Quantcast

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

Source: Purchased
ebook, 366 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton is part romance and part time travel, but it is also a novel about friendship and finding the gumption to go after what you want. Our heroine Rose Wallace is eager to meet her online friend Morgan after spending so much time with her online in Jane Austen forums.

“‘Is this one of those moments when I don’t understand you because you’re British?'”

But she’s also eager for the annual Jane Austen festival that takes over Bath, and added bonus, she’ll get to help archaeologist Dr. Aiden Trevellyan settle in before his talk on his most recent research and dig in Chawton. But soon, she becomes intrigued with an upstairs visitor, Jenny Ashton, who has a peculiar way about her and simply seems to live the older customs now.

“‘Pray, how is this a convenience store? One can barely turn about, ’tis so narrow, and there is no logic to the produce on display. I find naught of convenience about it.'”

Through a portal, Rose and Jenny are thrust into a time where Rose’s life is less independent from her not-so-great mother, and (GASP!) the works of Jane Austen have never been written. Rose and Jenny must either find a way back to their old lives or resign themselves to the new ones — ones in which Rose may flounder at her job at the library but one that could provide her a romantic partner. How do you choose between the life you’ve known and loved with one full of unknown possibilities?

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton shines in the building and rebuilding of friendships across time and space. No TARDIS needed here, but Rose must learn to meet the challenges before her without losing sight of who she wants to be.I just loved all of these characters and their misunderstandings and awkwardness. It’s wonderfully funny too.

I just had to get the next book in this series… stay tuned for that review.

RATING: Quatrain

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs

Source: the poet
Paperback, 72 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***full disclosure: Jeanne and I have been poetry blog buddies for a long time.***

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs is a travel story in verse, a journey of self-discovery, reflection, and enjoyment. It was no surprise to me that her collection begins with a quote from “Ulysses.”

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move."

This is the perfect quote for this collection. It is a movement to places, while at the same time a separation from those places and experiences into a moment of now, which is fleeting and yet becomes part of not only the reader but the poet herself. I loved that each page resembles a postcard back with a name and location, and the poem on the opposite side, providing the reader with a person that the poem is speaking to (not just the reader). This dialogue makes each poem unique. I would loved to have seen the actual images of each postcard, though Griggs does provide enough description in her poems to put you there, holding that card as she writes her short missives.

From "Postcard with a piece of the Berlin Wall" (pg. 7)

...I received
a broken-off piece from
the Berlin wall, the world was
Safe, we could retire
in the countryside.
Now our kids have moved
away but we're still here
where our neighbors just
voted to build a border wall.

Griggs is candid and uses her wry humor to highlight the ironies of our world. An America a little less concerned with freedom and more consumed by fears. While some of her poems speak about the wider world, they are often grounded in the locality where she is. These poems also examine what it means to grow into adulthood and to age beyond where we believe ourselves to be mentally. From “postcard of Niagara Falls,” “I missed you,/….wishing I could watch you/see this, wondering if I left/you alone too much, pursuing/your own course around/me,…/” (pg. 34)

There are so many good poems in this collection it is hard to pick a favorite, but for fellow bibliophiles, “postcard from Cape Cod” (pg. 38) will speak to you:

we could live like in the books,
without any of the fuss
of having to sustain anything
except ourselves, making meals
of little dishes on trays,
the wine we brought poured
into an endless line of glasses.

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs is a delight to read. These are poems I will read again at the beach or on a vacation (should I ever take one again). There is so much light in these poems. It made my spirit lighter as I read them. We all need that these days.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Jeanne Griggs is a reader, writer, traveler, and ailurophile. She directs the writing center at Kenyon College, plays violin in the Knox County Symphony, and reviews books at Necromancy Never Pays.

When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer

In simplified terms, symptoms of endometriosis may include: excessive menstrual cramps, abnormal, or heavy menstrual flow and pain during intercourse.

Endometriosis affects an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40. Go here for more information on Endometriosis.

Source: the poet
Paperback, 118 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer is a collection that will open your eyes to what it is like to be chronically ill and to struggle to find not only a diagnosis and treatment but also acceptance among friends, family, and loved ones when you cannot even get out of bed some days. This collection also includes some information about online support groups and places to seek out information on this baffling ailment that can sometimes take more than a decade to diagnose.

From "2020" (pg. 2)

But all the laughter
Has been compressed out of me

Chronic illness can be debilitating, so much so that Bowyer says, “It’s like once I was done healing/I ceased to be.” (pg. 4) Bowyer not only tackles the exhaustion and pain of the disease in their poems, they also tackle misconceptions about endometriosis in “Dirty Girls’ Disease.” Readers can expect to take an emotional roller coaster ride with Bowyer, who speaks in verse about their experiences, emotions, and emptiness of battling the disease alone.

From an untitled poem (pg. 24)

I am a kitchen
Without plates,
Pots,
Pans.
I can burn
Pain into
My skin
On the burners;
I can gut myself
With utensils
That seem to serve
No other purpose.
What is the point
Of a kitchen
When my home
Has been destroyed?
Pain Erases People (pg. 51)

There are versions
Of myself
I will never recover,
Stolen by moments
I will forever remember.

This collection will shed light on an illness not many people know about and even fewer understand. This collection spoke to me among the many pitches because it is something a family member has dealt with and others have dealt with in the past. While I do not have it myself, it was important to me to learn more about how this illness affects others, especially those in my family. When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis by Maggie Bowyer can provide others with greater empathy and provide a cathartic experience for those with the disease, demonstrating that they are not alone in this battle.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Maggie Bowyer (they/them/theirs) is a poet and the author of The Whole Story (Margaret Bowyer, 2020) and When I Bleed: Poems about Endometriosis (2021). They are a blogger and essayist with a focus on Endometriosis and chronic pain. They have been featured in Germ Magazine, Detour Ahead, Poetry 365, and others. They were the Editor-in-Chief of The Lariat Newspaper, a quarter-finalist in Brave New Voices 2016, and were a Marilyn Miller Poet Laureate. Visit their website.

Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter

Source: FSB Associates
Paperback, 352 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter is a book focused on not letting rejection and negative thoughts get in the way of your dreams. Carter’s book guides writers through the doubts, negative thoughts, roadblocks, and obstacles of writing and publishing, helping them review their own perspectives and how to change their mindsets.

She begins by talking about her hammock where she daydreamed and thought about her writing, but one day, her neighbor cuts the shade tree down in his yard and the hammock is now not “perfect.” Carter’s thoughts are consumed by the loss of shade and the bright sun, but her husband suggests she moves the hammock to another spot. She’s unwilling to do that, until she realizes that sometimes obstacles pop up when we need to change direction.

“I had traded the powerful peace that I am for the illusion that somebody had taken it,” she says. “You may think, as I did, that someone or something outside you is responsible for your upset. As convincing as this appears, it’s a misconception. Our peace and happiness come from within.”

Our internal demons and thoughts are those that keep us from reaching our dreams, and she urges us to stop being rats on that spinning wheel and get off. We need to release ourselves from the “cage of our own making.” In order to do this, however, you need to know wholeheartedly what you want, especially from your writing. You need to have a clear vision of the writing and its purpose. Without it, agents and external forces can push you in directions that are not a perfect fit for you. While some may provide additional opportunities that you may want to pursue, other opportunities may not be a right fit. The trick is to have a clear vision at the start to recognize those right opportunities.

“We cannot control outside circumstances or thoughts, we can choose how we relate to them.”

Carter does offer some writing advice, but her book is less about craft itself and more about the mindset you need to create freely. She does offer a great deal of insight about choosing agents and publishers and learning what route is best for your writing. Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter is part spiritual journey, part publishing advice, and part writing craft advice.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Bella Mahaya Carter is a creative writing teacher, empowerment coach, speaker, and author of an award-winning memoir, Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy, and a collection of narrative poems. She has worked with hundreds of writers since 2008 and has degrees in literature, film, and spiritual psychology. Her poetry, essays, fiction, and interviews have appeared in Mind, Body, Green; The Sun; Lilith; Fearless Soul; Writer’s Bone; Women Writers, Women’s Books; Chic Vegan; Bad Yogi Magazine; Jane Friedman’s blog; Pick The Brain; the Spiritual Medial Blog; Literary Mama, several anthologies’ and elsewhere.

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield (audio)

Source: Freebie
Audible, 2+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield is a hommage to Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac that relies on Rolling Stone magazine’s extensive archives. It is clear from Rob Sheffield’s effusive narrative that he loves Stevie Nicks, considers her songwriting genius, and her style transcendent. He clearly loves Stevie Nicks and he takes listeners on a journey through her music with the band and as a solo artist. I loved learning that Nicks wrote songs and that none of them were earmarked ahead of time for the band or her solo albums. She just couldn’t help but write songs all the time.

I liked the light-hearted nature of this nugget, as I’m not as familiar with Nicks’ work as others might be. I’ve listened to Fleetwood Mac many times, and I enjoy their music, but I was interested in her as an artist, who seemed to be a force in the band and on her own. I would probably seek out a more in-depth look at her work and her life, but this provided a nice overview without too much “romance/breakup” gossipy stuff, which I tend to not like as much.

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield is one fan-boy’s love of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks told by the man himself. It does provide a great overview for the curious who might not want to be too invested, but if you want something more than squealing about how great she is, you might want to try something different.

RATING: Tercet

Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals Shells

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals Shells from National Geographic Kids is another stunning book from this publisher. The full-color pictures, the facts throughout the book, and just how the book is put together is fantastic. For kids who are curious about the world around them and pick up rocks and stick them in their pockets as they walk through the park, this is a book for them. This book will open their eyes to the wonderful world of rocks, minerals, and shells.

The introduction gives parents some basic information about how the book rolls out its information, from fact boxes to interactive questions for the kids and the parent tips at the back of the book. This book offers parents a starting point for exploring the natural world with their kids and rekindling some of the curiosity they once had as children. I remember taking earth science in school, but this rock cycle graphic is a great refresher about how all rocks can come full circle.

In addition to pictures of mountains and natural formations that are comprised of rock, the book points to man-made structures that use different types of rock. Kids will learn about rocks in their own backyards, as well as rocks they don’t see every day. I learned about rock that floats like an island in the South Pacific. The interactive map of rocks in different locations is a fun matching quiz for parents and kids alike.

Kids also will learn about shells and mollusks and turtles and so much more. Don’t forget about the minerals. We love discovering new minerals and the matching game where kids are asked to match minerals like topaz with their natural forms, rather than their refined gem looks.

My daughter has collected rocks for as long as I can remember and when we visited Myrtle Beach she started collecting shells. This book has so much information, you may get overloaded if you read it in one day, but as a resource you can come back to again and again, it is a gem of a book. We’re always amazed by how National Geographic Kids puts its informational books together and makes them interactive, and Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals Shells is no exception.

RATING: Cinquain

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise and Marcus Brotherton (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 12+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise and Marcus Brotherton, read by the Gary Sinise, explores his upbringing, wayward years, and his stumble into acting and building a theater in Chicago from the ground up. These stories are full of antics, and spontaneity, but they also demonstrate the tenacity of a young man who has found his calling. It is this determination that will carry him not only throughout his acting career, but family trials and his charity work with veterans and children.

Sinise is most well-known for Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and CSI NY but among veterans, he’s Lt. Dan — yes, military personnel have called him that more than one time. While not a veteran himself, Sinise understands the sacrifices many military men and women make for our country and how heavily the PTSD and wounds weigh on not only those sustaining them, but also those caring for the wounded. Listening to this on audio, I was engaged in the story most of the time, unless he was listing accomplishments.

Despite that drawback, Sinise provides a good look at how his wayward early years and stumble into acting not only set him up for success in film, theater, and television, but also in using that success to help others tasked with protecting our freedoms. While there are moments in the memoir where he references things that later proved false (like WMDs in Iraq), the focus on his work is not political — it is humanitarian. This is the work and the part of the memoir that was the most “real” to me. He seemed to genuinely care about the people he tries to help through his foundations and other organizations, and it is clear that he believes in his purpose.

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise and Marcus Brotherton is an exploration of one man’s journey away from his own concerns and career to a life of service. He’s clearly done a lot of good from uplifting the morale of troops overseas to providing children with school supplies in war zones and ensuring that veterans return home to a place where they can thrive and do more than just survive from appointment to appointment. This is the work to be proud of, work he plans to continue, and work that will leave a lasting impression.

RATING: Quatrain

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss (giveaway)

Source: Graywolf Press
Paperback, 152 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a collection that, at times, tried my patience with its contradictions. But isn’t that what life is — a bucket of contradictions? She says in one of her opening sonnets: “The problem with sweetness is death. The problem/with everything is death. There really is no other problem/” Death is a final stop, and it toys with many of us, taking our friends or family too soon, putting us in situations where death could take us but doesn’t, and it looms in the close distance for us to get there.

Seuss pulls no punches in this collection and remains forthright in her depictions of giving birth, aging, abortion, abandonment by a drug-addicted son, and so much more. Aging is a central theme, even when she speaks of her childhood self. Poetic subjects waste away with AIDS, fade into the distance of space or recollection, or remain behind the larger death that pierces the happiness or contentment she seeks. She explores the falseness of faith in Catholicism, the nationalistic scourge that America finds itself consumed by, and the undercurrent of poverty and it’s traumatic scars. She sees the “undershirt” of it all.

“We all have our trauma nadir,” is the sonnet that guts us. We are her and she us. We all have trauma; we are told to lock it away (get over it); but what place is big enough to hold all of that trauma away so that it will no longer affect us? She adds in a later sonnet, “I can’t live up to normal.” Isn’t normal a fallacy? What exactly is normal and how can you be expected to achieve it when no one knows what it is? Despite these dark topics, it is clear that to live is to live with “sharp things.” Without these traumas and disappointments, where would we be?

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a winding trail of darkness that teaches readers about the beauty in that darkness. It is an exercise in owning our own disappointments and traumas and learning how to let them go and move forward with our lives. It is a tough medicine to take, but Seuss is confident that we can take it or nearly die trying.

RATING: Quatrain

To Enter the giveaway: Leave a comment with your email address by June 30. Must be age 18+ and have a U.S. postal address.

Forward by Abby Wambach (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook; 5+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Forward by Abby Wambach, read by the author, explores her need for soccer in her life and her early hatred of the game and her talent. But at its heart, it is also a memoir that explores identity and self-love. A lot of her high school and soccer years are spent trying to be seen, but even as she is seen by the public more and more, she feels more unloved. This vacancy in her heart leads her to destructive behavior and she becomes very unbalanced. There is one moment where she turns the tables on herself — asking herself if she knows who she is.

Her life is a roller coaster of emotion where she is on highs and slumps into lows, exchanging booze for pills. However, I feel like when she decides to kick these habits, they are still there but she places less emphasis on them. She talks a lot about getting fit and kicking habits, but she still allows for medications that can be addictive. I found this a bit hypocritical, especially since they mask a larger problem. I sense that there is still denial here in how these pills mask her underlying issues. It begs the question of whether more time apart from soccer and the publicity would have given her more time for reflection and self-assessment, perhaps growth.

Forward by Abby Wambach is an inside look at a woman who has a hard time letting go of control, cannot have faith in others, and learn to love herself and know that she is worthy of love. Soccer is always there for her, even when she doesn’t want it to be. Soccer fans will love the recounting of her championships, Olympics, and more, but these are wider examples of her need for adrenaline and attention. Wambach struggles to be alone and love herself, but she never really recognizes this in the memoir. I think with more distance and further reflection, she would have written a deeper memoir.

RATING: Tercet

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut & Giveaway

Source: Author/Publisher
Paperback, 34 pgs.
I am Amazon Affiliate

(full disclosure: Kristin Ferragut is part of my poetry workshop and I was part of a workshop that helped her hone this story)

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, uses fairy tale-like elements to explain transgender to younger children. It’s an introductory story to help start conversations with kids about large themes, but at it’s core, this is a story about feeling comfortable in your own skin, loving yourself, and finding acceptance and love in your own family and friends.

The Wizard and their children, the Knight and the Dragon, are getting ready to trick-or-treat. When kids and their parents meet the Wizard and their family, they see a loving family eager to celebrate Halloween together. But kids will hear that the Wizard has an unspoken desire. With a quick costume change, the Wizard and their children are out the door. They are laughing and playing and magical things happen.

The streets may be crowded, but they are having a great time together, especially the Wizard. They receive compliments from strangers about their well behaved children, but many of them mistake the Wizard for a mom. Ferragut has created a magical way in which a transgender person finds not only their identity but peace in their own skin.

The illustrations by Ferragut’s daughter are colorful and expressive. The smile on the Wizard will make children smile. It just exudes such happiness. The final scene in the book is beautifully rendered. I look forward to more of her work.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, establishes a starting point for conversations about transgender and finding the home in your own skin and family. It will enable parents to talk to their children openly about their own identities.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is the author of the poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021). She teaches, writes songs, poetry and prose, hikes, and participates in readings and workshops in Maryland, where she lives with her two creative, lively, and supportive children. Her work has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Fledgling Rag, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. For more information, visit her website: www.kristinskiferragut.com

About the Illustrator:

Coley Dolmance Ferragut is an animator, digital artist, and actor who investigates themes of class and social justice in her work. A high school senior, this is Coley’s first published book.

GIVEAWAY:

1 copy of Becoming the Enchantress to 1 U.S. reader.

Deadline to enter is June 15, 2021.

Leave a comment with your email so I can contact you if you’re the winner.

Welcome to My Panic by Billie Joe Armstrong (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 1+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

**Caution: foul language throughout**

Welcome to My Panic by Billie Joe Armstrong, narrated by the author, reveals some interesting inspiration — Fleetwood Mac as a guilty pleasure — and growing up Billie, one of six siblings with varied musical interests. (love for the Fugazi nod) He speaks about the death of his father, his first friendship in school and how music bonded them, having panic attacks at age 10 and onward, but mostly when he’s alone, and so much more.

To be called a “rock star” was the worst insult for this punk — at least that’s what it felt like when stardom took hold of his life. Armstrong tackles his substance use issues, his panic attacks, and his experimentation in music and his life decisions. Much of his impulsivity seems to stem from a lack of stability in his life — something gain control over his career and life.

Highlights for me were the recorded songs on the Audible. It was a trip into my past and rockin’ out years. I love audio’s that provide some kind of look into the creative mind — whether a singer, writer, photographer, or artist. I would probably say this could have been a far longer memoir with much more detail, but it highlights the biggest influences — as Armstrong sees them — in his life. Welcome to My Panic by Billie Joe Armstrong is a great way to pass the time, and I love the mix of narration with music.

RATING: Quatrain

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley

Source: GBF
Paperback, 68 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley is like a letter to her children and the family who have passed on too soon. These poems weave through the grief and out of it, plunge into it, and emerge from it, but at the root of that grief is love. The poems are like stories told through a lens of motherhood.

From "untitled mom" (pg. 26)

I almost facetimed you this morning
I'd cut my hair to donate it...

but then I remembered
and sobbed

We can experience that grief because we have felt it. The time you forget your friend is no longer here to reach out to, even if you haven’t spoken in many years or the mother you feel with you even though she has passed away. There are other days in grief that we feel ourselves falling into darkness, a darkness we know will be hard to get out of once we’re down there. And mothers also know that they cannot be in that dark place too long when they have children to care for. Bradley takes us on this journey acknowledging the struggle and the sorrow, but also the love and the unexpected joys.

Sunfall (pg. 18)

sunfall
snowfall
moonfall

don't fall

love, loss, and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley is a very intimate collection of poems, mirroring a memoir. For me, the collection was more like reading an diary of moments, but the poems seemed rough or unfinished in some places. In others, I felt the poems resembled those that are popular on Instagram these days. While these poems were less polished, they do provide a look at the roller-coaster of grief.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Kelly Bradley is a tech writer and Sr. Product Manager in the Washington DC area where she writes stories and creates apps based on data. She wrote her first poem in Second grade, a requiem to her cat, Petey. Her first collection, “love, loss and the enormity of it all” addresses themes of grief, joy, love, heartbreak and perseverance. When not working or writing poetry, Kelly writes songs and rap lyrics, dances to electronic dance music, and hikes year-round with her dog, Winter.