I LOVED THIS BOOK! I'm not typically interested in stories about the beginning of time or our our existence in the universe. However, this was such aI LOVED THIS BOOK! I'm not typically interested in stories about the beginning of time or our our existence in the universe. However, this was such a refreshing approach with imperfect characters that I just wanted to keep reading it. Humorous and unique! Last year, I had the opportunity to meet the author, Alan Lightman, and listen to him read excerpts from the book. He is a highly intelligent and genuine person with a dry wit and so much to offer as an author. Look forward to reading his books in the future....more
“A deeply moving and enlightening novel on the co-existence of religions.” ─Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“…Cressler has woven an imaginativ“A deeply moving and enlightening novel on the co-existence of religions.” ─Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“…Cressler has woven an imaginative and intricately persuasive story…[a] vivid and gorgeous world of romance, intrigue, murder and negotiations between multiple religions in medieval Spain…[a] story of love between human beings, for God, and for the creation so graciously bestowed on us. A thoroughly gripping and engaging first novel.” ─Professor Susan Abraham, Harvard Divinity School
“…Seamlessly weaves history, religion, passion, loyalty and romance into a compelling, beautifully-written narrative which brings [the reader] into the richness, majesty and complexities of this different, yet alluring world…” ─Rabbi Rachael M. Bregman, Temple Beth Tefiloh and Rabbis Without Borders
“… More than ever, we need stories like Cressler tells, confirming the transformative power of relationships. Cressler illuminates the beauty and meaning found in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, reviving an important shared history…” ─Eboo Patel, Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core
“Emeralds of the Alhambra has it all – mystery, intrigue, duels and interfaith romance…Cressler artfully draws us into the fascinating lives of the novel’s main characters with vivid prose. We experience the blows and blood of the fierce battles between enemies, as well as the luminosity and laughter of spell-bound lovers…Transports readers back to medieval Spain and offers them a peek behind La Convivencia and all the rivalry, romance and complex relationships that existed between Jews, Christians and Muslims.” ─Tayyibah Taylor, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Azizah Magazine ...more
My Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this story. It begins just prior to the American Civil War and the author, Tom Marshall, strikes a fine balance between hiMy Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this story. It begins just prior to the American Civil War and the author, Tom Marshall, strikes a fine balance between historical events and cultural mores for that time in history with adventure and humor in the life of the bright and witty main character, Tyronius Coon. There is something engaging in the story's simplicity and the author's tongue-in-cheek references.
Some of my favorite quotes: "Mr. Vanderbilt was an extremely intelligent Southern gentleman and one of the kindest slave owners in the state of Georgia. He personally taught all of his house servants to read and write and he named us after his heroes from Greek and Roman literature. My name in particular, Tyronius, was some famous Roman senator who warned Caesar that something bad was about to happen."
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." ~ Thomas Edison
"The sign also warned that no habitual drunkards, brawlers, pick-pockets, sneaky drink thieves, moochers, or shit bums need enter."
"Among our people, she is not only a princess but a warrior and before you say anything to her that you think might be sassy or offensive, be aware she could easily kill you with skills her father taught her years ago as a young girl when he was still alive."...more
Cold Killing is definitely your choice if you love spine tingling, crime thriller stories. Although this is not a genre I typically read, Luke DelaneyCold Killing is definitely your choice if you love spine tingling, crime thriller stories. Although this is not a genre I typically read, Luke Delaney's writing held my interest. His eerie first-hand knowledge of how bad guys think reinforced the scariness of the story. (I kept thinking, Are there really such twisted human beings on this planet?...YIKES!). This was a book that made my palms sweat! There is definitely suspense and violence. As a reader, I felt the angst of the victims and just wanted to jump into the book and foil the psycho's cold-hearted plan. This is Delaney's first book in the new D. I. Sean Corrigan Series. Delaney promises more heart-stopping adventures to come!...more
Leave of Absence is thought-provoking, engaging, and very interesting from cover to cover. I greatly appreciate Tanya J. Peterson's talents for weavinLeave of Absence is thought-provoking, engaging, and very interesting from cover to cover. I greatly appreciate Tanya J. Peterson's talents for weaving great fictional writing with professional insights. She gracefully addresses mental health stereotypes and illustrates the time and energy involved for people such as Penelope and Oliver, both dealing with common emotional issues, to make genuine progress in real life.
Here are some examples of the many ingredients in Peterson's writing that combine to successfully engage the reader:
1. Intrigue, not in the crime-mystery sense, but wonderings about the future of the characters:
People often desperately needed someone to listen, to provide a human connection, and he could build on that connection to talk them down. Gregory felt confident that he could form enough of a connection to keep the man [Oliver] in place, if only he would make eye contact. The avoidance of eye contact, though, meant he had already checked out.
[Penelope speaking] “Her apartment is painted in reds and yellows, Oliver...Red and yellow. Fear and disgust. She said she had been looking forward to meeting me, but everything around her said the opposite. Walls are straight lines, remember, and straight lines mean the truth. The truth is that she’s afraid of me and disgusted by my mental illness. I tried to ignore the colors, but it’s hard to ignore colors. Then Mrs. Roosevelt started talking to me, telling me that I was an embarrassment to William. She sometimes brings other people with her to help her make her point. I don’t know who they are, just that there are a lot of them; Mrs. Roosevelt is a very popular person..."
2. Power of memories:
Giggles that seemed to originate from deep within the little belly erupted and mingled with the laughter that already danced in the air. Oliver couldn’t tell who was having more fun, the beautiful woman or the adorable toddler. Actually, he was pretty sure he was the one taking the most delight in the moment. Her happiness, her love of life, were so contagious.
“Oliver, how would you feel about us living here? I can picture us here, honey. I love this place already. And when we have kids, they’ll have as much fun as you did exploring the nooks and crannies and wreaking havoc by building forts all over the place." His heart soared. He had such fond memories of growing up here, and he wanted nothing more than to build a family here with Maggie.
3. Wonderful imagery (can't you just picture the room?):
Along a side wall was a large aquarium in which half a dozen fish swam back and forth, up and down. One darted through the open door of a castle and out the other side. The multicolored gravel in the tank looked out of place in the waiting room. Everything else in the room was muted beige or pink—even the abstract artwork on the walls boasted shades of pink in varying degrees of paleness—but the tiny rocks at the bottom of the tank were brightly dyed in every color of the rainbow.
4. "Feeling" the emotions, such as the angst between William and Oliver:
William gestured angrily toward Oliver. "You don’t have to deal with anything like this. My fiancée is very much alive, but in a lot of ways, it’s like she’s gone. Your wife and son are dead. They’re just plain gone. You’re lucky; you got to bury them, and they can live on perfectly in your memory. So don’t pretend to know what this is like."
...Oliver interrupted him. “How am I lucky? ... Maggie and Henry are dead, and they’re never coming back.” The tears flowed freely now, and he didn’t try to wipe them away. "You can talk to Penelope, hold her, cherish her. I am never, ever, going to see Maggie and Henry again. I’ll never be able to hold them and tell them how much I love them. Their lives were cut short; they are gone forever and…” His voice cracked. He tried again. “And it’s all my fault! They died a horrible death because of me."
Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing....more
It is 1930's in Pennsylvania, United States. An era of financial depression for most people. Also an era of "old-fashioned" cultural mores and expect It is 1930's in Pennsylvania, United States. An era of financial depression for most people. Also an era of "old-fashioned" cultural mores and expectations being challenged on a regular basis. Speakeasies. The Mob. Cadillacs. Liquor. Dance cards. Racial and religious tensions. In the wealthy upper echelon of society (a.k.a. the country club set), socializing was practically a full time job and keeping up appearances was integral to one's success. Men were men, and women, who were supposed to "know their role," kept chipping away at their rights for equal opportunity.
"The smoking room of the Lantenengo Country Club was so crowded it did not seem as though another person could get in, but people moved in and out somehow. The smoking room had become co-educational; originally, when the club was built in 1920, it had been for men only, but during many wedding receptions women had broken the rule against their entertaining; wedding receptions were private parties, and club rules could be broken when the whole club was taken over by one party. So the feminine members had muscled in on the smoking room..."
Julian and Caroline English, Luther and Irma Fliegler, Al Grecco (you'll love the back story on how he got his name), Harry Reilly, Helene Holman, and Ed Charney are the integral characters in Appointment in Samarra; each one wrestling with his or her human traits and flaws within the scope of society living. Author John O'Hara takes the time to develop his characters, often going into great detail so the reader feels as though he/she is right there observing in person:
"Reilly [the witty Irishman] told stories in paragraphs. While he was speaking he would lean forward with an arm on his knee, like a picture you have seen of a cowboy. When he came to the end of the paragraph he would look quickly over his shoulder, as though he expected to be arrested before finishing the story; he would finger his tie and close his mouth tight, and then he would turn back to his audience and go into the next paragraph:'...So Pat said...' "
"She [Constance Walker] was known on the stag line as a girl who would give you a dance; she was at Smith, and was a good student. She had a lovely figure, especially her breasts, and she was a passionate little thing who wasn't homely but was plain and, if she only knew it, didn't look well without her glasses. She was so eager to please that when a young man would cut in on her, he got the full benefit of her breasts and the rest of her body. The young men were fond of saying, before leaving to cut in on Constance: 'Guess I'll go get a work-out.' "
Reminders of simpler times was another facet I loved about this story:
"Such a pretty day. Bright; and there were icicles, actually icicles, hanging in the middle of the windows. With the holly wreath and the curtains they make you think of a Christmas card. It was quiet outside. Gibbsville, the whole world, was resting after the snow. He heard a sound that could mean only one thing; one of the Harley kids next door had a new Flexible Flyer for Christmas, and was trying it out belly-bumpers down the Harley driveway..."
This is one of my favorite paragraphs. I felt like O'Hara tapped in to and articulated something we all do but never stop to think about:
"Your home is the center of many zones. The first zone is your home, the second can be the homes around you, which you know only less well than you do your home. In the second zone you know where the rain-pipes have stained the shingles on the houses, you know where the doorbell button is, how much of a bedpost can be seen in an upstairs window; the length of slack taken up in the porch-swing chains; the crack in the sidewalk; the oil spots from the drip-pans in the driveway; the lump of coal, which you remember from the time it was not swept away, and its metamorphosis from day to day as it is crushed and crushed into smaller lumps and into dust and then all that is left of it is a black blot, and you are glad one day that it has been crushed and it no longer is there to accuse you of worry about your neighbor's slovenliness. And so on."
There are many literary elements that truly feed me and irony is one of my favorites. This little tale, at the beginning of the book, introduces the reader to the mood of the story of Julian English and friends:
"Death Speaks" There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra. ~ by W. Somerset Maugham
Appointment in Samarra will appeal to readers who love The Great Gatsby, depression-era fiction, and classic literary fiction....more
I thought Black Venus was a truly great read...you can't go wrong when the story contains the famous Charles Baudelaire, the pampered-mama's-boy-over-I thought Black Venus was a truly great read...you can't go wrong when the story contains the famous Charles Baudelaire, the pampered-mama's-boy-over-indulged-poet, Jeanne Duval, the classic femme-fatale-exotic-cabaret-mistress, Auguste Poulet-Malassis, friend and publisher, and mother's-favorite Apollonie Sabatier, all interacting within the intriguing culture of Paris in the 1800's. I had many wonderings throughout the story...What would Jeanne do next to help or hurt Charles? How could Charles be addicted to someone so unpredictable? Would Mom be able to convince Charles of Apollonie as a better choice? Who else should Charles be wary of in his arrogant existence? I loved the imagery of the clothing and customs during this historical period in France.
Charles' connection to his mother: "They hardly left each other's company in those years after his father died. At night he refused to go to sleep without the good-night kiss and the longed-for embrace. She [mother] would tell him stories about two swallows flying to Africa when winter came to Europe. The stories were always about the same two swallows, although the adventures were different. The swallows were lucky, she told him. They could fly so far on their tiny wings that they never knew winter but lived in summer all year long."
"There were goldfish in the garden pond at Neuilly, big lazy creatures that hung motionless just below the surface, their mouths opening in little O's. He [Baudelaire] would spend hours staring at them, rippling the water with his fingers to make them move. On one occasion he had fallen in, trying to catch them. After that, his mother had turned the pond into a rockery."
Signs of the times: "The young man gripped his cane more tightly and walked into the dark underbelly of the city. Huddled between the great public buildings and large private houses were the dwellings of the poor: wattle-and-daub wooden houses separated by narrow lanes running with filth."
"Baudelaire signed the document. The old man took a stick of sealing wax and held one end into the flame of the candle on the table. He waited a second, then held the dripping wax over the paper until a large blob had formed below the signature. Baudelaire took off his ring, pushed it into the wax, held it for a second, then put the ring back in his waistcoat pocket..."
Jeanne Duval's passion for Paris: "Even in a dark alleyway reeking of sewage and slippery with horse dung, Paris was the center of her universe. She loved the city. It had given her freedom, the right to make her own life, to live on her wits and her charm. This was the city that had inspired her own people in Haiti to rise up against the French plantation owners. The slave revolt had followed the heroic example of the mob that had stormed the Bastille."
Baudelaire's arrogance: "Baudelaire and his friends gathered...for a meeting of the Lost and Doomed Souls Club. They had chosen the name to signal to the literary establishment and society in general their disillusionment with the politics of avarice and poverty...Several literary magazines in Paris responded with the unkind observation that the Pompous and Pretentious Club would be a more suitable name..."
"Baudelaire sat at the desk in his apartment writing with one of the thick nibbed pens that had only recently replaced quills. Every few minutes he would pause, chew the wooden end of the pen, and then resume writing. As he finished each page, he pushed it onto the floor and drew a fresh sheet from the top drawer...Poulet-Malassis [Baudelaire's publisher] sat on a chair in the corner of the room reading through a pile of papers...'You have insulted the Church, made a mockery of the authorities, and portrayed women as sexual mannequins.' Baudelaire laughed and turned in his chair. 'So you like my little poems?' " ...more
This story will appeal to those who enjoy legal dramas, the beautiful Montana setting, and the energy of plucky young adults, also known as "The Zoo This story will appeal to those who enjoy legal dramas, the beautiful Montana setting, and the energy of plucky young adults, also known as "The Zoo Crew, an idea galvanized half from necessity, half from boredom, seven years before...three outliers on the University of Montana campus..."
Dustin Stevens' second book in The Zoo Crew series is an admirable contribution to the genre. It was evident that he put comprehensive thought into creating an intricate plot and well developed characters. News on the street is that he is currently writing the third Zoo Crew adventure...stay tuned!...more