Monday, April 27, 2015

A Mad, Wicked, Folly

Victoria Darling wants nothing more than to become an artist and make decisions about her own life.  Unfortunately, she lives in England in 1909 where women have almost no rights.

After being sent home in disgrace from her boarding school in France, Vicky's parents are strict about how she will be spending her time, and it doesn't include art.  Her mother is only concerned with rebuilding her tattered reputation and getting Vicky married before she does anything else.  She even has the man picked out.  Her father is only concerned with the disgrace she has brought to her family and to his business.

When Vicky finally meets her fiance, she thinks she sees a way out of her father's stranglehold on her life.  She will marry Edmund and be free to live her own life.  It doesn't really matter that she doesn't love him; she barely knows him.  He's handsome, and he seems to enjoy her personality quirks.

In secret, Vicky begins working on a portfolio to submit to the Royal College of Art.  If she can just get proper training, the art world will take her seriously.  It doesn't matter that the RCA accepts very few women.  Vicky believes she can get in if she can show her best work.  This brings us to her other problem.  Her father has taken all her art supplies, so she'll have to be creative there as well.

In her quest to create new art, she crosses paths with the suffragettes, a group of women who are protesting to demand the vote for women.  At first, she just sees the movement as fertile ground for drawing, but the more time she spends with these women, the more she begins to question her place in society and if she will ever have any freedom.

She also begins spending time with a handsome police officer named Will.  Vicky says it's all about art, but could there be more to it than that?

I really enjoyed Sharon Biggs Waller's book about the suffragette movement in Great Britain.  This is one of my favorite time periods and one I wish it got more attention  People just aren't aware of the struggles those early women's rights activists faced.  This book is a great introduction because the reader can learn along with Vicky as she has her own personal awakening.  Highly recommended.

A Time to Dance

Veda has loved dance for as long as she can remember.  Her earliest memory is feeling the rhythm of dance while gazing at an image of the god Shiva in a temple.  She is the best Bharantanatyam dancer in her city in India.  Just when she reaches a high point in her career, winning first place in a classical dance competition, she is involved in a terrible accident.

When she wakes in the hospital, one leg has been amputated below the knee.  This would be a tragedy for anyone, but it is especially painful for a dancer.  She is lucky to meet an American doctor determined to create a prosthesis she can use to dance, and Veda slowly begins to return to herself.

This does not mean her life goes back to normal.  She still has many struggles to overcome and more loss to experience.  When she returns to formal dance training she meets Govinda, a gentle boy with beautiful eyes who helps Veda see the beauty in herself and the sacred nature of the dance she is performing.

Through her new training, Veda learns to feel to connection to God she experienced as a child and to see beyond herself to those who are also struggling.

I really enjoyed Padma Venkatraman's new book about spirituality and strength.  Highly recommended.

Monday, April 20, 2015


This is a tale that begins with a wicked king, magic, and three rejected sisters who are talented musicians, but the story doesn't end here.

When Otto is lost in the woods, he is sheltered by three strange birds who give him a gift.  The harmonica is different from any he's ever heard.  Otto's life is saved, and the new harmonica begins its journey.

Friedrich loves music and longs to become a conductor one day.  He tried attending school with the other children, but they tortured him ruthlessly because of the red birthmark on his face.  Now he goes to work with Papa at the harmonica factory.  He works part of the day and studies with the men at the factory for the rest of the day.  He dreams of going to the music academy, but his birthmark and his father's anti-Nazi feelings may cause a problem.  As the Nazis gain power in Germany, Friedrich and his family are in ever increasing danger.  One of the few comforts he has is a strange harmonica he found in an abandoned factory.

Mike and his younger brother are orphans in Pennsylvania following the deaths of their mother and grandmother.  The orphanage is a terrible place.  The children are always hungry and dirty, and their lives are devoid of joy.  Mike is a talented musician, but he is largely denied this gift in the orphanage.  He fears he and his brother will be separated, so when a chance for the two of them to be adopted together arrives, they jump at the chance.  This new life couldn't be more different than the old one.  They now live in a beautiful mansion with plenty of food, and Mike is even getting lessons on the harmonica from the butler, but life isn't all perfect even when you're rich, and Mike will do anything to project his little brother.

Ivy is thrilled to be selected to play a solo on her harmonica when her class plays on the radio, but when her father gets a new job, they must leave overnight for their new home.  At first Ivy is angry, but the new job is good for everyone.  They have a house to live in, and her father is responsible for running an entire farm while the owner is away.  Mr. Yamamoto has promised a permanent home and job if he likes the way Ivy's father runs things while he imprisoned in an internment camp.  Now that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, it doesn't matter how American the Yamamotos are or that their son, like Ivy's brother, is off fighting in the war.  The government and many of their neighbors suspect anyone who is Japanese of being a spy.

The lives of the children are linked through one special harmonica in Pam Munoz Ryan's new novel about the power of music to strengthen and inspire.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Chip's life on Cape Cod is full of ocean waves, bird watching, and her mother's beautiful dancing.  Everything falls apart one day when Chip's mother starts developing strange symptoms.  One of her legs drags behind her and she begins falling down stairs.  The doctors aren't sure what's wrong yet, but even the symptoms are devastating for a dancer.

As the disease progresses and her mother falls further into her depression, Chirp finds solace in bird watching, and she finds an unlikely companion.  She has always avoided the family of rough boys next door.  They are often cruel and sometimes violent, so it is with reluctance that she begins to trust Joey, the youngest boy.  He is in her class at school and seems to be gentler than the older boys.  The more time she spends with Joey the more she realizes how terrible his home life is, and the two form a mutual understanding.

When Chirp's life takes a terrible turn, Joey is the only person she can turn to for comfort.

Esther Ehrlich's book is a gentle story of surviving the pain of childhood, especially when that pain is caused by adults and is out of your control.  It is also a beautiful story about friendship and trust.

Monday, April 6, 2015

National Poetry Month

I love these!  Find a poem you love this month.  I hope you find something that inspires you!

Beware the Wild

When Sterling Saucier's brother walked into the swamp, she knew nothing good would come of it.  Everyone is Sticks, Louisiana, knows swamps are dangerous.  There are all kinds of predators lurking in all swamps, but the Sticks swamp is different.  There are stories about the people it's taken and the supernatural creatures who live there.  There's is even a fence to keep the swamp back and the people out.

This is why Sterling knows Phin was past angry when he strode off into the murky swamp.  He was gone for an entire day, and then someone came out--someone not Phin.  This new creature, a beautiful girl named Lenora May, eases into Phin's life like it is nothing, and Sterling is the only one who even remembers she has a brother.  Everyone else, including her mother, only remembers her sister, Lenora May.

Sterling is determined to find out the truth and get her brother back.  She finds an unlikely ally in the handsome but reckless loner Heath.  He has his own reasons to distrust the swamp, and he seems to be the only one who believes her.

As Sterling and Heath dig into the past, they discover the history of the swamp is much more complicated than either of them could have imagined.  And saving may come at a price that is dear to them both.

Read Natalie C. Parker's southern Gothic ghost story for thrills, suspense, and a touch of romance. This was a dark, moody, and thoroughly enjoyable read.