My Shelfari Page

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Best Books of 2014

This was the slowest reading year I have ever had due to my separation and divorce but here are the only books I read in 2014, thank goodness all 6 of them were great!

       1.  The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

       book description from Amazon.com 
A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.
"This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do." The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs with the devastating violence of prison life.
Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honesty and corruption—ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.
Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.


2.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

from Booklist:

In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books. A. J. Fikry, the cantankerous owner of Island Books, is despondent after losing his beloved wife and witnessing the ever-declining number of sales at his small, quirky bookstore. In short order, he loses all patience with the new Knightly Press sales rep, his prized rare edition of Tamerlane is stolen, and someone leaves a baby at his store. That baby immediately steals A. J.’s heart and unleashes a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, the picture-book section is overflowing with new titles, and the bookstore becomes home to a burgeoning number of book clubs. With business on the uptick and love in his heart, A. J. finds himself becoming an essential new part of his longtime community, going so far as to woo the aforementioned sales rep (who loves drinking Queequeg cocktails at the Pequod Restaurant). Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere. --Joanne Wilkinson

3.  The Bees by Laline Paull

book description from Amazon.com:

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.
Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.
But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.
Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window.

4. Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings by Michelle Knight

book description from Amazon.com:

Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world. 
 
Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.
 
In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.


5. Above by Isla Morley
book description from Amazon.com:

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

Above is a riveting tale of resilience in which “stunning” (Daily Beast) new literary voice Isla Morley compels us to imagine what we would do if everything we had ever known was taken away. Like the bestselling authors of Room and The Lovely Bones before her, Morley explores the unthinkable with haunting detail and tenderly depicts our boundless capacity for hope.

6.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese 

Fbook description from Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. Lauded for his sensitive memoir (My Own Country) about his time as a doctor in eastern Tennessee at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, Verghese turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brothers long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing. The boys become doctors as well and Vergheses weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power and coincidences of the best 19th-century novel. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review - "The Fault in Our Stars" - October 2013

TITLE:  The Fault In Our Stars
AUTHOR:  John Green

PUBLICATION DATE:  January 2012
GENRE:  Young Adult Fiction
PAGES:  336
PUBLISHER:  Dutton



BOOK DESCRIPTION (from Booklist)
 At 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a three-year stage IV–cancer survivor, is clinically depressed. To help her deal with this, her doctor sends her to a weekly support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor, and the two fall in love. Both kids are preternaturally intelligent, and Hazel is fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Most particularly, she longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, the enterprising Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. What happens when they meet him must be left to readers to discover. Suffice it to say, it is significant. Writing about kids with cancer is an invitation to sentimentality and pathos—or worse, in unskilled hands, bathos. Happily, Green is able to transcend such pitfalls in his best and most ambitious novel to date. Beautifully conceived and executed, this story artfully examines the largest possible considerations—life, love, and death—with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity. In the process, Green shows his readers what it is like to live with cancer, sometimes no more than a breath or a heartbeat away from death. But it is life that Green spiritedly celebrates here, even while acknowledging its pain. In its every aspect, this novel is a triumph. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Green’s promotional genius is a force of nature. After announcing he would sign all 150,000 copies of this title’s first print run, it shot to the top of Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s best-seller lists six months before publication. Grades 9-12. 

BOOK REVIEW
Back in February of this year, I was invited to join a book club by a group of ladies I was getting to know while working out at my new boot camp class.  Two months later I offered to host and was given the responsibility of picking out the next book that we would all read.  I wanted to be different and I wanted to pick something I had not read yet myself.  My 16 year old daughter had been begging me for years to read one of the books written by her favorite author John Green.  I knew that this particular book, his latest, had been chosen as one of the best books of 2012 and was being made into a movie.  Although it was a young adult book, I decided to go for it.  The ladies all responded favorably and I asked if my daughter could join us for the book club meeting so that we could get a teenage perspective.  
The book was wonderful.  The characters are ones that will haunt me for many years to come.  It was of no surprise to me that someone was turning this amazing story into a movie too.  I can only hope that they do it justice.  John Green is so talented and insightful when writing from the perspective of a teenage girl.  I was riveted from the first page to the last!  No spoilers, but I will tell you to have plenty of tissues around while reading this one.  (If you don't cry at least once, then you don't have a heart!)  The other ladies in my book club loved the book as well and it made for the most lively discussion.  I was so proud to have my daughter there to give us her amazing perspective.  Do not judge books just because they are "Young Adult" books.  There are so many brilliant books and masterful authors in this genre and they are being over looked because of a category name.  So do yourself a favor and pick this one up!  I will be reading many more John Green books and many more young adult books in my future.

Book Review - "Until I Say Goodbye" - October 2013


Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review "Beyond Belief" March 2013


Title:  Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
Author:  Jenna Miscavige Hill
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication Date:  February 5, 2013
Non Fiction - 416 pages


Book Description (from Amazon):
Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member Sea Org—the church's highest ministry, speaks of her "disconnection" from family outside of the organization, and tells the story of her ultimate escape.

In this tell-all memoir, complete with family photographs from her time in the Church, Jenna Miscavige Hill, a prominent critic of Scientology who now helps others leave the organization, offers an insider's profile of the beliefs, rituals, and secrets of the religion that has captured the fascination of millions, including some of Hollywood's brightest stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.


MY REVIEW:
I have always been someone who is interested in learning about the world's religions so I was looking forward to the opportunity to getting an insiders perspective of Scientology.  The authors writting style was very dry to me and I kept hoping that it would pick up at some point.  But it did not.  Although it was interesting and somewhat informative, I was left feeling that there was so much more that I wanted to know.  Maybe because the author grew up in the this religion and she and her family were so entrenched in it, she had a difficult time telling us, the outsiders, what it is really like and why.  I kept waiting to be told some of the teachings and beliefs of the founder L. Ron Hubbard but instead I just kept reading about these weird sessions.  This story was incredibly frustrating to me.  

BOOK REVIEW "JUST A DOG" MARCH 2013

TITLE:  JUST A DOG
AUTHOR:  MICHAEL GERARD BAUER
PUBLISHER:  SCOLASTIC PRESS
PUBLICATION DATE:  DECEMBER 2012
Childrens Fiction -  age range 8 and up  - 144 pages

BOOK DESCRIPTION: (from Amazon)
Sometimes a dog isn't just a dog--sometimes he's the glue the holds a whole family together.

Mr. Mosely is a special dog. Not just because he's so big (he's part Great Dane.) Not just because he's all white (with one black spot under his eye and a heart shaped splotch on his chest.) Not just because he's clumsy, or because of tricks (he only knows one, and it's not very good.) He's special because he seems to know exactly what everyone in Corey's family needs, even when they don't know themselves. This is the story of Mr. Mosely, from his puppyhood to the last time he curls up on the back porch. It's the story of how sometimes a dog isn't "just a dog". Sometimes he's the glue the holds a whole family together.


MY REVIEW:

My 9 year old son is all about dog stories right now so "Just A Dog" was the latest book I to read to him.  As we began to read the book, it was clear that the author was a child.  The writting style consisted of short sentences without a lot of detail.  But, kids are also known for being very honest and not having the filters that so many of us adults do, and this was true here.  The stories about this boy and his dog ranged from funny to sad.  What surprised me was the underlying story of the authors mother and father and their financial and marital issues.  As an adult, I found this uncomfortable but it didnt seem to phase my son.  The one thing I must warn about it that this book does not have a happy ending.  If the death of a pet is something that could upset your child then avoid this book.  I wish I had known this before I began reading.  By the time I came to that part of the story though, my son insisted that I continue so I did.  The loss of the dog was upsetting to my son but the thing that really bothered him was the discourse in the marriage.  My son has talked to me a few times about how the mom and dad fought nod how sad this made the author.  Overall I enjoyed the book and so did my son, but I would not recommend it to a sensitive child or a child under the age of 12.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


CHRISTIE’S LIST OF  The BEST BOOKS I Read in 2012

 

 

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

by Jan-Philipp Sendker

(fiction)

**Reviewed **

Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: January 31, 2012
A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

Shine Shine Shine
by Lydia Netzer
(fiction)
**Reviewed**
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: July 17, 2012
When Maxon met Sunny, he was seven years, four months, and eighteen-days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together.  Now, twenty years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal.” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon, programming robots for a new colony. Once they were two outcasts who found unlikely love in each other: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital. Their marriage is on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong?  Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come straight-the-hell home.  When an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same.…
A debut of singular power and intelligence, Shine Shine Shine is a unique love story, an adventure between worlds, and a stunning novel of love, death, and what it means to be human.
 Shine Shine Shine is a New York Times Notable Book of 2012.

The Snow Child

by Eowyn Ivey

(fiction)

Book Description (from Amazon.com)

Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

In The Shadow of the Banyan
by Vaddey Ratner
(fiction)
**Reviewed**
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: August 7, 2012
You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.
For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood— the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

The Dog Stars
by Peter Heller
(fiction)
**Reviewed**
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: August 7, 2012
A riveting, powerful novel about a pilot living in a world filled with loss—and what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life—something like his old life—exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return—not enough fuel to get him home—following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face—in the people he meets, and in himself—is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

Narrated by a man who is part warrior and part dreamer, a hunter with a great shot and a heart that refuses to harden, The Dog Stars is both savagely funny and achingly sad, a breathtaking story about what it means to be human.

Albert of Adelaide
by Howard Anderson
(fiction)
**Reviewed**
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
At once an old-fashioned-buddy-novel-shoot-'em-up and a work of deliciously imagined fantasy, Howard L. Anderson's dazzling debut presents the haunting story of a world where something has gone horribly awry . . .  Having escaped from Australia's Adelaide Zoo, an orphaned platypus named Albert embarks on a journey through the outback in search of "Old Australia," a rumored land of liberty, promise, and peace. What he will find there, however, away from the safe confinement of his enclosure for the first time since his earliest memories, proves to be a good deal more than he anticipated.  Alone in the outback, with an empty soft drink bottle as his sole possession, Albert stumbles upon pyromaniacal wombat Jack, and together they spend a night drinking and gambling in Ponsby Station, a rough-and-tumble mining town. Accused of burning down the local mercantile, the duo flees into menacing dingo territory and quickly go their separate ways-Albert to pursue his destiny in the wastelands, Jack to reconcile his past.  Encountering a motley assortment of characters along the way-a pair of invariably drunk bandicoots, a militia of kangaroos, hordes of the mercurial dingoes, and a former prize-fighting Tasmanian devil-our unlikely hero will discover a strength and skill for survival he never suspected he possessed.  Told with equal parts wit and compassion, ALBERT OF ADELAIDE shows how it is often the unexpected route, and the most improbable companions, that lead us on the path to who we really are. Who you journey with, after all, is far more important than wherever it is you are going.


The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile
by C.W. Gortner 
(historical fiction)
**Reviewed**
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: June 12, 2012
No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.


 The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court
by Michelle Moran
(historical fiction)
**Reviewed**
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: August 14, 2012
National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir

   After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.
   Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Jos├ęphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.
   As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.
   Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies.

Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy

by Stephanie Nielson 

(non-fiction/autobiography)

Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Go on an unforgettable journey, with a woman who has unimaginable strength.
Stephanie Nielson began sharing her life in 2005 on nieniedialogues.com, drawing readers in with her warmth and candor. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.
However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.
In the aftermath of this harrowing tragedy, Stephanie maintained a stunning sense of humor, optimism, and resilience. She has since shared this strength of spirit with others through her blog, in magazine features, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, in this moving memoir, Stephanie tells the full, extraordinary story of her unlikely recovery and the incredible love behind it--from a riveting account of the crash to all that followed in its wake. With vivid detail, Stephanie recounts her emotional and physical journey, from her first painful days after awakening from the coma to the first time she saw her face in the mirror, the first kiss she shared with Christian after the accident, and the first time she talked to her children after their long separation. She also reflects back on life before the accident, to her happy childhood as one of nine siblings, her close-knit community and strong Mormon faith, and her fairy-tale love story, all of which became her foundation of strength as she rebuilt her life.
What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is a unique perspective on joy, beauty, and overcoming adversity that is as gripping as it is inspirational. Heaven Is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, and quite literally, in some cases, save us.

The One and Only Ivan
by Catherine Applegate
(children
s fiction)
Book Description
Release Date: January 17, 2012 | Age Level: 8 and up | Grade Level: 3 and up
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.  Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.  Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review - The Art of Hearing Heartbeats - Dec 2012

BOOK REVIEW - DECEMBER 2012
"THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS"
BY 
JAN-PHILIPP SENDKER

Book Description (from Amazon.com)

Fiction
336 pages
January 31, 2012
A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

MY REVIEW:
This book found it's way to me in a very special way.  One day as I was shopping at a local holiday boutique recently, I ran into someone I know.  We began chatting about things and she asked me about my blind 8 year old son Josh.  The cashier overheard us and said to me "Have you ever read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats? You HAVE to read it please!"  I didn't know this woman but there was something about her and something about her plea that made me drive immediately over to the library and check it out.  Due to the fact that I am a book reviewer and blogger, I am given Advanced copies of books from publishers, and other people recommend books to me all of the time, most of which I never read.  But this time I just felt compelled.  I read this entire book in only 3 days.  By the end of the 2nd chapter I knew that I was reading something really special.  As I turned the last page, with tears in my eyes, this book had made my top ten all time list!  This book is a sweeping epic with the most remarkable and unforgettable characters.  The story will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted, and in today's world I think that we could all use that!  Thank you to Renee Noy, my new friend, whose beautiful spirit touched mine and who has given me the gift of a book that I will never forget!