Category Archives: Book Clubs

Silent Sentry…

Silent SentrySilent Sentry by Theresa Rizzo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This new suspenseful crime novel by Theresa Rizzo was just released and I found it a definite winner! The theme of “family takes care of family” is prevalent throughout this story that focuses on a developing relationship between Dr. Joe Scarfili and Gianna Donnatelli, whose large and wealthy Italian families have been best friends for years. But Joe is seven years older than Gianna and had been married while Gianna had a huge crush on him when she was still an awkward student.

They meet up again under less than ideal circumstances, after Gianna, a nurse and computer whiz who is housesitting at her father’s home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, surprises an intruder who attacks and injures her before leaving without a trace. Joe hasn’t seen Gianna in years and doesn’t even recognize her as she’s being wheeled through the ER, until he hears her name and stops in to check on her. In order to be released from the hospital, she needs to be checked on during the night and has no one who could stay with her so Joe offers his guest room.

As they get to know one another again, Joe finds out that Gianna has developed cutting edge medical computer programming that her company will be taking public soon and, if used in hospitals worldwide, could be worth billions of dollars.  And Gianna learns that Joe’s former wife was gunned down in front of their home in an apparent gang-related shooting, an event that makes him leery of giving his heart again and of Gianna’s home and charitable work in the poorest of Detroit’s neighborhoods.

There are lots of twists and turns and intriguing questions involving attacks and a car bomb that seem to be directed at Gianna, but could be meant for Joe or even Gianna’s father, who has been in Italy on business and visiting her brother, Paul. And as Joe and Gianna become closer, they try to figure out who might be involved in this complex mystery of possible corporate espionage, including the Italian Mafia, the Russian Mob or even some of their own family members. And trust me, I don’t think you’ll guess the ending, which opens up another slew of ethical questions…

This is the third book of Ms. Rizzo’s that I’ve read and it’s as intriguing and well done as her others. I received an advance copy from Theresa Rizzo in exchange for an honest review.

Get a copy:

The Golden Son Blog Tour and Review…

In THE GOLDEN SON Shilpi Somaya Gowda has penned an unforgettable story of family, love, tradition, and identity, in which two childhood friends—a young doctor and a newly married bride—must balance the expectations of culture and family with the desires of their own hearts.  Available in the U.S. on Febuary 1, 2016.

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The Golden SonThe Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so pleased to be offered the chance to review an advance copy of this new book by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of the critically acclaimed Secret Daughter. Her second novel is a wonderfully compelling contemporary story of two childhood friends, Anil and Leena, from a small village in India, who grow up and grow apart as their lives take very different paths.

Studious Anil Patel is the oldest child in his family, the golden son, who, in trying to fulfill his father’s expectations, becomes a doctor and goes to the U.S. for a grueling residency at a Dallas, Texas hospital.  The experience leaves him both exhilarated at the modern technology and the freedoms being in a foreign country allows and feeling guilty and bewildered about succumbing to the temptations of a first love.

Even when his father dies, he has to defy the rules to take enough time to go home for the funeral.  While in India, he reluctantly assumes his late father’s role of an arbitrator for the villagers when problems arise.  Anil also has the chance to see his childhood friend, Leena, and is shocked at what has transpired in her life.

Leena and Anil were close as children, but when it became unseemly for boys and girls to spend time together anymore, even as friends, they went their separate ways. Leena and her girlfriends dreamt of the day they would marry and have their own families.  And before long, Leena is married to a husband chosen by her family.  She moves into his family’s household and finds that all her hopes of love and romance and making a family with this man are dashed.  Eventually she chooses a path that not only affects her but has repercussions for her entire family.

Over the ensuing years, Anil and Leena’s paths cross again as they are forced to try to reconcile the old ways and traditions of their village upbringing with the modern world around them.  This is a beautifully written, bittersweet story that holds no real answers as to what is the right path for each, and reflects the difficulty of balancing the traditional culture of putting the needs of family first with the modern ways of making one’s own choices.

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SHILPI SOMAYA GOWDA’S debut novel Secret Daughter is a New York Times bestseller, selling more than 1 million copies since its release.  Already published in Canada, THE GOLDEN SON (US publication February 1, 2016; ISBN 9780062391452; $26.99) has been a runaway best-seller, hitting all the major lists for five consecutive weeks, and spending two at the #1 slot on the Globe and Mail list.  Set in India and the US, THE GOLDEN SON is a tale of friendship, coming of age, and traditional values versus modern freedoms—in a compelling and timely exploration of the struggles and triumphs of modern immigrants.


Shilpi Somaya Gowdaap1 (1).JPGABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Her fiction debut, Secret Daughter, was published in 2010 and became an international bestseller, translated into over 20 languages, and selling more than 1 million copies worldwide. Shilpi holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. Shilpi is also a mom, and a pottery and chess enthusiast. She lives in California with her husband and children.

For more information please visit her on the web at:; Tweet her @ShilpiGowda; or look her up on Facebook at “Shilpi Somaya Gowda.”


“A stellar follow-up to Gowda’s excellent debut. Vivid, heart-warming, and absorbing, THE GOLDEN SON succeeds as an immigrant’s tale and love story wrapped into one because of the beautiful writing and compelling characters that illuminate universal truths of loss and identity.”    — Heidi Durrow, New York Times-bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky


Heartsong Cottage

Heartsong Cottage (Eternity Springs, #10)Heartsong Cottage by Emily March
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I love revisiting Eternity Springs, where there’s always a gently magical and healing atmosphere. This book is wonderfully written, but a little darker and sadder than some of Ms. March’s stories. Just be forewarned…

Daniel Garrett was a police officer, happily married and with a young son, when the unthinkable happened ten years earlier. Now alone and lonely and so tired of working as a private detective searching for missing children, he comes to town for a friend’s wedding. There he meets Shannon O’Toole, another lonely soul who lost her fiancee in a fall that she suspects wasn’t an accident. She runs the local pub and renovates properties in Eternity Springs, always afraid she may have to move on.

After meeting at the wedding, Daniel and Shannon are drawn together, sensing the loneliness and neediness in each other. But after one sizzling night together, both pull away, afraid at first of becoming involved with someone.

When Daniel comes back to town, he’s working an undercover assignment and Shannon misunderstands his situation and angrily decides he’s not the man she thought he was. And while trying to convince her of the truth, Daniel starts to suspect that Shannon has some secrets of her own.

This book is number ten in the Eternity Springs series and although it revisits some wonderfully familiar characters, it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one.  But, just saying, you might want to read them all!

Deep, rich and divine…

Christmas ChocolatChristmas Chocolat by Kate Defrise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is like a luscious, multi-layered dessert with rich buttercream filling and Belgian chocolate ganache. A complex, delicious story about a Belgian family, three sisters and one brother, who’ve been summoned — not asked — by their father to return to their family home in Philadelphia to celebrate Christmas this year, something they haven’t done since they were children.

Philippe Arnaud, the very elegant but emotionally stunted patriarch of the family, devastated by the loss of his wife, Camille, many years ago, commands rather than communicates with his fabulously artistic children, none of whom feels they can meet his lofty expectations.

Jacqueline Arnaud, the oldest sister, is an opera singer and the only one who still lives in Belgium with her husband, Laurent. She has beauty, a golden voice, a seemingly charmed life, but never children, having suffered through devastating miscarriages. She loves her European life and career and has always celebrated Christmas in Belgium with her maternal grandmother and other Belgian relatives and friends. But more than anything, she doesn’t want to return to the States to see her family without a baby in her arms.

Next is Magali or, as most people call her, Gali Arnaud. She’s married to a lawyer, Leo, and lives in Philadelphia. She is the accidental author of a series of popular cookbooks for beginners, even though she has always secretly planned to write the great American novel. She and Leo have two young daughters and Gali seems to live the life most of us could relate to, a harried mother cleaning up spilled Rice Krispies, bemoaning her extra weight, trying to manage a household and a career and always feeling like she doesn’t quite measure up to her older sister or her father’s expectations. She is passionate about cooking and baking, which she does to excess whenever she is stressed (along with throwing back a glass of wine or three). There are several recipes included in the book that sound divine, although I have not had time to try them yet. Gali laments that she is not the star, not the baby and not the boy, just the middle child, and I can certainly relate!

Collette is the baby sister and she has the loftiest education, with degrees in both English lit and French, but has a rather dead end adjunct professor job at a university in San Diego and a deadbeat boyfriend who keeps leaving her, but never stays gone — though he’s left her at the alter once already! Collette knows her father wanted her to be a writer, but her real passion is fabric and fashion, and she combines her love of language and sewing by creating unique clothing with embroidered quotes. She finds herself in a fragile new relationship with the gloriously handsome Italian Dante, whose accent is to die for, but whose story seemed a little difficult to accept. But what do I know about cat burglers?

Then there is the elusive brother, Art, whom we hear about but don’t meet right away. He is a photojournalist and has been traveling — or running away from something — a great deal of his life. He stays in touch with Gali or Collette the most, never having been close to his father or Jacqueline. In fact, when he does arrive in town in time to spend the holidays, Gali and Leo offer him a room at their house as his temporary base.

The Christmas Day breakfast at the family home where long-held secrets are revealed, though shocking for the siblings to hear, is only a small part of this book. The real story is about the rich fabric of which most families are comprised, with all the interwoven relationships and events, some wonderful, some heartbreaking, but all that form the basis of our lives.

The main and supporting characters are all beautifully developed and have such rich back stories that I felt as though I could picture most of them in my head, which is exactly what I feel a good book should do. (And then when the movie comes out I am invariably disappointed if the actors are not whom I would have chosen, LOL.)

This is a delicious book and a must read for book clubs!

How far would you go to save someone you love?

The Lives Between UsThe Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a lovely book that is heartbreaking and sad and romantic and wonderful all at once. In a sense, it’s reflective of life in general. Reporter Skye Kendall has always had a special bond with her 9-year-old niece. When Nikki dies of a heart ailment that possibly could have been reversed by a stem cell transplant, Skye bitterly attacks Senator Edward Hastings for his outspoken moral and legal views against the use of embryonic stem cells. Even though Skye’s job involves writing human interest stories, she deliberately takes every chance to discredit the senator and his beliefs in her stories.

Mark Dutton is Edward’s best friend and he’s fascinated and bewildered by the lovely reporter who keeps finding ways to write unflattering things about his friend. After meeting Skye and eventually hearing about her niece, he begins to understand why she feels the way she does, but eventually he is sure she will come to see Edward’s views and accept them. If, of course, he can bring himself to tell her that he’s been close to the Hastings family for years.  The romance between Mark and Skye is fun and fabulous, but there is also a rich and complex storyline involving Edward Hastings and his wife and son, Mark Dutton and his company, and even Nikki’s parents, Skye’s sister and brother-in-law.

This is a fascinating look at the stem cell embryonic/cord controversy and a story that raises many questions, i.e., no matter how you feel about the debate, how far would you go to save a loved one’s life?  Would you be willing to compromise your principles, manipulate the truth as you knew it, or would you be willing to watch someone you love die without taking every possible step?

I found this to be a wonderfully thoughtful and well-written book that would be a fabulous choice for book clubs to read and discuss.