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Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel
Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel
by Priya Parmar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
83 used & new from $14.24

5.0 out of 5 stars AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY CAN BE FASCINATING, March 4, 2015
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VANESSA AND HER SISTER is Priya Parmar's historical and fictionalized tale set in London in the early part of the 20th century that focuses primarily on the lives of writer Virginia (Stephen) Woolf and her artist sister Vanessa (Stephan) Bell. It explores the complicated family dynamics of the Stephen family and the even more complex relationships and social mores of the Bloomsbury Group. The group itself began as a social clique: a few recent Cambridge graduates and their closest friends would assemble on Thursday nights for drinks and conversation. Its members were committed to a rejection of what they felt were the strictures and taboos of Victorianism on religious, artistic, social, and sexual matters. They remained a fairly tight-knit group for many years; and Ms. Parmar has attempted to unravel and detail their tangled personal relations. It appears that this was a group, with their open marriages and scandalous and less than conventional lifestyles, that would have fit quite nicely into the 21st century.

Vanessa, is the narrator of this tale which relies on her perception of events as well as letters, telegrams, and postcards accompanied by the journal entries created by Ms. Parmar to advance the storyline. While competition, jealousy and a touch of malice fuels the sisters relationship they were in complete agreement when it came to their love and admiration of handsome brother Thoby.

When it comes to her marriage to Clive Bell, Vanessa portrays herself as the betrayed as well as the betrayer while painting Virginia as a mentally unstable, selfish, possessive and envious. The story is one of the tortoise and the hare with slow and steady Vanessa maintaining her home, marriage, and children, as well as a lover and her dedication to her painting while the ever resentful Virginia races from pillar to post in her quest for center stage and the spotlight.

While most of the characters in this book are gifted virtuosos whose work deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, and economics as well as sexuality, very few of them can be lauded for their personal life choices.

Forbidden Room
Forbidden Room
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DECEPTION, February 27, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Forbidden Room (Kindle Edition)
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM BY Joanne Lewis offers a story of conflicting loyalties and dangerous deceptions that quickly engage the reader in a psychological murder mystery that revolves around wealthy Sara Goldstein, a fifth grade teacher standing trial for the murder of her uncle Charlie. Defense attorney Michael Turner is young, relatively inexperienced and quite smitten with his client, having become involved in a personal relationship with her against the continuous admonitions of his grandmother, a famous female jurist who is a pro when it comes to navigating the judicial system.

The narrative opens with Sara fainting in the courtroom just as the verdict is about to be read and waking up in a hospital room. Michael informs her that the reading of the verdict has been postponed until the following day and in the meantime the reader is taken back over the events of the past fifteen years in Sara's life - which involves the childhood of Sara and David (she calls him soldier boy), the FORBIDDEN ROOM of the title where Sara's father keeps his collection of antique trains and carousel horses, their parents tempestuous relationship, and the murder of her parents, an event that has left she and her brother the beneficiaries of a very large fortune.

Both Michael and Sara share in explaining the whys and wherefores of this complex tale from their alternating perspectives. As layer upon layer of the story is peeled away, the threads of their individual stories converge. With all of the past details revealed, the reader is whisked backed to the courtroom where the verdict is read and the question of Sara's guilt or innocence is answered.

While the story is not extraordinary, it is enjoyable and one you can knock off on a lazy afternoon.

Nobody Walks
Nobody Walks
by Mick Herron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.86
74 used & new from $5.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AND THE BEAT GOES ON, February 25, 2015
This review is from: Nobody Walks (Hardcover)
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Author Mick Herron's Nobody Walks is rugged, resilient and somber, much like its anti-hero Tom Bettany. It is a tale of a man with a secret and often violent past as an MI5 operative who, years before, left his family and his clandestine past to work in a meat packing plant in France. He thought that he had put his previous life behind him but now he has received a call informing him of his estranged sons mysterious death and is compelled to try to make up for things left undone and unsaid by returning to England to investigate. He realizes that this act could put his life in jeopardy and unfortunately it does when his probing brings him face to face with people from his cloak and dagger past.

It is difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys in this tale since each and every character is self absorbed and dedicated to their own agenda. From drug kings, to a video developer to Tom's former MI5 boss, all of the characters in this tale of regret and revenge are pretty slimy and hard to like.

This dark, emotional and action filled tale, complete with its fantastic climax, is one that most readers will find it difficult to walk away from. Reading NOBODY WALKS is akin to having dinner with writers Ian Fleming and Len Deighton and having Red from T.V's BLACKLIST drop by for dessert. 4 1/2 stars

The Room Beyond
The Room Beyond
Price: $3.76

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BEYOND THIS MORTAL PLAIN, February 23, 2015
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This review is from: The Room Beyond (Kindle Edition)
Author, Stephanie Elmas writes with prowess immersing readers in each moment. In THE ROOM BEYOND she provides cohesive narrative that maintains a fluid sense of time, moving smoothly between past and present. We meet Serena as she begins a new life at 36 Marguerite Avenue where she is engaged as a nanny to young Beth Hargrave.

The plot is an engaging one featuring an unusual and numerous cast of characters. The narrative is part love story and part supernatural mystery shrouded in Gothic undertones. Elmas intertwines the modern day story of aspiring artist Serena and the dashing Raphael with that of the nineteenth century affair between an abandoned wife, Lucinda Eden, and her ne'er-do-well married neighbor Tristan Whitestone whose sick and forbidden love is the stuff of which nightmares are made. The common denominator in all their lives is the house - and at its core the fact that someone, on this side or the other, just flat out refuses to let go. There is creep factor on every page of this atmospheric offering with a sense of foreboding that eventually gives the reader an electrifying perspective on life, death and the supernatural.

THE ROOM BEYOND should find a willing audience in the fans of movies like The Others or The Innocents or authors like Peter Straub. 3 1/2 STARS

Henna House: A Novel
Henna House: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC TALE WRAPPED UP IN JEWISH HISTORY & CULTURE, February 22, 2015
Nomi Eve's HENNA HOUSE an expansive historical novel that vividly depicts the exotic world of Yemeni Jews in the first decades of the 20th century. It is a riveting portrait rooted in real life. It tells not only of a lost culture but deals with the domestic lives of Jewish families (particularly the women) in that particular time and place as it addressed the Jewish tradition of tattooing with henna, family relationships, marriage, betrayal, karma, love, forgiveness as well as an arbitrary statute known as the Orphans Decree which authorized the state to confiscate orphaned Jewish children and raise them as Muslims.

The central character in the story is Adela Damari, the daughter of a sickly Jewish cobbler and his petulant wife. Due to her fathers illness the family is terrified at the thought that Adela could adopted by a Muslim family and forced to convert. With the arrival in their small village of her father's brother and his son it appears that an engagement to her cousin, Asaf, may offer the solution to five year old Adela's problem.

The book goes on to detail the various events of Adela's life over subsequent years and those family members, like Aunt Rahel and cousin Hani, who introduce her to the art and meaning of the henna drawings.

While the history of the Jews of the Saudi peninsula is informative and instructional, it is the interaction between the various characters that truly drives this story while utilizing henna as the conduit for the unifying themes of family, art and storytelling.

Nomi Eve's exhaustive research and her love of her subject matter is evident in this fascinating book and the plethora of material for discussion should make it a must read for every book club. Personally, I learned and I loved it.

Soft Target: A Thriller
Soft Target: A Thriller
by Stephen Hunter
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
112 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HOLIDAY MAYHEM, February 12, 2015
Ray Cruz, retired marine sniper, is like most typical Americans when it comes to Black Friday. He's at the Mall of America with his fiance and her mother getting a head start on Christmas holiday shopping. Suddenly shots ring out and from this moment forward the mall becomes a battleground as well as a political hot potato.

Douglas Obobo, Commandant of the State Police has build a career as a negotiator based on his charismatic personality. When it comes to making decisions in a sticky situation this politically correct Mr.Do-Nothing is not about to jeopardize his potential promotion by making the wrong move. His solution is to wait and let others take action against the twelve shooters holding the mall hostage, reserving his comments and actions until after the fact. Murder and mayhem is on the agenda, but what is the end game?

FBI sniper, Dave McElroy joins Cruz in an attempt to rein in the killers and their leader with am able assist from a gutsy lady who oversees the mall's child care center.

Soft Target presents a cast of character whose individual motives are mostly personal in nature. If you like Jack Reacher, Joe Pike and their ilk, you will most likely enjoy this ride too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2015 4:11 PM PST

Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth
by Marc Peyser
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.11

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMERICAN DYNASTY, January 21, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
HISSING COUSINS is a most appropriate title for this dual biography of first cousins; plain Jane First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and willful, vain and politically astute Alice Longworth Roosevelt as it delves into the on again-off again rivalry that peppered the lives of these two strong women, cousins whose circumstances in their childhood initially brought them together. Perhaps their early attachment had more to do with the similarity in their parentless backgrounds than familial love.

Two people in this telling appear to be the glue that held this dynasty together - their "Aunt Bye" whose home was the central meeting place for the young members of the family and Theodore Roosevelt whose solution to most uncomfortable family situations appears to have been rallying the family with giant "bear hugs".

If genetics and behavior come into play at all in determining the fate of the members of any family, then the amount of alcoholism, unfaithfulness, political in-fighting and inter-marriage in this clan, make one wonder how the Roosevelt family as a whole turned out as well as it did.

What is really evident is that most of the women in this family, from Franklin's mother Sara to the two ladies who occupy center stage in this telling are strong willed, powerful, independent and opinionated women who operated behind the scenes in the political arena quietly wielding their power to advance their individual beliefs and goals and who, in stressful times, stuck together like glue. (Sort of makes one wonder if Alice and Eleanor's perceived rivalry was in reality just a performance guaranteed to generate press).

What is evident is that politics have not changed much over the last 100 years. There are several other clans whose family business, much like the Roosevelt's', is politics. (The Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes, and Rockefellers are just a few that come to mind). Also evident is that the deception and in-fighting within the parties as well as the perpetuation of outright lies is, and always has been, the order of the day in a game where winning is all that matters.

Readers will find the handy family tree located in the front of the book helpful and absolutely necessary in keeping track of all the like-named family members who occupy both branches of this particular tree. This book is not only informative, it is entertaining as well......a feat not easily accomplished when it comes to biographical history.

Natural Balance Delectable Delights Burger Bites Dog Treats - Lamb
Natural Balance Delectable Delights Burger Bites Dog Treats - Lamb
Offered by Lake View
Price: $11.16
11 used & new from $6.97

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars JUST OKAY ON THE DOGGIE RATING SCALE, January 16, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am the happy "mom" of two shi-tzu's who are allergic to most dog foods and/or treats that contain wheat or corn in any form which is one reason why I was happy to give Natural Balance Burger bites a try. While I thought that the mini burger complete with grill marks concept was cute and the smell okay (sort of like the beef jerky sticks we humans consume) the "kids" were reluctant to accept something new. They finally did accept one - the male was more willing to give this new treat a try than the female who has to see her brother eat it before she will accept it. (She probably thinks she is royalty and requires a food taster - LOL).

At any rate, the dogs did consume all of the treats over a one week period with no side effects (like the scratching of their bodies and chewing of their paws reactions that has been experienced with other products).

Overall my pets gave this product an "okay" but when it comes to something they really love that is made in the USA and has no side effects I would have to recommend the Carolina Prime Chicken Breast and Sweet Tater filets. They contain only three ingredients, are healthy and my dogs absolutely love them. BEWARE: They are pricey but worth it if your dogs love them and experience no negative side effects.

Empire Girls
Empire Girls
by Loretta Nyhan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.39
112 used & new from $3.30

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SIBLING LOVE AND RIVALRY, January 9, 2015
This review is from: Empire Girls (Paperback)
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EMPIRE GIRLS by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan is one of those novels it is difficult to review. As the book jacket indicated it is a story set in the roaring twenties and tells of two sisters raised in the countryside who, after the death of their father, go to New York City in search of the brother they never knew existed. The crux of the tale lies in what they discover and how it alters their individual perceptions regarding life, love and family.

Sounds like a straightforward tale, right? Then why, you ask, is it so difficult to review. Well, I can best describe it by comparing it to a lovely dinner out with friends. While you are there you find the conversation engaging and the food enjoyable but when you get home you find that not only are you unable to recall any of the conversations you found so interesting but the meal was not quite as satisfying as it first appeared and you are still hungry. That, in a nutshell, is exactly how this book affected me. I was engaged as I was reading and, for the most part, it held my interest, but when I came to the last page I was left with the feeling that something of substance was missing. Granted, rather than a deep, depressing look at the the period following WWI, this is more a light-hearted romp through that era that would probably earn it a "beach read" classification ....if it weren't so darn cold right now.

Overall, it was just an okay story and not nearly as endearing and captivating as the authors' first joint effort, I'LL BE SEEING YOU, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2015 12:56 PM PST

Blue Stars: A Novel
Blue Stars: A Novel
by Emily Gray Tedrowe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.70
74 used & new from $4.04

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars AFTER THEY COME HOME, January 4, 2015
This review is from: Blue Stars: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
While BLUE STARS by Emily Gray Tedrowe is a book about the current war in Iraq, its title recalls a time during WWII when almost every window in the United States contained a flag with a star for each family member serving their country - Gold for family members who did not return from battle and blue indicating a person currently serving. We can once again imagine the grief felt by the families, both then and now, as Tedrowe takes us behind the windows to reveal tales of love, duty, war and the homecoming of the wounded via an impassioned look at the effects of war on women as caregivers to their wounded warriors. As some of the women struggle to make meaning out of the chaos, they are also confronted with a barrage of paperwork that conspires to turn even the most elementary request for assistance into a bureaucratic nightmare.

While Tedrowe has tried to give us a novel about the plight of ordinary people whose husbands and sons have been deployed to the war zone and the aftermath of that deployment, it appears she cannot refrain from inserting her own liberal feelings and political spin into the narrative. She takes thinly veiled pot shots at Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and regurgitates a litany of perceived "sins" committed during his Administration.

The women she casts as the focal point in her tale are as different as night is from day......not unusual in itself....however, these two are such stereotypical polar opposites it is almost pathetic. Ellen is depicted as a liberal Democrat who is highly educated and vehemently opposed to war. She lives mostly in her head, seeking solace between the pages of books that most of us haven't opened since our college days, and would do anything to dissuade her adopted son Michael to stay out of the fray. She is constantly at odds with her vegetarian daughter Jane, who is her mother's doppelganger in temperament and belief.

Ellen meets Lacey Diaz at Walter Reed Army Hospital, locale of the infamous roach infested, mold plagued Building 18. Lacey is the proud wife of a gung-ho and seriously injured lifer named Eddie and struggling mother to teen-aged Otis. Tedrowe paints Lacey in broad strokes as an under-educated, hard drinking woman who spends most of her off hours at local bars and has become involved with an understanding bartender named Jim. (Lacey is obviously a Blue Collar conservative). Her world goes into tilt mode when she unwittingly becomes stuck in the trenches of humanity and finds herself cast as the poster child and "whipping girl" for the controversy surrounding Building 18.

Aside from Lacey, the most likable character in the entire book is Eddie's mother Lolo, who comes across as a woman with no political axe to grind, possessing undying devotion to her son and to his recovery (however minimal that may be) as well as being sympathetic to Lacey's predicament.

Overall, this is a four star book with one star deducted for the author's abrasive insertion of her personal political agenda and views.

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