Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A New York Christmas by Anne Perry

     Anne Perry's new Christmas novel is a tale of love, betrayal, greed, murder, and selfless devotion.  Perry's annual yuletide offering is set in New York City the year is 1904.  Twenty-three-year-old Jemima Pitt, the daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain's Special Branch, is crossing the Atlantic.  She is traveling with an acquaintance, Delphinia Cardew, who is to marry the aristocratic Brent Albright in a high-society New York wedding. This wedding will join together two wealthy families.
     But Jemima senses a mysterious shadow darkening the occasion.  Missing from the festivities is Delphinia's mother, Maria, who is marked by disgrace.  Nearly sixteen years ago, Maria abandoned young Delphinia and disappeared-and now the Albrights refuse to mention her name.  But then Harley, the groom's charismatic brother, asks Jemima to help him search for Maria and forestall the scandal that would surely follow if she turned up at the wedding, Jemima agrees to assist him.
     Jemima searches from Hell's Kitchen to Fifth Avenue, the Lower East Side to Central Park looking for Delphinia's mother.  Along the way she meets a handsome young police officer named Patrick Flannery and he assists her in her search for the missing mother. Jemima walks into mortal danger, from which not even Patrick Flannery can protect her. Together they find a surprising ending to the mystery of what happened to Maria.
     Once more, Anne Perry delivers a suspenseful, deeply moving novel, and captures the essence of the holiday spirit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Year We Left Home

by Jean Thompson

After reading the final chapter of ‘The Year We Left Home’, I felt a pang of regret. I would miss the Erickson family of Grenada, Iowa. I would miss them despite their flaws and BECAUSE of them.  Jean Thompson so thoroughly knew this family and presented them in such vivid detail, that I am now sure that I knew them too; that I have met bits of pieces of them in my years of growing up and living in the Midwest. 

The story begins in 1972 at Anita Erickson’s wedding reception. Just out of high school and getting married, this is the future that Anita always saw for herself. Tending to details of the reception and carting in the wedding gifts, we meet Anita’s siblings: Ryan who is just heading off to college, Blake and his vamp of a girlfriend, Torrie, the cynical baby of the family, and Chip, their degenerate cousin. It is winter in Iowa and the reception is held at the VFW. Thompson imagery had me holding a plastic cup filled with punch and smelling the smorgasbord of food that is served on Styrofoam plates.

The story of The Erickson’s is a story in which we all are familiar. We meet the Erickson's at a point when Anita and Ryan must take over steering their own futures; Blake and Torrie have a few remaining years but their leaving is looming on the horizon with both dread and excitement. The novel travels the back roads of Iowa, to Chicago and to the western United States. It comes full circle after thirty years of  struggles, tragedies and concessions when the family all land, fairly intact, back in Grenada to deal with some unexpected beginnings and endings.

Monday, December 08, 2014


Lauren Oliver's first adult novel, Rooms, is an unusual book. It's part ghost story and part dysfunctional family drama. But by ghost story, I don't mean scary, creepy, or horror-filled. The ghosts are two women, Alice and Sandra, whose spirits are trapped in Richard Walker's house. They didn't know each other in life, but they have had to bear each other in death for many years, with their own separate connections to the house. When the book opens, Richard Walker has just passed away, and his estranged wife, two children, and a grandchild have come to the house to prepare it for sale and host a memorial service. Richard Walker's ghost does NOT live in the house, but Alice and Sandra know him and his family well. After all, they have been there a long time, and observed his children, Minna and Trenton, growing up in the house. They behave like two maiden old aunts griping at each other and commenting on how badly things have turned out for the members of the Walker family member. The story alternates between first-person narratives and back stories of the two ghosts and a third-person story line of what is happening to the family members now as they come together for a very emotionally complicated reunion. It's a sad state of affairs for all involved, really, but a fascinating look at personal dynamics, for the living and the dead. The climax builds as Alice tries to devise a way to be released from her confinement to the house. Don't shy away from this book if you don't like ghost stories, because it's so much more than that. It's a beautifully written drama of one family's attempts to navigate the world and the death of a loved one.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mistletoe Promise

Richard Paul Evan is the best selling author of "The Christmas Box."

     Mistletoe Promise is a quick and easy read, that's a beautiful story.  What some might think is a love story between 2 people but then it takes an unexpected turn and becomes much more.

    Two main characters, Elise and Nicholas each have a painful past that leaves them quilt ridden.  Through each other they learn to live and love again and do the hardest thing of all; Forgive Themselves.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Revival by Stephen King

One of the things I’ve always liked about Stephen King novels, is the suspension of disbelief they inevitably engender.  Pragmatic by nature, I’m the last one to throw spilled salt, or avoid cracks on the sidewalk. However, give me five hundred pages of a good King novel and I’m turning on the hallway lights, checking door locks, and just generally feeling a little creeped out (in the most pleasant of ways I assure you).  The power his books have over me lies, in large part, with his ability to create such fully-fleshed characters, women and men I can well imagine I have met, in line at the BMV, on a crowded bus, or at an extended family reunion.  Flawed, but decent folk, too much like the rest of us for me not to be invested in their well-being.  King’s newest novel, proves to be no exception to this.  The novel’s main character, Jamie Morton, opens the novel with a nostalgic look-back into his childhood, to a time when the catalyst to alluded horrors, his “fifth business” first entered his life.  The Reverend Charles Jacob and his charming family arrive in the small Maine town of Harlow in 1962, where they become fatefully intertwined with the Morton family, until a horrific tragedy drives them apart.  Jamie and Charles meet again, several times over the ensuing decades, with lasting effects on Jamie, both good and ill. In his fifties, Jamie, at last apprehending that the long-sought realization of Charlie’s obsession (the source and application of De Vermis, a “secret” electricity) may be more terrifying than miraculous.  The last 200 pages of this novel virtually read themselves.  A cross between a Mary Shelley gothic novel and a Bill Bryson memoir, Revival, is sure to go down as yet another King classic.