Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home. A memoir by Leah Lax. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2015. 348 pages. *****

Lisa seeks love, acceptance and a family by joining a group of Hasidic Jews. Immersing herself in the religion, Lisa becomes Leah and agrees to an arranged marriage with Levi. Accepting her role as a wife, mother and daughter, Leah makes a home for her family and conforms to the role of women in her chosen religion. Subjugating herself and her independence, Leah begins to question in poignant honesty her feelings, desires and marriage. Forced to pursue her passion of writing at night while her family slept, Leah finds her voice.

I was immediately drawn into this book and am awed by her honesty in describing her quest to find the love that she lacked in her family and the coldness of her husband. Leah tried so hard to be the perfect wife and mother denying her feelings and needs.  A courageous tale that highlights societal issues that is not easily resolved. This is a story that could be any woman trapped in a loveless marriage who stays because of religious beliefs and the sake of the children. Leah's story needs to be read and discussed; I suggest it for a Book Club choice. 

I received a print copy from BookSparks and an electronic copy from NetGalley to review.

Leah Lax's fiction and nonfiction has won awards and has been published in numerous anthologies, print and online, including Dame, Lilith, and Salon. Her work for stage has been reviewed in The New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine, and has been broadcast on NPR. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston.


Shattered Blue

Shattered Blue: Book One of The Light Trilogy by Lauren Bird Horowitz. New York: Skyscape, 2015. 336 pages. *****

"Your sister is dead." This story begins with eleventh grader Noa dealing with the accidental death of her seventeen-year-old sister, Isla. Not only did they attend the same elite boarding school, Harlow Academy, but also they were roommates. Life is different now for Noa, being a "commuter" day student with her lively younger sister Sasha, stared at while walking the halls and attending classes, she just doesn't care anymore. Her best friends, Miles (who wishes he were more) and Olivia, are her safeguards at school. Home life isn't much better, her mother has isolated herself in her bedroom and her dad has buried himself in his work. Summoned to the Counselor's office, she meets tall, dark, and handsome, Callum Forsythe. Noa senses that Callum is different, a "strange feeling prickled her skin...like uneasiness and ... anticipation." Noa soon discovers that unusual events occur around Callum and much to Miles and Olivia's concern; she is drawn into a relationship with him and events in the Fae world. Include an evil brother who travels through a portal to look for his banished brother; Thorn the Hunter, who is searching for a magic ring and the personal consequences of impulsivity and irresponsibility.  This novel is fantasy fiction at its finest. 

It's a good thing that this is the first in a Trilogy because I want to know more about these characters and what happens next. Well-written and thought provoking, the ethical dilemma facing the two brothers as to whether their survival is paramount over the humans who provide the "Light" or are sacrificed to the portal. Good versus evil is not always easily discernible and Horowitz has set the stage for the reader to want to read the next book. There are enough plot twists to keep the story moving and me interested. I would definitely recommend it to YA readers and Twilight fans. 

I received an E book Advanced Reading Copy from BookSparks and NetGalley.

Lauren--or "Bird" as she is often known -- is a screenwriter and novelist lucky enough to call both Los Angeles and Kauai home. Bird studied writing at Harvard University with novelist Jamaica Kincaid, where she won several prizes including the Edward Eager Memorial Prize for fiction. She's a proud member of the Writers Guid of America. You can follow Bird on twitter (@birdaileen) and Instagram (@birdaileen) for trilogy updates. 


The Year of Necessary Lies

The Year of Necessary Lies: A Novel by Kris Radish. Arizona: SparkPress, 2015. 338 pages *****

This "rags to riches" story chronicles a year in the life of Julia Briton from April 10, 1904 -April 10, 1905. Told in her own words on tapes left for a rebellious Great-Granddaughter, the reader is transported to a world of bird plume hunters and the people who made their fortunes by killing birds. Born to a hard working, poor family in Boston, Julia falls in love and marries the only son of a wealthy business man. Introduced to the horrors of plume hunting by her mother-in-law, Julia cannot turn a blind eye to her husband's family business. Attending Audubon Society meetings and a love of birds propels Julia to action.  Leaving her husband, elegant home and society, she courageously travels alone to Pelican Island to write and draw what she sees to bring attention to the society that demands plumes for their hats. Hearing and seeing her adventures in her own words, her struggles, triumphs and grief, changes her family's perspective and raises new questions about their heritage.

I have enjoyed other Radish books, one of my favorite is The Elegant Gathering of White Snows, however, I loved this story. Radish has a way of educating the reader about a specific time and place in the guise of a love story. She has always been fascinated by birds and her descriptions transported me there so that I too could see the beauty and the ugliness of the situation. Radish has never been one to shy from social issues and in this story she vividly portrays the heart wrenching loss and the difficult decisions associated with pregnancy and the lack of effective birth control. Julia tries to stay true to herself and what she believes is right while discovering her strengths and talents. Kris sums it up best, "what I wrote is an amazing love story on many levels, which I hope will become an example about the importance of following your own heart, designing your Year--no matter how long it takes, and for living a life that is written by no one but you."  Thank you Kris Radish for reminding us of what's important in life.

I received an electronic Advanced Copy from BookSparks to review.

Kris Radish is the bestselling author of ten novels and three works of non-fiction. She celebrates the important and amazing power of female friendship via her novels and in her yearly retreats held for women from across the globe. Radish is also co-owner of the Wine Madonna wine lounge in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida and Radish & Company Boutique where she hosts book groups and special events and does a bit of wine drinking herself. Radish is also working on her eleventh novel and a second book of autobiographical essays.


Banned Books Week - September 27 - October 3rd

"Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association."


Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read.

The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom publishes the top ten frequently challenged books, those challenged in 2014 include:
  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
  2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
  3. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
  5. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris.
  6. Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
  7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
  9. A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard.
  10. Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
Complete lists and background information may be found at American Library Association.

A Request to Reconsider (Challenges) or Remove a book is a situation that occurs too often in public schools and libraries and is a very serious problem.

Additional Information:

The Beach

There's something about the beach that is so calming and soothing. I love Spring Lake, New Jersey. The homes are gorgeous, it is hard to believe that they are owned by real people. The gazebo, the stores and the lake in town seem to transport me to another time and place.

Maybe I was a mermaid in a past life, the ocean is calling my name.


The Lopsided Christmas Cake

The Lopsided Christmas Cake by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter. Ohio:Shiloh Run Press, 2015. 203 pages. *****

Twin sisters, Elma and Thelma Hochstetler inherit their grandparent's house and general store. Living together with their parents for their thirty-two years and unmarried, the sisters decide to become independent, move from Sullivan, Illinois to Topeka, Indiana and continue their grandparent's business. While participating in a charity bake-off they catch the eye of bachelor friends, Joseph Beechy and Delbert Gingerich. The bake off is a disaster and the twins handle it with humor and poise. Will a lopsided Grandma's Christmas cake bring welcome changes to the Hochstetler twin’s social life or should they sell the house and move home with their parents?

Brunstetter never disappoints, reading her books is like welcoming a best friend into your home. You know that it will be a wonderful, calming, fun experience and you will feel better after you are finished reading it. You will instantly want more and cannot wait until she publishes the next one. Wanda and her daughter-in-law collaborated on this book and I am sure there will be many more in their future.

I received a copy of this book from Barbour Publishing to review.

New York Times, award-winning author, Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the Founders of the Amish fiction genre. To learn more about Wanda, visit her website at www.wandbrunstetter.com

Jean Brunstetter became fascinated with the Amish when she first went to Pennsylvania to visit her father-in-law's family. Jean lives in Washington State with her husband, Richard Jr. and their three children. 

Crooked Little Lies

Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel. Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2015. 415 pages. ****

"Lauren didn't know on that Friday in October, when she saw him walking alongside the road's edge, that he would soon vanish, or that in the wake of his disappearance, dozens of people would feel compelled to search for him." When Lauren realized she almost hit him with her car, she wondered who he was and why was he walking on the road's shoulder. Dealing with her own problems, Lauren instantly regretted stopping and questioning him. Was she interfering in calling the police station and reporting what happened after seeing the roll of cash he was carrying and the odd way that he behaved? She certainly did not need to call attention to herself now while recovering from a fall in the process of deconstructing a bell tower in an old church. Lauren couldn't comprehend how she went from an ordinary housewife to someone addicted to OxyContin and pain medication.  Knowing that she did things that she can't remember under the influence of the drugs and is labeled a drug addict by friends and family causes her to doubt her actions now that she is sober. Her husband and children stood by her during the hospital stay and recovery, but having embarrassed them has caused a strain within the family. What happened to Bo and is Lauren losing her mind? Does she have reason to be suspicious that someone is trying to make it look as if she is still using drugs? 

Definitely a complicated and compelling story. I was drawn in immediately and had a difficult time deciding who were the bad guys and was Lauren somehow implicated in Bo's disappearance. Not a predictable outcome and I really enjoyed trying to figure out what happened to Bo. 

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley and BookSparks to review.

"Barbara Taylor Sissel wires issue oriented upmarket women's fiction that is threaded with elements of suspense and defined by particular emphasis on how the crime affects the family. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, she was raised in various locations across the Midwest and once lived on the grounds of a first-offender prison facility where her husband was a deputy warden. Barbara lives on a farm in the Texas Hill Country, outside Austin."