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

Come Winter takes us back in time

25106362Come Winter by Clare Gutierrez is a beautifully written story that features Lady Caterina Tabor who was headed to England when she is kidnapped by Lord Rhys Dermoth and is placed in the kitchen as a maid.

Caty is a very strong, beautiful woman who Lord Dermoth takes a fancy to even though he isn’t supposed to keep her.  He soon forces her into a marriage that she doesn’t want but resigns that it is what her life should be.  Caty embraces being Lady Dermoth and throws herself into the role by improving the Castle and grounds and doing things that make the locals love her.

All Caty wants is to get to the English courts, so she tries to escape her situation over and over and is never successful.  She’s a female and females are more like property than individuals.  So of course she has men wanting to use and abuse her.

t always drives me crazy how in ancient times, when there were kings and queens who ruled the lands, storming castles and taking land from other rulers, women were always property of the king. Caty never really had her independence. At least she tried to be as independent and strong as possible within the confines of her life, which made the people loyal to her and love her dearly.

I really enjoyed this story.  Clare made me feel like I was right there with Caty each time she tried to escape and when she was helping the villagers.  The descriptions were fantastic and I really got lost in the story.  This one I have been recommending to friends and I think you should pick it up if you enjoy historical fiction.

Book Description:


Such is the paradox of Lady Caterina Tabor, an extraordinary young girl who, en route to England, finds herself captured and at the mercy of a stern and powerful lord. Forced to work as a common kitchen maid in the dank halls of Dermoth Castle, Caty dreams of her past as a free and autonomous maiden with a bright future in the English courts—did fate have other plans?

This early trial is but the first in a litany of shocking tribulations; imprisoned, abused, accused of sorcery, and kidnapped, Caty’s life is for so long anything but charmed—but you can’t keep a soaring heart shackled. As we follow this misunderstood maiden’s journey through both the unexpected, electrifying joys of new love and the pain of mind-boggling adversity, we become eyewitnesses to the astonishing way she not only transforms herself but also enchants, inspires, and invigorates those around her.

Spanning decades of castle life, treacherous journeys, bloody battles, and heartache, Come Winter is a sweeping yet personal tale of a brave woman who at once embodies and transcends the prescribed, and oftentimes oppressive, roles her society demands. Let Clare Gutierrez (author of Dancing with the Boss) curate your voyage back to the Scottish highlands of ages past—a time and place in which simply staying alive constituted a noble adventure, and becoming a patron of the oppressed and the impoverished could make you a hallowed queen.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Wolf Road is a scary thriller

30002336The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis features Elka who is a strong individual who was left with her Nana at the age of 5, so her parents could dig for gold.  Trapper found Elka wandering in the woods when she was 7 and for the next ten years, teachers her all the skills to survive in the wilderness.  After 10 years, Elka finds out Trapper is wanted for multiple murders.

Elka isn’t used to being around other people, so she doesn’t know how to read them and she doesn’t really like people, all she knows is the wild.  She runs away trying to escape from Trapper and the law while she tries to reunite with her parents.

Elka is a great character who is stronger than she thinks.  I was cheering for her to find her parents and to get away from Trapper.  I liked Penelope, who she rescues and even though they are polar opposites, they become best friends and family to one another.

As the story progresses and their backgrounds are slowly revealed, and you realize everyone is a little messed up in the apocalyptic story.  Sometimes I forgot this was in the future because after the Russians drop bombs, everyone is thrown back 150 years.  This is a beautifully written story about a lost girl who has to grow up very fast.  There were times I was sitting on the edge of my seat worried about Elka and the people Trapper attacks.   This was well worth my time.

Book Description:
A debut literary thriller from an incredible new voice. What do you do when the man who gave you everything turns out to be a killer? Perfect for fans of STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel.

Since the Damn Stupid turned the clock back on civilization by centuries, the world has been a harsher place. But Elka has learned everything she needs to survive from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her in when she was just seven years old.

So when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat