Book Review │ Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

With school winding down for the year and having finally finished writing my doctoral dissertation, I am all about looking for books that offer me an escape from my own reality. I am very much into books that are full of great plot and drama as well as those that take you to places that are far away from your everyday life. I am thoroughly enjoying escapism through reading.

tell no one

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel gave me all of what I have been seeking in a book lately. At the heart of a novel is an old truth: lies within families will fester and boil over in unexpected and shocking ways. They will trickle down among generations and touch lives that weren’t even yet considered when the lies began.

Beginning with a deathbed wish, family secrets spill over through the voices of two siblings as scandals emerge in the family. Several plots lines run throughout the book involving financial crimes, PTSD, addiction and secrets so scandalous they cannot be spoken about. Sometimes other people’s choices and actions will shape us even though we think we are consciously avoiding being taken in by them. Also, sometimes good and bad go together and are not often so clearcut, but rather survive in our world as a gray area where distance sometimes means the difference between the two.

Overall, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers with Tell No One. She creates an immersive world where you remain the entire time that you are reading her book. As you read, you feel as though you are part of her story, watching as a family comes to terms with things long buried and ultimately meets a dramatic, action-fueled end at the conclusion of her narrative which in turn, will hopefully lead to what everyone is searching for: forgiveness both of other people and of themselves.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel shows the complexities of families and of the demons we both acquire from our families as well as though that we create for ourselves and in turn, unleash onto our families both consciously and unintentionally.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel will be available for purchase on May 14, 2019. It will be published through Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542040457. This review was written after receiving an advanced electronic galley from the publisher in exchange for a review.


Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

the-southern-side-of-paradise-9781982116620_lgWhen I had received this galley, I was not aware that I was part of a series. The Southern Side of Paradise is actually the final installment of the Peachtree Bluff Series which focuses on a mother, Ansley and her three daughters: Caroline, Sloane and Emerson as they divide their time between New York City and Georgia. Each are struggling in terms of their relationships: Ansley is engaged to the love of a her, a man that she left when she was young while Caroline has discovered that her husband James has been cheating on her and Sloane is dealing with her injured husband who is back from being captured during the war.

While the first two installments of the Peachtree Bluff Series focused on the stories of the older sisters, The Southern Side of Paradise is narrated by the youngest daughter, Emerson, who is an actress with a flair for the dramatic. This installment is her story. I think her being the youngest of the girls, made the narration seem whiney and immature in parts, but it didn’t take away from the overall feel of the book. It just made for the story to be more believable since this was the story of a young woman who was beginning to find her own way.

Without having read the first two books in the Peachtree Bluff Series, I did find myself somewhat lost in reading the last book. I did not fully understand all of the conflicts and relationships as well as I could have had I had the background of the first two installments. However, The Southern Side of Paradise, was a light read that immediately plunged me into the world of the Murphy girls and their lives and adventures. After reading this installment, it made me want to go back and read the first two books so that I could not only better understand, but more so fully enjoy the lovely Southern town that Kristy Woodson Harvey created for her characters.

This was a quick read that really put me into that summer mindset. I am ready to find my own pool and big hat and enjoy the heat.

The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey is scheduled for release on May 7, 2019 from Gallery Books with ISBN 9781982122096. This review was created using a pre-release electronic galley of the book from the publisher.


Book Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

The story of Chris McCandless isn’t exactly new. There were plenty of young men before him and plenty after him that believed, almost arrogantly, in their intelligence and ability so much so that they felt that even against the strength and almighty power of nature at its most wild that they would win out regardless of how ill-prepared they were for their journey. McCandless was a smart, well-educated twenty something from a well-off suburb of Virginia. His family, friends and those that knew him described him as such adding that, Chris often liked to be alone, not in the sense of being a “loner” and all that that term conjures, but in that, Chris didn’t mind being alone and often was, finding ways to entertain himself.

He enjoyed wandering. He took long trips across the US and would often disappear for long stretches of time. After his graduation from Emory University, McCandless did just that. He packed up and left, eventually getting rid of his car, possessions and even burning what little money he had on him. From there, he drifts all over the West before finally trekking into the Alaskan bush country with ill-fitting boots and little to no food on him.

He plans to live off the land and strike out on his own totally negating the fact that he does not have the supplies needed nor has he taken the time to build the skill set that is needed to survive in the wilderness. Ultimately, the end of Chris McCandless is evident and it’s easy to write him off as a know-it-all kid that got in over his head and paid the ultimate price.

And in some parts I do have to agree with that. He had a comfortable life set up for him and he gave it all away to pretty much tell his parents, up their’s. On the other hand, Krakauer also includes stories of other boys who did the same as McCandless including stories of his own rebellion and his stupidity and near-death experience in trying to climb the Stikine Ice Cap. He spoke of how in your early twenties you grasp mortality, but your own seems so far off and something you’re incapable to completely understanding that you almost want to push yourself into the tip of it, the brink in order to look down on it and feel it.

Which, I get. It reminded me of how when I was 23, I went sky-diving and nothing makes you feel mortal and face your own mortality more than throwing yourself out of a plane and plummeting to earth with nothing but some flimsy material to save you. It was exciting, thrilling and it took away any and all control I had over myself and my well-being. It was exhilarating and something I probably will never do again.

Overall, did Chris McCandless over do it on the rebellion? Heck yes! But, his story and John Krakuer’s take on it does make for a good read.

And then there’s always the 2007 Sean Penn  movie adaptation which boasts lots of beautiful scenes and enough Eddie Vedder to keep any Pearl Jam enthusiast satiated:

Score: 5/5

Book Information: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer was reissued on August 21, 2007 through Anchor Books with ISBN 978-0307387172. In November 2014, Chris’s sister released her own memoir of why Chris went into the wild and tells the story of what her family and upbringing were truly like in, The Wild Truth.

Book Review: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Lush and dream-like, Bless Me, Ultima takes us to New Mexico in the 1940s where six-year-old Antonio Marez tests the bonds that tie him to his people and to his past. When a famous curandra, a healer, moves in with Tony’s family, he becomes emmersed in a world of the old ways, the pagan ways. For a boy that is on the cusp of making his First Holy Communion, this troubles Tony and often makes him question which God is the right God. Is it the God found in church? Or is it the old Gods, the ones that he finds all around him?

To guide him on this journey of self and of truth, the curandra or la grande, Ultima takes the boy under her wing, bringing him with her to help cure the townspeople of the curses that have plagued them. For such a young boy, Tony is exposed to many things including deep, earthly magic and even murder. He remains strong and resilient in his quest to find the truth and his rightful path.

Told with such language, description and emotion, Bless Me, Ultima is almost written magically, plunging the reader into the mystical world of New Mexico and the culture of its people.

Score: 5/5

Book Information: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya was published originally published in 1972. This review refers to the 1994 edition published by Grand Central Publishing with ISBN 978-0446600255.

And, the book was made into a movie which was released in 2013:

Book Review: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

I have not read a lot of literature involving Native Americans and culture, but I did find Love Medicine and decided to read it. Published in 1984, Love Medicine tells the story of a group of Chippewa living on a reservation in North Dakota. Erdrich chronicles 60 years of the lives of these people.

She opens her novel with the passing of June Morrissey who freezes to death in a snow storm trying to get back to her family. The novel continues in a very conversational way, introducing us to various members of the family and reservation which is reminiscent of Native American culture wherein stories were spoken, not written. Erdrich richly paints the trials and difficulties of living on a reservation, revealing the alcoholism and abusive relationships that plague many of the people that live there.

With younger generations, Erdrich explores what it’s like to be an Euro-Indian, wherein the unfairness and often clear resentment of the US government is evident and explored.

What I found difficult of the book was keeping the relationships of the characters in order. There are many affairs and surprises of paternity that occur throughout the book, often times the characters themselves not even being aware of their true parental lineage. I had difficulty keeping it all straight, especially when trying to understand where alliances stood and why.

Score: 3/5

Book Information: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich was originally published in 1984 with a revised edition having been released in May of 2009 by Harper Perennial with ISBN 978-0061787423.

Book Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

In the last installment of the Sookie Stackhouse Series, Charlaine Harris wraps up her story of the sexy telepath from Bon Temps. Readers get a lot of their questions from Deadlocked answered while still creating new ones that will hopefully be explored in a later supplement to the series.

Out of all the Sookie books, this one was probably the calmest. There is very little action and when compared to the other books, not as much murder and bloodshed, though this book does have its fair share of that too. Most importantly, readers finally get an answer to the question that began all the back to the first book– who does Sookie choose, Eric or Bill?

That answer is somewhat surprising, but at the same time not completely alarming because true fans of the series and even of the show, could see that answer coming for a long time. Overall, Harris leaves Sookie in probably the best place she could find herself in considering everything that happened to her since the Vamps came out of the coffin. Loose ends are tied up and enemies finally banished (for now), leaving our heroine at peace for the time being.

We also get to see most of Sookie’s ex-loves and flirtations, including were-tiger Quinn and the oh so dreamy, Alcide Herveaux which is never a difficult thing to have to read about.

Not to disappoint, Harris will be releasing a novel-length epilogue of sorts in October explaining what happened to her much beloved characters following the conclusion of the series.

For my reviews on all other Sookie Stackhouse books, click on the sookie stackhouse novels tag at the bottom of this post.

Score: 4.5/5

Book Information: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris was released in May 2013 by Ace Books with ISBN 978-1937007881.

Book Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This was a super quick read. I finished it in about two days, but there was a lot to the book. I absolutely enjoyed it. I didn’t feel terribly connected to the characters, but I did feel connected to the situations and tragedies that they all were going through.

Sarah Nickerson has it all – a great house, a loving husband, three beautiful children and a high-pressure job that she adores, but when a terrible car accident leaves her damaged, Sarah has to figure out how to survive and live in her new life.

It’s easy to like Sarah, she’s like so many of us – busy and working towards attaining that perfect life while not always taking the time we need to just sit back and enjoy where we’re at when we have it. She has a contentious relationship with her mother and a pride streak so big that she finds it nearly impossible to rely on her mother even when she loses even the ability to see her left side. Left Neglect is a real condition that Genova documents throughly throughout the book. It occurs when a person suffers damage to the right side of the brain such as a stroke or in Sarah’s case a car accident. It makes it nearly impossible for the person to realize that they do in fact, have a left side. It’s like the left side of everything simply disappears.

What I liked most about the book is that Genova doesn’t make it a scientific trip through Left Neglect, but rather shows us what that is by showing us Sarah and her life following the accident. Overall, it was a quick and very enjoyable read with a clear message: maybe, we all just need to slow down.

Score: 5 out of 5

Book Information: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova is available for purchase with ISBN 9781439164631 via Gallery Books. It was originally published in 2011.

Book Review: A Woman in Berlin

This past week, I read A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in a Conquered City. It was hard to get through, not because of the writing which I loved considering the material, but just with how emotional the book was. The novel is the diary of a woman who recorded daily life during the Russian occupation of Berlin during the second World War.

For years, the book was published without credit, since its author feared what could become of her if it was known that she had in fact written it. It is presumed that the diary actually was of German journalist, Marta Hillers.

The diary largely chronicles the brutality and atrocities that can and do occur during wartime. The author descriptively records the multiple rapes she suffered at the hands of the Red Army, the murders, the suicides and the bombings that prevailed in Berlin following Hitler’s fall from power. She raises the question, is it really the more humane thing to do to leave women and children behind while men fight in wars? Without protection, women do become the booty of war (pun intended) and they die, along with the children.

The author is admirable because instead of making herself the victim, which she no doubt is, she rises above that. She uses her mind and her body to keep herself safe and to ensure that she can get food to feed herself and in turn the people that she lives with. Her bravery and courageousness that echoes in her writing is just unbelievable as when she was writing this, there was no end in sight for her. This was her life.

The book moves pretty quickly and what I enjoyed most about it was the author’s writing style. Though written in the 1940’s, the book had a more modern feel to the way it was written, completely pulling me into her story and the story of those she lived with.

Score: 4 out of 5

Book Information: A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in a Conquered City is available for purchase with ISBN 0312426119 via Picador. This version was originally published in July 2006.

If you’re interested, there was even a movie made of this book not too long ago:

Sadie is Stranded by Madeleine Roux: Book Review

I was really excited for Madeleine Roux’s second book, Sadie Walker is Stranded. I thought it was going to be very similar to Allison Hewitt is Trapped which I had found to be funny, witty and fast-paced. Roux kept a lot coming at the reader in that book and that is probably because it was originally a daily blog so she wrote it differently.

I was disappointed with Sadie Walker is Stranded. It was still funny and witty in parts, but I felt like there was something missing that the first novel had. There were large expanses where I just felt bored and like she was rushing through it entirely, but dragging me along with her as she went.

She had a lot of good ideas for the novel, but I didn’t feel very immersed in them nor did I feel like she really went into any great detail about them. I kept waiting for the big moment where she went into the big scenes with the villain of the story, but all I got was a little less than a chapter after an entire novel built up to it. It was a total let down.

I was also interested in seeing how she would incorporate the Allison Hewitt blog into the story since so many of the people in her zombie-verse read that blog. I was disappointed in that it was mentioned, but never really explored beyond the friendship that one of Sadie’s co-survivors once had with Allison and her now husband, Collin.

Overall, I think she could have done more with the book then she did, there were so many great ideas that she had that she could have ran with.

Score: 2 out of 5

Book Information: Sadie Walker is Stranded  by Madeleine Roux is available for purchase through amazon with ISBN 0312658915. It was originally published on January 31, 2012 through St. Martin’s Griffin.

Club Dead: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ Third Book in Her True Blood Series

The following originally appeared in my book review column in February 2010:

clubdeadIt is speculated that HBO’s True Blood creator, Alan Ball will follow some of what Harris created with Club Dead in the third season of True Blood that is set to begin airing this summer. This will be a great treat for many of the shows followers, especially those who are big fans of the Sookie Stackhouse/Eric Northman relationship.

Club Dead

In Club Dead, Harris sets up the tensions in Bill’s and Sookie’s relationship that will inevitably lead to what occurs in the following book, Dead to the World. Vampire Bill is acting strange when Harris begins Club Dead. He is transfixed with something that he is working on with his computer and he subsequently disappears on business in another state. Sookie is left with a mix of emotions, but turns to Eric Northman for help in the end.

The nordic vampire knows exactly where to find him and soon Sookie finds herself in Jackson, Mississipi deep in the realm of the underworld of vampires who lounge around a mansion compound doing whatever they please. When Sookie finally finds Bill, he is in the midst of a most precarious situation and Sookie isn’t sure if she should stake him or save him. It is here, that readers are introduced to Bill’s maker, Lorena, who HBO viewers have only had glimpses of up until this point of the series.

True Blood Season Two Finale

Alan Ball sets up for Harris’ plot-line of the season two finale last summer when viewers were left with a cliff hanger after Bill asks Sookie a very important question. When Sookie leaves the bathroom to answer him, she finds the room a mess and viewers are led to believe that Bill was in fact kidnapped and probably by Lorena as an altercation between her and Sookie occurred when they all were in Dallas in the beginning of the season.

Whichever version that fans are following, both Club Dead and the upcoming season of True Blood are setting fans up for Dead to the World, where Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse will finally have an outlet for the sexual tension that has been built between them ever since Vampire Bill introduced them.

Overall, Harris gives readers a lot to digest in the goings on of Club Dead. Most of the relationships that she had built up in the first two installments of the Sookie Stackhouse series, meet with drastic changes at this point of the series. These changes have a lot of ground work laid in the previous book, Living Dead in Dallas, but do not come to light until the conclusion of Club Dead.

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441010516.