Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Recommendation: The Help

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Some books are worth reading even if you see the movie — and Kathryn Stockett’s raw and real telling of The Help is one of them.

In it’s essence, The Help is a honest portrayal of race during the heated 1960’s, and threaded together with stories of women and their roles in society portrays a real and sometimes humorous account of life leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. Set in the South and in a time when segregation was not only alive and well, but also in an era when women were treated as a lower species, three women give their personal accounts from three very different perspectives. Their lives are woven together with the ties that bind most females – motherhood, friendship, insecurity, and love.

Aibileen Clark is a black woman who works for a prominent white family in town. She does all of the cleaning, a lot of the cooking, and is the primary caretaker for the family’s toddler – the sweet (if somewhat slow) little blonde Mae Mobley. Aibileen and her inherent kindness cannot help but treat Mae Mobley as if she were her very own child, nor can she help  finding a bit of a reprieve in the chubby little child for the empty hole in her heart that used to house her own son. Treelore died following an accident while on the job, and a part of Aibileen died right along with him. Raising the little girl can be an arduous task, especially in the face of the child’s mother and the challenges she brings with her. Miss Leefolt is as clueless as she is disengaged from the child, only tending to Mae Mobley when it suits her and spending more time scolding the child than loving her. Aibileen does her best to reinforce positive feelings with Mae Mobley, and the little girl clings to the black housekeeper as she would a mother, finding solace in her ever-faithful and forgiving arms. As discontent breeds between the white mother and her black maid, things in the household gain tension.

” ‘What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I stop it?’

It? That was my first hint: something is wrong with this situation. 

So I took that pink, screaming baby in my arms. Bounced her on my hip to get the gas moving and it didn’t take two minutes before Baby Girl stopped her crying, got to smiling up at me like she do. But Miss Leefolt, she don’t pick up her own baby for the rest a the day. I seen plenty a womens get the baby blues after they done birthing. I reckon I thought that’s what it was.

Here’s something about Miss Leefolt: she not just frowning all the time, she skinny. Her legs is so spindly, she look like she done growed em last week. Twenty-three years old and she lanky as a fourteen-year-old boy. Even her hair is thin, brown, see-through. She try to tease it up, but it only make it look thinner. Her face be the same shape as that red devil on the redhot candy box, pointy chin and all. Fact, her whole body be so full a sharp knobs and corners, it’s no wonder she can’t soothe that baby. Babies like fat. Like to bury they face up in you armpit and go to sleep. They like big fat legs too. That I know. 

By the time she a year old, Mae Mobley following me around everwhere I go. Five o’clock would come round and she’d be hanging on my Dr. Scholl shoe, dragging over the floor, crying like I weren’t never coming back. Miss Leefolt, she’d narrow up her eyes at me like I done something wrong, unhitch that crying baby off my food. I reckon that’s the risk you run, letting somebody else raise you chilluns. 

Mae Mobley two years old now. She got big brown eyes and honey-color curls. But the bald spot in the back of her hair kind a throw things off. She get the same wrinkle between her eyebrows when she worried, like her mama. They kind a favor except Mae Mobley so fat. She ain’t gone be no beauty queen. I think it bother Miss Leefolt, but Mae Mobley my special baby. “

But one thing Aibileen can always depend on is the outright sass and tell-it-like-it-is attitude from her best friend. Minny Jackson is a woman who was born and bred for tending a white woman’s house, but although Minny is as adept at her job as Aibileen, Minny just can’t seem to hold one down. Her lack of professional stability is mostly due to Minny not knowing how to keep her mouth shut; and she has said some things to her latest employer that not even one of her famous pies could fix. A chance phone call lands her on the doorstep of the beautiful Miss. Celia, a blonde bombshell who is looking for more than just a housekeeper . . . it seems the poor woman is looking for a friend. Celia is an outcast in the small society of the Mississippi town they live in and spends her days moping around the huge house her husband has so thoughtfully provided for her. No matter how hard Celia tries to break into the cut-glass world of her peers, the ladies who call all of the shots can’t help but be threatened by her devastating good looks, not to mention the fact that she married the old beau of the Queen Bee herself – Miss. Hilly Holbrook – and as such, made an enemy for life. Celia leans on Minny in ways that make Minny uncomfortable; she’s not used to being treated as a near equal to any white woman, but she has as growing soft spot for Miss. Celia. If it wasn’t for her sassy mouth, maybe she’d have a more solid position. . . but if it wasn’t for that sassy mouth, she wouldn’t have found Miss. Celia.

” Standing on that white lady’s back porch, I tell myself, Tuck it in, Minny. Tuck in whatever might fly out my mouth and tuck in my behind too. Look like a maid who does what she’s told. Truth is, I’m so nervous right now, I’d never backtalk again if it meant I’d get this job. 

I yank my stockings up from sagging around my feet – the trouble of all fat, short women around the world. Then I rehearse what to say, what to keep to myself. I go ahead and punch the bell. 

The doorbell rings a long bing-bong, fine and fancy for this big mansion out in the country. It looks like a castle, gray brick rising high in the sky and left and right too. Woods surround the lawn on every side. If this place was in the storybook, there’d be witches in those woods. The kind that eat kids. 

The back door opens and there stands Miss Marilyn Monroe. Or something kin to her. 

‘Hey there, you’re right on time. I’m Celia. Celia Rae Foote.’

The white lady sticks her hand out to me and I study her. She might be built like Marilyn, but she ain’t ready for no screen test. She’s got flour in her yellow hairdo. Flour in her glue-on eyelashes. And flour all over that tacky pink pantsuit. Her standing in a cloud of dust and that pantsuit being so tight, I wonder how she can breathe. “

Skeeter is a white woman of privilege, having grown up the daughter of a family in the cotton business and never wanting for anything. Having lived her childhood in the direct care of a black maid who treated her with unconditional love and affection, Skeeter’s stance on employer/employee relationships are a lot different than that of her friends. As she grew up under the expert tutelage of Constantine, Skeeter knew no boundaries with black maids. She could always find a safe place wrapped up into the bosom of the woman who raised her, whereas all she could find from her actual mother was a dismissive hand.  She can’t understand the logic behind Hilly’s quest to “ensure the emotional and physical safety of her family” by putting a separate bathroom in her home for the black help, and she can’t seem to grasp why her friends treat their maids wish such hushed disdain. As Hilly proceeds forward in a task of enlisting all white families with black help to install special bathrooms with an almost bulldozer-esque fervor, Skeeter begins to question the friendships she’d carried with her from childhood into adulthood. Intrigued by the dynamics and sensing a story to be found, Skeeter embarks on a quest of her own – to give the black maids, cooks, and caretakers of these white women’s homes and children a voice on a public platform.

” The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s, over to shoot guns in the field. 

‘Why you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen. 

I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face. 

‘Well? Is you?’

I blinked, paused my crying. ‘Is I what?’

‘Now you look here, Eugenia’ — because Constantine was the only one who’d occasionally follow Mama’s rule. ‘Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed. 

Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand, something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me. 

‘Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.’ Constantine was so close, I could see the blackness of her gums. ‘You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’

She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe. “

The writer in Skeeter begins to mold her interviews of the black maids into something substantial .While initially her requests to speak with the black women was met with scorn and a lot of slammed doors, Skeeter begins to gain traction when she is able to secure the support of Aibileen, a woman very respected in her station. Skeeter’s subsequential book entitled The Help, sends a rising wave straight through the heart of her little Mississippi town, gaining speed with every story read and every bit of gossip as to who the stories are about. Aibileen and Minny are not the only contributors to the book everyone is reading and talking about; nearly every maid in town has lent her story. Putting the cold, hard truths on display for everyone to see is one way to shake things up a bit in her sleepy town, and Skeeter’s hands are all over it. Both Aibileen and Minny are surprised as to what comes out of their confessions, and of what they learn about themselves in the process.

The Help is a book that I give 4 out of 5 stars to and recommend to anyone who enjoyed the movie or is looking for a great and easy read. While the film adaptation of the book was well-done, the book dives deeper into the characters and their emotional journeys as they confront the things in their lives that perhaps they didn’t even realize were problems. Minny’s humor lends such relief to the sometimes heartbreaking accounts and reminiscences of Aibileen, and Skeeter’s transition into independent womanhood is a pleasure to witness.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Review: Watch Me Disappear

Watch Me Disappear

by Janelle Brown

” Leave, and they’ll hate you. 

Die, and they’ll love you forever. “

At a cursory glance, the Flanagan family is a typical Californian unit: a techie Dad with cool hair, a beautiful and athletic mother, and a mature teenaged daughter who cares about the environment. The trio share their existence in a cozy Craftsman set on a suburban street in Berkeley, passing their days grabbing lunch in vegan cafes full of lounging hipsters and on beaches with the crashing waves and sandy-haired surfers as their companions.

On the surface, Billie is a great mom. She creates Pinterest-worthy delights for the bake sales hosted at daughter Olive’s expensive private school. She stays perfectly fit by spending her weekends hiking the extensive trails in their area or finding the hottest new yoga class. Her interior is as impressive as her exterior, and Billie never fails to have something interesting to bring to the table when discussing human rights or animal activism. She left behind a checkered past wrought with rumors of a salacious father and a jailed boyfriend, all to fashion a comfortable little life in a sweet little town with a picture-perfect little family.

But, is it enough?

When Billie leaves for yet another of her weekend trips, expressing the need to – yet again – gather clarity and revel in some much-needed alone time, Jonathan doesn’t worry. The Pacific Crest Trail in Desolation Wilderness is nothing she can’t handle, and although he would prefer she not trek out on her own, he doesn’t dare say it out loud. Bille gave up her independence a long time ago in a gesture of devotion and love to their daughter, and he feels that he owes it to her to not question her need to regain a bit of what she’s lost now that Olive is getting older and doesn’t need her as much. He can’t lie and say that he doesn’t miss Billie when she’s gone, but he also doesn’t entirely mind the break from her constant barrage of perfection and soft spoken elitism. Part of him has always felt “less than” in her effervescent presence; he’s never quite managed to break into the coolness that she embodies, no matter how long they’ve been together.

But this trip proved to be a different kind of getaway. Billie never returned and was never found, not even after countless searches among the crags and caverns along the trail. The only thing left behind was a well-worn hiking boot, the object mocking the painful hole left behind in Jonathan and Olive’s life. Now, nearly a year later, they are both still struggling in vain to put their lives back together. . . to somehow glue the fragments of their shattered world into some semblance of normal. The measure of difficulty is beyond any degree they could have ever comprehended, especially as there was never a body to bury.

Missing, presumed dead. This phrase drives him insane, the way it insists on inserting doubt where there is none The facts are simple: Billie went backpacking by herself along the Pacific Crest Trail in Desolation Wilderness. She never came back down the mountain. No one was sure exactly what had happened, but the official verdict was that Billie had probably gone off-trail (this would have been so very Billie of her) and fallen into a ravine, hurt herself, and couldn’t hike out. Or maybe she was attacked by a wild animal, or just got lost and died of hunger and thirst. 

Even now, a year later, Jonathan is plagued by the question of how long it had taken his wife to die. What if she had lain there for days, somewhere under the ponderosa pines, hurt and helpless, hearing the search helicopters overhead but incapable of summoning them? He lies awake at night, imagining the horror of it all; her waning hope that someone might find her, wherever she was, before it was too late. The dawning awareness that death was approaching as she measured out drops of water and the last crumbs of her granola bars. Then nothing but her fading breath and the scuttling of pikas and yellow-bellied marmots across the granite slopes. It’s unbearable to think about. Instead, he prays that death was instantaneous: that she fell, broke her neck, and didn’t have to suffer such a lonely ending. “

Nothing is working, and in fact, things are only getting worse as the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death looms in the near future. For Olive, the hardest part of losing Billie has been her attempts at figuring out who she is outside of her mom. Billie led her, encouraged her, and kept her on a path of righteousness while lending a free spirit to Olive’s otherwise naturally structured mindset. Without that guiding light in her life, Olive is lost. She knows her dad is doing his best but . . .

And then one day the unimaginable happens —  Olive sees her mother. Actually sees her! Standing in the middle of the school hallway, Olive has a clear and concise vision of her mother standing before her, long hair billowing in the wind and toes sunken into the white sands of the beach. Billie looks right at her and asks Olive why she isn’t looking for her, her face a mixture of amusement and the slightest tinge of regret. But as Olive reaches for her mom she connects with the hard part of a wall, jolting her back into the here and now and leaving a huge knot on her forehead for good measure.

The visions and images don’t go away and although Olive desperately struggles to find a connection between her realistic daydreams and the tangible world around her, she can’t seem to gain purchase. She spends days and nights in an attempt to decipher the visions or consciously bring them on, and her weekends out searching for her mother in the places her mind has shown her. Clues run into dead ends and mysteries remain mysteries. . . and to make matters worse, her father doesn’t take her seriously and instead, drags her to a doctor who prescribes medication with the sole intent to kill the emerging clairvoyant side of her.

” ‘I believe it.’ Olive plants a palm in the center of her chest. ‘Dad. She told me to look for her.’

Jonathan is suddenly furious. ‘Stop it, Olive. This isn’t healthy. Your mother is gone. Dead,’ he snaps before he can stop himself. Immediately, he is stricken with remorse. He puts his hand to the hair at his temples and tugs on it, hard enough that it makes his eyes water. ‘Look, I’m sorry –‘ he begins. 

But it’s too late, Olive has already shut down. ‘I shouldn’t have said anything,’ she mutters to the floor. 

‘No, I’m glad you did,’ Jonathan says, not feeling glad at all. ‘I’m just trying to figure out what to say.’ 

GOD, Dad, don’t you get it?’ Olive throws up her hands. ‘It’s not about saying anything. It’s about doing something. I want to do something real for once. Can’t you open your mind just this one time? Mom would have tried to look for you.’

‘Hey –‘ he begins, taken aback. But Olive is already marching out of the room, her stride stiff and off-balance. “

What Olive doesn’t know is that her dad takes her more seriously than she thought. Jonathan has been doing some digging of his own, and is finding himself more and more baffled and unhappy by what he’s finding. Looking through the couple’s finances over the last year shows that Billie successfully siphoned off nearly $20,000 between their savings and checking accounts. And after a search through Billie’s laptop uncovers a hidden and locked file as well as some strange photos of a house he’s never seen and a bookmark to a private investigator’s office, Jonathan is left in a state of utter dismay. Did Billie really die that weekend, a year ago? Or did she disappear in another way entirely?

Both Olive and Jonathan begin to spiral out of control, their tandem paths peppered with insecurities, meddling friends, enigmatic strangers, and the question that haunts them both — is Billie still alive? 

Watch Me Disappear is the third book by noted journalist and novelist Janelle Brown.  A novel that has no qualms with delving into the complexities and flaws of each character allows readers to appreciate Brown’s raw and honest portrayal of the burdens Billie, Jonathan, and Olive all carry — each unique and solely theirs to shoulder. The people that we love are not always who or what we imagined and expected them to be, and Brown’s weaving of lives and story lines reminds readers that the human way of doing things is more often than not to see what we want to see. Billie, at her core, was not a good person. . . and it was fascinating to see how she infected lives with her selfishness while at the same time ingratiating herself.

Giving this novel a solid 4.5 out of 5 star rating, I am eager to pick up the other two novels Brown has penned. Her distinct descriptions of each character was a pleasure to read; at each turn of perspective I felt that Brown slipped into the character’s skin with ease and exceptional depth. While I did feel that a couple of the side story lines were a little contrived, I appreciated Brown’s attempts at creating even more ways for readers to connect with the realness of the characters. Several times I was sure that I had this novel and its mystery figured out, only to be given a twisting turn onto another avenue.

Watch Me Disappear is a clean and easy read for lovers of a good mystery, and is recommended for readers aged 15 and up. This book is available on all platforms on July 11, 2017.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Recommendation: The Count Of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

by Alexandre Dumas

“ All human wisdom is contained in these two words –

Wait and Hope ”

For a lot of aspiring readers, picking up one of the numerous tomes deemed “classic” can be a daunting task. From school reading lists peppered with titles like War and Peace, Moby Dick, or A Tale of Two Cities to friends who insist that you “aren’t cultured until” you’ve read The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Odyssey, classic novels are easy to find intimidating — and not just because of their overwhelmingly large size. The language styles, anecdotal phrases, and wordings are different from those of today, the subject matters and environmental circumstances are often unfamiliar to modern-day readers, and the plots are often slower moving than the quickly cranked out novels of today. And lest we forget, while writers and authors of today can pull book out of book from their minds and put to press within months, the literary geniuses of days past wrote their masterpieces entirely by hand, by candlelight or oil lamp — if they were lucky enough to be able to afford it.

But, classics are classics for a reason. Books such as Treasure Island and The Time Machine have intrigued and entertained readers for over 100 years with their swashbuckling heroes, treacherous villains, adoring and beautiful damsels in distress, and time traveling adventures. It’s amazing to me that some literature can not only last that long, but continue to bring about new readers and lovers. The magic of the written world never fails to inspire me and push me onward, eager to add another tome to my ever-growing library.

You can ask nearly anyone if they’ve heard of The Three Musketeers and their answer will be a resounding YES. From the older generations who are young at heart to the millennial attached to their cell phone, all the way down to the toddler who has seen the images of three fencing artists protecting good from evil depicted by the precocious Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy,  everyone has heard of them. A book that is set into a series of three, circling the life of a young and ambitious nobleman named d’Artagnan who aspires to become wrapped up in the exciting service of musketeers, The Three Musketeers is a true classic, and penned by an interesting and aristocratic French author named Alexandre Dumas.

But while Dumas was pleasantly settled into the adventurous and scintillating life of the roguish d’Artagnan, he was also fully immersed in the creation of another story,  tenderly chronicling the life and times of a man falsely accused of the high crime of treason before being sent away live out his final days in a dark and dank prison by the sea. The Count of Monte Cristo would become a tale for the ages, celebrated for decades to come, the classic telling of revenge and pirate’s treasure.

Edmond Dantès is a man with his entire life set before him. After a tour set at sea, he is finally home and preparing to marry the love of his life, the lovely Mercédès. Due to the death of his captain, Dantès is also now set with the task of a new seafaring position and is anxious to tell his fiancee the news. He can now support her financially, allowing her all of the things in life that she truly deserves. But upon his deathbed, his captain and friend begged a final favor —  to successfully deliver a letter and a package. Naively Edmond accepts his challenge, hoping that this will help ease the mind of a dying man and fulfill his last wishes, allowing him to pass in peace. Unbeknownst to Dantès, the parcels are part of a conspiracy of which he has been made a pawn of, and when the items are found to be objects of a larger Bonapartist crime,Dantès is sentenced without a fair trial, found to be a willing criminal and sent to prison. The victim of an elaborate cover-up set forth by three men, one of which truly meant to do Edmond harm because of the love he carried for Mercédès, Dantès is banished without ever being able to say goodbye.

After spending years on the dreary island trapped inside his small and depressing cell,Dantès is on the literally on the verge of suicide when he encounters a surprise visitor. Abbé Faria is a prisoner neatly residing in a cell nearby to Edmond’s and is hell-bent on the act of escape. He has managed to  ferret an escape route via complicated underground tunnels during his extended stay in the less than worthy accommodations, and Faria quickly befriends Dantès when he realizes the state that the hopeless young man is in. During the next eight years, Edmond is transformed from an ignorant and provincial sailor who’d all but given up hope, into an accomplished and worldly man. Under the direct tutelage of Faria,Dantès spends his days learning languages, cultures, arts, and sciences.

Dantès holds onto his new lease on life with renewed and furious hands, but Faria’s time on earth is rapidly coming to a close. Much like the old captain who died on Edmond’s watch nearly 20 years ago, this particular old man also has a final request of Dantès. During an emotional meeting of the minds, Faria weaves for Dantès the tale of a massive buried treasure, the acts of a shipwreck and a roguish band of pirates, hidden deep in the coves and caverns around the mysterious island of Monte Cristo. He beseeches Edmond to hunt and find this treasure, by way of a legacy, and to use it to his own benefits. When the old man and beloved friend dies, the apprentice stows away in the body bag being pushed out to sea as a final farewell and escapes. He honors his friend’s request and to his surprise finds the buried treasure exactly where he was told it would be. Dantès begins making plans to use the endless amount of jewels, coin, and artifacts to enact a very specific revenge upon those who have disgraced him and essentially stolen his life.

“ The friends we have lost do not repose under the ground. . .they are buried deep in our hearts.

It has been thus ordained that they may always accompany us. . .”

Reinventing himself as the darkly mystifying and elusive Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond begins to unravel a complicated web of deceit and vengeance, this time of his own making. His every move becomes a calculated exercise in patience and futility as he endeavors to put back the pieces of his life. Searching for the three men whose nefarious plans landed him in his predicament in the first place,Dantès uses the strong arm of his immense newfound wealth to dazzle and amaze them, a show of cloak and dagger, a presentation of smoke and mirrors. Edmond uses the men’s pretentiousness and ego against them,  all while brilliantly bringing them to their knees both financially and lawfully. Some things the Count has not intended, such as the fate of his beloved Mercédès, and he must make the decision of whether to bring her down with his enemies or lift her up into virtue.

But can authentic peace be found in the cool arms of retribution? Readers will simply have to wait. . . and hope.

“ ‘How did I escape?

With difficulty.

How did I plan this moment?

With pleasure.’ ”

The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic novel that I give a solid 5 stars to, and not just for the wonderful tale that is spun. It is a book that anyone can pick up and dive into, as it is as relatable today as it was a century ago when it was first published. The plot is daring, adventurous, and slipping into the mind of Dantès as he is transformed from pauper to prince is thrilling. The way that Dumas is able to formulate the complicated plan of revenge is uncanny and at times, simply awe-inspiring. It is a book that should not be missed out on by anyone, for it is a true telling of good versus evil, and a story that transcends time.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Review: Azarias Tor – The History Maker

Azarias Tor: The History Maker

by Richard Abbott-Brailey

” Remember, whatever you do now, in the past, and in the future —

timing is everything. “

What if there really is more to life?

What if your life truly has a higher purpose? Most members of the human race are locked into two categories: those who like to believe that they are creators of their own destinies and that they also have some profound impact on their own slice of the world, all by their own design, or, they believe in higher powers; in a God or a vision thereof that sets the path for them and from which they cannot remove themselves , no matter how hard they try, as all is predestined by their chosen God. One thing that both classes have in common is that most humans are inherently self-absorbed, believing that they are special. Their offspring are always the “smartest” or the “most advanced for their age.” Their choices are frequently right, and finding a wrong is not common. Or so, we believe.

But what if, you truly were special?

In Azarias Tor: The History Maker, the debut novel by Richard Abbott-Brailey, timelines and purposes are explored and identified with a wonderful flair for the dramatic and a keen sense of imagination. With a nod to science fiction icon Dr. Who and a crime-fighting twist reminiscent of Minority Report, Abbott-Brailey twists and bends the subplot of time travel into something rather unique, allowing endless avenues for the story to continue on while featuring strong characters with curious backstories.

Azarias Tor is a man living his life with one foot planted firmly in the past and another tenuously placed in the present. After the tragic losses of his mother and his  police partner, he was then dealt a final devastating blow when his beloved wife Theresa was killed in a car accident. The lone survivor of his previous life as a content officer-of-the-law and husband, Azarias has chosen a path of education and routine. As a mentor and teacher to a group of young adults that have been seemingly given up on by previous educators, Azarias is attempting to settle into his life as a single man.

But old habits die hard and adjusting himself to fit onto this new path is not easy. He cannot forget or move past the softness that Theresa brought into his life, and the memories that they shared together continue to haunt him, years later. He sends her text messages on a regular basis and frequently tricks his mind into believing she is simply on vacation or at the store picking up groceries, while juggling the realization and reality that while vanity is prevailing, she really is gone. Trying to manipulate his grief into something more manageable, Azarias relies on routine and a solitary lifestyle to get him through. But despite his attempts at a quiet existence, something keeps poking through the canvas, needling him like a  perpetual thorn in his side — he keeps having these dreams where he’s caught up in some other part of history. . . and they feel so real. And why does this strangely beautiful green-eyed woman keep popping into his life, seemingly caught on the periphery of both his dream life and his awake one?

” ‘Of course, that goes without saying. Client confidentiality is guaranteed. Professional courtesy,’ the man in the rumpled suit concurred. ‘Drawing up a contract regarding the work, conditions, expectations, and so on, would be part of the first session. And, is there anything particular you want to discuss at the first session?’ he added. 

‘Dreams, to start with,’ Azarias said. 

Alan stood up, and began walking around the room, as if the activity aided his thought processes, before speaking again. 

‘Okay. Here’s what I am going to ask you to do. Write down anything about dreams you want to talk about. Keep a record of any dreams you have between now and your first session,’ Alan proposed, before finishing with, ‘And think about anything else you might wish to discuss related to this topic.’ 

Azarias pressed his hands down on the desk, pushing the whole of his weight upwards. He moved away from the chair, placing his hands behind his back, walking towards the windows. A pause, before turning, looking directly at Alan, and clasping his hands under his chin, and then said, ‘That’s easy. Any other discussion? Easy.

There are times when I cannot tell the difference between reality and dreams.’ “

In another facet of history, Saluki has risen up the ranks of the company her father manages rather smoothly, and she’s a more than capable Commandant. As per her duty under the careful watch of the Superus Gabriel Damarov, she has come across something rather bizarre — a person who should not be. Azarias Tor should technically not exist, not according to the laws that govern time traveling. It would appear that someone has broken one of the commandments and procreated with a person in the past to produce a child born to travel through time, and it is her job to ascertain the required measures and steps to bring Tor up to date with his new purpose. The Emergent has no clue that the emerald-eyed Saluki has been walking through his dreams with him, or that in fact what he perceives to be dreams are actually leaps through time, and that she is responsible for his current well-being. Bringing Azarias from the place of Emergent to Established is Saluki’s mission, and one that she readily accepts, eager to continue proving herself to the powers-that-be.

Raphael Antinori also has a mission, albeit a private and self-assumed one. He has had his suspicions about the Gabriel Damarov for more time than he would like to admit, and things are finally coming to a head.  In his role as Vice-Superus, he’s aware that making any hasty moves might allude to the fact that he is simply after the top job, so he must tread lightly, building evidence and playing by the rules. But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t taken private measures to protect himself, should the need arise. He has his own thoughts on how Azarias Tor has come to be created, but what he doesn’t realize is that he is more involved than he could ever imagine.

” ‘Soon,’ he muttered into the air. ‘Soon.’

He studied the horizon, to the south, as if searching for something, and then stood for another five minutes, staring into the distance. IT was if he was waiting for something, and he had waited this way every afternoon for four weeks — waiting for something, or someone. At 17:31 the waiting was over. 

Behind him the air crackled, audibly — a bubble-wrap orchestra — and static electricity caused his hair to rise slightly, and his sense of smell picked up a hint of ozone in the air. And when the brief flurry of activity ceased the Vice-Superus turned away from his view. 

‘I’ve been expecting you,’ he said, eyeing the white-clad figure standing before him. ‘Yes, I have been expecting you.’ “

When Azarias is confronted with his ability to time travel, he cannot help but yearn for more time with his beloved Theresa. As intriguing as his newfound teacher Saluki is, she cannot deter his mind from the comforts of his past. Throwing the rules out of the window, Azarias begins to create spurs and breaks in time, unknowingly causing ripples and new paths that will take years to sort out. Winding through the new histories that are spawning for all involved is proving tricky, especially with the nefarious dealings of the Superus and his hired assassin running as a tandem undercurrent to the plans of the heroes. Saluki and Azarius must band together with an unlikely partner and try to change the course of history in a way that will prevent certain disaster from occurring, while saving lives in the process. Can it be done? Will good prevail over evil? Or have the histories already been mapped out by a higher power?

In the sprit of H.G. Wells and Kurt Vonnegut, Azarias Tor is a grand attempt at time travel, and very nearly succeeds. I am hoping that this novel is a beginning instead of an end, as I was anxious for the main character and his female worthy advisor to strike out on more detailed and structured adventures. While the author is very well-versed in the areas of detail and picture painting, I felt that the descriptions of places and actions at times took over the plot and bogged down the adventure; I would have appreciated a heavier hand at editing. I yearned for more plot because I found the baseline story to be so interesting and a fresh take on time travel, and I really found the characters to be strong and complimentary of one another.  Each and every character was different from the other and had their own personalities and nuances. I am always a fan of a sound and spirited female character, and Saluki certainly fit the bill; she is no damsel in distress. The character of Azarias was written with such a sensitive and thoughtful hand that I could feel the sadness and loss that he experienced in an acute manner. I appreciated that the author made Azarias so vulnerable, as that is something hard to come across with strong male leads. In fact, the romance of Azarias holding to his marriage vows even through his wife’s death was a humbling act of romance. The subjects of Superus and Vice-Superus were also distinct and interesting characters, but I was not thoroughly convinced of the reasoning behind the deviant dealings of Gabriel Damarov. His views on power and his intent were not made fully clear, in my opinion, and seemed a bit all over the place as the story grew to its close. I felt that the author went down several avenues of subplot and did not finish them as he seemed to be caught up on further descriptions, which left me wanting for resolutions that I hope will come with future serial novels.

Azarias Tor: The History Maker is a book that I feel quite comfortable giving a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Due to the cliffhanger ending, I am hopeful for a sequel and for further input on the complex personal histories of the other characters and of where Azarias will ultimately end up — will he use his newfound power for good, or for his own personal gain? I’m sure we will find out.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Recommendation: The Nanny Diaries

The Nanny Diaries

by Nicola Kraus & Emma McLaughlin

“ ‘And he doesn’t care what you’re wearing or what you’ve brought him.

He just wants you there. Wanting him.

And time is running out. He won’t love you unconditionally that much longer.

And soon he won’t love you at all.’ ”

There are a few books in my expansive library that I deem “go-to’s,”

What I mean by that, is I can pick them up any time I need a break from life and quickly get lost in their world, if only for a few minutes. They are stories that I enjoy reading over and over and never really tire of; they have characters that I admire and can relate to, and they are easy to throw in my purse for those random moments of quiet that I experience while sitting at basketball practice or guitar lessons.

The Devil Wears Prada. Chances, by Jackie Collins. Pride and Prejudice.  Something Blue, by Emily Giffin.

And, The Nanny Diaries. All of these fit into my “go-to” category.

The Nanny Diaries chronicles a period of time in which Nanny, our main character, cares for the child of a rich and well-established upper class family in New York. With 4-year old Grayer almost  in her complete charge, Nanny certainly has her work cut out for her. Between a special diet that his mother deems appropriate (and one that does not include chicken nuggets or mac and cheese) and a social schedule that would leave the typical adult exhausted and overwhelmed, Nanny feels as if her feet never leave the ground. And the constant hustle and rigamarole of rules is only the tip of the iceberg; Grayer acts out and is a bit socially awkward, both as a result of his neglectful upbringing and his life of privilege.

It isn’t hard to see why the young boy behaves the way he does once the reader meets his parents; Mrs. X has no concept of compassion or affection and spends most of her days spending money or hibernating in her own space as she shuts out reality. Mr. X is a businessman who has no interest in his son or his wife, preferring the company of younger women, a fact that he does not try too hard to hide. In an effort to combat her lack of control in most areas of her life, Mrs. X is belittling and cruel to her staff, placing unrealistic expectations upon their overly laden shoulders and firing them on a whim. She chooses to focus on ways to quench her own need for personal power rather than trying to connect in any way with her son, unless of course, there is a photo-op involved. In fact, that only way that Mrs. X knows how to communicate with Grayer is with attempts at molding him into what she believes a perfect little boy should look and behave like. But instead of immersing herself in the grooming process herself, she simply delegates it all to an already flustered Nanny. It doesn’t take long for Nanny to feel as if she is in over her head, especially as the requests begin to get more extravagant and all the more strange.

” ‘I’m going to flick the light on, Grayer. Close your eyes.’ He turns his sweaty face into my neck. The light is blinding after being up for so long in the dark and I have to blink a few times before I can focus in on the gleaming silver of the faucet. I grip his body as I lean over to turn on the shower and then sit down, balancing on the edge of the tub with him on my lap. When the water hits our legs he really begins to cry.

‘I know, sweetie, I know. We are going to sit here until this wonderful steam makes your chest feel good. Do you want me to sing?’ He just leans against me and cries and coughs as the steam fills the bright tile around us.

‘ I . . . want . . . my mommmmmm.’

He shudders with the effort, seemingly unaware that I am here. My pajama pants soak in the warm water. I drop my head against his, rocking slowly. Tears of exhaustion and worry drip down my face and into his hair.

‘Oh, Grove, I know. I want my mom, too.’ 

Nanny takes the abuse from the Xes, especially as she needs the money and she sees how much Grayer needs her. A budding relationship with a hottie from Harvard who lives in the same building as the Xes helps to reinforce Nanny’s desire to keep her job. As the story progresses, Nanny begins to believe that she is the only true source of light and love in Grayer’s life, and this proves true; she is his only sense of stability in a world wrought with chaos. In crucial years where Grayer should be cuddled and adored, he is ignored and chastised, causing him to run to his Nanny more often than not. Eventually this circular pattern of abuse from his mother, perpetual distance from his father, and acute affection from his nanny leads Grayer to view Nanny as more than just a caretaker — he begins to see her as a true mother figure.

Unfortunately for Grayer, this bond does nothing but further enrage Mrs. X and makes her spin out of control, causing her to fire Nanny without allowing her to say goodbye to the young child, devastating them both and causing irreparable damage. As a final farewell, Nanny uses a Nanny-Cam to leave a message for the dysfunctional Xes.  Beseeching them on behalf of their son, she pleads a case for Grayer and his need for love and tenderness throughout the rest of his formative years. The effects of the tape and of Nanny’s sudden departure will have a lasting effect on all parties involved, although perhaps not as she had initially intended.

” ‘Frankly, Nanny, I just don’t feel that your heart’s in it anymore and I think Grayer can sense that, too. We need someone who can give Grayer their full commitment, don’t you agree? I mean, for the money we’re paying you, with the new baby coming, we should  really have someone more professional.’ She stands. ‘I’ll give you a hand, so you don’t wake Grayer.’

She follows me toward the stairs. I walk up ahead of her, frantically running through scenarios that might give me a chance to say good-bye to him. She comes behind me into the small room and stands between our beds with crossed arms, watching me carefully as I hastily stuff my things into my bag, awkwardly moving around her in the cramped space. 

Grayer moans in his sleep and rolls over. I ache to wake him. 

I finish collecting my things in her shadow and sling my bag up over my shoulder, mesmerized by the sight of Grover’s hand in a tight fist flopped over the side of the bed, the Batman Band-Aid sticking out beneath his pushed-up pajama sleeve. 

She gestures for me to walk past her to the door. Before I can help it, I reach out to smooth the damp hair off his forehead. She grabs my hand an inch from his face and whispers through clenched teeth, ‘Better not to wake him.’ She maneuvers me to the stairs. 

As I start down ahead of her my eyes fill with tears, causing the stairs to pitch beneath me and I have to grip the banister to steady myself. ‘

The Nanny Diaries is followed up by the sequel, Nanny Returns, which I did not like nearly as well as I liked this first installment. In fact, I do not recommend Nanny Returns at all, as I feel that it was a vanity book published solely to capitalize on the popularity of The Nanny Diaries. A movie was also made featuring Scarlett Johansson as Nanny, and it’s okay, but of course not nearly as good as the book.

I loved all of the little tidbits of humor in The Nanny Diaries and appreciated the behind-the-veil look at the life of a New York nanny to a wealthy family. Becoming attached to the child in your care is something that I’m sure is very easy to do considering the amount of time that full-time nannies spend with their charges, and when those children grow up or other circumstances change and the bond must be severed, I can only imagine how difficult it can be to move on to another family and begin the process all over again. As a mother myself I have no idea how to set boundaries on love for the children in my care, and I can see how attached Grayer must have gotten to Nanny, and how it must have truly injured his heart to have her ripped so thoughtlessly from him after all she provided for him.

I give The Nanny Diaries 4.5 out of 5 stars and while I understand that it is not critically acclaimed, I also appreciate that not all books have to be, to be considered good reads. While I definitely enjoy epic novels that take me weeks to get through, I also like fun and easy books that keep me turning the page; The Nanny Diaries is certainly a book that fits into that category. I recommend that a few tissues are kept handy for the ending.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Review: Black Sand

Black Sand

by John Edgar Evans

It’s 1973 and in the sleepy, close-knit English community where Detective Chief Inspector Edgar Sparrow makes his living, he spends more time behind a desk smoking his pipe than he does on the beat. The small station that houses the handful of detectives that serve and protect the town isn’t used to too much activity, and although they would enjoy a mystery or two to solve every now and then, the policemen are grateful for the general sense of safety and security in their area.

After the turn of the New Year, things begin to change as a nefarious and sinister shape starts to take form, bringing with it a cloud of fear that takes root amongst the snow and drizzling rain January has to offer. An innocent young girl walking her dog discovers a man murdered and reports it to the police, and when Detective Sparrow and his unit arrive, they are baffled by the circumstances — the poor man has been murdered not once, not twice, but three times. Shot, stabbed, and strangled, the man has been left abandoned in his car for any unlucky passerby to find. Who on Earth would need to kill someone three times? And why were they left out in the open, as it were?

” ‘Huh, doesn’t look like a robbery — the wristwatch looks expensive and hi wallet is here. A couple of sovereigns, some half crowns, some pennies and photos, and ah, an envelope with a name and address.’

Holding the items carefully by their edges so as not to compromise any residual fingerprints, he handed the envelope and photos to Willis. In truth, Sparrow needed glasses for small print but was avoiding the issue, telling his wive, Eve, that at fifty two he wasn’t an old man yet and didn’t need glasses.

Willis held the items equally carefully. ‘They look like picture of his wife, and children. They’re only toddlers, too. The envelope is addressed to Gordon James, Ellingham’s, Buryfield.’

‘Ellingham’s The department store at the bottom of St. John’s Hill?’ Nichols asked.

‘Yeah, must be the place, perhaps he works there,’ Willis replied. 

‘Anything interesting inside?’ Nichols enquired. 

Willis pulled out a one-page piece of writing paper. ‘Well, well, this is interesting, take a look at this, boss.’ 

Sparrow left off from his car searching and turned to Willis and Nichols. Sparrow peered at the sheet of paper upon which letters cut from various magazines and newspapers had been pasted.

It read, ‘Talk and you die.’ “

Inside the smoke-filled offices of the police station, Detective Sparrow and his two inspectors, Willis and Nichols, begin the task of tackling a lengthy and convoluted puzzle. Trying to fit the mismatched pieces together is proving more and more difficult, especially when a second murder occurs not long after the first, perpetuating the fear around town and bringing more stress on the inspector’s shoulders. The two victims have a couple of things in common besides the strange manner of death — they both used to work for the prominent and high-end department store called Ellinghams, owned by an old aristocratic family tainted by a dark past. Both victims were also found with trace amounts of a strange black sand in their pockets and under their fingernails; sand that doesn’t come from anywhere near their part of England. Interviews with the shop’s staff are proving fruitless and the store manager Mrs. Scrivens is being more than a little difficult, forcing Detective Sparrow to send his newest recruit, young and eager Diana Evans, in undercover.

” Diana looked at the clock; it was coming up to four. The Ladies’ Wear department was empty, the appalling weather was affecting everything. People were staying indoors well out of it, and it was already winter dark outside. Unfortunately for Diana, Scrivens had been in her office virtually all day. Certainly not away from it long enough for her to get at the warehouse key. But Diana had been honing her plan and decided that getting the key from Scriven’s office would be difficult, getting it back equally so. If she did manage to get it out she wouldn’t be able to keep it for any length of time in case its loss was discovered. It was while she pondered the problem she had a flash of inspiration. “

Alice is the only daughter of Margery Ellingham, and they live together in a tidy and impressive home tucked snugly onto one of the town’s more prominent streets. Margery is one of the three siblings left in charge of the Ellingham shop and fortune since their parent’s deaths, and takes the concept of showing her money around seriously. Living with her cruel and cold mother has left Alice embittered and anxious, and with the detectives now sniffing around the property, Alice finds herself sharply intrigued and strangely happy that something has finally come to cut into the endless lengths of boredom her life has become since the end of her marriage. Her uncle Timothy is showing up around the house a lot more than he used to, and frequent phone calls coming in from her Uncle Ralph in Egypt are becoming the norm as well. Could her mother be involved in something so deviant as the murders of the shop’s staff, or is it all a terrible coincidence?

The detectives can’t seem to gain any ground in the murder case and as it happens, a string of burglaries are thrown onto their docket as well. Pressure from the media and the Superintendent to solve the string of mysterious crimes around the town is reaching an all-time high and Chief Inspector Sparrow is growing desperate. With only a few days left to solve the case, will he finally be able to crack it?

Black Sand is the first attempt at crime writing by John Edgar Evans.  I would have loved to have enjoyed it more, but the bouncing back and forth between perspectives proved a little confusing and I was dying for more character development, as I found each of the characters very interesting. My impression of Edgar Sparrow was one of a patriarchal mentor shaped in the images of an older Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. He was more of a mentor than a super sleuth, and I respected and admired his attempts at backing away from situations and allowing and encouraging his younger partners to jump in and try their hand. His three pups-in-training were all competent and interesting — I just wish there was more of them. I was intrigued by the character of Alice, cooped up as she was and virtually held prisoner by her mother, but there wasn’t enough character development for me to understand quite where her feelings for Sparrow were coming from. As the novel left off with a cliffhanger, I am assuming there is more to come featuring this cast of a motley crew, and I will be ready to read more when the time comes.

I believe the author had too many ideas and tried to shove them all into one book, leaving things a bit muddled. The pace was a tad slower than I am used to from American crime-writing authors such as Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson. Evans’ approach was a bit different and instead of moving quickly through solving the mystery, the team’s plans and strategies seemed a bit more realistic. They didn’t come across their information easily and at times, I felt as if I were sitting in the smoke-filled offices with them, struggling to figure things out and decide which avenue to take next. I was pleased with the writer’s take on words, but the sometimes very sharp back-and-forth took me some time to adjust to.

Black Sand is a slow-burning mystery that readers will be able to figure out sooner than the detectives will, but the characters will draw readers in and have them rooting for them. 3.5 out of 5 stars is my rating, and I recommend it to lovers of the residents at 221 Baker Street, or anyone looking for something to curl up with on a rainy day.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Recommendation: The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries

by Candace Bushnell

“ In life, there are only four kinds of girls:
The girl who played with fire.
The girl who opened Pandora’s Box.
The girl who gave Adam the apple.
And the girl whose best friend stole her boyfriend. ”

As a diehard fan of the HBO series Sex and the City (btw, I’m a Charlotte!) I was skeptical when writer Candace Bushnell decided to grace Carrie aficionados with a prequel. If you’ve ever tried to sit down and read the Sex and the City novel that the television series was loosely (and I mean loosely) based upon, you may have found it difficult to navigate and a bit thick in the middle. I’ve never been able to make my way through it in its entirety. Bushnell, the blonde bombshell behind some of television’s most beloved women characters is a New Yorker herself; her columns at The New York Observer magazine paved the way for her creative footsteps to stomp all the way to the bank in Christian Louboutin stilettos as she transformed her column into a itinerary for piloting your way through the City’s dating scene. While the characters of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte, and of course, Mr. Big, are pure fiction, it’s not hard to see the similarities between the trendy literary protagonist and the smartly-clad woman who penned her.

I picked up The Carrie Diaries soon after it was first published, deciding to give it and the writer another try. Carrie Bradshaw is a woman that nearly every female in America can relate to — she’d rather store sweaters in her oven than ever actually cook, she will always find an excuse to have a cocktail with a girlfriend, and she can be terribly insecure when it comes to men and relationships. I’d always been curious as to how the Carrie that we saw in the Sex and the City series came to be, and so the prequel in print piqued my interest.

Fresh-faced highschooler Carrie Bradshaw only cares about a few things: her best friends (thick and thin, right?), writing (even though she just got rejected by the writing program she was dying to get into), and besting that insufferable “popular girl,” Donna LaDonna. But for Carrie, the perky little blonde in a sea full of Amazons, life is a balancing act. She is desperately trying to maintain her deep friendships with her besties as they muddle through life as teenagers, dealing with losses of virginity, glaring unpopularity, and sexuality confusion, and she’s attempting to set herself up with a writing career but can’t seem to get her footing under her. Things at home are strained and uneasy; she’s the oldest of three girls and all three are coping with the death of their mother, while her father can’t seem to sort out his own grief and provide the support Carrie so desperately needs. She feels as if she doesn’t end up fitting into the perfect box that everyone has set up for her, that she’ll be failing everyone. And the arrival of a boy from her past, the smart and perfect Sebastian Kydd, doesn’t help matters. Carrie finds that the crush she had on him at 12-years old is still going strong from the moment he first saunters into the high school cafeteria.

” I can barely breathe. Me — and Sebastian Kydd. It’s really happening. 

After a while, he raises his head and looks at me. He’s so close I can see the tiny flecks of dark green around his irises. He’s so close I could count them if I tried. 

‘Hey,’ he says. ‘You never asked why I didn’t call.’

‘Was I supposed to?’

‘Most girls would have.’

‘Maybe I’m not most girls.’ This sounds kind of arrogant but I’m certainly not going to tell him how I spent the last two weeks in an emotional panic, jumping every time the phone rang, giving him sidelong glances in class, promising myself I would never, ever do any bad thing ever again if he would only talk to me the way he had that night at the barn. . . and then hating myself for being so stupid and girlish about the whole thing.”

Her rivalry with popular princess Donna LaDonna is ongoing and obnoxious, and as Carrie and Sebastian grow closer, weird pranks keep happening and Carrie is sure Donna is behind them —  she’s sure Donna is wrought with typical high-school-girl jealousy and is trying to bring Carrie down. Despite warnings that all may not be as they seem with the attractive and alluring Sebastian, Carrie continues to plough on ahead with their relationship. She struggles to hold on to her virginity, wondering why she is practically the last of the people she knows to still be in possession of hers, and as the relationship between she and Sebastian heats up, it’s definitely hard to maintain her innocence. Putting herself first is not easy, but Carrie has goals and aspirations to get herself out of the little town she’s grown up in, and she can’t let a boy hold her back — no matter how good he looks in blue jeans.

Leaning on her friends has always been something Carrie has depended on, but unfortunately for her, she has to learn the hard way that sometimes even those who seem closest to you can deceive you. In fact, it’s those closest to your heart who can do the most damage. Carrie learns that Sebastian and one of her best friends, Lali, are having an affair behind her back, and Carrie takes her feelings of anger and heartache and pushes them into her writing, churning out anonymous articles for the school paper that reflect her emotions. The articles are well-received and afford Carrie the confidence to try again at getting into the writing program of her dreams. Twisting betrayal into a chance of a lifetime, Carrie teams up with someone unexpected and begins to walk into her new life. . . in high heels.

” I have this theory: If you forgive someone, they can’t hurt you anymore.

The rain rattles and shakes. We pass hollow buildings scrawled with graffiti, billboards advertising toothpaste and hemorrhoid cream and a smiling girl in a mermaid outfit pointing at the words, “CALL ME!” in capital letters. Then the scenery disappears and we’re going through a tunnel. 

‘New York City,’ the conductor calls out. ‘Penn Station.’

I close my journal and slip it into my suitcase. The lights inside the car flicker on and off, on and off, and then black out altogether. 

And like a newborn cild, I enter my future in darkness. “

The Carrie Diaries is a YA geared book that is best left for readers ages 15 and up, as it deals with teenage sex and sexual choices. I commend Bushnell for her addition of a sexually confused young man, Walt, who is one of Carrie’s inner circle. Walt is gay and uses his girlfriend to cover his true nature up, fearful of rejection from his parents and general society. The entire plot revolving around Walt and his choices is brave and truth-telling, and very relevant to the time period of the novel. Readers will get a surprise at the end of the book, as Carrie jets off to meet one of the women who will end up being a co-star in her future life in New York City, sharing pink cocktails on rooftops and gossiping about men. Fans of Carrie Bradshaw’s older character will appreciate her witty internal musings as a teenager in The Carrie Diaries, and will see how her core belief system about men and friendships began.

I give The Carrie Diaries 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to any lover of Sex and the City. Readers can also enjoy the sequel, Summer in the City; things pick up directly after Carrie leaves home to begin her writing career in the Big Apple. Both of these are perfect for a summer day spent poolside or at the beach. And if readers are so inclined, they can find both seasons of The Carrie Diaries adapted television show on Netflix.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Review: Small Great Things

Small Great Things

by Jodi Picoult

” I fold my arms and stare down at the newborn. 

Babies are such blank slates. they don’t come into this world with the assumptions their parents have made, or the promises their church will give, or the ability to sort people into groups they like and don’t like. They don’t come into this world with anything, really, except the need for comfort. And they will take it from anyone, without judging the giver. 

I wonder how long it takes before the polish given by nature gets worn off by nurture. “

Growing up in the South, I am no stranger to racism. I spent the first ten years of my life living in a poor part of Louisiana, and from then, moved on to a less-than-affluent part of a small suburb of Dallas. In Louisiana, I was the only white kid on my street. I was one of the only white kids at my school. The majority of my teachers were black. All of my friends, except one, were black. And as a child, I didn’t really notice. Sure, we had different colors to our skin. Our hair was different. But we all played with dolls and rode our bikes, and we all ran around after dark without shoes on and tried to catch fireflies so we could smash their bodies onto our skin and watch it glow in the moonlight.

But as I grew older, the veil of childhood and all of it’s quiet innocence faded and fell. “Nigger” was a word that was frequently used around the dining table, and it was a word used by my father, my grandfather, and their friends to describe every black person. To them, every black person was the same – they were inferior. And every white person was the same – they were superior. But I think what shocked me the most was how my father and grandfather treated black people to their faces. They treated them as if they never said those terrible words about their entire race behind closed doors. They were fake. And I think that is what outraged me more than anything as a child and teenager growing up in the South.

As an adult, I cannot say that I am a racist. I also cannot say that I am not. I don’t think it’s truly for me to decide. . . those dirty labels that we throw upon one another like so much filth and rags, they are not for me to put onto myself. I can say I have black friends, and I’ve heard that that is one “the most racist things a white person can say.” I don’t know why, but that’s probably because I’m not black. I can say that I feel more comfortable with people outside of my own race than I do with my own. Perhaps it’s because of those years I grew up running around the neighborhood with black kids, flagging down the ice cream truck and pooling our pennies together to get one ice cream to share. Perhaps it is because during my elementary school years, it was my black teachers — and not my white ones — who would kneel down to embrace me in a warm and all-encompassing hug when I was upset. My first kiss was from a Mexican boy. My second, a black one. I never thought to worry about differences. They were just boys.

I wonder what it was that has made me the way I am, considering all of the vile things I heard around dinner table as I grew up. My brother and I would silently stare at one another as our father and grandfather went on another tangent about black people, not daring to speak up and say that our own best friends were black and Mexican for fear of being yelled at and berated. Some strange current ran through my brother and I and consequently, did the opposite of what I believe our father intended — instead of hating those of other races, we were drawn to them. When my mother left our family, it was a Mexican family that took me in and finished raising me. I always had a hot meal there, and clean bed to lay my head down in. My brother was the guest and subsequent “adopted son” of a black family, and I wonder what my father thought of that. The family that took my brother in was at my brother’s wedding, the son of that family standing as my brother’s Best Man. And I bet my father kept his racist remarks to himself that day. Because you know, it just doesn’t do to be a racist in public.

But the truth is, although I grew up hearing those words and seeing those judgments, I have no idea what it is like to grow up with real prejudice. I am a white woman and as such, I don’t experience what black women experience. I don’t know what they go through. I can read about it and they can tell me, but I don’t know how they feel. I am married to a brown Muslim man and I experience my own brand of prejudices from others, and I worry for my son who is not only half white and half brown — but does not have a declared religion. But it’s funny, I don’t worry about my other two children — the white ones. I don’t worry that they could be shot just for being out late and wearing a hoodie. And I don’t think I ever even thought about not worrying about those things until I read Jodi Picoult’s book, Small Great Things. The reality is — I never thought about those things until I, myself, gave birth to a child of color.

I will tell you, I am not a cryer. Emotion does not bubble in me while watching movies or reading books. That is not to say that I don’t feel things, because I feel them deeply, but I am adept at categorizing reality and fiction in my mind and plowing through things subjectively. But the problem with this book was that the fiction WAS fact, and as a result, I was sobbing within the first ten pages. And I sobbed many other times: as the author slipped into the skin of a black woman targeted for the color of her skin, as a man lost his son, as an attorney struggled to navigate the murky waters of nature versus nurture. This was not an easy book to get through.

” At Dalton, there was one table at lunch where all the Black kids sat, except me. Once, another scholarship student of color invited me to join them for lunch. I said thanks, but I usually spent that time tutoring a white friend who didn’t understand trig. This was not the truth. The truth was that the Black table made my white friends nervous, because even if they’d sat down there with me, they would have been tolerated but not welcomed. In a world where they always fit in, the one place they didn’t chafed hard. 

The other truth was that if I sat with the other kids of color, I couldn’t pretend I was different from them. When Mr. Adamson, my history teacher, started talking about Martin Luther King and kept looking at me, my white friends shrugged it off: He didn’t mean it that way. At the Black table, if one student talked about Mr. Adamson staring at her during that same lesson, another African American student would validate the experience: That totally happened to me, too. 

I so badly wanted to blend in in high school that I surrounded myself with people who could convince me that if I felt like I was being singled out because of the color of my skin, I was making things up, overthinking, being ridiculous. 

There was no Black table in the cafeteria at the hospital. There were a handful of janitors of color, and one or two doctors, and me.  “

Ruth Jefferson is damn good at her job. As a labor and delivery nurse for twenty years and counting, she has seen and coached mothers through just about everything. The hospital she works at revolves around a near skeleton crew with only a handful of nurses on duty at any given time and if she’s being honest, anyone would be hard-pressed to find another nurse on that crew who knows more than Ruth does about birth.

While routinely checking in on a new mom and her baby, Ruth precedes with the exam  like it’s just another day. She tries to ignore the strange vibe in the room and focus solely on the new life that’s in her arms — checking his breathing, his skin, the swirls in his hair. When she listens to his heart she can hear a slight murmur and while that is not especially uncommon, she makes a note to have the pediatrician look the little one over. But when she goes to place the baby back into his mother’s waiting arms in hopes of helping the little one to nurse, she is met with something unexpected — the father wants to see her supervisor, immediately.

Turk is a new father. He’s also a white supremacist. The shock that stole his voice the moment the black nurse walked in and took his baby from his wife Brit’s arms has now worn away and he is ready to take a stance. How dare this woman touch his baby? After speaking harshly with her supervisor, he is pleased to have the black nurse removed from baby Davis’s care, and settles in for the night with his wife and beautiful baby boy.

The next time Turk sees this black nurse, she is standing over his dead son, her hands pressing down so hard onto his chest that she will leave bruises.

The Post-It note glared at Ruth when she read it. “No African American Personnel To Care For This Patient.” Left alone with baby Davis while the other two nurses on call rush off to assist with an emergency C-section, Ruth gazes down into the little one’s face. It’s then that she realizes he is turning an alarming shade of blue, but she. . . hesitates. She’s been told not to touch this baby, and doing so may cause her to lose her job. Her job is the only way that her household is supported; her husband died in Afghanistan when their son was a young boy, and she has her son’s looming college tuition upon her. But at the end of the day, Ruth is a nurse, and be damned some Post-It note. She tries to revive the boy but when she hears someone coming, she wraps him back up and stands there as still as stone. Doing. . . nothing. Per the explicit instructions her supervisor gave her.

It doesn’t matter that moments later, the room is full of staff all trying their best to save this newborn. It doesn’t matter that Ruth’s supervisor ordered her to act and she is now performing compressions to try and coax the baby’s heart into filling with blood and pumping new life into his veins. Baby Davis is gone, flown away to Heaven, and Turk knows exactly who to blame — the black nurse who murdered his son in cold blood.

” I start making a list in my head, of all the things I will never get to do with my son: see him smile for the first time. Celebrate his first Christmas. Get him a BB gun. Give him advice to ask a girl out. Milestones. But the road of parenthood, for me, has been wiped clean of landmarks. 

Suddenly Francis is standing in front of me with the shovel. I swallow hard, take it, and become the first person to start to bury my child. After pushing a scoop of dirt into the rip in the ground, I jam the shovel into the earth again. Tom Metzger helps Brit lift it, her hands shaking, and do her part. 

I know I’m supposed to stand vigil while everyone else here helps to put Davis underground. But I’m too busy fighting the urge to dive into that tiny pit. To shovel the dirt out with my bare hands. To lift the casket, to pry it open, to save my baby. I’m holding myself in check so hard that my body is vibrating with effort. “

The letter that comes in the mail tells Ruth that she is officially suspended from her job, but the sting of showing up the morning before and being told by her supervisor that she is about to be escorted from the premises was what bit the sharpest. She didn’t kill that baby. And she didn’t wish him dead. But maybe she did think that the baby was better off in Heaven than being raised by the terrible people he would have called Mom and Dad. It doesn’t take long for the law to come calling — and at 3 a.m., after they break down her door and put her Honor Student son in handcuffs, she is dragged away to jail in her nightgown. It is in that nightgown that she will face a judge and a room full of people at her arraignment. This is where she will literally be spit on and demoralized. And it is where Kennedy McQuarrie will feel a bond with Ruth deep within her gut.

She didn’t become an attorney for the money, and there certainly isn’t any to be found in the public defender’s office. Kennedy is lucky that her hotshot doctor of a husband pays the bills and encourages her to follow what her heart tells her is right. She’s a mother to a quirky little girl who covets Cinderella and Princess Tiana. She is the daughter of a supportive mother. Her world is pretty normal, by most people’s standards. Until Ruth shows up, that is, and forces Kennedy into asking herself the hard questions — the ones about race.

But the case can’t be about race. Playing the race card makes the case a veritable suicide mission. As Kennedy explains this to Ruth, the suspended and humiliated nurse can feel the snakes of anger writhing and shaking in the bowels of her stomach. Not about race? How could this case not — at it’s very core — be about race? But with no money coming in to pay for an attorney of her choosing and the prospect of serious jail time for the serious charge of murder against her, Ruth feels she has no choice but to follow the lines Kennedy is drawing for her in the fickle grains of sand they are both standing on. Not equal, but both standing. Ruth must choose to allow trust to grow between herself and Kennedy, as her very life of freedom hangs in the balance.

” I am wide awake now, being dragged in my nightgown and slippers down my porch steps so that I stumble and scrape my knee on the pavement before I am pushed headfirst into the back of a police car. I pray to God that someone will remember to cut my son’s hands loose. I pray to God that my neighbors, who have been awakened by the hullaballoo in our sleepy neighborhood at 3:00 A.M., and who stand in their doorways with their white faces reflecting in the moon, will ask themselves one day why they remained dead silent, not a single one asking if there was anything they could to to help. “

Small Great Things is a book that I give a rare 5 out of 5 stars to. I was deeply moved by this book as the author led us down three parallel paths, slipping into the skin of each character as if it were her very own : the black nurse Ruth, the white supremacist Turk, and the white defensive attorney Kennedy. Each player had a clear voice and believe it or not, readers will find themselves being both angered by and feeling sympathy for all three. I was wrapped up in this story by the end of the first chapter and although it was difficult to get through at times, especially when Ruth describes certain deliveries she has been involved with, I am so glad that I finished it out to the end. Martin Luther King once said that “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way,” and this is the underlying mantra of the book.

I recommend this book to any lovers of a storyline you can sink your teeth into or readers who enjoy meaty characters that they can grow with. I guarantee you will not put this book down at it’s completion and not feel as if you have learned something from it.  With a rich set of detained backstories for each character and a truthful light shown on their day-to-day lives, readers will become attached and feel what they feel. This book is not for the faint of heart — so have some tissues handy.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Recommendation: A Court Of Thorns And Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas

” Be glad of your human heart, Feyre.

Pity those who don’t feel anything at all. ”

Feyre knows nothing but survival.

Since the financial collapse of her family’s fortune and livelihood, she has had to step up — especially as no one else in her family has risen to the challenge.  Week after week and month after month, she has taken to the dense woods surrounding the meager cottage she and her family lives in, set to forage and hunt for food and anything that can garner a coin. Pelts she can sell for a premium price to the right vendor and meat they can dry or cook immediately, although there never seems to be enough to a sate the hunger that permanently resides in her belly. Feyre knows nothing but hard work and the burden of supporting three other people. Her sisters, the quiet Elain and opinionated Nesta, consider themselves too gentile and fragile for such common work as hunting, preferring instead to tend gardens and clean the interior of the shack they call home.

Feyre’s dreams are full of color. Sunny yellows and rich blues, vibrant reds and soft-as-petal pinks. If she had it her way, the golden-haired beauty would spend her days painting every surface in her home and beyond, creating an imaginary cocoon full of the whimsy and the fantastic. But if it wasn’t for her arduous struggles within the depths of the forest almost every day, her sisters simply wouldn’t eat. And as there is never any money left over to buy paint anyway, she must be content with putting her dreams on the back burner, allowing them to fester and build only in the recesses of her imagination.

” Once it had been second nature to savor the contrast of new grass against dark, tilled soil, or an amethyst brooch nestled in folds of emerald silk; once I’d dreamed and breathed and thought in color and light and shape. Sometimes I would even indulge in envisioning a day when my sisters were married and it was only me and Father, with enough food to go around, enough money to buy some paint, and enough time to put those colors and shapes down on canvas or the cottage walls. 

Not likely to happen anytime soon — perhaps ever. So I was left with moments like this, admiring the glint of pale winter light on snow. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done it — bothered to notice anything, lovely or interesting. “

One day while on the hunt, she spots something out of place. The  huge and hulking beast before her would mean food on the table for days, possibly even weeks. But there is something in the beast’s eyes that gives her pause. . . something, not quite human — but also not completely animalistic. Drawing on her suspicions and well-regulated fear, Feyre draws a special arrow from her quiver. This arrow is made from ash wood and is carefully crafted, it’s only purpose is to kill a very specific target — that of the fairy persuasion.

The Fae have lived on their side of the wall for as long as Feyre has walked the human side of their world. The treaty that included creating the wall was signed centuries before she was even born, and she has grown up hearing the tales of the evil and maniacal Fae —  how they sneak in through cracks in that wall to prey on human flesh, satisfying their disgusting and vengeful appetites via murder and mayhem. Coming face to face with one in the human territory results in her making a choice that will have consequences that stretch over her entire life, and those lives around her; spreading out like a thick web of sticky silk.

” Our territory was too small and poor to maintain a standing army to monitor the wall with Prythian, and we villagers could not rely only on the strength of the Treaty forged five hundred years ago. But the upper class could afford hired swords, like this woman, to guard their lands bordering the immortal realm. It was an illusion of comfort, just as the markings on our threshold were. We all knew, deep down, that there was nothing to be done against he faeries. We’d all been told it, regardless of class of rank, from the moment we were born, the warnings sung to us while we rocked in cradles, the rhymes chanted in schoolyards. One of the High Fae could turn your bones to dust from a hundred yards away. Not that my sisters or I had ever seen it. “

Days after her kill in the woods, her world is shattered. A second beast comes barreling into her home, demanding retribution for the Fae he believes to have been murdered in cold blood, breaking the rules of the treaty. Feyre steps up and takes responsibility, bidding her sisters and father a hastily made farewell. In killing one of the Fae, her life has become forfeit, and she must journey to the other side of the wall with the beast of a man who is calling in the bargain of her human predecessors.

The Spring Court is an eerily quiet place, full of bountiful gardens full of beautiful blooms and greenery, but there is an umistakable shadow that lingers upon the land. Upon arrival, Feyre spends her time struggling to come to grips with her new situation and the somewhat convoluted navigation around the lavish mansion’s inhabitants. Tamlin, the beast who procured her from the human side of the wall, is the High Lord of the Spring Court and as such, intent upon cultivating his lands in the midst of a tenuous political situation between the counts in the land of Fae. Lucian, his emissary and transplant from the Autumn Court, is wily and mischievous, and while Feyre chooses to view him as a potential ally, she must tread carefully as she begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse while trying to garner information about her captor.

” I’d be better off persuading Lucien to speak to Tamlin on my behalf — and soon, before any of the others whom they’d mentioned appeared, or this blight of theirs grew. Tomorrow — I’d speak to Lucien then, test him out a bit. 

In my room, I found a small satchel in the armoire and filled it with a spare set of clothes, along with my stolen knife. It was a pitiful blade, but a piece of cutlery was better than nothing. Just in case I was ever allowed to go — and had to leave at a moment’s notice. 

Just in case. “

While Tamlin suggests that Feyre is not his prisoner, but rather a means to an end in regards to satisfaction within the treaty, she is physically bound to the lands of the Spring Court. Curiosity pushes her to test these boundaries and exploration of the woods and gardens lends itself to meetings with lesser fairies and creatures that have deviant intentions, putting her into danger that is the stuff nightmares are made of. But Feyre is able to gather some information about the world she is now living in, and does her best to use it to her advantage – ever on the offensive.

Despite her best efforts to the contrary, Feyre finds herself drawn to the brooding and handsome Tamlin. Moody and temperamental he may be, she is also privy to a quiet kindness that remains hidden behind a mysterious mask of propriety and ancient custom. The mansion is all but deserted, and as Feyre continues to ferret information from the remaining inhabitants, she learns of a curse put upon the lands and it’s High Lord. Little does she know, she plays a large part in that curse, but the breaking of it will require skills Feyre may not possess in her arsenal.

When  a chance meeting with a peculiar and sharp-tongued stranger leaves Feyre unnerved, she chooses to withdraw into Tamlin’s embrace rather than go with her instincts and push for more information. The stranger, however, continues to plague her thoughts and when he shows up again with clear news of an immediate threat, Feyre is haunted. The blight upon the Spring Court’s lands is spreading and the only way to break the curse is to go to its source — to a wicked queen named Amarantha, who resides Under the Mountain, in the bowels of darkness and despair. To protect the woman he now cares for, Tamlin spirits Feyre back across the wall to her abandoned family, attempting to hide her among her own people so that she may be shielded from the fight that is sure to come. But soon after arriving back home, Feyre realizes that her feelings for Tamlin have shifted from soft affection and instinctual lust into something more akin to . . . love.

After rushing back to the Spring Court to declare her newfound feelings, Feyre is dismayed to find the mansion deserted and torn apart. With the aid of a friend, she makes her way Under the Mountain to confront the evil temptress and retrieve what has been stolen from her.

” ‘Take me to her,’ I insisted.

If Amarantha ripped out my throat, at least I would die doing something for him — at least I would die trying to fix the destruction I hadn’t prevented, trying to save the people I’d doomed. At least Tamlin would know it was for him, and that I loved him. 

Alis studied me for a moment before her eyes softened. ‘As you wish.’ “

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first installment of a series of books by New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas. There are currently three Court books in publication. While these three are centered around Feyre and her adventures within the High Courts, her story is assumed to be wrapped up at the end of the third book. The series will continue next year with spin-off stories from other beloved characters featured in the books. Maas earned renown for her epic Throne of Glass series set in a fantasy world that runs parallel to the Court’s Fae-ruled society, and the fandoms surrounding both series are extensive and seriously supportive. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a modern-day take on Beauty and the Beast, but with a lot of clever twists and turns.

While the age of the main character often dictates the genre of the book and A Court of Thorns and Roses is typically classified as a Young Adult novel, I do not recommend this series to anyone under the age of 16, due to the nature of hot-hot-hot graphic sex and some violence. I give A Court of Thorns and Roses 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I have to tell you — if you even remotely like this book, you must read the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury. The sequel is one of the best fantasy books I have ever read and kept me neatly enthralled for days. I highly recommend it. The latest book, A Court of Wings and Ruin recently came to bookshelves and fans going crazy for it.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.08.16 PM

Recommendation: Along Came A Spider

Along Came a Spider

by James Patterson

” One of the techies handed me a report to sign as I left the Sanders house. 

I signed it my usual way — with a †.


Tough guy from the tough part of town. Right. “

I love getting swept up in a good mystery.

As a patron of James Patterson’s elite brand of twisting and turning mysteries for years, I have developed a familiar affection for Detective Alex Cross. A few movies have been made portraying the strong, male character, but I’ve never felt that they truly capture the essence that is the notoriously persistent and skilled detective and Washington D.C. native. Alex is sexy and empathetic. He feels things, especially the victims he is fighting for and for the residents of the city he has chosen to live in. . . he is attune to their pain and he won’t quit until he’s done them justice. He’s an exemplary father, and takes cares of those in his immediate family with as much tender-loving-care as any man could. He is a loyal best friend who will, quite literally, take a bullet for his partner if need be. He’s just the sort of man I love to read about. He’s the sort of man that we should have more of.

The life and times of Detective Alex Cross have been chronicled by mystery-master James Patterson over the course of 27 (and counting) novels. But the first – the introduction – is Along Came a Spider.

School is a place that’s supposed to be unwaveringly safe. And as a parent in an affluent community, there should be zero question that  you should be able to drop your children off and go on your merry way; with zero question as to if your child will be protected or not. Money can buy anything, right? With money comes power and with such things, security and well-being become  a given. When you spend thousands of dollars a year on your child’s private education. . .a fancy building in a well-to-do neighborhood with teachers who are specially chosen for their innumerable talents in each subject, you have paid for the best and as such, shall receive it — right?


When the unthinkable happens – two children kidnapped right from school – the prominent and wealthy niche of Washington D.C. is shocked. Especially when the news coming across the waves is accusing a teacher of being the criminal culprit.

” Soneji climbed into the front and fired up the blue van. As he drove from the parking area, he sang “Magic Bus” by The Who. He was in an awfully good mood today. He was planning to be America’s first serial kidnapper, among other things. “

Alex Cross, a local homicide investigator and forensic psychologist, is called in to take over the case. He’s currently in the field working a string of the recent brutally violent murders of black prostitutes in the poorer part of D.C. He’s not particularly thrilled when he’s forced to abandon his ongoing case, especially when he sees how much media attention the kidnappings are garnering. Why is the snatch and grab of a couple of white kids more newsworthy than the murders of black women in the wrong part of D.C.? Irritated and angry, Alex struggles to switch gears and quickly partners up  with blonde and ambitious Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannagan. As head of the detail that was assigned to keep the children safe, she is having  hard time accepting her failure. With the other case reluctantly put on the back-burner, Alex enlists Jezzie’s help in putting the pieces together and working fast to catch a kidnapper.

” Jezzie Flannagan stayed behind. ‘I’ve heard about you, Detective Cross, now that I think of it. You’re the psychologist. There was an article in the Washington Post. ‘ She smiled nicely, a demi-smile. 

I didn’t smile back. ‘You know newspaper articles,’ I told her. ‘Usually a pack of half-truths. In that case, definitely some tall tales.’

‘I’m not so sure about that,’ she said. ‘Nice to meet you, anyway.’ Then she walked into the office behind Secretary Goldberg, the mayor, and the star FBI agent. Nobody invited me — the psychologist-detective of magazine fame. Nobody invited Sampson.

Monroe did poke his head out. “Stick around, you two. Don’t make any waves. Don’t get pissy, either. We need you here. I need to talk with you, Alex. Stay put. Don’t get pissy.’

Sampson and I tried to be good cops. We stood around outside the headmaster’s office for another ten minutes. Finally, we left our posts. We were feeling pissy. 

I kept seeing the face of little Mustaf Sanders. Who was going to go and find this killer? No one. Mustaf had already been forgotten. I knew that would never happen with the two private-school children. “

Meanwhile in the undisturbed country outside of the city proper, Gary Soneji believes himself to be in the midst of a perfect crime that will gain him prestige and fame for decades to come. An obsession with high profile kidnappings has led him on a quest to carve his own place out in history as a brilliant criminal. He has the two missing children locked in makeshift coffins in the ground at an old farmhouse, and he’s beginning his plan to extort money from their wealthy and high-profile parents by way of ransom. But after hearing some disparaging remarks about himself over the news by a FBI agent, Soneji’s plan takes a turn. He cannot allow these terrible things to be said about him on such a public platform — he cannot allow his image of a criminal mastermind to be tainted. Clad in a clever disguise, he murders the agent in question, the dumping of his body helping to soothe Soneji’s maniacally hurt pride.

As the investigation into the slippery Soneji continues, Alex and Jezzie begin to grow closer. Despite the attraction he has to wonder – is it a mistake to get so close to her so soon? Something about Jezzie is off, but Alex can’t quite put his finger on it. He’s enjoying the comfort and thrill of the relationship, something he hasn’t had in his life for a while now.  He’s also trying to keep a firm eye on the kidnapping case, but his attempts at victim retrieval are foiled when he attempts to trade ransom for one of the children, but has the money stolen from him instead. And as more murders relating the kidnappings occur, Alex is stunned to discover that he may be on the trail of solving not one – but two – cases at the same time.

In a classic tale of cat and mouse, Alex Cross is determined to have closure with the spider whose web he’s been caught in for over a year. The fast-paced style of James Patterson will at times leave readers breathless as one facet of the investigation is laid to rest but many more questions are raised. Who is Gary Soneji? Where are the missing children? And what is Jezzie Flannagan hiding?

I give Along Came a Spider 4.5 out of 5 stars. I have been a fan of James Patterson for many years now and Alex Cross is by far my favorite of his characters. My only regret for Alex is that he has such a hard time with his love life. Patterson could stand to give him a break every now and then. Patterson writes intelligent and crafty mysteries and never disappoints me, much like another mystery author I love – Patricia Cornwell. The books are quick and easy to get through and perfect to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.

Fans of Alex Cross can continue the journey with their favorite D.C. detective and jazz-playing good guy with:

  1. Along Came a Spider
  2. Kiss the Girls
  3. Jack & Jill
  4. Cat & Mouse
  5. Pop Goes the Weasel
  6. Roses Are Red
  7. Violets Are Blue
  8. Four Blind Mice
  9. The Big Bad Wolf
  10. London Bridges
  11. Mary, Mary
  12. Alex Cross
  13. Double Cross
  14. Cross Country
  15. I, Alex Cross
  16. Cross Fire
  17. Kill Alex Cross
  18. Alex Cross, Run
  19. Cross My Heart
  20. Hope To Die
  21. Cross Justice
  22. Cross Kill
  23. Cross The Line
  24. Detective Cross
  25. The People vs. Alex Cross (due out in November 2017)