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A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 327 pgs.
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A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams is set in the early 1920s when times were beginning to change and women were feeling a little freer to do more than marry and have children. Told from the points of view of Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue, New York, and Miss Sophie Fortescue, a naive younger daughter of an inventor who recently became wealthy, Williams weaves a mystery that can only come to light when the intersection of two similar panes of a prism come together unexpectedly. (I’ll leave the final panes of that prism a mystery) The novel brings to life the cloistered life of a newly rich family as a juxtaposition to old, wealthy families in New York society. Even as the clash of new and old money continues on the surface, bubbling underneath is a desire of women in both realms to break free into the world of Jazz, booze, and freedom.

“‘Still, it was a passion of yours, wasn’t it? There was a reason you loved it, there was a reason you loved flying that had nothing to do with shooting down other airplanes and killing people. So that reason must still exist inside you, waiting for the — the — tide to go back out.'” (pg. 110)

Theresa’s marriage has grown stale, as she’s tolerated her husband’s discreet dalliances and the birth of a child just months after her own first born. As she strives to take a risk and begin her own affair, she finds herself caught up in the same traditional web of matrimony and security as the young man she falls into bed with seeks more. A principled man, an ace pilot during WWI, Octavian Rofrano grabs onto her offerings like a life preserver. It is not until he becomes Sophie’s cavalier that he begins to see that there can be more to life than a casual love affair with a married woman.

Meanwhile, Theresa’s bachelor brother Ox has fallen in love with the slip of a girl, whose innocence has been cracked by a trip to Europe with her inventor father and her sister. Sophie has fallen for his charms, until she begins to see the wider world around her, and all of its possibilities. How these lives become tangled into a treacherous web will rivet readers to every word on the page. Williams has created a socialite set and a set of new money players who are drawn into tragic circumstances beyond their control. A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams raises questions about experience and innocence, age and beauty, love and lust, and emptiness and fulfillment — how do we reach our full potential without knowing our past and leaping into the future? Can scandal ruin it all?

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

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Paperback, 416 pgs.
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Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is an epic debut in the historical fiction genre in which both strong women — Lady Katherine Trenowyth and Anna Trenowyth — are challenged. Katherine, a budding artist, bucks societal expectations to follow her heart, but her actions have ramifications. Nurse Anna closes herself off from others following a tragic sinking of a ship and deaths that rock her world. These women choose hard, lonely paths, but their strength carries them through the good and bad. While Katherine knows when to accept help, Anna must learn this lesson on her own, which can be tough during a WWII when many things are uncertain and tragedy can strike at any moment.

Panicked like a wild thing caught and frozen by the hunter’s lamp. (pg. 293 ARC)

As Rickloff shifts between the points of view and the time periods, readers may expect to lose their place in these stories, but she does such a wonderful job integrating them, readers are bound to fall in love with both characters. Although we may want the best for them, the realities of war and circumstance will intervene. When Anna shows up to tend to the patients at Nanreath Hall, an ancestral home she’s never seen, her curiosity takes over, forcing her to uncover the secrets of her mother, where she comes from, and the family she never knew as a child.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is a carefully woven tapestry of generations of Trenowyths, whose lives are upended by the decisions they make, the passions they follow, and the wars they cannot control. This is historical fiction at its best with elements of romance, artistry, romance, and mystery. Get swept away by the mysterious ruins of lives past and learn to make a new path from the old.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.  Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

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Paperback, 304 pgs.
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After Alice by Gregory Maguire is a bit like being at the tea party with the Mad Hatter.  Everything is topsy-turvy in the real world and in Wonderland, but the only difference is that readers are familiar with the characters in Wonderland.  Ada, a girl who has a steel corset to keep her erect, finds herself falling down the rabbit hole after Alice.  While she spends a lot of time looking for Alice and meeting the characters her friend has already met and interacted with, she makes little impact on the Wonderland world and it seems to have little impact on her until nearly 200 pages into the story.

Maguire makes a point of highlighting Ada’s disability, but when she seems to freely wander about Wonderland without the aid of her corset, Ada, herself, does not appear to reflect on that much.  Readers could deduce that 10-year-old Ada is free of the constraints of society, the vicarage, and proper behavior once she sheds this corset, but there is little time spent on that.

“‘Perhaps I could join your troupe.  I should like to go to the garden party, too,’ said Ada. ‘I am hunting for a friend, you see.  I’m afraid that she may be lost.’

‘She’s no more lost than Paradise,’ said the Tin Bear.  Everyone looked at him. ‘Do you think even Paradise Lost could find itself in this fog? Really.'” (pg. 126)

There are a great many references to Noah’s Ark, Paradise Lost, and the like, and while readers can presume they are meant to be amusing in the land of wonder, they tend to fall a bit flat as there’s no real context or build-up to their usage.  For much of the novel, readers wonder why they are transitioning from the present to Wonderland — following Ada who is following Alice and following the governess and Alice’s sister, Lydia.

Although framing stories are often irksome, in this case, a frame might have improved the narrative here.  Allowing Ada to be the beginning and the end, while we examined what life was like without Alice in England.  However, even that would have made for a mostly uneventful story.  After Alice by Gregory Maguire is really just a case of a story chasing its own tale to no avail.

RATING: Couplet

About the Author:

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includesWicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.  Find out more about Maguire at his website and follow him on Facebook.

The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

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Paperback, 448 pgs.
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The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor is a dazzling dream of a young maid who worships the starlight in the dresses of London actresses on stage and loves to dance.  Dolly Lane has started from a small town and when her childhood love returns from WWI a broken man who no longer remembers her, she makes a tough choice to follow her own dreams.  Told from three points of view — Dolly, Teddy, and Loretta — readers are given a wide view of how lives were changed by war.  Gaynor’s leading ladies are different but similar.  Dolly wants to be in the limelight and Loretta has achieved that dream, and how these ladies lives become entwined is a stroke of chance.

“He pours milk into his tea. ‘I’m not that bad.  Am I?’
‘Yes, you are. Honestly, darling, sometimes it’s like spending time with a dead trout.  And you used to be such tremendous fun.'” (pg. 35 ARC)

Loretta is a brave woman who takes her life and makes something of it, living her life as she chooses. She becomes a famous actress and spurns the trappings of her family’s expectations. Dolly, on the other hand, has dreams but is waffling as to how to achieve them. She leaves the employment of a rich household to become a maid at The Savoy in the hope that she will meet someone to change her course, but what she doesn’t realize is that she must muster up the courage to make the most of even innocuous meetings.

“Instead, I tug at the counterpane on my bed, straightening the creases I’ve made by sitting on it.  A habit of mine.  If I can’t untangle the knots in my heart, it seems that my life must be spent untangling everything else, setting things straight, making neat all that has been messed up.'” (pg. 44 ARC)

War is hammer that shatters the lives of those soldiers directly involved, but the reverberations travel far beyond the front lines, crippling families thousands of miles away and showing those inspired to help the wounded and others that their selfish concerns are shallow.  Gaynor has meted out the historical details so well, readers will become immersed in this glamorous and mundane world — the two sides of the coin between the dreamers and those who live in the spotlight.  The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor reminds us that dreaming is not enough; we must learn to reach for those dreams and bring them to life.

RATING: CINQUAIN

About the Author:

Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanicwas a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A Memory of Violets is her second novel.

Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others.

Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler

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Paperback, 368 pgs.
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The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is a stunning mystery that unravels piece by piece, and readers will first meet Mary Browning, an elderly woman in a writer’s group.  She believes she sees an apparition of her sister, Sarah, as a young lady walks into their public writing group.  This vision prompts her memories to resurface, and with the help of this young transcriptionist, she begins again on her memoir.  Leffler deftly weaves between the past and present, creating a multi-layered story that will capture not only the nostalgia of a former airplane pilot during WWII but also the immediacy of a young woman’s search for herself among the detritus of family drama.  Her characters resonate off of one another, like echoes of the past pushing forward the lives of the present into the future.  This ripple effect builds throughout the novel, until the final mystery is revealed.

“But my greatest fear of all was not having a voice of my own.” (pg. 5 ARC)

We all fear losing ourselves and not having a voice.  We are individuals in search of ourselves, but we also are sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends, among other roles that we play.  These connections can help us breathe life into our passions and desires, or they can stifle them.  The trick is to balance the needs and expectations of others with our own without hurting ourselves or those we care most about.

“… I learned how to squeeze my face closed and let myself soundlessly shudder, imagining my tears deep inside, dripping off my organs.” (pg. 31 ARC)

Mary has lived her life, much of it on her own terms, and while she has had a hard time compromising, she was able to do it for love, even to her own detriment.  When WWII was in full swing, she left home to do what she loved even as many told her she shouldn’t, and when she fell in love, she made a sacrifice that many would now see as unnecessary without having lived with the fear of persecution.

Very rarely is there a book that can equally make emotions soar and crash, taking readers on a complete journey wrought with obstacles and choices that you can only imagine facing.  For Mary Browning to have survived them and to have created a satisfying, but not ideal life, is nothing short of miraculous — much like when a heavy metal plane takes to the air with the birds and clouds.  The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is equal parts coming of age story, WWII historical romance, and mystery, and it is so well balanced and amazing, readers will be left spent at the end of the runway.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Maggie Leffler is an American novelist and a family medicine physician. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from the University of Delaware and volunteered with AmeriCorps before attending St. George’s University School of Medicine. She practices medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and sons. The Secrets of Flight is her third novel.

Find out more about Maggie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.

The Total Package by Stephanie Evanovich

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Hardcover, 256 pgs.
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Tyson Palmer is The Total Package; he’s football’s biggest star quarterback with a pile of money, a hot bod, and a trail of broken hearts, including his own. His career as a star football player, with help from his father and those around him, is nearly over.  But a chance meeting at his college’s Homecoming with Ella Bella, a former tutor, has ramifications that he is blissfully unaware of thanks to his drinking and Percocet.  When he’s kidnapped and forced into rehab, Palmer comes to realize that forgiveness has to first start with yourself.  Signing with the Austin Mavericks, he has an opportunity to relive the golden days as a star quarterback, but he plans to do it differently.

He still has his critics, and one of them is Dani Carr, a sports commentator, who calls Palmer out for his egotism and his failure to win a Super Bowl.  There’s a deeper cause for her anger, one that will take Palmer a while to uncover.  Even as they argue back and forth, the foreplay is something they cannot ignore.  Stephanie Evanovich creates characters that are not only flawed, but forgivable.  Carr’s work with Marcus, who is the receiver the Mavericks have pinned their hopes on, brings her closer to Palmer.  Carr has focused on her anger for so long, it is hard for her to let go even when she feels pulled in by Palmer’s charm.

Palmer is a man who wants forgiveness, but he also wants to build the life he once dreamed about as a kid.  The Total Package by Stephanie Evanovich is a story about redemption and forgiveness.  It’s another great read from this author and would be perfect to pop in the beach bag or even to spend the afternoon with in the spring sun.

RATING: QUATRAIN

About the Author:

Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey girl who attended New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts, performed with several improvisational troupes, and acted in a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she ever had: raising her two sons. Now a full-time writer, she’s an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do.  Find out more about Stephanie at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

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Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is a collection of short stories set during World War I, the Great War. Love is at the crux of each story, whether its a lost love or the love of a child lost to war, and these men and women are tested by the ravages of combat.  These writers have a firm grasp of the subject and readers will never question their knowledge of WWI or the human condition.  From a childless widow of German heritage living in France in “Hour of the Bells” by Heather Webb to a young wife left in Paris alone and estranged from her husband’s family in “After You’ve Gone” by Evangeline Holland, people are torn apart by war in many ways and those who are left behind to pick up the pieces are weary and forlorn.  They must pick up their skirts or what remains of their lives and move on, despite the pull of the past, the future that will never be, or the emptiness of their homes.

“But the trick was not to care too much.  To care just enough.” (from “An American Airman in Paris” by Beatriz Williams, pg. 244 ARC)

“Sixty years gone like a song, like a record on a gramophone, with the needle left to bump against the edge, around and around, the music gone.” (from “The Record Set Straight” by Lauren Willig, pg. 44 ARC)

These characters care, they care a lot, and even after the war is long over, the past still haunts them, at least until they are able to make amends or at least set the record straight.  How do you get past the loss of loved ones, do you wallow? do you seek revenge? how do you hold on to hope? Sometimes the war doesn’t leave a physical reminder, but a mental and emotional one — scars that are harder to trace and heal.  These stories are packed full of emotion and characters who will leave readers weeping and praising the hope they find.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig takes readers on a journey through and over the trenches and to the many sides in a war — crossing both national and familial borders.

Rating: Cinquain

Connect with the Authors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m counting this as my Fiction Book Set During WWI.

 

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 293 pgs.
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The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond, which was a February book club pick, is a fantastic cookbook for novice cooks and those with a little more experience.  This cookbook not only provides step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow, uses items that are pre-prepared (such as Pillsbury Crescent Rolls), and offers alternative ingredients, but it also tells a story of frontier life and gives step-by-step photos to show what recipes look like throughout the process to ensure that those following along are doing things as close to her instructions as possible.  I found the instructions and pictures of each step very helpful; they kept me on track, which I need with a 4-year-old helping in the kitchen who tends to get me easily distracted and missing steps.

For Thanksgiving week, I made the Peach-Whiskey Chicken using chicken legs, but you can use breasts and other types of pairings and types of chicken.  The directions were easy to follow with the measurements laid out, though the times for cooking in each step were approximate depending on your stove type and some steps could take longer.  We thoroughly enjoyed these messy chicken legs, and while I had a hard time finding peaches — I ended up using frozen peaches — it was good to make something so tasty from scratch.  This was the recipe that took me the longest time to prepare.

For the actual Thanksgiving dinner, I made the Whiskey-Glazed Carrots — are you sensing a theme here? — which was a relatively simple recipe to follow, though it took me a bit to find the skillet I have that has a lid — many of my pans do not have lids.  There’s something I do each Thanksgiving — I make different types of carrots with the hope that I can get Anna‘s daughter to eat them.  She doesn’t like carrots very much.  So far, I’ve gotten 2 okays in the last couple of years.  I’ll take it.  Next year, I’ll find another recipe for carrots.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a day off to do some editing and decided to take a break and make Apple Dumplings using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.  Cutting the apples was the hardest part because I don’t own an apple corer for some reason, so I had to cut the apples into 8 pieces — no they were not the same size — and core them once I cut the apple.  The rest of the recipe was a breeze, though I didn’t use Mt. Dew as the recipe indicated.  I used the variation of ginger ale, and I think they came out really well.  I don’t often eat ice cream, but I bet these would taste delicious with some vanilla bean ice cream.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond is delightful cookbook, filled with great recipes, anecdotes about frontier life, and advice on alternative recipes and pairings.  This is a cookbook I would recommend to anyone who wants to try something new but wants it kept simple.  I love that there are a variety of meals from spicy to mild, and the desserts in this book look so good just from the pictures.

About the Author:

Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006 and has built an award-winning website, where she shares recipes, showcases her photography, and documents her hilarious transition from city life to ranch wife. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Ree lives on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ladd; their four kids; their beloved basset hound; and lots of other animals.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman is a fanciful collection of short stories in a variety of forms, including those that use letters, poetry, and stories within stories. In the introduction, Gaiman explains what he means by trigger warnings and subsequently explains the seeds that began the stories and the thought processes behind them.  Readers who like surprises may want to skip the explanations and head right into the stories, because on their own, you can see how trigger warnings might be necessary for some readers.

“I’m thinking rather about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. … And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead.” (pg. XV)

Stories in the collection are twisted, have dark shadows that play at the edges, and will have readers contemplating what on earth they’ve just read.  “A Calendar of Tales” was a fun experiment conducted with the help of Twitter in which statements from strangers spawned ideas for stories, and these tales are spontaneous and captivating with images that references the months of the tales.  Readers will love the tone used by Gaiman, who builds little mysteries one word at a time.  Gaiman has chosen his formats and language very carefully — sucking readers in quickly and astonishing them by the end.  However, one story — The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, previously reviewed here — that makes an appearance in this collection may be better read in its illustrated format — it’s so much richer.  But one of the creepiest and unsettling stories in the collection is “Click-Clack Rattlebag” in which a young boy asks for a scary, but not too scary story before bed from his babysitter.  The story that’s told is not what the babysitter or the reader expects, and it will have readers looking very closely about the shadows at the edges of the room.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman was a satisfactory collection and while the theme seems to be the inescapable past, many of these fanciful stories also seek answers to what happens when you begin forgetting or when the future you expected does not come to pass.

Other Reviews:

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebooktumblr, and his blog.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 352 pgs.
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Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore is a long-awaited follow-up to A Dirty Job, which I loved.  Readers should start with the first book before reading this one.

Charlie Asher, a death merchant, has taken on a new form, and his daughter is living with his sister even as his situation becomes more hopeless.  Minty Fresh reprises his role as comic relief, but there really is much more of that going around in this novel.  San Francisco is one again under threat from dark forces.  The Big Book of the Dead has sensed the change, and as things happen magically, the instructions in the book morph into dire warnings — most of which are ignored, at least until the banshee shows up.  Through a mix of characters from the previous book, Moore is at his best with these sarcastic, wise-cracking misfits who riff off one another like guitarists in a large band.  Their tune is haphazard but effective in this hunt for balance in the world of the dead.

“‘Sure, you could say talked. Ghosts mostly communicate by odor. Gotta tell you, you got a house that smells like farts, you got a haunted house.'” (pg. 75)

“With that, great clouds of fire burst out the twin tailpipes of the Buick and it lowered its stance like a crouching leopard before bolting out of the turnout.” (pg. 122)

Moore is a talented writer, who can write a funny quip and hilarious dialogue in one stroke and a gorgeous set of literary images in another. This duo of books combines the best of those talents, along with some great supernatural elements that are based not only on Egyptian mythology but also Buddhist teachings. This mash-up is unique and engaging, and his characters bring it to life easily. From Minty Fresh who wears all lime green clothes and owns a secondhand music store to Lemon who wears all yellow and has a calm demeanor that covers his dark motives, Moore’s characters will have readers laughing and questioning every turn of plot.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore is a wonderful follow-up that will have readers wondering about where their soul is headed, who will guide it where it needs to go, and whether they will one day find themselves with a super-ability they never wanted.  It’s another winner from this author.

About the Author:

Christopher Moore is an American writer of comic fantasy. He was born in Toledo, Ohio. He grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University and Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses by Dick Flavin

Source: William Morrow
Hardcover, 224 pgs
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Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses by Dick Flavin is chock full of historical information about the team and the players from the team, particularly the World Series winning teams and Ted Williams. Flavin is an icon often associated with the Red Sox, and this book dubs him the “Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate,” and he is that.  Flavin’s got some great poems in this collection that not only chronicle the hardships from a fan’s point of view, but also from that of the players’ points of view.  There is the curse of the Bambino, the plight of Jackie Robinson who loved the game more than anything, and the ins and outs of the historic field.  Let’s not forget the enigmatic Manny Ramirez.

From "The Ring" (pg. 35)

My God, I've got a Series ring,
      Please, do not wisecrack.
If Lucchino hears about this
      He'll make me give it back.

His rhymes are well done for the most part, and many of the poems are humorous, especially when he gets to writing a poem about Carl Yastrzemski. How can you make a rhyme with his name? Unless you make something Seussian up. And lest you think the collection includes poems that are negative to the New York Yankees, it does not. There is some respect for their best players. The book also includes a great collection of photographs and memorabilia.

Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses by Dick Flavin is a great collection for Red Sox and all baseball fans.  It was fun to read, and great to see some of the history of the game.  My dad even picked this one up while he was here, reading some of the poems and checking out the photos — this is amazing since he doesn’t like sports much.  He does like Dick Flavin and remembers meeting him a couple times, so he was intrigued.

About the Author:

Dick Flavin is a Commonwealth institution, widely known and highly regarded for his 22 years on Boston television. He’s blessed with no small measure of talent and a memorable personality. He’s a great Red Sox fan, but in that he’s hardly unique, since there are several million patriotic Americans who qualify for that distinction.

But among those fans, those patriots, who stretch from sea to shining sea, there may be no other fan who finds more joy in putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard and celebrating in verse our beloved Boston Red Sox.

Since the inception of the Writers Series he has been present at all of our events. Being slow of mind, however, it took me a while to realize Mr. Flavin’s special gifts, in both verse and song. But once that happened, my belated discovery, it was easy to designate him Poet Laureate of The Great Fenway Park Writers Series. That he willingly accepted the title and its attendant responsibilities was a special day for The Great Fenway Park Writers Series.

 

 

 

 

The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 336 pgs
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The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna is a World War II novel set in the Wisconsin around the time of the cherry harvest, and for a novel focused on the home front of the war, the tension is still great.  As rationing affects the nation’s farmers, but not those like the lighthouse keeper, readers will get a sense of the tensions that wars bring for those at home and not just fighting the battles.  The narrative is split between Charlotte Christiansen and her daughter, Kate, and as two strong women, they struggle with what is right for their family, right for the town, and right for themselves.  Thomas Christiansen is a bookish man who gave up his university studies to take over the family farm, and he married a good woman from a local dairy farm who could make some award winning pies.  When the war begins to take the immigrant labor from the farm, his wife hatches a plan to save their upcoming harvest because without a plan of action, their son Ben may not have a home to come to when the war is over.

“Worry? In addition to all they had to do before, lighthouse keepers are now charged with protecting our shores from the enemy.  The shores of the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.” She leaned in.  “And you think a few prison guards can protect us from that madman Hitler, who’s bent on controlling the world?” (pg. 30 ARC)

Kate is struggling, too.  Her dreams of attending university seem to be thwarted at nearly every turn as her mother takes the one possession she has to sell to pay for college and uses it to feed them, and as she learns she needs additional help with math in order to pass the entrance exam.  But beyond these trials, she realizes that life is moving forward without her in many ways, with her friend Josie already planning a wedding to Ben, even while he continues to fight overseas and his likelihood of coming home is slim.  As she finds out what kind of woman she wishes to become, Kate uncovers her own compass and learns that she needs to rely on her own courage to achieve her goals.  This self-reliance is something she learns from her mother, even as Kate comes to the realization that her mother is not perfect.

Sanna has created a dynamic cast of characters for this home front novel, but where it lacks strength is in the twists of plot.  Some situations come from left field or are simply there to check a box in what a WWII novel should have — including two star-crossed love affairs and battles between Americans and Nazis, though not on the battlefield.  Additionally, Charlotte’s character is a bit all over the place — one minute she wants the Nazis to be used as labor and in the next minute she wants them no where near her family.  Her hypocrisy is part of her undoing, but readers also may find that some things are left to unresolved to be satisfactory.  There are certain situations that did not jibe well with the character development, which made the fallout of those situations difficult to believe.

Where The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna shined was in its depiction of troubled economic times because of the war, the tensions between those in the same town over those troubles, and the impact of war on soldiers and the uncertainty among family how to act or react to those soldiers coming home.  Had the novel a more refined focus, Sanna would have hit one out of the park with this one.  Due to the plot issues and other issues, this was a mixed read for me in the end.

About the Author:

Lucy Sanna has published poetry, short stories, and nonfiction books, which have been translated into a number of languages. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Sanna now divides her time between Madison, Wisconsin, and San Francisco. The Cherry Harvest is her first novel.

Find out more about Lucy at her website and connect with her on Facebook. (Photo Credit: Hope Maxwell Snyder)