Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Lydia

Lydia (GroVont Trilogy - Book 4) by Tim Sandlin

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 464pp
ISBN-13: 9781402241819
ISBN: 140224181X

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Tim Sandlin on the WEB: website, blog, facebook

Synopsis (Book Jacket):

Managing the Virgin Birth Home for Unwed Mothers means the women in Sam Callahan's life keep his world interesting. But it's his family members that really take the cake. His daughter may be having a nervous breakdown, and his mother's just out of prison for attempting to poison the president's dog. And when they hit the road with a geriatric, an adoptive son trying to discover his parentage, and an enraged psychopath on their tails, all hell may break loose.

Fifteen years ago, Tim Sandlin concluded his "GroVont" trilogy, a string of books that included a New York Times Notable Book and earned such accolades as "funny and compelling" (LA Times), "zany" (Cosmo), and "dazzling and moving" (New York Times). But some characters call a writer back.

Welcome to ribald, rollicking, and sometimes peculiar world of Tim Sandlin's GroVont, Wyoming, where family is always paramount, no matter how strange.


Author Tim Sandlin revisits his 'GroVont' trilogy in his latest book, Lydia. Sandlin fans have waited fifteen years for this book and they won't be disappointed. With his quirky, unpredictable writing style Sandlin once again delights readers with his warped view of the cosmos and those who live in it. Readers will love the off beat characters and zany situations they get themselves into. Sandlin's ability to take and absurd situation and make it plausible is incredible.

Sam Callahan has an interesting vocation as the manager of home for unwed mothers. Surrounded by girls and young women with problems you would think that his job is the most stressful part of his life, not so... The Callahan brood and their friends are more than a little daunting. Sam's daughter, Shannon, may be having a nervous breakdown or she faking it? His girlfriend's adoptive son, Roger was kidnapped and abandoned as a child and is now searching for information about his parents. And Sam's mother Lydia just got out of Federal prison after doing a stint for sending Ronald Regan's dog a poisoned chew toy. As a condition of her release, Lydia is recording the life story of Oly Pedersen, a 99-year-old man with an amazing tale to tell. When she, Oly and Roger set out on a quest to find Roger's parents, they end up with a psychopath on their tale and an adventure of a life time.

Tim Sandlin takes readers back to GroVont, Wyoming in his latest book. He goes back to the eclectic set of characters that brought him success over fifteen years ago. I am always skeptical of writers who can say, "Ok, I'm going to write a trilogy and that's it," because I sometimes think there are more stories to tell about certain characters and Sandlin proves this by going back to the Callahan family once again. Readers who have not read the first three books won't be lost with this one because Sandlin does a great job of getting the reader up to speed. Though, after reading they'll be anxious for more.

Lydia is Sam's mother and though, Sam is the main character, most of the action in the book takes place without his presence. Lydia takes on the primary role. She is a very interesting character. She is getting older now, but still acts like a young girl in her 20's. She's spunky, and quirky and more than a little odd, but that's what makes her so endearing. Sandlin imparts a lot of wisdom through Lydia's character that is subtle, but not easy to forget. Lydia is the type of character that the reader is never really sure what she's going to do or say next. But, she has a way of seeing beauty in the world that will have readers wishing they could be more like her.

Roger's story adds a lot of comic relief to the book. Leroy the man who subsequently kidnapped and then abandoned Roger is now out to kill him or harmony will not return to the universe. Roger is kind of the catalyst for most of the action in the book. He is looking for clues to his parentage and how things could have gotten so out of control and when he enlists Lydia's help on his quest things start to get complicated. Sandlin does a great job with this over-the-top aspect of the story. Who drags along a 99-year-old man on a journey of self-discovery? I liked the way Lydia and Roger interacted with each other as well.

The best part of this book for me was Oly's story. Here is a old man, who has seen a lot in his years and he imparts that knowledge unselfishly and in an in-your-face kind of manner. He was such a great character. I always love to sit around and listen to the stories of the older members of my family and Oly's part of the book was really satisfying from that point of view. So many things have changed and it's amazing to look back at those kinds of changes through the view of a great character.

This is very fast paced, quirky kind of book. It won't appeal to everyone, but it will really resonate with those it does. Sandlin's style is a little hard to get used to in the beginning with the changes in point of view and his chaotic approach. But once the reader figures out how he is going to roll with it, this book will take the reader on a great ride. Sandlin fans will love it! The return to GroVont after so many years is like coming home. I recommend this one to readers who either want to find some unique and different or to those who love unpredictable and spontaneous characters.

Lydia is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Reviewers have variously compared Tim Sandlin to Jack Kerouac, Tom Robbins, Larry McMurtry, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, and a few other writers you've probably heard of. He has published nine novels and a book of columns. He wrote eleven screenplays for hire, two of which have been made into movies. He lives with his family in Jackson, Wyoming, where he is director of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference. His "Sandlinistas" follow him at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Dreaming in English

Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: Paperback ,432pp
ISBN-13: 9780451232144
ISBN: 0451232143

(Received for review from Library Thing)

Laura Fitzgerald on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Following her national bestselling novel Veil of Roses, Laura Fitzgerald tells what happens to a young woman from Iran after she impulsively marries the man of her dreams and starts fresh in the land of baseball and apple pie...

Knowing she could never be happy in Iran, Tamila Soroush took her mother's advice to "Go and wake up your luck" and joined her sister in the United States, where amazing freedoms awaited her. Now, after a spur-of-the-moment exchange of "I do's" with her true love, Ike Hanson, Tami is eager to stare her new life.

But not everyone is pleased with their marriage, and Tami's hapily-ever-after is no sure thing.. As tensions escalate, Tami's sense of self-worth takes a beating, especially when her earlier attempts to find a husband on a visitor's visa return to haunt her. And there are her parents, stuck behind in a country that betrayed them. How can she be happy when they are not?

Tami is beginning to understand that freedom isn't for the faint of heart. With so much stacked against her, and her immigration interview looming, she wonders whether shes got the right stuff when it comes to love, American-style. Maybe her luck is running out... or maybe she'll step up to the plate and claim her American dream.


Author Laura Fitzgerald continues the story of Tamila Soroush, an Iranian immigrant in her latest novel, Dreaming in English, the sequel to her bestselling book, Veil of Roses. Readers will love finding out what happened to Tami and the love of her life, Ike after their hasty Vegas wedding. Fitzgerald draws on the experience of her husband, a man of Iranian descent to bring authenticity and beliveability to this book, but it's Fitzgerald's knack for character development that readers will fall in love with.

While visiting her sister on a three month visitor's visa, Tami makes a spur-of-the moment decision to marry Ike Hanson, the man she has dreamed of her whole life. America will afford her many of the freedom's she could never have in Iran. Leaving her parents and family behind she head to Tucson to start her new life. But, things don't seem to be going her way when she Ike's mother becomes convinced that Tamila is using Ike to get her citizenship. The Immigration Department and Ike's parents are keeping a close eye on their relationship to see if it's real or just a sham. Will she and Ike be able to rise above the controversy and create a life for themselves or will Tami's dream of freedom in America be at an end?

Laura Fitzgerald tackles the controversial issue of immigration in her both of novels about Tamila Soroush and her family. Her descriptions about the life of women in Iran and the obstacles they faced are remarkable. I really enjoyed seeing Tami as she began to adjust to life in America. To seeing all the differences from how her life would have been in Iran. Both Veil of Roses and Dreaming in English are well written, with great clarity and emotion. The first book introduced us to Tami, but the second really shows her growth and how she held on to her dreams and made decisions that may have seemed hasty turn into something wonderful.

I am sympathize with both sides of the story. Tami had come to America to visit her sister and in hopes of finding someone to marry so she could stay. But she didn't expect to really fall in love. Her relationship with Ike was a surprise and a dream come true, but she didn't consider how it would be viewed by others. I can see why Ike's parents might have been skeptical and worried for their son, but I think his mother took things to the extreme with her behavior. I can totally see how this situation could have transpired in real life and I think the author did an amazing job of bringing the reader a love story that is current and full of possibilities.

Fitzgerald's development of the characters was flawless. Tami just seems to bloom as she comes in to her own. She is strong and tenacious but she is also vulnerable and her self-worth and image are challenged a lot in this book. But she comes across as resilient and easily bounces back. I cannot imagine the fear that must go through the minds of women in her situation, knowing that they could be deported and sent back. I think the author did a great job of conveying that earnestness and anxiety. Ike was also a great character, though I wished he would have stood up to his mother a little more forcefully at times. Tami's new friends add a lot of comic relief to the book as there are times when it gets a bit emotional.

This book could be read as a stand alone but I think readers would much rather read the two together to get the full effect of the story. I recommend Dreaming in English to all of my readers. It is a great story about the American dream from a different perspective. It is extremely well written and will hold the interest of the reader from start to finish. It's full of wonderful characters and a fast paced plot. This would be a great one to curl up with and read the weekend away.

Dreaming in English is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Laura Fitzgerald a native of Wisconsin, lives in Arizona with her husband, who is of Iranian descent and their two children.

Review: The Dawn of a Dream

The Dawn of a Dream (At Home in Beldon Grove - Book 3) by Ann Shorey

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group/Revell
Genre: Christian Fiction, Western
Pages: Paperback, 343pp
ISBN-13: 9780800733346
ISBN: 0800733347

(Received for review from Revell Books)

Ann Shorey on the WEB: website, blog, facebook

Excerpt from The Dawn of a Dream

Synopsis (Book Blurb):


Luellen O'Connell is stunned when her husband of just one month tells her he is leaving - and his reason devastates her. Deeply wounded by his betrayal, Luellen decides to follow her dream to become a teacher, a desire she had set aside when she married. But can she truly hide her past? Or will it destroy her ambitions forever?

A moving story of tenacity and perseverance, The Dawn of a Dream will inspire you to discover and follow your own dreams.


Author Ann Shorey takes readers back to Beldon Grove, Illinois in the year 1857, with her latest book in the 'At Home In Beldon Grove' series, The Dawn of a Dream. Shorey's smooth and simplistic style showcases the inspirational spirit of the pioneers. Her message of faith and perseverance rings clear from the pages of this novel. Readers will love Shorey's ability to set the scene and create characters that are believable and enchanting. The Dawn of a Dream is a must read for Christian and historical fiction fans, alike!

Luellen O'Connell has had many dreams in her life. When she elopes with a freight driver one of them seems to be coming true. The dream of a home and a family. She is stunned when on the anniversary of their first month of marriage, Brendan tells her he is leaving to return to other wife. Shocked by his revelation and the betrayal she has suffered, Luellen returns to thoughts from of her youth of becoming a teacher. But teachers are required to be single. Will she be able to hide her secret as she tries to rebuild her life?

Ann Shorey has a knack for telling stories about today's problems through the voice of women from the past. In this book she takes on the issue of betrayal and rebuilding your life when you've been dealt a bad hand. As readers we know from out own experience that sometimes things don't go the way we planned for them to. At that point we have to make a choice, do we continue to live beaten down by our circumstances or do we trust God to help us change them?

Shorey draws on her own faith and experiences to bring readers a character in Luellen O'Connell who faces her problems head on. She doesn't let her past cloud her future. She is tenacious and she is determined to reconnect with a dream. In this case the dream of being a teacher. The author portrays Luellen as a woman who may have made a few mistakes, but learns from them and moves on. She starts over and re-invents herself. She becomes the woman of faith and joy that she has always wanted to be. I think Shorey does a wonderful job of giving readers a character they can identify with and fall in love with. How many of us have had the opportunity to follow our dreams?

This book is certainly inspirational but it is historical as well. I loved the author's descriptions of the early training that teachers went through and all of the rules and regulations they were expected to follow. Shorey does a remarkable job of showing Beldon Grove as a frontier town and what life was like during 1857. I have always thought this would be a wonderful time period to have visited and Shorey really brings it to life for readers.

I would recommend this one to historical fiction fans, Christian fiction or inspirational fiction fans and those who love stories about women of faith and strength. It is a third book in a series, but can easily be read as a stand alone title. It is fast paced and easily read in a weekend or a lazy day at the beach or in front of the fire.

Available April 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Ann Shorey is the author of The Edge of Light and The Promise of Morning. She has also published selections in the 'Cup of Comfort' series and in Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul. Shorey lives with her husband, Richard, in Oregon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review & Giveaway: The Uncoupling

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Pages: Hardcover, 288pp
ISBN-13: 9781594487880

(Received for review from TLC Tours)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Meg Wolitzer on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook

Excerpt from
The Uncoupling

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

From the New York Times bestselling author of
The Ten-Year Nap comes a provocative and dazzlingly witty new novel about female desire.

When the elliptical new drama teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Stellar Plains, New Jersey, chooses for the school play Lysistrata - the Aristophanes comedy where women stop having sex with men in order to stop war - a strange spell seems to be cast over the school. Or, at least over the women. One by one, throughout the high school community, perfectly healthy, normal women and teenage girls turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don't really understand. As the women worry over their loss of passion, and the men become, by turns, unhappy, offended, and above all, confused, both sides are forced to look at their partners, their shared history, and their sexual selves in a new light.

Written with the sly humor and piercing intelligence that readers have come to expect from Meg Wolitzer,
The Uncoupling tackles a difficult subject head-on and makes it funny, riveting, and totally fresh - and in the process gives readers the chance to see their own lives through her insightful lens.


Bestselling author Meg Wolitzer uses her trademark wit and style to bring readers a contemporary novel about the role that sex plays in our lives. This book explores what might happen if suddenly sex were taken out of the game. What would our relationships be based on? Would they survive? Readers will be enthralled by this unusual premise and find themselves captivated by the drama that plays out in this small New Jersey town, when all of the women suddenly stop having sex.

When the new drama teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High decides to stage a production of the anti-war drama,
Lysistrata written by Aristophanes she has no idea how it will effect the people of Stellar Plains, New Jersey. Once rehearsals begin, the school and it's women fall under a very dramatic spell. In Lysistrata the women decided to withhold sex from the men in order to end the Polynesian War, but there seems to be no explanation for what's happening Stellar Plains. None of women want to have sex. There desire is completely gone from young girls to older women. The men are beside themselves unable to understand what's going on, what they've done wrong or how to fix it.

Meg Wolitzer brings the reader a book that is all about sex, or the lack there of. She brings up some really valid points in this book as as each woman and girl in this small New Jersey town is forced to reevaluate their relationships and what they are based on. If sex was out of the equation, would we still be with the same person? Would we be able to maintain the relationships we have? It may take more than love for a relationship to last, but can it survive without sex? These are just a few of the questions that were swirling around in my mind after reading this one. A very interesting premise that will have readers doing scratching their heads and doing some thinking.

I liked the idea of the book and the thoughts that evoked in me. The book had a great hook, it grabbed me from the beginning but I did have a few problems with it as well. The premise was really strong, the author's style of writing was engaging and it was full of potential, but it just didn't seem to get off the ground. The characters were not as well developed as I would have liked. They were a bit one dimensional with the exception of Dory, an English teacher and her husband. I didn't find a lot of depth in the characters. They just didn't come across as real people. I think the author had a great plan, but it just didn't quite translate to the reader.

I liked the way the author seemed to put the entire town under a sort of spell. In which they experienced a collective withdrawal from their partners. When it was all said and done they had no idea what had happened only that their relationships were totally different than before. In the end the men of the town storm the stage during the play performance and demand their desires be met. I liked the dramatic conclusion, I just felt a little let down by the characters. I love Meg Wolitzer's writing, but this one just wasn't my cup of tea. That's not to say that it won't float another readers boat.

I would recommend this one to fans of Meg Wolitzer's and to people who enjoy reading about the relationships between men and women. It's a book about sex, but without the sex scenes. It was definitely interesting and made me think a lot.

The Uncoupling is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag! Meg's wit and humor and the great premise for this book, make it an interesting read, though not my favorite by her.

Not one to dally, Meg Wolitzer graduated from Brown University in 1981 - and published her debut novel, Sleepwalking, the following year. Since then, shes written several more novels, as well as short stories and screenplays, and has taught writing at the University Of Iowa Writers' Workshop and Skidmore College.


The publisher has generously offered one copy of The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer for giveaway.

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect Follower to participate.
~ US and Canadian addresses only (Publisher's Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is
Midnight EST May 4th.

1. Please leave a comment on this post describing what part you think sex plays in a relationship.
2. Please leave your e-mail in your comment to be entered.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: The Season of Second Chances

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

BoldPublication Date: March 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 320pp
ISBN-13: 9780312674113
ISBN: 0312674112

(Received for review from St. Martin's Press)

Diane Meier on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter

Excerpt from The Season of Second Chances

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

Every once in a while, when we least expect it, change comes into our lives and, if we let it, can set us free.

Sometimes, everything seems perfect on the surface. But her tenure at an Ivy League University, the publishing of her books, and an apartment with a view of the Hudson - if she hung out the window - never met the promise Joy Harkness had anticipated a life in New York City might bring. When change knocked at her door, Joy jumped at the chance. Still, what was she thinking when she said yes to a teaching opportunity that required leaving New York City and moving to western Massachusetts? And really, what was she thinking when she bought a run-down Victorian house she could have fit five of her old apartments into? It's like some other Joy Harkness temporarily took over her life. This life, complete with women who want to be her friends, men who want to date her, children and animals who seem to need her, and a talented, emotionally stunted handyman who wants to turn her white elephant into a real home, this life doesn't seem to fit Joy at all. Or is it that Joy's been searching for this without knowing it - until it found her?


Diane Meier's book, The Season of Second Chances is a story about self-discovery and beginning the life you've always wanted to lead at any age. Meier has created a character in Joy Harkness that will remind readers of what their dreams were and what they wanted out of life and shows them the possibility of what life could be. This is a book that embraces change, even when it's difficult and hard to adjust to. Readers will fall in love with Joy and struggle to find her way to a better life.

Joy Harkness has the perfect life. A professorship at a prestigious college, a published book, a gorgeous New York apartment. What more could she want? Joy is removed from the people around her, without many friends and no real love interest in her life. She has also kept up a wall between herself and the outside world. Is this the life she dreamed of? When the opportunity to make a change comes her way she jumps with both feet. Taking a job at Amherst in Massachusetts, buying her first home, a major fixer-upper and becoming a part of something more, something meaningful. Joy's journey to discovering the kind of life she was meant to live, is filled with friendship, romance and family. Has she finally found her place in this world?

After reading The Season of Second Chances I found myself relating back to my own experiences in my life. Diane Meier has crafted a novel that women will fall in love with as they travel with Joy on her journey to find out where she fits in the scheme of things. I think we are never too old or too far removed to change the circumstances in our lives. To change the focus or the direction we are heading. I think Meier's book really brought that idea to the forefront. It's never too late.

As a character, Joy Harkness personifies the longings of many woman to seek a different life for themselves. I liked the way the author portrayed Joy as a woman who wanted change, but still had a hard time accepting certain aspects of it. She wanted friends but it was hard for her to get into the whole friendship thing. She uncomfortable for awhile, getting into the swing of things, but I think she learned a lot about herself and what she wanted during that time.

Her relationship with the men in her life was different. She really wanted find love, and when she was faced with many choices on that front she seemed almost stunned. I wasn't too keen on the way Joy thought about sex. But I also related to her thinking in a way. Love and sex are two different things and I think the author explored that a little bit through Joy's attitudes. She could have chosen Will, who was only in it for one thing, which would have been an easier choice or Teddy who required more than just a casual relationship. I thought that Teddy really added a lot of depth to the book and his character was so three-dimensional. He had a lot of layers for Joy to work through. Meier did an excellent job of making even the secondary characters necessary in this novel. She made them as real to the reader as the main characters.

The old Victorian house that Joy bought was my favorite aspect of the book. It was such an important part of the story that it almost took on the feeling of being a character in it's own right. As the house began to take shape under Teddy's watchful eye, Joy's life began to take shape as well. As she picked out paint and flooring she was also changing her attitudes and her actions. She took on the responsibility of making the house a home and with it came lots of other responsibilities like fItalicour girls who really needed her in their life. I just loved how the author used the house to show the changes that were taking place in the life of the main character.

The Season of Second Chances in available from your favorite bookseller NOW.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Diane Meier is the author of The New American Wedding and president of Meier, a New York City based marketing firm. Her career spans from writing and design to public speaking. This is her first novel. Meier lives in New York City and Litchfield, Connecticut.

Review: Island Beneath the Sea

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 480pp
ISBN-13: 9780061988257
ISBN: 0061988251

(Received for review from TLC Tours)

Isabel Allende on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook

Excerpt from Island Beneath the Sea
Book Trailer: This is an interview with Isabel Allende from The Artist's Toolbox.

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Dominque, Zarite - known as Tete - is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tete finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.

When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it's with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father's plantation, Saint Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride - but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenage slave.

Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tete and Valmorain and one woman's determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruelest of circumstances.


Chilean author, Isabel Allende grabs readers "by the neck" and holds on to them 'til the very end of her latest book, Island beneath the Sea. This historical fiction novel, set against the backdrop the slave revolt in Haiti in the early 1800's is a coming of age novel, a love story, and a thriller all rolled into one. Allende's ability to create memorable characters who touch the reader is evident, as we meet Zarite, known as Tete, a slave girl who wants more for herself than a life of bondage. Readers will find themselves entertained and educated through Allende's latest book and left wanting more.

Tete, a mulatto slave girl is the product of an African mother and a white sailor who sells her into slavery. Her life as a slave is filled with terrible experiences, but Tete holds onto the idea that one day she will be free. Tete finds herself in a French colony that will eventually become Haiti, purchased as a ladies maid for the wife of a local landowner. When Tete arrives at Saint Lazare she has no idea the path her life would take. Toulouse Valmorain had big dreams when he took over his father's plantation, but things didn't turn out quite the way he thought they would. He finds the work tedious and demanding. When he finally takes a wife, he finds that marriage isn't any easier and he takes comfort in his wife's teenage maid, Tete. Tete ends up having two children with Valmorain and finds herself in the middle of a slave revolt, that could change her life forever.

Isabel Allende once again brings readers a novel filled with engaging characters and memorable historical moments. This book spans forty years in the life of Tete, a slave girl who finds herself in Haiti during the slave revolt of 1804. Allende does a remarkable job of weaving historical facts into the story of Tete's life, giving this book credibility and authenticity. The reader will see Tete grow and become a woman throughout the book, never giving up on her dream of freedom. Readers will come to admire her tenacity and strength as she endures the hardships of slavery and life on a sugar cane plantation. They will bear with her the pain of an unwanted relationship with her master, and feel the joy and protective spirit as she mothers her children, sacrificing everything for them even her dreams. She is a great character and Allende does a masterful job of creating her and giving her a voice.

The historical aspects of the book are well written and it's easy to see the amount of research that went into crafting a novel of this magnitude. Allende has a gift for finding a time period that accentuates the story she is trying to tell. Using the slave revolt in Haiti gave her the opportunity to explore slavery and how it affects people. Her characters show not only the brutality of slavery, but hopes and dreams of a different life. Allende's descriptions, though not overly graphic, gave the reader a real sense of what Tete and the other slaves when through. I felt this book really brought the issue into stark reality. It didn't paint a glorious picture, but a tortured one, of a strong people who were resilient and able to maintain hope in spite of their adversity.

I thought Allende portrayed the relationship between Tete and Valmorain in a very realistic way. Though Tete was a slave and Valmorain was her master, she still harbored feelings for him in spite of her treatment. As was often the case, Tete was a mistress as well as a servant and had two children with Valmorain. This prompted her to leave with him and go to New Orleans during the revolt. She could have taken her freedom at that point, but she sacrificed it for a while longer because of her children. She almost fosters a love-hate relationship with Valmorain. Being dependent on him, yet loathing him to some extent. I thought the author did a great job of showing how two people can become caught up in a series of events that tie them to each other and creates a bond between them in spite of their feelings towards each other.

I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, those interesting in stories set during the early days of Haiti and it's history and to those looking for a moving and heart-wenching book. This novel provides all of that and more. At almost 500 pages it is lengthy, but a truly worthwhile read. Allende's ability to create memorable and enduring characters is one of the best aspects of the book and readers will find themselves thinking about these characters long after they have read the last page.

Island Beneath the Sea is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Aristocratic Chile is vividly evoked in Isabel Allende's lyrical novels, in which a family's past and future is linked inextricably with that of it's country's. A writer whose dreamy, imagistic books transport the reader to another time and place Allende is considered by many to be the heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's lavish magic realism.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: The Silver Boat

The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 304pp
ISBN-13: 9780670022502

(Received for review from St. Martin's Press)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Luanne Rice on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from
The Silver Boat
Book Trailer:

Synopsis (Book Jacket):

From the beloved
New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a heartwarming yet heart-wrenching portrait of three far-flung sisters who come home to Martha's Vineyard one last time to say good-bye to the family beach house. Memories of their grandmother; mother; and their Irish father, who sailed away the year Dar, the oldest, turned twelve, rise up and expose the fine cracks in their family myth - especially when a cache of old letters reveal enough truth to send them back to their ancestral homeland.

Transplanted into the unfamiliar, each sister sees life, her heart, and her relationship to home in a new way. But how do they let go of a place that contains the complicated love of their imperfect family?

The novel is a season on Martha's Vineyard, a mission to Ireland; a memorable cast of friends, including one wildly off-the-grid Zen genius; passionate love in the surf; and three very different sisters whose lives are filled with beauty, sorrow, and deep love they'd never been sure they could trust.
The Silver Boat is a novel as timeless as the sea on which it's set, and Luanne Rice at her very best, complete with her singular talent for capturing a family in all its flawed complexity.


Luanne Rice is known for her stories about families and the dynamics they share. In her new book,
The Silver Boat, Rice gives readers a novel that is both happy and sad as three sisters try to come to terms with the death of their mother, the disappearance of their father and the loss of their family beach house. Rice's portrayal of the bonds between sisters is engaging and the element of mystery is present as the girls search for their long-lost father. Readers will find this novel addicting and hard to put down as Rice once again delivers a winner.

The McCarthy sisters: Dar, Delia and Rory converge on the family beach house after the death of their mother. Since they are unable to pay the inheritance taxes and the upkeep on the beach house, their only solution is to sell their childhood haven. But the memories that linger in the house on Martha's Vineyard have never been more present. Each of the these far-flung sisters is facing struggles of their own as they come together one last time to pack up the memento's of their childhood. Dar's has struggled for many years with alcoholism, while Delia is forced to raise her grand-daughter while her son Pete deals with drug addiction. Rory, the youngest is in the middle of a nasty divorce and each woman is seeking some kind of closure. When a cache of old love letters written by their parents set them off on a mission to Ireland to find their father who sailed away on his boat, The Irish Darling and never returned. Will they find the answers they seek and a way to save their home?

Once again Luanne Rice has created a family that readers will love to read about. The McCarthy sisters are as different as night and day, but they are very relatable and believable. Each sister is facing problems of her own, in her own life, a part from that of her sisters. But, they share a common bond and find a new way to relate to each other and home in this novel. Rice does a remarkable job of giving the reader characters that are engaging and that stir the emotions. Rice portrays each sister in such a way that reader will be reminded of someone they know who went through that or perhaps they will see themselves looking back from the pages of this book.

Dar, the oldest sister, probably has the most attachment to the family beach house, Daggett's Way. She is still very attached to the memories of the times she spent with her father in this house before he went away. All three sisters have unresolved issues with the loss of their father and his reasons for leaving them behind, but Dar seems to be the character most effected by this. She turned to alcohol and is now fighting alcoholism. I found her career choice interesting. She writes comic books. I thought Rice choose and interesting and creative job for her and it showed her own struggles as she lets her comic book alter ego solve many of the problems she faces in her real life. A very creative idea.

Delia has problems of her own, with a drug addicted son, who has practically dumped his daughter in her lap to raise. It is not only causing problems between them, but it is spilling over into her relationship with her husband. She is the sort of do-gooder of the family. The one to who tries to right all the wrongs in everyone's lives without thinking of the consequences to her own life. I found her a very compelling character. It shows the sacrifices that families are willing to make for each other. I thought Rice did an excellent job of showing addiction and what it does to families, through both Dar and Delia's situations.

Rory is the youngest and the most emotional in my opinion. She has lived for a long time with a husband who continuously cheats on her. He has left her for a younger woman and she still has feelings for him. So much so, that she spies on him and his new girlfriend and could be accused of stalking. It has always amazed me how some woman can take and take and take this kind of treatment and still love the person who does this kind of thing. Rory is struggling to come to terms with her relationship and what it has done to her. Rice gives the reader a glimpse of what it's like to be co-dependent through this character.

I would recommend this book to readers who love books about family and bonds they share. It is a face paced book and has a dash of mystery about it, where the disappearance of Michael, the girls' father is concerned. I found it hard to put this one down and I think that readers will really fall in love with it. It has both happy and sad parts and I believe that if an author can cause a reader to feel some kind of emotion while reading their work, they have truly succeeded.

The Silver Boat is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Luanne Rice is the author of twenty-nine novels, twenty-two of which have been consecutive New York Times bestsellers.There are more than twenty-two million copies of Luanne Rice's novels in print. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Winner: The Return of Black Douglas

The giveaway for two copies of The Return of Black Douglas by Elaine Coffman ended not long ago. I used to choose two winners.

The books will be sent out directly from the publisher, Sourcebooks. Winners will be notified later today.

I'd like to thank everyone for their participation.

The winners are:

Ammy Belle
Victoria Zumbrum

Winner: The Queen of New Beginnings

The giveaway for two copies of The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James ended a short time ago. I'd like to thank everyone who participated! The winners will receive their books directly from the publisher and will be notified later today. They will have 48 hours to respond or I will be forced to choose a new winner.

The winners are:

Kathy P

Review and Giveaway:: Second Sight

Second Sight (The Gods of Fate - Book 2) by Sherry D. Ficklin

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: Paperback, 186pp
ISBN-13: 9781936381074

(Received for review from the author)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, IndieBound


Disclaimer: I don't usually put Amazon links in my Purchase options because I do not agree with some of Amazon's policies, however I do make an exception for authors who are up and coming or have limited options.

Sherry D. Ficklin on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from
Second Sight
Book Trailer:


When the man Grace Archer loves is pulled into the Underworld, she will stop at nothing to get him back. Her quest is complicated by the fallen God Samael, who is on the loose with a dangerous relic that puts all the immortals in jeopardy. With her powers on the fritz, Grace must help track down Samael and retrieve the deadly Eye of Hera before anymore gods fall victim to his madness. Daughter of the Greek Goddess Pandora and the Greek God Prometheus, Grace must dig deep to find the power she needs to infiltrate Hades and convince the God of the Dead to release Chris. But when you make a bargain with the devil, you pay with your soul.


Author Sherry Ficklin, has a knack for Greek mythology!
Second Sight, the second book in her Gods of Fate series, pits the daughter of Pandora and Prometheus against a fallen God. Ficklin's trademark wit and gift for dialogue will have readers wishing the story doesn't have to end. Readers will enjoy the portrayal of the Gods and how Ficklin is able to make them seem like real people instead of figureheads. Readers who love mythology will find this one hard to put down!

Grace Archer, daughter of the Goddess Pandora and the God Prometheus has her hands full this time. The man of her dreams, Chris has been dragged into the Underworld and it's up Grace and James to get him out, if they don't kill each other first. But, that isn't the only problem. A fallen God named, Samael is wrecking havoc for all the immortals. He has stolen the Eye of Hera, a dangerous relic and he must be stopped before it's too late. Grace has to do some bargaining with the devil. Will she loose her soul trying to rescue her love?

Sherry Ficklin is an author who has been with us before here at Debbie's Book Bag. I reviewed the first book in the Gods of Fate series,
Foresight, last year. I thought the first book was excellent, as we were introduced to Grace, who had no idea that she was a daughter of the Gods. It was up to her and a warrior Fae named Chris to keep her mother's box from being opened and released on the earth.

In the second book,
Second Sight, Chris has been dragged into the Underworld and it's up to Grace to get him back. Though, I really enjoyed the first book, I liked the Second Sight even better. Ficklin's characters are much more defined and the plot is more riveting. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as Grace and James storm the Underworld in search of Chris. Grace's bargain with the devil was interesting twist on the legend of Faust, that I thought brought a lot of depth to the novel. What would you be willing to sacrifice for the person you love?

Samael the fallen God was also a great addition to the series. As a villain I thought he was a little more convincing than Lilith from the first book. He was vengeful and full of wrath. He just kind of exuded hatred. He was the kind of bad guy that readers will really get into. I am really looking forward to Ficklin's next book, to see if the new villain can top this one.

Ficklin's use of mythological lore was excellent. Using the relic, the Eye of Hera, lends authenticity and believeability to the book. Hera, the Mother of the Gods is often depicted as "watchful". The peacock is often used as a symbol for Hera because of "eyes" on it's feathers. I thought Ficklin did a great job of incorporating these and other mythological elements in the book. Her portrayal of the Gods made them seem a lot more accessible than we've seen them in other texts. They really come alive under Ficklin's pen. They are no less formidable, but they have personalities and motives for their actions. This is an aspect of the series, that I am really enjoying.

I recommend this one to readers who love YA fantasy and mythology. I think readers will enjoy Ficklin's depictions of the Gods and her ability to make them seem more real. I liked this one better than the first book in the series, and that's saying a lot. I look forward to the third book, Hindsight coming out and continuing this great series.

Second Sight is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Sherry is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chicken's and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she is on a deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness Monster, is often only seen in blurry photographs.


Sherry has been gracious enough to offer an e-book copy of both the first and second books in the Gods of Fate series, to one lucky winner. You'll receive an e-book copy of Foresight and and e-book copy of Second Sight directly from the author if you are chosen as the winner.

~ You must be Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ The is an e-book giveaway, so it's international!
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST May 9th.

1. Please leave a comment on this post in appreciation to the author.
2. Fill out the

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Tomorrow's Garden

Tomorrow's Garden (Texas Dreams - Book 3) by Amanda Cabot

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Genre: Christian Fiction/Western Romance
Pages: Paperback, 387pp
ISBN-13: 9780800733261
ISBN: 0800733266

(Received for review from Revell Books)

Amanda Cabot on the WEB: Website, Facebook,

Excerpt from Tomorrow's Garden

Synopsis (Book Blurb):

As a seed awaits the spring sunshine, so one young woman hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas, is just what she needs - a chance to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn't count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood - or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness?

Book 3 in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow's Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness.


Amanda Cabot takes readers back to Ladreville, Texas in her third installment in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow's Garden. Cabot's ability to take readers back to 1857 is remarkable. Her descriptions of life on the frontier and the people who lived in that time seem very authentic. Her characters believable and the message of God's love, comes through with flying colors. Cabot fans will be thrilled with this book and new readers to the series, will fall in love with this wonderfully told Western Romance.

Harriet Kirk is looking for a fresh start. She wants to leave the small town where she grew up and move to Ladreville to begin a new life for herself and her siblings. As the new schoolteacher she has the chance to outrun the pursuit of a man she doesn't want to marry, as well as help her brother get away from disreputable characters he had gotten mixed up with. When Jake becomes even more belligerent and threatens to become involved in even more trouble, Harriet is at her wits end. Ex-Texas Ranger, Lawrence Wood realizes that he and Harriet could have a chance at finding happiness together, but they have both had some tragic losses in the past. It will take time to win her heart. And it might help if he didn't have to arrest her brother...

Amanda Cabot has a gift for creating characters that readers want to read about. They are realistic and easy to understand. Even though the book is set in 1857 the characters face similar situations to many readers. Harriet wants to get away from her past, who doesn't? She is willing to sacrifice to for her family. She can't seem to get rid of unwanted attention. A lot of women can relate. Lawrence is also a character that people can get into. He is handsome, chivalrous, but still has the edge he needs to do his job. He is faced with a dilemma, do what he knows is right or do what he thinks will get him the girl? All situations that readers will find interesting and on their level. The storyline is believable and readers will enjoy reading about people who have the same kinds of problems they face every day.

Harriet is a great character. She shows a lot of courage and her faith is strong. She is willing to leave the town she grew up in, in hopes of finding a better life for her family. She will sacrifice a lot for siblings, even her own chance at love. She takes on the schoolteachers job with relish and seems to really enjoy teaching the children about more than just reading and writing. She has a great spirit about her that I think readers will find sweet and enchanting. Cabot does an excellent job of showing Harriet's strength in caring for her family and her vulnerability as she starts to have feelings for Lawrence. Readers will really see the growth that Harriet's character goes through.

Lawrence is a character that has appeared before in the Texas Dreams series and fans of Cabot's will enjoy finding out more about him in this one. He seems to have a very enduring faith that settles a sort of grace on his character. He is handsome and very much the gentleman. What woman wouldn't want to meet someone like him? One of the great things about romance is finding those characters that you wish were real. Lawrence is definitely one of them. I think readers will really fall in love with him.

I recommend this book to Christian fiction and Historical fiction readers as well. The story has some great western and frontier settings, but still clearly shows the message that the author wanted to get across. She doesn't overpower the reader with faith issues, but there is just enough to make a real difference for some readers. This book would be great for a rainy spring day or a day at the beach. It can be read as a stand alone or as part of the Texas Dreams series. I'm looking forward to more great books from Amanda Cabot in the future.

Tomorrow's Garden is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Amanda Cabot is an accomplished author under various pen names and a popular speaker. The author of Paper Roses and Scattered Petals, she is also a charter member of Romance Writers of America, the co-founder of it's New Jersey chapter, a member of the ACFW, and an avid traveler. She lives in Wyoming.