The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

Four for the New Year


Happy New Year Everyone!!! I am glad to be back and able to share with you what I have been reading lately. Honestly, I expected to read many books post surgery but found it took me a long time to be able to concentrate again. However, in the past several weeks I have been catching up. I’d like to share some of the titles that I have found interesting.


Currently, I am reading Mercer Girls (B) by Libbie Hawker. As the Civil War rages on in the east a somewhat new city in the West, Seattle is struggling to establish itself. The population consists of mostly men who’d like to be able to find a respectable woman to marry, start a family and build a home. A S Mercer calls Seattle home. Based on the true story, Mercer Girls retells how one man establishes a program to bring marriageable young women to his city with the hope of providing opportunity to both men and women to meet someone they can begin a family with. Once again historical fiction delivers an informative story that might otherwise have gone untold.


Continuing in the same genre, The Muse (A) by Jessie Burton spans two time periods. In the 1930s, just before the onset of WWII, Spain underwent it’s own war. A wealthy Jewish family flees to Spain hoping to secure them safely out of the way of Hitler. While there, their artistic daughter falls in love with a rebel who inspires her to masterful artistry. Then 30 years later, a young man who has no idea of its history inherits one of her paintings. As the tale unfolds the painting tells the story of love won and lost both in the past and the present. I found this book extremely well done and it kept me interested till the very last page.


The following book was a Christmas gift. I have read everything written by Joshilyn Jackson and The Opposite of Everyone (A) did not disappoint. Paula Vauss may have had a very dysfunctional life as a child. Surviving her childhood has empowered Paula to become a dynamite lawyer fighting unfairness and abuse. One day her past comes back to her delivering to her siblings she was unaware existed. Her fight becomes real and personal now as she addresses her demons and creates a life she never expected. As always, she writes an extremely well done page-turner.


Last but not least, a genre that is not my usual. Salt to Sea (A) by Ruta Sepetys is a Young Adult (YA) historical fiction novel that once again introduced me to an historical event I was unaware of. As thousands of Prussians are fleeing through German to safety they constantly risk their lives from Russian soldiers who are determined to kill them all. Salt to Sea has four main characters who each share their story. Ultimately, they all board the ship Wilhelm Gustloff thinking they are safe. They are not. As historical events unravel, Salt to Sea proves to be not just a YA story but one for everyone to read.


I encourage you to try any of the above books to help you pass the cold winter days. For me, they were equally entertaining and fun reads and the best way to begin a new year.


The Stolen Child


Many of you will wonder how I’ve come to give The Stolen Child (B+) by Lisa Carey such high praise. I say this because by far it is one of the most different books I’ve ever read and enjoyed.

St Brigid is one of Ireland’s most revered saints. Set in the mountains of Connemara, a remote island, the author creates a magical, fantastical novel around the folklore of this devoted saint.

Brigid (named after the saint) comes to the Island from America to claim the property she has inherited. Folklore says that a well exists whose waters are healing and miraculous. Brigid’s life has been complicated to say the least. She learns early that she posses the power of healing hands. While she delivers peace and life to those she touches, her body reacts in violent ways leaving her ill and barren. It is here on St Brigid’s Island that she seeks those healing waters so that she can bare a child.

Emer, born on the island, also possess magical powers. Her powers come at a price. Niall is her only child. Emer believes he will not be hers forever. She lives in constant fear that the fairies will come to claim him.

Have I sparked your curiosity? I hope so because I found the story enchanting. Perhaps the fairies took me as I read because I honestly found this book irresistible. The characters are powerful, the story even stronger. Love, friendship, faith, trust are all tenants of this unique novel. I dare you to read it. I will warn you there are some sexual notes that might be difficult for some to handle. I think they only enhance the message of the story.

The Stolen Child will be available to purchase in February. Why not start 2017 with the fairies of St. Brigid’s Island. !!!!


2016 In Review



Once again a year is coming to a close and it’s time to look back at what I reviewed in 2016.

Let’s start with some of my favorites:

American’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie has to top the list for me. To the core, I am an historical fiction freak and this ticked every box in that category. This book spans 50 years of the life of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Patsy. An incredible amount of history is covered in 50 years and the author’s creative liberties enhanced it all.

The fact that I so enjoyed the above book drew me to Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemmings by Stephen O’Connor. At over 800 pages, O’Connor’s take on historical events is a bit twisted but in a good way. Read with an open mind and you will enjoy this one too.

Sticking with historical fiction, Amy Snow by Tracy Rees took place in the Victorian era. Longing for a bit of Downton Abbey? Then this is the one to read. The young mistress finds a baby in the snow only for it to be dismissed as someone’s sin. Many years later, secrets are revealed bringing the story full circle.

June by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore is the second book I’ve read by this author (Bittersweet). A woman inherits a house from her grandmother only to discover that her grandfather had several other children who are contesting this will. The author has a gift of delivering her stories in a slow and steady pace, keeping you in it to the very end.

Last but not least, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon is a poignant read for today. The secrets of a small community’s prejudices and biases are long overdue to be revealed. Are you a Goat or a Sheep? You will be able to know for sure after reading this exceptional book.

Briefly I will list some of the books I really didn’t enjoy and probably would suggest you avoid:

Rum Luck by Ryan Aldred – mystery in Costa Rican bar

News of the World by Paulette Jiles– bad Western-esque

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Russian Fairy tale rewrite

If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Green – Stereotypical soap opera


I can’t end my year in review without mentioning a book very close to my heart that was published this year. In The City of Falling Stars by Chris Tusa is a labor of love by the author and his “muse” – me!!! I cannot begin to explain the honor and privilege it has been for me to work with Chris on this book and several more to follow. Being involved with an author has forevermore changed the way I read a book. Even the ones that don’t work out so well deserve respect because I know and understand what it takes to get a book written and published.

As always I encourage you to read and then read some more. I expect there will be many great and not so great ones for us to consider in 2017 and I am looking forward to doing that together here at The Book Mark. Thanks for following and,










The One-In-A-Million Boy


It’s hard for anyone to imagine what happens to a parent when a child dies. Unfortunately, having lost a child, I’ve become a bit of an expert and without a doubt Monica Wood got it right in her new novel The One-In-A-Million Boy (B+).

The child referred to as “the boy” was 11 years old when he suddenly died from a rare heart disease no one was aware he had. His parents Quinn and Belle are in shock as is his scoutmaster and an elderly woman of 104 years of age, Ona Vitkus. Taking care of Ona was his new assignment. He was to do chores for her over a period of ten weeks. The boy was an intense child. He had no friends and appeared odd and quirky. His own father, Quinn was unable to handle his behaviors and just didn’t know how to communicate with him. Sadly, he often gave up trying. The stress of the child and the busy “career” that Quinn had as a guitarist destroyed his marriage not once but twice. At the time of the child’s death, he and Belle we again separated.

Reminiscent of A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Wood’s character “the boy” is clearly autistic. Everything he does is done in groups of ten. He obsesses over facts, in particular, those of the Guinness World Book of Records. As Ona gets to know him, she finds he is charming and lovable and she grows strongly attached. As Quinn completes his son’s chores for Ona he becomes attached to her.

Grief is overwhelming. Denial, guilt, love, hate, sadness, frustration are only some of the emotions displayed by these grieving characters. What transpires over the course of this story magnificently portrays how the loss of a child can either destroy or strengthen a parent. While at times it was hard for me, I identified with every aspect depicted. The characters were authentic and powerful. For these reasons, I highly recommend The One-In-A-Million Boy to everyone. It is a story that will impact every reader whether you have suffered a loss or not.





Rum Luck


Recently I was invited to watch an online interview with a new author, Ryan Aldred. He was discussing his first novel, Rum Luck (B). He mentioned how he and his wife had gone on a vacation to Costa Rica. The country was beautiful with magnificent beaches and colorful people but it also had a certain air of danger to it, especially when you are new and unaware. His experiences there prompted writing Rum Luck.

Ben had planned to honeymoon in Costa Rica where his future wife had selected accommodations at the best beach and hotel. However, things changed quite suddenly when he came upon his finance with another man. With a broken heart and cancelled wedding, Ben is convinced by his best friend Miguel to use the tickets for Costa Rica to escape and clear his head.

Ben plans nothing more than getting drunk and lying on the beach. One night, he gets blindly drunk – the kind of drunk where you don’t remember the who, what or where of the night before. When he does wake; he is lying on the floor of a prison cell. He believes he’s there because of his drunkenness until he discovers his attorney friend from home is there to defend him against a murder charge. Not only is he accused of murder but also it appears he has purchased the bar where the murder occurred. Can Victoria rescue him from his wild night?

The story that evolves is often unbelievable but quite interesting. The quirky characters lend a lot of charm to the story as each of them attempts to solve the mystery of that lost night. It was a very quick read and surprisingly not too predictable. Ultimately, I think that Aldred has written a book that will lend itself well to a movie or a TV series. Congratulations to him, I hope he pens many more successfully entertaining novels.

A Certain Age


With a hurricane threatening for the weekend, I jumped to the library and stocked up. A Certain Age (A) by Beatriz Williams kept me completely unaware of the weather. It was that good!!!!!

Based on Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier, Williams sets her story against the backdrop of the roaring twenties, prohibition and post war trauma. Mrs. Theresa Marshall from Fifth Avenue and Southampton begins an affair with a very young man, Octavian. He’s just returned from the war and is lost and searching for something, Theresa is that something.

At the same time, Sophie Fortescue gets engaged to Theresa’s brother through a “cavalier”. Can you guess who that was???? Octavian. Pretty predictably the story continues with a rivalry for the affections of Octavian.

What sets this apart from other historical fiction love stories is that the book opens with the reporting of a murder trail. The person on trail for murder is Sophie’s father. He is accused of murdering her mother. The author very craftily tells her story by delivering the events that led up to the trail. Nothing and no one is as they appear. The story becomes very compelling, drawing the reader right in and keeping you there until the last page.

Thankfully our hurricane was a non-event and the weather provided us with a lovely weekend one that I used to devour this exceptional book. It’s definitely an “all weather” read 🙂


What Alice Forgot


What Alice Forgot ( B+) is the third book I have read by Liane Moriarty. She definitely is a very consistent writer; penning books that keep you interested.

Alice falls off her bicycle during spin class and sustains a head injury that obliterates all memory of the past ten years. She believes she is ten years younger, pregnant and madly in love with her husband Nick. In reality, she is a mother of three with a marriage that is completely in ruins.

In this well paced novel, Moriarty unravels the story by slowing restoring Alice’s memory. As she does, Alice discovers she hasn’t been her best self. She hasn’t been supportive of her sister Elizabeth who has struggled through numerous failed IVF procedures. Then she and her husband Nick are engaged in an ugly custody battle over children she doesn’t remember having. She can’t believe she’s the person everyone describes. What has happened in the missing ten years to explain this other Alice? When her memory is restored can she make changes and become the woman she remembers herself to be?

Anyone who reads this book will pause to exam their own lives. What would we think of our actions ten years after they occurred? Could we be critical enough to make corrections going forward?

I honestly think this book would be an excellent selection for a book club discussion. It is a glimpse into a “what if” that should be fun to explore.





The Woman in the Photo


I have heard the saying many times that “life imitates art” but now I can actually relate to it . Last week my brother in law and his wife were here for a nice long visit. The beginning of the week we went the Nassau County Museum on the Frick’s Rosyln Estate. The next evening we discussed the fact that Lynn’s family is from Pennsylvania near Johnstown. Coincidentally I had begun to read Mary Hogan’s, The Woman in the Photo (A).

Presently, Lee has gotten a clue as to whom her birthmother might be. A photo found in her adoption papers features Clara Barton and an unidentified woman standing amongst the rubble of the Johnstown flood. The woman bears a striking resemblance to Lee.

1889 Johnstown, wealthy families like the Fricks, Carnegies and Mellons are nestling into their exclusive summer retreats on Lake Conemaugh overlooking Johnstown.

In alternating chapters, Lee searches for her biological roots while Elizabeth Haberlin begins to understand the difference between an ordinary and extraordinary life.

The author certainly did extensive research and each chapter about The South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club is headed with a photograph from the Johnstown Flood Museum. The photos drew me in as much as the narrative. Both Lee and Elizabeth’s story mesh together seamlessly making the book compelling. The details about the flood were gruesome and so powerful that I became anxious reading about it. Ultimately the novel was an exceptional read with tremendous historical value. It’s definitely one I’d recommend.

In the City of Falling Stars


It is a great pleasure for me to introduce you to a new book by my friend Chris Tusa. Due to my relationship with Chris and my involvement with this novel, I will not be reviewing this book but rather inviting you to read – In the City of the Falling Stars.

We are all aware of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. We all remember the horror of September 11th. Now can you imagine living through both? For one man, Maurice Delahoussaye it was entirely too much.

Chris takes us to the New Orleans he knows and loves through the eyes of Maurice a man completely unhinged by current events. Maurice has had personal tragedy too. His wife, Vivian, has been having an affair with the assistant to the mayor, a married man who has left Vivian carrying his child. Maurice is more than willing to help Vivian. However, the stress only further deteriorates his mental health to the point that he is convinced she is pregnant with Jesus Christ. For good measure, let’s add the fact that his daughter is having an affair with her married college professor while his son is smoking pot all day and flunking out of school.

The characters are unique and extremely interesting. This serious story is broken up with some much needed humor. Chris classifies his novel as a tragicomedy and he balances the dark and light very nicely.

What becomes of Maurice, Vivian and family? Are the dead birds falling from the sky heralding the end of the world? Or is it just Maurice’s world that is doomed? You just have to read it for yourself. Please look for it in bookstores and on Amazon sometime after September 10th. I’d love to know what you think.



Miranda Beverly-Whittemore has convinced me that she writes incredible novels. A while ago I was very impressed with Bittersweet. Today, I was equally impressed by June (A).

Cassie Danvers has inherited her grandmother’s home in St. Jude, Ohio where she lived with her until she left to attend college. June, her grandmother, was her legal guardian after the death of her parents. As young teenager, Cassie was itching to leave the small town and everyone in it. Returning to the once regal home is overwhelming for Cassie. It is in dire need of repairs and the $14,000 that came along with this inheritance will never be enough.

Since Cassies’ life in NYC has fallen apart, coming to live in Ohio provides her the opportunity to take on a pity party. She hides within the embrace of the house, barely surviving, dreaming unexplained ghostly dreams. The incessant ring of a doorbell announces drastic changes to her world. She learns that she has inherited the estate of a very famous movie star. Jack Montgomery claims that she is his granddaughter, one he has never before recognized.

A DNA test is required from those who are contesting the will. Before she will agree to this, Cassie requests proof that June was someone other than she believed her to be.

Alternating between 1955 and present day, the life and characters of a small town are scrutinized. Secrets long held are shared. June’s very private life becomes public and Cassie must navigate through it all.

I’ve come to really appreciate the author’s writing style. The pacing of the story is deliberate and revelations are slowly dispensed and always at the most appropriate of moments. I strongly encourage you to become familiar with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore either with Bittersweet or June. Neither one will disappoint.