The Golden Hour

In The Golden Hour, author Margaret Wurtele weaves a love story confounded by war, social injustice, and history.  The book begins with Giovanna Bellini and the spring, her city of Tuscany freshly invaded by the Germans.  Her brother, amidst familial strife, runs away from the requiring German army and joins the resistance.  Meanwhile, Nazi’s have taken over both Giovanna’s home and workplace and are turning her comfortable world upside down.

When her brother returns, in secret, to ask for help hiding a wounded Jewish comrade, Giovanna is forced to grow up quickly and find aid for this hurt friend.  While nursing him back to health in hiding, Giovanna falls deeply in love with her charge and faces the biggest decision of her life.

Wurtele has written a lovely masterpiece.  I was there with Giovanna, on the edge of my seat, wishing her well and urging her on.  I understood the glamor and history of old Tuscany, the value that the Bellini’s were trying to protect and the pain they went through when the German’s took everything from them.  And I felt the pain of first love, bitter and sweet, and prayed for a happy ending.

This book gives you a little of everything – romance, adventure, mystery, suspense, history.  Pick it up and enjoy a sunny afternoon with an excellent book.

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Dying to Know You

In Dying to Know You, Aidan Chambers paints a brilliant picture of human emotion.

Karl is in love with Fiorella, who demands written love letters describing his feelings for her.  Not the best writer, Karl finds and begs the assistance of Fiorella’s favorite author, who agrees to write the letters as Karl.  What follows is a beautifully written tale of loss, first love, grief, and learning.

This book doesn’t follow the traditional style of writing.  Punctuation is few and far between, each line is a new paragraph; time jumps.  But instead of being difficult to follow, this technique brings us immediately and fully into the mind of each character.  The paragraphs are real, nothing fluffy or fake – every word is something I’d say, or you’d think.  Chambers does a marvelous job of portraying each character, every one unique and developed so much that I saw them in my mind.  I felt their pain, I saw their discomfort, I knew their feelings.

Though marketed as a Young Adult novel, there is nothing childish about this book.  Pick up Dying to Know You today, and you’ll be a better-read person by tomorrow.  You won’t regret it.

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The Age of Miracles

In The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker weaves a fantastic tale that hits just close enough to home that it makes you slightly uncomfortable.

It’s present day, a normal Saturday morning.  Except this morning, everything changes.  This is the morning that the world slowed.  Literally.  While citizens slept, the day gained fifty-six minutes.  What follows reads as a first-hand account of the events following that first day, Walker providing a viewpoint into the human mind and showing us just how different, and similar, we can be in the face of uncertainty.

The story centers on Julia and her parents, and we see this new society blossom through her eyes.  As a reader, I felt the fear, the uncertainty, and, oddly enough, the hope.  As I read about the days getting longer and longer, I wondered to myself what I would do, or feel, or think, if this situation were to ever happen.

Walker provides insight to the human condition, reminding us that we are basic creatures.  Even in the midst of confusion and uncertainty, people still go to school.  They still go to work.  They still love and hate, have affairs and celebrate birthdays.

The book ends with a look into the future – Julia is in college now, and admits that no one really knows what the world will be like when she graduates.  But she still dreams.  She still remembers.  She doesn’t give up.

It’s something we can all learn from, whether the world is ending or not.

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A Walk Across the Sun

A Walk Across the Sun is, quite honestly, one of those books that you cannot put down.  From the first page, the reader is drawn into the lovely and traditional world of India; as the story unfolds, we are taken from India to Washington, DC, from Paris to New York City and Atlanta.  Corban Addison finely describes the sad world of underage sex trafficking while simultaneously taking us along with the people who fight to end it.

The story centers on two sisters, Ahalya and Sita, who are suddenly orphaned by the tsunami of 2004.  Both are sold to a brothel owner and imprisoned in the world of sex trafficking.  Meanwhile, D.C. lawyer Thomas Clarke decides to take a sabbatical in India, spending a year working with C.A.S.E, the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation.  The stories of these three characters weave intricately in and out; you are drawn into the story and feel as though you’re in Bombay, too.

As said above, A Walk Across the Sun is an excellent book.  The characters are well-developed, the story flows at a realistic pace, and the plot is top-notch.  To me, international sex trade isn’t a subject that has been explored much.  It is a problem worth taking a second look at, and perhaps a spectacular work of fiction is just the thing to get the ball rolling.  Find A Walk Across the Sun today, and spend your weekend curled up with a solid piece of work.

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The House at Tyneford

From the moment you pick up The House at Tyneford and open to the first page, you realize this book is not like other books.

Set in the English countryside during the opening of World War II, The House at Tyneford depicts a struggle I’m sure occurred in many households.  Elise, a Jewish woman from Austria, applies as a maid to a country home in England.  The plan is to work there until her parents, headed to America, can send for her.  What follows is a soon-to-be-classic story of love, loss, yearning, laughter and family, all set against the backdrop of World War II.

Natasha Solomons sets the scene perfectly.  I’ve been to Vienna, and she captures the magic, the beauty, and the feeling like nothing else I’ve ever read.  When we move to the shores of England, Solomons made me feel as though I was there, smelling the salty air, feeling the wind on my face.  And the characters were as well-rounded as the scenery; solemn Mr. Rivers, playful Kit, strict Mrs. Ellsworth, determined Mr. Wrexham, beautiful Anna and uncertain Elise – they were alive in my head, and I didn’t want the book to end because that meant I would have to say goodbye to them all.

In short, when you pick up The House at Tyneford be prepared to keep it open all day.  Perfect for a rainy afternoon, you can brew yourself a cup of tea, curl up next to the fire, and immerse yourself in 1940’s England.  You will enjoy yourself.

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As the Sycamore Grows

As the Sycamore Grows is one of those stories that make you feel.  Anger, sadness, cynicism, incredulity – these are only some of the emotions that will greet you throughout this book.

Author Jennie Helderman takes us into the world of Ginger and Mike, a real-life married couple living in the forests of the Deep South.  Their marriage eventually deteriorates into domestic violence, but what makes this book different from other abuse accounts are the interviews.

Helderman sits down with both Ginger and Mike and records their individual accounts of what happened.  What follows is a breathtaking, first-hand account of the kind of abusive relationship you only read about in the newspaper.  You hear Ginger’s reasons as to why she stayed, what made her think she deserved what she got, what events in her past contributed to the terrible situation.  And then you read about Mike, an unusual account from the abuser.  You get inside his head, hear his reasons and excuses, and you really get a sense of the way his brain works.

Helderman has constructed a fascinated book, one that could easily be taken from book club to college psychology class.  I was enthralled until the very end; this book was lovely, and necessary, and an excellent resource and piece of literature.  Pick it up today.

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The Demon Lover

In a culture ripe with the love of all things vampire, fairy, witch, or otherwise supernatural, Juliet Dark has created a plausible world in which these, and other, creatures come alive.  Not being a fan of other popular vampire books, I found myself drawn into this story probably because of the more mature themes.  Demon Lover is not a silly fantasy book for teenagers.  This novel has real literary merit, and it kept me enthralled until the very last page.

Callie McFay is the newest professor at Fairwick College, in upstate New York, and from her first arrival she knows something is different in the small college town.  In the pages that follow you are introduced to several creatures that Callie, until now, thought were mystical, but in fact are living amongst the humans.  Callie is led on several adventures and mysteries, and by the end of the book you’re presented with a surprise so sudden that you’re left on the edge of your seat.

I liked this book; it had an unusual premise that kept me interested and made me feel as though I wanted to be a character in the book, too.  I wanted to walk the snowy campus, live in the adorable old Victorian house, visit the bed and breakfast across the main street.  To me, that is the mark of a good book.  The Demon Lover is the first in a series, and I look forward to more books chronicling the life of Callie and the rest of Fairwick College.

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