Cover Snapshot of Read Books

Sara's bookshelf: read

Crazy Little Thing
A Kiss at Midnight
The Disenchanted Widow
Hollywood Wives - The New Generation
There Goes the Bride
Table for Five
Do Not Disturb
The Husband's Secret
The Ugly Duchess
Help for the Haunted
The Power Trip
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Summer At Willow Lake
Every Crooked Nanny
The Mystery Woman
The Woodcutter
How to Be an American Housewife

Sara's favorite books »

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Gifting for a Happy Holiday

My Book Club has this wonderful December tradition—meeting at a restaurant to exchange books (Secret Santa style) instead of having our regular book club. Unfortunately, many people have problems choosing a book for someone else…I am here to help with that dilemma!

Book Clubs and Friends:
My first resource is almost always Right now they have a fantastic Holiday Catalog for book gifting. Some suggestions from BookPage include:

Fiction: The Art Forger, The Elephant Keepers’ Children, and Miss Dreamsville and the Collier Women’s Society.
Other books that are BookPage reviewed which look interesting…The Stockholm Octavio, Magnificence, and The End of Your Life Book Club

My book club filled out a Secret Santa questionnaire, in which book clubbers were encouraged to write their favorite book and their favorite book genre, this will help guide you to your book pick. And, yes, there is a website that can assist you. Try, the ReadAlikes section (which is where you input a book or author and books that are similar are returned)—how fantastic is that (link below)?

Kids and Adopt Families:
Here, I confess that I have a few children’s favorites: I love The Penderwicks (great gift for little girls), and anything by Roald Dahl—Matilda for girls, The BFG or The Witches for boys. Also, Barnes and Nobles has I Can Read series, and there are some great choices from Pinkalicious to Biscuit (great prices-typically around $4).

Also still big for kids is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series! And, another favorite of mine—Rick Riordan and his Heroes of Olympus series.

May your Book Gifting be a success this season, Happy Holidays!

Other resources you might like include:
Barnes and Holiday Gift Guide Holiday Gift

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fireside Reads to Keep you Warm this Season

Recently my favorite social media site,, started their annual “GoodReads Choice Awards 2012." The Goodreads Awards were the catalyst for me starting this post, as they are inspired by reader's choices. I recommend the following books from the GoodReads 2012 list, have you read them? You may want to add them to your to-read list…

Humor - Where’d You Go Bernadette? This is almost a satire on PTA Parenting and odd families. And, if that sounds appealing, give The Family Fang a try.

Fiction A Grown Up Kind of Pretty (this would be good for a book club and for any Southern Fiction lover). Lately I have enjoyed Southern fiction writers, perhaps because I have lived in the South?

Historical Fiction - The Flight of Gemma Hardy (a modern retelling of Jane Eyre), The Shoemaker’s Wife (an early 1900s American immigrant story).

Fun-n-lite: Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter (Southern Princess moves up North with her husband), Off The Menu (A Chef story with recipes)

Books that I haven’t yet read (but that I see often on the book sites that I follow):
The Casual Vacancy, The Secret Keeper, The Snow Child, The Orchardist, The Sisters

Books with Movie Tie-Ins: Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, Anna Karenina

New Releases:  I will try to wait for paperback or perhaps buy on my e-reader…
The End of your life Book club, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, Some Kind of Fairy Tale

 Enjoy your fireside reads with a nice glass of wine or hot chocolate.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Original Beauty in The Language of Flowers

Interesting, heartfelt, original

A rare and beautiful book, The Language of Flowers is a perfect choice for book club.

Victoria is a product of the foster care system, an indignant young woman with no ambition or drive or even likability. She has never been adopted into a family, and will age out at age eighteen. This novel really made me think about what happens to all of the children who age out of the foster care system.

Placed at The Gathering House, the indignant Victoria is expected to get a job; she has 6 weeks to do so. To my chagrin, the obtuse Victoria doesn’t even try to find work which means that she must leave the gathering house. It is difficult to see someone who refuses to help or fight for herself, Victoria is her own worst enemy.

Hidden deep inside her brain, Victoria’s redeeming quality is a flower dictionary, her very own language of flowers. Victoria admits that she is a “thistle-peony-basil kind of girl” which translates into misanthropy, anger and hate; well the girl doth know herself. Eventually her talent with flowers is recognized and she is hired part time at a florist. Soon townspeople are asking for Victoria at the flower shop as she truly has a way with flowers. For the old man who wants his granddaughter to stop sulking Victoria creates a lily of the valley bouquet (return to happiness). The obstinate Victoria does not let things happen easily for herself but her life is a journey, and we all hope for a Victoria to have a Celandine, Cosmos, and Laurel life.

I don’t want to give too much away, you should read The Language of Flowers or pick this for your book club. And it really is quite fun to flip through the flower dictionary at the back of the book.

Book Club Ideas:
·         Quiches, Boursin Cheese and crackers, salad, cupcakes
·         Wine
·         Flowers—lots of flowers! (Trader Joes is a great resource)
·         Flower Trivia* (create it using the flower dictionary in the back of the book)
          *Have a bouquet prize!

·         Research your area Gathering Houses (they do exist), right before my book club the one in our local area opened, I had the article at the meeting.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Bird Sisters, a Luminous Debut

Heartbreaking, endearing, delicate

The Bird Sisters used to have many visitors from near and far, those who had found injured birds and wanted the sisters to fix the broken wings. Milly and Twiss are spinsters, old ladies living in their childhood Wisconsin house, biding their time and anxiously awaiting visitors.  Lately, though, there haven’t been many visitors , which leads the isolated sisters to reminisce about their past.

Flitting back to 1947, Milly and Twiss are young teens living with their parents. Their lives are relatively normal   until their philandering father crashes his car and somehow loses his golfing skills—a family crisis as he was a Golf Pro. As their parents drift apart, their father starts living in the barn while their mother stays in her bedroom—everything is in a downward spiral. Financially the family is hurting, but their proud  mother refuses to accept the family’s new societal status, refusing assistance from the Sewing Society ladies.

Milly is the eldest, the level headed and sturdy sister who loves to bake. Townspeople scrape together flour and sugar just to ensure that her baking skills continue to develop. Twiss is the young wild child, the tomboy, the free spirit. With their absentee father (he stays in the barn all day) and their depressed mother, the sisters have to rely heavily on each other. Despite the house dysfunction, their cousin Bett, older at eighteen, soon arrives to spend the summer with them. Twiss doesn’t understand Bett, who is plain,  sickly,  and rather unlikeable, but their mother appreciates Bett’s household assistance. In true coming of Age style, by the end of the summer Milly Twiss and Bett will have had to grow up, their future fates decided.

The Bird Sisters is everything a novel should be, and beyond everything a debut novel should be. If only more writers wrote stories as intricate and luminous as this, The Bird Sisters is a Must-read. Reach for this Coming of Age novel for your summer read or as a pick for your next book club. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We are so lucky in this world; every month new classic novels are being created by brilliant minds. Margot Livesey is a new classics author, her novel The Flight of Gemma Hardy is impeccable and beautiful, a tale that should be savored. “Wow, Margot Livesey can write” was my thought as I finished the novel. As a non-author, those thoughts do not accurately convey my enthusiasm at the beauty, simplicity and skill with which Livesey imagined this novel gem.

The novel and the story will seem familiar to the reader, and the author admits it is based on the tale of Jane Eyre; there are many similarities. When her loving uncle dies, a young girl’s life is thrown into chaos. First Gemma is moved from her room to the attic, losing her place in the family, soon she is seen as a maid that the family deigns themselves to cloth and feed. A private school is where she is sent when her Aunt no longer wants her at all; Gemma is now an unwanted charity case. Gemma survives all that the oppressive world throws at her, despite being a penniless child in dark and unforgiving times.

I struggled with the timeline as this novel is set in 1960 Scotland, a setting that was hard to imagine as I envisioned an Oliver Twist/Jane Eyre era. Gemma is set adrift in a lonely world, where schoolgirls bully each other, where the evil headmaster reigns and friends are not an option. Cleaning and cooking and memories soon fill Gemma’s days, as do desires to go to school and eventually make a living on her own. Eventually the penniless Gemma will get a job as an au pair in the remote Orkney Islands, having to take the only job offered to her.

This is truly a novel that you will want to share with friends, family and your book club.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Box Office FRESH: Let’s Get these Books to the Big Screen!

An Opinion: Movie-makers are not keeping up with reader/moviegoer desires

 Egad! Ugh! Really? They are making another Superman movie, and I am so not stoked about it, how many men have played superman at this point? And didn’t Toby McGuire just step out of his Spidey costume like last year and here we have a "new" Spiderman movie? Really? And I still remember The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford, now I hear that soon it will star Dicaprio-umm ok. Why are we constantly remaking the old—I want to see  a new voice at the theater.  I vote for freshness in a movie experience and here are some of my top book picks—listen up screenwriters and movie moguls! What do movie goers want? (HINT no more tired comic book heroes please)…

Action Adventure
Hawke by Ted Bell, stolen directly from my husband’s nightstand, would translate into a great action adventure movie. There is so much story and action in this book, plus a great new character of Hawke, an interesting jack of all trades spy guy! A perfect action hero with a new story!

Beach Road by James Patterson-- I chose this Patterson novel because it is a one off, it is not an Alex Cross novel. Beach Road is a combo of action, legal thriller, and drama with a twist. It could really be something at the box office if they cast the right male lead.

Sci Fi
The Night Circus  is so visually vivid and creative-- I want to see this luminous and magical book come to life. Much CGI and a great costume artist will be needed.

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society, I loved the book, this is a must! I have written about this book before, and have told the reader to get over the title and read it. Set in WWII, the story follows Julia a budding journalist and her letters to the small island of Guernsey. And, I just Googled it, it will be a movie in 2013! Right now Kate Winslet is slated to star (love her!) YEAH! Thanks for listening Hollywood!

Arcadia Falls, I chose this because fairy tale movies are so hot right now, and this has a great back story. Arcadia Falls is a wonderfully woven fairy tale which combines a modern tale and a past mystery with an intertwining changeling story. I’d love to see the cinematography as it flits between the past and present as they start to interlace…this could be eerie and magical!

What books would you like to see on the big screen? Some other books that would translate well to the big screen include:  Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Sister, The Seville Communion (I hold out hope that Brad Pitt will take the lead role as a priest).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale

Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale
Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As far as the townspeople are concerned, Faith Bass Darling has always had a perfect life. She lives in the largest mansion in town and comes from money, her hair always perfect, her outfits coordinated. However Faith knows that perfection on the outside might mean turmoil on the inside, her life has not been a fairy tale.

Faith Bass Darling, former Southern Belle, has lost her mind. She has determined that God has spoken to her and she must sell all of her family heirlooms in a garage sale today. Gawking locals are buying up her precious Tiffany lamps, for whatever they can afford to pay, often $20 a lamp.
Bobbie knows that Faith must be stopped before she can give all of her belongings away. Bobbie became an antiques dealer in the small town because as a child she dreamed of the Darling Mansion and longed for the precious contents therein. When she sees the antiques strewn across the lawn, her heart lurches and she knows that she must call Faith’s long lost daughter.

The long lost Claudia arrives home, having been gone for twenty years, to find that her mother has aged and that her inheritance is being given away in a yard sale. Claudia really only wants one item, an heirloom ring, she hopes that her mother hasn’t sold it yet. How can she close down this sale and who will assist her against her determined and still formidable mother?

The story follows Faith and the townspeople throughout the day of the garage sale, becoming more about the townspeople than Faith alone. I adored this sweet little novel, and loved Faith as a character. The novel states the question we as readers must ask ourselves, “do our possessions possess us?”

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale will make a great light pick for your next book club.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Maine

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Modern, Vivid, Generational Drama

Maine is a modern story that follows a Grandmother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and a Granddaughter. An incredibly well-written women’s saga with rich and vivid text, Maine would be a good pick for your next book club.

Grandmother Alice was once beautiful and had the world at her doorstep. Alice feels responsible for her sister’s death which occurred over sixty years ago. Alice was always the beautiful one; the only reason she married her husband was because she felt guilty about her sister’s death. Alice felt that she needed to live her sister’s life—to marry and to have children, despite the fact that she didn’t want either. Alice wanted to be an artist. Now in her eighties, still beautiful and defiant, the grumpy Alice decides to leave the family’s multi-million dollar beach house to the local church.

For me Mary Anne is the character one most has empathy with as she is a loving and kind woman, a good mother who has married into the family. Mary Anne feels that Alice is like a mother, and treats her as such, she feels that she treats Alice better than Alice’s own children do. Mary Anne cannot believe how Alice’s own children ignore her and spend no time with her. Having helped Alice improve the beach house and after paying for years of upkeep, Mary Anne fully expects that her family will inherit the beach house.

Kathleen hates her sister in law Mary Anne and since her father’s death has not returned home or spoken to her mother. Kathleen adored her father, who doted on her-- once he was gone, there was no reason for her to go home again. Stubborn Kathleen has dealt with alcoholism and divorce, she also married a man that she didn’t love. She loves her crazy life now, living with her boyfriend, owning a worm farm…an unconventional life far away from her crazy mother.

Maggie is a modern working woman who desperately wants her boyfriend to commit already. And, lucky her, he is going to kick his loser roommate out and let her move in. Maggie and Gabe laugh, they fight, they have fun, they fight. As charming as boyfriend is, how will he react when he learns of her unplanned pregnancy?

Have you read The Three Weismann’s of Westport? Maine very much reminded me of that story only with less empathetic characters. I’ll ask you to read both and decide which book you preferred.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 18, 2012

Historical Fiction, So HOT Right Now

I have been reading quite a bit lately and many popular books right now are Historical Fiction—you cannot escape it! Even author Stephen King has gotten into Historical Fiction bandwagon with his bestseller 11/23/63 about the JFK Assassination. My Book Club’s Historical Fiction Reads include: The Irresistible Henry House, The Glass Room, Loving Frank, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  

 Book Club Recommendations:

The Irresistible Henry House
In the 1950’s there were college home economic programs that utilized “practice babies”. These were real babies, who had been given up for adoption and then taken to the school so that college women could learn to “mother” by changing diapers, feeding and caring for a baby. The author supposes what would happen, what could have happened to such a baby as he grew up. With such an interesting premise, this book will make for a most interesting book club discussion.

Loving Frank
A well-researched novel told from the perspective of Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress, Mamah Borthwick. The author researched the novel for 7 years and even found copies of letters that Mamah wrote, which the author used to create a more authentic voice for Mamah.

The Paris Wife
This story follows Hadley Richardson as she meets and then quickly marries Ernest Hemingway. Soon the newlyweds embark for Paris, meeting and partying with Gertrude Stein and Ella and F Scott Fitzgerald in the Jazz Age Paris. As of today, this popular book ranks #4 for Book Club selections and is near the top of my “to Read” shelf.

Lastly, World War II Historical Fiction is UBER HOT right now (stories set in WWII, not necessarily focusing on the war). Here are some top Historical Fiction choices set in the time period of WWII:

Sarah’s Key, The Postmistress, The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society, The Glass Room, The Piano Teacher, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Book Thief

*My focus in this article was 20th Century Historical Fiction

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Slice of Summer in The Peach Keeper

I have eagerly awaited Sarah Addison Allen’s latest novel, The Peach Keeper, as Addison Allen typically writes lighter novels that feature female protagonists, friendship and a little magic—a perfect summer book blend.

The premise of The Peach Keeper is that everyone has a past, most likely one they want to forget. And yet that past follows you and is with you as you attempt to move forward in life. Can you ever really go home again?

Willa’s great great grandfather built the Blue Ridge Madam, a long neglected historical house with an ancient peach tree in the front yard. Willa has never been in the house, but Willa’s Grandmother lived in the house as a young lady. In present times, during the manor’s elaborate restorations, the peach tree is removed and a body is unearthed. No one knows who the dead person is, but Willa suspects that her Grandmother Georgie may have once known the answer, sadly Georgie now has dementia.

At age 30, the fiercely independent Willa has moved back to her small hometown and decided to settle into a quiet life as a respectable shopkeeper. Willa is still trying to live down her high school reputation where she was known as a troublemaker. Meanwhile, Paxton is the Southern Momma’s Girl, looking picture perfect and making all the right choices while inwardly cringing in that she is single and still lives at home under her Mother’s thumb. Willa and Paxton would never have associated in high school; however, they must work together now to learn the story behind the body found under the peach tree.

Love, friendship and a sprinkle of mystery hold the easy pace of The Peach Keeper and will keep the reader intrigued to the very end.

JUST FOR FUN: Author Sarah Addison Allen has a lovely interactive website and there she has a great coffee personality guide--be sure to check your coffee persona by selecting the following link and then select the Not Just Fiction link.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer Reading Lists

The sun is shining, the sky is powder blue and we are getting ready to leave on our vacation; it is time to gather up those beach read books!

Below is a list of some of my favorite reads from this year, books that I feel will make great beach reads. Of course, I want to hear your suggestions as well. What books will you take on your vacation this summer?

In order my summer reading suggestions include:
  1. The Night Circus, this ranks first because this is my new favorite book! I loved this enchanting novel!
  2.   How to Eat a Cupcake, a light novel that will cause cupcake cravings, a perfectly delicious beach read.
  3. The Language of Trees, interesting and well written, a nice off the beaten path novel.
  4. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, a Southern coming of age delight,
  5.  The Housekeeper and the Professor, for the serious literary fan, a smart and fascinating take on the “what ifs” of short term memory.

My to-read beach  list (I’ve been saving these in a special vacation pile):

The Peachkeeper, The Language of Flowers, A Discovery of Witches. I’ve also chosen two mysteries--  Kill Me if you Can by James Patterson and 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly.

Ahhh, for me there is nothing better than sand sun and a great beach read….yeah summer!

Monday, April 23, 2012

What are the Independent Book Blog Awards?

The Independent Book Blogger Awards (IBBAs) are new book blog awards created by and The Association of American Publishers. There are four blog categories: Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Children’s/Young Adult and Publishing Industry. In the future, I see a fifth category for those who write for Bookstores/Libraries as many of the Adult Fiction blogs were written by librarians.  My blog falls squarely into the Adult Fiction category, be sure to vote for A Wife of Book Club Blog by clicking the Voting Button on the sidebar!

For me and my fellow book bloggers, the IBBAs are a symbol of hope for the little people. We are the individuals who write book blogs simply because books inspire and motivate us. The IBBAs are such a wonderful and welcome idea. I applaud the IBBA creators and send a heartfelt Thank you!

I highly encourage you to review and click on the numerous IBBA entries as there are some wonderful and interesting blogs out there! I was especially impressed with Ann R. Allen’s Blog in the Publishing Industry category.  I voted for Anne, here is her link…

 I strongly believe that the IBBAs will be a success and will continue in future years simply based on the fact that there are almost 400 entrants in the Adult Fiction category! WOW, go book bloggers!

*UPDATE: Voting closed on 23 April. Thanks for your votes!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

After Reads--Genre Author Recommendations

I love to share and recommend books, often saving paperbacks in order to give them to friends and family. My Dad gets all of the good mysteries (Michael Connelly, Daniel Silva) while my sister gets the book club novels (Them Bones, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt). Here are some of my favorite After Reads which are my author recommendations for when you’ve finished your favorite series and need a new author in a similar genre.

JK Rowling Author Matches to Rick Riordin and Jonathan Stroud

The Lightening Thief features Percy Jackson, a difficult child, one with ADHD who’s been kicked out of every school he’s attended. Now that he is eleven he starts seeing and dreaming odd things. With the gods speaking to Percy in dreams, Percy is soon immersed in another world, one that he never knew existed, that of the Greek gods. Percy will soon learn that he is a half-blood—the son of a God and a human. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are infighting and since Percy is a magnet for trouble, he is soon accused of stealing Zeus’ Lightning Bolt. This book was written and is classified for young adults, but if you like Harry Potter or know a bit about Greek mythology, you need to read the Percy Jackson series written by Rick Riordin.

In The Amulet of Samarkand, Nathaniel is a young apprentice magician with a grumpy Master who doesn’t recognize his student’s intelligence. Nathaniel knows much more than his Master would believe, even having learned how to summon a demon named Bartimaeus. The boy has soon charged Bartimaeus to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand. Bartimaeus is a demon who must obey the boy, a defiant demon, and a dangerous demon, one whose mind constantly works to determine a way to kill the boy. Even as a demon, Bartimaeus is determined to survive, he wants to live, to be released from his service to the boy. Soon the demon and young magician unwillingly join forces to defend themselves against a greater evil. Before you think that this is too reminiscent of Harry Potter. No it is not! Magic is the only common denominator. The Amulet of Samarkand was written by Jonathan Stroud.

Elizabeth George compares to Louise Penny

Louise Penny outshines all contemporary mystery novelists, I simply adore her style! Penny’s mysteries are the greatest reads that you’ve been missing, there is a reason the she’s the winner of the New Blood Dagger Award. I find that Penny’s novels are reminiscent of Elizabeth George’s descriptive and deep British mysteries. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is one of my favorite characters; I highly encourage you to get to know this warm and intelligent homicide Inspector. Still Life is Penny’s first Gamache novel set in the town of Three Pines, a sleepy town which is deeply disturbed when one of their own has been ruthlessly murdered. Jane Neal was an artist and her work is either horrific or genius depending on the viewer, there is no obvious reason for her death. Immerse yourself in this Three Pines mystery, the townspeople are so complex and real they will become your friends and neighbors.

When you are looking for that next great read, take a look at my After Read Selections and find your next author!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vote for A Wife of Book Club Blog in the IBBA!

Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Sister, A Masterful Debut

Intriguing, smart, suspenseful

Early on Beatrice gets a phone call that her little sister is missing; she knows her sister and feels an immediate gut-wrenching fear. Beatrice catches the next flight to London in order to get information about her sister’s disappearance. The only true thing that Beatrice knows at this point is that she knows Tess; there is no way that her sister left on her own volition.

This story is smartly told from Beatrice’s perspective as she immerses herself into her sister’s life, living in her sisters flat, and working with investigators to determine what could have happened to her sister. Beatrice tries to tell the story from the beginning, as she tells it to the Criminal Prosecution Service lawyer.

 The first bombshell occurs in Beatrice’s initial police interview when she asks if they have checked the hospitals as her sister may have gone into labor. Neither Tess’ Mom nor the Detective knew that the missing Tess was pregnant. The surprised Detective reveals that he has talked to the baby’s father, Tess’ Art Professor; however, the Professor acknowledged Tess only as a student, nothing more. Additionally, Beatrice reveals that Tess' baby had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

Beatrice’s obsession with what has happened to her sister is overwhelming and almost debilitating. Soon Beatrice has lost her job in America, stubbornly refusing to leave London. Beatrice will live in her sister's flat, work at a bar and investigate her sister’s disappearance in her free time, which ultimately makes her a target.

Suspects emerge early in Beatrice’s investigation. First there is the fellow student Simon, a stalker that has based his thesis on photos of Tess, many taken without her knowledge. Next is the baby’s father, Tess’ Professor who didn’t tell the police about his relationship with Tess because he is married with a family. Lastly, there is Chrome-Med the suspect genetics company that gave Tess the Cystic Fibrosis trial drugs.
So what happened to Tess? The reader will eventually learn the whole story behind Tess’ disappearance; it builds up from little glimpses throughout the suspenseful storyline.

If your book club needs a punch of adrenaline, something less dull and more intense, give this page-turning thriller a try.

Sister was written by Rosamund Lupton and is available in Trade Paperback now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Such an odd title, and I never figured it out, these sisters weren’t weird by any conventional definition*. This story is about three sisters each at a major crossroad in her life. Rosalind is the eldest and is engaged but unhappy as she doesn’t want to relocate to be with her fiancée who has landed a great job in London. Bianca is the middle sister, forced to return home after being fired from her job for stealing funds. Cordy is the baby, a wanderer who has flitted her way through life, a transient who has just learned that she is pregnant.
These sisters are too old to be considered girls as they are ladies in their late twenties and early thirties, so they have already come “of age”. Each uses their mother’s cancer illness as a reason to move home. Named after their professor father’s favorite Shakespeare heroines, the three sisters tolerate each other, old issues still frothing to the surface as they live under one roof again.

As the eldest, Rosalind is the caretaker; she gets frustrated with her unorganized and selfish siblings. Rosalind makes the dinners, takes her mom to the hospital, and ensures that her mother has all that she needs. When Rosalind is given the opportunity to work for the college in her hometown, she is more than tempted. However she is engaged to a man who has a job far from home in another country, she doesn’t want to leave…how will she know what to do?

Bianca is beyond lost, she thought she would live a glamorous life in New York, but now she owes everyone money and debt collectors are on her trail. She leaves New York with all of her newly acquired belongings (clothes) but with nothing else. She owes her old company money, she owes back-rent, and has no way to pay it back. She has always been the most attractive sister, so almost the minute she gets to town she initiates an affair with a married man. She is ashamed at how her life has turned and finds her solace not in the church, but in the old town library.

Cordy has neglected herself and her body, she is tired and hungry, her first actions upon returning home are to sleep and eat. The others notice her eating ravenously but she’s so thin that they do not suspect her pregnancy and she is afraid to bring it up. The only thing she knows with all her heart is that the baby is hers and hers alone. An old high school friend gives Cordy a part time job as a waitress at a coffee shop, not a dream job, but one in which she starts to find satisfaction.

The sisters unite a bit as they see how fragile their mother has become, for her they must set their differences aside. One aspect of this book that I like is that all members of the family love books; their home is filled with books, how fabulous.

All in all, I think this would be a good Book club book, it is a simple straightforward tale about love and family, home and sisters.

*The author's website claims that Weird had a different definition in Shakespeare's time...

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Hunger Games Book Club

SPOILER ALERT-only for those who've read The Hunger Games

 Oh there are so many wonderful fun ways to celebrate the Hunger Games with your Book Club. Here's what we did...

My Hunger Games Book Club Menu                                                                                                 

Apps:  Bread, Blackberries, baked brie (representative of Katniss and Gales first meal)
Capitol Style Dinner:

Mega Salad: Fresh large salad with red and orange pepper; lots of salad dressing choices
Supreme Mashed Potato Bar (Crockpot of Mashed potatoes) with toppings:  sautéed mushrooms, bacon, cheese, sour cream, butter, chives, Cheetos, Vegetables, Gravy

Decadent Dessert: Chocolate Chip Swirl Cake
Drinks: Effie Prosecco  (Prosecco and a dash of cranberry juice) and or  Red Wine

I did internet searches and also found recipes for The Hunger Games  Orange Chicken with Peas and Lamb Stew with Plums. Anything rich and decadent is a good idea, as it would represent the Capitol.

Trivia: Create 10 Hunger Games Trivia questions and a Bonus Question. Be sure to have a Trivia Prize for the person that gets the most answers right.  Our Prize was “District 11” bread (bought at Panera).

 Book Club Discussion Points:

1.       Love Triangle?
We had a big discussion on whether there really was a love triangle in the first book. Some thought that Gale was like a brother, there was no romance there. I thought that there was a love triangle, if perhaps implied. Gale has asked Katniss to run away with him, after all. I think that while Katniss and Gale are partners, there is a potential love interest there, especially because of their history. However, most in my book club thought that Peeta was the only love interest that Katniss would come around to his affections. Hmmm.
2.       What did you think of Peeta, were his actions true and honest? Do you believe that he has always had an interest in Katniss? Or is he just going along the path that Hamish encouraged him to take? Is Peeta a worthy partner to Katniss?

I thought Peeta was somewhat genuine, but I still see Gale as a better partner. Katniss is stronger than Peeta mentally and physically and could have won the games without him. He actually held her back, as she almost got killed getting him medicine.

3.       Why did Katniss form an alliance with Rue and was that advantageous for her? What would have happened if Rue had been one of the last contestants? Could Katniss have killed her? What if Rue had survived to the end and was able to partner with Thresh? What would Katniss have done?

Rue was the same age and size as Prim, Katniss’ little sister. Katniss was immediately drawn to Rue because of the sisterly connection. Also, Katniss believed Rue to be smart and capable. If, in the end, it had been Rue and Katniss instead of Katniss and Peeta, we felt Katniss would have done the same thing, threatened berry suicide.

4.       The Capitol has more than enough food and drink and supplies while Katniss and her district are poor and hungry. What happened 74 years ago, how did the Capitol beat the Thirteen Districts? Why is the capitol so brutal, forcing each district to sacrifice children for the games? The basis of society, similar to ours is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Of course the wealthy spoiled Capitol wants to maintain their lifestyle and control.

I thought it very interesting that the Capitol pits the Twelve Districts against one another in the games. This keeps each District separated, alliances between districts really are not encouraged. And, each District is its own entity, has its own occupations but there are strong physical barriers between the Districts. I think the Capitol is very smart in keeping each district isolated from the other, after all, they would not want a united uprising from all the districts. Perhaps there are not enough Peacekeepers or Capitol personnel to handle such an occurrence??? *I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mocking jay yet, this is pure speculation.

5.       Where there any parts of the book that didn’t make sense? That you didn’t like?

I was really disappointed in the Hunger Games when there were a mere 3 (three!) Tributes left, that the Game Makers turned to Mutants. Really? There are only two strong Tributes left, and they are both healthy enough to fight each other and now is when you have attack mutants? The timing felt so contrived, as the mutants should have made an appearance earlier when there were more contestants or not at all, were they really necessary? One person in our group thought that Katniss’s arrow should have pierced Cato’s heart that she deserved to kill him in a straightforward way; alas, he had on body armor. Really?

6.       Could you see the influence of Reality TV in The Hunger Games?

Much like Survivor, every moment in the Games, Katniss has to think about her actions and words. She is extremely aware that she cannot cry, cannot express her true emotions as she is on camera. And she constantly creates a sense of awareness of her actions, she cannot relax, everyone is watching. Even her kissing Peeta is a well thought action for the cameras, a calculated act for which she gains a reward, a pot of broth.

7.       In what year does The Hunger Games take place? What happened to what used to be the US?
The year to the reader is unknown, but this is the 74th Hunger Games. So the world changing is assumed to have happened at least that many years ago.  If you look online at a Panem map, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and the East Coast are gone. District Twelve is where I thought it would be, somewhere  near West Virginia.

8.       What are your predictions on what will happen in the next books?

We believe that Gale might have more visibility. We know that Katniss and Peeta have unresolved relationship issues, but are they really meant to be together? And, I have to wonder about that alluded to, but mysterious District 13; my Spidey senses are tingling…What will the consequences be for Katniss having angered the president and the Capitol? How will she redeem herself, is that even possible?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gripping Futuristic Dystopian Drama

This is the future, the US is a fraction of what it once was, and much of it in post-uprising poverty divided districts run by an unforgiving Capitol government. The Capitol presides over all Districts and as a reminder of a past uprising forces each to send one boy and one girl to the Hunger Games, a televised death match. Katniss offers herself as Tribute when her little sister is called, knowing that going to the games will mean certain death.

At sixteen Katniss is a survivor, her father died when she was eleven and since then she has been the provider for the family. She lives in a poor and hungry outlying district where starvation is a fact of life. Katniss has adapted by hunting the forest with her bow and arrows, saving little meat for her family but selling the larger game.

Katniss has unknowingly molded herself into a Games contender as she is a strong-willed girl with hunting and survival skills, much needed in the fight-to-the-death arena. She will compete against 23 other district representatives, most of whom are larger and stronger. Almost as s soon as she is chosen, she is whisked away to the Capitol, to be prepared for the games. Since this is a televised event, Katniss is given a stylist, and her entire outer image is transformed.

Katniss’ forest knowledge and determination keep her alive, and soon she starts to believe that she could be a contender in the games. But Peeta is an unknown factor, he’s a boy from her District who has professed his love but in The Hunger Games there can only be one winner. The rest of the Tributes must be seen as enemies; Katniss must kill or be killed.

This is a futuristic YA Dystopian novel, which will appeal to a wide reader audience. While I thought of 1984 and the whole “Big Brother is watching you” mentality, I also was reminded of The Lord of the Flies, a bit somehow. Read the book and let me know your thoughts…

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: The Three Weissmanns of Westport

The Three Weissmanns of Westport
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Light, bright, poignant

Four stars would be the review, but alas, while the rest of the book was evenly paced, the ending felt cold, sad and swift, like an execution.

Betty Weissmann has lived the life of a pampered woman, a housewife presiding over an elegant apartment in Central Park West. Out of the blue, her husband of almost fifty years tells her he wants a divorce. At the age of 75, Betty is shocked for if her husband had wanted to leave her it should have happened 30 years ago! Betty’s world is torn apart, especially when she is asked to leave her home. Where is she to go, and without her credit cards, how will she live?

Cousin Lou, truly the only character in the story to understand family and friendship, soon reaches out to Betty, after all, “she’s family.” Soon he has promised Betty that she can stay in his cottage in Westport. And as Betty’s comfortable life falls apart, her children begin their mid-life crises. Miranda has just learned that her published authors have all fictionalized their memoirs, which now means she is held culpable and will lose her income. Divorced Annie has a job as a library researcher but she is bored and lonely, her two boys distant and grown. Both sisters decide to sublet their apartments in order to join their grieving mother in Westport.

Thus, the three Weissmann’s come to live in Westport, to start their lives anew. Nothing is easy and the real world often knocks at their door. Betty copes only by pretending that her beloved husband has died, carrying like a widower. Miranda takes long walks and searches for herself, as only bankruptcy can make one do. And, Annie silently pines after an obtuse poet, while trying to manage the spending habits of her Mom and sister. Together the three Weissmann’s learn how to survive in a world that is dark and stormy, and full of the unexpected.

The Three Weissmann’s of Westport has been strongly compared to Sense and Sensibility, something I cannot comment on at this time, as my Jane Austen reading has gone by the wayside recently…

I did like the blunt, straightforward writing in the novel, the factual story-telling, the very real characters. This novel would work wonderfully for a book club or for a travel/beach read.

Available in trade paperback The Three Weissmann’s of Westport was written by Cathleen Schine and is 292 pages.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: The BFG

The BFG by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore Roald Dahl, and while I've read James and the Giant Peach and Matilda, I don't remember reading The BFG as a kid.

Sophie is an orphan who cannot sleep late one night and as she peers out her window she sees a rather large giant across the street. The BFG sees Sophie too, and grabs her and takes her to a faraway land of giants. Luckily for Sophie, The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant, unlike his counterparts. The other giants, much larger and more gruesome, have an appetite for people! All the disappearances of families and children across the world can be attributed to the Gizzargulper and the other giants.

The BFG doesn't like the other giants, but he is smaller and he cannot fight them. Together he and Sophie think of a plan that will lead to the demise of the other giants. I particulary love the way the BGF talks, as he is self-taught. My favorite little snippet, is when he is talking to Sophie about human beans, "They is nearly all of them notmuchers and squeakpips."

This is a timeless and charming story about friendship, acceptance and fun, recommended for age 8 and up. And of course, be sure to get the book with the Quentin Blake illustrations. Mr. Blake is an amazing illustrator, and each iconic image is silly and splendiforous!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Night Circus, an enchanting new favorite

Brilliant, Wondrous, Enchanting! The Night Circus is an Intricately woven tale of magic and mystery, charming to the end.

I was immediately drawn into The Night Circus, a magical novel, where the language is lyrical and whimsical creating a dreamlike environment.  We, as a “spectator” get little snippets and tiny glimpses of a brightly lit Le Cirque De Reves “Night Circus” that opens after sunset. The magical and elusive circus appears in random cities on different nights, never with advance notice; there is no advertising, only word of mouth.
The circus is charmingly and amazingly imagined, so cleverly composed that the readers will visualize every elaborate experience. Elegant and architechtural, the circus has a limited palette of black and white and silver. The Night Circus has been planned by engineers, magicians, and theatrical persons…no creative or exquisite aspect is lacking. Each circus tent or feature is better than the last; even the food has been created by genius gastronomists.
Celia is the child of Prospero the Enchanter, a most unfortunate twist of fate as Prospero plans to use Celia as a pawn in a magical challenge between himself and his enemy.  Prospero is a cruel master who punishes his daughter while forcing her to develop her illusionist skills. Celia is given no love and no information on the magical challenge; she knows only that she must prepare herself to be the BEST illusionist in order to win “the game.”

Marco is an orphan when he is chosen by the man in the grey suit, Chandresh, the nemesis of Prospero. Marco is to become the opponent in the game. He knows only that he must develop his magical spells and creations, as he will soon have a formidable opponent. Chandresh is an elusive Master, leaving Marco to study books alone in a townhouse.

Neither Marco nor Celia knows that there will only be one winner, the end game means death to the losing magician. Their competitive venue is The Night Circus where Celia will be the illusionist and Marco will be the magical architect. And, at first they are not aware of one another, they simply are aware that the game has begun and yet they are drawn to each other’s creations and illusions…

Shimmering and vibrant, The Night Circus pulled me in with the first delicious and descriptive paragraph. In no way will I be able to describe the visual atmosphere created in The Night Circus, you must read and discover the enchanting appeal for yourself. For the first time in a long time, I could not stop reading;  this book now has a place on my Favorites shelf, a twenty-first century new classic.

The Night Circus is written by Erin Morgenstern and today is available in Hardback and e-book formats.

Review: The Gilder

The Gilder
The Gilder by Kathryn Kay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Light, Underdeveloped,Contemporary

I would place this novella well into the light fiction category.

Marina is a Gilder; she learned her trade of gilding gold in Italy as an apprentice. The gilding process is interesting and young Marina is lucky to have attained an apprentice position. All is well and fine in Italy until Marina starts hanging out with Thomas and Sarah. Two is company and three’s a crowd, Sarah and Thomas are married. Marina loves Sarah, loves her friendship, and perhaps even has a bit of a crush on her. Sarah’s art career is on hold as her husband and his photography career must come first, there is only room for one artist in the marriage.

Soon Marina is assisting Thomas with his photography setups and this is of course where she gets into trouble. Thomas makes his move on night in the studio and Marina does not resist. But in the morning, the callous Thomas tells her that she should keep this from his wife. Feeling that she has betrayed her best friend, she quickly and quietly leaves the country.
Fifteen years later she has a teenage daughter who wants to know who her father was and this now means that Marina must confront her past and return to Italy.

I loved the Gilding aspect of the story, but had issues with the one dimensional Sarah and Thomas. We never get to know them or their motivations. There are great ideas here, but I do wish they all had been more deeply developed. I found this book listed on and will be disappointed if it is marked as a book club selection.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Amulet of Samarkand, Book One in the Bartimaeus Trilogy
Fast-paced, addictive, magical fantasy

This YA book starts with a demon being summoned, in turn the demon appears, “two yellow staring eyes materialized in the heart of the smoke”. The demon is determined to frighten the young magician boy that summons him. The boy is very young, too young to be making demands such as charging the demon Bartimaeus to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand. The demon believes that the boy’s Master is forcing the boy to make the request. The demon is bound to do the boy’s bidding, but he resists as much as he can as he knows his task will be troublesome.

The demon very nearly loses his life as he fights other demons and strong magic when he stealthily steals the amulet from the powerful Simon Lovelace. Bartimaeus is dangerously pursued by beings that will stop at nothing to retrieve the amulet. But even as the quest began, Bartimaeus knew he would face great danger, as he knows that the Amulet holds great powers.

Bartimaeus is a demon who must obey the boy, a defiant demon, and a dangerous demon, one whose mind constantly works to determine a way to kill the boy. Demons must obey the commands of their summoners, which often puts Bartimaeus in great danger. Bartimaeus is a seasoned and clever demon, who does what he is commanded to do, despite having his life endangered. Even as a demon Bartimaeus is determined to survive, he wants to live, to be released from his service to the boy.

Nathaniel is a young apprentice magician with a grumpy Master who doesn’t recognize his student’s intelligence. The Master teaches slowly, proving too frustrating for the boy. Nathaniel makes up for it by reading all of the Master’s books and learning higher level magic in his room at night. The boy has a lonely life, he stays inside his Master’s house, and he knows only his unkind Master and the Master’s wife. The boy has no friends, no one to talk to, and he is bent on revenge against a much stronger (adult) Magician, Simon Lovelace. Nathaniel knows much more than his Master would believe, even the demon cannot believe the boys knowledge of magic, this will work to the boy’s advantage.

Before you think that this is too reminiscent of Harry Potter. No it is not! Magic is the only common denominator.

The reader wants to root for the boy to succeed despite the fact that we are unsure whether or not the petulant boy is a hero. We also root for the success of the demon, as we want the boy and demon to work together to vanquish the magicians who have wronged the boy.

While I wished success for the boy and demon, I could not decide whether or not this book had a hero, not even as I finished the book! My hope, and ah clever author Jonathan Stroud, is that the boy and Bartimaeus represent the good guys. This book left me wanting more; it read like a fast-paced action adventure, I anxiously await the next two novels.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Angels Flight

Angels Flight
Angels Flight by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Remarkable, intelligent, riveting

A Detective Bosch novel.

A prominent attorney is murdered and no cop wants to take the case as it will bring too much heat down on them. Bosch is called in the middle of the night to work the case, which he instantly knows will bring chaos and conflicts to the streets in LA. Bosch is smart and incredibly capable and trusting of his team. The problem is that he is assigned additional team members he doesn’t trust and all the while his boss is screaming for results.

The story is complex, a lawyer who prosecuted cops is dead and yet the cops are investigating the death, there is no win. The case is delicate but Bosch cannot bring himself to believe that a cop would commit this murder which seems so personal. The murder seems like the beginning, but in reality Bosch and his team must backtrack through cases, subpoenas, and suspects all while the pressure and media are bearing down on them. When Bosch’s former partner is named as the shooter, Bosch knows that they have the wrong man, now he just needs to prove it.

While Bosch is piecing all the clues together for his case, his personal life starts falling into shambles. He is an amazing lead detective; he snatches up details and draws the right conclusions; however it seems that he is losing his wife. Eleanor no longer responds to texts or calls; Bosch cannot even count on her being home at night. He fears the feeling of relief at the thought that his marriage may be ending.

Bosch is a superb character, he is a believable detective made human by the failings in his personal life, another great book in the series. The series starts with The Black Echo and is written by Michael Connelly, I highly recommend this series to mystery fans. My favorite in the series is The Concrete Blonde, but then I do love that title…

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Hector and the Search for Happiness: A Novel

Hector and the Search for Happiness: A Novel
Hector and the Search for Happiness: A Novel by François Lelord

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

cozy, simple, friendly

Hector travels around the globe pondering happiness and what it means to each person he meets. An interesting story, and people love to open up to Hector, who like his author is a Psychiatrist. Hector carries his journal and makes little notes on happiness after each conversation. One observation is tha, "Happiness is a certain way of seeing things."

Hector acknowledges that those he treats who seem most unhappy have good jobs and no major problems. Hector's friend Eduard believes that making sixmillion dollars will mean happiness, but while he has work and money, he is extremely unhappy. Whereas in contrast, the poor shoeless children in the foreign countries Hector visits smile and seem happy.

A parable that seems to have some bits of truth to it, a much less complex version of Eat Pray Love.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not-for-children, dark, violent

David is a little boy whose mother has recently died. In mourning and miserable, he doesn't understand when his father re-marries very quickly. Once David is living with his stepmother, the books in his room start talking. The lonely boy starts hearing his mother's voice and seeing odd strangers at the edge of the woods.

Soon the little boy has followed his mother's voice into the dark corners of a new world (much darker than Narnia). As soon as he enters the world, the boy is hunted by the Crooked Man and the wolves. Very scary, as the hungry wolves eat people and want to consume the boy. The book was dark and violent, as David goes on a quest to see the King in order to get back to his world. David must face beasts and trolls and all kinds of violent mystical killers, and make no mistake, they are violent.

I see why this was recommended for me as there are many author “retellings” of the Grimm fairy tales—his stories are much darker and more evil.

Not for children! It was an interesting book, but there was too much violence and death for my taste.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sparks of Wonder Alight The Lantern

Descriptive, Enthralling, new Rebecca

 “Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of a citrus zest or a bright not of mint.” And so this beautifully written novel, The Lantern begins.

 In Switzerland Eve meets a mysterious man and starts a whirlwind romance. Dom is handsome but somehow closed off and haunted. Dom admits that he was once married but asks Eve to never speak of Rachel again; he will not speak further about it. Eve is caught up in the love affair and keeps thoughts of Rachel locked away in her mind.

 Soon Dom has convinced Eve to leave her work and home to move with him to the remote Les Genevriers in the South of France. Eve is thrilled to have found love and easily gives up her lonely life, renting out her London flat. Summer in the isolated French farming hamlet is heavenly. There are many things to discover, and Eve and Dom are content in their isolated new home together. Eve recognizes that their house is very old and full of friendly ghosts.

 When the cold winter moves in, Eve starts to feel haunted as she sees things in the garden and starts hearing noises in the house. And, seemingly, Dom pulls away from her, leaving her even more isolated. They are far from town and there are no other houses nearby, Dom has effectively cut off Eve from her friends, work and family. Eve becomes afraid, distant and restless as Dom becomes more uncommunicative. Eve also becomes obsessed with Dom’s former wife Rachel and spends all her time researching her and wondering what happened to her. Dom still refuses to talk about Rachel, but Eve has learned that Dom and Rachel had planned on living in Genevriers together. Eve soon finds a lady in town, Sabine, who implies that Dom may have killed Rachel. Per Sabine, Rachel was pregnant and disappeared unexpectedly…

 As the haunting of Eve begins, the reader starts learning the ominous past history of the farmstead. The farm is where Marthe Lincel, a famous 1950’s perfume creator grew up as a child. Eve often smells the strong scent of lavender which was the inspiration for Marthe’s signature scent. Soon Eve is also researching the story of Marthe, who disappeared at the height of her career.

 In an eerie bit of foreshadowing, Dom and Rachel have decided to replace the pool in the garden…what will they discover? Throughout the novel I thought of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, there are many parallels that cannot be ignored.

 For me, this novel is much more descriptive and enthralling than Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Here is an example of the language, “Outside, the figs fall, the wasps drone at the sugar bursting on the ground and on the branch, the scents of summer are overblown in the heat.” Magnificent descriptors, I highly recommend this novel for any fiction readers and book clubs. Alas, this novel is not yet available in paperback.