Book – Chris Bohjalian pays homage to his Armenian roots in Sandcastle Girls, by telling the story of “The Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About”. The genocide of over ½ million people by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The account is relayed through Laura Petrosian, the great granddaughter of Elizabeth, an American from Boston and Armen from Armenia. While researching her genealogy for a book, Laura comes across letters and photographs of her great grandparents that help her piece together her family history.
Elizabeth and Armen meet in Aleppo Syria in 1915. Elizabeth, is a nurse recently graduated from college who accompanies her father on a mission to provide humanitarian aid to Armenian Refugees. Armen is an engineer working for the Germans who is desperately looking for his missing wife and baby who were lost during the deportations and mass murders. The two soon become very fond of each other. They are separated when Armen leaves to fight for the British Army. Elizabeth and Armen’s love flourishes in spite of continuing genocide and war, as they write letters to each other.
This is an enduring love story that also gives us heartbreakingly gritty details about the atrocities of the horrific events. It was a bit difficult to get through due to the subject matter, but definitely worthwhile.
Book – One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd is a fascinating account of the “Brides for Indians” program, which was a treaty between Ulysses S. Grant and Cheyenne India Chief Little Wolf in 1875. May records the adventures of herself and the other 999 brides- to-be. This is her ticket out of the insane asylum, where she was incarcerated for having an affair. All of the women were prostitutes, prisoners, mental patients, or indigents that were offered full pardons. The agreement being that they would be indentured to the Cheyenne for two years, would have to bear them children, and then would have the option to leave. The U.S. government felt that, the women would be able to tame the savages and that in turn the Indians would take on the white ways once they were given children that were half breeds.
May’s personal journals are full of humor, love, and respect for the other women. She thoughtfully reflects on the beauty and wilderness of the land as they journey across the west to meet their husbands. Her accounts also detail the culture and lifestyle of the tribe, as she becomes one of Little Wolf’s wives.
Even if you are not a fan of Westerns, this is a fascinating read about these pioneer women. If you enjoy this book, you might also like These is My Words and The Diary of Mattie Spenser.
TV Series – I am hooked on political TV series such as The West Wing, House of Cards, and Scandal. Therefore, I was thrilled when Madam Secretary came out starring Tea Leoni. Elizabeth McCord is suddenly asked to serve as Secretary of State, when the current one is killed in a plane crash. She has a unique relationship with the President of the United States, since he recruited her right out of college for the CIA. Years later she left the CIA, because she morally disagreed with some of their interrogation tactics. In her new position as Secretary of State she is a fish out of water, since she is not a politician, nor does she have political aspirations and she is very sympathetic. Upon taking Office she inherits most of her own staff and needless to say, there is a big adjustment for all. The only one she hired on her own is Blake, her office assistant, who is fiercely loyal to Elizabeth. She even butts heads with some of the White House staff, especially the President’s Chief of Staff.
Her former assignments with the CIA have given Elizabeth the national and international experience essential to the Office. Her husband, Henry, a religious scholar is not threatened by her job and power and he is able to offer insight of world politics, since many conflicts have religious roots. She also has 3 children who she involved in the decision making on whether she should take the job.
One of the creators of this show is Morgan Freeman who found it interesting that the 3 former Secretaries of State were all women, though he made it very clear that Elizabeth McCord is no Hillary Clinton. This is a very interesting show that gives viewers insight into the daily life of the Secretary of State and gives us an intelligent character that works hard to balance her job, family, and morals.
Book – I am always thrilled when I discover a good mystery series that I haven’t read yet. Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey is the first book of the Inspector Darko Dawson mysteries. Darko (love the name) is a detective inspector in Ghana who is summoned to the remote village of Ketanu to look into the suspicious death of Gladys, a medical student and dedicated AIDS worker. It is an emotional assignment, since this is the same place that Darko’s mother went to when he was a boy to visit her sister and family and she disappeared and the case is still unsolved. Could these two women somehow be connected? Darko’s investigation clashes with local law enforcement and unsettling customs – having young daughters marry local priests with multiple wives, as a penance for family sins. The author gives a wonderful sense of place and plenty of interesting characters and suspects that keeps the reader interested until the very end. We have all the books in this series for you to enjoy!
Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels may enjoy this series also set in Africa. However, the situations are grittier in the Darko Dawson mysteries and whereas Precious Ramotswe likes relaxing with a cup of bush tea and is a gentle soul, Darko Dawson prefers smoking pot and has anger management issues.
Book – Jess always tries to view all of life situations with an incredible amount of optimism, which is actually quite difficult in her circumstances, being a single mother and working two jobs – cleaning houses by day and serving at a pub at night. She also cares for Tanzie, her math genius daughter; Nicky, her bullied teenage Goth stepson; and Norman, their 80 pound slobbering dog.
When the opportunity arises for Tanzie to compete in a math contest that could win her a scholarship into a prestigious school, Jess realizes that her only chance to travel from the England to Scotland is to enlist the help of Ed. Ed has his own problems. He is under investigation for inside training and possibly losing his company and fortune. Ed and Jess barely know each other. She occasionally cleaned his house and got him home safe when he got drunk at her pub. Unlike Jess, he is a half glass empty kind of person. But being at loose ends and feeling he owed Jess a favor after the night at the pub, Jess, her kids, and even the dog cram into the car with him.
Things get tense as the journey reveals the economic gap between Jess and Ed and dealing with all of the travelers idiosyncrasies. The story is humorous and at the same time heartbreaking. Readers will want to go along on this road trip and experience the stops and find out the results from the ultimate destination – if Tanzie is awarded a scholarship.
If you enjoyed this book you may like other books by Jojo Moyes: The Girl You Left Behind, Me Before You, and others.
Book – Mia is the “good girl” in this page turning novel of psychological suspense. She is an art teacher at an alternative high school and somewhat of a disappointment to her high profile Chicago judge father, since his other daughter and Mia’s sister is an attorney and following in his footsteps. Her family connection results in Mia being kidnapped. The man who abducts her, Colin, is being paid off to lure her on the pretense of a one night stand and deliver her to another party that will demand a ransom. But for some reason Colin decides not to turn her over and hides out with Mia in a remote cabin in Minnesota. Eventually Mia is saved, but is suffering from amnesia, having blocked the incident from her mind. There is a lot going on in this story. It is told from the perspective of 4 characters: Mia, Colin, Mia’s mother – Eve, and Gabe – the detective assigned to the case. It also jumps back and forth in time chronicling events during the incident and the aftermath. But readers will not be disappointed while trying to find out what really did happen and why, which is not revealed until the very end.
This book would probably appeal to fans of Gone Girl, but is less violent and graphic.
Book – What would you do if you accidentally came upon a letter from your spouse, addressed to you, but with the instructions that it only be opened in the event of his death? This is the Pandora’s box that Cecelia has to deal with. She is the envy of all the mothers at school for her superb organizational skills and being able to juggle her involvement at school with her thriving Tupperware business. Could the contents of this letter affect her perfect suburban life – married to the perfect man, with whom she has three perfect daughters? She is one of three women from different walks of life who are brought together by sheer coincidence at a Catholic elementary school in Sydney. The story will keep you turning the pages to find out how their lives are intertwined by a common thread. The second woman Tess, is shaken by a confession from her husband along with her best friend/cousin Felicity, that they’ve fallen in love with each other. Tess leaves taking her 6 year old son to live with her mother in Sydney, while she sorts things out. And finally we have Rachel, who is older than the other women and is the school secretary, where Cecelia and Tess have their children enrolled. Rachel is consumed by grief and tries to hide her hatred for the P.E. teacher Connor, who is an old flame of Tess. It turns out that everyone has secrets and readers will be fascinated as the fate of these women unfolds.
If you enjoy this book, you should check out these other titles by Moriarty – Big Little Lies, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, The Last Anniversary, Three Wishes, and What Alice Forgot.
Book – Imagine waking up in the morning thinking you had a one night stand, because the man next to you is a stranger and when you look in the mirror you are shocked to see a woman in her late 40’s, since you think you are 20 something. And the man, Ben, tells you that he has been your husband for 22 years. This is what happens to Christine every morning in the gripping story Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. She has a type of amnesia, supposedly from an accident she had over 20 years ago and each night when she goes to sleep her memories from the previous day are erased.
Every day after Ben leaves for work, Christine receives a phone call from neurologist, Dr. Nash who is trying to treat her condition, reminding her to write in her journal. As she secretly continues writing in her journal and meeting with the doctor, memories slowly start forming. But instead of relief, Christine becomes fearful and confused, because she finds the words, “don’t trust Ben” written in her journal and she suspects that Ben and Dr. Nash are lying to her. She is beginning to remember and they are both giving conflicting information about her life. Are they trying to protect her or harm her?
A heart pounding psychological thriller with a surprise ending. This book has received many starred reviews. It was also made into a movie by the same title. Readers who liked Girl on the Train would probably enjoy this novel!
Book – It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a John Grisham novel and I’m very glad that I read the legal thriller Sycamore Row. Attorney Jake Brigance from A Time to Kill resurfaces to protect the interests of his client multi-millionaire Seth Hubbard who is battling terminal cancer. Seth has handwritten a new will rescinding the one he had previously drawn up at another law firm. The following day he hangs himself from a tree. The new will cuts out his children, grandchildren, and ex-wives and leaves the bulk of his fortune to his African-American housekeeper Lettie.
This is Ford County Mississippi, where racial tensions still run high as Jake battles the Hubbard family and an army of lawyers disputing the validity of the new will bestowing an excess of $20 million. Was Seth unduly influenced by Lettie, were his medications and pain clouding his judgement? This is a mystery that tries to get solved in this fast paced, suspenseful legal procedural. Well written with great character development, this book is a must read!
Book – After returning to Western Australia from the Great War, Tom Sherbourne takes on the job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. He hopes that the isolation will help him overcome some of the emotional scarring that he is experiencing. The supply boat only comes out four times a year bringing food, clothing, and mail. Tom soon realizes that his life would be more fulfilling with Isabel, a headstrong vibrant girl he met on the mainland and fell in love with. On his first shore leave they marry and return to Janus together, believing that their love for each other and the beauty of their surroundings would be enough to sustain their happiness and joy in in each other’s company. The couple enjoy life on the island but their happiness is overshadowed with two miscarriages and one still birth and Isabel is beside herself with grief.
One Spring morning, Isabel isn’t sure if it is the wind she hears or a baby crying, She scrambles down the rocks to find a small boat washed ashore containing a dead man and a baby girl. It is Tom’s duty to report the incident immediately, but Isabel begs him not to. Tom struggles with his conscience but gives into Isabel hoping the child will assuage her sorrow. They name the girl Lucy – the light of their life, the child of the lighthouse. All goes well until they return to the mainland and someone thinks they recognize Lucy… This is an excellent debut novel and an excellent book club read as there is a lot to discuss and ponder. The movie version is scheduled to be released in 2016.