Reviews by Bobbie D. (Boca Raton, FL)

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Patsy: A Novel
by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Patsy and Tru (5/18/2019)
"As your mother-in-training the least I can do is set you free." The quote is sent to Tru in a letter written by her mother Patsy. Though this book Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn is "fiction" a lot of it seems to be part of the authors life. Abuse, sexual preference and infidelity run throughout the lives of these Jamaican communities.
Patsy, a single mother, leaves her young daughter in Jamaica to go to America to try to earn money and be able to send it home. Her daughter Tru is sent to her father in a nearby town. He has a wife and three sons. The book divides its time between Patsy and Tru.
Quite a bit of the dialogue is written in Patois to remind you of the Jamaican ethnicity. The characters are well developed and you come to care for them. How they grow and age is this interesting story.
The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel
by Jeanne Mackin
Colors Tell it All (2/21/2019)
The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin, is a riveting piece of historical fiction about fashion icons Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel before, during, and after the second world war. Most of the story takes place in Paris. Even today, it is uncertain if either of them collaborated with the Germans.
Lily, the narrator, is a young widowed American would be artist. She describes everything real or imagined by colors. Lily becomes somewhat friendly with both designers who are so jealous of each other, romantically and in business. For example, at a ball, Coco actually pushes Schaiparelli into a candleabra and watches as her costume catches on fire.
Waiting for the war to come, watching sandbags piling up, seeing the paintings taken off the walls of the museums for safekeeping is a prologue of what seems eminent. You feel like you are there.
There are side stories of characters you come to care about including Lily, her brother and his lover, and even the German Lily is falling in love with.
This book is hard to put down.
The last line of the book sums it up so well. "I left Coco and Schiaps and Anai's daughter, and all the colors of Paris, the blues and reds and yellows that are the primary colors, the colors from where all other colors come
in grief and joy."
Perfect read for women, bookclubs and anyone looking for a more personal take on the war.
The Last Romantics
by Tara Conklin
Pausing (12/13/2018)
The Last Romantics deals with a family coping with the loss of a family member and a change of finances is how this novel develops. One of them "pauses" their life and the others must find a way to survive. The characters are well developed. The book was interesting but I can't recommend it.
Gone So Long
by Andre Dubus III
Daniel (9/22/2018)
Gone So Long begins slowly introducing the reader to the cast of characters, even some with more than one name! Most are dysfunctional! The novel drags on for over 450 pages.
The book revolves around an unattractive, uneducated, violent young man that works in an arcade where he meets a beautiful, sexy young woman who becomes pregnant.
The author then tells two stories, one in a letter and one in a memoir. Eventually, the two come together as you know it will.
The Kennedy Debutante
by Kerri Maher
Kick Kennedy Discovered (5/27/2018)
Ms Maher's debut novel, The Kennedy Debutante, gives us a different perspective into the lives of the Kennedy family. We meet Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, a younger sister to Joe Jr and Jack. And through her eyes we see even more evidence about Rose raising the children with an iron fist and her husband Joesph Sr pushing his way up to becoming Ambassador to England and grooming his older son to one day be elected president. His daughter Rosemary is an embarassment and must be delt with! Kick chooses her own path and carves a place for herself. The author takes us from the late 1930's into the early 1940's and brilliantly shows us what happened before, during and after World War 2. Kick falls in love but her strong religious beliefs are a problem for her.

Her life as a Kennedy, her relationship with her family and the war are so well written. I couldn't put this book down! This isn't just another Kennedy book. This is a special read for everyone following the family saga!
Motherhood
by Sheila Heti
Flipping coins! (2/8/2018)
Asking a series of questions and getting yes and no answers! Thought that would stop but it doesn’t. Tried to continue. And just when I thought it was getting better, it wasn’t. Stopped reading the book!
Only Child
by Rhiannon Navin
Lockdown (12/16/2017)
How does 6 year old Zachary Taylor feel about being an ONLY CHILD? His older brother, Andy, is very annoying and has issues controlling his temper. Their parents have loud fights over how to manage him. So Zach, who is the narrator of this novel, thinks maybe it would be better if Andy weren't around. So begins a novel inspired by the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Hidden in the school cloakroom by his teacher, Zach hears "popping" and when it is over is led down the hallway past the carnage which he doesn't quite understand at the time.

His observations, throughout the novel, are what a child of 6 sees. The whole family is badly traumatized as expected. His "feelings" are very confusing to him. He takes sheets of paper and paints each a different color to represent being sad, happy etc. to separate one from another which helps him to cope.

This is Zach's story and he tells it masterfully. Reminds me of the young boy in the novel Room. Seen through their eyes, everything is viewed differently.
Adults and teens can learn from this story. Listen to others! Be sympathetic!
As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner
The Bright Family (10/19/2017)
"There's always a way to make something better, even if it means sweeping up the broken pieces and starting all over."
A warm story about a family that leaves the comfort of their country existance to move to Philadelphia when an opportunity for a better life presents itself.
Their love for each other sustains them through tragedy. An influenza epidemic and a war in the early 1900's is paramount to this novel.
We watch the sisters Maggie, Evelyn and Willa carve their own niches as they grow up in a large home which is also part of a mortuary run by their father.
All the characters are well developed. The story begins a bit slowly but it becomes hard to put down. I was hoping for an epilogue to find out more after the story ends.
Stay with Me
by Ayobami Adebayo
Moomi (8/6/2017)
In Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo, the heroine, Yejide, only wants to be loved and accepted into the family.
The story, which takes place in unstable Nigeria begins in 2008, flashes back to 1985, and ends where it began. It's about a family living with guilt, lies and secrets.
I found it confusing figuring out which character was talking at the beginning of the chapters.
The novel moved very slowly but gradually picked up pace as the secrets were revealed.
Not sure how I feel about the ending or the novel itself!
The Gypsy Moth Summer
by Julia Fierro
Avalon-Shangri-La? (4/17/2017)
There is a story here. It took too long to get there.

It's about white people who live here on Avalon Island, the haves and the have nots. And of course about the Gypsy Moth.

It's about Grudder Aviation whose elite control the island.

It's about too many islanders suffering from cancers and miscarriages.

It's about a family who might make a difference.

And it's about the life cycle of the Gypsy Moth and it's parallel to the inhabitants of Avalon.

It's a sad story.
The Barrowfields
by Phillip Lewis
A Wasteland (2/16/2017)
"The Barrowfields lay off to the left - a wasteland of nothingness". That is how I feel about the book.

This novel is told in the first person singular by the son, Henry. It takes place in a small mountain town in North Carolina. The title refers to an area of the town, not the people. The book rambles on for what seems an eternity. We are introduced to Henry, the father, who lives with his family in a large house where unsolved murders occurred many years before. He is a bibliophile, a musician, a lawyer and a heavy drinker who never quite manages to finish the book he is always writing. Henry, the son, seems destined to follow in his father's footsteps. FINALLY, the son leaves for college, eventually meets a girl named Story (!!!) and the book gives us something of interest. The author throws in some vulgar language which seems totally out of place for this staid novel. If you are a lover of music books and stargazing, you MIGHT find something redeemable. My favorite character is young Henry's son's dog Buller, rescued as a puppy who becomes a huge crazy animal. Near the end, the book reverts back to more rambling about Henry's mother and her gardens!
Edgar and Lucy
by Victor Lodato
Drama with Edgar and Lucy (11/29/2016)
"Still, there was a problem with kindness. Sweet things, sweet thoughts, mostly led to sadness, which implied death---while rage seemed to imply life." This was Lucy.

This is a very long book, too long!

The story contains abuse, divorce, kidnapping, an albino boy, a mentally disabled girl, killing and a dead women's comments throughout the story.

The characters are well-defined and there are some light moments that make you smile. I loved "Gramma Florence".

For a good part of the book Edgar and his mom Lucy are not together. Their stories coincide.

Maybe if the book was a lot shorter, it would have been more interesting.

I cannot suggest this book to anyone. And to talk more about the story itself would give away too much information!
Karolina's Twins
by Ronald H. Balson
Survival (7/4/2016)
"What are my footprints on the earth? I want to do something. I want to make my father proud" (Lena).

Karolina's Twins, Ronald Balson's new book, deals with determination against all odds. There are many books detailing the horrors and atrocities of Hitler and the Germans against the Jewish people and others, creating the ghettos in Poland and then sending those that are still alive to slave labor and ultimately to their death in concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau where they are gassed and the bodies sent to the crematoriums. Having visited these camps, one can only begin to imagine the suffering! Balson's fictional story, based on true documented history, follows Lena from a young girl, living a happy life in Chrzanow Poland in the early 1940's to present day Chicago where she is now almost 90 years old. She tells her story to an attorney Catherine and her private investigator husband Liam. We previously met them in Balson's last novel, Finding Sophie. She tells them of her search for twins born 70 years ago and her promise to her friend Karolina to find them. Hiring an attorney becomes necessary when her only child Arthur, is trying to declare her incompetent and take over her estate. He insists there were never twins! The characters in this story are well developed. There are those you love and those you hate! Lena and Karolina, best friends from childhood, form a special bond that will also include Muriel. Finding these twins, if in fact they ever existed, and also might they still be alive is the story. This novel should appeal to everyone, adults and young adults as well. The story of the holocaust needs to be told and never forgotten.
Miss Jane
by Brad Watson
A Study of Abnormality (4/17/2016)
Early in the book, Miss Jane, there is a comment by her doctor, "Who can say what life will make of a body?".
Based on a true story, Jane Chisolm was fortunate that her physical abnormalities were not visible to others and only known to a few. To someone medically interested in her abnormal anatomy might find this book interesting. Otherwise, it is simply a story of a family existing!
The Dark Lady's Mask
by Mary Sharratt
Masks and Muses (2/14/2016)
The Dark Lady's Mask is historical fiction, suggesting who might have been the muse of William Shakespeare. Masks and muses play a big part in the book. There are many references to both.

If you like reading Philippa Gregory and CW Gortner, you will surely like this novel. It is however a bit long.

Aemilia is the central muse of this story and her life is what keeps you reading. She was a very talented and educated woman who came from a family of musicians. Plays of this time period, especially in England, were only written and acted by men. The author, Mary Sharratt, makes a good case for Aemilia Bassano Lanier to have been Shakespeare's muse. She convinced me! Unfortunately, part of the not knowing, always leaves questions that we will probably never know the real answer. His sexuality is also in question.

Read the book, do some reference work on Aemilia Lanyer (her last name change was probably a printing error) and Anne Hathaway! Read the author's Historical Afterword at the end of the book! And then you decide!
The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir
by Ruth Wariner
The Sound of Gravel (10/29/2015)
Sad, almost unbelievable true story of a girl raised in a polygamist community in northern Mexico.
Everything is done in the name of God!
"Ruthie", the storyteller, of this memoir, lives for most of her young years in a hovel without running water or electricity and not even a lock on the door.
She becomes a second mother to her always increasing brothers and sisters, some of whom have severe disabilities. How she survives her abusive stepfather and harsh life is her story. And it is a compelling one. Found it hard to put the book down.
Should appeal to just about everyone.
So glad there is an epilogue to the story!
The Devil in Jerusalem
by Naomi Ragen
Good Wife and Mother (7/8/2015)
Naomi Ragen has written a book that will terrify you. Daniella Goodman has a new life in Israel. To be a devout Jew wife and mother, and live in the holy land is supposed to be very special. Her life is turned upside down. Evil is everywhere. Everyone should read this book and find out that "all that glitters is not gold". Our weaknesses become exposed and can be taken advantage of under the guise of being closer to God. This book is fiction but based on events that actually happened. It was a bit wordy at times but you can't put it down!
A Good Family
by Erik Fassnacht
NOT A Good Family (5/5/2015)
Book is slow reading, especially at the beginning, and too long. The title is certainly a misnomer. A Good Family is about a dysfunctional family of four. Henry, the father, is too immersed in making money and living the good life. His wife gives up her ambition to be a dancer when she marries. She tries to overlook Henry's unexplained absences and to be a good mother to her boys. Charlie, the older son, is a good student, an athlete, good looking and has everything going for him. His father uses his contacts to get Charlie a great job that Charlie doesn't want. And so Charlie joins the army. A big part of the novel is about how his time in Afghanistan affects his life. A red key chain becomes an important symbol. The younger brother is Barkley. He is meek, into fantasy, and a would be writer. Afraid of his own shadow and so overpowered by Charlie. We cheer Barley on as he grows up. The characters are well developed and you do want to know how it all works out. I found myself skimming over a lot of the book. And the culmination of some of the situations are so obvious. Would have rated this book 2 1/2 if I had the option.
A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light
by David Downie
A Passion for Paris (5/5/2015)
I found this book to be a history book. Dull! There wasn't enough about the author to make this even slightly interesting. And I was just in Paris last year. I stopped reading after 50 or so pages. I gave it to a friend who is much more interested in old Paris and the artists, writers etc than I am. He returned it to me unfinished with the comment that it was poorly written!
The Well
by Catherine Chanter
Secrets of The Well (2/12/2015)
The Well takes place in England. The story begins with an attorney, accused of watching porn on the office computer. He and his wife decide to move to the country and start a new life. They find "The Well", a large acreage that looks like "Eden" but turns out to be more like "Hell". Why do they have water when the rest of the country is suffering from a drought? People camp out on their land, including a group of "Sisters of the Rose" and a caravan of strangers that include Mark and Ruth's daughter and grandson. Witchcraft? Murder! Even the government comes and takes over the property. Where is the small carved rose?
You are quickly drawn into this bizarre story. The characters are well defined. Some you like, some not so much. But you have to read on to ferret out the truth.
Good read!
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