Review: “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton

I’ve been on a Kate Morton kick lately, started by “The Secret Keeper”. I also loved “The House at Riverton”, but had some problems getting through “The Distant Hours” (I found it too gothic and too much like “The House at Riverton”). Friends had suggested “The Forgotten Garden”, but it was always out at the library. I finally broke down and purchased it for my kindle. I think this may be my favorite of her books.

Similar to her other books, “The Forgotten Garden” moves back and forth in time as we learn the story of Nell, a little girl found on the Brisbane docks by a dock worker and taken home as raised as one of his own. Nell is much beloved by her family, but her father feels he must tell her the truth on her twenty-first birthday: she is not their biological child and she most probably has family in England. Nell is crushed by this news and becomes determined to figure out where she is from and how she ended up on a ship going to Australia. She has vague memories of being taken there as part of a game by “the authoress”, and waiting for her or her mother or father to return for her, but no one did. She also has distant memories of playing in a garden maze and going through to a little cottage where “the authoress” lived.  Nell starts to piece together the story of her life, and travels to England to see where she is from and to see what she can learn. However, she unexpectantly “inherits” her granddaughter, and her plans are put on hold. Eventually, time passes and Nell does not return to England; her granddaughter, Cassandra, grows up, and Nell decides, as she is dying, to tell Cassandra her secret so that she can figure out the rest of the story. Cassandra then travels to England to figure out the mystery of who her grandmother really was.

I loved reading this story, which switched viewpoint and time period often. At points we were with Nell in the 70’s. Some times we were in present day. Some times it was a young girl, Eliza’s, story from the turn of the century – or Eliza’s story when she was living at the manor in 1910. As the book progressed,though, the viewpoints and storylines converged into one, and at the end, all the questions were answered. Of course a forgotten garden plays a large role here – complete with all that symbolizes!

Highly recommended!

Review: A Trilogy of Stories by Karen Kingsbury

A while back I received the “Kingsbury Collection” to review through “Blogging for Books” and Waterbrook Multnomah, a Christian publisher. This 700+ page collection has three complete books in it: Where Yesterday Lives, When Joy Came to Stay, and On Every Side.

In Where Yesterday Lives, young professional Ellen Barrett returns home after her father’s sudden death from a heart attack. Ellen’s family (five siblings) has grown apart over the years. Outwardly they are polite and civil, but emotionally they are torn asunder by old rivals and jealousies, along with some painful memories and bitterness. Ellen’s marriage is currently on rocky soil and she returns to her hometown alone to face her family and a barrage of memories, including memories of her younger years with boyfriend Jake Sadler. It isn’t long before a very sad and lonely Ellen is reconnecting with the man she used to love, while trying to deal with her dysfunctional family and distant husband.

I have to say, this is the first of Kingsbury’s works that I’ve read. I was drawn right into this story for various reasons, and was struck by how well Kingsbury captures the agony and inner turmoil that occurs when a parent dies suddenly. The build-up to Ellen contacting her old boyfriend had me wanting to yell: “Danger, Will Robinson!!” at her. At the essence of this story, however, is a message of forgiveness and hope and a reminder of the power of prayer and of faith. I really enjoyed it!

In When Joy Came to Stay reporter Maggie Stovall is on the verge of a breakdown. She has spent years trying to forget and move on from some difficult and painful decisions that she made when younger. However, Maggie’s choice to not be truthful to her husband, or even to herself, about her past leads her to a collapse and time recuperating in a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, her husband is left to figure out what happened and why and begins to realize that his “perfect” wife may not be the same woman he thinks he knows. Again, a strong message here of forgiveness and self-forgiveness (which is often the toughest to achieve!), with a focus on the importance and power of faith. Just a note – this story had the feel of a Mary Higgins Clark suspense novel at times!

The final story, On Every Side, Jordan Riley is an attorney working to take down a statue of Jesus in a public park (as a violation of the separation of church and state), while new reporter and child advocate Faith Evans (aptly named!) is working to somehow keep the statue up. Jordan has lost his faith due to hardships he suffered as a child, and the statue just happens to be located in his boyhood hometown. Who will win the battle? Kingsbury based this story, in part, on a similar true legal case involving a religious statue in a park.

As I said earlier, this was my first experience reading Ms. Kingsbury’s books and I did enjoy them. Her work has strong Christian themes and her characters (some of them at least) are often struggling to reconnect with their faith. I like how “real” they seem, though, and the problems faced are often the ones we encounter in day-to-day life.

thanks, Blogging for Books, for my review copy!

Review: “Claire de Lune: A Novel” by Jetta Carleton

I came across Claire de Lune while browsing through the local Barnes and Noble store, with a gift card in my pocket. It looked like an interesting read and I loved the cover, so I bought it. It tells the story of Allen Liles, a young woman who takes a post as an assistant professor at a community college in the pre-WWII years of the 1940’s. Allen is a gifted English teacher, but she is young and yearns to be free of the conventions of her time and not stuck in rural Missouri with few prospects for excitement and variety. Allen feels stifled by her colleagues and the upcoming nuptials of one of the other English teachers. Then she befriends two of her students, the outgoing and carefree George, and the brooding and captivating Toby. The boundary between student and teacher is broken, and Allen seeks to keep their friendship a secret. In time, though, tongues wag, and all Allen holds dear is put into jeopardy.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, which is published posthumously, fifty years after Ms. Carleton’s previous bestseller, The Moonflower Vine. Carleton writes of another era – a time when college professors kept strict boundaries between themselves and their students and when a woman’s reputation could make or break her both professionally and personally. Through the events of this novel, Allen is forced to mature both personally and professionally, and struggles with the conflicting emotions of what she wants versus what she needs to do to keep her job and reputation. It’s a coming of age story, but coming of age in young adulthood. Allen struggles to let go of her dreams and ambitions and following her heart in order to fit into society and to be a productive adult. Where does one draw the line?

Another reason I liked this book was Carleton’s writing. Her prose is so vivid and rich. Her descriptions of the nights when Allen was off running through the parks with George and Toby captured the sense of ripeness of a spring evening – the sense of fullness about to burst into full bloom – the awakening of inner feelings. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me a bit, too, of Romeo and Juliet – where all the good things happen at night and the bad things during the day until the final resolution.

All in all, a good read – but not for the reader who is rooted in today’s typical fiction. This isn’t a girl meets boy and then they have an affair story. (In fact, Allen and Toby’s relationship never progresses to that point). It’s a reflection on the choices one makes when one is on the threshold of adulthood, told in a time period when society was much different than it is today.

Saturday Snapshot!

first day of spring 2013

Here what the first day of Spring looked like in my backyard in New England!!
Pretty – but I hope the snow is gone by Easter (it’s hard to hunt eggs in the snow – lol!).

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of Just a post a picture (appropriate for all to see) that you or a family member or friend have taken, and link it to Alyce’s site!

Saturday Snapshot!


Last year we travelled to Hawaii (Oahu) during school break. Each morning we awoke to a beautiful rainbow off our balcony. I thought it was a very fitting way to start the day. What a great reminder that each day is a gift!

Saturday Snapshot is sponsored by Alyce of At Home with Books ( It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that you or a family member/friend have taken and link it to Alyce’s site. All pictures must be appropriate for general viewing!

Review: “The Trajectory of Dreams” by Nicole Wolverton

Several weeks ago, Nicole Wolverton emailed me and asked me if I wanted to read and review her new novel, “The Trajectory of Dreams”. She also sent along the first chapter. It seemed intriguing, so I said yes and Nicole kindly sent me a copy of her book.

In this novel, Lela White is a sleep lab technician who has a dark and troubled secret life separate from her seemingly normal everyday existence. Lela is obsessed with the sleep of astronauts and believes that years ago her mother set a bomb on a space shuttle, killing all on board. Lela is determined to make sure that the astronauts are deep sleepers and has an involved mission (including breaking into their homes) to further her objectives. Then Lela becomes attracted to and friendly with a Russian cosmonaut and he threatens the orderliness of her world and her mission.

SPOILER ALERT! In a nutshell, Lela appears outwardly normal but is seriously mentally ill, to the point of being paranoid and dangerous. She will make sure that no one stands in the way of her mission, even if it comes to murder. As this book progressed, I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride with Lela. Things were getting more and more bizarre, but I had this horrid fascination and could NOT stop reading! I had to know how things would turn out. I was reminded of reading Gillian Flynn’s work as I read this novel. I also was a bit reminded of Lehane’s “Shutter Island”.

Thanks, Nicole, for sending me your book!

Saturday Snapshot!

I’ve always wanted to participate in Saturday Snapshot – hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books – but I could never get the image to load correctly. I finally figured it out!
This picture is one I took a couple of years ago at Rockefeller Center at the Lego store. My son LOVES Lego’s and that store is spectacular – but alas, it was closed!! (No worries – we returned the next day).

You can be part of the Saturday Snapshot fun — just post a picture that you or a friend/family member has taken (appropriate content, of course!) and then link it to Alyce’s blog at

Review: “Room No. 10” by Ake Edwardson

Always one to love a good crime novel, I got “Room No. 10” through Net Galley to review. This book has been translated from Swedish (and I apologize that I was not able to type Mr. Edwardson’s name properly with the “A” with the Swedish notation on top). I had tried to read Steig Larssen in the past, but found the graphic violence too disturbing, so I thought I’d give Edwardson (a popular Swedish author) a try.

The story starts with a death – an apparent suicide that’s really a murder. A young woman is found hanging in a hotel room (room no. 10), her arm painted white. Our protagonist, Erik Winter, is reminded of a missing person (again a woman) from twenty years earlier who had also been in this room. The two events don’t seem to be related — but are they?

Winter revisits the past and opens up old memories for both him and the families involved. Meanwhile, he is investigating those close to the murder victim, including an odd young man, a skittish best friend, and  parents that seem to be keeping a secret. When the victim’s mother also turns up dead, Winter knows he has to work fast to tie all the pieces together and stop a murderer.

I really enjoyed this novel (which wasn’t too violent/graphic/disturbing for me). My only beef is that it wrapped up so quickly, I had to re-read the last chapter to make sure I knew exactly what had happened!

I could see this made into a movie – maybe with a title change. Apparently there are other books by Edwardson featuring Chief Inspecter Winter, too.

Thanks, Net Galley and Simon and Schuster, for my copy!

Review: “A Soul’s Calling” by Scott Bishop

Several weeks ago, Scott Bishop contacted me to ask if I would like to read and review his book, “A Soul’s Calling”. Termed a memoir, this novel tells Scott’s own story to climb to base camp on Mount Everest as part of a physical and spiritual journey. I’ve always liked the “journey to find oneself” theme, so I said yes.

Scott is not a mountaineer. In fact, he is a lawyer in New Jersey with limited wilderness experience. Additionally, Scott’s spirituality plays a huge part in who he is. In a nutshell, Scott sees and talks to spirits – entities from the “other side”. These spirits guide Scott and control him to an extent. They compelled him to go on this trek. Scott is also well versed in Shamanism.

I have to say that I found the journey to Everest the most interesting part of this book. I always have the utmost respect for folks who do these amazing physical treks. Personally, I would never ever be able to do it – not would I want to. It sounds downright miserable — rewarding once you get these and once it’s over — but seriously miserable. I found Scott’s “travelogue” so to speak interesting and I only wish there were pictures as it sounded like it would be visually stunning. I also was intrigued with the relationship between Scott and his porter and his guide. Both of these men, locals, adhered to stringent “social codes” designated by their position in their society/culture. I found the rigid mores held in the local culture there so interesting. i would have liked to hear more about the people!

While I generally find people’s beliefs and spirituality interesting to read about, this whole aspect of the book did not speak to me, and instead bogged me down in my reading. With the exception of an interesting passage where Scott explains the tenets of Shamanism to a fellow traveller, I found Scott’s struggles with darkness and malevolent forces distracting me from the Everest storyline. There was a lot of darkness/angst/tears/fear/torment. At one point I wondered how Scott ever got a good night’s sleep as he always seemed to be tormented by spirit that he was fighting and that had made him go on this journey.

All in all, an interesting read – and I have to say that Scott seems like a genuinely good guy. Thanks for sharing your book with me, Scott!