Friday, July 11, 2008

One To Make You Cry. The Other To Make You Smile

While I was reading Promise the Moon by Elizabeth Joy Arnold, one word came to mind- heartbreaking. Not many books can bring me to tears, but this one came close. There is a lot of heavy hitting subject matter here that ranges from suicide to the aftermath of war and the emotional impact it can place on a family.

Natalie is recent army widow. Her husband Josh, a Marine, came back from his second tour in Iraq a changed man. He suffered from post traumatic stress and had major memory loss. But Josh did not die in battle. Instead, he blew his head off in the garage. And guess who found the body? His five year of son, Toby who now will not talk (For that alone I wanted to hate Josh). Natalie is at a loss and is left alone to pick up the pieces, which she is not sure she can do. The only thing she does hold dear of Josh’s, is his electronic Blackberry where he wrote down his daily schedule. Natalie is afraid to even look at what Josh had programmed in the Blackberry because she may find his suicide note. Along with Toby, who suffers silently, she also has to help Anna, her ten-year old daughter adjust to the loss of her father.

Natalie must leave the army base and move back in with her parents. Under the circumstances, this seems to be the best thing for now even though Natalie is barely keeping it together. But Natalie is an amazing mother and does the best she can for her children. Toby and Anna are upset about leaving their home because they think their father won’t be able to find them from heaven. Josh use to play a game with Anna and Toby, where he would put special notes and trinkets in a secret hiding place that only he, Anna and Toby knew about. These notes were proof that while Josh was away, he always had his children in his thoughts. Toby still believes that his dad writes him from Heaven. Natalie knew about the hiding place and for awhile would write these notes after Josh’s death, pretending they were from him and would hide them in their new bathroom. Eventually she stops and Anna has decided to keep writing the notes for Toby. Perhaps this will help Toby to speak again.

Natalie has to decide where her new life is headed. Along the way, an old boyfriend of Natalie’s comes to her aid. Seth was the man Natalie was with before she met Josh. At first she welcomes his friendship but as they begin to know each other again, their friendship begins to change into a more romantic one. Anna can’t stand Seth and Toby begins to lash out in other ways by biting people. Plus it seems that Josh has kept secrets from Natalie. When Natalie was going through Josh’s possessions, she found a picture of a young Arab girl. Now Natalie has even more questions about her deceased husband. Who was this young girl and why did Josh have a picture of her? Why didn’t she have a clue that Josh was thinking of ending his life? And will she ever be able to turn on Josh’s Blackberry to see if he left a suicide note?

Promise the Moon is such a powerful book that after you finish reading, you may find yourself trying to breath very slowly and deeply to keep the tears at bay. I certainly did. Natalie has gone through such a horrible experience that no woman should ever have to deal with. She cries, becomes depressed and rages against Josh for his selfishness at leaving herself and their two children so very much alone. She wants answers and deserves them, but the worst thing about this whole situation is that she may never get them.

Anna is a troubled little girl, but she has so much love for her brother. Some of her actions may seem strange as she tries to figure out how to handle her father’s death, but Anna is the key character of this tale that will help both Natalie and Toby heal. Unfortunately I was so angry at Josh because of what he did. We see Josh through Natalie’s memories and flashbacks, but I couldn’t get a good grip on his motivation. He simply wasn’t fleshed out enough for my tastes. I didn’t want to feel sorry for him, unlike the way I felt towards his wife and children.

Elizabeth Joy Arnold really does write some great family relationships, especially that of Natalie’s father who becomes the rock for all of them. Even Seth is written in a sympathetic light and he lends a shoulder for Natalie to cry on for no other purpose because he cares for her.

Promise the Moon is one of the most poignant books I have read this year. The subject matter may be uncomfortable for some, but Elizabeth makes sure to give these characters, who have suffered so horribly, a light at the end of the tunnel. This is one book you should not pass up on.

4 ½ stars out of 5

A Rather Curious Engagement by C.A. Belmond is the total opposite of Promise the Moon. This is one delicious book about an American television freelancer researcher named Penny Nichols who came into a great deal of money from her great aunt in England. I didn’t have the chance to read A Rather Lovely Inheritance, which is the first book in this series. Belmont did a fine job of bringing the reader up to speed about Penny and her very distant English cousin and boyfriend Jeremy Laidley who also has a piece of this pricey inheritance. Penny and Jeremy have decided to pool both their inheritances together.

These two realize they have to be careful on how they spend their money and try to invest wisely. Their financial advisor must be the coolest guy around because he gives them great advice. He recommends they should given themselves one big personal splurge before they sock their money away. Jeremy is quick to agree with this plan and the one thing he wants to purchase is a 1920’s classic motor yacht. He spends a few hundred thousand pretty easy at an auction for this yacht. But, as soon as Jeremy acquires his toy, that is where the real adventure begins!

The yacht, called Liesl’s Dream is quickly stolen. Liesl’s Dream was originally owned by a German Count. Penny and Jeremy first assume the Count may have tried to steal his yacht back and even though the authorities are able to find Liesl’s Dream, both Penny and Jeremy decide to vacation at Lake Como in the Alps where the Count lives. Perhaps by meeting this Count, they can find out who stole their yacht and why.

Penny and Jeremy do meet the Count and find out that the theft of the yacht may be linked to the theft of another priceless artifact called the Beethoven Lion. The Beethoven Lion is an aquamanilia, which is a piece of pottery used as a ewer for washing hands. This lion was commissioned by a German family as a birthday gift of the composer himself. But the lion was never given to Beethoven and has been missing for hundreds of years. The Count has an extensive collection of aquamanilia animals and had been searching for years to find his priceless piece. He never was able to and now his son hires Penny and Jeremy to investigate the whereabouts of this small lion.

Soon Penny and Jeremy are sent on a wild adventure where they travel all over, from London to the coast of Corsica and back to Lake Como. A Rather Curious Engagement is a high seas adventure with a wonderful little mystery and some nice laughs as Penny and Jeremy try to outwit some thieves along with his crazy ex-wife and a cousin who steals anything that is not tied down.

If you haven’t read C.A. Belmond, I certainly recommend you start with, A Rather Lovely Inheritance and then A Rather Curious Engagement. I found both Penny and Jeremy to be a very endearing and sweet couple that I wouldn’t mind reading more about in future books to come.

3 ½ stars out of 5

Katiebabs (KB)

1 comment:

Sarai said...

Wow I don't usually read books that strike that hard at the old emotions but I might have to pick that first one up... Althought the second sounds fun... Crap too many books not enough time!
Great reviews as always I truely enjoy them!!!