Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Stranger on the Train

The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor

Emma looks away for a second to retrieve her shopping bags while her thirteen-month-old son, Ritchie, waits for her just inside the doors of  the train. An infinitesimal second in time. And in that brief moment the train doors close revealing the horror of the situation. Ritchie is now on the opposite side of the glass, oblivious to the fact that his frantic mother can't reach him as the sleek mass of metal lumbers down the track. As she runs screaming, begging for the train to stop, Emma sees a blonde woman at the window mouthing words that seem to say, "next stop". Hope swells in Emma's chest. Some kind stranger has rescued Ritchie. The chubby little boy will once again be in her arms. If only it were true.

Emma is a single mother with no family or friends, living on government assistance and struggling everyday with her lonely life. She harbors troubling childhood memories of her own mother. Ritchie's father doesn't even know he exists. Former friends have abandoned her or perhaps she abandoned them. Her son's pediatrician is weary of the constant complaints and whining that Emma brings to each visit. This is a young woman on the brink of a complete breakdown, haunted by what could have been, bogged down by the boring, tedious hours spent doing necessary chores. Yet in her heart she knows one thing. Despite all her faults, she loves her son and will do everything in her power to find him. First, however, she must convince the police and all those around her that the story is not fiction, because now she is at the center of the investigation.

In her debut novel, author Abbie Taylor shifts from past to present with alternating chapters that introduce you to the main character.  Maybe Emma really is a caring devoted mother desperately anxious to be reunited with her son. Then again, her dark secret thoughts might reveal another side of her; thoughts she wishes she could erase. There's a little haunting voice inside her head that refuses to stop filling her mind with sinister scenarios. Full of clever plot twists and action, you'll feel the panic, fear, and frustration that Emma faces as she races against time to rescue a child she may never see again.

This is a psychological thriller that promises to keep you guessing until the end.

   







  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Somerset

Somerset by Leila Meacham


All 607 pages of this saga will glide effortlessly through your fingers as you read about the pioneer spirit of three families and their harrowing journey to the land of promise, better known as Texas. Follow the mesmerizing story that begins in 1835 with the Tolivars, Warwicks, and DuMonts, an incredibly dynamic group of people who believe that happiness and prosperity lie just beyond their reach if only they have the fortitude and determination to forge ahead. In the grand style of Gone With the Wind,  Leila Meacham develops characters that possess a remarkable resoluteness and sense of purpose. Along the way, they just might capture your heart.

Jessica Wyndham is different from the rest of her aristocratic South Carolina family. No great beauty, she instead has a fiery disposition and lofty ideals that set her apart from the slave owners in the South, including her domineering father, Carson. This is her story. As each section enfolds, the reader learns of her life from a timid young girl to a self-assured abolitionist, fighting for the rights of slaves and women. By her side is Silas Tolivar, an unlikely partner who grows to love and respect her, and son Thomas, so like his father, but filled with admiration for his courageous mother. There is dear friend Jeremy who becomes Jessica's confidante in times of trouble. And Tippy, the talented slave Jessica calls her best friend even when Tippy's curious unconventional looks cause people to stare and whisper. Together they travel down a road filled with hardship and incredible odds until they find a place to call home.

This historical fiction novel provides a powerful insight into the tumultuous years of the 1800s when our country was in the throes of discontent between the North and the South leading up to The Civil War. The glamour and grandeur of plantation life are soon erased as these formidable men, women and children set out to fulfill their dream of owning land and creating new lives for themselves. First they must overcome the challenges that await them. Chapter by chapter the reader shadows their lives through the heartache and triumphs until the gripping end.

Leila Meacham has written three novels, all in splendid style. Tumbleweeds is a stand alone novel. Roses, however, is actually a sequel to Somerset but written earlier in 2010.  I would suggest reading both novels   (in no particular order) to fully appreciate the complexity of the story. You'll want to know the conclusion to this compelling tale.

If you are looking to immerse yourself in a good old-fashioned story filled with emotion, this is a wise choice. It reads like a soap opera with anguish and pain, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. Jessica's story is one few of us could imagine.

An entertaining, engaging, and delightful  choice for a summer read ......



     


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

"The summer wind, came blowin' in from across the sea
It lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me..."

As I turned the pages of this novel, the lyrics of this timeless song came to mind. Once again, this author writes a meaningful story of lost love, forgiveness, and redemption against a backdrop of white sands and sunny skies. If you are looking for a beach read on a mellow summer day, give this one a try.

Dabney Kimball Beech lives on the Island of Nantucket; she has most of her life. There are a few things you should know about her. With her trademark pearls and polished appearance, Dabney excels as the director of the local chamber of commerce, admired and respected by all who know her. She is known as the "Matchmaker" because of her uncanny ability to unite compatible couples that result in happy, satisfying marriages. Behind this facade of contentment lie undeniable truths. Her mother left her one day with no explanation. Those scars will never heal. She is married to John Boxmiller Beech, a revered professor of economics at Harvard who officially adopted  her lovely daughter, Agnes, many years ago. He has been by her side through all the ups and downs, yet decidedly distant to her wants and needs. Perhaps that's because Dabney truly loves only one man; Clendenin Hughes, her daughter's biological father. When he left her brokenhearted eons ago, she never expected to see him again. But he's back on the Island and faded memories come hurdling toward her. Her life is spinning out of control, and she is determined to right the wrongs with the time she has left.

You see, Dabney is dying of pancreatic cancer.

One month before publication of this book, Erin Hilderbrand began her own battle with breast cancer. Little did she know how her words of fiction would relate to her own life. It's all just a bit fear-fetched, but nonetheless a captivating, emotional read, intended to entertain and isn't that what beach reads are all about....

It may just open your mind to the precious, fragile moments of life.  Fleeting.  Just like the summer wind.




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Forgotten Seamstress

The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

No one believed her. They called her insane. But Maria Romano knows the truth. Her eyes close and it is 1910 again. She vividly remembers the flutter of her racing heart when she looked into the cool piercing eyes of the handsome man that captured her heart and mind. A poor, naive commoner like herself, summoned  to work at Buckingham Palace, would never attract The Prince of Wales. They all insisted it was just a crazy concoction from an imaginative mind.  Maria understands the absurdity of it all. Yet fantastic as it sounds, it did happen and the events and heartache that followed still reverberate deep in her soul. So she agrees to tell her story sixty years later.

 A young energetic college student turns on the cassette tape and begins to record the words of an old woman scarred from the wounds of days long ago. Maria looks back on her past with a forlorn wistfulness. She smiles and in a husky voice, begins the narration of her life. It is the story of an orphaned child who is summoned to the "Castle" as a seamstress because of her extraordinary talent. Little does she know she is working for royalty. As the story enfolds, she describes herself as an incredibly trusting girl of sixteen who falls in love with a future king. Her innocence results in a mistake that cannot go unpunished but she carries on in spite of the hushed whispers behind her back. With only her sewing to sustain her sanity, she creates a remarkable quilt, a "patchwork of life" made of the finest fabrics and lovingly stitched with nimble fingers that tell a tale of love and hope rather than bitterness and regret. Eventually, because of her unforgivable error in judgement, she is sent away to live in a dark, depressing mental asylum, where she endures cruel and brutal treatment. Robbed of her future and dreams, this fortress of oppression cannot take away Maria's strength and determination. Friends never abandon her. Maria survives.

Generations later, in 2008, Caroline Meadows finds the quilt in her mother's attic, an inheritance from her Granny Jean. Hidden in the intricate pattern is a mysterious message. When her friend reveals that the silks used in the quilt are rare and date back to the royal family, Caroline has an overpowering urge to begin a relentless search to uncover the truth behind this piece of  faded cloth. What she discovers about her grandmother's life is amazing. And somehow the circle always comes back to Maria Romano.

This is a beautifully written novel that will fill the reader with emotion. The past and the present are artfully combined, and each chapter reveals another piece of an astounding puzzle. Written by British author Liz Trenow and set in London, this work of historical fiction reveals disturbing facts about mental hospitals during the World War I era. This gifted author writes a compelling tale combining fact with fiction based on many of her own experiences.

Like a haunting melody, it just might play over and over again in your heart and mind long after you finish the last page.