Category Archives: Denise

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain (2015)

Another great book by Diane Chamberlain! She has a remarkable talent for developing complex, relatable characters facing difficult situations and telling thought-provoking stories that make me feel a whole host of emotions. Pretending to Dance centers around Molly who, with her husband, is hoping to adopt a baby. This process brings up painful memories from Molly’s past which she has kept hidden from her husband. The story deftly switches between present day and Molly as a rebellious 14 year old. Her very close relationship to her father, Graham, who is a paraplegic from MS, is handled with sensitivity and humor. Graham was my favorite character, with inspirational wisdom and loving insight into life. There are unexpected twists and turns throughout the storyline, and many issues raised in a compassionate manner.

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2014)

A new author for fans of high-octane thrillers. Don’t be intimated by the size of this book (over 600 pages). I normally avoid books this size, but the description intrigued me enough to try it, and I’m really glad I did! I am Pilgrim is roller coaster ride of constant action; worldwide settings; a variety of complex, flawed, captivating characters; and many unpredictable twists and turns.

The main character, code named “Pilgrim,” a former member of a covert US agency that dealt with terrorism, is pulled into a murder investigation by a friend who’s a top New York City police detective. This, in turn, leads him (and us, the readers) to many places around the globe – Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey as he attempts to take down a terrorist group planning a potentially catastrophic attack on the US. Terry Hayes’ novel is a fun, high-adrenaline, and strangely addictive read.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (1999)

This is Mitch Albom’s second nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie. If you enjoyed that one, I think you’ll enjoy Have a Little Faith, possibly even more. It is heartwarming, inspirational, thought-provoking, and, at times, humorous.

Albom’s hometown rabbi asks Albom to deliver his eulogy when he dies. On his quest to learn more about this man, he encounters an African American pastor who, despite a past as a drug dealer and convict, is leading a Christian ministry serving the poor and homeless in Detroit’s inner city. The book alternates between these two very different men, religions, and their worlds. In the process, you learn valuable lessons about the power of faith to bring people together to accomplish great things. Great read for a book club.

When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards (2016)

This is my first Emilie Richards book, but it won’t be my last! It’s a captivating and emotional story about two women, Cecilia and Robin, who met as children in foster care and became “forever sisters.” Cecilia is a superstar singer-songwriter who agrees to do a documentary film on the foster care system. She asks Robin to join this project as a photographer, and to share their experiences together. Throughout this endeavor, we learn about the foster care system through the eyes and experiences of these two women. More importantly, we learn about the strength of the human spirit to overcome past traumas and develop into loving, successful adults.

Anyone who enjoys complex characterizations and explorations of social issues will enjoy When We Were Sisters.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015)

nightingaleThis is one of my recent favorite books. I could not stop reading this compelling story of two sisters during the Nazi occupation of France, and how the war impacts each in very different ways. These strong women are inspiring and unforgettable, as they endure the unimaginable. All of the characters in The Nightingale really brought the story of the French Resistance to life. I felt as if I were reading a true story. There are twists and turns that kept me engaged until the bitter end.

I highly recommend Kristin Hannah’s latest novel for anyone who enjoys reading about WWII history, or about strong women in extraordinary circumstances. It would also be a great book for book clubs.

 

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (2015)

drifterHighly recommend this debut novel to fans of mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and especially fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. The main protagonist, Peter Ash, is an ex-Marine Lieutenant who served for eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning to the U.S. a year earlier, he decides to live in the mountains, as PTSD causes him to have extreme claustrophobia and panic attacks when indoors for any time. When he finds out that his best friend from the military committed suicide, he goes to Milwaukee to help out this friend’s widow and two sons. The mystery begins when he finds a suitcase with lots of cash and explosives under the porch of their house.

In The Drifter, the cast of characters are vividly-drawn and complex, even the dog, Mingus. A central theme in this book is the effects of war on returning vets. I’m looking forward to Nicholas Petrie’s next book with Peter Ash (Burning Bright, which was released earlier this month).

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler (2013)

callingmehomeI listened to the audio version of Julie Kibler’s debut Calling Me Home and loved it. The narration alternates between Isabelle, an 89-year old white woman, and Dorrie, an African American woman in her 30s. These two women have an unlikely friendship, which started many years earlier when Dorrie became Isabelle’s hairdresser.

At Isabelle’s request, they embark on a road trip from Texas to Ohio to attend a funeral. En route, Isabelle tells the story of her life during the 1930s. As such, the storyline alternates between late 1930s and the present day. Since I listened to this book in my car, I felt as though I were on the road with them, sitting in the back seat, eavesdropping on their captivating conversation.

The characters were so real to me that I felt the whole gamut of emotions while listening to this book. I think the book could be turned into a great movie!

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014)

inventionofwingsI loved everything about this book…the superbly-drawn, complex characters; the inspirational, and often intense, storylines of each character; and the wonderful setting descriptions that made me feel like I was there with the characters! The fact that this novel was based on real-life people makes it more powerful and unforgettable.

Set in Charleston during the early 1800s, the plot follows the life of two girls into adulthood, alternating the narration between the two. Sarah Grimke is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, and Hetty is the young slave who is given to Sarah on her 11th birthday. They share a common goal – freedom! For Hetty, it is freedom from the bondages of slavery, and for Sarah, from the oppressive societal constraints on women. Sarah is vehemently against slavery, treating Hetty with respect, even secretly teaching her how to read, which was against the law at that time. Sarah becomes a strong activist in the abolitionist movement and civil rights for women. Hetty’s life is heartbreaking, yet inspiring in so many ways.

After I finished The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and did some research on Sarah Grimke to learn more about her real life.

Highly recommend this book!

Oxygen by Carol Cassella (2008)

oxygenThis medical thriller captivated me from the start, with fascinating, thought-provoking descriptions of an anesthesiologist’s role in the operating room. Author Carol Cassella, a practicing anesthesiologist herself, has created an absorbing story that starts with the tragic death of an 8-year old girl who dies during surgery. The story line focuses on the personal and legal effects on the anesthesiologist who is held responsible for her death. Oxygen contains a great combination of twists and turns, as well as issues involving love, family, reconciliation, and betrayal.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner (2014)

index.aspxThis is a fast-paced psychological suspense thriller, filled with many twists and turn. An added bonus is the interesting cast of characters, especially a woman who has an extremely rare genetic mutation wherein she cannot feel pain. This is an actual condition that I found fascinating to learn more about. Although there are some graphic, gory descriptions of the murder victims, I feel that these are outweighed by the interesting character studies and absorbing, edgy storyline. If you enjoy Fear Nothing, you can try other books in Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D. Warren series.