Monday, September 10, 2012

All the Flowers in Shanghai

Title: All the Flowers in Shanghai

Author: Duncan Jepson

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary:For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires
For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents. In the enclosed world of the Sang household—a place of public ceremony and private cruelty—fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir.
The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society—even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

Review: Feng enjoys taking walks with her Grandfather as he shows her different flowers and their ancient names that were used in older times when the emperor's still ruled, and ancient traditions still held sway with the people, as a child she doesn't mind that her sister is the favorite and the one destined to marry and have children while she will live at home and become the care giver for her family, this is her destiny and she is expected to live up to it. However fate takes an unexpected turn when tragedy strikes and Feng is thrust into a world that she was not prepared for, and a destiny that she considers cruel and unfair of her parents to expect of someone at her tender age, but she does what she is told as many young Chinese women of this period would have done bound by tradition and honor. 

In her new role as Mother and wife, she makes mistakes, crosses lines, and boundaries that many might consider to be cruel, however as a character the reader should be reminded that she was thrust into this role as an unprepared teenager who had no understanding of the world that she was entering, how much better could you do? This novel takes the reader into a world that is rarely so poignantly seen from this side, and so truthfully portrayed without a silver lining. I very highly recommend this book, it is both heart breaking, and  inspiring; a story for any generation who struggles with the courage to press on.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Sorry to have been absent so long, I've been in and out of the hospital as well as school starting yesterday, for my second masters towards getting my license to become a counselor. Any-who here's my review for The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay.

Title: The Virgin Cure
Author: Ami McKay
Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: "I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."
Set on the streets of Lower Manhattan in 1871, The Virgin Cure is the story of Moth, a girl abandoned by her father and raised by a mother telling fortunes to the city's desperate women. One summer night, twelve-year-old Moth is pulled from her bed and sold as a servant to a finely dressed woman. It is this betrayal suffered at the hands of her own mother that changes her life forever.
Knowing that her mother is so close while she is locked away in servitude, Moth bides her time until she can escape, only to find her old home deserted and her mother gone without a trace. Moth must struggle to survive alone in the murky world of the Bowery, a wild and lawless enclave filled with thieves, beggars, sideshow freaks, and prostitutes. She eventually meets Miss Everett, the proprietress of an "Infant School," a brothel that caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for "willing and clean" companions—desirable young virgins like Moth.
Moth also finds friendship with Dr. Sadie, a female physician struggling against the powerful forces of injustice, who teaches Moth to question and observe the world around her. The doctor hopes to protect Moth from falling prey to a terrible myth known as the "virgin cure"—the tragic belief that deflowering a "fresh maid" can cleanse the blood and heal men afflicted with syphilis—that has destroyed the lives of other Bowery girls.
Ignored by society, unprotected by the law, Moth dreams of independence. But there's a high price to pay for freedom, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.

Review: The Virgin Cure by Ami Mckay takes you into the world of Moth, a young adolescent girl living in the slums of New York  around ten years or so after the Civil War.  Her Mother a would be fortune teller with Gypsy blood who cares more about her favorite tonic which has powerful doses of alcohol and drugs in it, then taking care of Moth or herself is not someone that Moth has had what the reader would see as a wonderful childhood with so far. Moth's mother is selfish, bitter, and cannot see beyond her own desires, even to the depth of selling her own daughter to a woman that uses Moth, and abuses her because she has pain in her own life.

As you follow Moth's path from getting away from the abusive situation her mother sold her into, to a madame's house, to a curiosities museum, to the home of a young female doctor trying to show her  a better way, and eventually to finding herself in an unforgiving and hard world and time, it is hard not to fall in love with her, and come to hate, cry or laugh with the other characters of this book, I would rate it as one of my FAVORITES of this year most definitely!  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Commoner

Title: The Commoner
Author: John Burnham Schwartz
Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Summary: It is 1959 when Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the longest-running, almost hermetically sealed, and mysterious monarchy in the world. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. However, determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, she perseveres. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman—a rising star in the foreign ministry—to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the Crown Prince. The consequences are tragic and dramatic. 

Told in the voice of Haruko, meticulously researched and superbly imagined, The Commoner is the mesmerizing, moving, and surprising story of a brutally rarified and controlled existence at once hidden and exposed, and of a complex relationship between two isolated women who, despite being visible to all, are truly understood only by each other. With the unerring skill of a master storyteller, John Burnham Schwartz has written his finest novel yet.

Review: The Commoner tells the story of the first non aristocratic Japanese commoner to marry a Crown Prince of Japan. A young woman who has grown up in what would be considered moderate luxury and moderate freedom, with a good education, and loving parents connects with the Crown Prince through playing tennis matches with him, and then occasionally meeting with him in other social situations. At the onset her parents are adverse to the match because they believe their daughter will be thrust into a imperial court and world that she has not been trained for, growing up as a common citizen, and they do not want her to suffer. However after pressure from one of the Prince's closest confidante's and inside the imperial court her parent's and Haruko relent to the Prince's offer, and say yes, that she will marry the Prince.

From the day of her marriage, and her entrance into learning all the traditions, rigorous schedules, and rules of the court, Haruko learns that her main purpose is to provide an heir, and to quietly suffer the criticisms of the current empress without complaint.  A few years into her marriage she has a nervous breakdown, which she does eventually recover from, but which shows how her imperial life has taken away her connections to her nuclear family, and her sense of purpose as a soul who has her own interests, and being a person beyond the strict traditions of the world she now feels trapped in. Around thirty years after her own marriage Haruko is instrumental is convincing another common citizen, a young woman who is independent and strong minded to accept the marriage proposal of her son, even though she suspects that the girl might have the same troubles that she did. This ultimately results in tragedy, but has a bittersweet ending.  Haruko in the only way she can helps her daughter in law escape the fate that she herself must live with.

This book was a very easy read, wonderful writing, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this dynasty, and the traditions, and human feelings that go along with it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why I Left the Amish

Title: Why I Left the Amish
Author: Saloma Miller Furlong
Rating: <3 <3 <3
Summary: There are two ways to leave the Amish — one is through life and the other through death. When Saloma Miller Furlong’s father dies during her first semester at Smith College, she returns to the Amish community she had left twenty four years earlier to attend his funeral. Her journey home prompts a flood of memories. Now a mother with grown children of her own, Furlong recalls her painful childhood in a family defined by her father’s mental illness, her brother’s brutality, her mother’s frustration, and the austere traditions of the Amish — traditions Furlong struggled to accept for years before making the difficult decision to leave the community. In this personal and moving memoir, Furlong traces the genesis of her desire for freedom and education and chronicles her conflicted quest for independence. Eloquently told, Why I Left the Amishis a revealing portrait of life within — and without — this frequently misunderstood community.

Review: This book was recommended to me by the author, after she read my review for Unorthodox, on Goodreads. I decided to take her advice, and ordered the book.  It is about the life of young Saloma Miller who grows up with a Father who has mental capabilities that are less than those of the average individual, and a Mother who looks the other way as her daughters are abused physically, sexually, and emotionally very roughly by their older brother and very harshly beaten by their Father.  The memoir takes you deep into the world of what the author describes as where a young person must choose between leaving their family behind, and going their own way,  which in her case this was wanting an education, and a chance to make her own choices, or joining the Amish church and blindly following the rules for the rest of your life.  The book really opens your eyes to facets of the Amish culture that I was not aware of before, and struggles that Amish young people and children face within the Amish community, struggles that are often romanticized in novels about the Amish culture, which were brought out in a harsh light in this book. It ended on a brighter note, because Saloma does get out and marry someone she loves, and get an education... so that made me feel better, but some of the scenes I would not recommend for younger readers. But it does make you think about a culture that is often romanticized within our society...with facts that are obviously UNTRUE.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012





Everyone ! =)

Have fun and Be SAFE! 

My next review for The Huntress by Susan Carroll, should be up tomorrow; taking a break today since it's a holiday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Silver Rose

Title: The Silver Rose

Author: Susan Carroll

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: From Brittany’s fog-shrouded forests to the elegant dark heart of Paris’s royal court, one woman must challenge a country’s destiny–and her own dangerous fate.

France, 1585. She is the youngest and most powerful of the “Sisters of Faire Isle,” women known far and wide for their extraordinary mystical abilities. Skilled in healing and able to forecast the future of those around her, Miri Cheney has returned to her ancestral home to take refuge from a land devastated by civil war–and to grieve for her family, driven to exile. But she cannot hide from the formidable new power threatening to seize control of France from the dread “Dark Queen,” Catherine de Medici–a diabolical woman known only as the Silver Rose. Miri has no choice but to turn to the one man she distrusts as much as she desires: Simon Aristide, the charismatic witch-finder who is now himself the hunted, and who has reluctantly made an unholy pact with Catherine. Miri must defy throne and family to save all that she loves most–and command a future greater than she could ever imagine.

Review: The Silver Rose takes you into the world of the youngest Cheney sister Miri who has returned to the Island of Faire Isle, because she missed her home, but nothing is as she remembers it. Women can no longer come here searching for a place where they are safe from the eyes of the world, The world is now a place that hunts down witches and burns them at the stake, Fair Isle used to be a place of refuge for Daughters of the Earth to come, a place of safety where they could gather together, and practice their trades, and live together in harmony, but now even Miri's sisters are not safe here after her long ago friend Simon, convicted them, of witchcraft, and they had to flee for their lives.  Now as Miri looks around she sees, bitterness and spite in the women of Faire Isle instead of the harmony that once existed in her childhood home.  Miri receives the shock of her life when Simon comes calling for help to vanquish the Sisterhood of the Silver Rose, a coven of witches that has been following and attacking him; how can she trust what he is saying after he has betrayed her trust so many times? And yet he seems so beaten down and weary; he wants her older sister's help at first but Miri says no wanting none of her relatives involved in something so dangerous after all they have been through; especially with the man who put them through half of their misery. Instead she decides to follow Simon herself and help him defeat this coven of witches who are giving daughters of the earth everywhere a bad name.  What follows is a book full of surprises, as Miri's suitor back home decides to join in on the adventure, the "wolf" joins in; you find out who the silver rose really is and Miri discovers that true love can be found in the strangest of places, and that it is not always the man who must take charge.  This book was a fun read, there were some slow places, but for the most part it was fact paced and not one you wanted to put down.

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots

Title: Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots

Author: Deborah Feldman

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: n the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, Unorthodox is a captivating story about a young woman determined to live her own life at any cost.
The Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism is as mysterious as it is intriguing to outsiders. In this arresting memoir, Deborah Feldman reveals what life is like trapped within a religious tradition that values silence and suffering over individual freedoms.
The child of a mentally disabled father and a mother who abandoned the community while her daughter was still a toddler, Deborah was raised by her strictly religious grandparents, Bubby and Zeidy. Along with a rotating cast of aunts and uncles, they enforced customs with a relentless emphasis on rules that governed everything from what Deborah could wear and to whom she could speak, to what she was allowed to read. As she grew from an inquisitive little girl to an independent-minded young woman, stolen moments reading about the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott helped her to imagine an alternative way of life. She had no idea how to seize this dream that seemed to beckon to her from the skyscrapers of Manhattan, but she was determined to find a way. The tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until, at the age of seventeen, she found herself trapped in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she had met for only thirty minutes before they became engaged. As a result, she experienced debilitating anxiety that was exacerbated by the public shame of having failed to immediately consummate her marriage and thus serve her husband. But it wasn’t until she had a child at nineteen that Deborah realized more than just her own future was at stake, and that, regardless of the obstacles, she would have to forge a path—for herself and her son—to happiness and freedom.

Review: Deborah Feldman's Unorthodox, is a memoir, as she describes it, that takes you into the first twenty-three years of this young woman's life in the world of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism.  In this world as a young child, Deborah is looked down upon because her family feels shame because of her parents, because her father is mentally disabled and her Mother left the sect long ago because of secrets that Deborah will not learn the answer to until she is into her late teen years.  As she grows up in her grandparents home, Deborah faces ridicule from the other girls in her all girls private school because her Grandfather Zeidy, does not believe in wealth through secular material goods therefore she is not given new clothes or trinkets, like the other girls and subsists with second hand clothes and shoes during her childhood and adolescent years.  She must also follow the strict dress code for girls, while also remembering  to appear subservient to men at all times, and keeping her head low as a "good girl" should.  While a strong willed aunt has made most of the decisions about her life, including where she will live, who she will and will not see, and eventually she will help decide who Deborah will marry. Deborah does secretly mount small rebellions such as sneaking English books into her room, and hiding them under her mattress or behind her dresser, her desire for knowledge is insatiable, and her desire to escape the boundaries she is forced to live in being a "good girl" can be spotted even when she is a young child.
     As she is married off at seventeen to a boy she has seen twice, been alone with for thirty minutes, and only had the sexual world explained to her in a very limited class, with one woman who did a very poor and limited job with with a young woman who up until this point has been taught that this part of her body is forbidden and evil; Deborah and her husband experience serious sexual problems within their marriage which lead to criticism of her of course because she is the woman and the man cannot be seen at fault.  She goes through many psychological and sexual problems, and doctors, before they come to a type of resolution to the problem, but I still felt as a reader that more should have been done for her, she was so young, and her family should've realized at this point that marriage, a husband, and all they were pushing on her was too much for someone of her age, but because of their culture she was expected to perform her part, and she did to the best of her abilities, but at this part in the book I realized how selfish her relatives truly were and I prayed she would get out soon for the sake of her mental and physical health.  There is a stark turning point in the book which you realize, it happens soon after Deborah starts attending college, she has an awakening, so she takes her son, gets a rental car, and leaves her husband and the community; I breathed a sigh of relief, as hard as I knew it had to be for her, I thought it had to be less dangerous then the situation she was in presently.  There is a picture of Deborah sitting on a bench near the end of the book, and unlike the other pictures of her she looks happy and free, like she can finally breathe, this was a true happy ending for me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Courtesan

Title: The Courtesan 

Author: Susan Carroll

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: Skilled in passion, artful in deception, and driven by betrayal, she is the glittering center of the royal court–but the most desired woman of Renaissance France will draw the wrath of a dangerous adversary.

Paris, 1575. The consort of some of Europe’s most influential men, Gabrielle Cheney is determined to secure her future by winning the heart of Henry, the Huguenot king of Navarre. As his mistress, Gabrielle hopes she might one day become the power behind the French throne. But her plans are jeopardized by Captain Nicolas Rémy, a devoted warrior whose love Gabrielle desires–and fears–above all. She will also incur the malevolence of the Dark Queen, Catherine de’ Medici, whose spies and witch-hunters are legion, and who will summon the black arts to maintain her authority. With the lives of those she loves in peril, Gabrielle must rebel against her queen to fulfill a glorious destiny she has sacrificed everything to gain.

Alive with vivid period detail and characters as vibrant as they are memorable, The Courtesan is a sweeping historical tale of dangerous intrigues, deep treachery, and one woman’s unshakable resolve to honor her heart.

Review: Gabrielle Cheney has established herself as both a woman a court, and in the arms of the men of Paris, and she is even dabbling in becoming the mistress of the Huguenot Navarre king.  However, one thing always takes Gabrielle's mind away from her conquest of power, the memory of her love the young captain Remy; who perished in the Huguenot masequere or so she believes until she receives the shock of her life, and then the tug of war begins between two very strong personalities. This part of the novel bothered me. The tug of war between Gabrielle and Remy; normally I can understand tug of war between two lovers, but the nobility in Remy's character to which he expects her character to live up to; and the attack that Gabrielle suffered were a bit over done. I suppose with these two at each other's throat's that is the point but opposite's had to attract in this book with Gabrielle's selfishness at other points because I could not stand it.  I have a feeling this will be my least favorite book of the series, with amulet's, crazy bipolar friend's and Nostradamus sightings.

The Dark Queen

Title:  The Dark Queen 

Author: Susan Carroll

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

Summary: From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

Review: The Dark Queen was an enjoyable novel that took me into the world of Ariane the oldest of the Cheney sisters , three young girls on the verge of their twenties who having lost their Mother are now facing the debts that their Father left behind when he fled on a sea voyage to escape their Mother's illness and his guilt at having caused part of her heart ache because of his illicit affair in far off Paris.

Ariane struggles as she takes her place as the Lady of Fair Isle, who is known for protecting the inhabitants of the Island and passing down the secrets of its healing healing myths and legends to her daughters. She has learned everything she needs to know from her recently deceased Mother, and is struggling to raise her two sisters, as they grieve the total loss of one parent, and the disappearance of another.  Gabrielle the middle sister is set on escaping the island, and her past which the book, hints at is not a pleasant one, because of the pain caused by a past suitor.   And this is the least Ariane's problem's as an errant soldier comes to stay, the younger sister half nymph in training, invite's stray animal's with a look to come to roost in their home, and the local comte Renard  and Ariane, fight on and off, as he vighs, for her hand in marriage with or without her cosent; which she seems more than at times willing to give.

This book will keep you turning the pages into the night as the first in a series of truly bewitching novels.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Blood of Flowers

Title: Blood of Flowers

Author: Anita Amirrezvani 

Rating: <3 <3 <3 

Summary: Both a sweeping love story and a luminous portrait of a city, THE BLOOD OF FLOWERS is the mesmerizing historical novel of an ill-fated young woman whose gift as a rug designer transforms her life. Illuminated with glorious detail of persian rug-making, and brilliantly bringing to life the sights sounds and life of 17th-century Isfahan, THE BLOOD OF FLOWERS has captured readers' imaginations everywhere as a timeless tale of one woman's struggle to live a life of her choosing.

Review: The Blood of flowers took me into the world of 17th century Isfahan, the story began with a young girl who had what she thought was a secured future ahead of her with a good marriage in front of her planned by her parents who were working hard to make sure that her dowry would be provided for her, however tragedy strikes when her Father develops a sudden illness while working in the fields and despite the family and friend's best efforts, dies thus leaving the girl and her Mother destitute and having to travel to the large city of Isfahan to stay with her wealthy Uncle and his wife who treat the girl and her Mother like servants rather than like loved relatives as the young girl unlike her Mother had expected.  

Some details in the story were very interesting like the way that rugs were made in the middle east, by thousands of tiny knots, and all the details, that went into them, however the "rash" decisions that the girl made seemed a bit abrupt to me in the storyline in accordance with her character, who seemed to go back and forth between wanting to please everyone with strict obedience, then all of a sudden making a decision that didn't fit at all with her personality as a character, also in the middle or end of some of the chapters, fairytales of her culture would be told which were enjoyable when they fit with the plot; but some did not seem to fit in at all and became annoying at times.  These and the ending which was abrupt to me, were my only complaints, that and I wish there had been more cultural and sensory details, all in all it was a good read. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


Title: The Moon in the Mango Tree

Author: Pamela Binnings Ewen

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary:Set in Siam and Europe during the 1920s, a glittering decade of change, The Moon in the Mango Tree is based upon the true story of Barbara Bond, a beautiful young opera singer from Philadelphia who is forced to choose between her fierce desire for independence—a desire to create something of her own to give purpose and meaning to her life—and a deep abiding love for her faithful missionary husband whose work creates a gap between them.
But when you choose between two things you love, must one be lost forever?

Review: The Moon in the Mango Tree takes you into the world of young Barbara Bond, who while still in high school meets the man who will become her husband, Harvey, a young man who is finishing medical school and who will eventually require Barbara to make the choice between following him into the mission field in Siam or following her love of Opera, and the career that she has always dreamed of.  The story follow's the up's and down's of their marriage as Barbara makes the choice to give up her chance at singing under the tutelage of a famous opera singer, and goes with Harvey to his post of first a missionary doctor in Siam, and later after returning to the states for a brief sabbatical returning to Siam to become doctor to members of the royal family.

During this time reader's will become involved in the live's of the young couple as they begin a family in a foreign country, learn about the culture they are living in, and go through the many heartbreaks and struggles that Barbara experiences as a missionary wife, and Mother, and as she also feels as if she has given up a part of herself for her husband and yet he has not done the same in return.  This book truly takes you to the brink of what it takes to love someone and truly sacrifice for that love, and how faith and a sacred vow can push even the strongest of bonds to their very limit.  This book was even more enjoyable for me, because it was based loosely on the author's Grandmother's life, who is pictured below the review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Title: The Serpent's Tale 

Author: Ariana Franklin 

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 

Summary: Ariana Franklin combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the drama of historical fiction in the enthralling second novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, featuring medieval heroine Adelia Aguilar. 

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison-and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund's murder is probably the first move in Eleanor's long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth. 

Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But Henry's summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king's trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans, who is also her baby's father. 

Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan's home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth-a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia's investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund's rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken captive by Eleanor's henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right moment to launch their rebellion. 

Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war . . .

Review: The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin is the second book in the Mistress of the Art of Death Series, it takes you back into the world of Adelia, who is a young female doctor in England who specializes in the study of the death, and specifically for King Henry the Second, in how they were murdered.  In this book she is summoned to find out who murdered the King's favorite mistress "Rosamund the Fair", according to popular rumor it is Eleanor the King's wife who is desperately jealous of the woman, however after closer inspection of the evidence Adelia does not believe this to be true.  Adelia's character in this story stay's true to the first book while Rowley is now a bishop, and therefore there love is now difficult, she is still in love with him though and dedicated to their baby though  she is dedicated to her profession and still wants no marriage.  She is not the historical fiction woman that I am used to reading about, but I do enjoy this series, it is filled with historical detail and very historically researched, and every time she had to give her companion the Moor "doctor" credit for her work because she is a woman in 1100's England i feel bad for her.  The book kept me engrossed although I did have to put it down for a few minutes at a time because there are SO many details, and at times my brain got overloaded,  I did however finish in a day and a half. If you enjoy a mystery, with a little emotion mixed in then I'd recommend the series, there are only four, sadly the author died, so there will be no more as far as i Know but they are very good books.


I, Mona Lisa

Title: I, Mona Lisa

Author: Jeanne Kalogridis

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: "My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa.  My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born…"

Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.
More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths.  Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake.  But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.
Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.

Review: I, Mona Lisa takes you into the heart of Florence  when the monk Savanarola, was preaching his messages of hell fire and brimstone against the Borgia pope's decadence and lust, the evilness of sodomy, and what was going to happen to the rich of Florence if they did not repent and change their ways; in the middle of all this you meet you Madonna Lisa, her sick Mother, her faithful yet beautiful slave, her deceitful Father and the hateful and demanding world which she is tossed into.  From the first page of the novel the reader is tossed into a world of cathedrals filled with murderers, intrigue, affairs, and people who are loyal to causes that will ultimately get them killed or out them on the wrong side of an executioner's axe.  

Young Lisa must negotiate her way through a world that is both unkind and dangerous while meeting some of the most famous people that we revere today such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and so on, the world's most famous painting is started, and the girl behind it is transformed into a flesh and blood character who fights increasingly overwhelming odds to live her life, and save the lives of those she loves, this was an amazing book and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. 



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Title: Where Lilacs Still Bloom
Author: Jane Kirkpatrick
Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Book sent  for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Summary: German immigrant and farm wife Hulda Klager possesses only an eighth-grade education—and a burning desire to create something beautiful. What begins as a hobby to create an easy-peeling apple for her pies becomes Hulda’s driving purpose: a time-consuming interest in plant hybridization that puts her at odds with family and community, as she challenges the early twentieth-century expectations for a simple housewife.
Through the years, seasonal floods continually threaten to erase her Woodland, Washington garden and a series of family tragedies cause even Hulda to question her focus. In a time of practicality, can one person’s simple gifts of beauty make a difference?  

Review: Where the Lilacs Still Bloom, was a beautiful story about a young German housewife/Frau in Washington in the early 1900's who encouraged by her Father's word's follows her passion in cultivating an orchard and garden, and growing new varieties of apples and flowers (specifically lilacs eventually) in it. Her first project is an apple which she wants to make crisper and easier to peel for the pies she makes her husband; this is also how she presents the project to her young German husband to it will be easier for him to accept her new hobby.  In the time she is living Hulda is pushing the boundaries for a simple young house frua who should really just be taking care of her family and helping with the chores of the farm but Frank her husband support's and love's her, and assists her with her gardening endeavors, at one point even selling part of their cow herd so she can order flowers from France.  The way he and their family see it is flower's are part of God's creation and can be seen as a part of worship for his wife so as long as the family's needs are seen to everything is fine. The story follows the Klager's and their family's lives as their children grow through the garden and they face love, sorrow, and the emotions that every family does. Changes affect this family as any other but you see it through the changes in a young woman , than a more mature woman, as when she says,"We're blessed Frank. We planted good seeds in our children and tended them well." This is a wonderful work, and anyone who loves gardening or flowers, will love it, or anyone who enjoys a good book in general I would recommend it or its author.

Author's Web Site

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Title: Belladonna: A Novel of Revenge

Author: Karen Moline

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary:Who is Belladonna?

In New York City, she's known only as the mysterious masked woman who presides over the most exclusive, opulent club of the times.

In Virginia's blue-blood countryside, she's known as the Contessa, the elusive heiress who flaunts convention and shuns human contact.

But then there are a wretched few who remember her from "The Club" and knew her as a fresh-faced innocent whom they desired...and misled...and left to the sadistic devices of a nobleman who robbed her of her youth, her dignity, and, ultimately her heart.

As Belladonna's story, told by one of her faithful manservants, slowly unfolds, we learn the horrifying truth behind Belladonna's masks and her insatiable desire for vengeance. It is a truth that involves betrayal, murder, depravity -- a truth so chilling that it will pit brother against brother, father against son, and will force Belladonna to ultimately confront the one man who can ultimately either destroy her, or set her free.

Review: While I love historical fiction, this is not the normal type of book that I dive into, however I actually read it in one sitting because I stayed up all night reading it.  It takes you through the time period's of the middle 1930's through the late 1950's and a brief glimpse into the future.  Belladonna is a young girl who gets kidnapped while she is in England visiting with her cousin June, and is essentially auctioned off by members of a sadistic "Club" that sells young girls , for the purposes of what they like to think of as a grand experiment in human nature, owning a slave, and sexual slavery and S&M, when you hear about what Bella Donna Goes through in her younger years as Isabella at the hands of "His Lordship" the "Club" member who "buys" her it reminds you of modern day sex slavery except victims don't usually get the chance to receive any money in return to extract revenge on their persecutors.

The story is told from the point of view of one of the twin brother's who help BellaDonna escape, as well as escaping themselves; they know they must get Belladonna  out from under the iron grip of "His Lordship, after she has been trapped with him for over ten years, and is breaking emotionally; After they escape the book describes how she recovers and gets her iron grip on revenge through the help of a kind rich older man; Once this period of her life ends they start planning revenge  and do so first by opening Club Belladonna and finding a member of the "Club" and ...well if you want to know just read the book...I couldn't put it down... if you want a darker adult read about a woman on the path of revenge this is a good one...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Title: Sold
Author: Patricia McCormick
Summary: Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. 

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope.  But she soon learns the unthinkable truth:  she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning.  She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt—then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape.  Still, she lives by her mother’s words—Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world.  Then the day comes when she must make a decision—will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life? 

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3

Review: The story of Lakshmi is told from the viewpoint of first a innocent, twelve-thirteen year old girl who lives in the mountains of Nepal with her Mother, step father, and infant sibling.  They are very poor, and she describes how they live, survive, do chores, and the simple pleasures that she enjoys like having her Mother brush her hair, or playing hop scotch with her friend from next door who she misses because she went to work as a "maid" in the city.  Lakshmi's Step father is a gambler so her trouble's begin there, when he decide's that she needs to "work" to help pay for the family expenses in the city; or this is what she and her Mother believe; that she is going to be a city maid; she is taken into the city where she  journeys first with a woman than a man and is then sold into the brothel of Happiness House where the owner Mumtaz a very cruel woman works the girls to death and beats them with a strap if they don't obey.

At first Lakshmi shows some resistance but when she is told that she must work off her debt and that it goes to her family her resistance weakens and she does what she is told...there are many smaller characters from this point on in the book that warmed my heart like one of the other girl's sons, and the tea boy...they offered Lakshmi hope where there was little. To see what happens for this young girl you need to read this shows another look into the harrowing world of human/sex trafficking in another part of the world and will again make you hug your daughters/niece/any young person close when you know this is a reality for so many young girls in the world. A wonderful book, and I liked the preface of Lakshmi telling the entire story, it was simple and to the point, the ending was very hopeful, but we all need that sometimes =)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World
Author: Tom Davis
Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3
Summary:Photojournalist Stuart Daniels has found purpose in life. After suffering the fallout of a tragic assignment, Daniels rediscovered his faith while helping a young African orphan. Now his photo work carries a greater mission: To educate people about social injustice happening around the world.
Daniels next assignment carries him back overseas and into the heart of Russia. Once there, Daniels is persuaded by an old friend to help save two girls from a desperate situation. Soon he becomes a key player in a dangerous campaign to rescue helpless women trapped in the sex-slave trade. What Daniels encounters during his journey will shake his faith, test his courage, and even threaten his life. Yet as Daniels gets deeper and the stakes get higher, he will discover that hope can be found in the darkest of places.

Review: Priceless is another book that took me into the heartrending world of human trafficking, this time into the cold streets and corners of Russia. Here the reader meets Marina a young girl who was left in a Russian orphanage by her Mother, and who by trickery has landed in the inhumane world of human trafficking, she is dragged from one place to another and used as a piece of human "merchandise" by men, even "men of God" and is drugged, beaten, and starved, the storyline follow's a photojournalist Stuart, who is in Russia on assignment, to document the Aids epidemic, but instead becomes involved in the underground world of human trafficking to try to save Marina and girls like her.

This book was not one that i wanted to put down, it was very heart rending, and really took you deeper into the world of human trafficking which is a subject I have been trying to learn more about; my only dilemma was that I would have liked to have heard more of Marina's side of the story, but overall, it is a wonderful book. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Walk Across the Sun
By: Corban Addison
Summary:When a tsunami rages through their coastal town in India, 17-year-old Ahalya Ghai and her 15-year-old sister Sita are left orphaned and homeless. With almost everyone they know suddenly erased from the face of the earth, the girls set out for the convent where they attend school. They are abducted almost immediately and sold to a Mumbai brothel owner, beginning a hellish descent into the bowels of the sex trade.
 Halfway across the world, Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke faces his own personal and professional crisis-and makes the fateful decision to pursue a pro bono sabbatical working in India for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinent's human traffickers. There, his conscience awakens as he sees firsthand the horrors of the trade in human flesh, and the corrupt judicial system that fosters it. Learning of the fate of Ahalya and Sita, Clarke makes it his personal mission to rescue them, setting the stage for a riveting showdown with an international network of ruthless criminals.
  Review: A walk Across the sun was a heartbreaking story about two sisters who after surviving a tsunami and becoming orphans, trust the wrong people and get kidnapped and are sold to a brothel owner in Mumbai and one gets sold to men immediately while the other goes on a hellish journey around the world being asked to do unspeakable things, while this book gives off more hope (than the Blue Notebook reviewed below) with a US attorney working on their case with a law group in Mumbai it still takes you into the dark world of sex trafficking and how it can ruin and change lives forever.
Rating <3<3<3<3<3

The Blue Notebook
By: James Levine
Summary:Every now and then, we come across a novel that moves us like no other, that seems like a miracle of the imagination, and that haunts us long after the book is closed. James Levine’s The Blue Notebook is that kind of book. It is the story of Batuk, an Indian girl who is taken to Mumbai from the countryside and sold into prostitution by her father; the blue notebook is her diary, in which she recalls her early childhood, records her life on the Common Street, and makes up beautiful and fantastic tales about a silver-eyed leopard and a poor boy who fells a giant with a single gold coin. 

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Review: This book is not one to be taken lightly, it is graphic, real, and I ordered it after I read the book A Walk Across the Sun  and saw it mentioned as another good resource.  It followed the life of a young girl named Batuk who is sold by her Father in Mumbai, she literally lives in a "nest" and mentions in the book at one point that she has up to ten men a day to service, which has become nothing to her.  The book leaves out no details, every harrowing part of this little girls life is laid out to bare, but maybe that is what we as a society need.  The fact that this is still legal and going on in all countries INCLUDING the USA disgusts me and for every little girl like Batuk, there will be another, if you can handle this book I'd recommend it, but don't blame the author for not hiding the truth, because it is there if you look and no matter how ugly it does not make it untrue.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Title: The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: "The Help" will live in hearts and minds, be taught in schools, be cherished by readers. The three women who form its core, idealistic Skeeter, loving Aibileen, and sarcastic, sassy Minny, narrate their chapters each in a voice that is distinctive as Minny's caramel cake no one else in Jackson, Mississippi, can duplicate.

These stories of the black maids working for white women in the state of Mississippi of the 60s have an insiders' view of child-rearing, Junior League benefits, town gossip, and race relations.

Despite the fact that the maids prepare the food, care for the children, and clean every part of every home, privy to every secret, many of the white women look at their black maids as an alien race. There are more enlightened views, especially those of Skeeter, a white, single woman with a college degree, who aspires to more than earning her MRS. Skeeter begins collecting the maids' stories. And the maids themselves find the issue of race humiliating, infuriating, life-controlling. Race sows bitter seeds in the dignity of women who feel they have no choices except to follow their mamas into the white women's kitchens and laundries. Aibilene says, "I just want things to be better for the kids." Their hopes lie in education and improvement, change someday for their children.

There is real danger for the maids sharing their stories as well as danger for Skeeter herself. The death of Medgar Evers touches the women deeply, making them question their work and a decision to forge ahead, hoping their book can be published anonymously and yet not recognized by the very white women they know to the last deviled egg and crack in a dining room table.

Review: I will admit I have  seen the movie for The Help, and while at the time I thought it was a very inspiring movie, does a movie ever really hold up to a book? In Ms. Stockett's The Help you go inside the world of African American women in Mississippi who were struggling against the magnificently displayed racism of the time even with the changes that were being made in places like Washington,  in Mississippi they still couldn't go in the same doors as whites, use the same bathrooms, and not until the end of the book even use the White Public Library.  

When a young twenty-three year old college graduate; Skeeter returns home at first things return to normal she hangs out with friends at the Junior League, plays tennis matches, and worries about what to write about, then after getting a part time job writing cleaning articles for   the local newspaper, she thinks of an idea, what would it be like to write a book from the perspective of The Help? Not the white women but the maids who work for them, Skeeter gets this idea when she has had to listen to her supposed "best friend" Hilly drone on about the new home health initiative which will require whites to have separate bathrooms for their colored help in their homes because of "disease and sanitation issues." Skeeter looks at Abilene who is Elizabeth's (one of the white women's) maid and sees how she is just staring down and decides to ask her if she will help when she helps her with the Miss Myrna columns because ELizabeth has agreed that she can ask Abilene questions if need be.  And well from there the story begins, it takes Abilene awhile to come around but she does, and eventually so will others, there are tragedies, love stories, and racism and prejudice, that could knock your teeth out, and yet still a bond between these women serving and the children that they have to raise then turn around and serve all over that is heart breaking.  It's quite a dynamic and I highly recommend this book! FYI -The author had such a maid herself if you look at the back of the book there are about eight pages about her very interesting. This book is well worth the time. 

For those who want more of a book breakdown - each character has their own dynamic - it it easy to switch from one person to another.  The setting is beautifully described,  The book is written in more of a narrative form switching from character to character, which frankly I found more interesting. And the plot is easy to follow only going back in time during the book (the maids stories) and a few times with Ms. Skeeter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reason for no new reviews? Because the reader here can't get involved in a plot she's reading, my friend lent me the Help so I am actually reading that entire book but the last two I'm sorry but I can't just currently involve myself in for some reason, so newest review coming The Help :) Of course there are only two of you out there as far as I know and if there are more FOLLOW ! Anyway there is the update now back to my migraine the highlight on this rainy day ;)

Upcoming Review: The Help