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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love by Joseph Luzzi

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

In the aftermath of a heartbreaking tragedy, a scholar and writer uses Dante’s Divine Comedy to shepherd him through the dark wood of grief and mourning—a rich and emotionally resonant memoir of suffering, hope, love, and the power of literature to inspire and heal the most devastating loss.

Where do we turn when we lose everything? Joseph Luzzi found the answer in the opening of The Divine Comedy: “In the middle of our life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood.”

When Luzzi’s pregnant wife was in a car accident—and died forty-five minutes after giving birth to their daughter, Isabel—he finds himself a widower and first-time father at the same moment. While he grieves and cares for his infant daughter, miraculously delivered by caesarean before his wife passed, he turns to Dante’s Divine Comedy for solace.

In a Dark Wood tells the story of how Dante helps the author rebuild his life. He follows the structure of The Divine Comedy, recounting the Inferno of his grief, the Purgatory of healing and raising Isabel on his own, and then Paradise of the rediscovery of love.

my thoughts:

Wow! Talk about the perfect literary memoir!  In a Dark Wood is both emotionally and academically compelling. This book takes a truly unique look at the themes of loss and love via Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy.  Mired deep in grief, Luzzi finds solace in the opening line, "In the middle of our life's journey, I found myself in a dark wood."  Having just lost his wife, who gave birth to their daughter right before she died, Luzzi was most definitely in a place of darkness.  How could he not be?  He became a father and widow on the same day.  One can only imagine the flood of emotions piercing through Luzzi that horrible day.  Its beyond heartbreaking.  Family and friends surrounded him and provided the love and support he needed to get through this hellish nightmare. As he struggled to process everything, he found himself turning to the written word for solace.  He was living in hell and found himself thinking of Dante (the Italian poet he'd studied and written about for years.)  The words from Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy, spoke to him.  He allowed the words to sit and settle and rattle around in his head, where he could parse through them slowly and fully grasp their meaning (or at least what they meant to him in that moment).  Yes, he would still grieve, but he would not surrender to the sadness that enshrouded him.  He knew that he had to climb out of this hell - not just for himself, but for his daughter as well.  And so he did - one day at a time.

In a Dark Wood is a powerful and beautifully written story.  A combination of the personal and the literary, this book is a mesmerizing read.   I found myself crying one minute and then being awed the next when Luzzi the Dante scholar would begin analyzing and applying The Divine Comedy to his own personal hell.   Exploring the concepts of man and father not only displayed Luzzi's academic mind in action, but also reminded us how much he was struggling with his new role as a dad. I was fascinated and thrilled at the clarity, strength, and hope gained through this poem. This book was truly a thought-provoking read.  I absolutely loved  In a Dark Wood and would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone looking for a great new read (especially fans of nonfiction and academia.) 


Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: In a Dark Wood
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, May 18, 2015

American Wife: Love, War, Faith, and Renewal by Taya Kyle with Jim Defelice

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

In early 2013, Taya Kyle and her husband Chris were the happiest they ever had been. Their decade-long marriage had survived years of war that took Chris, a U.S. Navy SEAL, away from Taya and their two children for agonizingly long stretches while he put his life on the line in nearly every major battle of the Iraq War. After struggling to readjust to life out of the military, Chris had found new purpose in redirecting his lifelong dedication to service to supporting veterans and their families. Their love had deepened, and, most special of all, their family was whole, finally.

Then, the unthinkable. On February 2, 2013, Chris was killed while attempting to help a troubled vet. The life they fought so hard to build together was shattered. In an instant, Taya became a single parent of two. A widow. A young woman facing the rest of her life without the man she loved.

Chris and Taya’s remarkable story has captivated millions through Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster, Academy Award-nominated film American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as Chris and Sienna Miller as Taya, and because of Chris’s bestselling memoir, in which Taya contributed passages that formed the book’s emotional core. Now, with trusted collaborator Jim DeFelice, Taya writes in never-before-told detail about the hours, days, and months after his shocking death when grief threatened to overwhelm her. Then there were wearying battles to protect her husband’s legacy and reputation.

And yet throughout, friendship, family, and a deepening faith were lifelines that sustained her and the kids when the sorrow became too much. Two years after her husband’s death, Taya has found renewed meaning and connection to Chris by advancing their shared mission of “serving those who serve others,” particularly military and first-responder families. She and the children now are embracing a new future, one that honors the past but also looks forward with hope, gratitude, and joy.

my thoughts:

I have to admit that I'm still reading this book.  It arrived early evening on Friday and I wasn't able to start reading until Saturday afternoon.  Normally, I'm a fast reader and would have gobbled this book up in a few hours, but this isn't a book that you devour in one sitting.  Nope, its a book that you take your time reading, so that you can let its truths sink in.  This is Taya Kyle's story about her life, her family, her marriage, her loss, and her strength to move forward.  Married to "The Legend" Chris Kyle (author of American Sniper), Taya suffered a huge tragedy when her husband's life was cut short by the hands of a troubled man ( a fellow marine ) whom he was trying to help.  Chris had come back from his tours of duty a changed man - he struggled to fit in with his family and every day life.  He found that working with other soldiers who had experienced similar struggles was his calling and had begun to do just that.  Unfortunately, he found himself helping a man who was seriously mentally ill and wound up getting killed as a result.  A truly tragic death.

In American Wife, we get to learn about Taya and what happened before and after the death of her beloved husband.  From the preface alone, we can feel the love she had for Chris.  The way she recounts that fateful day and how ordinary it had been.  A typical family attending their kids' sporting event and cheering them on.  Dad heads out to meet up with a friend and the new guy he was going to try and talk with (see if he could recommend some names of places/people who could help him), while Taya was taking the kids to a friend's and the mall.  A normal Saturday.  Stopping by the house on her way to the mall, she runs into her husband packing up his truck for the meeting.  They kiss goodbye and tell each other "I love you."  And then the world turns upside down for Taya and her kids.  I cried when I read about their last day and the information she found out after - like, just how mentally unstable Eddie Routh was that he had already threatened to kill his family and had held up a girlfriend at gunpoint.  Its heartbreaking to read how a man who was attempting to offer his help suffered for his kind actions.  Its awful how quickly someone can be with us one minute and then gone the next.  I couldn't help but think about my best friend who passed away in college.  One night we are talking about decorating our new apartment for the summer and the next morning I'm waking up to the news that she's dead.  It feels surreal one moment and then like a nightmare the next.  I can't even begin to imagine what Taya felt losing her husband to a madman.  Through her book we get to know a strong, independent woman, military wife, mom, daughter, and friend.  I'm more than  halfway through the book and completely engrossed in learning about such a brave and honest woman.  I plan on reading more tonight.

American Wife is a book that I would definitely recommend.  It is a must-read for fans of memoirs and anyone interested in learning more about the Kyle family.  This book offers great insight into the lives of military families and the ups and downs they face; along with a touching account of the love and loss experienced by Taya Kyle and the ways in which she was finally able to move forward with her life.  A truly emotional and heartfelt read. 

Here's the schedule for the TLC Book Tour for: American Wife
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Love Is Red: A Novel by Sophie Jaff

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Katherine Emerson was born to fulfill a dark prophecy centuries in the making, but she isn’t aware that this future awaits. However, there is one man who knows the truth: A killer stalking the women of New York, a monster the media dubs the “Sickle Man” because of the way he turns his victims into canvasses for his mesmerizing, twisted art.

Unleashed upon Manhattan after lying dormant for centuries, the Sickle Man kills to harvest the precious hues of his victims. As his palette grows, so too does his power. Every death brings him closer to the one color, and the one woman, he must possess at any cost.

While the city hunts the Sickle Man, Katherine must decide what to do about two men who have unexpectedly entered her life: handsome and personable David, and alluring yet aloof Sael. Though she’s becoming increasingly torn between them, how well does she really know them? And why is she suddenly plagued by disturbing visions?

my thoughts:

Riveting, dark, and fantastical.  Love Is Red is a terrific murder mystery filled with thrills, chills, and plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing.  Told via alternating perspectives - Katherine and the Sickle Man (aka the murderer) - this book takes you inside the mind of the murderer called The Sickle Man. Let me just say, his mind is creepy and fascinating.  The Sickle Man associates emotions with colors and the more women he kills, the more colors he is able to absorb (so to speak).  Of course, these women he kills are all just leading up to his true destiny - Katherine.  Yep, The Sickle Man is after one lady and apparently its in the cards (or book).  Katherine has a destiny of her own that involves The Sickle Man, but she doesn't know it yet.  She's just a normal gal living in the Big Apple trying to figure out the online dating world.  She's just met David, who seems really nice and sweet.  But then there's Sael, who is arrogant and pretty much the anti-David.  Hmm...which guy should she choose?  The only problem is that one of them may just be The Sickle Man - ack! Talk about dating disasters.

Love Is Red is the first in a trilogy, which means that the ending in this book is really just the beginning.  And I can't wait to find out what happens next!  This book is truly a treat to read.  It is a great mix of suspense, mystery, romance, and the supernatural all rolled into one.  The characters are unforgettable and the story is unputdownable!  I absolutely LOVED this book!  I would happily recommend Love Is Red to fans of murder mystery novels - you will be so glad you read this book! 

To find out more, here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Love Is Red
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children: A Novel by Sarah McCoy

Displaying The Mapmaker's Children.jpg
(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)


about book:

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

my thoughts:

The Mapmaker's Children was my first Sarah McCoy novel and I absolutely LOVED it!  The story was spellbinding, beautifully written, and the perfect blend of history and fiction.  I found myself staying up til the wee hours reading about Eden and Sarah - two women connected by a mystery and the past.  Talk about riveting!

Told via dual narratives, this story is the perfect blend of past and present.  Sarah (daughter of famed abolitionist John Brown) finds herself barren following a horrific bout of dysentery.  Crushed that she will be unable to have children she chooses to devote her life to a great cause - the Underground Railroad.  Blessed with the talent to draw, she is assigned the role of mapmaker - a dangerous, but extremely important job.  Through her story we learn about her father (who was sentenced to death for his raid on Harper's Ferry), her family, and her role as an abolitionist.  McCoy does a wonderful job of providing us with rich historical details surrounding the time period (1800s), the people, and the difficulties Sarah faced as an abolitionist.  I found myself utterly captivated by her story and eager to keep reading about her.  As for Eden, she lives in the present day and also faces problems with bearing children.  She has moved into a new home with her husband, who has just brought a puppy home for them to raise - its his attempt to make his wife less depressed about their childless state.  Eden is not happy - she is heartbroken about her inability to carry a child and hides herself away from the world.  Of course, the discovery of a doll's head leads her on a journey that will not only take her out of her sadness, but it will also open her heart and mind to a little girl living next door, the new puppy, and her own life.  Talk about unputdownable!  Eden and Sarah are both flawed, strong, courageous women who wind up living lives they never had imagined for themselves.  These two characters are truly the beating heart of this amazing story.  As for the past that binds them, well, that is something that you will need to discover for your self.  I'm serious!  The Mapmaker's Children is a fantastic book that you MUST READ.  It is historical fiction at its best!  I would recommend this book to fans of Sarah McCoy, fans of historical fiction, and fans of women's fiction.  This is simply one book you won't want to miss!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Mapmaker's Children
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Look What I've Won...






How awesome is that?!  I've won a set of Jojo Moyes' novels thanks to Dolce Bellezza's fantastic giveaway!!! Hurrah!!!  I'm so excited!!  Now I just have to decide which book to read first.