Friday, April 22, 2011

Night Road

5 out of 5

My first reading experience with Kristin Hannah was when I read and reviewed her book, Firefly Lane back in June 2009. Now comes her latest book, Night Road, which was just released on March 29, 2011. All I can say is WOW! A powerful story of tragic loss, grief, in all it stages and then some, and redemption.

Since I am surrounded by teenagers all the time, I was more than 130 pages into the book with three very likable teens, before I was sure I wanted to continue on, not because the story was dragging or dull but because I sensed that something, possibly something terrible, was going to happen and I was not sure I wanted to be subjected to it. I liked all the characters, each for different reasons, and I wasn't prepared to lose one of them or hate any of the others. Each of us come to a book's theme with our own set of baggage. I don't like to post spoilers in a review so I will just say that having experienced some of the topics covered in this wonderful, deeply moving story, I came away with a renewed sense of how we each must find our own peace. This is a book that you can recommend to teens as well as their parents.

There are many lessons to be learned about family,lessons for teens, lessons for friends, and lessons for parents, some of them are subtle and others are the ones that are right up there "in your face". Share this book with someone you care about.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Knitting Diaries

4 out of 5

I was very pleased with these three short stories. If you like Debbie Macomber, you will like the first story, The Twenty- First Wish in this collection, The Knitting Diaries. Even more than that, you will have possibly discovered two new writers, at least they were new to me, in the process. The first story by Debbie brings back one of the characters from Blossom Street, Ann Marie Roche, the owner of the bookstore, who adopted a young foster child after she become a widow, only to learned that the child's biological father wanted back in his daughter's life. Their lives are picked back up from the last Blossom Street book, as Ann Marie has just bought a new home since their little apartment over the bookstore was simply not big enough for her and Ellen and their little dog, Baxter.

As always there are some good moral lessons here as well as a some laughs, smiles, and good feelings.

The second story, Coming Unraveled takes you to Texas and another yarn store owned by a lovely grandmother. It is the story of her granddaughter, Robyn, returning home after several years from pursuing an acting career in New York. Robyn, is thrilled to see everything as she left it except for one thing. There is a man, T. J., in the shop's knitting group. Someone who looks terribly out of place and does not seem to like Robyn at all. He is even maybe a little hostile. As this story unfolds, it becomes obvious that both Robyn and T. J. are not being honest with each other, their friends at the knit shop or themselves. The depth of friendship and loyalty in this story was quite moving and kept the story moving.

This is the first thing that I have read by Susan Mallery so I had no point of reference but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't think it was just because of the yarn connection that I was taken with the story but rather the way she handled how people hide behind their pain and block out the very people that can ease that pain.

The last story, Return to Summer Island,by Christina Skye, I think, resonated with me the most, because of the animal connection rather than the yarn connection. As with Ms. Mallery, I had not read anything else by Ms. Skye, so I had not reference to her style or theme of writing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My One and Only

5 out of 5

Kristin Higgins has a real winner with this new novel, My One and Only. I must say that the main character, Harper, could not have come from a more dysfunctional family. Yet she has a sense of humor that carries you throughout the book. I can't count the number of times that I just laughed out loud as she was able to lighten what could have been an otherwise pretty sad story about mother, daughter relationships and how they affect every aspect of one's future relationships with others. Harper's mother walks out of her life the day after her 13th birthday never to return. Her father walks in to their house a few weeks later with a new wife and little step sister and so the saga begins as these lives are intertwined for the next 20 years.

It is a moving story of the impact that we humans all have on one another, whether intentional or not. Be glad for the humor as otherwise you might only cry throughout the whole book. When you first meet Harper she is a tough as nails divorce lawyer who seems to have her whole life very organized. However, the organization is really a way of compartmentalizing her life to not let in any more hurt. This story takes many twists and turns and leaving you guessing right up until the end. Ms. Higgins has given each character full dimension of personality so you truly feel a part of this extended family.

This is my first read of Ms. Higgins work, but I will pick up her other titles as they come along. Enjoy the Read!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Invisible Wall

5 out of 5

There are so many amazing aspects to The Invisible Wall, the first of three volumes of a memoir by Harry Bernstein, I am not sure where to start. I guess the most amazing fact I learned was that it is never too late to write your story. Mr. Bernstein started this first book at the age of 96. Almost unbelievable given the clarity of the story. His memory of the pain, poverty, and racism that prevailed in his early life is still as vivid in his writing as it must have been then.

He retells the story of his life as well as the lives of his families from his first memories of being brought up in a small mill town in England where the segregation is block by half block. Jews on one side of the street and Christians on the other side of the street. They seem to interact only on Friday evenings when the Christians will help them by coming into their homes to light their fires after sundown for the sabbath evening meal.

With the bleak weather, bleak living conditions, bleak education options for the Jewish children, this could easily be a very bleak story but it is in fact a story filled with love, a son's love for his mother, a daughter's love of her Christian neighbor, and a mother's love for her family that enables her to rise above huge obstacles, the largest being her alcoholic, abusive husband. The backdrop of all of these smaller stories is the story of England during World War I. The Great War seems to be a uniting factor in some ways for all the families of this small town but it is not enough to overcome many of the roadblocks between the different factions residing there.

I am ready to dive into the second volume of Mr. Bernstein's life as he immigrates to the United States and finds his way. Be uplifted and read this amazing story of life and how giving up was not in the vocabulary of the Bernstein family.