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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekend Cooking- The Shift by Tory Johnson

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

The Shift by Tory Johnson
Published by Hyperion, ISBN 978-1401324926
Hardcover, $22.99, 250 pages

I first saw Tory Johnson on my local ABC News station, WABC in New York City, where she did a segment called 'Steals and Deals'. She would have four or five products that people could get for 50% off. I liked her friendly personality and her professional demeanor, as well as her rapport with the news anchors.

Johnson brought her 'Steals and Deals' to Good Morning America and now she had a national audience. But I noticed that she began to lose weight; not drastic, but over the course of one year, she lost 60 pounds. That is a huge accomplishment, but as she states in her book, The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life, that is just barely one pound a week.

When the head of ABC Talent asked Johnson to lunch, she dreaded it because she knew what the topic would be: her weight. Barbara Ferdida told Johnson that her clothes weren't doing her justice and gave Johnson the name of a stylist. But Johnson got the message: she had to lose weight.

Although she felt humiliated, and Ferdida handled the matter with kindness and never threatened her job, this was the catalyst that Johnson needed to do what she had tried many times before: lose weight and get healthy. She drastically cut her carbs, completely gave up her favorite drink, Diet Pepsi, and got serious. She was the main breadwinner in her family and she needed this job.

I liked that Johnson didn't whitewash this; completely changing her lifestyle was not easy, it was downright difficult. Over the objections of her husband and twin teenagers, she emptied her cupboards of any food that would tempt her.

When she went to parties, she would watch what and how thin people ate: grazing, taking a few bites of things and eating slowly. She incorporated all these into her eating habits, and slowly, one or two pounds a week, she lost the weight.

Johnson tells the reader that until you are serious about this, you cannot lose weight. She references what she calls "preference versus priority." Losing weight became her priority and every decision she made had to reflect that priority. Although she may prefer to have chocolate, her priority to lose weight beat her preference.

The book is mostly about her struggle, though there is a page that lists her "tried-and-true guidelines" that include about a dozen specific rules that helped her, including:

  • Limiting carbs to under 25 per day
  • Avoiding fruit, juices and smoothies
  • Replacing food rewards with inedible ones, like a manicure
  • Weighing herself daily
She recounts a trip she took with her daughter to Los Angeles, and the challenges she faced. She wanted it to be fun for her daughter, but she feared if she fell off the wagon, she would lose all the progress she had made. It is an honest portrait that most of us can relate to.

I really liked this book; it's not so much a diet book, but more of a memoir of a year where Tory Johnson overcame a lifelong struggle. In telling her story, she reminds us that to make significant life changes, you have to be serious, but once you do that, the rewards can be great.

rating 4 of 5

For more information on how Tory Johnson succeeded, her website is here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Cast of Closer Than Ever Live at Barnes & Noble

I love the fact that my neighborhood Barnes & Noble has become the home of CD cast recordings releases for Broadway and off-Broadway shows. I have seen so many wonderful performances from shows I have seen (like Pippin and Scandalous) and shows I did not get a chance to see (like Giant and Hands on a Hardbody).

Last week, the cast of the off-Broadway revival of Maltby & Shire's Closer Than Ever came to sing four songs from the show. Show co-creator David Shire spoke to the enthusiastic crowd, and then co-stars Sal Viviano, Christiane Noll and George Dvorsky performed four songs from the show. (Cast member Jenn Colella was unable to attend.)

The first song was Doors, and the harmony of the voices was just lovely.

Next, they treated us to She Loves Me Not.

The gentlemen treated to us Fathers of Fathers.

They closed with the title song, Closer Than Ever.

It must have been a very romantic show because there were several couples there holding hands during the songs. The music sounded like this must have been a very traditional show, one that many enjoyed.

Links to:
Pippin and Scandalous at Barnes & Noble
Giant at Barnes & Noble
Hands on a Hardbody at Barnes & Noble

You can buy the CD here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend Cooking- A Visit to a Chinatown Grocery

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Every year, our friends from Auburn, Barbara and Mike, come to visit during the San Gennaro Festival. We all have our favorites- sausage, peppers and onion sandwiches, pizza, cannoli, Peroni beer and hand rolled cigars.

This year we started out with a trip to the Hester Street Fair, which is close by and I had never been. It is much smaller than I thought, but they had some unique vendors. One woman made hair bands out of old, ugly men's ties, which were really cute. Another artist made necklaces and bracelets out of dried roses. They were gorgeous and so fragrant. The booth selling necklaces and earrings made from old teeth, yeah, I skipped that one.

One booth enticed us with the delicious smell of paella, made with chicken and chorizo. It was as lovely to see as to smell. If it wasn't so early in the morning, I would have tried some.
A lovely paella

We walked through Chinatown towards Little Italy, and a Chinese bakery caught my eye. We popped in and saw the prettiest little cakes there, I loved the pink fruit cakes.
Baked goods in Chinatown
My husband spotted an interesting storefront and we made our way in. In the front of the store was lottery machine, textiles and a wall of DVDs. But once you got beyond that, a bright, huge grocery store was there. There were so many vegetables I had never seen before, and if I was planning to make an authentic Chinese meal, this is the place I would shop.
Green bitter melon

Bright purple Chinese eggplant


Long squash (opo)

Chinese okra

The produce looked so fresh, but when we got to the fish area, a tank jam packed with tilapia ensured that my husband will never eat tilapia again.
Tilapia tank
The candy aisle was right by the checkout and bigger than any I had ever seen, filled with lots of treats that I'm sure the kiddies just beg Mom and Dad to buy. Interestingly, KitKat bars were the one American treat I saw.
Candy & cookies line the checkout aisle
We did make it to the San Gennaro Festival, where we didn't eat as much as we have in the past. But we'll end with a photo of cannoli from Ferrara, a famous bakery in Little Italy.
Yum- cannoli
The San Gennaro Festival continues through Sunday, September 22nd. If you have never gone, you should visit at least once in your lifetime. If you go early on the weekend, it's not too crowded.

The link to the San Gennaro Festival is here. 
The link to the Hester Street Fair is here. They are open on Saturdays from April through October.
More information about Chinatown is here.
My post from last year about our San Gennaro visit is here. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Linda Ronstadt Talks About Her Career and New Memoir

I can't wait to read this book; I have loved Linda Ronstadt since I was a teen. I love what she says about figuring out who is doing what you want to do and "go stand next to them."

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Lady's Maid by Dilly Court

The Lady's Maid by Dilly Court
Published by Arrow ISBN 978-0-0099562566
Trade paperback, $12, 512 pages

Though I am not a big reader of British historical romance novels, there was something about Dilly Court's The Lady's Maid that grabbed my attention. Maybe it was that awesome author's name- Dilly Court; I mean, how can you resist that? Maybe it was the cover, which reminded me of all those paperback books you would see in the racks near the back of the pharmacy at your local drugstore.

Whatever it was, I am so glad I read it. I was captivated from the very beginning, with two young woman, one a gyspy girl and one a lost lady ready to give birth to their babies in the woods, alone except for gypsy girl's mother.

The gypsy girl was pregnant by the son of the lord of the manor where she worked; he didn't know or care and she was betrothed to another man who wouldn't marry her if he knew the truth. The lady's fiancee was a soldier, off to war where he would die in battle. Her family wanted to hide her pregnancy for reasons of propriety.

The lady did not live after childbirth, and asked the gypsy woman to care for her baby and name her Katherine. The gypsy woman knew of a farmer whose wife had had several stillborn births and had just lost another. She delivered the baby to the farmer, telling him the baby's name and convincing him to tell his wife her own baby had lived this time.

The gypsy girl's baby was delivered to the wealthy landowner's lady-in-waiting, who conspired with her lady to pass the baby, a girl called Josephine, off as her husband's heir, as she could not have children. Just as you would expect, all the chickens will come home to roost as secrets can't stay hidden forever.

Kate worked as a maid in the castle where Josie was raised as royalty. They became best friends and although Josie could be spoiled, impulsive and temperamental, she did love Kate. Josie had a little bit of Scarlett O'Hara in her (she even shatters a glass against a wall as Scarlett did in a famous scene), and maybe that is why I liked her. It even takes place in the 1860's, as Gone With The Wind did.

Kate lived with her father after her mother died, and Sam and Molly, two orphans who ended up on their doorstep and were taken in by her father. Sam, Kate and Josie grew up together, and as they grew older, Sam had feelings for Josie that she wanted to return, but knew that love between could never be.

Josie had her eye on Harry, a handsome, wealthy merchant whom her father wanted her to marry. Once Harry met Kate however, he fell hard for her. Kate tried to hide her growing attraction to Harry, but Josie could see and became livid.

The romantic entanglements with Josie, Harry, Kate, Sam added some more elements as a local reverend who took Kate and Josie in after a carriage accident and widower who wanted Kate to marry him and become a mother to his two bratty daughters become involved.

The Lady's Maid delighted me, and Court takes a story that we are familiar with and adds her fresh spin on it. The many characters are well-drawn and interesting, from Kate and Josie down to the minor characters of Josie's elderly former nanny, and Boy, a young disabled cook whom Kate befriends.

This is a book to get lost in, transported back to old England where you hope that in the end, true love and friendship prevail, and everyone gets what they truly deserve, good and bad.

rating 4 of 5

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. The rest of Dilly Court's tour is here.

Dilly Court’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 26th:  Patricia’s Wisdom  (The Lady’s Maid)
Tuesday, August 27th:  Reading Reality  (The Best of Daughters)
Thursday, August 29th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf  (The Lady’s Maid)
Friday, August 30th:  A Bookish Way of Life  (The Best of Daughters)
Tuesday, September 3rd:  Patricia’s Wisdom  (The Best of Daughters)
Wednesday, September 4th:  Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot  (The Lady’s Maid)
Thursday, September 5th:  Unabridged Chick (The Best of Daughters)
Friday, September 6th:  A Chick Who Reads (The Lady’s Maid)
Monday, September 9th:  Laura’s Reviews  (The Best of Daughters)
Tuesday, September 10th:  Reviews from the Heart  (The Best of Daughters)
Thursday, September 12th:  Books and Movies  (The Lady’s Maid)
Friday, September 13th:  Peeking Between the Pages     (The Lady’s Maid)
Monday, September 16th:  Bookchickdi  (The Lady’s Maid)
Tuesday, September 17th:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom  (The Best of Daughters)
Wednesday, September 18th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller  (The Lady’s Maid)
Thursday, September 19th:  Broken Teepee  (The Best of Daughters)
Friday, September 20th:  Library of Clean Reads (The Lady’s Maid)
Monday, September 23rd:  Laura’s Reviews (The Lady’s Maid)
Tuesday, September 24th: Booktalk & More  (The Best of Daughters)
Thursday, September 25th:  Broken Teepee  (The Lady’s Maid)
Friday, September 26th:  Library of Clean Reads  (The Best of Daughters)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Published by Crown Publishing ISBN 978-0-307-71896-9
Hardcover, $27, 448 pages

A good narrative non-fiction can be as satisfying and gripping as a novel. An example of a recent one is Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack, which has spent over two years on the best seller. Skloot brilliantly tells the tale of a poor black woman from Baltimore, Lacks, whose cancer cells were harvested and used in many medical breakthroughs in the last half of the 20th century.

Although Lacks contribution to medical science saved countless lives, her family didn't give permission for their use and received no monetary compensation. Skloot shows the reader that many of her descendents could not even afford health insurance and had many medical issues of their own because they lacked adequate health care.

Like Skloot, Fink takes on a story with moral and ethical overtones- what killed 45 patients at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina, in her incredibly fascinating Five Days at Memorial. Fink interviewed dozens of people who were there- doctors, nurses, aides, family members, patients, hospital administrators, rescuers, police investigators, coroners and more to tell her gripping story.

Fink drops the reader right into the hospital during the hurricane and in the horrific aftermath of the storm, when the levees failed and the hospital was completely surrounded by floodwaters. The reader feels the rising panic as generators fail, toilets stop working, medicines run low, cell phones die and communication is lost with the outside world.

Close to 200 people were evacuated from the hospital by helicopter and boats, but 45 patients died, most of them either terminally or gravely ill, the most of any hospital in the city. And most of them died of an overdose of morphine and Versed, allegedly by the hands of Dr. Anna Poe, a surgeon at the hospital. She and two nurses were arrested for killing those patients after a lengthy investigation.

Fink methodically lays out what went on at the hospital during those days. The corporate owner of the hospital, TenetCare, had an emergency plan that lacked some key elements. After 9/11, hospitals had to beef up emergency plans.
"The doctors at Memorial had drilled for disasters, but for scenarios like a Sarin gas attack, modeled that April, where multiple patients arrived at the hospital at once. Not in all his years of practice had Thiele drilled for the loss of backup power, running water, and transportation."
They had no contract with helicopter companies to evacuate the hospital (as other hospitals did) during a flood in a city where hurricanes and floods can be devastating. The person left in charge in the home office of Houston had no disaster experience or training, and the lack of communication with the hospital during the crisis was unconscionable.

The staff at Memorial felt they had been abandoned by their owners, as well as by their government. There seemed to be no one in charge at a local, state or federal level who could give them information as to when and how they would evacuate. All they heard were rumors of rampant looting, and the gunfire they could hear in the neighborhood made them fear they would be overrun by criminals looking for drugs.

When the evacuations begin, with boats commandeered by an older couple looking for a family member, and helicopters fly in, the triage that took place was the opposite of most; instead of the sickest going first, the healthiest patients were evacuated first. That decision had repercussions that had to be answered for later.

The first half of the book will have you on the edge of your seat, and the people who stayed behind to help the patients were heroic in their efforts. Fink sketches them with deserved empathy and compassion. As you read, you may ask yourself, "could I have done that?"

The second half of the book deals with the efforts by investigators and the state attorney general, who was looking to make a name for himself, to bring murder charges against the three women. Most of the general public did not feel this was warranted, and support for the women was strong.

But there were people, including doctors from Memorial, who were appalled at what happened and wanted to see justice for the people who died. They felt that these women violated their oath to do no harm and took matters into their own hands.

The one overriding theme of Five Days at Memorial is that governments and healthcare facilities must have effective disaster planning. There were so many failures on the part of government and corporations that allowed this to happen when it did not have to happen.

You may think you know how you feel about this situation, but Fink skillfully shows you all sides, and you will most likely come away from this book with more questions than answers as I did. This is a must-read book.

rating 5 of 5

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Cast of Hands On A Hardbody at Barnes & Noble

The cast of Broadway's Hands On A Hardbody appeared at Barnes & Noble 86th St. in NYC on September 4, 2013 to perform songs and sign CDs of the cast recording from the show. After hearing the music, I was bummed that I missed this show.

The first song is Burn That Bridge

Next they sang Born in Laredo

Keith Carradine was featured on Used to Be

The last song was a barnburner- Joy of the Lord

After that last song, you could tell that the cast really liked and missed each other. What a shame this show didn't make it.

You can buy the CD here.

New in Paperback- All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg
Published by Wm Morrow Paperbacks ISBN 978-0-06-222077-6
Trade paperback, 288 pages

When I heard that Mike "Greeny" Greenberg wrote a book, I figured it would be a sports book. Then I heard it was a novel, so I thought, 'oh, a novel about sports.' Then I read the description- a novel about three women dealing with breast cancer. Wait, what?

Greenberg had a friend who had breast cancer,  and he was amazed that her three best friends, one of whom was his wife, surrounded this woman with constant love and never left her side. They went to her doctor appointments, her chemo treatments; they were with her at all times.

This so impressed him, because he didn't think that men would be so present for their male friends. His friend succumbed to her cancer, and he wrote a novel about three women who each get a diagnosis of breast cancer.  The proceeds from this novel go to the V Foundation in his friend's name to aid in cancer research. (The V Foundation is named after famed North Carolina State University coach Jim Valvano who lost his battle with cancer at age 46.)

I can't believe a man wrote All You Could Ask For. Greenberg captures the voices of these three very different women so incredibly well, he must eavesdrop on women often. And take notes.

Samantha is newly married to an older man and on her honeymoon in Hawaii. She is blissfully happy, ready to start her new life when she finds a photo of a naked woman on her husband's laptop.

Katherine has just turned forty, a hard-charging career woman whose last serious relationship ended badly many years ago. Now the most important man in her life is her faithful driver Maurice. Her administrative assistant has set her up on a blind date with a handsome, eligible man- who happens to be twenty years older than her. How old does she think Katherine is anyway?

Brooke is happily married to Scott, and mom to two children, living in the suburbs, trying to figure out what to get her husband for his birthday. She is a good wife, a good mom and likes her life.

The first half of the book sets up each of these three interesting women's lives, all facing different daily challenges- work, home, family, loneliness. We become invested in them, and compare our lives to theirs.

Then they each get a diagnosis of breast cancer. Each woman reacts differently, and the reader is left to ponder how they deal with her individual diagnosis. The women do not interact with each other in the first half of the book, but they later meet on breast cancer message boards and we are able read their messages to each other, and see their relationships develop.

I had to admit I was skeptical about a novel some would call "chick-lit" about breast cancer written by a male ESPN host, but Greenberg does a terrific job here. I wanted to know more about these women's lives, and I found their reactions to their illnesses fascinating.

They each respond differently, and the way one woman deals with it will probably cause some lively discussions in book clubs, for which this novel would make a good choice. It definitely made me think about how I would react, and upon reflection, it also made me try to be less judgmental of other women and the choices they make in the lives.

rating 4 of 5

Your book club can win a Skype with Mike Greenberg here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Returned by Jason Mott

The Returned by Jason Mott
Published by Harlequin ISBN978-0-7783-1533-9
Hardcover, $24.95, 352 pages

Every year at the Book Expo of America there is one book there is everywhere and people are buzzing about it. This year, it was Jason Mott's The Returned, which had already been optioned as a TV series by ABC well before the book was even published. (See more info here on the TV show, now called Resurrection.)

The premise is intriguing- what happens when dead people start turning up alive, looking exactly as they did at their death? Agent Martin Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned shows up on the doorstep of Lucille and Harold Hargraves, an elderly couple who lost their son Jacob fifty years ago on his eighth birthday when he drowned in a local river.

With him is a young boy who looks exactly like Jacob. He was found wandering in China and Agent Bellamy was bringing him home. Lucille, who thought that these 'Returned' were the work of the devil, changed her mind the minute she saw her beloved son in front of her. She was willing to believe it was Jacob because she missed him so much.

Harold was more skeptical; he didn't know what to make of this boy in front of him, but he didn't believe it was his son. Agent Bellamy asked them if they wanted to keep Jacob, and Lucille prevailed.

More and more Returned kept turning up, and people became frightened and angry. Protests erupted all over the world, some people believing it was some kind of government conspiracy (what kind of conspiracy, they could not say).

As the number of Returned began to swell out of control, the President of the United States ordered them confined to their homes, but soon they begin to confine them in government buildings in specific cities. Harold and Jacob were out one day, and they were caught by the police and confined to the neighborhood school, which now housed hundreds of Returned.

Harold refused to leave Jacob, and Lucille brought them clean clothes and homemade food, visiting every day. But soon the military took over the camps, and visitors were no longer permitted. The situation deteriorated, and people were fighting for limited resources and a place to sleep.

Fans of the TV series Lost will enjoy this fast-paced, thought-provoking debut novel. Mott's theme of science versus faith will resonate with them. There is an interesting scene where the local reverend is watching a TV show in which a scientist is debating with a minister on who exactly these Returned are, and a man in the audience told them they were both useless as they had no definitive answers. In today's uncertain world, there are parallels to be made here.

The Returned is the kind of book that you will read in one sitting, but keep pondering its themes long after you finish. The plot draws you into this unfamiliar world, and you will identify with the characters, particularly Lucille and Harold. There are a few twists and turns and some exciting action along the way, and I think this book will appeal to so many different types of readers that it has the ability to become a real blockbuster.

rating 4 of 5

Thanks to TLC Tours for including me on Jason Mott's tour. The rest of the tour stops are here:

Monday, August 26th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, August 27th:  Rinn Reads
Tuesday, August 27th:  River City Reading
Wednesday, August 28th:  Bookalicious Mama
Wednesday, August 28th:  From the TBR Pile
Thursday, August 29th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, August 30th:  Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, September 2nd:  Col Reads
Tuesday, September 3rd:  Man of La Book
Wednesday, September 4th:  Books Speak Volumes
Thursday, September 5th:  BookChickDi
Friday, September 6th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, September 9th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, September 10th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Wednesday, September 11th:  Simply Stacie
Thursday, September 12th:  A Bookworm’s World
Friday, September 13th:  The Book Wheel
Monday, September 16th:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Tuesday, September 17th:  Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, September 17th:  Melissa Firman
Wednesday, September 18th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, September 19th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, September 20th:  Luxury Reading
Friday, September 20th:  5 Minutes for Books
Monday, September 23rd:  Happy. Pretty. Sweet.
Tuesday, September 24th:  The Best Books Ever
Wednesday, September 25th:  Silver’s Reviews
Thursday, September 26th:  Between the Covers
Friday, September 27th:  Literally Jen
Monday, September 30th:  Julz Reads
Tuesday, October 1st:  Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, October 2nd:  Book Addict Katie
Thursday, October 3rd:  Broken Teepee
Friday, October 4th:  A Novel Review
Monday, October 7th:  Guiltless Reading
Tuesday, October 8th:  Life in the Thumb
Wednesday, October 9th:  Laura’s Reviews

Jason Mott's website is here.

Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain

Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain
Published by Random House ISBN 978-1-4000-6862-3
Hardcover, $26, 236 pages

Having just finished reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild, Justin St. Germain's Son of a Gun is an interesting followup. Both authors lost their mothers when they were in their twenties, and searching for what the loss means for the children left behind form the basis for both excellent memoirs.

Son of a Gun opens with Justin returning home to the house he shares with his brother Josh only to be told that their mother Debbie was dead; she had been shot by someone. The young men begin the process of calling their grandparents and long-estranged father. When Justin told his father he writes,
"I told him she was dead and a long pause ensued, one in a litany of silences between my father and me, stretching across the years since he left and the distance between us, thousands of miles, most of America."
From there we learn that Justin and Josh were raised by their mother, a strong, tough woman, a former paratrooper in the military whose career was ended by an injury in a jump. The irony of Debbie was that her weakness was men.

She chose the wrong man to love, time and time again. She dated many, lived with some, became engaged to more than a few, and married five of them. Some of the men were good, but most treated her badly. She was beaten by some, and lied to by many of them.

Debbie went from job to job as well. For awhile, she ran a tourist gift shop in Tombstone, Arizona. She had a failed restaurant there as well. Eventually, she married Ray, a cop, whom Justin didn't really like, but had hoped would take good care of his mother as he turned eighteen and left home for college.

Ray and Debbie moved away from Tombstone, out in the middle of nowhere, where they lived in a beat-up trailer, hoping to build their own home. This isolation wasn't good for Debbie, and she didn't see her sons often. They were living their own lives and therefore didn't see everything going on with Debbie and Ray.

Justin described his mother this way:
"But she also loved to play the martyr. Whenever I got in trouble at school, I'd hear it: I gave my whole life for you and this is how you repay me? In one breath she'd say we didn't owe her anything, and in the next she'd list everything she'd suffered so we could have a better life. Most of the marks on her ledger were true, but she tried to pin her failed relationships on us; once or twice she even tried to claim that we were the reason she stayed through the abuse, as if we were the ones who wanted whatever sort of family we had with those men. There had to be someone to blame, and it was never her."
In the end though, people did blame Debbie for her own death. People who knew her and the sheriff investigating the murder felt that Debbie paid the ultimate price for making several wrong choices, especially when it came to men. It was almost as if they said, "well, what do you expect?"

The writing here is beautiful, at times poetic and always unsparingly honest. Justin takes us on his journey to discover how his mother's life had fallen so off-track. He links the independence of the culture of people who lived in Tombstone, where Wyatt Earp became famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and their love of guns with his mother's murder. Would this have happened if she lived somewhere else?

I found the chapter where he attends a gun show intriguing, as well as the fact that he and his brother could not collect their mother's life insurance until the murder was solved. I had never heard that before. What if it was never solved; does that mean the insurance company keeps the money? That didn't seem fair at all.

In the end, Justin determines that everyday he has to choose what kind of man he wants to be. He can choose to give into the depression and grief or he could get his life together. He can do nothing with his life, drifting, working low-paying dead-end jobs, drinking every night to numb the pain or he can move forward. I'm glad he chose the path he did; his story can give hope to those who feel lost.

rating 4 of 5

Thanks to TLC Tours for inviting me to be part of Justin's tour. The rest of the tour is here:

Monday, August 12th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, August 13th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, August 19th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, August 20th:  The Relentless Reader
Thursday, August 22nd:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, August 26th:  River City Reading
Wednesday, August 28th:  WV Stitcher
Thursday, August 29th:  From the TBR Pile
Friday, August 30th:  The Best Books Ever
Tuesday, September 3rd:  Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
Wednesday, September 4th:  Book Chase
Thursday, September 5th:  BookChickDi
Justin St. Germain's website is here.