verner Deauville. Lani became a quadriplegic in the 1950s, in a time when people with severe disabilities largely retired from life. It was the time before the Americans with Disabilities Act, Political Correctness, or Equality and Equal Rights. Lani Deauville was different though. A diving accident left her in critical condition, her doctors holding out little hope for her. Not only did she survive, though, she went on to live an extremely full life and eventually become listed in the Guinness Book of World Records and the longest living quadriplegic.

When I first decided to read this book, knowing that it was about the life of a quadriplegic, I expected a book filled with angst, fighting against the odds, frustration and guilt. Instead what I found was Lani, a woman that is as upbeat and positive as a person can get. Yes there were many instances where she described herself fighting against not only the odds, but the societal paradigms that relegated most of the disabled to the back burner of life. What there wasn't though, was a lot of angst, frustration, or recriminations. In fact, I think that Lani actually had a more positive view of life and its possibilities AFTER her accident than she did before. Her spirit and enthusiasm certainly shine through in this book, making her story one that I enjoyed reading and will not soon forget.

Along with Lani's incredible enthusiasm for life, wit, and energy,Bette Lee Crosby's incredible ability to put the story together was the other factor that made this book so enjoyable. There is just something about Bette's wonderful way of telling a story that allows me to devour anything that she writes. I swear, I think that she could write about anything and make it an enjoyable read. While many writers stick to one genre, Bette is able to write successfully across many genres, and has. In this case, she has managed to put forward Lani's story is such a way that I felt I was sitting with Lani listening to her reminiscences in person. Another plus was the way that the book interspersed experiences after the accident with her life before the accident including many stories from when she was a child. I think it is the inclusion of these stories that allow us to see what a truly amazing person Lani is and how she was programmed to overcome obstacles way before her accident.

As I said, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it as a great read. It is ultimately the story of someone who has been handed a challenge, risen to the occasion, beaten the odds, yet manages to stay as normal as you or me. A big thank you to The Sisterhood of the Traveling book and Bette Lee Crosby for making this book available to me in exchange for my review.

Currently reading

The Aeronaut's Windlass
Jim Butcher
The Sisters of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy)
Sally Christie
The Witch Hunter
Virginia Boecker