The Bookseller takes two different paths in life

22635858I found The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson an interesting concept.  Kitty Miller owns Sister’s Bookshop with her best friend Frieda Green.  The two women are both single, in their forties and consider themselves sisters.  Kitty’s life seems to be going okay.  But then she goes to sleep and it’s like she is living a different life.

In her dreams, Kitty is living the life she wishes she had.  She is married to Lars Andersson and they have three children.  She no longer owns the bookshop and is a stay-at-home Mom.  In her dreams she is no longer Kitty, everyone calls her Katharyn.  The dreams feel very real to Kitty.

Set in 1963, Kitty’s life and dreams are happening only a few months apart.  Now every time Kitty goes to sleep she is in the alternate life and can’t decide which is better, her real life or dream life.  But the real question to be asked, is her life her real life or are her dreams her real life?

Swanson does a great job of going back and forth between the dream world and the real world.  Both are very convincing as Kitty’s actual world.  I had a hard time trying to decide which life I wanted Kitty to actually live in.  Both seemed good for her but there were little things in each life that she would have to give up that I didn’t want to see her give up because I knew it would only mean heartache for her.

This was beautifully written and took me on a journey that made me think about what would happen in one’s life if one encounter had a different outcome.  Would it change your entire life or just a small portion?  Find out how Kitty’s life is changed by just a few seconds.

Book Description:
The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life.  She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence.  She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one.  There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life.  They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends.  It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world.  But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants?  If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined.  And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Whisper of the Woods is another great YA book

27869352Whisper of the Woods by D.G. Driver is the second book in the Juniper Sawfeather story.  Juniper or June as her friends and family know her, is a great character.  She’s a high school senior in Washington State living with her environmentalist parents.  In the first book, June dealt with mermaids.  In the second book she encounters an ancient spirit in a very old tree.

Juniper is a great character who doesn’t follow along with everyone else in high school.  This makes her an outcast and also a target for the Vice Principal Mrs. Slater, who seems to have it out for her.  I couldn’t stand Slater.  I wanted to reach in and throttle her.  She should not be in education and I hope she gets what she deserves in the third book.

June can see magical characters.  In Cry of the Sea she saw mermaids but no one believed her and called her a liar and fraud.  There are a few high school kids who are determined to ruin her life.

This time Juniper is attracted to one of the oldest trees on the reservation.  When she is first near it with her boyfriend Carter, they argue for the first time.  June goes back to the tree the next day and next thing she knows she is 100 feet in the air up in the tree and doesn’t remember getting up there.  June’s uncle wants to cut the tree down but every time someone inflicts damage to the tree, June feels it.

Driver does a great job of bringing across such a wonderful visual of the story that the reader becomes part of the story.  I felt I was up in the tree with Juniper and also on the ground with her family.  I cringed when the tree was hurt.  I got cold when Juniper was cold.  I wanted to know if she was ever going to be let down or if the tree would take her forever.

This is a fantastic young adult series that everyone will enjoy.  You could read the books as standalone but they are much better enjoyed as a series. I can’t wait to see if Juniper succeeds on her next quest.

Book Description:
Juniper Sawfeather seems to have a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her.  The mermaids she saved from the oil spill are long gone. There’s no evidence of them, and she’s been branded as a liar and a fake in the media and at school. Her environmental activist parents have moved on to a protest to save Old Growth trees from being chopped down. June isn’t particularly concerned with this cause until after falling asleep at the base of a giant tree she wakes to find herself 40 feet in the air on one of its branches!

From this point on she becomes obsessed with the tree, and it appears the tree is becoming obsessed with her too. Soon, she is trapped 170 feet above the ground, and the magical spirit that resides in the tree isn’t interested in letting her go free or allowing anyone else to save her. Is the tree spirit good or evil? Will Juniper’s feet ever touch the ground again?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Nightingale puts a spotlight on the brave ones during World War II

21853621Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors.  She is the kind of writer who knows just how to pull emotion from the reader at just the right time.  I have laughed out loud and sat sobbing while reading one of her books.  I will read anything Kristin writes and I always recommend her books to friends.  The Nightingale appears to be Kristin’s first foray into literary fiction.

This is about Vianne and Isabelle, sisters with very different experiences during World War II.  Vianne is married with a daughter, Sophie and her husband Antoine is off fighting the war for France.  Isabelle is an 18-year-old just wanting her Dad and big sister to love her.  She believes everyone has abandoned her over the years and that her family doesn’t love her.

They both try to survive the war the best way they know how.  Vianne lives in the family home in Carriveau, where a Nazi officer billets with them because their big house is near the airport.  Isabelle can’t sit back and watch the war happen, she has the need to make a difference.  She wants to do what she can to stop the Nazis.  Isabelle heads back to Paris shortly after arriving in Carriveau to help smuggle fallen allied pilots over the Pyrenees to get them to safety.

Even though The Nightingale is fiction, I bet there were many French citizen’s whose lives mirrored the characters in this book.  There was the French Resistance who took such risks to sneak their Jewish friends out of the country to safety.  I cared for both the sisters and worried about both of them with the risks they took to protect their friends and to protect people they didn’t know.

Kristin really knows how to pull the reader into the story and tug at your heart.  If I don’t cry reading a Kristin Hannah book then something is wrong.  Yes, I cried reading this one.  There have been times I have been reading a Kristin Hannah book at work over lunch sobbing so hard I was exhausted and had to stop reading so I could get through the rest of the day.

I have been very fascinated with World War II.  I think because it just shocks me that something like this could have happened.  The torture, heartbreak, and bravery just astounds me.  I enjoy reading about the people who were brave enough to risk their lives for people they don’t even know.  I hope if I was in that situation, I would be someone who would risk my life to save another.

If you like literary fiction about World War II in France, then pick this one up.  It will chip a little bit of your heart away.

Book Description:
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The future looks bleak in The Slip

27275190Two years ago I stumbled across young adult author David Estes and I’m so glad I did.  I devoured his The Dwellers series and Country Saga, which go together, now I’m hooked on The Slip Trilogy.

In the Slip, it is many years in the future where the sea levels are rising and livable land masses are shrinking causing available resources to shrink.  In order to conserve resources, the government won’t allow people to have a child unless they secure a death match certificate.  So someone can live only if someone dies.  But then some children are born who don’t have a match and those are called Slip.  Slips can’t be allowed to live so the government kills any that are found.

Michael Kelly is the head of Population Control.  He is the one who searches for the slips and has them killed.  Michael has a son who is a slip and he will do anything in his power to keep his son alive.  He hasn’t given his son a name and keeps him in seclusion so he won’t be found.  He is always watching to make sure no information about his son comes to light.

But there are others who don’t see Slips as humans and will do everything to kill them and their families.  Corrigan Mars is second in command at Pop Con and he is nothing like Michael.  Corrigan is determined to find every Slip out there and exterminate them and their families.  He employs The Destroyer who is a psychopath.  After an accident while in the military The Destroyer is half man and half machine who seems to have no feelings for anyone.  It’s all about him and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he kills.

People have all their information in their eyes and that is how the government tracks people.  Ads float around the streets scanning eyes and customizing the ads to the person.  It’s a great way for them to know where people are located and what they are doing.

David does a great job fleshing out the characters and making them real.  He makes the readers care for the Slip and his family and hate the Destroyer and Corrigan Mars.  When the book ended, I wasn’t ready because I wanted to keep reading.  I was sucked so far into the story I wasn’t ready to let the characters go.  This is one trilogy that when it’s over I will miss the characters.

Book Description:

Someone must die before another can be born…

As sea levels rise and livable landmasses shrink, the Reorganized United States of America has instituted population control measures to ensure there are sufficient resources and food to sustain the growing population.  Birth authorization must be paid for and obtained prior to having a child.  Someone must die before another can be born, keeping the country in a population neutral position at what experts consider to be the optimal population.  The new laws are enforced by a ruthless government organization known as Pop Con, responsible for terminating any children resulting from unauthorized births, and any illegals who manage to survive past their second birthday, at which point they are designated a national security threat and given the name Slip.

But what if one child slipped through the cracks?  What if someone knew all the loopholes and how to exploit them?  Would it change anything?  Would the delicate resource balance be thrown into a tailspin, threatening the lives of everyone?

And how far would the government go to find and terminate the Slip?

In a gripping story of a family torn apart by a single choice, Slip is a reminder of the sanctity of a single life and the value of the lives we so often take for granted.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Director is a governmental thriller

23316525I find stories about the government very interesting.  I don’t know how government works, so it’s always interesting to read what might be happening in Washington DC and the different branches of government.  The Director by David Ignatius brings the reader into the belly of the CIA and FBI.  This thriller exposes the reader to the world of hackers and what could be happening when individuals get a taste of power.

Graham Weber is the new CIA Director and on his first week on the job, he realizes there is a mole in the organization.  Weber is a businessman who thinks he will totally change the CIA and bring it into the present instead of stuck in the 1940’s.  But as the weeks go by, he is finding people don’t like change and they especially don’t like him.

Then there is James Morris.  A former hacker who Weber meets at DEF CON in Las Vegas a year before he becomes the Director.  Morris now is head of the Information Operations Center of the CIA.  He recruits other hackers to help the department.  He also wants to bring the CIA into the present like Weber.  But soon it is revealed that Morris is conducting a secret mission outside of the CIA to hack into The Bank for International Settlements.  This is a bank that was set up back in the 1940s for the Nazis.

In order to find the mole, Weber selects a handful of people who he tests to make sure they are trustworthy.  Once he has them in place, he gives them tasks to help flush out the mole.  Cyril Hoffman, Director of National Intelligence seems to be someone who is trying to block Weber from changing the CIA.  He is a character I didn’t really are about.

There is a lot going on in this book that makes you question what happens in the CIA and FBI.  It also makes you look at what happens in the cyber world and how hackers can easily slip into different organizations computer systems.  We have seen this recently with Target getting hacked and the fact they didn’t find it for days or months.  No matter all the safety and firewalls put in place, no organization is safe.  This is a great thriller and is worth the read.

Book Description:

Graham Weber has been the director of the CIA for less than a week when a Swiss kid in a dirty T-shirt walks into the American consulate in Hamburg and says the agency has been hacked, and he has a list of agents’ names to prove it.  This is the moment a CIA director most dreads.  Like the new world of cyber-espionage from which it’s drawn, The Director is a maze of double dealing, about a world where everything is written in zeroes and ones—and nothing can be trusted.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Hours Count sheds like on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Russian Spies in the 1940s

 

24611708I always learn a lot from literary fiction, which always makes me research the subject.  The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor did not disappoint.  I knew nothing about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and found this book and their story very interesting.  The story is told through the eyes of Millie Stein who lives on the same floor as the Rosenbergs and is introduced to them by her husband.

Millie and Ed Stein have a son, David, who doesn’t speak.  Millie meets Dr. Jake Gold who says he will help her with David so he will talk again.  She starts having sessions with him where David learns to communicate through objects.

Things heat up and Millie soon finds out Jake works for the FBI.  Millie’s Russian husband Ed is not a very nice man and could be a Russian spy.  Jake asks questions about Ed and Millie gives him information not really knowing she is helping him build information on Ed.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are real people who were arrested for spying and were executive in 1953 even though there wasn’t solid evidence against them.  Many, many years later it was proven that in fact they were not spies.  Which is really too bad because their sons grew up without their parents.

The story bounces back and forth between 1947 when the Rosenbergs are being investigated to June 19, 1953, the night of Ethel’s execution.

I found Millie a little naive and innocent.  She could only see the good in people and wouldn’t believe Ethel and Julius were guilty, even after they are executed.  The only person she didn’t trust was her husband Ed.  Jillian Cantor did a great job of bringing all these characters to life.  I was so invested in these characters that I did a little research to learn more.  I highly recommend this literary fiction. It’s well worth your time.

Book Description:

A spellbinding historical novel about a woman who befriends Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and is drawn into their world of intrigue, from the author of Margot.

 On June 19, 1953, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to commit espionage. The day Ethel was first arrested in 1950, she left her two young sons with a neighbor, and she never came home to them again. Brilliantly melding fact and fiction, Jillian Cantor reimagines the life of that neighbor, and the life of Ethel and Julius, an ordinary-seeming Jewish couple who became the only Americans put to death for spying during the Cold War.

A few years earlier, in 1947, Millie Stein moves with her husband, Ed, and their toddler son, David, into an apartment on the eleventh floor in Knickerbocker Village on New York’s Lower East Side. Her new neighbors are the Rosenbergs. Struggling to care for David, who doesn’t speak, and isolated from other “normal” families, Millie meets Jake, a psychologist who says he can help David, and befriends Ethel, also a young mother. Millie and Ethel’s lives as friends, wives, mothers, and neighbors entwine, even as chaos begins to swirl around the Rosenbergs and the FBI closes in. Millie begins to question her own husband’s political loyalty and her marriage, and whether she can trust Jake and the deep connection they have forged as they secretly work with David. Caught between these two men, both of whom have their own agendas, and desperate to help her friends, Millie will find herself drawn into the dramatic course of history.

As Millie—trusting and naive—is thrown into a world of lies, intrigue, spies and counterspies, she realizes she must fight for what she believes, who she loves, and what is right.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Henna House is about family and tradition

Henna HouseI’ve always been intrigued by the art of henna so this book caught my attention.  Henna House by Nomi Eve starts in Yemen in the 1920s, and tells the story of Adela Damari and her family.  Her father is a shoe maker and her mother is a mean woman who shows no love to Adela.

It is important for Yemenite Jewish children to become betrothed at a very early age to keep the Confiscator away.  If a father dies, leaving children with just their mother, the Confiscator will swoop in and take the children.  The Confiscator steals Jewish children as part of the Orphan’s Decree and they are instantly adopted by the local Muslim community.  The Confiscator has a keen interest in Adela and scares the crap out of her when he orders shoes for his wife from Adela’s father.

Every time Adela is betrothed to a boy something horrible happens to the boy and soon no one wants their son betrothed to her.  She is soon betrothed to her cousin Asaf Damari, who she is supposed to stay away from but secretly plays house with him in her secret cave.

Soon her Mom’s sister Rachel, her husband Burhan and their daughter Hani arrive to live next door to them.  At the last city they lived in, Aunt Rachel was well known for her henna creations on brides.  When things went bad in the marriages, Rachel was accused of putting evil spells into the henna so they had to flee the city.  Against her mother’s wishes, Adela soon starts to learn the technique of henna.  She soon finds it’s her calling.  Adela’s parents die one after the other and to escape the Confiscator, she must flee with her Aunt and Uncle as they head to Israel as part of the Operation of the Wings of Eagles.

I enjoyed learning about the Yemenite Jews and the art of henna.  Henna House is so worth the time. It is a story you will get lost in and you will lose track of time because you will be absorbed into the characters’ lives.  You will care for the characters long after the book is finished.

Book Description:

An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth century, from the acclaimed author of The Family Orchard.

In the tradition of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, Henna House is the enthralling story of a woman, her family, their community, and the rituals that bind them.

Nomi Eve’s vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920, when Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter.  After passage of the Orphan’s Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community.  With her parents’ health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela’s situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing.

Suddenly, Adela’s eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one’s heritage.  She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life.  She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.

Henna House is an intimate family portrait and a panorama of history. From the traditions of the Yemenite Jews, to the far-ranging devastation of the Holocaust, to the birth of the State of Israel, Eve offers an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a textured chronicle of a fascinating period in the twentieth century.

Henna House is a rich, spirited, and sensuous tale of love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and the dyes that adorn the skin and pierce the heart.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat