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Rebecca Cox

I am a designer, artist, world traveler and avid reader. I currently work at a University and have two loving Chihuahuas that love to sleep in my lap next the my current read.

 Articles by this Author

The Book of Obeah

Last Friday night I came home from work and found The Book of Obeah by Sandra Carrington-Smith in my mailbox. I had selected this book from Review the Book based on the out of the ordinary synopsis. I decided to pick the book up after supper and read a little before bedtime; at least that was the plan. This book captured me from the start and would not let me go. I kept looking for a stopping point, a place I could relax and take a breath, set it down and go to sleep, but there was none. I was physically attached to the characters and the prose and I could not stop until it was over, at 4:30 am. The last time a book took hold of me this way was a long time ago. And I have delayed writing this review because I have not wanted to scrutinize why this story touched me the way it did. But, review it I must. Melody Bennet’s beloved Grandmama Giselle dies and leaves her one last request. She is to take her grandmother’s ashes to New Orleans, have them blessed by a Voodoo Priestess and spread them on Bear Bayou. Melody has lived her entire life in North Carolina with no awareness of her family history on the Bayou, the culture or practice of Voodoo or of any living relatives on the Bayou. What she finds is more than she bargained for and changes everything in her life forever. This book is steeped in mystery, spirituality, lessons, love, loss and traditions. It makes you question your assessment of Voodoo and other religions and I kept wondering how much was fact and how much was fiction. It has led me on a quest for more information. And, I’ve had a wonderful conversation with the author herself who I have found open and delightful to talk to. I have already questioned her about more books to come and as I had guessed, this is the first book in a series so look for more great reading to come. I see that I still have not told you why this book affected me in such a way, and this I cannot answer. You must read it for yourself, and see if it reaches up for you. But beware; you may want to wait till Saturday morning to start it!

Dragon House by John Shors

I first encountered John Shors when I read his novel Beneath a Marble Sky. This new novel, Dragon House, has stepped up John’s impressive writing skills another notch. Dragon House is a love story; the love of a daughter for her father, a sister for her brother, a grandmother for her granddaughter and soldiers for their country. And it is a story of the courage it takes to follow your heart and protect the ones you love. The Story: After Iris’ father dies, she decides to go to Vietnam and complete his dream of opening a center for street children there even though he was absent for most of her life and she is still very angry. He was always trying to run from his demons and she felt from her. Iris’ good friend Noah is just home from Iraq and running from demons of his own and agrees to go with Iris. What follows is a painful, slow process of acclimation to a new country, to finding out whom her father really was and if this is really what Iris wants to do. In the process Iris finds Mai and Minh, a brother and sister living under a bridge that are forced to work for an opium addict, Qui and Tam, a grandmother and granddaughter living on the streets and Sahn the beat cop and Vietnam veteran who hates Americans. My Take: John Shors description of Vietnam, of Saigon and its people brought all my senses alive while reading. I could see and touch and smell the market and the city streets. I could hear the traffic noises and all the scooters zipping past. I could feel the touch of Mai as she brushed up against me and asked if I would like to buy a fan. And my heart went out to all the street children and all the empty stomachs and honest people that try every day to help. And I cried in anger at every crooked official and opium addict and street vendor that expected a bribe. And it brought back all the memories. I have been to these countries, I have seen these children, and I have held their hands and bought their fans and laughed with them and prayed for them. And all I can say is that John Shors has written an amazing book that I highly recommend.

The Test by Patricia Gussin

Billionaire Paul Parnell was a typical tycoon. He spent all his time making money any way he could and it was only in his last days that he realized the cost to him and his family. His six children had little or no relationship with each other, and most expected his money to always be there. So before he died he devised a test to try to bring his family back together and teach them the life lessons he failed to teach them when he had the chance. The only way they could claim their inheritance was to pass this test within a year. Even though the book is advertised as being about “The Test” and the synopsis is mostly about the test, the book only starts out being about the test and quickly looses that thread to become a murder mystery as someone targets the family members and the year counts down. Frank is the matriarch son and as such wants control of all the money. Dan is the rebel who left the family years ago. Ashley and Carla are the youngest sisters of Paul’s second wife Vivian. Rory is Vivian’s daughter. And then there is Monica. I found this to be an enjoyable easy read with a somewhat predictable story line. The book had quite a few story lines going at once that seemed a little disconnected or unnecessary, and the ending never did completely explain the outcome of the test to my satisfaction, but overall I would recommend the book.

Coming Together

Daisy, an American documentary filmmaker and newly divorced, and Charlie, an American photographer, go to Brazil to film a documentary for a history professor who has written a book on Brazil and its people. Daisy decides to use a local Brazilian photographer to fill out her crew and meets Lois, who soon becomes her love interest. As they start filming Daisy finds that Rio is a beautiful city, full of lovely beaches, flowers, new buildings, and beautiful people. And when they visit Isabella who runs a private adoption agency in her home on the side of a mountain, Daisy meets her second love interest, Clay, a beautiful infant boy that needs a home. But Daisy is soon to find out that Brazil has a dark side that will affect both her loves and her life. Things are not always the way they seem and the Brazilian government has little interest in its children, there are far too many orphans for them to care for. Can Daisy complete the filming, keep everyone safe and have the loves and life she wants? From my point of view, this book was a surprise. I think I was expecting something a little different. Coming Together was more of a romance novel that was luckily very light on the sex scenes and more focused on the emotional lives of Daisy, Lois, Charlie and Isabella. It also delved into both the beauty and ugliness of Brazil. It was an easy and quick read that flowed well and kept moving at a good pace. I would recommend this for an easy afternoon at the beach or a nice day in the hammock.

In Their Blood, by Sharon Potts

Rachael, a partner in an accounting firm and Daniel Stroeb, a college professor, are murdered in their Miami Beach home leaving their two children, Jeremy and Elise, alone. Jeremy is a college dropout roaming around Europe and Elise is a teenager who has been severely traumatized by finding her parents after their murder. Now, Jeremy must return home to take care of his sister but finds it difficult to change his self centered ways. Jeremy soon decides to try to find out who his parents really were and who would want to kill them. But as he discovers, there are many possibilities and he has no idea who he can trust. Ms. Potts has woven a very readable murder mystery that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat till the very end with this tale of a family in crisis and a young man who must grow up quickly. The story is told from Jeremy’s point of view so his character is developed along with his parents as he searches for the truth. After reading Ms. Potts’ biography, I feel the author has accomplished her goal of writing the story that has been brewing with a lifetime of family stories, mysteries and childhood fears while growing up in New York. And on a personal note, I am always fascinated to find how the title of books ties in to the story. I found that this title is actually a little deceptive but you will have to read the book to find out what I mean. I would recommend this book for high school age and above readers that love a good mystery. This book is not a hard core murder-horror story, but an enjoyable mystery with an excellent rhythm and good character development that will appeal to all ages.

Deep Breaths, Poetry, Leo Shelton

Deep Breaths By Leo Shelton ISBN: 9780979178641 Having lived for the last 17 years with a former Marine whose main expression of emotion is a wan smile and a quick nod of the head, I was shaken awake by the raw, demanding, cheek reddening words thrown at me by Leo Shelton from his new book of poetry. I was not expecting a male of our species to show such surprising depth of feeling. He took me on a roller coaster ride in my imagination from smooth New Orleans jazz to the hot streets of Amsterdam and everything in between; and all of this couched in love and honor and understanding. I know what I am getting grandma for Christmas this year, a copy of this book. She needs a little shaking up! And all us women need to know that men like Leo do exist and we all want one like him for Christmas. Or maybe we have men like him; they just don’t have any idea how to express themselves as eloquently as Leo Shelton does. So, I am giving a copy to my husband too, maybe he will get the hint and at least give me a big smile!

Testimony by Anita Shreve

A sex scandal involving drinking and an underage girl at an exclusive New England boarding school unleashes repercussions on all involved, even those on the far edges of the incident including parents and the town. The ripple effect is devastating. The headmaster tries to keep the incident “in house” but someone has another idea and posts a video on You Tube. The police are called in, students are interviewed and the rest as they say is history. This story is told by each character either as an interview or through their personal viewpoint. The book bounces back and forth between character voices and finally builds a complete picture of their inner selves, their loves, desires, hates and how each of them went on with their lives. This tale could only have been told in the magnificent manner that Anita Shreve took. The depth of understanding written and read kept me engaged from the first sentence to the last. The realistic actions and consequences are a great reminder of how one moment of our lives, one bad decision, or one time of being in the wrong place can change everything. This is a significant book and I highly recommend it to all level of readers from high school on. This is especially important to all parents who will have to face teenage drinking and drugs at some time in their children’s lives.

South of Broad

Pat Conroy has written another hit. This one is a based in Charleston, South Carolina and is a story of unlikely friendships that start in High School and last a lifetime. Leo King is eight years old when he finds his ten year old brother who has committed suicide. This tragedy colors the rest of his life and brings him to gather a motley crew of friends his senior year in high school. This group of friends stays together over a lifetime and can always count on each other. Leo’s mother never liked him because he was not his beautiful brother Steve. She was always telling him how ugly, stupid, and crazy he was. I could relate to Leo so much. I had the very same mother! Leo grew up in the south during integration just as I did and was just one year younger than me. We had the same experiences with our high schools being integrated, the fear, anger, hatred and finally acceptance. Twenty years later, the group is pulled into a mystery when Sheba, now a movie star, asks for their help in finding her twin brother Trevor. Although Pat Conroy is wonderful at building characters, describing the location and making you feel a real part of the story, he is not really into keeping us on the edge of our seat in the mystery department. It was pretty easy to figure out everything long before the answer was revealed but it did not take anything away from the story at all because his skills at writing a believable story are amazing. Being a southerner myself and very familiar with Charleston, I could see each street and house and walled garden as it was being described. I have also spent many days in San Francisco so I could picture the rundown neighborhoods and the mansion on the coast. And for those of you not familiar with these locations, Mr. Conroy has masterfully painted a magical picture for you to treasure. I could not put this book down once I picked it up and as soon as I finish passing it around to all my friends, I plan on reading it again.

Saffron Dreams, Fiction, Muslim Widow after 9/11

Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah This year I decided to read mostly foreign authors and multicultural themed books and this week’s selection was a fiction novel, Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah. This book looks at the treatment and lives of Muslims in America after 9/11. Arissa and Faizan married in Pakistan in a traditional Muslim wedding and were the love of each other’s lives from the beginning. They moved to New York where Faizan worked as a waiter while secretly writing his first novel. After two years of marriage, Arissa finally became pregnant and they were both excited about their first visit to the doctor for an ultrasound. Then, 9/11 happened and Faizan never made it home. “That’s how God made us, in pairs so we complete each other. And then he snatches one away, I thought, and makes us dispensable mortals. Alone we come, and solo our return.” Pg.101 Shaila Abdullah gives us a clear picture of what it was like to be Muslim and a widow in America after 9/11 through the story of one courageous woman who faces raising a child alone and the possibility of finishing her husband’s novel. She addresses the balancing of cultural traditions with American realities and her writing flows like a river from the first paragraph to the last sentence. Ms. Abdullah provides an accurate and insightful story of love, loss, fear, anger, and finding the strength to survive. This book is a must read for everyone and can provide understanding for those with little experience with other cultures. Luckily I have had the great pleasure to experience many different cultures, religions, foods and customs and met many wonderful people while traveling and working internationally. I have found many women indicative of the values that Arissa displays in this novel which made this book very personal and identifiable to me. I give this book a big “thumbs up” and can’t wait to read the next novel by Shaila Abdullah.

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