Book Review: Necessary Heartbreak by Michael J. Sullivan

Title: Necessary Heartbreak
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Publisher: Gallery
Publication Date: March 30, 2010
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 978-1439184233
Genre: Historical Fiction

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From the Publisher:
An extraordinary journey back in time shows a struggling single dad that the faith he’s lost is still alive—and stronger than ever. . . .

Michael Stewart has weathered his share of hardships: a troubled childhood, the loss of his mother, even the degradation of living on the city streets. Now he’s raising his teenaged daughter, Elizabeth, on his own and doing the best he can at work and at home. But he’s turned his back on his faith—that is, until the morning Michael and Elizabeth volunteer for a food pantry at their local church. While storing boxes in the basement, they step through a mysterious door . . . and find themselves in first-century Jerusalem during the tumultuous last week of Jesus Christ’s life. It is a dangerous and violent place, where doing what your heart tells you is right can get you imprisoned—or worse—and they are thankful to take refuge with a kind widow. But when they come face-to-face with Judas Iscariot and the condemned Christ himself, Michael realizes that before they can escape Jerusalem, he must experience history’s most necessary and shattering heartbreak—and that pain and loss must happen if Michael is to be set free: to live, love, and reclaim the blessings he has in the present day.

My Review:

I quite honestly did not know what to expect when I began reading Necessary Heartbreak by Michael J. Sullivan, although the novel pleasantly surprised me. Michael Stewart is a loving and struggling single father to 14-year-old Elizabeth, a rather typical teen, yet with so many questions about the mother she never got to know. Michael and Elizabeth are helping with the church’s volunteer food drive and come across a mysterious trap door in the church’s basement. Being curious Elizabeth goes through, and her father, unable to find her, enters himself, only to discover they have somehow been transported to Jerusalem, just prior to the crucifixion of Christ. During their time in Jerusalem, Michael and Elizabeth learn a lot about themselves and each other as well as Leah, the kind woman who took them in and kept them safe. Sullivan tells the narrative alternating between the present and the flashbacks from Michael’s troubled past, Elizabeth’s desire to make her dad happy, and Leah’s losses. Will Michael and Elizabeth be able to find their way home or will they be forever trapped in Jerusalem? At the heart of the novel there are two Catholics who have lost some of their faith staying with a Jewish woman during Passover, which added a lovely dimension to the novel. The novel offers up some interesting questions that a discussion group could dive into, but as a solitary reader I remained ambivalent. I truly enjoyed the character of Leah and wish I would have felt as strongly toward Michael and Elizabeth. Necessary Heartbreak is a short and quick read which delves into some of the deepest issues of what it truly means to love, suffer loss, and to have faith.

About the Author:

Michael J. Sullivan is an author and sports writer living in New York who graduated from St. John’s University, and is a member of the McDonald’s All-American Selection Boys Basketball Committee and the Parade All-American Selection Committee. Michael hosted sports radio shows on WGBB on Long Island, NY, and WEVD 1050AM in New York City, as well as worked with ESPN and Sporting News. In addition to writing the When Time Forgets series, Michael covers high school and college sports for Fox-owned Scout.com, which involves daily activity on ten to twelve message boards as well as writing approximately 100 articles each month.

Michael has published a number of books through established trade houses, including the trivia book So You Think You’re a New Yorker, which was an iconic work lauded by columnist Cindy Adams. In addition, he published seven sports-themed books for children through Enslow, and a volume of a children’s book series through HarperCollins.

I received a complimentary copy of Necessary Heartbreak by Michael J. Sullivan from Simon and Schuster. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.

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Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney : A Book Review

Title: Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show
Author: Frank Delaney
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
Hardcover: 448 pages
ISBN: 978-0061849275
Genre: Historical Fiction

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About the Book:

“She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then smiled and took a bow.” And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of Ireland and Shannon.

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.

Interweaving historical figures including W. B. Yeats, and a host of unforgettable creations—“King” Kelly, Venetia’s violent, Mephistophelean grandfather; Sarah Kelly, Venetia’s mysterious, amoral mother; and even a truth-telling ventriloquist’s dummy named Blarney—Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous, eventful decade.

Teeming with intrigue, pathos, and humor, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show explores two of Ireland’s great national passions: theater and politics. Writing with his signature mastery and lyrical prose, Frank Delaney once again delivers an unforgettable story as big and boisterous as the people and events it chronicles.

My Review:

Imagine yourself settling in with your favourite beverage and listening to a longtime acquaintance recalling a pivotal tale from his past. Such is the manner Frank Delaney tells the story of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show. The narrator tells the tale of an 18-year-old boy in the rather turbulent times in Ireland in 1932-33, yet the tale is not told straight from the 18-year-old, but rather from a much older man telling the tale of his youth. In a masterful way, Delaney commands the reader’s attention with his delightful manner of recounting a tale, at times true, and at other times whimsical. The cast of characters in this narrative are explained to the reader from the beginning and brought to life by the narrator, Ben MacCarthy. Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show offers something for everyone, an eccentric cast of characters, political unrest and turmoil leading up to a contentious election, digressions, death, betrayal and beautifully narrated scenes aimed to bring this magical period to life. Delaney weaves together an entertainingly long and delightfully ramblingly tale, much like the hills of Ireland, mixing in an eccentric cast with a story so unbelievable it often becomes difficult to distinguish fancy from fantasy, yet all the while keeping the reader’s rapt attention from the very beginning until the last sentence is read. High marks all around for Frank Delaney’s novel, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, guaranteed to capture the hearts and minds of the readers. Book groups looking for an intriguing and captivating novel to read would do well to choose Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show.

About the Author:

Frank Delaney is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels “Ireland,” “Tipperary,” as well as “Simple Courage: The Story of S.S. Flying Enterprise,” which was named one of the 10 best books of 2006 by the American Library Association. His novel “Shannon” (Random House, March 2009) tells the story of a young and once-brilliant American chaplain, shell-shocked in World War One, who travels in search of his family roots. His next book, “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show,” will be released February 2010. A former judge of the Booker Prize, Delaney enjoyed a prominent career in BBC broadcasting before becoming a full-time writer. He was born in Tipperary, Ireland, and now lives in New York and Connecticut with his wife, Diane Meier.

Follow the book tour.

I received a complimentary copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the novel. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.

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Book Review: Flaherty’s Crossing by Kaylin McFarren

Title: Flaherty’s Crossing
Author: Kaylin McFarren
Publisher: Champagne Books
Publication Date: February 2010
Paperback: 234 pages
ISBN: 978-1-926681-19-1
Genre: Mainstream Fiction/Women’s Fiction

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About the Novel:

From Pacific Northwest’s award-winning author Kaylin McFarren comes a powerful novel about love, loss, and the power of forgiveness…

Successful yet emotionally stifled artist Kate Flaherty stands at the deathbed of her estranged father, conflicted by his morphine-induced confession exposing his part in her mother’s death. While racing home, Kate’s car mishap leads her to a soul-searching discussion with a lone diner employee, prompting Kate to confront the true reasons her marriage hangs in the balance. When her night takes an unexpected turn, however, she flees for her life, a life desperate for faith that can only be found through her ability to forgive.

My Review:

Flaherty’s Crossing
by Kaylin McFarren is a deeply moving novel of not only love, but also of forgiveness. Kate, a fiercely independent married artist with a longing to be loved, receives a call she has been dreading, her father, Collin Flaherty, has passed away. Kate is already struggling with her marriage and is now faced with doubts about who her father truly was and if he stopped loving her when her mother passed away. Kate’s husband Drew, a high-powered attorney rapidly moving up the corporate ladder yet still overshadowed by the achievements of his now deceased father, is striving to make their marriage work and to convince Kate that he can indeed be there for her, believes in her, and loves her. Flaherty’s Crossing is a rollercoaster ride of events and emotions as McFarren delivers a delightful cast of characters, which include friends, family, hospice workers, and Kate’s gossipy neighbour Wanda, each delivering a special message to the narrative. The diner scene is a stroke of literary brilliance as Flaherty’s Crossing reminds the reader it is never too late to change, apologise, and forgive; a narrative that reminds one that love transcends time and place and can never die. To anyone looking for an insightful and uplifting novel, I highly recommend Flaherty’s Crossing.

About the Author:

Linda Yoshida, aka Kaylin McFarren, is a rare bird indeed. Not a migratory sort, she prefers to hug the West Coast and keep family within visiting range. Although she has virtually been around the world, she was born in California, relocated with her family to Washington, and nested with her husband in Oregon. In addition to playing an active role in his business endeavors, she has been involved in all aspects of their three daughters’ lives – taxi duties, cheerleading coaching, script rehearsals, and relationship counseling, to name but a few. Now she enjoys spending undisciplined time with her two young grandsons and hopes to have many more.

Although Kaylin wasn’t born with a pen in hand like so many of her talented fellow authors, she has been actively involved in both business and personal writing projects for many years. As the director of a fine art gallery, she assisted in furthering the careers of numerous visual artists who under her guidance gained recognition through promotional opportunities and in national publications. Eager to spread her own creative wings, she has since steered her energy toward writing novels. As a result, she has earned more than a dozen literary awards and was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest.

Kaylin is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

You can visit Kaylin online at www.kaylinmcfarren.com or visit her book’s website at www.flahertyscrossing.com.


Kaylin McFarren’s FLAHERTY’S CROSSING VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 officially began on February 1st and will end on April 30. Follow the tour at Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

I received a complimentary copy of Flaherty’s Crossing by Kaylin McFarren from Pump Up Your Book Promotion as part of the tour. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.

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Teaser Tuesdays- Skin and Bones


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here is mine:

Lying on my side, I dip my hand into the icy water of the stream, aware only of a distant buzzing in my brain. I watch the blood trail away, lazy in the water.”

~Page 1 , Skin and Bones by D.C. Corso

What are you reading?

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