The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES By Alice Hoffman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

Release Date:  August 4, 2015
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism.

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel's salvation is their maid Adelle's belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle's daughter. But Rachel's life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father's business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Fr├ęderick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

Building on the triumphs of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, set in a world of almost unimaginable beauty, The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, bestselling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Fr├ęderick is a story that is as unforgettable as it is remarkable.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
A fascinating novel! The Marriage of Opposites is based on Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzaro’s life that takes place in St. Thomas beginning in 1807.

Rachel Pomie was a defiant girl, never following the rules and doing what she was told. Rachel was close to her father, Moses Monsanto Pomie who was well thought of, and was well favored in all his endeavors as a prominent merchant. Her mother, Sara Pomie, was a stern and bitter woman with a sharp tongue. Rachel was never able to do anything that pleased her, and few people dared to go against her.

Rachel was married off at a very young age to Isaac Petit, a French Jew, who was 30 years older, with three children. His wife had passed away shortly after their last child was born. Their marriage would be a bridge for the two families, combining businesses and strengths. Her fate was to enter a loveless marriage to a sorrowful man, with three children. Isaac’s sudden death changes her life tremendously. She never loved Isaac; she was only twenty-nine, and too young to be a widow, but she was now responsible for six children.

Frederic, Isaac’s nephew, comes to settle the estate, and run the family business. Rachel was seven years older than he and had been through a lifetime of experiences in those seven years. She’d been a married woman, a widow, and a mother. Frederic seemed to cast a spell on her and she found herself longing for him, but a relationship like this could go no further. It was forbidden within a family. They were related only by marriage, rather than blood, but it could not happen. And the story unfolds as a forbidden love takes place between Rachel and Frederic.

Rachel’s son, Jacobo Camille Pizzarro, is a favorite son and a large and interesting part of the story line. He becomes a well-known artist of the 20th century.

The writing is strong, and the many historical details add a touch of depth. I loved the author’s lyrical style – absolutely beautiful! The story is so vividly told – a unique style of writing, indeed! I've found a new favorite author.  An exceptional read! My rating – 5 stars.


About the Author:  Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Her most recent works include NIGHTBIRD, THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS, and THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES.

Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Weist. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel AQUAMARINE was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.


Friday, January 15, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️THE CHANGING SEASON By Steven Manchester

Publisher:  The Story Plant
Release Date:  February 2016
Pages:  288
Genre:  Young Adult/ Coming of Age
Format:  Hardcover

Book Description: 
This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He'd fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they'd do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn't truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, THE CHANGING SEASON is an experience to savor.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
Billy, just graduating from high school, was searching for his calling. He was going to college in the fall, but was still undecided about his future. He wanted to serve a purpose that was meaningful. His life was making a big change, moving into a new season, and he was looking for fulfillment.

The Changing Season is a coming of age story about Billy and his loyal dog, his friends, and a first love. I loved the relationship between Billy and his dog – that loyalty and unconditional love. This is a story that will simply warm your heart. And the story unfolds when a tragic accident happens and lives and friendships are affected and futures are changed forever.

Steven Manchester never disappoints with his superb writing, from his descriptive scenes to his character development. The writing is strong, and the pace of the novel moves along with a few surprises along the way. The story is told in the most simple, special, and pure way. A special read, indeed!  My rating is 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin' Chair. He is also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as the critically-acclaimed novel, Pressed Pennies, A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novella), Just in Time (novella), The Thursday Night Club (novella, released November 2014) and Gooseberry Island (novel, released January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. Visit: www.StevenManchester.com

Monday, January 4, 2016

⭐️⭐️⭐️ORPHAN NUMBER 8 By Kim van Alkemade

Publisher:  Wm Morrow Paperbacks
Pages:  381
Release Date:  August, 2015

Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format:  Paperback

Book Description: 
In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.

In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.

Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.

Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.


Wanda's Thoughts: 
They were just orphans. Institutional children, disposable, and nothing more than a number on a graph. It was like a concentration camp, but the difference was the Infant Home took care of the children. They were fed and clothed, and of course, the orphanage was not a death camp, but they were subjected to experiments for science.

Rachel was one of the orphans who suffered from these experiments, and the # 8 was embroidered on her collar.

The book alternates between two time-frames, Rachel’s life as a child, and 1954 when she is an adult, working as a nurse. She encounters Dr. Solomon, a new patient, and soon recognizes her as the woman who administered the testing on her as a child. Rachel remembers her time at the orphanage when she was subjected to much radiation exposure, and now she is suffering from the side effects.

This was a very informative and heart-wrenching story that pulled me in from the beginning. I never knew about these very haunting experiments performed on orphan children, and all for research. A very disturbing topic!

My big disappointment with the book was the major lesbian theme running throughout the story-line. I feel it should have been a part of the book description to make it known to the readers. Unfortunately it was not. My rating is 3 stars.

About the Author:  Kim van Alkemade was born in New York City and spent her childhood in suburban New Jersey. Her late father, an immigrant from the Netherlands, met her mother, a descendant of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, in the Empire State Building. She attended college in Wisconsin, earning a doctorate in English from UW-Milwaukee. She is a professor at Shippensburg University where she teaches writing, and lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her creative nonfiction essays have been published in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, So To Speak, and CutBank. Orphan # 8 is her first novel.