Tag: Book review

Of Blood And Bone Book Review

Of Blood And Bone is the second in the Chronicles of The One trilogy by Nora Roberts. I reviewed the first in the series, Year One, two years ago. This sequel came out last year but I am just now reading it. This delay had a purpose, because I can now go from the second installment to the finale without a large gap of time.

The tone Of Blood And Bone is a bit different than its predecessor. The initial novel centered on survival whereas the second book in the trilogy is a coming of age novel. To be truthful, I liked the sequel better than the start of the series. Perhaps because the back story was already known. Or maybe from the possibility of romance foreshadowed for the last book in the trilogy. Regardless, I really enjoyed Of Blood And Bone.

Fallon Swift

The center of the novel and indeed the trilogy is Fallon Swift. She is The One. Her birth ended the first of the series and her passage through puberty is the focus of the second. I love the character. She is an uncanny and hence otherworldly, yet she is human too.

Roberts has created a compelling persona in Fallon. She is mature one moment and immature the next. So like the teenager she is, caught between child and adult. Her lessons with Mallick are important for both plot and character growth. The pages fly through the telling.

Return to New Hope

Even though Of Blood And Bone has a very different tone, the climax once again is centered at the outpost called New Hope. History repeats itself with yet another of Fallon’s blood and bone meeting their end.

But before that happens, the reader reconnects with many of the original characters. Since fifteen years have passed, the babies are now front and center. And romance stirs.

Of Blood And Bone

I thoroughly enjoyed Of Blood And Bone. As stated above, I rate the novel above the first of the series. Furthermore, I am anxious to get my hands on the finale-The Rise of the Magicks. Now that the entire trilogy is out, I can see how one might binge read from start to finish. If only I were snowed in with no chores to do! Some binge watch television, but my idyll is to binge read by the fireplace!

Fantasy and futuristic fans should add Of Blood And Bone to their book lists. But, there is plenty to like for those who prefer a coming of age story. Best of all for those of us who love romance, there is a promise of just that for Fallon Swift.

 

 

Invitation Only Murder Book Review

Invitation Only Murder by Leslie Meier is a good addition to the Lucy Stone series. With the exception of a few scenes, most of the characters are new to the reader. As such, the book does not seem repetitive. Instead, the novel ranks among my favorites of the series.

Island Adventure

Most of the novel takes place on a privately owned island off the coast of Maine. “Fletcher’s Island” was purchased by super wealthy Scott Newman who restored multiple buildings on the island. His purpose was to create an off grid idyll in an effort to protect the environment.

The Newman family contains two sets of twins, Parker and Taylor, twenty-something sisters are involved in the family business. The younger set are Fred and Walter. Filling out this family dynamic is Lily, step-mother to the elder twins and mother of small boys.

Also on the island is the Hopkins family. Inhabitants of the island for generations, the Hopkins’ now work for the Newman family. This is the perfect set-up for conflict and tension. As well as finger pointing once a murder occurs.

Invitation Only

After viewing the restorations during an invitation only event, Lucy returns to the island to write about the successes of the Newman family. Unsurprisingly, Lucy finds a body along the coast and the plot thickens. Naturally, the heroine survives a number of unpleasant tasks. And unsuspected attacks. Before long she regrets her invitation only acceptance.

Leslie Meier

Meier does a good job of writing the story and keeping things fresh for her loyal readers. I first started reading this series decades ago when my children and Lucy’s were both young or twinkles in the eye. Now both of us have four adult children and the kinship remains.

Although a series can get quite formulaic, Invitation Only Murder broke slightly from the mold. Meier deftly incorporated contemporary issues into the story without making the text preachy. Instead, the topics seemed on point to me.

If you are looking for an easy entertaining read, look for the Lucy Stone book series at your library or favorite bookstore.

 

The Deception Book Review

Mixing romance, action, and social awareness is a difficult task. But Kat Martin attempts this cocktail with The Deception, her latest in the Maximum Security series. For the most part, the novel is a success.

Action-Packed Plot

The Deception begins at a Dallas honky-tonk where bounty hunter Hawk Maddox is meeting with a snitch. On his way out of the bar he is attracted by Kate Gallagher. She is dancing the night away while trying to drown out her sorrows. Kate comes to her senses before hooking up with Hawk.

Then fate intervenes. Kate is determined to find the person responsible for her younger sister’s death. Research leads her to Maximum Security. And back into the arms of Mr. Maddox. The bounty hunter is also a private investigator and goes by Jason in the office.

The two begin working together. Their investigation winds across Texas and the seedy sides of Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. Martin is accurate with her geography, capturing the rougher areas of these large cities.

Social Awareness

The underlying story is one of human trafficking. In addition to Kate’s younger sister, the pair discover a number of victims killed in their attempts to escape the organization that has turned them into sex slaves.

One of the best parts of the novel occurs over half way through. A virginal thirteen year old is introduced to the readers. She is given her own point of view. As a reader, I became very involved. This plot development created urgency. Would the trafficking ring be exposed in time?

Problems with The Deception

For this reader, there were a few problems with the novel. The juxtaposition between the romance and the action was difficult for me. The Deception is not a sweet romance. So, I found it difficult to go from the consensual bedroom scenes to the action scenes of both brothel and street walkers.

Additionally, I found the chemistry not quite right. Also, I felt the author did not quite succeed in her character of Kate. No way would I hit the dance floor following a trip to the morgue. Furthermore, her friends were more like afterthoughts. Lastly, I found it hard to believe she had never met her stepmother nor her half-siblings.

This is the first Kat Martin Book I have read. The Deception held my interest long enough to finish. But I am glad it was a library check-out.

Quantum Book Review

Quantum by Patricia Cornwell is the first of a new series. The protagonist is Captain Calli Chase. Chase is both a scientist and a security officer for NASA and is based at Langley Research Center in Virginia. The novel involves murder and intrigue. But, the greatest take-away is the great advances in technology with application both on the ground and in space.

The plot revolves around the secret placement of a quantum node on the ISS. For those not used to the space jargon and seemingly endless acronyms used by NASA and other governmental agencies, ISS stands for International Space Station.

The opening pages are laced with acronyms and not all are easily identified. Thus, a start to a new series weighed down with both backstory and jargon. For me, this approach made enjoying the novel difficult at first. However, by page 50 mystery and murder appear and I am hooked.

Close- knit Characters

Cornwell has created a cast of characters that is tightly woven. For example, the earliest scene involves Chase and NASA police Major Fran Lacey. Later, it is revealed that Lacey and her son live adjacent to Chase and her parents thus creating quite a compound.

Furthermore, Chase has an identical twin Carme (pronounced Karma) who figures prominently in the story yet is more an apparition than a person. The backstory Cornwell weaves provides rationality for the diverse personalities of the twins. Additionally, Carme is a prime suspect in the murder and mayhem that occur. Of course this creates conflict and tension for the protagonist.

Quantum Leaps of Technology

A major plot point is the secret placement of a quantum node on the ISS. To be honest, I did not know if this was real technology. An Internet search concludes the technology exists. Click here to see if you can understand the theory.

The novel also addresses other cutting edge technology such as the exoskeleton suits used by the military. My first encounter with this product came in Break Point by Richard Clarke. Click here for a review of that fact laced novel.

It is obvious that Cornwell spent much time researching this field. She weaves details of the technology as well as the security protocols in place to guard advances and advantages of the U.S. governmental agencies. The book is fictional, but just how much truth supports the novel?

I recommend this book with the caveat that the jargon and initial pages are a bit tough to read. Those readers interested in the ongoing research into quantum physics will find an excellent tale weaving fact into fiction. Cornwell’s latest mystery is worthy of reading.

 

 

This Tender Land Book Review

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is a brilliant tale worthy of reading. However, I am not sure how to categorize the novel.  Perhaps it belongs to the coming-of-age genre, or maybe included with the mystical. Nonetheless, this story of faith or lack thereof is a compelling one.

Krueger uses the Great Depression as the backdrop for This Tender Land. The story weaves through many complexities of life as it follows four young vagabonds down river. They struggle not only with life and death but also good and evil.

The Storyteller, The Genius, The Giant and The Princess

Odie is The Storyteller of the four. He describes himself as the imp, the one always dragging others into trouble. This reader found a tremendous depth of character in one so young. After a series of disastrous events, Odie sees God as a Tornado God- one that wreaks havoc everywhere. His older brother Albert, The Genius of the Vagabonds concurs.

The other two leading characters are Muse and Emmy; The Giant and the Princess. Muse is a compelling character. He is an orphaned Sioux Indian made mute when someone cut out his tongue after killing his mother. Krueger expounds on the unjustness encountered by the American Indian, deftly weaving the history of the Plains Indians into the story.

Emmy the Princess is just a little girl. But she is a mystic and so many events in the story as well as the Faith questions revolve around this young orphan cherished by the others as a sister.

This Tender Land

This Tender Land presents the harsh realities of the Great Depression. The reader visualizes the Hoovervilles, the Indian School, the Revival Tent, even the Brothel with clarity. Indeed this reality lends the depth desired for inclusion in an English Lit class.

Even though parts of the story may make one uncomfortable, the struggle with faith is an important one. This Tender Land in the end is more than just a story of four young vagabonds escaping an untenable life.  The tale is wrought with the meaning of life. One that Krueger points out is worth living regardless of the heartache along the way.

Before We Were Yours Book Review

Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours has been on my To Be Read list for over a year. In fact, the book resided on a coffee table much of that time. Each time I passed by I thought, I really need to start that one next.

I finally did. I am sorry I waited so long. Before We Were Yours belongs on my top books of the year list I released last week.

Past and Present

Wingate uses the tough to write but a joy to read when done right technique of rotating between the past and the present. The current storyline revolves around Avery Stafford. She is a lawyer and dutiful daughter of South Carolina Senator Stafford who is battling cancer.

A further contemporary story line involves her paternal grandmother who has recently been placed in a senior care center due to her dementia. Both aspects of the present day story appealed to me. They hit close to home.

Avery runs into May Crandall, a ninety-year old at another facility for seniors and Wingate begins to dovetail the past history of Crandall into the present. Crandall’s past is not pretty as she was a victim of the scandalous Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Even though the story is fictional, the TCHS existed for several decades.

Lisa Wingate

The author is outstanding on multiple levels. The writing is crisp. Plot lines are so believable it is hard to remember this is fiction. Finally, the characters tug at your heart strings. For those prone to tears, you will shed some.

Before We Were Yours is another winner by Wingate. The novel is well-researched. But what most impressed me was the way this reader was invested in both story lines. The transition between Avery’s story and May’s flowed smoothly. Each time one chapter ended and the other began, I readily switched back to the other story line. There was not a favorite, one story did not outweigh the other-at least in my mind.

Before We Were Yours

The historical aspect of Before We Were Yours begets many questions. Did orphanages fall by the wayside because of this scandal? Is this how the Foster Care system began, a better alternative? Or just a different option, fraught with different problems? Furthermore, a Pandora’s Box of questions could apply to modern day solutions of unwanted childlessness.

Before We Were Yours deserves a place in any library, public or private. It is entertaining and informational. I highly recommend this book.

 

The Gifted School Book Review

Book cover of the Gifted SchoolThe Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger caught my eye. The inside jacket narrative piqued my interest. Finally, the author’s writing style kept me glued to the pages. I finished this 400 plus page book in one sitting.

Since the publishing date is 2019, there is a good chance the book was written prior to the college admission scandal that opened eyes in the United States to the fact admissions are anything but equal. While The Gifted School centers on admission into a public middle school, the same ploys to gain a spot for one’s offspring is evident in fiction as in reality.

Character Development

Holsinger does an excellent job of developing all the characters. The women are upper middle class and the plot really follows the entwined lives of their four families. A side development revolves around the family of a woman who cleans house for two of the families.

The four women have been close friends since a Mom and infant swim class. The children are about to enter middle school. A new public magnet school which will focus on gifted and talented children is about to open. Thus, the competition begins.

Elitism in America

In not so subtle ways, the author explores the concept of elitist education in America. While I did not see the big twist in the plot, I did accurately guess which of the children would gain admission to the school. Three of the seven won admission. In some ways I would have added a fourth. But realistically, having three make it in was against the odds.

Holsinger does use his characters to show how education can improve one’s status. He also paints an accurate picture (as illustrated by the college admissions scandal) of the lies and underhanded actions parents will go to in order to provide the edge often needed for success.

The Gifted School

In the case of the three students admitted to the school, all were well deserving. Of those not admitted, a case could be made for most of them as well. The testing and then portfolio process was not random in the book. However, in many Colorado Magnet and Charter schools the process is one of a lottery. But that would not make for an entertaining tale.

The key point of The Gifted School however is the many arguments that such a school triggers. I felt that the author shared the opposing viewpoints. Although as stated above, I felt I could read his bias.

The major twist in the story, I did not see coming. Brilliant plotting by the author results in an “aha” by the reader once a key relationship is revealed. But the other characters also reach a climax in their stories. With the exception of the character of one of the middle school kids, I felt very satisfied with the outcomes.

Furthermore, I feel the author has made key points about education and about friendships. Society in the United States is very competitive. Often, competition is a double-edged sword.

I highly recommend The Gifted School.

The Defector Book Review

I found The Defector by Daniel Silva intense. In fact the further into the book, the harder it was to put down. It was the first book I have read by Silva. If any of you follow Silva closely, you may have read the novel a decade ago. Since the book is over 450 pages and upon my dad’s bookcase, The Defector was the perfect companion for my week of waiting rooms and just plain waiting.

Book Series

The Defector is part of a book series. The series revolves around Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. This particular thriller has a very large cast of characters. Indeed, I was a bit lost at first. Perhaps a reader needs to be more familiar with the series. Regardless, I found the story entertaining and I am glad it was close at hand.

Revenge for The Defector

The plot line revolves around the disappearance of the defector Grigori Bulganov. Unlike most men in hiding, Grigori flaunted his presence in London. Thus it was easy for the Russians behind his kidnapping to trick the Brits into believing a re-defection occurred.

However, Gabriel Allon did not fall for the ploy. He sets out to find the truth and the cloak and dagger commences. The twists and turns of the story were only outnumbered by the bodies left in the Israeli spy’s wake.

As referenced above, I believe reading the earlier novels would have helped. Silva does try to weave previous books into the narrative. But, I personally needed more. The large cast of characters demands a familiarity by the reader. One that I did not have.

Revenge is a great motivator. In The Defector both sides of the fight are driven by this most dangerous of emotions. As a consequence many lives are lost. The deaths are brutal but I did not find the writing too graphic. It is designed for entertainment with just a bit of politics thrown in. And lots of action.

Daniel Silva

Even though the novel is set in the 21st Century, Silva likens the fictional Russian government to the post-monarchy dictators and revolutionists of the early 20th Century. While a few scenes take place upon American soil, the bulk of the story occurs east of the Atlantic Ocean.

Silva’s writing subtly and not so subtly hints at the true differences between socialist and capitalist countries. He pulls no punches. Even a first time reader easily discerns his political leanings. In this respect Silva reminds me of the late (and in my mind, great) writer Helen MacInnes. Both write strong plot driven spy novels with plenty of twists and turns. Furthermore, both are unabashed proponents of freedom.

I am not sure how I have missed Daniel Silva’s previous novels. Granted thousands of books are published each year, but I should have discovered this series long ago. I enjoyed The Defector. Now I need to check out his previous works.

Book Cover of Daniel Silva's The Defector

 

 

 

Paradox Book Review

The latest Savich and Sherlock FBI thriller from Catherine Coulter that I have read is Paradox. Since these two characters are among my very favorites, it is only fair to warn you I may be biased. Nonetheless, I think Paradox is worth reading. There are plenty of psychological components to make it a thriller.

Coulter’s opening scene captures your attention. There is a break-in and an unknown man is found looming above a sleeping Sean Savich. His mom, FBI agent Lacey Sherlock, interrupts the kidnapping. The couple, familiar to many readers, race to discover the identity of the would-be kidnapper of their son Sean.

Parallel Stories

Simultaneously, Chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder from her back deck. She is helpless to do anything but watch since the event takes place in the middle of the lake. Coulter melds the two stories into one in prime fashion.

Christie is the protagonist for the parallel story line. Coulter does a good job with her character. She becomes a friend more than a love interest to another key character. This is refreshing.

Paradox

A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated may prove well-founded or true according to my online dictionary. There are multiple instances of paradox in this novel. All but one proved easy to understand.

People act against or outside their personality for a variety of reasons. Coulter is masterful at manipulating the actions of characters both main and secondary in ways that are paradoxical throughout Paradox. The title truly fits the story.

Earlier editions of the FBI series which featured Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock coupled thrills with steamy romantic scenes. Perhaps because the two are a married couple, Coulter has toned the action down quite a bit.

Furthermore, the relationship Ty Christie engages in does not meet the criteria needed to make Paradox a romance as much as a thriller. The book’s focus is that of a thriller joined with a bit of the paranormal and a hefty dose of psychotic killers. A good book to read- but perhaps not just before you sleep.

 

Wired Book Review

Julie Garwood is known for her romance novels. Earlier novels had historical settings. But she has moved into the 21st Century. Recently, I read Wired and it revolves around computer hacking. The protagonist is Allison Trent, a Boston College student and computer geek extraordinaire. And a hacker. But, mostly to do good deeds.

Liam Scott is FBI. He needs a hacker. Someone, somewhere is putting agents at risk. Allison Trent fills the bill. So he arranges to meet her. His offer of employment cannot be refused.

Wired Attraction

The pair share a natural attraction. Thus, only a small bit of the plot revolves around the romantic tensions. Furthermore, this is not a sweet romance. So early on the question of will they end up in bed is answered.

Instead, Garwood focuses on the dangers to Allison Trent. Multiple people have it in for her. She thinks she can handle everything on her own. For the most part she can. But, Liam does come to the rescue a time or two. Garwood handles this in a way as not to offend women. Allison is not a scatterbrained character. But she has issues. She is way too forgiving.

The technology is vague. Perhaps Garwood does this on purpose. Other than sharing with the reader that her protagonist is a coder and a hacker, details are omitted. Technology is changing rapidly, so this keeps the story from dating itself. After all it is mostly a romance. As the reader, you know who is good and who is not right from the start. Thus, not a suspense.

I have read many of Garwood’s books, although it has been awhile since I have read a new one. Some are favorites to be read over and over. I enjoyed Wired. But I consider it to be in the good category. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not compelling enough to re-read multiple times.

 

 

Things You Save in a Fire Book Review

I have waited all year to be moved by a book. Katherine Center achieved that feat with her latest book Things You Save in a Fire. The novel has much to offer. First, an understanding of how tough women must be to excel in a male dominated industry. Furthermore, the strength needed to survive abandonment and the courage to keep going after a sexual assault. But most importantly, the importance of forgiveness.

This is the first book I have read by Center. If the others are even half as good, I am in for a treat. I plan to read them as well. This is a must for your TBR (To Be Read) list! The writing is surpassed only by the characterization. Truly a great book.

Non-Traditional Career

Cassie Hanwell is the heroine of the book. She is a twenty-six year old firefighter, top notch first responder and an outstanding medic to boot. Perfect on the job. Perfect for the job. Until she is caught off guard at an awards banquet. In a #MeToo moment, she loses it when groped while accepting her award for valor. Loses it in a big way. As in puts the offender in the hospital. Obviously there is far more to the story since the “victim” refuses to press charges.

Nevertheless, it is the end of Cassie’s meteoric rise in the Austin Fire Department. Coincidently, her estranged mother seizes that moment to plead for help. She has had eye surgery and needs her daughter’s help. Unwillingly, Cassie agrees to make the move. It is the lesser of two evils she is presented with.

On her way out the door, her veteran captain gives her a long list of dos and don’ts. Things she will need in the unfriendly atmosphere of a less progressive fire station. Things the captain experienced herself. Cassie takes the list to heart, for multiple reasons.

New Beginnings

Cassie gets off to a rocky start in her new surroundings. Her mom pushes for a relationship that Cassie isn’t ready for. Plus, her new workplace is full of pitfalls. Cassie is determined to prove herself. And she does again and again. But, the crew does not want anything to do with a female firefighter. With one exception. The Rookie. He shares the first day on the job with Cassie. Then he shares so much more.

Forgiveness

The underlying theme of Things You Save in a Fire is one of forgiveness. Cassie needs to forgive both herself and others. This is a compelling part of the story. One cannot develop as a human without this basic component of life. Center does an outstanding job of demonstrating what, when, who and how to forgive. The other topics, non-traditional work roles, parent-child estrangement, assault and addiction are just the backdrop for the importance of forgiveness.

Book Cover

Katherine Center entertains with her novel Things You Save in a Fire. But she does so much more. She addresses the need for women in male-dominated fields. Furthermore, she addresses the biases toward those same women. She recognizes how women go overboard to prove themselves in those fields.

But she takes the story a step further. She explores old hurts and what it takes to heal. Then she shows the importance of forgiveness and the need to be forgiving in order to free oneself to live. And to love.

I absolutely loved this story. The characters touch your heart and so does the author’s message. I am sure Things You Save in a Fire will make my best read books of 2019 list. Find a copy soon.

 

 

The Book Charmer Book Review

Every once in a while I want a book to escape in, so I can leave stress behind. I found The Book Charmer perfect for my needs. This delightful novel by Karen Hawkins provided an afternoon of pleasurable reading. The characters were easy to like and the plot straightforward if predictable.

Multiple Back Stories

There are three central characters in the book. Sarah Dove and Travis Parker are life-long next door neighbors in Dove Pond, North Carolina. The third character, Grace Wheeler has arrived in Dove Pond with the intention of staying just a year. All three neighbors form bonds albeit with reluctance on Grace’s part.

Key to the formation of friendship is dementia. Travis’ dad passed away from the disease and Grace’s foster mom is rapidly deteriorating. The two grudgingly work through initial dislike aided by this common ground. Furthermore, Grace’s orphaned niece brings the battle-scarred vet and overwhelmed guardian together.

Book Charmer

Sarah Dove is the book charmer. She brings a touch of mysticism to the story. Books talk to her and she listens.

As a member of the founding family of Dove Pond she has strong ties to the area. Unfortunately, Dove Pond is in decline. When a book whispers to her that Grace can save the town, Sarah does everything she can to entice Grace to stay beyond the short term.

Contemporary Topics

In addition to the backstory of dementia, Hawkins touches on the state of the foster system. Grace’s determination to raise her niece stems from her own experience as an orphan. Back flashes explain how and why Grace is so attached to her own foster mother, Mama G. Thus her willingness to leave her city job for small town life in hopes of easing the confusion of dementia makes sense to the reader.

An additional topic that is touched on is the overdose death of Grace’s sister. But, despite all of these difficult topics, The Book Charmer leaves the reader in an upbeat mood. The efforts of Sarah, Grace and others give Dove Pond the spark it needs. Plus, the development of friendship between the characters showcases the power of relationships even among those hiding or running from the past.

I loved reading The Book Charmer. Readers can escape for a few hours of pure fiction. This was the first Karen Hawkins novel I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. I look forward to more in the series.

 

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis And Its Lessons Book Review

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis And Its Lessons is the three person account of The Great Recession and the steps taken to repair the economy. The individuals credited with writing the book are Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner and Henry M. Paulson. The information presented is straightforward. One of the best aspects is the use of the firefighting metaphor to explain the steps taken at the time to mitigate the panic. Furthermore, my own memory of the tumultuous time meshes with the writing. So, the information rings as fact more than opinion.

A Keynesian Approach

Those of you with an economic background can differentiate between a Classical and a Keynesian approach to economic policy. For those of you unfamiliar with the theory, click here for a tutorial. The steps taken during the financial crisis of the Ought’s clearly represent the teachings of John Maynard Keynes. The Federal Reserve led by Bernanke, and the Treasury Department, first shepherded by Paulson during the Bush Administration then spearheaded by Geithner under President Obama, went to great lengths to stop the downward spiral of the economy. Firefighting takes you step by step through the interventions.

I appreciate the book for what I perceive is an honest portrayal of the cause and effect of the crisis. The authors go to great length to posit why some firms survived while others folded.  Since I vividly remember public events as well as personal anecdotes from the time, I feel quite comfortable highly recommending the book.

Firefighting Lessons

In addition to relating the fiscal and monetary steps taken to fight The Great Recession, Firefighting puts forth warnings for the future. The authors have two key concerns. First, the three former public servants are concerned with a loss of power for both the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve. They make a good case for the immediate ability by the agencies to react to future crises.

Second, the authors are duly concerned with the functionality of Keynesian economics. Government intervention in times of crisis is only one-half of the economic theory. Keynesian economics also calls for replenishing the coffers during expansions. This is not occurring. Instead of bringing the deficit down, our debt levels are increasing. Thus, the authors believe, both monetary and fiscal policy will be hampered in firefighting the next economic downturn.

The argument between interference and non-interference in the markets is central to economic philosophy. The debate between the Classical school of thought and the Keynesian Theory is reflected today in our divided politics. I encourage all to read Firefighting including members of Congress.

One of my favorite websites to share with new students of economics is the US Debt Clock. Visiting this site is eye opening. Similarly, Firefighting will also open eyes. For example, the book acknowledges the public relations nightmare of propping up AIG.

Personally, I saw and was offended by the lavish expenditures of AIG during the height of the meltdown. But I did not know the flip side until reading Firefighting. Grudgingly, I admit the intervention was necessary. Thus my appreciation of the work of Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson. Both for the book and their many sleepless nights a decade ago.

 

The People vs. Alex Cross Book Review

After taking a multi-year hiatus from reading the Alex Cross book series by James Patterson I picked up The People vs. Alex Cross. If you are wondering why I stayed away, my reason is quite simple. The books were becoming way too scary! Thus, I had trouble sleeping. Especially after Patterson’s release of Cross Country. However, I missed the characters as well as Patterson’s writing. So, I picked up The People vs. Alex Cross. I am glad I did.

Multiple Story Lines

Patterson weaves multiple story lines together. First, Alex is on trial for murder. This part of the plot hearkens back to a previous book. One that I did not read. Yet, my enjoyment of The People vs. Alex Cross prevailed. Then there is the current case. And the current case is one that Alex shouldn’t be working on. But, of course he gets involved anyway.

For those not familiar with the Alex Cross series, Cross is a crime fighter with a background in psychology. He is married to his immediate boss and lives with his grandmother and three kids. All play a part in the book series. Featured in The People vs. Alex Cross is Ali, the youngest of his offspring.

The current case revolves around young missing blondes and various websites portraying harm to them. Thus, Patterson links the story to a current problem in technology, the dark web. For example, Patterson includes in his plot details on how video uploaded to the web can be altered. Even computer geeks can be fooled. This plays a major part of the story.

The People vs. Alex Cross

Furthermore, the theme of doctored video footage is carried across to the second story line. Incriminating evidence of Cross’ wrong doing in the form of video recording is presented to the court. But the precocious Ali discovers how an unaltered tape contains false information. Sometimes you can’t believe what you see.

Patterson’s viewpoint on police shootings is revealed to the discerning reader. However, this does not interfere with the book. Politics is an underlying theme and not a focal point.

Above all, I enjoyed The People vs. Alex Cross. Mostly because there is plenty of action and I could handle the suspense level. The struggle of good vs. evil lends interest for the reader. But no nightmares! Patterson includes just enough technology to pique one’s interest in a new type of sleight of hand. I find it absolutely amazing what can be achieved with today’s technology. And the technology lends itself well to the thriller genre!

Don’t Stop Believin’ Book Review

Don’t Stop Believin’ is the title of a great song from the 1980s. It is also the name of a memoir I just finished and highly recommend. Jonathan Cain wrote the book. He also wrote or co-wrote countless lyrics. Many belong to songs you know and love.
But the book is not just a who’s who of ballad bands from the 80s. In fact, the early parts focus on events that shaped Cain into the man he is today. Cain has a tremendous memory, so the story begins before he reaches kindergarten. The words flow. Just like the music. There is homage to his working class background and the strong religious upbringing.

Key Life Events

As with all of us, there were key turning points in Cain’s life. He shares these with the reader. Perhaps most significant is one that occurred in grade school. A catastrophe began shaking his personal faith. Yet, or perhaps because, his passion for music continued to soar.
The memoir makes it clear that success did not happen overnight. There were starts and stops and re-starts. Cain very much paid his dues. He also made his share of mistakes. The personal story is as compelling as the information on what it takes to create music. Notes so memorable that you keep humming them in your head long after you retire for the night.

Connection with the Author

To be honest, I love the music of the 80s but I am not one for recognizing the band members. I remember a time in the late 70s when working at Howard’s Ice Cream in Daytona Beach, my co-workers freaked out over a pair of “long hairs” parked out front. One headed for the package store and one came over for  an ice cream cone. I remember this because the man tipped me more than what I made in an hour. Turns out he was one of the Allman brothers. But I digress.

Jonathan Cain is in the same light. I picked up the book because I liked Journey and was interested in the topic. I could not believe how many connections lay within the story. He wrote one of my all- time favorite songs. Plus he shares how he was touched by the life of a youngster with cystic fibrosis. (Read here for more on the same subject.) Finally, he has connections to the same part of Central Florida. His wife preaches at a church just a handful of miles from where I type this now.

Don’t Stop Believin’

The message in this book is one of not giving up. Furthermore, an important message for Christian readers is that God doesn’t give up on his believers. I found Don’t Stop Believin’ informative, entertaining and inspirational. I highly recommend this book.

Alphabet Books Galore

Alphabet books are among my favorites. They are great to read to young children, but alphabet books can be geared to any age. Some are really best appreciated by adults.

The earliest memory of an alphabet book is Dr. Seuss’s ABC. As a six year old, I read this book countless times to a younger cousin on a long car trip. Needless to say she learned the alphabet just shy of turning three. I am not sure how my aunt and uncle withstood the repetition.

Cover of Dr. Seuss's ABC
A well loved book.

But I was absolutely tickled when one of my kids received a copy from my cousin at birth. As you can tell by the condition of the book, it was well read.

Board Books

I love to read board books to the young ones. The pages don’t tear and the books can handle an occasional tooth. Some of the alphabet board books in my library include A To Z by Sandra Boynton and Cyndy Szekeres’ ABC. Boynton’s book uses an animal and a verb to illustrate each letter, ex. Dinosaur dancing. Szekeres has multiple examples and illustrations for each letter.

My all-time favorite is Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. Maybe it is the gardener in me that holds this book in such high regard. Little tykes love recognizing the different foods they eat. The author includes produce grown in many parts of the world. The names are written in both upper and lower cases. She even found one to represent X.

Variety of Alphabet Books

Once we move past the board books, the types of alphabet books expands. A holiday favorite is B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner and illustrated by Elisa Kleven. Wilner utilizes the alphabet to share this Christian story of Christmas. I love this book.

Two artsy alphabet books are in the collection. The first is I Spy: An Alphabet in Art devised and selected by Lucy Micklethwait. Each letter features a classic artwork. The art is identified on the bottom of the page with the letter. The opposite page has a copy of the art. Not all the objects are easy to spot.

Stephen T. Johnson’s Alphabet City takes a unique approach. Each letter is found in a photo such as the one to the left. It is amazing how shapes in the world around us can resemble letters (and numbers.) Artists like Johnson see the world through a different lens.

Informative Alphabet Books

I have two of Lynne Cheney’s alphabet books. I highly recommend both. First is A is for Abigail: The Almanac of Amazing American Women. This great book covers everything from athletes to the Industrial Revolution to suffragettes to First Ladies. I love the ways she represents the alphabet. The other Cheney alphabet book I have is America: A Patriotic Primer. Similar in style, the book will easily entertain an upper grade schooler.

For younger readers, The Alphabet Atlas by Arthur Yorinks showcases countries around the globe. A fun fact is shared about each country. The text is fairly simple. But the hidden jewel in this book is the artwork. Each letter was designed by Jeanyee Wong. She drew her inspiration from the quilts that serve as the illustration and representation for each letter and corresponding country. Thus Adrienne Yorinks earns my greatest admiration in creating these works of fabric art. This book is truly a must have for quilters.

G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book is written by David M. Schwartz and illustrated by Marissa Moss. It is hard to categorize this book by age or grade. The concepts are late grade school to junior high/ middle school. But the writing is fairly easy to understand. Therefore, students in upper elementary grades should find this easy to read. This should definitely reside in a school library as well as the home.

Wrapping up the Alphabet

Alphabet Books of many styles, for many ages.

As you can see from the photo with the collection of books, I have just touched the surface. So I will close out with a book I look forward to reading often in the coming years. Eve Shaw’s Grandmother’s Alphabet tells the reader that Grandma can be anything from A to Z. Each letter depicts a variety of occupations. This is a book geared toward the early reader but not a beginning reader as it has lots of vocabulary words young kids will need help sounding out.

I love alphabet books, so if you have one to recommend please share!

  • Alphabet book highlighting fruits and Vegetables

The Last Second Book Review

Authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison writing the Brit in the FBI series have released a good summer read in The Last Second. Even though the plot leads us to the far corners of the world, the story line is easier to accept than that of The Devil’s Triangle also written by the duo. You can read that review by clicking here.

Familiar Characters

FBI agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine (Mike) are on vacation. Shortly after a visit with old friends Grant Thornton and his wife Kitsune, they spring into action.  Drummond and Caine leave their European vacation to go to the rescue of Grant.

Thornton is acting as bodyguard to Jean-Pierre Broussard founder of Galactus Space Industries. Broussard’s hobby is finding treasures lost at sea. He has just found the Holy Grail when he is betrayed. The Holy Grail is stolen and the ship’s passengers are left for dead.

New Villains

Ellison and Coulter believe in equal opportunity. Once again the bad guys are bad gals. Ex-astronaut Navaeh Patel believes she was rescued in space by aliens called Numen. Her henchwoman is Kiera Byrne. A formidable bodyguard with an IRA background.

The two women must be stopped. Not an easy task when one is a brilliant scientist bent on contacting the aliens who saved her life.

The Last Second

This action adventure novel would make a great movie. The twists and turns and subplots keep you turning the pages. Naturally, Drummond and Caine manage to solve each problem they encounter at the last second. Since there are multiple scenes leading to the apex, the duo have plenty of opportunity to display their skills.

There are a few subplots that touch on current events. First is the commercial space race. Second is the concern of an EMP. This type of weapon would send current civilization backward in time. New characters include a terrorist who in reality is an agent deep undercover. Thus, the authors stretch the imagination.

The Last Second is an easy read. The book is a great way to escape on a summer afternoon. The fast paced action dovetails with the two main themes. Saving an innocent life with the Holy Grail and the halting of space junk with the EMP are ideas with multiple layers. Coulter and Ellison give the reader something to ponder after the tale is told.

Disappearing Earth Book Review

The debut novel Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is both compelling and complex. Her writing captures the nuances of life. The reader is exposed to tragedy and loss, maternal love, stoicism, anguish and hope.

Disappearing Earth begins with the kidnapping of two young girls on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Their disappearance is threaded through the stories told month by month for the following year. To a certain extent each chapter could stand alone. Yet there is a connection. Sometimes obvious, and other times only as the novel unfolds.

Russian Background with Global Insight

While the stories involve women from the Kamchatka Peninsula, a remote area of Russia, the stories are cross cultural. There are male characters, but the driving force for each story is a female. Phillips captures the hopes, dreams and fears women face. Lost love, adjusting to motherhood, missing children and divorce are just a few of the themes covered.

Global insight offers readers a chance to bond with the characters. It is easy to imagine the same stories taking place in your own backyard. Each chapter pulls at the emotions. The women in the novel may be fictional but their dilemmas are real.

Disappearing Earth

An underlying theme is how women cope with adversity. After the kidnapping, one would expect the novel to focus on the mother of the missing girls. However, her story does not appear until the end. Instead, Disappearing Earth focuses on a large number of characters, each coping with difficulties in their lives. The characters overlap just enough to allow the novel to flow.

Julia Phillips has an engaging writing style. Her characters come to life. They are the richness of Disappearing Earth. This is not a mystery per se. The kidnapped girls are a background noise for most of the novel. The true wealth of the book is the global appeal and recognition of how women across the Earth have so much in common.

I highly recommend this first novel by Julia Phillips. If you would like to know more about the author, visit her website by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

The Home Edit Book Review

Reading The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals felt like I was listening to a conversation between authors Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin. Perhaps it was the introduction which gave a glimpse of how they met. Or maybe it was the first person point of view. The end effect was a book that felt like you were part of a conversation.

The Home Edit takes household organization to a whole new level. I love the approach taken by Shearer and Teplin. Instead of jumping into the fun part of buying organizational units for the home, they have a straightforward approach to editing your home life.

The Home Edit Process

The first step in the process posited by Shearer and Teplin is to take everything out of the space undergoing an organizational face lift. By everything, they emphasize every single thing! Then, once all the items are out, group like things together.

Then comes the tough part, the editing. Writers understand editing often means cutting out or reducing words. Well, the same thing applies to individuals implementing The Home Edit. After everything is taken out of the space, purging is required.

Shearer and Teplin give solid advice on reducing the amount of “Things” in storage. Letting go of all the items we accumulate over the years can be tough. But I liked the common sense approach they took.

Organizational Fun

Measuring each storage space is critical for the organizational plan. Then, the next step to the Home Edit is the fun part. Armed with the measurements, Shearer and Teplin send you shopping for containers. This is a key part of the plan and sounds fun to me. The authors suggest utilizing containers for all the groupings made during the home edit process.

Another key aspect of their shared organizational process is ROYGBIV. For those unfamiliar with that acronym, sorting or grouping colors in the order of the rainbow, This concept carries throughout the house. Clothes, toys, and even food can be grouped using ROYGBIV.

Real Life Examples

A bulk of the book features real life organizational examples. The authors suggest beginning with organizing drawers and working up from there. They even provide a list of easy versus difficult parts of the home to organize.

In addition to photos providing lots of inspirational examples, the authors give a few tips. One of their basic tips for keeping an area organized is the one thing in one thing out motto I talked about in a Fall 2017 post which you can view here. Reducing the amount of “Things” needing storage is key to an organized home.

I found The Home Edit inspirational. Since I have never been to a store that specializes in containers, I am anxious to visit one. Most of the ideas shared by Shearer and Teplin are ones that can be adapted to suit individual needs. If you are someone that doesn’t know how to get a handle on clutter, this is the book for you.

 

Slow Dancing with a Stranger Book Review

Today is the longest day of the year. The Alzheimer’s Association uses this day to generate awareness for the disease. The topic of Alzheimer’s is a tough one for me to write about. I have a close family member suffering from this memory thief. So, I thought a book review of Meryl Comer’s Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s was an appropriate choice.

Personal Story

Slow Dancing with a Stranger tells the story of Dr. Harvey Gralnick, the husband of Meryl Comer. An extremely intelligent man, Gralnick was able to compensate for the disease at work for quite some time. However, behavioral changes at home signaled to his wife that something was off.

Some of the details shared by Comer hit home. She shares her frustration of a doctor ignoring her concerns and diagnosing the problem as a combination of stress and depression. In essence, the medical providers stuck together. {Fortunately, when my family member was assessed, it was by a panel. She charmed the pants off the eldest male in the room. (She minored in drama.) He found her vivacious and felt the problems with memory and mobility were natural aging. However she scored poorly on the tests.} Thus I could emphasize with Comer.

Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients

A good amount of Slow Dancing with a Stranger discusses the difficulties in caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s. Comer discusses the many types of care she sought out for her husband. Her shared experiences are valuable to others. The decision on the best way to care for a family member with dementia is incredibly hard. It helps to read about another’s experience.

The decision on type of care may change as the patient progresses through the stages. Comer tried a variety of approaches. This insight is perhaps the most helpful part of the book. While no two patients experience the disease the same, it is helpful to understand the different steps in the deterioration of an Alzheimer’s patient.

Advocating for Alzheimer’s

Comer focuses on advocacy for Alzheimer’s in the latter pages of Slow Dancing with a Stranger. I found this part of the book uplifting. Since she was a former television journalist, Comer was contacted by the PBS News Hour to spotlight her struggle caring for her husband. After much soul searching, she agreed. The airing of the segment spotlighting Alzheimer’s re-opened doors for Comer. Friends and strangers alike reached out. The end result was non-profit work focused on early recognition of Alzheimer’s as well as ways to delay if not prevent the onset of the disease.

Since all proceeds from Slow Dancing with a Stranger directly support Alzheimer’s research I strongly encourage each of you to purchase a copy. Then buy a second copy and give to a friend, family member or to your local library. If you have a friend or family member suffering from this difficult disease, reach out to them and their caregiver today; The Longest Day.

 

 

Elephants Can’t Fly Book Review

Elephants Can’t Fly

Elephants Can’t Fly by Charlotte Christie is a wonderful addition to a young child’s library. This board book is beautifully illustrated by Cee Biscoe. The gray she uses for the elephants is both a cool blue and warm and fuzzy at the same time. But it is the inspirational words of Christie that makes this 2017 book such a find.

Elly is a young elephant. Naturally, she loves to explore like any young offspring. She observes nature and she tries to imitate. All the things one will see in a youngster.

Christie begins the story giving examples of things elephants can’t do. But then the story unfolds and Elly achieves the impossible. All because no one told her she couldn’t. Thus this simple story is also very meaningful.

Author

A quick search on the Internet yielded little information about Charlotte Christie. The first hit brought up the actress. Adding writer to the search bar brought up a young writer looking for an agent. Then the addition of the title resulted in numerous places to buy the book and a matching stuffed elephant.

A similar search for Cee Biscoe brought up lots of information. She illustrates children’s books. So finally, I searched for Jellycat Books, the publisher of Elephants Can’t Fly. Jellycat is a company specializing in plush toys. But they also sell baby gifts and under this category are some board books, including two about Elly. But the two have different authors. (Same illustrator.)

So, I am no closer to discovering Charlotte Christie the author. I hope Elephants Can’t Fly is not her only book. If it is, I hope she writes another. Because the message of Elly and her willingness to try is the key to this lovely story. If you know anything about the writer of this wonderful children’s book, please share in the comment section.

I love this story and can’t wait to read it to the newest addition to the family. Even newborns can be read to. Thus, I have written her name on the book plate provided on the first page. Tonight I will hold her and read to her for the very first time. Welcome to the world little one!

 

The Black Ascot Book Review

Book Cover showing a race horse

The Black Ascot

The Black Ascot by Charles Todd is an historical murder mystery. The book takes its’ title from the 1910 Ascot races. Because of the death of King Edward VII, all attendees at the Ascot races wore black. The murder takes place following a race day.

The accused, Alan Barrington, disappears after the inquest and before the case goes to trial. The majority of the book takes place 1921. This allows the author to incorporate bits and pieces of history from The Great War.

Scotland Yard

In 1921, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge receives a tip. Alan Barrington has been spotted back in England. Rutledge convinces his superior to allow the old murder case to be reviewed. Even though Rutledge was not involved in the original Black Ascot murder investigation, he wants to bring Barrington to trial.

Shell Shock

Inspector Ian Rutledge begins the review by getting to know the victims as well as the accused. His investigation involves interviewing past Inspectors and witnesses. Many of these individuals were mentally and/or physically affected by The Great War.

Rutledge also suffers from shell shock. During World War I, Rutledge loses a close colleague. But the ghost of Hamish “talks” to Rutledge throughout the book. When the issue of the inspector’s shell shock takes a pivotal turn midway through the book, so does the case.

Charles Todd

Charles Todd and his mother Caroline team together to write both the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series. Even though the list of published works is long, this was my first time reading a Charles Todd book. It will not be my last.

I love the combination of historical events and fictional murder mystery. Even though the Ascot races did not figure prominently in the book, naming the novel after the 1910 races was appropriate. A true blackguard caused the motor car crash taking the life of one and severely injuring another.

The expert writing not only kept the reader turning the pages, but also created a stand-alone book. I did not feel as if I were missing something by not reading previous titles featuring Inspector Rutledge. The intrigue of the plot combined with the well-developed characters made this one of the best reads of the 2019 year. I would not be surprised to find it on my end of the year list of favorites. (Click here for the 2018 list.)

The Black Ascot is highly recommended. Buy or borrow a copy today.

The Last-Book Review

The Last by Hanna Jameson has a mix of mystery combined with the psychological aspects of a nuclear war. The protagonist is Dr. Jon Keller and the premise of The Last is that these events are captured in his journal. Keller, a historian, believes he is describing the end of the world. This writing ploy utilized by the author works.

Mystery of The Last

During the process of survival, the small group of humans stranded high in the Alps comes across a dead body of a small child. Cause of death is unknown, but time of death approximates the nuclear attacks across the globe. Keller is determined to find the truth.

His obsession with the mystery combined with the stress of surviving the nuclear blast create a study in psychology. Keller and other survivors handle the events in a variety of ways. Hanna Jameson has written a book that straddles genre lines. The survivalist theme focuses more on mental health and less on day-to-day needs. She accomplishes this with her setting, a high end Switzerland resort.

Thus, The Last offers much to readers not focused on end of the world scenarios. The cast of characters is diverse. Keller interviews each for his journal. Again an excellent format by author Jameson. The reader connects with the characters. The mystery slowly unravels as the individual back stories are revealed.

Realism

For the most part the book is plausible. The fears of the characters, including those with visions of ghosts, ring true. Communication after the blast continues via social networks. It seems even a series of nuclear attacks cannot defeat the Internet.

However, there were a few points requiring a suspension of belief. This includes the end scenario. A functioning city is not far from the hotel. Here the murderer is himself murdered. The journal entries may be used to justify the actions. But Keller does not write the final entry. His refusal to address a rotten tooth has endangered his life.

The Last by Hanna Jameson is entertaining. The book would be great read for a beach or mountain vacation. The psychological components are intriguing. While there are some violent scenes, much of the book focuses on the mental challenges individuals face after a world changing event.

 

Winter Range Book Review

Winter Range Book Review

Winter Range by Claire Davis depicts the harsh environs of Montana cattle country. The story takes place during winter in the midst of a long drought. Davis is accurate in her portrayal of both land and people. The disturbing plot conveys the many nuances of living and working in a rural, isolated small town where events are dictated by nature and the weather.

Triangle of Characters

Ike Parsons is the protagonist of Winter Range. He is a transplant, not a native of Montana. Parsons is the sheriff and he takes his job seriously. He runs afoul of the western code of live and let live.

But the job did not bring him west, love did. Pattiann is his wife. A daughter of a long time ranch family, she met Ike while back East for school. She is complex. Still angry that the ranch will pass down to the male heir, her past relationship with Chas Stubblefield creates an added twist to the conflict.

Stubblefield is a villain. Or a man down on his luck. It all depends on perspective. His herd of cattle is starving. His debts are too great and he has been cut off by the bank and the feed supplier. The conflict becomes critical when the sheriff interferes.

Unwritten Code

Winter Range provides a look at personal conduct in the rural areas of the western United States. Life is impacted by the harshness of nature. Hot summers and cold winters combined with rainfall that may not even reach a foot in one year create a demanding climate. Thus, the inhabitants face challenges not found in urban areas.

This hardscrabble life dictates a different outlook on life. One of non-interference. A man’s property (or family) does not brook interference. Thus, a belief that Stubblefield has a right to let his herd die. Since Parsons is an outsider he does not share this view. So there is a showdown.

Winter Range

Claire Davis has written a book that is disturbing to read. There is violence both man-made and natural. The secondary characters round out the book. But the triangle between Ike, Pattiann, and Chas centers the story. Winter Range is both a commentary on the western way of life and a tale of love and expectations.

Baby of the Family Book Review

Baby of the Family Book Review

As a debut novel, Baby of the Family shows tremendous effort by Maura Roosevelt. The book is complex. The author explores a number of social and economic issues. But the key message of this coming-of-age Great American novel is the importance of family-even a dysfunctional one.

Economics of Old Money

Although his death occurs at the beginning of the story, the character of Roger Whitby, Jr is instrumental to the plot. His life is a reflection of many third-generation moneyed Americans. There is pressure to build upon the successes of those before. But Whitby was unable to handle life’s adversity. So success eluded him. Thus, downward mobility commenced.

Fathering nine children from four wives added to the complexity of his life. The reader barely glimpses the offspring from the first marriage. So their financial status is unknown. Instead the focus of Baby of the Family is on Brooke Whitby, the youngest surviving child of the second wife; Shelley Whitby ,Roger’s youngest biological child born of the third wife; and Nick Whitby, the adopted son from the fourth and final marriage. The novel centers on the social lives and finances of these three characters.

Baby of Family #2

Brooke Whitby is the most grounded of the three. She is a nurse in Boston. Her parents’ marriage fell apart shortly after the death of her younger brother. Brooke has contact with her older siblings but is not close to them or her mother. Flashbacks give the reader a glimpse into the unraveling of her immediate family.

But the main social thread for Brooke’s story is her sexuality. She is a pregnant bi-sexual who is jilted by her same-sex partner. She has decisions to make. Her partner’s parents are minor characters important to the plot.

From an economic standpoint, Brooke is self-sufficient. But, the reading of the will displaces her. Brooke’s wages will not allow her to remain in the Back Bay (very old money) area of Boston. So added to her relationship crisis is a need to find a new place to live.

In her late thirties, Brook is considerably older than Shelley and Nick. Her compassionate nature ties her to Shelley and by extension to Nick. More mature than the younger siblings, the reader is witness to Brooke’s struggle for self-actualization as Baby of the Family unfolds.

Baby of Family #3

Shelley Whitby is the protagonist of the story. She is the connection between new and old. At just twenty-three she is not handling life very well. Her mother is mentally ill; her father long out of the picture. Shelley is lost. And very messed up.

But her character tugs at the heart. Upon hearing of Roger’s death and disinheritance, she drops out of a prestigious liberal arts school late in her senior year. She was already failing.

Shelley runs home to an empty New York City abode. Her mother is absent, whereabouts unknown. She immediately looks for a job she is qualified for. Her choices are prostitution or as an assistant to a blind architect/author. She lands the job with Yousef Kamal, the author, but she justly suspects her surname played a role in her hiring.

Shelley’s story is intriguing and heartbreaking. And also a bit sickening. Her relationship with the Kamal family gives great credence to the #MeToo movement. Maura Roosevelt excels in tying current social issues into the lives of her characters.

Baby of the Family

A year younger than Shelley, adopted son Nick Whitby is the baby of the family. His connection to the rest of the Whitby offspring is tenuous at best. He is an angry young man. He sees his mother’s marriage and his subsequent adoption as the actions that destroyed his happy childhood. Thus it is easy to understand his anti-capitalist beliefs and actions.

Nick is involved with a group that lands a terrorist label. After an incident literally blows up, he runs to Shelley knowing she will hide him. She does. But she withholds the information of their father’s death.

Social and Economic Issues

The author tackles key issues. Family dysfunction is first and foremost. Income inequality plays a significant role as do a host of sexual issues including fidelity. Other social issues include the value of a liberal arts education, work ethic (or lack thereof), alcoholism and mental illness.

But above all, Baby of the Family is about familial love. Roosevelt shows how extended families can still share this type of love. The dynamics between Brooke, Shelley and Nick ring true. Sibling bonds are every bit as important as those of parent and child.

Maura Roosevelt

Throughout the novel, the author posits the question “Are you one of THOSE Whitby’s?” As a Roosevelt related to “Those” Roosevelt’s she has a basis of knowledge on how succeeding generations are impacted by wealth or success. Her learned insights are apparent in The Baby of the Family. Thus, her background lends authenticity to the story. America is a country of both upward and downward mobility.

But it is the character development that drives the reader forward. One is easily caught up in the individual lives of the Whitby siblings. The dysfunctional family dynamic is always present. Yet the main characters endure.

This novel is long and complex. The perfect book for college literature classes and book clubs. Busy readers may want to opt for the audio version. Baby of the Family is a tremendous first for Maura Roosevelt. Hopefully the first of many.