Thursday, May 31, 2012

Betty's (little basement) Garden by Laurel Dewey

Article first published as Book Review: Betty's (Little Basement) Garden by Laurel Dewey on Blogcritics.
Bud, Seed, Weed, dope, marijuana, or cannabis, no matter what you call it, there has become a raging argument about the merits of this drug and its abilities to help heal and its qualities of reducing the after effects of the drugs used for diseases such as cancer.  Everyone has an opinion and even the law is divided on what is right. Medical marijuana is certainly becoming more of a mainstream topic.
In Betty’s (little basement) Garden by Laurel Dewey, we are invited into the world of this drug sensation in a strange and slightly bizarre, yet idealistic way. Betty Craven is a 58 year old woman who is known for her ability to create perfection, whether it is her prize flowers, or her fabulous chocolates, she excels in what she chooses. Little do her friends understand the real life that Betty is living? Having her only child die in a horrible way, and then losing her husband, she finally finds herself free from a hell she could not seem to escape. As do many new widows, she tries to move forward but does not understand how. Buying into her own hype, she spends everything she has and more to build a business she can be proud of. When the economy falls on hard times she finds she is in way over her head. Yet in her pride she must keep up appearances. Even her closest friends do not realize the problems she is beginning to face.  The lack of money is bad enough, but she is also beginning to see and experience things that make no sense. She is feeling so much guilt over her son’s death, she finds herself talking to him frequently.
Her son was always sensitive and artistic; he saw things as they were meant to be. Her husband was cruel to him because of what he thought were his pansy ways, and belittled him at every turn. Part of Betty’s pain stemmed from the feeling that she experienced of letting him down. She always thought she should stand up to her husband but she did not know how. She only knew how to be the perfect housewife, one who did not talk back or create waves.  When she meets another young man who looks very much like her son before he died, her life changes in ways she could never imagine.  This young man is the nemesis of everything she believes in and is part of the cannabis growing community.  She is disturbed by his antics and decides she must be the one to help set him straight. She has no idea what changes her life will take as she begins to shake the mantel of respectability, and really begins to live again.
This is a wonderful novel full of characters we see every day. There is more to the work than the usual change of life and the growth of change. There is friendship and hope, new love and forgiveness. The pain of discovery and the brittle house of cards that often hide the real needs of those in danger begin to shift through a veil that begins as opaque and slowly changes hue to a clear and shining purpose.
Regardless of your belief system, there is a great deal of information about the growers of medical marijuana and the difficulties that creates, and it takes you into the back streets of the illegal growers with their need to break the rules that protect those that are in the business to help others. Both facets do not trust the other and yet their lives intersect in many ways. There is a form of reliance that must be cultivated to continue to produce the crops, and the knowledge of each form of plant.
I really enjoyed this work and found it hard to put down. The story behind the title is deep and abiding, full of feeling and depth. Betty is the quintessential woman coming from a family that could only relate to perfection, and she has a difficult time letting go.
This would be an excellent book for a reading group or a book club. There is life and laughter, love and friendships, and a spark of the paranormal that brings it all together. This is a change of the usual Dewey story but she does not disappoint. Her characters maintain their charisma and charm and draw you in.  Take a chance and delve into this work, it is interesting and unique, full of a new and yet old fashioned type of charm.
Rating 5/5
This book was received free from the publicist. All opinions are my own based of my reading and understanding of the material.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Author Interview: Richard Sharp-Author of The Duke Don't Dance

Richard Sharp. Author of The Duke Don’t Dance

Tell me a little about yourself, your family and who you are.
I am a member of America’s "Silent Generation," the generation born too late to participate in World War II, but before the post-war baby boom. Born in 1941into a farming family who had migrated to rural Colorado from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, I traveled east as a young adult to receive degrees from Harvard and Princeton Universities. My writing is enriched from career experiences across America and in some four dozen countries, spanning the Vietnam War era through the present. Following years in the Washington, DC area, with assignments mainly in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the former Soviet Union, I now reside in Charlotte, North Carolina, having reduced my professional travels to “bucket list” opportunities only, after realizing that in 2009-2010,my hours spent on airplanes or in airports added up to well over one full month. My wife was also a world traveler with a career in the Smithsonian Institution. I have two adult children and two adult stepchildren.
When did you start your writing career? 
My career was largely in international development and transport consulting, involving continuous non-fiction authoring of reports, written testimony on legal/regulatory matters and technical papers, as well as co-authoring one Federal agency history. My fiction writing began in 2001 with two unpublished historical novels. The first deals with the gradual assimilation of a German-speaking frontier family into American culture from its arrival prior to the Revolution through the end of the Civil War. The second follows the history of one character, a boy in the first novel, set mostly in post-Civil War Missouri and Panama during the ill-fated French canal project. Due to my intense professional career, I deferred publication of those novels. Due to the reception of my current novel, The Duke Don’t Dance, I expect to publish both later this year.
Who is your favorite author? Do you have a Role model?
This may be surprising to most who have read The Duke Don’t Dance. While my work has been compared (quite over-the-top) to Henry James, Joseph Heller and Evelyn Waugh, my greatest influence by far actually has been Isabel Allende, particularly her work up through Paula. She greatly informs my treatment of female protagonists and inspires my interest in the evolution of personalities and generations over time.
Apart from Allende, I’d say Bertolt Brecht and Joseph Heller are role models to an extent.

What was your first sale as an author? 

An paperback sold in February 2012 to an unknown customer.  

Do you have a critique group or beta readers? 

Not really, though I’ll expose my partial work to family and friends.

In your writing style are you a pantser or plotter?
I’m more of a seat-of-the pants “panster,” but there is some structure to my madness. I always start with a central inspiration and write around that, For The Duke Don’t Dance, it was the enigmatic graffiti of the title found in an office men’ s room. For Jacob’s Cellar, it was the cellar of that title. For Time is the Oven, a kind of anti-Western, it was the historical fact that Frank James, elder brother of Jesse, was a Shakespeare buff.

I always start writing around that initial concept, whether it comes in the beginning, as in Jacob’s Cellar, or later in the novel, as in the other two books. The concept provides a time and place anchor that is then elaborated through accurate historical milestones and the emergence of the protagonists interacting within the time frame. The conclusion, driven by the evolution of my characters over the passage of time, is a late development, never the starting point.
How do you choose your story?
My novels (the three above and any yet to be written) are all about time; how the protagonists cope with experiences over which they have little control. The first came out of some curiosity about my own family’s history during the great changes that occurred in nineteenth century America, the present novel on the immense changes that occurred in my own generation’s lifetime. The second novel (following on the first, but not really a sequel) concentrated on a couple of pivotal decades of change, as will my next (see below).
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers?

To me, it is important that the protagonists not give a damn about what the reader thinks of them. The characters in a novel should never be pleading to the reader to love them or think they’re cool. If protagonists are to seem like real people, they simply can’t care that some omniscient narrator is polishing up their image or alter their dialog so that all of the things that one wishes one had said are said. Sometimes that approach tests the reader a bit at the outset until they get into the stream of what’s going on. But my protagonists don’t care and neither do I. In the end, I think that makes for a better story.
How do you react to a bad review or rejection? 
No novel is going to appeal to everyone, so as long as I’m getting a preponderance of favorable reviews I don’t care that much about the unfavorable ones. I like a 4 of 5 from a respected independent source more than a 5 of 5 from someone who may be hoping for reciprocity. A good review from outside of my target demographic is as rewarding as a somewhat more favorable one from someone I expect to like the novel.
I am completely unfazed by rejections from Indie reviewers, as everyone should be. They are horribly oversaturated with requests and it is very difficult to communicate the tone of a novel if you don’t have a track record in a specific genre. My work is literary fiction/historical fiction, a segment of the market where disdain for Indie writers is stronger than in most other genres. I respond with a mild level of contempt for reviewers who reject Indies simply because they are Indies, even though I recognize that Indie books contain a higher percentage of truly awful works than mainstream publishers release. They at least screen out much of the painfully bad in favor of the mind-numbingly mediocre. Writing is not for the thin-skinned. Speak softly and carry a big ego.
Do you have any further Books or Plans in the work?
Yes. In addition to the historical novels noted above, I am in the early stages of a novel entitled Crystal Ships that will be set in the 1960s and 1970s, but is not a generational tale like The Duke Don’t Dance. Its inspiration is an ancient Irish legend and the old Doors song loosely based on it. It reflects my personal disagreement with Emerson. Life is not about the journey or the destination – it’s about the vessels that take you through it, the visions and inspirations, the crystal ships.
How can your fans and readers find you, do you have a web page or blog?
Currently, I also have a presence on, and, plus facebook.

Flight Emergency by Reya Kempley

Article first published as Book Review: Flight Emergency by Reya Kempley on Blogcritics.

Piloting and flying aircraft is not just about vacation, but also a hobby and travel source for many individuals. Small craft are independently owned and used throughout the US and other countries. Along with flight there are also risks, dangers that can turn flight into a nightmare.
Flight Emergency by Reya Kempley, is an interesting role-playing game written for both students and certified pilots. Set to different possible emergencies, she has put together scenarios that could happen. As a reader you choose the direction or decision you would make and each choice takes you to a different outcome. It is informative and interesting. Kempley tries to choose the most likely emergencies that can occur, and then takes you to their conclusion based on your own choice.
As a learning tool this seems to be very thorough. Not a pilot myself I found that while I did not always choose the correct course initially, many of the right choices entail both common sense, and a bit of patience.  The book has been read by numerous pilots and from their discourse they find her simulations spot-on and to the point. There are eight role-playing emergencies and Kempley has made this more than just text book learning, but fun as well as informative.
Kempley herself is a pilot and has experience that could prove invaluable to others. Putting this to paper and sharing her insights in this interactive forum is both challenging and interesting.
I would recommend this book as a great gift for your student pilot or even your already certified pilot. Pitting yourself against the inherent dangers in such a safe interactive way and learning how to spot and divert danger is one of the best gifts one can give.
Kempley has stepped outside the box to bring safety to others. This would be a great book for the amateur or professional aviator to add to their library.
Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Away by Jim Wygant

Article first published as Book Review: No Away by Jim Wygant on Blogcritics.

Economic Collapse, Global Warming, Environmental disasters, illness, and special enforcement squads are many of the things often in the news and talked about. What if much of this is true? How would we cope in a world where collapse is inevitable?
In No Away by Jim Wygant, the very world has become a nightmare of death and control. Adam Spence has done many things in his life he is not proud of including a few contract kills. Being a war veteran has not really prepared him for much, but he does the best he can to get by. When he makes a serious mistake he finds himself hunted by the new protectors of national security, a group that seems to see him as a huge threat. Running from these men that seem hell bent on finding him, he hides as best as he can. Trying to stay under the radar he meets a young barista that seems attracted to him. He is game, but does not understand her anger and finds her to be very short fused. Little of that seems to matter though as illness suddenly finds a hold. A strong flu like illness is taking the lives of many, and fear is becoming more prevalent.
As the sickness takes over, whole populations are decimated.  Soon only the strongest, those with the best survival skills begin to take charge.  Even with all of the destruction, Adam finds he is still a target. Racing across the country with his barista friend and another of her friends who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he finds that they are barely able to stay ahead of his pursuers.  As different groups vie for charge, he finds himself caught in the middle, not knowing which way to turn. Can he elude his pursuers and save these women, or will they fall victim to the killers stalking the countryside. Will Adam find out what he knows that the others are so avidly wanting? With no one to be accountable to, who will ride herd on those now in power?
Wygant has given us a dystopian world with just a bit of a twist. While an illness is responsible for the destruction of the peoples of the world, he has given us a game of cat and mouse, which begins before the ending, and continues through the fall. His protagonist is very pragmatic and slightly flawed, with just a bit of jaded reality. He is racing to save two young women he does not know, and running from a group that he thought he understood. However with the fall of power, he no longer comprehends what they want from him.
His pursuers have him in their sights, and they too no longer seem to know exactly what they want, but they are more than willing to pay for information to find him. There is a strange bit of madness in their calculation, an almost zombie like fascination with Adam and what they think he knows. The chase and capture is what is important and they continue moving forward even as their original reasoning no longer makes sense. The world has changed and each must now prepare for a new future and yet they are still in a strange sway that continues to pull them to his whereabouts.
Wygant’s world is interesting, and his characters are just as desperate and unguided as would be expected. There is a challenge for leadership and many pushing themselves forward trying to be the strongest. They prey on others and yet feel that it is their right, they must be the survivors at all costs. Sadly in a world where all is lost, there are those who continue to prey on the weak and use their skills for their own ends.
If you enjoy a good end of world thriller you will enjoy this work. The characters are strong and the setting is done well. The suspense keeps you turning the pages to see how it all ends.  Wygant has written another solid performer.

Rating 4/5

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Article first published as Book Review: Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes on Blogcritics.

Do we really know those closest to us? Deep inside are they who we believe them to be? What happens if the man you love begins to undermine you with your other friends and family, wanting you only for himself? How can you fight the rumors and the thoughts that now inhabit the sanctum of your inner group?

In Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes we are invited into a chilling and dark thriller that creates a vibe that makes the hair stand on your arms. Cathy Bailey is a young woman with a great group of friends. When she meets Lee Brightman she is excited, yet wary. He is different than most of the men she knows, exceptionally handsome but just as mysterious as he is charming. As she begins a strange relationship, both secretive and exciting, she finds that she is beginning to lose touch with her friends. As her life begins to change so does the mindset of those she calls her closest allies. When the unimaginable happens, she is suddenly adrift on her own, and no longer has a life of ease.

Everything that has occurred to her has created another being. She is no long the fun loving and cheerful woman she was. She locks herself behind doors and windows; OCD has taken over her life. Repetitive steps to every aspect of her life keep her from being locked away in panic. Can following her new set of rules keep her safe, or will Lee find her again? Even her friends no longer know her, and she walks a thin line very close to madness. Who can help her if she cannot even help herself? She sees Lee everywhere she looks, how can she move on? Will he find her and finish the task he has set before himself?

Haynes has given us an unusual heroine in Cathy. She is strong to a point, and somewhat defiant, yet she cannot seem to pull herself from herself inflicted OCD. Haynes creates the terror of domestic abuse in a way that feels real and yet so very unreal. You get into Cathy’s head and feel what she feels and the unreality of the situation scares the hell out of you. Obsession and love are very different and yet there is just enough want that in the beginning it is easy to miss the signs.

Her protagonist is dark and just a bit evil. The evil is difficult to spot, and yet it is there, strong and creepy. His agenda is difficult to follow at first and yet he gains the trust of those closest to Cathy, and begins to twist and thread his own ideas and thoughts in such a way as they begin to see her in a different light. The under cutting of her very base begins to erode leaving her without any support at all.

Into The Darkest Corner is a thriller with overtones of horror. There is very much about domestic abuse and the aftermath, as well as how some women learn to cope. Haynes brings OCD out of the darkness and helps you to understand the reasoning that is often inherent in the repetition, the safety that is gleaned by such actions.

If you enjoy thrillers and strong charismatic people you will enjoy this book. The characters and the story line suck you in, keeping you checking your own windows and doors. This would be a great book for a book club or a reading group. So much of what it entails is very much true to life. Into The Darkest Corner will stay with you long after the reading, you will find yourself checking your own doors more often. This one would be a great book for your own library, a savage and chilling tale told with gusto.

Rating 5/5

This book was received free from the publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Duke Don't Dance by Richard Sharp

Article first published as Book Review: The Duke Don't Dance by Richard Sharp on Blogcritics.

Different generations of Americans each have their own individual era, a time when they were growing and events that colored their lives. These events help to create and define the individuals and their beliefs as they continue to age.
In The Duke Don’t Dance by Richard Sharp, we follow a group of friends and acquaintances that were born just after the shadow of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. Known as the Silent Generation they came of age toward the end of the war. Baby Boomers as they are called are the children of the Greatest Generation as we know them, but also in some cases the children of the Silent Generation were also born at the end of that era.  This Silent Generation are the ones who invented rock and roll, pushed forth the struggle for racial equality, and are at the bottom of the sexual revolution.
In this journal of growth we follow a group of seven friends as they embark on life’s little pleasures and the interconnections as they move throughout their time from young adults to adulthood. Often loving and other times hating, they are connected through each other and their pasts.  Through the cold war and peace, and living though the drug culture, they are entertaining and irascible.
Richard Sharp has given us characters that are annoying, or fun, brave and talented, and just a bit out of their depth. You may recognize many of the characteristics in those you know, and understand the feeling of inadequacy they all seem to share. There are no sacred elephants with this group of survivors and there is no shortage of problems.
Throughout the story they continue to move on only to have to seek help from one or the other of this interesting cast.  Even distance and time does not sever their ties, and even when they have wronged the other, after the initial shaft of betrayal, the characters move on only to understand how better to watch their backs.
Sharp takes you on a journey through the times and touches on history and events, all the while creating interesting scenarios to engage his characters, creating an understanding and believability to their actions.
If you enjoy historical facts and events, and the characterization of the different generations, you will find this a great novel. If you enjoy the interaction of characters that interconnect throughout their lifetimes, this is a marvelous find.
This would be a good story for a reading group, a great discussion piece and a place to ask questions. The events and history speak for themselves, and the characters help to clarify the times.
Rating 4/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion

Article first published as Book Review: The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion on Blogcritics.
Grief is something most people can share; loss of a loved one is never very far. It could be your own, a friends, or even a neighbors, but we see the fallout time and again throughout life. Grief centers are formed to help those who need to move through the process, and yet not everyone does.
In The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion, we follow the lives of a small group woman whose grief is all consuming. Marnie has lost her boyfriend; she had been with him for years and raised his young son, only to lose him to his real mother after his dad’s death. She is grieving both the death of her boyfriend and the loss of a child she had raised since kindergarten. In counseling and listening to the others speak about their losses, she is unable to find a common ground, she struggles with opening up. When a young and vibrant woman unexpectedly shows up to counseling out of the blue, life seems to take another turn. There is something about her that makes you want to believe, she can pull the smile out of the dourest companion, and is able to help alleviate the stress of some of the others through hugs and laughs. Who is she and what is her own grief that brings her to the center?

Jazzy had not intended to go to the grief center, but something led her there. She always knew when someone needed her and it appeared there were some serious issues at hand. Having grown up a psychic, she was always drawn to those in need as was her grandmother before her. When she is able to pull them together for a trip to visit Marnie’s son, none of them can grasp how such a trip has come together. Yet none of them want to question Jazzy, and do not feel they can let the other group members down.
Rita is in her 50’s, very prim and ladylike and still angry over the murder of her daughter ten year prior. The murderer has never been found, but she knows who it is. The authorities do not have enough evidence to continue so Rita continues to rage. Laverne is Marnie’s landlady whom she has never met, an elderly lady who had become housebound and crippled with grief after the death of her beloved husband. Jazzy rounds out the group, driven to help the group through her psychic nature. Little do they know that they are embarking on the adventure that will change the pattern of their lives? Love, healing and friendship wait at the end of the road, but can this crazy cast of characters get there driving cross country on their own? Vegas is the city of dreams, can their own dreams come true?

McQuestion has written a journal of the lives of a group of women in their search for answers. The characters are an amazing cast of people, very like many of those you know. Each carries secrets and resentments that drive them on their quest. Jazzy is as different from this cast as you can get, and yet is the catalyst that makes things happen, and the glue that keeps them together. Her light shines brightly, and while she is a psychic, I would have to believe she is part guardian angel. The light of life and love shines within her quite brightly.

The trip is riddled with problems and magic, and just enough excitement and adventure to keep you both interested and charmed. I began reading and could not put the book down until it was finished. I wanted to know how the lives of these women would change. They became very real to me and have stayed with me even after the book came to an end. I would love to see this made into a movie, it is vibrant, and loaded with feeling, both good and bad. The entire story begins with grief and becomes something much more.

If you enjoy people and characters you will love this book. If you enjoy adventure, and the often crazy antics of people that do not seem to work as a team, or even fit into a group that makes sense, you will find this a fun and interesting journey. I was hooked from the beginning, and while it is early yet, it is one of my favorite books of the year.

This would be an excellent summer read and a book to share with friends. It would also make and excellent book club or reading group novel, sure to spice up the group. I believe this is a must have for your library, and one of McQuestion’s best so far.

Rating 5/5

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shaman, Friend, Enemy by M. Terry Green

Article first published as Book Review:Shaman, Friend, Enemy by M. Terry Green on Blogcritics.

Sometimes our past dictates what we become, some grow stronger; others will often allow that darkness or secret to dictate the direction of their entire being. Only strength will determine how we decide where to turn.  That strength comes from acknowledging that secret and bringing it into the light, no longer allowing it to hold you hostage to the pain.

In Shaman Friend Enemy by M. Terry Green, we are immersed back into the world of Olivia (Livvy) Lawson, a Techno-Shaman who has brought shamanism into the open in such a way that the field begins to attract attention. The paparazzi are often at her healings and everything she now does is under scrutiny.  Her friends and the other Shamans that have helped her in the past have disappeared into their own work and she is back taking care of and healing those who require her skills. However along with the exposure, she finds she is now being challenged by a Shaman she does not know.  This Shaman seems to be able to find Livvy in the underworld where she does her healing.  As Livvy soon finds, she will need all of her friends and her abilities to fight this new threat. This new Shaman calls on the old world rituals and the darkness she brings will cause untold damage to the practice as it stands.

Although Livvy’s career has taken an upward turn, her personal life begins to spiral out of control. She only now realizes that she is in love but does not know how to move forward. She has a secret that she has never shared; it goes the very beginning of her shamanism. In order to strengthen her position she must find a way to work though the darkness her secret brings, but her choices do not fit with what is acceptable within her training. Looking for a way, little does she realize that she has given her enemy the very opening that has been sought.  Can Olivia find a way to separate her past from her future, and save those she cares for the most? The darkness of this new shaman is growing, and Livvy finds that not only is her life at stake, but that of those she loves and care about the most are also at risk. Can she find the answers before it is too late? Will she risk everything for the one thing she cannot have?

Green is a master at developing characters that draw you in. Her world and the use of the shamanism are exciting and bold. This second book in her series delivers the goods and makes you hunger for more.  The forbidden love is heartfelt and creates an ache in your own heart. Livvy has a kindness that permeates everything she does, and she cares to the point of putting herself in danger. This is a flaw and yet should not be, but it drags her into danger because she puts herself in peril for those she protects. Life to her is what is important, and she will risk it all even for strangers. How can you not care about such a character, the heart of a warrior and the care of a superhero, she only has a small amount of the power that can be used in comparison.

If you enjoy the paranormal and are interested in healing this is the book for you. There is adventure, romance, horror and a bit of indiscriminate killing, yet you will also find friendships and family that thread there way throughout the text. As ever darkness and light are ever at war, and the ending will leave you looking for more. Olivia is a character that will continue to have adventures and a heroine that will keep you looking for more.

I would recommend this book for a book club or reading group. The characters and their events will keep the discussions lively, and the questions sharp. This would be an excellent book for your library.

Rating 5/5
This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Shoemakers's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Article first published as Book Review:The Shoemakers's Wife by Adriana Trigiani on Blogcritics.

Is happily ever after an illusion? Is there really only one person for each soul? Do we often choose our partners for the wrong reasons and is that why marriages tend to have a higher failure rate?

In The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani, we find ourselves immersed in the lives of two young boys who are given over to a convent for nurture when their father is killed in a mine accident and their mother no longer has the immediate means to raise them. With every intention of coming back for them once she is on her feet, she disappears and they are left to the mercies of the church. Different personalities and looks the brothers are none the less, the closest of friends.
The nuns grow to love them, the elder brother Edward plans on dedicating his life to religion but Ciro does not have any interest in that direction. He is large and imposing even from a young age, and takes after his father. Not sure what he will do, he is very like most boys as they mature. He loves girls, and is constantly in love with one or another of them, always seeming to get his heart broken. But he does not care, he finds life to be exciting and he is well loved in return for his gregarious nature. When he sets sights on one of the  loveliest girls in the village where he resides in the Italian Alps, he does not realize that he is not only doomed to failure, but that his life will suddenly take a turn that will twist him away from all he knows and loves and put him into a country across the ocean just coming into its own, America. 

Following his heart he decides to approach his lovely soon to be conquest, only to find her in the arms of the priest. Unsure where to turn he takes his concern back to the convent, but finds that while they are not surprised the sisters understand that the priest is inviolate. As Ciro loses his job with the church and while he waits to see what will happen, he takes on a job of digging the grave for a family further away. The youngest sibling has perished, and little does he know it, but meeting the eldest sister Ensa, a young woman his own age, he finds their fates intertwined time after time, and as he agrees to see her again, he finds himself shipped off to America.

Knowing he will never see her again, he decides that a life with her was not to be a part of his life. Little does he know that Ensa and her father too have decided to move to America in order to make a better life for their family back home. Will fate take a stand?

Trigiani gives us such wonderful characters full of bluster and yet strong and charismatic. Those characters that have flaws are just as important in the lives and dreams of those they come into contact with. The emotion throughout the story keeps you reading, and hoping for happily ever after. Can her characters sustain their highs? Does right really have a place in how interconnected people become, often unknowingly? The story moves from Italy to America and through it all you can visualize the places and their mysteries.

She shares the plights of those who come into America, unable to speak the language as well as the trials and tribulations of finding work and making a living, often have to rely on those who may not have their best interests at heart. Each of her characters makes their place in the world through persistence and pride, but it is when they continue to meet time after time, in different ways that you begin to wonder if there is a fate in store.

I laughed and I cried throughout the story, and found it to be a perfect mix of emotions. There is something truly magical and inspiring about her characterization and her amazing ability to bring you into her work.

I would recommend this work for anyone who enjoys a wonderful and heartfelt story; there is history, religion, war and romance, something for everyone. I would recommend this as a fine book for your library, one you could read time and again, and find even more interest with each reading. This would be a wonderful book for a book club or reading group, and would create a great deal of discussion.

Rating 5/5

This book was received free from the publicist. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.