Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

In The Murderer's Daughters, Randy Susan Meyers outlines how a domestic abuse crime affects not only the participants, but how the event causes ripple effects throughout the entire social structure around them.  Lulu is ten and her baby sister, Merry, is five when their father comes to their apartment, fights with their mother and kills her.  While Lulu runs for help, the father tries to kill both Merry and himself, failing at both.

The girl's father is imprisoned, but the girls are also.  Their lives change immediately and for all time with the thrust of that knife.  There are few relatives; elderly grandmothers on both sides and an aunt and uncle.  The grandmothers are not able to care for the girls, and the aunt convinces her husband that they cannot take the girls in.  Lulu and Merry are sent to an orphanage.  It is a bleak and terrifying place.  After several years, they are fostered out and remain with this family until they are grown.

Lulu has survivor's guilt and stuffs her feelings down, down, down until they cannot be uncovered.  She concentrates on becoming the perfect child, making excellent grades and becoming a doctor.  She feels that she must protect everyone, and attempts to control everything in her environment. 

Merry is left with questions about why her father would do such a horrible thing, and why he tried to kill her also.  Far from stuffing her feelings down, she is consumed by them, and moves from man to man, always afraid to commit to anyone or anything.  She doesn't forgive her father, but cannot break the connection and visits him in prison over the years.

Randy Susan Meyers has done an excellent job of describing the aftermath and fallout in families from violence.  She expertly outlines the different relationships the girls have, and how this one event controls how they handle every other event in their lives.  While each copes in a different manner, both are less than whole, always attempting to determine why this happened and what it means.  This book is recommended especially for readers with family tragedies.  It will help them come to terms with what has happened to their families and how to move on from disaster. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Taroko Gorge by Jacob Ritari

A Japanese middle school has taken the entire class on a field trip to Taiwan as they graduate to high schools.  Since Japan's system for high schools is based on achievement tests, the students who have gone to school together for years will be separated in the future.  There are friendships and rivalries, but no one can really imagine how it will be when they don't see each other each day.  Their teacher, Mr. Tanaka, is the chaperone on this trip to Taiwan.

The children visit a famous temple, then break into groups to walk back to the park, which is built around the natural beauty of Taroko Gorge.  Everyone comes back except for three girls.  No one has seen them leave; but they have disappeared and can't be found anywhere.  What could have happened?  As time goes by, the police are called in.  An older detective and his young relative come.  He seems nonchalent about the disappearance, and says nothing can be done until morning when there is light.

There are other visitors to the park that day.  Peter Neils is a journalist who has roamed the world.  He tries to help with the search and to calm the children.  His cameraman, Josh Pickett, is a young man who can't seem to handle the pressure and becomes drunk and useless in the search.

The students quickly form alliances.  Although they have been good friends, it doesn't take long for accusations to be hurled and blame to be attached.  The event brings some students together while forcing others apart.  Regardless, this is an event that will shape the student's lives going forward.

Jacob Ritari uses his knowledge of Buddhism and Japan to set the book in a realistic setting.  Although he grew up in the United States, he studied Japanese language and literature at Japan's Sophia University.  This book is recommended for readers who are interested in how quickly a situation requires a moral choice, and how different individuals make that choice. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

In the late 1920's, Czech honeymooners Viktor and Liesel Landauer consider themselves part of the new, vibrant European philosophy of liberal thought focused on the arts and benignly agnostic.  They meet an architect starting his career in Vienna who exemplifies the new thought and hire him to build them a house created from the minimalist school where the heavy designs of the past are out.  Instead, they want a house with open areas, minimal furniture and clear visions both inside and out.  Spare in design, the house has living quarters upstairs and the lower floor is one vast glassed room that overlooks the city.  Young, wealthy and valued patrons of the arts, the Laundauers seem to have it all.

But gilded perfect lives rarely stay that way.  There are strains on the marriage as the years pass. Children arrive and their love moves to a settled relationship and each starts to venture outside the marriage for friendship and romance.  As the years pass and move inevitably towards the mid-1940's, all of Europe changes with the advent of the Nazi Party and Hitler's unstoppable drive to rule all that he sees.  Viktor is Jewish.  He is not observant, but that makes no difference.  Viktor clearly sees what is coming.  He manages to convince Liesel that they must leave, and with their children, nanny and her child who has been raised with their children, they move to Switzerland.  They learn what is going on from friends and family that remain behind.  All that they treasured is lost.  Many of their friends are caught up in the Nazi horrors and their glorious house built to celebrate a new age is now a "research station" where people are measured in an attempt to find the markers that separate Jew from non-Jew.

The Glass Room has a 2009 finalist for the Man Booker Prize.  In it, Mawer leads the reader through the horror of what man can do to man without clubbing them over the head with unceasing details.  He also shows how men and women hurt each other while trying to carve out a place of safety and love for themselves.  The book not only covers the years of World War II, but the Communist era that followed in this area.  It is highly recommended for all readers and is a book I'll remember for a long time. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010


In an era of ever-expanding choices, HOW WE CHOOSE addresses the simple-yet-mystifying question : How do we know what we want?
The answers are strange, impressive, and profound. Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia University professor whose work on choice is widely recognized and cited by companies like AOL and Citigroup, looks into the heart of what we desire-- and what we think we desire-- to show how tangential factors enter into (and run roughshod) over our decisions.



1. The giveaway starts Sunday, July 17th and ends on Friday, July 3oth at midnight.
2. There will be three winners, chosen by random number generation.
3. Winners must have street addresses (no P.O. Boxes) in either the United States or Canada.
4. For one entry, leave a comment (with your email!). You will get an extra entry for any/all of the following; being or becoming a follower, blogging to this giveaway or tweeting about it. If you blog or tweet, please include the link.
5. Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize. After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.

The Prosecution Rests by Linda Fairstein

The stories in The Prosecution Rests have a common theme; all revolve around courtrooms, trials and justice meted out to criminals, sometimes formally and sometimes informally. Edited by Linda Fairstein, herself a prosecutor for 25 years in Manhattan, the book pulls together some of the most interesting crime novelists in the genre. It is a book by the Mystery Writers of America, an organization for both beginning and established mystery writers. The focus of the organization is promoting both the crime writing genre and those novelists who choose it as their focus. This anthology meets both goals.

The twenty-one stories in the book are varied and interesting. They cover murders, insurance fraud, robbery, adultery and other crimes. The protagonists are prosecutors, defense attorneys, police investigators and judges. Some of the stories are fairly straightforward while others incorporate a twist that surprises the reader. The list of authors reads like a Who's Who of mystery writing. It includes Linda Fairstein, James Grippando, Phyllis Cohen, Jo Dereske, Charlie Drees, Eileen Dunbaugh, Kate Gallison, Joel Goldman, Diana Hansen-Young, Edward Hoch, Paul Levine, Leigh Lundin, Michele Martinez, Anita Page, Barbara Parker, Twist Phelan, John Putre, S.J. Rozan, Morley Swingle, Joseph Wallace and Angela Zeman. The authors chosen include in their ranks Edgar winners, past Presidents of the Mystery Writers association and Sisters In Crime writing awards. They also include writers who are new to the genre.

This book is recommended both to those readers who enjoy crime and mystery writing, and to short story fans. Each will find stories that intrigue, amaze and surprise them. With a variety of writing styles, the reader is assured of finding stories that match their taste. The reader has an opportunity to revisit established authors' work and the chance to discover new authors in the field whose work they may want to follow in the future. The Prosecution Rests gives the reader a chance to sample quality crime writing at its best.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Bed & Bisket Gang by M. Rene De Paulis

In The Bed & Bisket Gang, M. Rene De Paulis illustrates to children ways in which they can make those different from them feel accepted and valued.  Sarah's family has moved to a farm.  She already has two dogs, but as the days go by she expands her family to include another dog, chickens, a donkey, a mouse, a lamb, a cow and a goat.  Each comes with problems, but Sarah and the other animals help them overcome or adjust to their difficulties and learn to lead a happy, fulfilled life.

Each chapter introduces another animal and illustrates a way in which others can be different.  There is abuse, depression, handicaps that one is born with, handicaps that are thrust upon people, and difficulties brought on by one's own actions.  In that case, the chickens were making themself miserable as a result of spying and gossiping on the other animals. 

Children will internalize the message that each of us is different and each has value to contribute.  One of the cutest features in this book are the names.  Who couldn't love cows named Mother Utter and Sir Loin, or chickens named Attila the Hen and Chicken Noodle?  The author is also the illustrator and has created simple drawings that make the characters real.  This book is recommended for young children and readers.  It would also be useful in a church setting as it uses Christian terminology and concepts. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Commuters by Emily Gray Tedrowe

In Commuters, Emily Gray Tedrowe explores a topic rarely discussed, that of love found by the elderly and the complications a late second marriage entails.

Winnie McClelland is seventy-eight on her wedding day; Jerry Travis a few years older.  Winnie has lived in the same commuter town outside New York City her entire life; Jerry is a successful businessman who is very wealthy.  Neither expected to be lucky enough to find love again at their age.  Nor did they expect the complications and joys that would arise from their union.

As in all second marriages, the children of the first marriage have a major adjustment to make.  Winnie's daughter, Rachel, also lives in town.  Rachel's family has had major life adjustments after her husband is in a horrific accident that leaves him in a coma for several weeks and needing major rehabilitation afterwards.  Now she has to adjust to her diminished role as her mother's confidant and advisor.  Jerry's daughter, Annette, is adamantly against the marriage and regards Winnie as a gold digger, only after Jerry's money.  She ups the ante by suing her father for control of the business he has built and left in her charge.

Annette's son, Avery, has had little contact with his grandfather.  But he is now on his own in New York, and develops a relationship with both Jerry and Winnie.  He is starting out in many ways.  He has just found a new love, Nona, and is feeling his way towards a career as a chef.  For the first time in his life, he is feeling the comfort and reassurance of an accepting family life.

All the characters react in different fashions as Jerry's health deteriorates, and these reactions make up the second half of the book.  Emily Tedrowe explores what it means to get older and what is important to us as we age.  She delves into family relationships and the difficulties that they bring along with the joy.

This book is recommended for all readers.  The characters are vibrant, and the reader will remember them long after the book is put away.  The topic is one that many readers will encounter, either as the participant in an older love relationship, or as the child of someone in the situation.  Commuters gives guidance and hope; an uplifting book that lyrically explores the facets of love and family.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

In Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a masterpiece of an Oriental culture, that of the land of Kitai. It relates a time of intrigue, political maneuvering, rebellion and change. The book's hero, Shen Tai, is suddenly thrust into this environment and must adapt to survive.

The book opens in a remote location called Kuala Nor. It is the site of an ancient battle where thousands of men were killed, their bleached bones still hungering for honor. Shen Tai spends two years at this site, during his time of mourning for his father who was a famous General. He spends his days far from all he knows and those he loves, burying the bones of the dead soldiers, both Kitan and those of the enemy force. Although he expects nothing from this labor, it does not go unnoticed. At the end of his time, two events happen. First is that an assassin, sent by enemies back at the Kitan royal court, attempts to kill him. Second, a Princess, who is the daughter of the Kitan Emperor but who was sent to a bordering country in a political marriage, makes a life-changing gift to Shen Tai.

Horses are the lifeblood of the armies and of trade. Most valued of all are Sardian horses. One is more than most men can ever hope to attain. The Princess sends Tai two hundred and fifty of these magnificent horses. This is a life-changing gift; a gift that will echo down the ages. Shen Tai must find a way to get to the Emperor's Court and give this gift to him for national prestige and honor. There are many who will try to stop him and gain the horses for their own gain. The Court is full of rival factions, each vying for favor and the possibility of future honors as the Emperor weakens with age. In addition to the political relationships, there is also the effect of love. Men do anything for the women they love, but at the same time the women also are caught up in the intricate games of statesmanship that are the daily fare of Court life. These love relationships are finely honed and the reader must read more to find out what will happen in the rivalries that exist between men over love.

Kay has written a masterpiece. It straddles the genres of historical fiction and fantasy and in doing so, takes the reader on a fascinating and engaging journey. The characters are finely drawn and their intricate relationships are revealed slowly to the reader. The political intrigue and themes of honor, entitlement and military maneuvering is presented in a complex story that leaves the reader with a sigh of contentment as they turn the last page. This book is recommended for all readers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Laurie Sandell grew up in awe (and sometimes in terror) of her larger-than-life father, who told jaw-dropping tales of a privileged childhood in Buenos Aires, academic triumphs, heroism during Vietnam, friendships with Kissinger and the Pope. As a young woman, Laurie unconsciously mirrors her dad, trying on several outsized personalities (Tokyo stripper, lesbian seductress, Ambien addict).

 Later, she lucks into the perfect job--interviewing celebrities for a top women's magazine. Growing up with her extraordinary father has given Laurie a knack for relating to the stars. But while researching an article on her dad's life, she makes an astonishing discovery: he's not the man he says he is--not even close. Now, Laurie begins to puzzle together three decades of lies and the splintered person that resulted from them--herself.



1. The giveaway starts Saturday, July 10th and ends on Friday, July 23nd at midnight.

2. There will be five winners, chosen by random number generation.

3. Winners must have street addresses (no P.O. Boxes) in either the United States or Canada.

4. For one entry, leave a comment (with your email!). You will get an extra entry for any/all of the following; being or becoming a follower, blogging to this giveaway or tweeting about it. If you blog or tweet, please include the link.

5. Winners will be emailed and must respond within three days in order to claim their prize. After three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.

Good luck!  This is a graphic novel, but not intended for children!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson

Women are disappearing.  It's happening all over the country, and it appears that the women are targeted specifically.  The FBI are brought in, and that brings in Detective Alex Cross.  Alex has left the DC Police Department and is being fast-tracked in the FBI for a top position.  He soon discovers that the women are being ordered as if they were on a menu on a secret website for very rich, very depraved men.  The women are kidnapped and sold to these men as sex slaves.

In addition to the perplexing case, Alex has other issues to worry about.  He is separated from his new love, Jamilla, who is on the West Coast while he is on the East.  And a former love, Christine Johnson, has reappeared in a move that bodes trouble.  She is the mother of Alex's youngest child, the baby also named Alex.  Christine walked out of their lives a year ago to go find herself after a brutal crime, and now she is back and wants custody of Alex.

As Cross works the case, he discovers that the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring is a Russian man known only as the Wolf.   The Wolf is never seen, but his intimidation extends to everyone he has any contact with.  Anyone who talks about him at all is brutually murdered with no questions asked.  That makes tracking him down and stopping his spree more difficult than any other search Alex can remember.

Big Bad Wolf is a fast-paced thriller that reminds readers why they love James Patterson.  The action is non-stop and heart-pounding.   The reader is caught up in the action and also becomes involved in Alex's family concerns.  This book is recommended for all mystery readers.