Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lies You Wanted to Hear

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson

The truth hurts. It is much easier to soften the blow by never revealing our innermost feelings to those we supposedly love. In this provocative debut novel by James Thomson, you will discover that ordinary people have the capability to resort to unimaginable acts that result in broken lives, all in the name of love.

Lucy meets Matt, a Boston cop, on a blind date set up by her dearest friend, Jill.  Immediately he is enthralled with this seductive, edgy, impulsive woman and begins to dream of building a life with her. Lucy finds Matt kind, dependable, and trustworthy. However, he isn't Griffin, the perennial bad boy she just can't let go. Matt knows of her affinity for drugs and alcohol, her affluent upbringing, and her dysfunctional parents. Maybe in time he can fill that void in her life, and she will stop her reckless behavior. Lucy knows of Matt's middle-class background, his steadfast love for his mother, and his self-righteousness. When she learns of her pregnancy, they decide to marry. Even though he knows of her ambivalence, Matt continues to live the fantasy of happily ever after.

Now years later, Lucy sits alone in her house, sifting through old photos of happier times. Her heart aches for the daughter and son that Matt kidnapped so long ago. The bitterness of divorce and child custody issues still haunt her. Matt, too, sits alone many miles away, unwavering in his belief that he did the right thing in taking the children away from an unfit mother. If they had to do it all over again, would they?

Alternating chapters allow the reader to hear the words of the two main characters over a span of over twenty years. You may think you have an allegiance with either Lucy or Matt. However, as new details are revealed, those intense opinions may just change. Lucy is constantly aware of what a "cruel companion" hope can be because it "never lets you grieve and be done with it". Matt, knowing their marriage was a lie, still struggles with the reality that he "never had a chance." Whose side will you choose? I think you will discover there are no winners here at all.

This is an absorbing, fascinating story about the frailty of human nature; an emotional roller coaster tale of how people unwittingly hurt one another with staggering results and a bittersweet ending.

Lucy says it best, "the lies you wanted to hear were the easiest ones to tell."

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

In 1803, Sarah Grimke is given ownership of her very own handmaid. Handful, better known as Hetty, is a spirited slave who longs to escape with her mother from the stifling confines of servitude. Even at the tender age of eleven, Sarah recognizes the injustices bestowed upon the slaves who live and work in her family's wealthy Charleston  household. However, being the daughter of a prestigious lawyer and his rigid wife, she soon learns that her beliefs do not coincide with those in the deep South. As a child, she witnesses the inhumane treatment of those she knows so well, and vows early in life to change the course of history. And so begins the saga of  incredible, valiant women who truly epitomize the definition of courage.

The novel covers a span of thirty-five years. It explores the relationship forged between Hetty and Sarah, each searching for independence and drawing strength  from one another. You will meet Charlotte, Hetty's mauma who instills in her daughter the will to "fly like blackbirds" in the midst of daily oppression. Angelina, Sarah's sister, becomes a trusted friend and ally. Together, these women will soon take their place in history as leaders in the abolition of slavery and champions of women's rights. So many more exceptional characters play an important part in the story. Each one comes to life before your eyes The reader feels the pain, despair, hope, and tenacity that drives them to reach for their dreams.

Based on a true story, the author's research into the lives of Sarah and Angelina Grimke is extensive. Unknown to many, these figures in history were the early pioneers of the rights women have today. The book reveals the cruelty and horrors many slaves endured. It describes the fervor of a young woman who longs to change the world but finds the obstacles impassable. "Why would God plant such deep yearnings in us...if they only come to nothing?" The reader will feel the pain of defeat and the joy of triumph described in detail chapter by chapter. It is a captivating story of conviction and sacrifice; how the brave and fearless who came before us, shaped the world in which we live today. A book I highly recommend.

Indeed, one person can make a difference.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In The Blood

In The Blood by Lisa Unger

Lies. If you tell enough of them, the fine line between reality and fantasy begins to blur and even you may question the truth.

Lana Granger knows all about lies. She realized long ago that hiding behind a veil of untruths enabled her to cope with her troubled childhood and the unspeakable secrets of her past. No one ever has to know. Except now, someone does, and that someone threatens to expose it all.

About to graduate from Sacred Heart College in The Hollows, New York, Lana needs to find a job. Her generous trust fund is dwindling, and it is time to at least pretend that she has the capability of becoming a responsible adult. Her mentor and psychology professor, Landon Hewes, suggests a babysitting position looking after a troubled young boy named Luke. After meeting him and his mother, Rachel, Lana seems drawn to both of them in an indescribable way. Sinister, devious, and eerily manipulative, Luke has been expelled from schools all over the country. He seeks to control all those around him. Has Lana met her match? Or has Luke met his?

Drugs help to keep Lana's own painful memories at bay; her father is now on death row for the murder of her mother, she has foggy recollections of  rehearsed lines when questioned as to what really happened that fateful night, and the fear and terror of watching a man dig a grave so long ago permeate her very being.  Is it all real or just a figment of her distorted mind?  Now her best friend, Rebecca, (Beck),  has disappeared, and Lana is a prime suspect. The police undoubtedly will attempt to uncover the truth about her. Someone is leaving clues to let her know that perhaps her best-kept secrets are waiting to surface. Lana cringes at the thought that her make-believe existence is about to come tumbling down. And all the while, an eleven-year-old boy lurks in the background. What are his ulterior motives?

If one could write a recipe for a suspenseful thriller, this novel has all the ingredients. It delves into the complicated world of mental illness, the art of mind control, and the age-old question of how much environment affects the person we become. The reader will be hooked after reading the prologue. The many complex characters come to life with so many twists and turns, it may keep you up at night. This is a riveting, engrossing novel with adult themes-a spine-tingling mystery. And it all begins with...



Monday, January 13, 2014

The Melody of Secrets

The Melody of Secrets by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Love stories. As readers, we never seem to tire of them. Perhaps the very thought of finding that one true love triggers hope and yearning in all of us. This short, historical fiction novel may do just that, long after you finish the final chapter.

The book covers a span of time dating from the 1940s to 1960. World War II is ending. For a young, German girl like Maria, the ravages of war have taken a toll on her mind and body. She knows the end of the fighting is near. Maria is a gifted violinist, and she treasures the precious moments spent teaching music to the small, innocent children nearby. As she reflects on her uncertain future, an American pilot by the name of James Cooper,  seeks refuge and a secure hiding place from the Germans after his fighter plane is shot down in a bold and daring night raid. He finds such a place in Maria's cottage. Two lonely souls with an immediate attraction to one another, they endure harrowing days until James realizes it is dangerous for him to stay. He vows to return. Little do they realize that this chance encounter will lead them to finding one another again fifteen years later.

It is now the 1950s in Huntsville, Alabama. Maria is married to second cousin, Hans, a brilliant scientist recruited by the U.S. to help in the flourishing space program.  Hans and many revered German colleagues now call this place home, while their wives struggle to learn a new language and live in a foreign country. Son Peter is a beacon of light; smart, personable, and incredibly astute for a child. Maria's contented and happy life, however, is soon shattered when James Cooper appears once again. Daring, bold, and working for the government, he hopes to be a leading candidate for the astronaut program.  He soon discovers astonishing secrets about the German scientists that are developing the jet engines that will take him into space. At the same time, Maria is forced to face these same revelations about Hans, the friend and confidante who rescued her from the atrocities of war. Will she be loyal and stay with a man she no longer can trust or follow her heart and rekindle a love forgotten so long ago?

Facts and fiction combine in this wistful story about forbidden love, misplaced loyalties, and shocking secrets. This period of time in world history is exposed; the heinous crimes of World War II, and the exhilarating start of the space program. It was also a time of unrest with the Civil Rights Movement, and this too, becomes a sub-plot involving minor characters.

This is an easy read with an unpredictable ending. It has all the elements needed for a touching...

Love story.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Drawn Into Darkness

Drawn Into Darkness by Nancy Springer

Child abduction. Undoubtedly, just the thought of it is a mother's worst nightmare.

For two years now, Amy and Chad Bradley have lived with the horrific realization that their son Justin is gone, snatched in broad daylight while riding his bike on a rural road near his home. Helplessly, Chad witnessed the ordeal, unable to stop a stranger from turning their lives upside down in a matter of seconds. Amy ostensibly refuses to accept what Chad believes; that Justin is dead, that he  probably died within seventy-two hours of his disappearance, just like the statistics say. Their marriage is crumbling and debt is mounting as Amy spends every dime they have on television ads pleading for their sons's return.

Liana Clymer's life has much pretty much hit rock bottom. Her marriage to Georg (yes, no e) is over, she is estranged from her two grown sons, and her parents have sided with her ex-husband, taking him under their wings and sympathizing with him about the woes he endured while married to their pitiful daughter. The best playwright in the world couldn't have written this script. Now Liana finds herself in a small, broken-down, fuschia-colored cottage in the swampy Florida panhandle, hoping to reminisce about happier times spent there with her grandparents. She decides to be hospitable and introduce herself to the nearest neighbor for miles around who lives in the bright blue house. As the door opens, she looks into the soulful eyes of a young, timid boy who invites her to meet "Uncle Steve", an aging, graying, stoop-shouldered man with hollow, darting eyes. As the TV blares and small talk continues, an image flashes on the screen about a missing child. In that fleeting moment, Liana instantly recognizes the face of the lost boy and realizes that the danger and uneasiness she feels is all too real. In her quest to run away from the insurmountable problems of life, Liana has unwittingly entered a dark, sinister world with no escape. It will take every ounce of courage she has within her to outwit a twisted mind. Who can possibly save them in this bleak, desolate part of the country filled with murky waters and dangerous creatures? What horrors does "Uncle Steve" have planned?

This story touches upon a subject that unfortunately, has been in the news over the last several years. It does not go into great detail about the unsavory aspects of child abduction. It is, however, a story of survival and the will to live. You will meet a strong, intelligent woman who faces her own mortality and refuses to allow a depraved, disturbed individual to win. She vows to fight.  It is a story of hope. It is a story of convincing a shy, shattered child that he is indeed worthy of love.

Eerie and even a bit scary at times, this is an adult suspense novel. Short with well-developed characters, it is a page-turner that may take you out of your comfort level.

Certainly it reiterates the power of a mother's love.