This was a sweet story with likeable characters and occasionally some very humorous dialogue. There are two alternating stories that don't converge unThis was a sweet story with likeable characters and occasionally some very humorous dialogue. There are two alternating stories that don't converge until near the end, with dramatic results. The various characters are touched by loss, evil, good fortune, and love, with a ghost woven into the mix for good measure.
What I most enjoyed was the richly layered setting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with enough detail about places, customs, and local traditions to endear it to those of us who know and love that wonderful town. ...more
I can't improve on the GoodReads book description as far as conveying the plot.
What makes me give this five stars is the gift given us by the author oI can't improve on the GoodReads book description as far as conveying the plot.
What makes me give this five stars is the gift given us by the author of exquisitely rendered characters and such a vivid portrayal of life in New York City in the late 1930s that I felt I had stepped back in a time capsule and actually experienced it. These characters pull you into their story and the reader is sympathetic with each of them, in spite of their unique flaws.
The oft-repeated comparisons to the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald are not overstated....more
I can't think when I've been as captivated and fascinated by a story as I was by The Night Circus - The Circus of Dreams. It was magic from start to fI can't think when I've been as captivated and fascinated by a story as I was by The Night Circus - The Circus of Dreams. It was magic from start to finish, literally and figuratively. Through the author's marvelous story-telling and her amazing and evocative descriptions, the reader is swept into the strange and exotic competition between two powerful illusionists whose destinies were set in motion when they were children and whose fates are wonderfully intertwined, along with the fate of everyone having to do with the circus.
I can't do this book justice by describing it. It's more than just a read...it's an experience. I was amazed to learn that this is the author's debut novel. I hope there is more to come....more
A British father gets a phone call that his 20-something daughter is incarcerated in a jail in Thailand for smuggling dope. With a drinking buddy andA British father gets a phone call that his 20-something daughter is incarcerated in a jail in Thailand for smuggling dope. With a drinking buddy and his son, he rushes to Thailand, only to find that the girl incarcerated is not his daughter, but has his daughter's passport. They embark on an arduous journey into the jungles near the border with Myanmar, where drug lords control villages in the cultivation of poppies and finding his daughter is only the beginning of their harrowing experience.
I was captivated by this story and its well-wrought characters, impressed by the vivid writing, and intrigued at the depth of insight and sensitivity the author displayed for the complex relationship between parents and their grown children, especially when, as in this book, they are very different from each other. He captured well the fierceness parents feel in wanting to protect their children, regardless of their age or circumstances. He also beautifully conveyed the lessons learned by the protagonist: that loving your children is not contingent on understanding them or molding them into your own image and that friendship and loyalty can come in strange packages. Powerful.
I'll definitely be reading more Graham Joyce....more
This book is about the author's 43-year search for her biological father, who disappeared shortly after her birth in war-torn Germany.Maria and her siThis book is about the author's 43-year search for her biological father, who disappeared shortly after her birth in war-torn Germany. Maria and her sister Krys were raised in the United States by her mother's husband, Paul, who was nothing but loving to them, but Maria always had a gnawing desire to find her father and her uncle Wasyl and unravel her family's mysterious past in the Ukraine.
Maria's journey reads like a novel, and she effectively moves back and forth in time without it being annoying. The reader uncovers her discoveries along with her. This adds to the drama and the pleasure of the read.
In the end, Maria uncovers many startling things, including the truth about her father whom she had thought must be a handsome war hero. She found her Uncle Wasyl and his family in the United States, and even helped her mother figure out who her own father was. Along the way, she--and the reader--learn a great deal about what happened to many Ukrainians during the war.
Part of the value of Maria's story is the reminder that we must make connections with history and learn its powerful lessons about political control and freedom. Nazi leader Herman Goering said during the Nuremburg trials, "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. That is easy. Alll you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacificists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." Maria reflects on Benjamin Franklin's 1755 address to the Pennsylvania Assembly when he said, "They who would give up an essential libertyfor temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."
This true story was also a stark reminder that it wasn't just Jews who were persecuted and sent to prison camps. Of the 43 million who died, six million were Jews. Seven million were Slavic. "WWII was a holocaust for mankind."
Most of all, this was a story about a mother's love. "It never occurred to me that my mother would become the hero of this story. In the end, Mom is the hero of this story because in spite of all she has lost, she is not bitter."
"I have found what was missing in my life and it has made me whole; although not in the way I thought it would, but it has made be stronger," the author concludes....more
I am in awe of anyone who can come out of the starting gate with such an enjoyable and entertaining read.
I was pulled in from the beginning by the viI am in awe of anyone who can come out of the starting gate with such an enjoyable and entertaining read.
I was pulled in from the beginning by the vivid opening scene: a desperate protagonist Stevie Burke is terrified and running away, into a dark, stormy night from unnamed dangers which seem to involve memories. The author's description of each building, light, and sign makes for a riveting escape that has you holding your breath.
The story unfolds as Stevie takes the reader back with her to the north Atlantic beach house where she spent idyllic childhood summers with her family. A tragedy shatters the tranquility as well as family harmony, Stevie is tormented for years to come. One man's love promises relief from the past, but will she throw it all away in her inability to feel worthy of love?
I admit to being annoyed with Stevie at her inability to trust Ash, but the story was well-paced and a great "escape book."...more
What a delightful and deliciously shivery set of stories!
Each is very different from the other, but each, in its own way, touches on the bizarre, macWhat a delightful and deliciously shivery set of stories!
Each is very different from the other, but each, in its own way, touches on the bizarre, macabre, or even gruesome. The characters are compelling and well-drawn. Perhaps the reason they fascinate is because they somehow represent the dark side in each of us. With these stories, we can snicker and sneer, enjoying vicariously the wicked things we'd never have the nerve to do on our own....more
Thought-provoking and an easy read. More than compelling me to pare my life down to the essentials, however, it mostly just made me feel guilty that IThought-provoking and an easy read. More than compelling me to pare my life down to the essentials, however, it mostly just made me feel guilty that I have such a hard time doing it....more
This was a sweet and entertaining story of Tess, a young maid in Cherbourg, France, with a head full of dreams and considerable, but unappreciated, naThis was a sweet and entertaining story of Tess, a young maid in Cherbourg, France, with a head full of dreams and considerable, but unappreciated, natural talent as a seamstress. Orphaned and alone, when she hears there are jobs on a huge ship sailing for New York, she plucks up her courage to leave the security of her job and pursue her dreams. When the rumors of a job appear to be groundless, she bluffs her way into the employ of a world reknowned dress designer for the rich and famous.
The ship is the Titanic, and she is thrown into a fascinating world of glamor and wealth juxtaposed with the poor and some shady characters. She must learn who to trust. When the dress designer and her effete, titled husband, push their way onto one of the few lifeboats, Tess learns even more about courage and heroism, fear and weakness.
The investigation and trial that take place in America after the survivors arrive is a fascinating and well-researched glimpse into the outrage over the means used by some to secure a place on a lifeboat and the guilt that many survivors felt when they realized the enormity of the tragedy.
The morbid fascination we still feel with the sinking of the Titanic is skillfully woven into the ever-popular theme of someone with talent and determination making their way to happiness and success as Tess seems to do by being true to herself and her values. Of course there is a love story woven in too.
The moral of the book is best summed up with the author's final reflections on her protagonist: "And it was all right. She could be right or wrong, but her vow to herself was clear now. She would be strong and not always too careful, not settle for a smaller life, and face what was true." ...more
What would you do if you were from a prominent white Mississippi family and found out in 2006 that your father had been accused of murdering two blackWhat would you do if you were from a prominent white Mississippi family and found out in 2006 that your father had been accused of murdering two black men in 1946 in the delta region of Mississippi, with charges quickly dropped?
And what if no one in your family, including your elderly mother, would help you learn the truth? What if, in fact, most of them stonewalled you at every turn and tried to shame you into stopping your research?
And what if the evidence you turned up cast a shadow over someone you loved more than life itself...someone who had made your painful childhood bearable...who seemed to be the only person who loved you unconditionally?
This is what Molly Walling faced as she set out to find the truth of a shocking family secret, a secret that had been kept from her all her life. This is a remarkable story and one with themes that probably echo through many a family in the deep South. It digs deep into the injustices and inequalities of the post WWII era, a time when things were changing...too fast for some...not fast enough for others. The author courageously makes repeated trips to the Delta, digging through musty courthouse records, talking to residents who might have known her family, visiting relatives, and even family members of the slain black men. There, in fact, she found the warmest welcome and created bonds that will last the rest of her life.
I hope this is made into a movie. It deserves a wide audience. ...more
This book was a fascinating glimpse into the sometimes bizarre relationship between psychotherapist and patient. While I appreciated Yalom's candor abThis book was a fascinating glimpse into the sometimes bizarre relationship between psychotherapist and patient. While I appreciated Yalom's candor about his own feelings and reactions to his patients and what they divulged, I was frankly taken aback at the transferrance he described as sometimes flowing both ways. It seemed at first highly unprofessional, yet after reflection, it would be unrealistic to think even the most dedicated professional could empathetically listen to his patients' complex web of emotion and pathology without becoming involved in more than a superficial way. As Yalom describes it, his willingness to dig deep with his patients and immerse himself in their relationship was critical to their trust and cooperation.
In the introduction, the author offered a mind-expanding discussion about psychotherapy, its essence, and its goals. I felt greatly edified from having read it. A few of the highlights:
"So much wanting. So much longing. And so much pain, so close to the surface, only minutes deep."
"My primary clinical assumption -- an assumption on which I based my technique -- is that basic anxiety emerges from a person's endeavors, conscious and unconscious -- to cope with the harsh facts of life, the 'givens' of existence...I hope to demonstrate, in these ten tales of psychoterapy, that it is possible to confront the truths of existence and harness their power in the service of personal change and growth."
"In my many years of work with cancer patients facing imminent death, I have noted two particularly powerful and common methods of allaying fears about death, two beliefs, or delusions, that afford a sense of safety. One is the belief in personal specialness; the other, the belief in an ultimate rescuer."
"Since patients tend to resist assuming responsibility, therapists must develop techniques to make patients aware of how they themselves create their own problems."
"While the assumption of responsibility brings the patient into the vestibule of change, it is not synonymous with change. And it is change that is always the true quarry, however much a therapist may court insight, responsibility assumption, and self-actualization."
I highlighted some other tidbits in the book I found interesting, but they mean much less out of context.
"As a general rule, the less one's sense of life fulfillment, the greater one's death anxiety."
[It was] "Nietzsche who said somewhere that when you first meet someone, you know all about him; on subsequent meetings, you blind yourself to your own wisdom."
"People who feel empty never heal by merging with another incomplete person. On the contrary, two broken-winged birds coupled into make for clumsy flight. No amount of patience will help it fly; and, ultimately, each must be pried from the other, and wounds separately splinted."
Of a patient who could not get past the death of a child to cancer, he said, "She had that very hour give me a concept that would serve me in good stead in all my future work with the bereaved: if one is to learn to live with the dead, one must first learn to live with the living."
In this book, Yalom is highly successful in his goal of providing for the layperson a glimpse into the methods and efficacy of psychotherapy. As Austin said in his review, I suspect many readers will feel they might benefit from some time with a good therapist too.
My sister-in-law gave me this book after her book club rated it 3++ out of 5. I gave it a solid 4, because it offered a glimpse into a slice of postwaMy sister-in-law gave me this book after her book club rated it 3++ out of 5. I gave it a solid 4, because it offered a glimpse into a slice of postwar (WWII) history from a unique perspective - that of Jamaican immigrants in Britain. The voice changes between the four main characters: Hortense and her husband Gilbert from Jamaica and their white landlord Queenie and her husband, Bernard.
The Jamaican patois lent an authentic touch, and since the author was born in England to Jamaican parents, I wondered if there wasn't a good bit of family biography disguised as fiction.
The theme of third world citizens dreaming of escaping to what they believe will be a grander, happier life is not new, and Hortense, well educated for her Jamaican community and with high aspirations of teaching in England, certainly had dreams that were shattered again and again. Gilbert, who had fought valiantly in the RAF during the war, expects to be hailed as a war hero. Both encounter unexpected racism and snobbery in 1948 London as they compete unsuccessfully with thousands of returning soldiers who are also looking for jobs.
Queenie deals with loneliness and lust as her dull banker husband goes to war and doesn't return when it's over. When he finally does show up, he has faced demons of his own in the awful things he witnessed, and now he must deal with a wife who not only thought he was dead but who is also pregnant.
The threads of racism, sexual and cultural tension, colonialism, and the deprivations and hardships of war are all drawn well. Each of the characters is flawed in his or her own way, but as products of their own pasts and circumstances, they were portrayed movingly, realistically, and compassionately. One of the most poignant aspects of the book -- RAF veteran Gilbert's rejection by Londoners after fighting with great devotion for his mother country, England -- was described in a review from Publishers Weekly: "When Gilbert realizes that his pride in the British Empire is not reciprocated, he wonders, 'How come England did not know me?' His question haunts the story as it moves back and forth in time and space to show how the people of two small islands become inextricably bound together."...more
I bought this book to support the author, a high school classmate of my daughter's. Little did I know how much I would enjoy it, and I look forward toI bought this book to support the author, a high school classmate of my daughter's. Little did I know how much I would enjoy it, and I look forward to the next volume of this trilogy and to others she has in progress.
Emily Hilbright's life is a mess. The teenaged protagonist has had more than her share of dysfunctional family issues, and her nightmares are ensuring that sleep brings no respite from her soul-sucking existence. If it weren't for her loyal best friend Sasha, life wouldn't be worth living. But the boy in her dreams is intoxicating, even when she's not sure about his intentions...especially when the lines are blurred between dreams and reality and Sasha suspects Emily is losing her grip with sanity.
The premise that a creature born to wreak evil and havoc might have a change of heart -- and the impact this might have on other forces of good and evil -- is a fascinating and thought-provoking one.
I thoroughly enjoyed this "behind-the-curtains" glimpse at the fascinating world inside President Bill Clinton's White House. The author's perspectiveI thoroughly enjoyed this "behind-the-curtains" glimpse at the fascinating world inside President Bill Clinton's White House. The author's perspective as President Clinton's college classmate and friend, then his Special Assistant and Director of the White House Visitors Office, was candid and highly entertaining. She is the only person to have held that Visitors Office position for all eight years of an administration, and what a time it was!
Melinda Bates experienced a heady world populated with high profile guests, powerful officials, power brokers, and world leaders, and she seemingly held back little in this book in terms of personal opinion: high praise or scathing criticism. Her days could be gloriously exciting, emotionally and physically exhausting, or charmingly moving, but she obviously relished every moment of it. She organized Easter Egg Rolls, Fourth of July fireworks, and ceremonies for visiting heads of state. She controlled visitor passes for everyone, including senators and congressmen, and she took seriously the Clintons' desire to have the most accessible White House in history.
She movingly conveyed the hurt and betrayal she and other staff members felt when rumors of Clinton's philandering were proven true, but she fiercely defends his intelligence, his and Hillary's high goals for America and the world, and their passionate commitment to leaving the world a better place for his having been President. She pulls no punches about her disdain and hatred for the dirty partisan politics, including the antics of special prosecutor Ken Starr, that were so disruptive as to hinder the government from doing its job effectively.
Personal pictures throughout added to the stories. President Clinton endorsed the book himself in a cover testimonial, "Bates reveals the behind-the-scenes reality of a beloved symbol of our nation."...more
This highly readable book offers a fascinating and thought-provoking twist to the typical "coming of age" memoir. The author's gift for story-tellingThis highly readable book offers a fascinating and thought-provoking twist to the typical "coming of age" memoir. The author's gift for story-telling lends depth and emotion to the unusual story he has to tell of being a white boy raised on a Navajo reservation ("The Rez") during his elementary and high school years while his mother took a job at a hospital there.
The unfortunate cruelty children can inflict on each other when faced with their fears and insecurities is exacerbated when they are separated by cultural and racial barriers that go back centuries. The physical and emotional cauldron in which author Jim Kristofic found himself could have damaged him for life. Instead, he became a "Tough Noodle" and learned to embrace the world of his Navajo friends, their beliefs, their legends, and their close connection to the natural world.
This is no rose-colored view of a tough childhood. Kristofic brings us along through his pain, fear, and hardship. His identity is challenged yet again when he moves back to the east coast for college and is immersed in a WASP culture that butts up painfully against things he had come to value in his years in Arizona.
The result is a clear-eyed perspective on life and its vagaries, reminding us to take the best out of all our experiences and reject what does not serve us in our journey. The book combines all the things I require to give it a five-star rating. It offered me a glimpse into a world and culture I could not get otherwise (in this case the world of the Navajo Indians). It entertained me in its highly readable, story-telling narrative. It was thought-provoking in its reminder of the hardship of going through school in any setting and in making the reader answer for himself or herself the question of who we are and what formed us.
Reading this book while visiting in Santa Fe for Indian Market certainly added to its relevance and fascination for me. When you get to the end of a book and feel that every second was worthwhile, you know you've found one you can highly recommend. Jim Kristofic's NAVAJOS WEAR NIKES is such a book....more
I'm so happy when a work of fiction comes along that combines a good story and well-drawn characters with true history about a part of the world aboutI'm so happy when a work of fiction comes along that combines a good story and well-drawn characters with true history about a part of the world about which I know little. TRANSFER DAY was such a read.
Abigail Maduro has been sent to live with her eccentric and unfriendly aunt in the Dutch West Indies during WWI (The Great War) and its waning economic health as a sugar colony. The war seems rather remote, but their island paradise has been identified as a strategic location by both Germany and the United States, primarily because of its deep harbor and its proximity to the U.S..
Abigail befriends a handsome German U-boat deserter, Erich Seibold and decides to hide him in her aunt's basement. She becomes embroiled in the conflict when his presence is discovered by the island's German Consul Lothar Langsdorff. Langsdorff is an undercover German spy who blackmails Erich into joining his spy ring. Abigail's affections and loyalties are sorely tested.
Struggling financially and unable to support the colonial structure on the island, Denmark sells it to the United States. The story becomes increasingly dramatic and poignant as Transfer Day (March 31, 1917) approaches...the day when ownership changes from Denmark to the U.S.
In writing this book, I believe the author honored a great many people of Dutch heritage on St. Thomas (Virgin Islands), because she turned a spotlight on a slice of U.S. history that most of us either never knew or forgot. I thought it beautifully conveyed the emotional impact of that historic change from Denmark to the U.S....more