Monday, November 23, 2015

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a fast-paced psychological thriller that takes place in a creepy setting with creepy characters. Out of touch for years, Nora gets invited to her former best friend, Clare’s, hen party (bachelorette party for us Americans). The party, held in a glass house in the middle of a very dark, dark wood begins to take twists and turns that are even colder and darker than the setting. Waking up in the hospital, Nora begins to piece together what happened in the glass house. She must remember the final details in order to save herself and others. Together, Nora, Clare, Flo, Nina, Tom, and Melanie, make up an interesting cast of characters for sure, but is one a murderer?
Reviewed by Jennifer Harden

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Missing Kennedy by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff

I have always been captivated by the Kennedy’s lives and enjoy reading about them.  Knowing what happened to Rosemary has saddened me at times and I wondered what her life would have been like had she not had a lobotomy.  This book is a two-fold story.  It takes you through Rosemary’s life both before and after her operation and it also walks you through the life of Sister Paulus, Rosemary’s caregiver.  I have always thought Joe Kennedy was a hard man, forbidding his family from seeing Rosemary, but I have softened that view a bit now.   

The stigma with mental illness was horrendous in the early part of the 20th century and it is scary to think of all the misdiagnosis and terrible treatment many victims endured.   I really admire that Eunice, Rosemary’s sister, founded the Special Olympics and turned her family’s tragedy into something positive for others.     

Reading about Sister Paulus was intriguing as well.  To have such conviction in knowing what path she wanted her life to take and then taking it is quite admirable.  This was a very interesting read and I recommend it to anyone who is fascinated by other people’s stories.    

Reviewed by Brenda Rodammer

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours by Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis with Robin Gaby Fisher

This is the story of Kaitlin Roig, a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  On December 14, 2012 she crammed 16 children and herself into a small classroom bathroom, saving their lives when a shooter entered the school and killed 20 children and six adults.  

Kaitlin was an adopted child who grew up in a loving and supportive environment with strong values and unfailing belief in God.  From an early age she knew she wanted to become a teacher.  She was thrilled when she got her dream job as a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook.  

Kaitlin was a devoted and dedicated teacher who wanted her students not just to succeed academically, but to become kind, compassionate people.  The students loved and trusted her implicitly, so when they heard the sound of gunshots and Kaitlin urged the students into their tiny bathroom, they followed without a qualm.  Her description of the actual event is compelling and chilling beyond words.

What followed after the shooting were dark days and nights of depression and fear for Kaitlin as she relived the terror and tried to understand why it had happened.  It was in a therapy session that she suddenly realized that for her, healing could only come from action, and that the act of giving is what would allow her to survive and thrive.  She came to understand that while we cannot control all the bad things that may happen to us, we can control how we respond to them.  Kaitlin chose hope.

Wanting to bring this spirit of giving to others, Kaitlin, no longer a classroom teacher, formed a non-profit organization.  Classes 4 Classes is a website that connects children who need classroom materials with children who want to work to provide them.  Since it launched in April 2013, Classes 4 Classes has served more than a thousand students in ten states, and has been featured in many major publications.  Kaitlin is a sought-after motivational and inspirational speaker who continues to carry her message to audiences throughout the country - when you face your darkest hour, choose hope.
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Reviewed by Kate Tesdell

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston

Gounded firmly in the darkly superstitious Welsh countryside, Brackston weaves a lovely romantic tale.  Never speaking a word and frightened by strange powers she does not fully understand or know how to control, Morgana Pritchard is beginning to arouse suspicions among the townspeople.  It is only after her fearful mother marries her off to Cai, a widow cattle drover from the far hills, that Morgana begins to realize the extent and the purpose of her gift. As Cai and Morgana’s love story unfolds and accusations of witchery begin to swirl about, Morgana learns to both harness and respect her magic blood in order to protect both herself and her beloved husband from an insidious enemy.
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Reviewed by Kimberly White