Reviews by Betty Taylor

Power Reviewer  Power Reviewer

Note: This page displays reviews using the email address you currently use to login to BookBrowse. If you have changed your email address during the time you have been a member your older reviews will not show. If that is the case, please email us with any older email addresses you have used for BookBrowse, and we will do our best to link these older reviews to your current profile.
Order Reviews by:
by Daisy Goodwin
Romance in the Kingdom (10/27/2016)
I love Historical Fiction, so I was eager to read this story of the young Queen Victoria. I had seen the movie “Young Victoria” a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The first few chapters of this book reminded me very much of the movie.

Ms. Goodwin’s descriptions brought the story to life for me. I found myself getting frustrated with Victoria as she was quite childish. How difficult it must have been to see that Victoria was, at times, not mature enough for the responsibilities placed upon her, but to be unable to do or say anything because, after all, she was the Queen.

You may wonder then why I gave the book only three stars. If it were categorized as Historical Romance I would give it four stars, but as Historical Fiction it only gets three stars. The book really says very little about what responsibilities Victoria actually had. The entire book is Victoria mooning over Lord Melbourne. (I can see why as he, being much older, showed the maturity needed for a proper Prime Minister. He was also the only one that seemed able to carefully direct Victoria to the proper decisions or behaviors.) Then when Albert does come along it is like a Harlequin story – they hate each other and then after some time suddenly discover they can’t live without each other.

So, if you want romance it is a good read. But if you want to learn historical information regarding Queen Victoria you might look elsewhere.
The Last Days of Night: A Novel
by Graham Moore
The Battle Over the Light Bulb (10/16/2016)
This is a part of history I was totally unaware of – the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse – over the light bulb. In the late 1800’s there was a major legal battle between these two powerhouses. Edison filed over 300 lawsuits against Westinghouse for the unheard of amount of $1B, yes, one billion dollars – in the late 1800’s. Add to the mix Tesla, the mad scientist who came up with the idea of alternating current. And we mustn’t forget JP Morgan, the sly one with the money. Each with his own agenda.

Electricity was something new and mysterious in the United States at that time. These men knew that whoever won the lawsuits stood to control the direction of electricity in the US. The book is written from the perspective of the young attorney, Paul Cravath, who represented Westinghouse.
The book is well written and held my attention. The past was brought to life. I really liked Tesla who cared nothing for the money. He just liked to take his ideas and turn them into reality. Politics, intrigue, ambition, a touch of romance…all are found in this remarkable story.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
by Kathleen Rooney
Worth the Wait (9/15/2016)
I was eager to read this book for its historical content and the "views" of NYC. However I found the book to be a struggle to get through. In my opinion, the writing style was quite stiff – perhaps to reflect the earlier historical period.

Fortunately I stayed with the book and did finally encounter the wonderful portrayals of the characters and city itself – past and present. I just hope readers will bear with the stiff writing in the first half of the book in order to find the gems in the last half.
Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation
by Anne Sebba
New Details on the Life of Paris' Women During the Occupation (7/12/2016)
I was looking forward to reading this book. I read Kristin Hannah's "The Nightingale" which piqued my interest in how the women in France survived Nazi occupation. I also read CW Gortner's "Mademoiselle Chanel" which had a lot of information on how she and others like her survived.

This nonfiction book was well researched for the period 1939 – 1949. The majority of the book addresses the lives of "the rich and the famous" and, I admit, I scanned much of those sections. I was more interested in the everyday people, people like me. I also was not impressed with how much fashion – and entertainment to some degree - continued to be of prime importance during that time. Seems a bit shallow to me when people were just trying to survive.

Life did change for everyone, especially the women. Most of the men went away to war, leaving the women behind to carry on with live the best way they could. And it was indeed a difficult time. Food and other necessities of life were in very short supply. The Germans were the only ones that could afford food – or they just took it. Women faced daily humiliation as they had to queue for hours and then beg (and pay) for the few rations that were available.

Tremendous efforts were made to hide works of art – those in galleries and private Jewish collections. Part of Hitler's plan was the intention to destroy any sense of belonging by depriving Jews of what they owned. He planned to create his own art gallery.

The British were using women in combatant activities, although it was forbidden by the Geneva Convention. Thus, these women had no protection if they were captured. History has failed to note that many women were among those deported.

When the war was over people who survived were suspected of being collaborators with the Germans. Jews, political prisoners, and prisoners of war recently liberated from camps and prisons, poured into the city – a city in no way ready to accommodate them. Many returned with serious medical issues that Paris was ill prepared to deal with. Perhaps most devastating was that many returned to find that everything they had owned had been taken.

In an effort to try to return to "normal", women were encouraged to "return to a time of innocence and femininity, to stop making decisions, stop balancing cheque books, stop being aggressively punctual." This met with mixed responses.

I liked the discussion of what it takes to be a hero. I think I agree with this statement in the book: "Heroism isn't a matter of choice, but of reflex. It's a property of the central nervous system, not the higher brain." Heroes do not think; they act.

This is a book well worth reading, even though it does bog down at times. More and more people are now finally talking about what really happened during the Nazi Occupation. For a long time no one wanted to hear about it so the survivors kept quiet. Now their stories are being told – and heard.
All Is Not Forgotten
by Wendy Walker
Suspenseful Story (6/19/2016)
With the various storylines – Charlotte’s affair, Sean’s unstable marriage, Tom’s boss and his interaction with the family, the drug dealer, Forrester’s son – a lot is thrown at you. I felt like some of it was too contrived, too many “red herrings”. I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining the controversy regarding recovered memories and they can be manipulated. The book is definitely suspenseful – a real page-turner.
Consequence: A Memoir
by Eric Fair
Raw, brutal, honest, soul-baring (6/5/2016)
Raw, brutal, honest, soul-baring. Eric Fair was a contractor doing interrogations in Iraq – Abu Ghraib and Fallujah. Things he saw, things he did, things he didn’t do. There were consequences associated with his actions and inactions.

Eric Fair was a geek in high school. It was assumed he would become a Presbyterian minister. But then he took a different direction. He decided he wanted to become a police officer. But he was told to join the Army, get preference points, and come back. So upon graduation from college he joined the Army. Aptitude testing showed that he had the aptitude for languages. He was sent to the Defense Language Institute to learn Arabic. He became very frustrated with the Army and took a discharge at the end of his enlistment period. Then he promptly enrolled for the police academy. He got a job offer from the DEA. At the physical exam for the DEA it was discovered that Eric had a heart condition that ended his dreams of being a policeman. Because of his Arabic training he found that contractors we interested in signing him up for Iraq. Thus his life took turn that totally changed his life.

In Iraq he was directed to do things that he knew were wrong. He saw things that he knew were wrong so he learned to look the other way. However there were two incidents that haunted him from there on out.

Fair is brutally honest about his life in Iraq and his attempts to return to normalcy upon his return to the US. He tells of the impact it has on his marriage. His raw honesty can be difficult to read – and accept. But he provides a look into the lives of our soldiers who have returned and find it so difficult to adjust.

If you now a returning soldier who is struggling to adjust or you know the family of such a solider, this book is definitely worth your reading. It also presents a better understanding of the traumas of Post Traumatic Incident Disorder.
The Children
by Ann Leary
Had Potential but Did Not Meet It (5/4/2016)
I struggled with this book. It started out with great potential. I loved the part in Chapter 1 where the grandmother says she is going to go upstairs to die. Her grandson says "Gran, not die. You mean lie, not die." Then it continues "But Trudy had meant die. She walked up the back stairs to her bedroom. …Then she folded back the quilt on the bed, pressed herself against the cool sheets, and died." That got my attention.

And I liked the guy that was breaking into homes. He was called Mr. Clean because he didn't steal anything but always left the homes cleaner when he left – doing the laundry, washing the dishes, etc.

But the book overall was pretty lackluster for me. I could not get into any of the characters. I like to care about the people I am investing so much time with, but that did not happen here. The family definitely has its quirks, but even those did not really draw me in. Not the book for me.
Still Alice
by Lisa Genova
Tragic but Realistic (5/4/2016)
This book is an amazing look at the life of a highly intelligent college professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. It was so tragic reading of the impact on her life, how others change they way they treat her, and how her husband and children deal with it. She also wrote "Inside the O'Briens" which takes the same approach with Huntington's Disease. I loved it too.
Ashes of Fiery Weather
by Kathleen Donohoe
Disappointing Read (3/31/2016)
The book appealed to me as it is the stories of seven women from fire-fighting families. However, even though the women were linked through generations of the same family the stories were too fragmented for me. The reader has to constantly jump back and forth through various time periods – all within the same chapter and no indication of what year you have been taken to. The families are Irish and still have family in Ireland. At times I had difficulty grasping who was in Ireland and who was in the US. The story (or stories) just jumped around too much for me. I could not make an emotional connection to the characters because of this. I also feel much of the story was rushed in order to give me some background for something coming up. Sadly, I got nothing from this book.
The Paris Winter
by Imogen Robertson
Slow Start but Worth the Wait (3/11/2016)
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mystery. It is set in Paris in 1909/1910 among the artists. There is a mixture of the “poor starving artists” and the higher class clientele. Young, naïve Maud Heighton came to Paris’ Academie to study painting and to get away from her small town life. Maud soon falls into poverty. She comes upon a golden opportunity. Christian Morel hires her to teach his sister Sylvie English. She can board with them and earn a generous salary. However she soon learns that the Morels are not who they claim to be. Maud is soon drawn into the dark, dangerous underworld of Paris. Friendships are tested, lives are endangered.

I found the book to have a very slow start (hence the four stars, instead of five). I almost gave up on it but am very glad I did not. Once it got going (around page 142) it kept me engrossed. I love the characters – derelict Yvette, aristocratic Tanya, the Countess. It was a delightful blend of personalities. I could easily envision these very different personalities interacting. It is the perfect blend of female friendships, love, greed, and especially revenge.
Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World
by Katherine Zoepf
Young Women Shaking Up the Arab World (2/11/2016)
Katherine Zoepf, a journalist, has had the wonderful opportunity to live and travel throughout the Arab world. She has seen many changes in the area of women’s rights over the past few years. She shares her observations in this book.

The region has had to adapt to social changes involving young unmarried women, something totally foreign to their culture. In their society a woman remains at home with her parents until she marries and moves into her husband’s home. However now there are numerous unmarried women who are going to university and have entered the workforce, whether through economic necessity or their own wishes for an independent live. They are delaying marriage and sometimes rejecting the institution completely.

Her early reporting from Syria reflected an innocence no longer found there due to the civil war. It was interesting to read of the logistics of living a life under the veil. For example, women have curtained off sections of a restaurant so they may uncover their mouths to eat. Little details we would never think of having to deal with. Women express their resentment of how the western world seems more interested in their hijab and restrictions on their lives rather than what they think, what they believe, what they feel. The outer garb is of more interest than their inner beings. How sad, yet how true!

While some governments throughout the Middle East have tried to outlaw “honor killings”, due to the tribal nature of the societies this barbaric act still exists. The honor of a family rests on the reputation of their women. If the honor is blemished the women must die in order to restore honor. Many young girls are held in prisons to protect them from their families. Syria still has penal codes that state “that if a man commits a crime with an honorable motive he will go free”. Restoring the honor of his family is considered an “honorable motive”. Another says that is a man witnesses a female relative in an immoral act and kills her, he will go free.

The chapter on Beirut was quite interesting. The title for the chapter is “The most promiscuous virgins in the world”. That should get your attention! Lebanese woman are known as some of the most beautiful women in the world. But how do they balance the pressure to be beautiful with the requirement of virtue? This chapter discusses how the women manage to perform sexual favors in order to keep their men yet maintain virtuous. It also discusses circumcision of women – and hymenoplasty (the restoring of a woman’s hymen in order to pass as a virgin).

Saudi Arabia expends great resources to keep a strict separation of the sexes. Parents still choose their daughters’ husbands. But the girls do hope for a husband that will allow them to obtain an education. I did find interesting that in June 2011 King Abdullah issued a ruling banning men from working in lingerie shops, ordering that all the jobs be given to Saudi women instead. This was then broadened to include shops selling cosmetics, wedding dresses, abayas, and more. This opened up many jobs to women.

Unmarried and working women receive much criticism from their families and friends. In Saudi Arabia the phenomena of spinsterhood is a frequent topic in the news. Young men are asked are told “please don’t neglect women and do what you can to save them from spinsterhood.” There is criticism for women who “lose track of their age”. (I liked that one! As if…)

In her book, Katherine Zoepf has given a voice to the young women in the Arab world who are dragging their countries into the 21st century. This is a region of the world that I love and respect and I was glad to see that she pointed out how some countries have made great strides in women’s rights, while sadly others are still in the Dark Age. Change comes slowly to this part of the world, but the people still maintain hope.
Hotel Moscow: A Novel
by Talia Carner
Intense Read! (7/8/2015)
This is one of those rare books that I wanted to rush through because it had me so totally engrossed in the story. I felt the fear and intensity as unbelievable incidents were described. But once I reached the last few pages I found myself slowing down. On one hand I wanted to quickly read those pages to find out what would happen. But on the other hand I did not want the story to end.

Brooke Fielding, an ambitious young investment manager, accepts an invitation to travel to Moscow as part of a team to teach entrepreneurial skills to the Russian women. While eager to share of herself with the women she is also apprehensive. Her parents were born in Russia and escaped from the pogroms against the Jews. Her mother was the only survivor from her family as the others died in a concentration camp. Her father’s first wife and three children were killed. Thus, Brooke has grown up hearing of the anti-Semitism in Russia.

The story begins in 1993 just weeks after the fall of Communism. Left as a country with no laws, the Duma is busy making up laws as they go. However Yeltsin is frustrated and impatient with them and fires them. As the members of their Duma are democratically elected, Yeltsin did not have the authority to fire them. Thus, a stand-off develops between the members of the Duma and Yeltsin as he calls in the Army to remove the Duma.

The entire team encounters MAJOR culture shock. As Communist control ended, theft and gangs quickly filled the void. “Connections” and bribes were required for the simplest of services. Corruption has taken over. Time after time, the Russians are impressed by how white the Americans’ teeth are. Many of them have rotted teeth but proudly support one gold tooth as it shows they can afford it. People stand in line for hours, sometimes days, for food, gasoline, money from the banks. The descriptions of the living conditions of most Russians were shocking. The photos of “communal apartments” in the back of the book were definitely eye-opening.

Svetlana is assigned as the group’s translator. She knows several languages and would have been translator for the Foreign Minister. However, she was labeled as having “loose morals” after being gang-raped. Dr. Olga Rozanova, a sociologist from the Institute for Social Research, is ashamed that the Americans are so poorly treated in her homeland. Brooke forms friendships with these women, but can the friendships survive the anti-Semitism of the culture? And how can she teach Western capitalism to a people who are afraid to even trust their neighbors?

There is a good sampling of the male characters. There are primarily four Russian male characters and they are very different from each other.

Brooke’s early family history is revealed slowly, like layers of an onion being peeled away, layer by layer. Being in Russia makes her face parts of her past that she had been running from her entire life. There is a possible love interest for her but she is very distrustful of men. Her past relationships are also slowly revealed making it understandable why she is so distrustful of men. Brooke carries secrets that she is afraid of revealing. One of the secrets could cost her her job. She also struggles with the question of “What does it mean to be Jewish?” Should she hide her Jewish identity in this land that is rampantly anti-semitic?

Ms. Carner visited Russia in 1993 and experienced some of the events told in the book. Her descriptions made me think of several social issues. Is this the way all oppressed societies behave once they get that first taste of freedom? I was amazed at the pride the Russian people still exhibited toward their country, no matter how corrupt it had become. Yet underneath it all, people are people, proving that compassion and trust still exist in the most lawless of societies. I also looked at my own Jewishness, just as Brooke was forced to look at hers. In spite of the corruptness, this was a beautiful story. I look forward to reading her other three books.
Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age
by Greg King, Penny Wilson
Can You Survive the Very Boring First Half of the Book? (6/24/2015)
The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania has just passed. As a result of this anniversary, there are several new books on the topic. I chose to read this one by Greg King and Penny Wilson. Well, I think I made the wrong choice. This book was so tedious; it was a chore to read. I had to read through just over half of the book before the torpedo hit. So what was in that first half? There were a couple of interesting facts. First, there were warnings from the German embassy in Washington, DC. Travelers were reminded that a state of war existed between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies. They were informed that the waters adjacent to the British Isles were part of the zone of war. The embassy stated that vessels flying with the flag of Great Britain or any of her allies were susceptible to destruction in those waters. However, the warning was ignored and treated as just propaganda. The second interesting fact was that unlike the Titanic that took two hours and 40 minutes to sink, the Lusitania went down in only 18 minutes!

The rest of the first twelve chapters was filled with the minutiae of the biographies of the First Class passengers. It went into detail of what they brought on board with them and the downright foolishness of the rich. For example, Alice Vanderbilt was so arrogant that “she once spent hours being endlessly driven around New York City because she felt it beneath her dignity to give her chauffeur directions.” Perhaps a better title would have been “Lusitania: Lifestyles of the Rich and Arrogant”. I was so bored with their stories that none of them really stuck in my mind. Therefore, I felt no connection once the ship was hit and started sinking.

There were a few people who were nervous about the voyage. Some wills were changed prior to embarkation due to the nervousness. One lady carried her jewel box with her when dining “should disaster strike”. There was definitely tension on board the nearer they came to the British Isles. Some of the passengers thought that an escort would be sent to safely guide them through the danger zone. In fact, the ship’s captain had pretty much said that. But there was no escort. The captain was strict about evacuation drills, but only with the crew. The passengers themselves were never included in a drill, and this was a serious error. The lifebelts were difficult to access, and the passengers were not assigned to lifeboats. This contributed to the chaos that ensued when the ship was indeed torpedoed.

Amongst all the panic, it seemed the crew was more interested in saving their own lives than those of the passengers. Also the crew did not know how to lower the lifeboats. Many of the collapsible lifeboats were unusable as they lacked plugs, oars missing, oarlocks rusted, etc. As the ship slid into the sea, Captain Turner continued to tell people that the boat could not sink.

If you can get through the first half of the book, the last half does pick up. Reading what the survivors endured was interesting. If you know almost nothing about the Lusitania, you may find this book interesting.

Thank you to GoodReads and St, Martin’s Press for an Advance Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review.
Jam on the Vine: A Novel
by LaShonda Barnett
Portrait of Life in Jim Crow America (6/20/2015)
This is a very honest look at life for a black woman trying to be a journalist in the US in the early 20th century.

Even in her childhood Ivoe is fascinated with newspapers. She steals every one she can from her mother’s white employer. The written word is her escape from the poverty she lives in. She becomes determined to fulfill her obsession with journalism. Her excellent writing and grades gain her a scholarship. She excels in journalism at the school. But when she applies for jobs she finds herself “overqualified. Her potential employers cannot see beyond her skin color.

The writing in most of the book sets the scene so perfectly. Some of the sayings are delightful. When a woman asks Lemon, Ivoe’s mother, if she knows Annie Faye, Lemon replies with “We’ve howdyed but we ain’t never shook.” And then there is “Every time I stand up, my mind sits down.” And when Roena, Lemon’s daughter-in-law, says she regrets marrying Timbo, Lemon tells “Can’t put the rain back in the sky.” I love that!

The characters are down to earth and seem so real. Life is hard for them but they keep on battling the poverty and discrimination they encounter every day of their lives. They do whatever it takes to support their families. Lemon makes jam and prepares vegetables for the community; her husband, Ennis goes off with the plan to make money and have his join him later.

The author describes the minor transgressions that get mostly the black men (but some women too) thrown into jail. The conditions of those jails are deplorable. It nauseated me to even read about them.

When Ivoe continues to find herself unable to break into journalism, her lover and the community encourage her to start her own black newspaper. It was interesting to read how they went about doing it, and the resistance they encountered.

The last chapter was a real disappointment to me. It seemed as though Ms. Barnett had a vast amount of research she had not gotten into the book. So in the last chapter it is all thrown in there. The chapter is rushed, disconnected, and preachy. It was a truly disappointing end to an otherwise wonderfully written novel
Before He Finds Her
by Michael Kardos
Everything about her life is questioned (5/27/2015)
Melanie Denison has grown up in Fredonia WV. Her loving aunt and uncle have raised her since her mother was killed when Melanie was only three years old. No one knows the whereabouts of Melanie’s father after he threw a block party and then killed his wife and supposedly Melanie. Melanie and her aunt and uncle are part of the Witness Protection Program. Melanie’s real name is Meg Miller. It is believed that her father killed her mother and Meg. The mother’s body was found in a fire pile but Meg’s body was never found. Everyone believes her father Ramsey also killed Meg and threw her body into the lake.
Melanie can’t have a normal life. She can’t go to proms, can’t be on the Internet, can’t do anything that might bring attention to her or result in her photo going public.
But now Melanie is pregnant and determined that her child will not grow up like she did. So she returns to the town of Silver Bay where she grew up. Now everything that Melanie has believed about her life is questioned.
I enjoyed the twists that came in the story and was surprised a couple of times. This was an easy to read thriller that kept me guessing.
Sisters of Heart and Snow
by Margaret Dilloway
Learning Love from a Samurai (5/3/2015)
This is an absolutely beautifully written book. Sometimes the words just took my breath away. The Snow sisters, Rachel and Drew, are very different from each other and have fought a lot throughout their lives. But now they are drawn together as their mother, Haruki, falls deeper and deeper into the depths of dementia. The sisters are united in ensuring their mother continues to get the best care possible, while their father Killian is only concerned about the expense.

During one of Rachel’s visit with her mother, Hakuri asks for a book that is in her sewing room. Then she sinks back into her dementia. Rachel and Drew find the book; however, it is written in Japanese. Thus they find a translator who feeds them portions of the book as he completes the translation.

The story in the book is from twelfth-century Japan, and tells of two “sisters of the heart”. Tomoe, a female warrior, loves Yoshinaka but can bear him no children. Thus, he brings a bride, Yamabuki, to his home. At first Tomoe sees Yamabuki as a threat but eventually she learns to love her as a sister. Tomoe is torn between always being at the side of her samurai lover Yoshinaka or staying to protect delicate Yamabuki. However, the women find strength from each other to deal with formerly foreign ways of life.

“Sisters of the Heart and Snow” alternates between the stories of the Snow sisters and the story they read of the “sisters of the heart”. Both Rachel and Drew draw strength from the story of Tomoe and all her trials and tribulations. They even learn about sisterly love from the story of real-life female samurai Tomoe Gozen. Rachel and Drew use the book to better understand their relationship with their mother and with each other.
Unremarried Widow: A Memoir
by Artis Henderson
Strength through bereavement (3/7/2015)
This is the story of Miles and Artis Henderson’s marriage and how Artis deals with the death of Miles while on deployment in Iraq. It definitely makes you think about how you would deal with his death if you were in her shoes. It also makes you look at what is most important in life. I did not always agree with how Artis handled things, but each person grieves differently. There is no time limit on grief or rules on how to get through it. Artis shares her deepest pain and her struggle to move on. Honest, raw, encouragement.
The Last Flight of Poxl West
by Daniel Torday
Not a Hero to me (1/19/2015)
Torday tells the story of a young boy's admiration for Poxl West, a former RAF bomber pilot, and Poxl West himself. The story is told the now almost mandatory alternating views. For a while the story held my interest. But then I found it became a struggle to continue reading. I found myself either skimming or just skipping large portions of the book.

The portion of the story from Poxl's perspective was written as a book within a book. Poxl has written a book of memoirs of some of his sorties. This was the portion of the book I struggled with. The writing style did not work for me. I felt no emotions toward the characters in this "book within a book". I was too far removed from the action. Beginning with the discovery of his mother's infidelities, Poxl becomes quite good at running from unpleasant things in life. Eventually he does join the military as a bomber pilot and becomes a "Jewish war hero".

The young boy, Eli Goldstein, focuses on the release of Poxl's book. Eli sees Poxl as his hero. However, Poxl's human frailties soon dampen Eli's hero-worship. He finds it harder and harder to defend Poxl's actions. Family loyalties come in question as Poxl again runs from unpleasantness.
A Fireproof Home for the Bride
by Amy Scheibe
All is Not as It Appears (1/8/2015)
This book started fairly slow for me, and I wasn't quite sure of where it was going. But after it "set the stage" giving some background on the people and families involved, it really took off then. It went down a road I never would have suspected.

Set in the mid-west in the 50s, the story revolves around young Emmeline Nelson, raised in a strict religious (Lutheran) home. It has been concluded that she will marry young Ambrose whom she has known all her life. But then she meets Bobby, a handsome Catholic boy. Now her world will never be the same again. Did she want it to be the same? She feels drawn to the local newspaper and wants to be a journalist. Her family and Ambrose are totally against it. Emmeline starts to research a couple of fires that took place in her small town. She thinks there is a common thread between them. She starts digging and uncovers some shocking truths about her family and people she thought she knew.

Having grown up in the South in a poor family, many of the scenes in the book took me back to my childhood. The writing is very descriptive. I found myself totally immersed into the story.
The Life I Left Behind
by Colette McBeth
Has Suspense, but Confusing (1/1/2015)
Normally I have no problem with alternating points of view in a book. However, this one has three women telling the story. Sometimes the same woman did a couple of chapters consecutively. Since two of the women's stories are very similar it got difficult to keep track of who was "talking". Melody was attacked, supposedly by her friend David, several years ago and left for dead. David served time for this attack. Shortly after he is released from prison Eve, the second woman, is killed and she looks back from the grave to tell us her story. In her hand is a necklace identical to the one found in Melody's hand when she was attacked. Detective Inspector Rutter is working both Melody's attack and Eve's murder.

The plot is interesting and suspenseful at times. But as mentioned above I did have difficulty keeping Eve and Melody's stories separated. If you can get past that you will probably enjoy it. Ms. McBeth goes into the emotional relationships of the characters. This is the real strength of her book. I would have given her a four rating if not for the pre-described difficulty.

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.25 per month.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: We Had to Remove This Post
    We Had to Remove This Post
    by Hanna Bervoets
    It's not about money. Kayleigh, the protagonist and narrator of We Had to Remove This Post, a newly ...
  • Book Jacket: River of the Gods
    River of the Gods
    by Candice Millard
    The Nile River has provided vital resources for millennia, serving as a source of water, food and ...
  • Book Jacket: Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Geraldine Brooks creates a powerful backstory for 19th-century thoroughbred racehorse Lexington, ...
  • Book Jacket: Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    by Alison Espach
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance will make you ache for a loss you didn't experience as you relate...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Carolina Moonset
by Matt Goldman
An engrossing novel about family, memories and secrets too dangerous to stay hidden.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Jackie & Me
    by Louis Bayard

    Master storyteller Louis Bayard delivers a surprising portrait of a young Jackie Kennedy as we've never seen her before.

  • Book Jacket

    The Lies I Tell
    by Julie Clark

    The new thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight!

Win This Book!
Win Where the Crawdads Sing

Win a signed copy of Where the Crawdads Sing

In celebration of the movie release on July 15, we have three signed copies to give away.



Solve this clue:

T O Thing W H T F I F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.