Tag Archives: fiction

Book Review: Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham

tumbleweekds

4/5

Eleven year old Catherine Ann Benson is whisked away from her privileged, wealthy home after her parents were killed in a car accident. She only has one family member left who is willing to give her a home, her paternal grandmother Emma Benson. Emma Benson lives in a small Texas town called Kersey. Her modest house is on the opposite side of the spectrum that Catherine Ann was accustomed to. Her less than extravagant home was only part of her worries because her granddaughter, whom she has never me, has gone temporarily mute.

Before bringing her granddaughter to her new home Emma went to her longtime friend for a favor. Mabel Church was in Emma’s situation about seven years ago. Mabel’s nephew, Trey Don Hall, was left on her doorstep abandoned by both of his parents. Emma’s favor involved Mabel’s nephew and his best friend, John Caldwell. She asked them to watch out for Catherine Ann on her first day at her new school. At first the boys were apprehensive, but once they caught their first glances at the young blonde haired, blue eyed new girl their minds changed. As the two “leaders” of the sixth grade Trey and John were well loved by the teachers, envied by the boys, and sought after by the girls. Even at eleven years old both the boys were handsome, intelligent, and incredible at football. All of these attributes followed them into their high school careers.

It didn’t take long for Cathy, as she preferred to be called, John, and Trey to become an inseparable threesome. By the time they were in their last years of high school they already had the rest of their lives planned out. The three planned to go to the University of Miami. Trey and John planned to go to the school on a sports scholarship and play for the Miami Hurricanes while Cathy would get an academic scholarship and participate in the school’s medical program. Everything seemed perfectly planned, but when do plans ever pan out just the way they are envisioned?

Tumbleweeds follows Cathy, John, and Trey on their tumultuous journeys through their life until their early forties. Even though their teenaged years breezed by almost with a hitch, their adult years are filled with drama that involve; lying, cheating, and even murder. Along with the main trio the characters in this novel are easily likable and are easy to become attached to. The plot can be a little a little dry at first, but it does become immensely captivating. Leila Meacham’s first novel that does not take place in the world showcased in her successful novel, Roses, is a fantastic novel about how the slightest change can shift one’s entire world.

Book Review: The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

the dante club

3/5

The Dante Club is a historical fiction novel set in Boston after the Revolutionary War. This bustling city has been jolted to a screeching halt when one of the men of higher standing is brutally murdered. Judge Healy was due to be away from his home. His wife was expecting him to be away from home for four days. A few days after the Judge left his maid noticed a swarm of red eyed flies buzzing around a particular window. She followed the swarm of flies to the naked body of Judge Healy. His head had been busted in and was covered in a maggots, flies, and wasps. The Boston police are completely baffled at the gruesome murder.

It isn’t until another man of higher standing is brutally murdered that the five members of the Dante Club become involved. The Dante Club consists of five members; each member is called by their last name throughout the novel: Longfellow a poet and a professor at Harvard, Lowell a writer and a professor at Harvard, Howell, a doctor and writer, Fields, a publisher, and Green, a doctor. Longfellow started the group for the purpose of translating Dante’s Inferno from Italian into English. Each week he and the other members take one canto of the poem at a time to interpret. When the group gets word of the murders they realize in horror that the murders are exact copies of the horrors that they translate from Inferno. In order to make sure that the murders aren’t traced back to the innocent Club, the members take it upon themselves to try and find the murderer.

Although the identity of the murderer comes as a complete surprise, the novel itself has a lot of ‘filler’ pages; a series of background information that didn’t necessary pertain to the main plot and was only inserted to make the novel longer. The dialogue was also a bit repetitive. The Dante Club members talk to each other by using the phrase, “my dear Longfellow, etc”.

There is a reader’s guide section in the back of the novel where Matthew Pearl answers some questions about his work. One of the questions brings up the gruesomeness of the novel’s murders. For some readers who aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno, but there are a lot of gory scenes depicting hellish scenes as the main character descends further into Hell. In my senior year of high school, I did read parts of Inferno so I was familiar with some of the torture that would have been featured in the novel. Those who aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno may find the murders in The Dante Club extremely disturbing.

Fall Into Reading–Book Haul

Summer has faded away. Fall has officially started here in Pennsylvania. The leaves have started to change color before they fall from the branches. Tis the season of sweater weather, pumpkin flavored everything and library book sales!

Last year I posted my findings at a local library book sale; a tiny stack of books for a small price. Two weeks ago I headed out to the old roller staking rink to spend a few hours walking through the labyrinth of used books. Armed with comfortable shoes and a reusable Target bag I combed through the hundreds of books to take home eight books for less than $10.

Listed below will be a picture of the books I found with the synopsis and the publishing date (does anyone else actively look for the publishing date just to see what year the novel was written? Or is it just a second nature for me since I had to cite so many books for essays in high school and college?). Enjoy my findings and happy reading!

the little book

The Little Book by Selden Edwards—2008

When Wheeler Burden—banking heir, rock idol, baseball hero, bestselling author—suddenly finds himself dislocated in time from 1988 San Francisco to Vienna in the year 1897, he’s arrived at a pivotal moment in history, philosophy, art, and culture. It is a time when the coming twentieth century looms before the world with great promise and peril, and when Vienna is enjoying its magnificent swan song as the epicenter of modern thought and the seat of European intellectual and political life.

But what’s most important to Wheeler from the earliest moments of his arrival are finding an appropriate set of clothes and discovering the identity of the luminous young woman he encounters early in his stay. These simple actions set in motion a series of events that will ultimately reveal the incredible truth at the heart of Wheeler’s adventure and will illuminate the eccentric Burden family’s unrivaled impact on the very course of human history.

the dante club

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl—2003

Boston 1865. A series of murders, all of them inspired by scenes in Dante’s Inferno. Only an elite group of America’s first Dante scholars—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields—can solve the mystery. With the police baffled, more lives endangered, and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find the killer.

spells

Spells by Aprilynne Pike—2010

“I can’t just storm in and proclaim my intentions. I can’t ‘steal’ you away. I just have to wait and hope that, someday, you’ll ask.” Tamani said.

“And if I don’t?” Laurel said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Then I guess I’ll be waiting forever.”

Although Laurel has come to accept her true identity as a faerie, she refuses to turn her back on her human like—and especially her boyfriend, David—to return to the faerie world.

But when she is summoned to Avalon, Laurel’s feelings for the charismatic faerie sentry Tamani are undeniable. She is forced to make a choice—a choice that could break her heart.

the library of shadows

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard—2007

Imagine that some people have the power to affect your thoughts and feelings through reading. They can seduce you with amazing stories, conjure up vividly imagined worlds, but also manipulate you into thinking exactly what they want you to.

When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. Jon has not seen his father for twenty years, since the mysterious death of his mother.

After Luca’s death is followed by an arson attempt on the shop, Jon is forced to explore his family’s past. Unbeknown to Jon, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret. It is the meeting place of a society of booklovers and readers, who have maintained the tradition of immense power passed down from the days of the great library of ancient Alexandria. Now someone is trying to destroy them, and Jon finds he must fight to save himself and his new friends.

la cucina

La Cucina by Lily Prior—2000

Since childhood, Rosa Fiore—daughter of a sultry Sicilian matriarch and her hapless husband—found solace in her family’s kitchen. La Cucina, the heart of the family’s lush estate, was a place where generations of Fiore women prepared sumptuous feasts and where the drama of extended family life was played out around the age-old table.

When Rosa was a teenager, her own cooking become the stuff of legend in this small community that takes pride in the bounty of its landscape and the eccentricity of its inhabitants. Rosa’s infatuation with culinary arts was rivaled only by her passion for a young man, Barolomeo, who, unfortunately, belonged to another. After their love affair ended in tragedy, Rosa retreated first into her kitchen and then into solitude, as a librarian in Palermo. There she stayed for decades, growing corpulent on her succulent dishes, resigned to a loveless life.

Then, one day, she meets the mysterious chef, known only as l’Inglese, whose research on the heritage of Sicilian cuisine leads him to Rosa’s library and into her heart. They share one sublime summer of discovery, during which l’Inglese awakens the power of Rosa’s sensuality, and together they reach new heights of culinary passion. When l’Inglese suddenly vanishes, Rosa returns home to the farm to grieve for the loss of her second love. In the comfort of familiar surroundings, among her growing family, she discovers the truth about her loved ones and finds her life transformed once more by the magic of her cherished Cucina.

leonardo's swans

Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex—2006

Isabella d’Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black eyed blonde and an art lover and collector. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naïve Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella’s match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny; to reign over one of the world’s most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci. Isabella vows that she will not rest until he wins her true fate, and the two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe.

the house of velvet and glass

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe—2012

Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in a elegant town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl flees for solace to the parlor of a table-turning medium.

But when her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange young woman, Sibyl turns for help to psychology professor Benton Derby, despite the unspoken tensions of their shared past. As Benton and Sibyl work together to solve a harrowing mystery, their long simmering spark flares to life, and they realize that there may be something even more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass.

the mercy falls collection

The Mercy Falls Collection by Colleen Coble—2009, 2010, 2011

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter

A storm brings an injured stranger and a dark secret to Addie Sullivan’s California light house home. The man insists she is not who she thinks she is, but rather the child long lost and feared dead by the wealthy Eaton family.

Addie secures employment in the Eatons’ palatial home, keeping her identify a secret. As dusty rooms and secret compartments give up clues about her past, Addie finds faith and a forever love.

The Lightkeeper’s Bride

Working the phone lines one evening, Katie Russell overhears a chilling exchange between her friend Eliza and a familiar male voice. Katie soon learns that Eliza has disappeared, and the crime may be linked to another investigation headed by the handsome new lighthouse keeping, Will Jesperson. Katie and Will soon form and alliance—an alliance that blossoms into something more.

The Lightkeeper’s Ball

Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred-those considered the most distinguished in America. But their wealth has evaporated and now their security rests upon Olivia marrying well.

Using her family’s long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth. There she plans to marry Harrison Bennett, a wealthy bachelor. Harrison soon falls for her, but it turns out they’ve both been hiding something.

Short Story–Untitled

I entered this short story into a short story contest hosted by Gotham Writer’s Workshop. The contest was called “Tell it Strange” and had two quotes that those who entered had to respond to. The quote that I responded to was “There’s something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He stared into the mirror. His pale skin was almost translucent in the harsh, bathroom light. He turned his thin, long face to one side. The mirror reflected back his hollow cheeks, his sharp cheekbones, and the profile of his long nose. A strand of jet black hair fell in front of his dark, chocolate eyes. With a long finger he flicked the strand back into place. The sight of an angry looking pimple rising from the center of his cheek made him frown. With a thumb and forefinger he gave the growing blemish a hard squeeze. A gasp escaped his thin lips. A searing pain cut under the skin. Defeated, he dropped his hand.

            “Christopher?” a woman’s voice floated through the bathroom door. “Are you in the bathroom?” Natalie called.

            He sighed, his mother had returned home from work.

            “Yeah,” he answered slowly opening the bathroom door.

            His mother walked down the short hallway leading from the doorway around one side of the staircase. Her tall, slim figure was fitted in a sleek dark gray business suit. Her dark black hair was swept up in a loose bun; a few stray ringlets framed her ebony face. Her high heels clicked a soft melody on the wooden floor until she stopped in front of the bathroom.

            “What’s wrong? Do you have a stomach ache?” she questioned placing the back of her hand on his forehead.            

            “I’m fine, Mom.” He groaned backing away from her reach.

            Natalie crossed her arms, “Pull up your shirt.”

            “What?

            “Pull up your shirt. Now.” She ordered.

            Christopher begrudgingly obeyed. A wide bruise was spread over his thin abdomen. Its redness had already begun to fade into a purplish blue with a tinge of sickly yellowish green around the edges.

            “Who did this?” she demanded.

            He remained silent, his eyes glued to the floor.

            “Christopher Daniel Smith, I want to know the names of those who did this to you. I will not stand idle while a bunch of punks assault my son.”

            Her rage peaked when he still refused to answer her. Try as she might she couldn’t help, but be angered at Christopher. Ever since she had become a mother on that rainy October night almost fifteen years ago, she had promised herself that she would love and protect her precious little sunshine. She knew that the older he became, the more struggles would emerge. The two of them had successfully hurdled through the preteen years, but she had been mentally preparing herself for the rebellious teen years since the day he entered the world as a tiny, perfect being. He was only through the first half of his freshman year and was already coming home with bruises, black eyes, and scrapes almost weekly. With each injury came the same argument. She would urge him to stand up for himself.

            “No one can push you around if you stand up for yourself.” She had told him time after time. When he would nod meekly she would attempt another approach by demanding the names and numbers of the boys who beat him up.

            “I would like to give their parents a piece of my mind.” Natalie would always snarl.

            In actuality, she wanted to give those boys a taste of their own medicine. Let their parents feel the horror she had felt the first time Christopher came home with a black eye. Let them lie awake at night worrying about what might happen to their son if the punching and kicking got old. Would weapons be next?   Christopher finally tore his gaze from the floor. Slowly, his eyes rose to meet hers. Her heart broke when she saw the tears glistening in his eyes.

            “What’s wrong with me? Why am I so different from you?” he begged.

            “Nothing is wrong—“

            “Yes there is!” Christopher shouted, his tears started to roll down his pale cheeks; “Look at me!” he gestured to his tall, lanky, body, “I’m skinny, ugly…”

            “You are not—“

            “Do you know what the biggest problem is? I’m white! You’re black and I’m white. How is that even possible?” he sank to the floor, his back against the wall, knees pulled up to his chest. He rested his head on his knees and began to sob.

            Natalie lowed herself beside him, wrapping her arms around his shaking body.

            “You’re white because your father was white. Life works in mysterious ways, sometimes the best things in life don’t make sense.” She smoothed his hair behind his ears.

            “The things they say about us…” Christopher sniffed, but trailed off to sob harder.

            “I know it’s hard for you to understand right know, but people’s opinions about you don’t matter; not in this world. You’ll drive yourself bat-shit insane if you try to make everyone like you.”

            Christopher gave a small chuckle at the sound of her swearing. Natalie smiled as her son lifted his head to look at her. His eyes were rimmed with red, his face blotchy and wet. Even in his moment of devastation, Natalie noted as she wiped his tears away with her thumbs, he was perfect.

            “What do I always tell you? There is no question that you are my son. Look at your eyes, look at your hair!” she gave his shoulder length hair a light tug, “You also have my fire. Right now it’s glowing faintly in your belly. Oh, right about here.” She tickled his ribs, the spot where he had been the most ticklish since he was a baby.

            “S-stop, Mom! Quit i-it!” he laughed gasping for breath.

            Natalie brought her hands back to their position around him. “You are a strong you man, strong enough to light the fire in your belly. There’s something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle. When that line is crossed and you can’t handle things, come to me. I’ll always be there to help you through everything life throws at you.”

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory

Image

4/5

Overview:

Jacquetta, a descendant of the river goddess Melusina, has a special gift; a gift that has been passed down through generations. She possesses the ability of sight. With the help of tarot cards, a charm bracelet laden down with about two hundred charms, or by looking through a scryer’s mirror, she can see into the future. However strong her gift is the images she sees don’t always make sense, like the image of a Queen riding a horse with backwards horseshoes. Other images terrify her like a winter’s snow stained red with blood.

As a young girl, Jacquetta visited her uncle. There she met Joan of Arc who was imprisoned in her uncle’s castle. Jacquetta’s great aunt, Lady Jehanne, the Demoiselle of Luxemboury, horrified that Joan was taken prisoner with the accusation of performing witchcraft, convinces her son to release Joan into her responsibility. Taking Joan under her wing will ensure that Joan’s safety is assured. Jacquetta and Joan strike up a quick friendship, they are brought together by a common gift. However, Joan believes that the Almighty God speaks to her and guides her rather than Jacquetta’s family belief of the river goddess. Like her great aunt, Jacquetta tries to warn Joan against proclaiming her spiritual beliefs to a government ruled by men, but Joan is determined to see her journey through to the end, knowing that God has laid out a path for her. Jacquetta watches in horror as her friend is beaten down emotionally during her intense trails. The men convince her to admit that she is just a raving lunatic and a disgrace to her country. In a moment of weakness she gives in. She admits that everything she believes in is lies. The men are intensely satisfied that they have broken down a young girl. In their joy they burn Joan at the stake as a common witch. Jacquetta learns a very harsh lesson; a strong-willed woman cannot hope to succeed in a man’s world

A few years after Joan’s execution, Jacquetta is married to John the Duke of Bedford. Immediately after they are married the Duke reveals that he only pursued Jacquetta for her mystic abilities and that he can’t give her children. He exposes her to the mysteries of alchemy and astrology while strengthening her abilities to his advantage. Periodically the Duke sits her in front of a mirror and asks her to see into the future. Will he be successful and powerful? Will war tear apart England? Jacquetta tries her best to oblige the Duke, but is confused at what her visions mean.

Her marriage to the Duke is short lived. He passes away unrepentantly, leaving her alone in the royal court. Jacquetta finds solace in the arms of Richard, her late husband’s most trusted knight. The two leave the royal court in order to live a life full of love and happiness together. Following the birth of their first child, which they go on to have eleven throughout the novel; they are both summoned back to court to serve King Henry and his new, young wife Margaret. Serving the young King and Queen becomes a tumultuous road for Jacquetta and Richard. With the entire country on the verge of war, Richard is constantly sent to gather men, command soldiers, and keep the kingdom safe. On the other hand, Jacquetta becomes the Queen’s closest friend and advisor. She helps the young Queen in a sisterly compassion. The two women face endless troubles, the biggest occurs when the King suddenly falls into a deep sleep that lasts for over a year. No one knows quite what caused the mysterious sleep, but it causes a rift in the already quarrelling country. Again Jacquetta sees the difficulty that a powerful woman has in a world ruled by men.

In the end, Jacquetta and Richard discover where their loyalties truly lie. They leave the royal court to finally spend time with their children and grandchildren. The novel ends with Jacquetta returning to the river near her home to see what Melusina has in store for their oldest daughter, Elizabeth.