2015 Book 329: CARRYING ALBERT HOME by Homer Hickam

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
ISBN: 9780062325891 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062325914 (ebook)
ASIN: B00S58E834 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 13, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow


Big Fish meets The Notebook in this emotionally evocative story about a man, a woman, and an alligator that is a moving tribute to love, from the author of the award-winning memoir Rocket Boys—the basis of the movie October Sky

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys/October Sky a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.



Elsie Lavender Hickam received a rather unusual wedding gift from her previous fiance Buddy Ebsen, a baby alligator. Mrs. Hickam adored that alligator and lovingly raised it in the coalfields of West Virginia. When the alligator scared her husband out of the house without his pants, Elsie had to choose between her husband and the alligator. What ensues is the hilarious tale of Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam.

Imagine the late 1920s and a young woman, Elsie Lavender, raised in the coalfields of West Virginia is now living it up in a pre-Disney Orlando, Florida. She’s attending secretarial school, working as a waitress, and enjoying the company of the up-and-coming actor/dancer Buddy Ebsen. Elsie and Buddy get engaged and then he receives a job opportunity in New York city and then California. Weeks and months go by without any correspondence from her fiance, so Elsie returns to rural West Virginia and her family. She receives an unusual marriage proposal from her future husband’s boss, ponders the proposal, and subsequently marries the young man, Homer Hickam. After their marriage, she receives a belated wedding present from Buddy Ebsen, a baby alligator named Albert. When forced to choose between her husband and the alligator, she chooses her husband (somewhat reluctantly it appears) with the proviso that they must return Albert to Florida. Now if the picture of an alligator being raised in the coalfields of West Virginia in the 1930s wasn’t strange enough, imagine this husband, wife and alligator on the road…oops, I almost forgot the rooster that decided to travel with them.

To give you an idea of just how hilarious the travel adventures of Elsie, Homer, and Albert were, you only have to look at some of the titles for sections of the book: How Elsie Became a Radical; How Elsie Rode the Thunder Road, Homer Wrote a Poem, and Albert Transcended Reality; How Albert Flew; How Homer and Elsie Saved a Movie and Albert Played a Crocodile; and, How Homer and Elsie Survived a Hurricane – A Real One as Well as the One in Their Hearts. Elsie and Homer have some amazing adventures on their quest to return Albert home, including foiling a bank robbery, meeting John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, participating in the illegal transportation of moonshine, and more. Elsie even becomes a millionaire for a few hours in North Carolina. The 1000 mile road trip this couple took provides some poignant and heart-touching moments along with some outrageously funny moments. 

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator is much more than a story of returning an animal to its native habitat, it’s about letting go of the past, overcoming jealousy, being happy with what you have (without giving up on your dreams), as well as finding and accepting love. Homer Hickam has taken the outlandish and fantastical tales about his parents’ trip in the 1930s and made it into a fictionalized story that is a testament to fortitude and love. Carrying Albert Home was a fast-paced read for me and one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. (Adding to that enjoyment was the ability to see Mr. Hickam, the author, at the recent West Virginia Book Festival.) Don’t put Carrying Albert Home on a TBR list, go out, grab a copy, and then sit down and read it…you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2015 Book #291: THE HUMMINGBIRD by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan
ISBN: 9780062369543 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062369567 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R1K3V94 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 8, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow


Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. But her skills and experience are tested in new and dramatic ways when her easygoing husband, Michael, returns from his third deployment to Iraq haunted by nightmares, anxiety, and rage. She is determined to help him heal, and to restore the tender, loving marriage they once had.

At the same time, Deborah’s primary patient is Barclay Reed, a retired history professor and expert in the Pacific Theater of World War II whose career ended in academic scandal. Alone in the world, the embittered professor is dying. As Barclay begrudgingly comes to trust Deborah, he tells her stories from that long-ago war, which help her find a way to help her husband battle his demons. 

Told with piercing empathy and heartbreaking realism, The Hummingbird is a masterful story of loving commitment, service to country, and absolution through wisdom and forgiveness. 



Deborah Birch is a caring hospice nurse and only wants to make things easier for the dying and their families. She is also a loving wife and has no  idea how to help her husband, Michael, heal from the psychological wounds he suffers as a result of fighting in Iraq. Barclay Reed is a former college professor and dying from kidney cancer. Deborah enters at the end of Barclay’s life in The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan.

Deborah begins her time with each client by reviewing their records in the office and gently caressing her totem, a small wooden hummingbird. That hummingbird is a symbol and a reminder that each patient may provide her with gifts and “…to see the person behind the problem.” Deborah has had difficult patients and difficult families to tend to in her years as a hospice nurse, but Barclay Reed is perhaps one of the most tragic. Mr. Reed, or Professor Reed as he has Deborah call him, is dying without friends or family. His 30+ year career ended in a huge scandal, so he isn’t even leaving behind the legacy of his good name. To say the Professor Reed is somewhat cantankerous is a major understatement. He wants what he wants, how and when he wants it. Sadly, in his quest to get what he wants he has gone through three hospice agencies and several hospice nurses. Deborah is determined to provide him not only what he wants but what he needs. Over the course of Professor Reed’s final weeks, Deborah learns more about the man and his final work that caused the scandal, The Sword. What is the lesson Deborah will learn from assisting Professor Reed?

“If you think of a person, anyone, even someone you dislike, if you imagine for a moment how one day they will lose everything—family and home and pleasures and work—and people will weep and wail when they die, you cannot help it: You feel compassion for them. Your heart softens. What’s more, every single human being is going to experience this same thing, without exception: Every person you love, everyone you hate, your own frivolous struggling self. It is the central lesson of hospice: Mortality is life’s way of teaching us how to love.” The Hummingbird


You might think a story about a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a dying professor might be overly sad and morbid, but The Hummingbird is simply a darn good story. Mr. Kiernan takes the current happenings between Deborah, Professor Reed, and Deborah’s husband Michael and alternates it with the story of a Japanese WWII pilot that firebombed Oregon and returned as a guest of the city years later. Michael is just as trapped by his sense of guilt over his actions as a sniper, as well as a sense of honor by serving his country as the Japanese pilot was in the past. Deborah must decide if she believes the Professor’s story and if she can find something that might allow her to help her husband. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hummingbird and found it to be a riveting read. Seriously, I pulled an all-nighter just to finish the story and I’m way too old for all-nighters. I enjoyed the characters, the storylines, and the settings. Mr. Kiernan has a deft way of writing that pulls me into his stories with just a few pages. He deals with death, dying, and the trauma of war in a realistic yet sensitive manner. If you read The Curiosity then you’ll definitely want to read The Hummingbird. If you haven’t read The Curiosity, what are you waiting for . . . read it and then read The Hummingbird. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Kiernan in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and a print copy via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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2015 Book 224: WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

ISBN: 9780062369574 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062369628 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OY3STN4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow


Mahmoud’s passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she’s ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister’s family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba makes a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe’s capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.



Fereiba is a teacher, wife, and mother. Her adult life in Afghanistan is better than even she expected until the Taliban came into power. In a short time she’s lost her job and then her husband. Her sole concern is to make a better life for all of her children, the two that are already born, and the one she is carrying. Her eldest child is a boy, Saleem, and he agrees with his mother that they need to leave Afghanistan. Their struggles and quest for freedom are revealed in When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi.

Fereiba had a sad childhood. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by her stepmother. The only real love she received was from her paternal grandfather. Her stepmother convinced Fereiba’s father that she was needed at home to help with her younger half-siblings. Even when her sisters were older and all attending school, her stepmother felt there was no need for Fereiba to attend school. It is a testament to Fereiba’s will that she began first grade at age 13 and quickly advanced to graduate on schedule. Unfortunately for Fereiba, her mother’s death was seen as a negative in Afghani culture. Her first fiancé, an ugly bully, died shortly after the engagement. She had met a young man in her father’s orchard and it was presumed that he would seek her hand in marriage, but he marries her oldest half-sister. Just when thought all was lost, she becomes engaged to Mahmoud Waziri. His family ensures she furthers her education and she becomes a teacher. Their marriage was childless for a number of years before she had two children and became pregnant with a third child. Then war breaks out and she is no longer allowed to teach. And then the Taliban comes for her husband, he subsequently disappears and is presumed dead. Without a husband, brother, or father as a protector and no income, the only option Fereiba sees for herself and her children is to immigrate to England. The journey is long and arduous, as the family travels from Afghanistan to Iran, onto Turkey, and then Greece. Fereiba is forced to rely upon her son Saleem and his efforts to work and provide for this family of four. Will they be able to make it to England?

I read When the Moon is Low in one sitting because I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. I found it to be a captivating and wholly engrossing read. I became invested in the trials and tribulations of Fereiba and her son Saleem. I felt despair when times were hard and cheered them on when they moved on against all odds. The reader is given Fereiba’s backstory featuring her childhood and the circumstances of her marriage. We’re also given a fascinating glimpse into the present with Saleem’s story as a migrant, teenage refugee seeking work in Turkey and Greece. Ms. Hashimi has provided an extraordinary glimpse into the hardships that Afghan refugees faced in their attempts to find freedom. I felt all of the characters in this story were well developed and realistic. There are plenty of people that helped Fereiba and Saleem out of the goodness of their hearts, and there are those that took advantage. At its heart, I felt that When the Moon is Low was a story of a search for a better life and survival. This isn’t an overly sad story although there are plenty of sad elements, yet it remains a story of hope. If you enjoy reading about other cultures or are simply seeking a good story, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of When the Moon is Low as soon as possible (yes, it is just that good!).


Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2015 Book 117: THE BONE TREE Review

The Bone Tree (Penn Cage #5) by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062311115 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311146 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M70YWKK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company


Greg Iles continues the electrifying story begun in his smash New York Times bestseller Natchez Burning in this highly anticipated second installment of an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.

Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancee, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage–who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him–is either to make a devil’s bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”

The Bone Tree is an explosive, action-packed thriller full of twisting intrigue and deadly secrets, a tale that explores the conflicts and casualties that result when the darkest truths of American history come to light. It puts us inside the skin of a noble man who has always fought for justice–now finally pushed beyond his limits.

Just how far will Penn Cage, the hero we thought we knew, go to protect those he loves?



The Bone Tree is the fifth book to feature lawyer-turned author-turned politician Penn Cage and the second book in the trilogy that began with Natchez Burning. The underlying premise in both books is the discovery of the truth about a series of racially motivated/civil rights murders, mutilations, and rapes that occurred in the 1960s at the hands of the Double Eagles. One victim of this groups’ violence was the Dr. Tom Cage’s black nurse, Viola Turner. Mrs. Turner was raped not once but twice at the hands of the Double Eagles and her brother was viciously murdered by them. Fast forward forty years and Viola Turner returned to Mississippi to die, even though she was warned to never return. Although dying of cancer, Ms. Turner is being treated by her former boss (and lover), Dr. Tom Cage. When Viola Turner does die, her son Lincoln Turner is sure it is murder and accuses Dr. Cage as the murderer. Now if you think that’s not enough to deal with, in the background we find two different journalists attempting to uncover the dirty truths of the racial murders back in the 1960s and locate the infamous “Bone Tree”, and then the FBI shows up with information that may link the Double Eagles and the local mafia with the murders of not only President Kennedy, but also Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Bone Tree begins pretty much just where Natchez Burning ends. The action takes place over the course of only four days, but there is a lot crammed into those four days. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good people that are killed as a result of the journalistic and police investigations. The journalists, FBI, and Penn Cage must all work around corrupt police forces, corrupt businessmen, and, of course, the corrupt members of the Double Eagles who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their legacy and way of life. The bad guys are willing to bribe, threaten, or kill anyone that gets in their way, and sadly Penn Cage is pushed to the point where he is willing to not only bend but break the rules to arrive at the truth.

Just as with Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree shows that we can never really know someone, whether it’s our parents or spouse. People keep secrets. Some of those secrets are kept in fear of retaliation and some are kept out of shame. Both Penn and Tom Cage are trying to come to grips with this idea as Tom Cage fights to survive to see another day and Penn fights to protect his family. The Bone Tree also shows just how far a good man is willing to go to protect loved ones. There’s a lot going on in The Bone Tree, but somehow the 816 pages didn’t feel like 816 pages. Yes, this is a long and involved read, but that’s primarily because there is so much going on and there are a lot of characters and action intersecting in the main plot and subplots. I wish I could say I read this in one sitting, but even I have to sleep. This was another amazing suspense-thriller by Mr. Iles that I didn’t want to put down, even when I could barely keep my eyes closed. Are all the questions raised in Natchez Burning answered? Are the bad guys arrested and held accountable for their current and past misdeeds? I could tell you, but I’ll just say read the book to find out. If you enjoy well-written and intricately plotted suspense thrillers or if you’ve read Natchez Burning, then you’ll want to grab a copy of The Bone Tree ASAP. I recommend waiting until the weekend to read this as you won’t want to put it down. Alternatively, you could simply take a few days personal leave to read this book. What, you haven’t read Natchez Burning? Okay, I’m in shock, especially since I told you (okay, strongly suggested) to read it last year. What are you waiting for? Now you’ll need to take a week off so you can read both Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree. I plan on taking a week off in a few months just to reread both of these books . . . perhaps I’ll just take a week or more to reread all of the books featuring Penn Cage. 

Just to add a little more excitement, Natchez Burning, is on its way to becoming a cable series with Sony and Amazon studies. Read more about this series here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2015 Book 90: THE POCKET WIFE Review

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford
ISBN: 9780062362858 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062362872 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L7X6ZQC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow


An amazing talent makes her debut with this stylish psychological thriller—with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep—in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend during a breakdown.

Dana Catrell is horrified to learn she was the last person to see her neighbor Celia alive. Suffering from a devastating mania, a result of her bipolar disorder, Dana finds that there are troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death. As evidence starts to point in her direction, Dana struggles to clear her name before her own demons win out.

Is murder on her mind – or is it all in her head?

The closer she comes to piecing together shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again? A story of marriage, murder and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge. 



Dana Catrell has a history of manic episodes due to bipolar disorder. Her husband and son know that she’s in a manic phase and are encouraging her to see her therapist. Dana knows that she’s close to spiraling out of control, but she also thinks that she just needs to find certain answers before she commits to treatment. Dana needs to find out if she murdered her neighbor and whether or not her husband is having an affair. 

The Pocket Wife begins with Dana waking up with little memory of her afternoon. She hears a siren and discovers an ambulance at her neighbor Celia’s home. Dana knows that she was at Celia’s home earlier in the day, but she doesn’t remember coming home or going to sleep. Finding out that Celia was murdered causes Dana to question whether or not she’s capable of extreme violence. The primary reason behind this thinking is that Celia has indicated that Dana’s husband was having an affair and the evidence was a cell-phone picture. These memories are what send Dana off on a haphazard quest for the truth. But will searching for answers to these questions give Dana peace of mind or send her off the deep end.

I found The Pocket Wife to be a rather fast-paced and enjoyable albeit disturbing read. Dana’s thoughts and actions jump around quite a bit due to her mania and, as a result, the story jumps around. Is Dana paranoid or is someone sending her threatening notes? Is she seeing things or was there a person in a hoodie in her backyard? It’s difficult to separate fiction from reality since she’s also hearing the voice of her mother and her Saint Christopher statue is winking and nodding at her. Her husband Peter recognizes that she needs help but doesn’t really do anything to help her. There were times when I felt just as unhinged as Dana simply because it felt as if I was falling down the rabbit hole with her. Ms. Crawford does an incredible job at portraying the behavior of a person in a manic phase of bipolar disorder, down to the notion that “I don’t need/want medication” way of thinking. If you enjoy reading psychological suspense thrillers then you’ll definitely want to read The Pocket Wife.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2015 Book 88: MY FATHER’S WIVES Review

My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenberg
ISBN: 9780062325860 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062333025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HU5NE9M (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow


Jonathan Sweetwater has been blessed with money, a fulfilling career, great kids and Claire, his smart, gorgeous, sophisticated wife. But there is one thing Jonathan never had: a relationship with his father.

Percival Sweetwater III has been absent from his son’s life since Jonathan was nine years old. A five-term U.S. senator, now dead, Percy was beloved by presidents, his constituents, and women alike, especially the five women who married him after Jonathan’s mother. 

Jonathan hasn’t thought about Percy or the hole he left in his life for years. Dedicated to Claire and his family, he’s nothing like his serial monogamist father. But then Jonathan discovers evidence that everything in his marriage may not be as perfect as he thought. Hurt and uncertain what to do, he knows that the only way to move forward is to go back.

On this quest for understanding—about himself, about manhood, about marriage—Jonathan decides to track down his father’s five ex-wives. His journey will take him from cosmopolitan cities to the mile-high mountains to a tropical island—and ultimately back to confront the one thing Jonathan has that his father never did: home.



Jonathan Sweetwater seems to have it all: a great job, a perfect family, and a wonderful marriage. His childhood wasn’t perfect as he hadn’t seen his father since his ninth birthday. His mother was wonderful and supportive and his father, although a powerful political figure, had been married six times. After coming home early one day and witnessing an event that has the ability to tear apart his “perfect” life, Jonathan goes on a quest to find out more about his father.

Imagine arriving home early from work and seeing someone that looks like your wife and another man getting dressed after a tryst in your guest room. Do you confront your wife and ask what is going on or do you ignore it? This is exactly the situation Jonathan finds himself in when he arrives from work early one day before going out-of-town on business. Most people would either ask what is going on, hire a detective to find out what’s going on or jump to conclusions and end the relationship damn the circumstances. Jonathan does hire a detective to find out what’s going on, but he also decides that now is the perfect time to learn more about his deceased father, the great senator, Percival Sweetwater III.

Mixed in with business trips over the course of a two-week period, Jonathan meets with his mother and his father’s other wives. Ostensibly these trips are to find out more about his father, but the more Jonathan learns about his father the more we realize he is trying to find out if he is anything like his father and striving for something that cannot be obtained, perfection.

Although I enjoyed reading My Father’s Wives and found it to be a rather fast-paced read, I did find it be somewhat predictable (no I won’t give you the exact details but there is quite a bit of foreshadowing in Jonathan’s interactions with one other character). Jonathan’s quest for more information may be a bit more literal than most, but it is interesting to read about his struggle to learn more about his father and in turn about himself. I found most of the characters to be completely realistic and reasonably well developed. I wish the author had placed a bit more attention on Jonathan’s wife Claire and who she was as a wife and mother (we learn quite a bit about Claire before their marriage but not enough about who she is now), but this deficiency doesn’t detract from the overall story. There aren’t any bad guys in this story, just humans showing varying degrees of human weaknesses. If you’re interested in reading about a modern quest for truth, then you’ll definitely want to read My Father’s Wives.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Guest Post: Lou Berney, author of THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE



The Book Diva’s Reads is very pleased to host a visit from Lou Berney, author of The Long and Faraway Gone. Mr. Berney will share some thoughts on finding the right way to write the story.




When I sat down to start writing my third novel, The Long and Faraway Gone, I felt pretty confident. I’d already written two novels, after all, and I hadn’t died during the process. But then, a couple of weeks into my new book, I felt like I was going to die. I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

My first two novels, you see, were fast, twisty crime capers in the vein of Elmore Leonard. The Long and Faraway Gone, though, was very different. It was a mystery – three mysteries, to be exact – and I’d never written one of those before.

So what did I do? Exactly. I re-read (and re-re-read) all the writers I love who know what they’re doing when it comes to mystery. I started with Raymond Chandler and worked my way up to Laura Lippman, Kate Atkinson, and Tana French (among many others).

At some point, during that process, it clicked for me – that there’s a simple distinction between two different kinds of storytelling. In capers and thrillers and suspense, the question that keeps the reader turning the page is usually this: What happens next? When a mystery is central to the narrative, though, the question is very different. It’s: What already happened?

As a writer, looking ahead (What happens next?) has always come naturally to me. But if I had tried to write a mystery that way, it would have been a disaster. It had been a disaster so far. I understood now I had to go back, toss out all my old outlines, and start from scratch. I had to know how the novel ended before I could begin it. How would my private investigator know if a clue was important if I didn’t know it?

So that was the big – and simple – breakthrough I had with this novel. And, yes, it’s something I probably should have already known, having been a writer for twenty years: Every story is different, and you have to find the right way to tell it.




Author Bio:

Lou Berney is the author of two previous novels—Whiplash River, nominated for an Edgar Award, and Gutshot Straight, nominated for a Barry Award-as well as the collection The Road to Bobby Joe and Other Stories. A television and film screenwriter, he also teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.

 

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About the Book:

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
ISBN:  9780062292438 (paperback)
ISBN:  9780062292445 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FOPS3XW (Kindle version)
Publisher: William Morrow & Co.
Publication Date: February 10, 2015

With the compelling narrative tension and psychological complexity of the works of Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Kate Atkinson, and Michael Connelly, Edgar Award-nominee Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is a smart, fiercely compassionate crime story that explores the mysteries of memory and the impact of violence on survivors—and the lengths they will go to find the painful truth of the events that scarred their lives.

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As fate brings these damaged souls together, their obsessive quests spark sexual currents neither can resist. But will their shared passion and obsession heal them, or push them closer to the edge? Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened, that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free—or ultimately destroy them?



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Book Showcase: THE IDEA OF HIM by Holly Peterson

Have you ever wanted someone, something, so badly to be true that you’d overlook every shred of evidence to the contrary?

Enter Wade Crawford – the dazzling, urbane, hotshot magazine editor of Meter. With gorgeous hazel eyes, strong shoulders, a chiseled face, and long blondish hair, he was everything that Allie ever thought she wanted in a man and a husband. Until she realized he was anything but. 




The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson
ISBN: 9780062283108 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062283115 (ebook)
ASIN: B00DB3D3A2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Mary Crawford is a once aspiring screenwriter turned successful public relations executive, mother of two young children, and wife of a hotshot magazine editor whose power base spans the worlds of finance, fashion, culture, entertainment, and society. At 34, she finds herself at a crossroads: between the office and her home, her life has become an endless rotation of people pleasing-whether pulling rabbits out of hats for her mogul boss, entertaining advertisers and phony A-listers for her husband’s magazine, or making elaborate costumes for children’s school plays. At least, that is, until she meets a head turning, traffic stopping beauty at the bar of the famed Four Seasons Grill Room-where many of the novel’s players regularly convene-and shortly thereafter finds the same woman and her husband in an apparently compromising position in her own apartment.

And so begins the story of two very different women bound by similar missions-to uncover the crimes and betrayals of various men in their lives and finally put their own interests front and center. For Mary this ultimately means leaving a husband who is ideal in theory but not in practice, and deciding to risk security for self-fulfillment and a new life on her own. Like so many women, Mary fell for the man she married when she was in her twenties only to realize years later that it wasn’t him she fell for as much as it was the idea of him-the idea of a savior who would protect and provide and ferry her from her past into the future. But the guy who seemed so right at the time turned out to be nothing more than a fantasy.




Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER 8 PULLED TOWARDS THE EDGE

While he was coming to quick terms with the idea that he’d finally found an attractive woman who cared about his world of nonstop news and gossip, right away, I knew that I too certainly liked the idea of this Wade Crawford man before me. He fit a need. His enthusiasm for life and work would soften my losses: my father in a plane to the ravages of an untimely blizzard and James to a burning obsession to save every child on the other side of the world. 

New York glimmered around us that night, the way it can when spontaneity falls perfectly into place. After dinner, Wade escorted me to two downtown parties filled with cigarette smoke and writers. Someday I hoped to be like his writer friends who wrote long magazine stories and books that they’d mined from their souls. It was clear from every angle that Wade’s non-stop joie-de-vivre was more than contagious. He was sheer fun, and full of the possibility of escape, of renewal even. 

He dropped me at my stoop at dawn, kissing me tenderly on the lips and disappearing into the early morning glow. As I watched him bounce down the street, all I could think was that he had Daddy’s electricity and confidence. And that suited me just fine.   


Read more from The Idea of Him by clicking here 



Meet the author:


Holly Peterson is the author of the New York Times and international best seller, The Manny. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and editor-at-large for Tina Brown’s Talk magazine. She was also an Emmy Award–winning producer for ABC News for more than a decade, where she covered global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications.





Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

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