With Love from the Inside is a heartbreaking story

27833799With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel is a story about a mother, Grace, accused of killing her infant son, William, and what the accusation did to her husband and daughter.  Grace insisted she is innocent but is convicted of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.  After serving 17 years, she is now awaiting execution.  She hasn’t seen her daughter Sophie for 11 years and wants to see her one last time before she is executed.

While Grace has been sitting on death row, her husband always believed she was innocent and worked hard trying to get her conviction overturned.  After her father died, Sophie started to doubt her mom and thinks she really is guilty.  Sophie decides she needs to move on and doesn’t want anything to do with Grace so she stops visiting.  She wants to just live a normal life.  But she can’t quite do that knowing Grace is about to be executed.

The story is told from two perspectives – Grace and Sophie.  Grace is a very strong woman who has accepted her fate and has made her life behind bars the best that it can be.  This book is sad in so many different ways.  I was really surprised the emotion the story brought out of me.

When I was first married, there was a woman in my apartment complex who was charged with Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome so this story really interested me.  I’m so glad I had the chance to read this story.  It was well worth my time.  I want to thank Penguin Random House for the advanced copy I received through their First to Read program.

Book Description:

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die.  On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m.  Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom.  Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account.  Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down.  No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood.  When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.

Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Take me to the South of France

25546135I’ve always had a fascination with Europe.  Living in an ancient house in a small village in the south of France sounds like heaven.  I don’t speak the language but I don’t care, I would live there anyway.  In The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands, I get to live in the south of France through Katherine, a 55-year-old woman who need to escape after finding a note from her husband asking for a divorce instead of an anniversary card.

Katherine decides to get away so she takes part in a house swap that takes her from Toronto to south of France.  For two weeks she enjoys mixing with the locals and immersing herself in the French culture where she makes friends with the neighbors.  France is such a pull, that Katherine goes back for a longer stay.

This book took me away to a beautiful part of the world and made me want to immediately participate in a home swap so I can live for a little while in Provence.   The thought of living in a chateau, riding a bicycle down to the town square to purchase local wares, sounds like heaven.  Sands does such a great job with descriptions I was right there next to Katherine living in the south of France.  This was so worth my time and I can’t wait to read the other two books in the trilogy so I can spend more time in the south of France.

Book Description:

On the evening of her twenty-second wedding anniversary, Katherine Price can’t wait to celebrate. But instead of receiving an anniversary card from her husband, she finds a note asking for a divorce.

Fifty-five and suddenly alone, Katherine begins the daunting task of starting over. She has her friends, her aging mother, and her career to occupy her, but the future seems to hold little promise—until, after a winter of heartbreak, Katherine is persuaded to try a home exchange holiday in the South of France.

In Provence, bright fields of flowers bloom below medieval hilltop villages with winding cobblestone streets. Charmed by the picturesque countryside, the breathtaking Côte d’Azur, and the enchantment-filled boulevards of Paris, Katherine feels life opening up once again. Lavender perfumes the air, and chance encounters hint at romance and passion. But memories of heartbreak and betrayal linger—and her former life waits for her back home. Can she find the courage to begin again?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Jodi Picoult takes on racism in Small Great Things


28765613I love Jodi Picoult and I have read everything she has written.  Like her other books, Small Great Things has really stayed with me.  Right now in the United States, there is a lot of negativity happening during this election year, so this book is very relevant and has opened my eyes even further.

I always try to see the good in people first, and I believe everyone has the right to be treated with respect and kindness.  Of course, we know that doesn’t happen.  There are too many people who are treated horribly wrong because of their religion, language they speak and the color of their skin.

In Small Great Things, Jodi explores areas of race discrimination, race prejudice, race snobbery, anti-Semitism and injustice.  Jodi talked about wanting to cover this topic twenty years ago but could never seem to get it right.  I think she has done a great job as a white female to show the different sides of racism and how it affects different people.

In this book, Jodie tells the story from three different points of view.  There is the main character Ruth, the only African-American nurse in the Labor and Delivery Department of a major Connecticut hospital.  There is Turk, a white supremacist whose wife just gave birth in that L & D Department and then there is Kennedy, the white female who is a public defender and Ruth’s lawyer.  We are exposed to these three people, their families, their upbringing and their beliefs.

Small Great Things reminds us that there is active racism like white supremacists and others who are hateful to people of color.  Then there is passive racism where you don’t say anything when someone makes a racist comment or tells a joke.  Or you stand by while someone is being treated wrong for the color of their skin or their religious beliefs.

Jodi makes me rethink how I live my life.  She makes me realize that I haven’t always spoken up when someone has done or said something racist.  Yes, that joke or comment made me uncomfortable and cringe, but I didn’t speak up.  No more.  I know I can’t stay quiet anymore.  With the negativity going on in this country and after reading this book, I can no longer sit back and be quiet.  It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it makes me to hear or see the injustice, I need to step up and speak up.

I hope this book is read by many and that it makes someone else rethink the way they live their lives.  This book is a must read.  I received an advanced copy from Penguin Random House’s First to Read program.

Book Description:
Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual — until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a swastika tattoo: he and his wife are Skinheads. The hospital is used to making patient requests — they have women who request female OBs, and others who don’t want be cared for by a resident.

So a note is placed on the baby’s file and all African-American staff are exempted from caring from that patient — meaning Ruth, who is the only Black nurse on the ward. The baby is taken to the nursery a day after its birth so circumcision can be done. However, Ruth’s nursing colleague is called away on an emergency C section and Ruth is the only person in the nursery when the baby has cardiac/respiratory failure. After a brief hesitation – she intervenes – and yet, the baby dies. Not long after that, Ruth learns she has been charged with negligent homicide by the state.

Ruth’s attorney is a white woman -Kennedy McQuarrie- who would not consider herself a racist by any means. Like Ruth, she has a child. But unlike Ruth, her family has never had to think about race on a daily basis. In spite of the evidence and the request of a Skinhead barring Ruth from doing her job, Kennedy knows she won’t talk about race in court, because she’d run the risk of polarizing the jury or the judge and losing the case. But to Ruth, that’s not justice.

As the two women form an alliance, and then an unlikely friendship, Kennedy begins to see that racism isn’t just about intent, but power. That even if Skinheads like Turk did not exist, Ruth would still be fighting an uphill battle. And she begins to seek a way to make a predominantly white jury see that they are responsible for the house they did not build…but in which they live.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Unsung heroes is what Broken Angels is about

28944464Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero is the story of three very different individuals.  Matilda is a little girl who is “sold” to the Nazis and sent from Romania to a special German school where she can learn to be the perfect Aryan child.  She will then be given to a German family.  But Matilda is a very strong-willed child and doesn’t want to conform.

Then there is Willem.  A high-ranking Nazi doctor who goes into the Jewish Lodz Ghetto daily and tries to help the Jews.  His father is a high ranking Nazi and Willem has his position because of his father who helps him get a posting at Auschwitz.  Elsi is part Jewish and lives in the ghetto where her family is trying to survive.  She meets Willem when she takes her Mother to see him.  Elsi soon joins the resistance to fight against the Nazis.

All three are living very different lives trying to survive the war and they do what they can to save others.  Matilda, Elsi and Willem are such well-developed characters that it makes the reader care for them.  I fell in love with these three individuals and I worried if they would survive.  I wondered if what they were doing was worth it and would they really be able to save all these people.

There were so many unsung heroes of the war who risked their lives for perfect strangers because they believed what the Nazis were doing was wrong and they weren’t going to sit around and watch it happen.  As I was reading this, I kept thinking – would I risk my life for a perfect stranger?  I would hope if I was ever in a situation where I could help someone, I would.  This was such a riveting story that was so beautifully written.

Book Description:
Nazi doctor. A Jewish rebel. A little girl. Each one will fight for freedom—or die trying.

Imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto, Elsi discovers her mother’s desperate attempt to end her pregnancy and comes face-to-face with the impossibility of their situation. Risking her own life, Elsi joins a resistance group to sabotage the regime.

Blonde, blue-eyed Matilda is wrenched from her family in Romania and taken to Germany, where her captors attempt to mold her into the perfect Aryan child. Spirited and brave, she must inspire hope in the other stolen children to make her dreams of escape a reality.

Willem, a high-ranking Nazi doctor, plans to save lives when he takes posts in both the ghetto and Auschwitz. After witnessing unimaginable cruelties, he begins to question his role and the future of those he is ordered to destroy.

While Hitler ransacks Europe in pursuit of a pure German race, the lives of three broken souls—thrown together by chance—intertwine. Only love and sacrifice might make them whole again.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

One Less Problem Without You is about three women surviving adversity

26114216When I enjoy a book by an author, I usually look to see what else they have available because I want more of their work.  One Less Problem Without You by Beth Harbison is her latest release and the fifth book I have read by her.  Every time I read something from Harbison, I’m always entertained and swept on a journey with the characters.

This time Harbison brought me into kind of a dark storyline.  There is abuse, a cheating husband, financial struggles and dreams dashed.  This is the story of Prinny, Chelsea and Diana.  Prinny grew up with her stepbrother Leif, who was abusive to her from when she was a baby, but hid it from their parents as love.  He is full of hate and jealousy of Prinny.

Diana is Leif’s wife who is madly in love with him even though she knows he cheats on her and knows she must break away from him if she wants to survive.  Chelsea works for Prinny at her shop Cosmos and also survives by working as a living statue at tourist sites.

Prinny has a gift.  She is psychic and her shop Cosmos, sells crystals, potions, candles and she does readings.  Diana makes homemade teas that seem to have a little magic to them.  Prinny and Diana haven’t really been close so Diana runs away to where she thinks Leif won’t be able to find her.

I really enjoyed how each of the women dealt with different struggles in their lives yet they are very strong individuals.  Slowly the book reveals how their lives are intertwined with flashbacks and an event that happens to one of them, that was kind of scary.  This is a really good book to take on vacation, to the beach, the backyard hammock or curled up on the couch with a blanket and a strong cup of tea.

Book Description:

Meet Prinny, Chelsea and Diana. Prinny is the owner of Cosmos, a shop that sells crystals, potions, candles, and hope. It’s also a place where no one turns down a little extra-special cocktail that can work as a romance potion or heal a broken heart. But Prinny is in love with her married lawyer and she’ll need nothing short of magic to forget about him.

Chelsea works as a living statue at tourist sites around Washington, DC. It’s a thankless job, but it helps pay the rent. That, and her part-time job at Cosmos. As her dream of becoming a successful actress starts to seem more remote and the possibility of being a permanently struggling one seems more realistic, Chelsea begins to wonder: at one point do you give up on your dreams? And will love ever be in the cards for her?

Diana Tiesman is married to Leif, a charismatic man who isn’t faithful. But no matter how many times he lets her down, Diana just can’t let him go. She knows the only way she can truly breakaway is if she leaves and goes where he will never think to follow. So she ends up at Cosmos with Leif’s stepsister, where she makes her homemade teas and tinctures as she figures out whether she’d rather be lonely alone than lonely in love.

In Beth Harbison’s One Less Problem Without You, three women suddenly find themselves together at their own very different crossroads. It will take hope, love, strength and a little bit of magic for them to find their way together.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat


Amy Snow shows anyone can have strength and courage

24993261I always enjoy stories that take me back in time with a glimpse of what it could possibly have been like in the 1800’s, 1700’s and further.  This time Tracy Rees takes us back to England from 1831 to 1848 with the story of Amy Snow.  As a baby Amy was discarded in a snow drift to die alone.  Luckily rambunctious 8-year-old Aurelia Vennaway hears her cries and insists they must keep Amy, much to her mother’s disapproval.

Aurelia is a great role model for Amy.  Treating her like a little sister, letting Amy spend lots of time in her room and treating her different than the other servants.  Aurelia’s parents, especially her Mom, treat Amy horribly.  Even the servants treat Amy differently since she receives special attention from Aurelia.  As the girls grow older, Aurelia is diagnosed with a debilitating illness that she won’t survive.  So Aurelia leaves on a trip before Lady Vennaway can marry her off to a man she doesn’t love.

Once back from her trip, she goes downhill fast.  After the reading of Aurelia’s will, leaving Amy with just 10 pounds, Aurelia’s parents barely give Amy time to pack before she is booted from Hatville Court.  Amy immediately sets off on a scavenger hunt that Aurelia has set up for her.  This sets in motion a trip where Amy will find out what kind of woman she can become and how to find her own way to a happy future.

This is Rees’ debut novel and she does a great job of bringing to life Amy Snow as we watch her stumble along trying to figure out what Aurelia wants her to know.  Sometimes she is scared, sometimes frustrated and there are moments that are funny as she struggles with this world outside of Hatville Court.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, you might like this one.  Yes, there are times you want to smack Amy on the back of the head, but she is a very naïve young woman who is traveling on her own for the first time.  I really enjoyed Amy and was cheering her on, hoping she would end up with a happy life on her own without Aurelia to guide and support her.  There are some revelations along the way that made me understand why certain characters reacted at the beginning.

Book Description:

Left to perish on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy has never known love, never known family.  Reluctantly given shelter at nearby Hatville Court, she is despised by the masters and servants alike.  The beautiful Hatville heiress, Aurelia Vennaway, is Amy’s only advocate – she becomes the light of Amy’s life, and the centre of her existence.  So when Aurelia dies young, Amy’s world collapses. But Aurelia leaves Amy with one last gift.  A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can unlock.  A life-changing secret awaits… if only she can reach it.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Golden Age of the Habsburg Court is a fascinating story

25733965As I get older, I find more and more that history is very fascinating.  I want to know about my ancestors.  I want to know about the people who ruled different countries.  And I want to know about the people who survived wars.  In Allison Pataki’s Sisi series, I learned a lot about the Emperor and Empress of Austria-Hungary during the 1800’s.

Allison Pataki does a wonderful job bringing to life the Golden Age of the Habsburg Court in her two books The Accidental Empress and Sisi: Empress on Her Own.  Elisabeth, or Sisi to those close to her, is 15-years-old when she travels to the Austria-Hungary palace with her sister Helene, who is betrothed to the Emperor.  But Sisi and Franz Joseph quickly form a bond and Franz decides he wants to marry Sisi instead of Helene.

Sisi is a free spirit who doesn’t like all the strict rules that must be followed like everyone has to wear gloves when eating.  No one speaks at meals until the Emperor speaks and you can’t wait the same slippers twice.  If the Emperor is done eating, everyone else is done eating.  The rules are so stifling that Sisi needs to leave court for months at a time, sometimes for years just to feel like herself.

22609307Sisi’s mother-in-law, her aunt (because of course you marry a cousin), the Archduchess Sophie, is very critical of everything Sisi does.  She even takes the children as soon as they are born and won’t let Sisi raise them.  This throws Sisi into a depression and sends her running away from her duties and her family.

I enjoyed this story so much, I was constantly Google searching the different characters to find out more about them.  I even searched the locations they talked about like the Neuschwanstein Castle built by Sisi’s cousin King Ludwig who was known as the Mad King.  While doing the research, I found out my sister toured the castle and said it was amazing.  In Sisi, she visits the Althorp Palace in England who my ancestors used to own.

Allison weaves a tale showing how hard it is to be a royal with spies always watching your every move and reporting back about all your missteps.  This is such a wonderfully written story that kept my attention and made me want to know more about this family.  If you like historical fiction, the is definitely worth your time.

Book Description:

The Accidental Empress
New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

In this sweeping and powerful novel, New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki tells the little-known story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, the Princess Diana of her time. An enthralling work of historical fiction set during the Golden Age of the Habsburg court, Sisi is a gripping page-turner for readers of Philippa Gregory, Paula McLain, and Daisy Goodwin.

Married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Elisabeth – fondly known as Sisi – captures the hearts of her people as their “fairy queen,” but beneath that dazzling perception lives a far more complex figure. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, the halls of the Hofburg Palace buzz not only with imperial waltzes and champagne but also with temptations, rivals, and cutthroat intrigue. Sisi grows restless, feeling stifled by strict protocols and a turbulent marriage. A free-spirited wanderer, she finds solace at her estate outside Budapest, where she enjoys visits from the striking Hungarian statesman Count Andrássy, the man with whom she’s unwittingly fallen in love. But tragic news brings Sisi out of seclusion, forcing her to return to her capital and a world of gossip, envy, and sorrow where a dangerous fate lurks in the shadows.

Through love affairs and loss, Sisi struggles against the conflicting desires to keep her family together or to flee amid the collapse of her suffocating marriage and the gathering tumult of the First World War. In an age of crumbling monarchies, Sisi fights to assert her right to the throne beside her husband, to win the love of her people and the world, and to save an empire. But in the end, can she save herself?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat