WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO by David Joy – A masterful tale of living in the backwoods and the chance of escape 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Title: WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO

Author: DAVID JOY    
Genre: FICTION  

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Length: 260 PAGES

Publisher: PUTNAM – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE   

Release Date: 2015 

ISBN: 978-0-425-27979-3  

Price:  $16.00 USD / $21.00 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This story is set in the beautiful, and wild Cashiers Mountains in a remote corner of North Carolina.

Jacob McNeely is the son of the meth kingpin of the area. He is not like his father, but because his lastname is McNeely, most of the people in the area have him pegged as a no-good criminal.

All kinds of people inhabit the mountains and many of them can be considered ornery, but Jacob’s father is more than just ornery, he is downright mean. To add to his charm, he is violent, demeaning to women and completely terrifying when someone crosses him.

Jacob describes the area in which he lives by noting; “The Creek was a beautiful place, but it was lawless and always had been. The land was of little use for farming, so the folks who settled way back when were mostly drunkards and thieves. I was generations away from those earliest outlaws, but things like that have a way of staying in the blood.”

Jacob feels like he has no choices in the way his life will turn out. But, as sure as he is that he is stuck in The Creek forever, he is equally sure that his girlfriend is destined for bigger and better things.

You will have to read this novel to discover if one of them escapes or if they both do, or if, in the end, neither of them are destined to leave the clutches of their pasts.

The language that author David Joy uses in this book is beautifully written prose that somehow continuously has the ability to strike a chord with his readers.

It doesn’t matter what it is that author David Joy describes, he does it with such vividness that the reader is instantly able to form a picture in his or her mind. For example, when writing about the paint in the jail, he describes it as follows:

“The concrete was painted a warm kind of gray, something not so depressing as snow clouds but more of a gray like an old woman’s perm.”

If David Joy can make the description of the crappy, gray paint in a jail cell into something I actually quote in my review, than as far as I am concerned, he has some serious writing chops.

The characters come alive through David Joy’s skillful writing and even though the vast majority of those who read this book will have nothing in common with them, readers will find themselves hoping for a happy ending for the two lovers.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 and recommend it to those readers who enjoyed “Hillbilly Elegy” or who are fans of character driven fiction that seems so real that even after the final page, a small part of you will wonder if these are actually true events rather than fiction.

Critically acclaimed author David Joy, whose debut,Where All Light Tends To Go, was hailed as “a savagely moving novel that will likely become an important addition to the great body of Southern literature” (The Huffington Post), returns to the mountains of North Carolina for his second novel, a powerful story about the inescapable weight of the past.

The Weight Of This World is set for release on March 7, 2017 from Putnam Books and I am very much looking forward to reading it.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novelsThe Weight Of This World(Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us(Putnam, TBD). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award.
His work is represented by Julia Kenny of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency, with film rights by Dana Spector at Paradigm.

Joy is the recipient of an artist fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, and has been nominated for awards such as the Pushcart Prize. His latest short stories and essays have appeared in The Good Men Project, Still: The Journal, and The Pisgah Review.

Joy lives in Webster, North Carolina. For a full curriculum vitae click here

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

GOODREADS    

TWITTER    

FACEBOOK    

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PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE   
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An Amazing Book Coming Soon – THE LAURAS by Sara Taylor 5 out of 5 Stars just is not enough – LOVED THIS BOOK 

Title:  THE LAURAS   

Author: SARA TAYLOR

Genre: FICTION, LGBTQ

Publisher: CROWN PUBLISHING, HOGARTH  

Release Date:  AUGUST 1, 2017  

EDITION: HARDCOVER

ISBN: 9780451496850

Price: $26.00 (USD)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟    

Wow! I have just finished reading the final page of THE LAURAS and I can already tell you that this book is going to be on my list of the BEST BOOKS OF 2017.

Although this book will not be officially released until August, I urge everyone that reads this review to put the date on your calendar and not to miss out.

This is one of those extremely rare books that is worth standing in line for  – at midnight, on the eve of its release. Yes, IT IS THAT GOOD.

THE LAURAS is a tale that will take readers on a journey of dual-discovery. It is a tale of a mother and child who set out on a cross country trip during which the mother makes multiple interesting side-trips.

These trips could last a day, a month, or even several months. They could be boring (in Alex’s opinion), they could be strange, and sometimes they were even downright terrifying.

Alex is a child (less due to her age, and more due to her limited life experience) when this story begins, but as the cross-country Odyssey continues Alex grows into a young adult. Thanks to the fact that Alex is the narrator, readers are brought along on Alex’s unique journey into the perils and delights of becoming the person who was always meant to be. And, trust me – this is a coming of age story unlike any other.

I wish there was a way to give more than 5 out of 5 stars, because this book is a masterpiece of fiction and I have no doubt that it will win many awards and will end up on Bestseller Lists everywhere. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

THE CHARACTERS:

How do I describe Alex’s mother? It’s a dilemma, but perhaps I will let Alex  describe her since that expanation will be so much better than mine.

“Ma’s mood had perked up; I could see the happy on her face and the weight was rolling off her shoulders like stones … and it looked like she might start singing at any moment. If she’d been the kind of person that sang. Really, she’d be more likely to start spontaneously handing around shots of tequila as an expression of happiness, but singing sounds better.”

Some people might think that having a Mom like that would be fun – and maybe it would be; for a little while, anyway. But, a parent is meant to take care of their child, not act like a child herself.

Alex is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. When the reader learns more and more about Alex’s life and personality, it is impossible not to root for this interesting and inscrutable character. Readers will find themselves second guessing what they think they know about Alex and this mystery remains until the very end of the book.

MORE

This would be a terrific book to feature in a Book Club setting since there is just so much in it that readers will want to talk about.

I also think that this book just might have some people questioning their own stances on many issues. I would love to say more here, but I refuse to ruin this story for anyone.

FAVORITE QUOTE:
“But I didn’t have the child’s blind trust in the omnipotence of parents anymore: I had eaten the apple, knew that Ma was no different from me, that she probably didn’t know what to do right now anymore than I would, that her only advantage was a rapidly narrowing gulf of experience.”

IN CONCLUSION:

ADD THIS BOOK TO YOUR TBR (TO BE READ) LIST AND MARK AUGUST 1st, 2017 ON YOUR CALENDAR. You will be glad you did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

SARA TAYLOR is a product of Virginia and the homeschooling movement. She traded her health for a BFA from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and her sanity for an MA in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

Following the MA her supervisor refused to let her leave, so she remains as a PhD candidate at the UEA where she researches censorship, writes fiction, and is occasionally entrusted with the teaching of undergraduates.

 She spends an unprecedented amount of time on delayed trains between Norwich and her husband’s house in Reading, and tends to get lost, rained on, and chased by cows with unsettling frequency.

Her short fiction has been published electronically and in print in The Fiddlehead, The Fog Horn, and Granta, among other places. Her novels are published by William Heinemann in the UK, Hogarth in the US, and Bond Street Books in Canada.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

BLOG 

GOODREADS     

CHAPTERS / INDIGO BOOKS    

AMAZON   


Read an interview with Sara Taylor HERE.


  

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK IN THE WORLD by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is a collection of eight novellas that focus on the darkness within us all & the ability for redemption.

Title: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK IN THE WORLD: Eight Novellas


Translated from the French by: ALISON ANDERSON   

Author: ERIC-EMMANUEL SCHMITT 

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER  

Genre: NOVELLAS, SHORT STORIES

Length: 181 PAGES   

Publisher: EUROPA EDITIONS   

Release Date: 2009

ISBN: 978-1-9933372-74-7 

Price: $15.00 USD / $18.00 CAN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟


MY REVIEW:


STORY # 1 – WINNIPEG WANDA

“Wanda had already figured out that she would make it on her own … Wanda concluded that it was through men that she would make her way in life.”

Seemingly cold and calculated, Wanda Winnipeg is a thrice-divorced multimillionaire. She both demands and commands attention and respect wherever she goes. Disdain is her go-to emotion.


STORY # 2 – FINE RAINY DAY

“Hėlène could not remember having ever experienced a perfect moment.”

No one and nothing was ever good enough for her. That is, until she met Antoine, whose love for her  changes everything. Or does it?


STORY 3 – THE INTRUDER  

Odile Versini is sure that she has just seen a woman in her apartment and not only that, but that the intruder stared right at her. Odile calls the police and stays on the phone until they arrive. However, by the time they get there the woman has somehow slipped out of the apartment.

This happens several times and Odile cannot fathom what this woman wants, why she keeps returning and exactly how she is able to get away each time. But she is determined to put a stop to it once and for all.

 STORY #4 – THE FORGERY

This story, although it might not seem so at first, is all about perceptions.

 

STORY # 5 – EVERY REASON TO BE HAPPY


Just because all your friends and acquaintances say that you every reason to be happy, does not guarantee that you are.


STORY # 6 – THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS

Appearances can be deceiving.


STORY # 7 – ODETTE TOULEMOND

Perhaps happiness and fulfillment can come from unexpected places.


STORY # 8 – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK IN THE WORLD

This story is the best one out of the eight and is set in a Russian gulag housing female political dissidents in the 1950s.


OVERALL

This collection of novellas is full of stories that prove that author Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is a supremely talented writer who is able to connect with readers all over the world. He has his finger firmly placed on the pulse of the human condition which enables his stories to mean different things to different people.

I have read many short story anthologies but this one is the most unique. I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys literary fiction.

The novellas were originally written in French and have been translated into English by the gifted translator Alison Anderson. She has used her impressive talents to allow the reader to still experience the richness of a foreign culture while being able to stay true to the author’s vision.

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this book. In fact, it would make a unique Christmas gift for the book lover in your life. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

 

ERIC-EMMANUEL SCHMITT –  playwright, novelist, and author of short stories, was awarded the French Academy’s Grand Prix du Théâtre in 2001.

He is one of Europe’s most popular authors. His many novels and story collections include The Most Beautiful Book in the World (Europa Editions 2009) and The Woman with the Bouquet (Europa Editions 2010). 


Visit the author’s official web site

    


ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR:

ALISON ANDERSON  is the author of the forthcoming novel The Summer Guest.

She spent many years in California; she now lives in a Swiss village and works as a literary translator.

Her translations include The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and works by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship.

She has lived in Greece and Croatia, and speaks several European languages, including Russian.

Visit her official website HERE.  

THE SECOND MRS. HOCKADAY by Susan Rivers is one of the best historical fiction books that I have ever read. Coming in January – MARK YOUR CALENDARS or PPRE-ORDER NOW.

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Title: THE SECOND MRS. HOCKADAY    

Author: SUSAN RIVERS  

Type of Book: HARDCOVER

Genre: HISTORICAL FICTION

Length: 272 PAGES

Publisher: ALGONQUIN BOOKS  

Release Date: JANUARY 10, 2017

ISBN: 9781616205812

Price: $25.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟   

I love that this book is unique in that the story is told entirely through letters, diary entries and court documents. It lends an intimacy and  believability to the story that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.

This is an actual photo of a civil war letter.

The story is set in South Carolina during and after the American Civil War.

Photo obtained from http://www.civilwar.org

Through letters we learn of how unique a period of history those years were. Marriages were made within days of meeting and men went off to war leaving their young, inexperienced brides at home to tend to properties and farms of which they knew next to nothing as was the case of Major Hockaday and his young bride; Placidia. 

But, those trials were nothing when compared to something that the men who went off to war had barely considered; the vulnerability their wives and children to theives, army deserters and rogues of all kinds.

The choice of crafting an entire novel mostly through letters lends itself to revealing the authentic voices of the charcters in the book. In fact, I found myself so immersed in the story that I felt I had been transported back in time to this dark period in America’s history.

This compelling narrative details a time when slavery was slowly (ever so slowly) disappearing as it became apparent that the South were destined to lose the war and to a time when men felt that it was their patriotic duty to fight for their beliefs. It also follows the gradual change in the belief system of the main character – Placidia and how, over time through the  education of life unsheltered by her father’s influence and money, her beliefs begin to change.

The story also does a credible job of describing the lives of slaves during that time. Readers cannot help but be drawn in to their plight even while understanding the need of their white owners to have them available as labourers in order for their farms to survive.

Photo obtained from Pinterest “Lest We Forget Slavery Museum”


THE SECOND MRS HOCKADAY
is at heart the story of a couple and their desire to create a life together despite the multitude of hardships they each endure. It is a story of resilience and hope despite the fact that their futures often seemed to be in doubt. In fact, I found the book haunting in it’s intensity and I was literally unable to put it down.

This book is exceptionally well researched and was inspired by a true story. Author Susan Rivers deserves every literary accolade that is sure to be coming her way.

I feel both humbled and blessed that the publisher (Algonquin Books) through Netgalley chose me to be an advance reader of this story and I will not be surprised when this book hits the Bestseller lists upon it’s official release. I also believe that this book will receive an abundance of literary awards upon publication.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who loves not only terrific historical fiction, but a truly great read. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  

Click on the INDIE BOOKSTORE LOGO BELOW TO PRE-ORDER:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Photo by Tasha Thomas

SUSAN RIVERS says “Language is my life.”

Susan began as a playwright, receiving the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the New York Drama League Award, working as an NEA Writer-in-Residence in San Francisco, and being named as a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for British and American Women Playwrights. She is a veteran of the Playwrights Festival at Sundance Institute for the Arts and the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and has crossed the country working on productions and workshops of her plays.

Fiction became Susan’s focus after starting her family and moving to the Carolinas in 1995.  She holds an MFA in Fiction-writing from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina and was awarded a Regional Artist Grant from the Arts and Sciences Council there.  Since 2009, she and her husband have made their home in a small town in South Carolina, where stray animals and stories are thick on the ground.  (None are turned away.)  

Susan teaches English at a university in the upstate region of South Carolina and values her daily interactions with bright young men and women.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

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GOODREADS  
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Jeffrey Archer – SINS OF THE FATHER – Review of Book Two of the Bestselling Series THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES – A 5 Star Read 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Title: THE SINS OF THE FATHER



Series: BOOK TWO OF THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES

Author: JEFFREY ARCHER       

Type of Book: PAPERBACK

Genre: HISTORICAL FICTION

Length: 339 PAGES

Publisher: ST. MARTIN’S GRIFFIN – A division of MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS LTD

Release Date: 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-03903-3

Price: $16.99 USD / $19.50 CAN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  

First off I have to admit that I have not read book one in the Clifton Chronicles series. I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. Fortunately for me, it was not necessary to have read the first book to understand and to enjoy THE SINS OF THE FATHER. 

Historical fiction is exceptionally difficult to write, especially if it includes specific years when significant events have taken place as is the case with this book. However, Jeffrey Archer is a professional and he is able to convincingly write about the time period in question.

This series has been referred to as: “Archer’s most ambitious work in four decades as an international bestselling author.” And it is easy to understand why.

The book begins in 1939 on the docks of New York City. Harry Clifton has decided to take on a new identity in order to cut all ties to his past. He chooses to call himself Tom Bradshaw (the name of a fellow shipmate who died at sea) but little did he know that he chose the wrong person to impersonate.

Upon arrival on the docks, he is immediately arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

 When Sefton Jelks, a famous (and usually expensive) lawyer, offers his services for free, Harry has little choice but to accept his advice since he has no money. After Harry is tried, found guilty and sentenced, Jelks disappears, and the only way for Harry to prove his innocence would be to reveal his true identity which  he has sworn not to do. He knows that in order to set free the woman he loves, he must let everyone back in England believe that he died at sea. 

Harry begins serving out his prison sentence unaware that Emma (the woman he loves more than anything else) has given birth to a son – his son.

Emma refuses to believe that Harry is dead and travels to New York to try to prove her theory.

This novel revolves around secrets – both personal and familial and gives reader a glimpse into the lives of those on both sides of the ocean both before and during World War II.

“The Sins of the Father bears all the characteristic twists of a classic Archer novel, and leaves readers wanting more.”

The author does an amazing job of explaining the backstory so that it did not matter that I had not read the first book. Jeffrey Archer has a gift for drawing readers into the story and making them care about what happens to them. This is especially true of the character Emma Barrington. It is impossible not to admire her dedication and fortitude during a time in history when women were often not taken seriously.

Because of the astonishing amount of detail and the obvious amount of research that must have gone into writing this book and the amazing character development, I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars.🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Watch a video in which Author Jeffrey Archer talks about THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES:

  https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Y7nK1_6Tp00   


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

It has often been said that Jeffrey Archer’s own story would make an international bestseller. He was born in London, brought up in Somerset, the son of a printer, and educated at Wellington School, and Brasenose College, Oxford.

After leaving Oxford he was elected to the Greater London Council, and three years later at the age of 29, he became Member of Parliament for Louth. After five years in the Commons and a promising political career ahead of him, he invested heavily in a Canadian company called Aquablast, on the advice of the Bank of Boston. The company went into liquidation, and three directors were later sent to jail for fraud. Left on the brink of bankruptcy, he resigned from the House of Commons.

Aged 34, determined to repay his creditors in full, he sat down to write his first novel Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less. Written at the home of his former Oxford Principal, it was taken up by the Literary Agent, Debbie Owen, and sold to 17 countries within a year. It was also made into a successful serial for BBC Radio 4, and was later televised in 1990 by the BBC.

Since then, Jeffrey Archer has produced over 25 published titles and sold over 270 million copies around the world, in 97 countries and more than 37 languages. He is the only author ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction (eighteen times), short stories (four times) and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries).

Jeffrey’s latest project is a seven-book saga called the Clifton Chronicles. Book One, Only Time Will Tell, published in 2011, topped the charts around the world, spending 12 weeks at No.1 in India. Books two, The Sins of the Father published in March 2012, and three, Best Kept Secret published in March 2013, also went straight to No.1 in the UK, India, Australia and South Africa. The fourth book in the series, Be Careful What You Wish For, came out in hardback in March 2014, and spent twelve weeks in the top 10—four of them at #1—on the Sunday Times Best Seller list, and also went to #1 in Australia, India, and South Africa.

Jeffrey Archer was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party from September 1985 until November 1986. In 1991, he was co-ordinator for the Campaign for Kurdish Relief, and he is also an amateur charity auctioneer. Jeffrey Archer was made a Life Peer in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 1992.

Jeffrey has been married for 48 years to Dame Mary Archer DBE, who is Chairman of the Science Museum. They have two sons, William and James, and two grandsons, and divide their time between homes in London, Cambridge and Mallorca.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 


OFFICIAL US WEBSITE  

MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS AUTHOR PAGE         

TWITTER     

GOODREADS  

FACEBOOK 

YOUTUBE 

LEAVING LUCY PEAR by Anna Solomon – UPCOMING NEW RELEASE Historical Fiction earns 5 Stars

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Title: LEAVING LUCY PEAR

Author: ANNA SOLOMON

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction

Length: 315 PAGES

Publisher: VIKING

ISBN: 978-1-594-63265-5

Price: $26.00 ($35.00 CAN)

Release Date: JULY 26, 2016

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

* I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway.

NEW RELEASE

It’s 1917 and a young and unmarried Beatrice Haven has snuck out of the house with a bundle in her arms.

Within that bundle lies her squirming infant daughter. The daughter she was supposed to give up on the very day of her birth. The secretly beloved daughter that she cannot allow to be raised by the awful woman who runs the Jewish orphanage.

Instead, Beatrice has a plan.  It is risky and bold, but Beatrice (whom everyone calls ‘Bea’) wants her child to have a chance at happiness. So, she lays her baby girl under a pear tree and waits.

Her plan works. The baby is claimed by another woman and Bea is free to continue on her life’s path without the stigma and encumbrance of a child born out of wedlock. 

Ten years later a series of coincidences end with Bea reuniting with Emma Murphy, the Irish Catholic woman who took in her abandoned daughter all those years ago.

The characters in LEAVING LUCY PEAR are so vividly described that the reader could easily believe that she was watching a movie rather than reading a book.

Bea’s daughter’s name is Lucy. Lucy is quite the character. She’s headstrong, she contains a vast intellect that is well above that if her peers. And Lucy has plans of her own.

Taking place in the town of Cape Ann, Massachusetts in the early 1920s, readers are in for a treat. Author Anna Solomon has obviously vigorously researched the time period as well as the location’s geography. I am not a historian by any means, but the story and its setting seemed authentic and entirely plausible to me.

Readers are in for a fictional historic tale that will make them laugh, make them cry and in fact, at times, will have readers experiencing every emotion in between. LEAVING LUCY PEAR will stay with readers long after the book has been shelved. I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“He had told her she could leave, her last night, to make it easier for her. He had never regretted that. Yet he missed her. He doubted he would live long enough to stop missing her.”

“…even after all these years, he cannot tell if she is actually unstable, or just very sad.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Photo: © Beowulf Sheehan

ANNA SOLOMON is the author of “The Little Bride” and a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in many publications including “The New York Times Magazine,” “One Story,” “Ploughs hares,” “Slate,” and MORE.

She previously worked as a journalist for National Public Radio. She was born and raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts and now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two children.

A Fictional Tale of A Korean Immigrant to Canada

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Title: KAY’S LUCKY COIN VARIETY

Author: Ann Y.K. Choi

Type of Book: Ebook

Genre: Fiction, Canadian Fiction

Length: 288 pages

Publisher: Touchstone by Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 9781476748054

Price: Canadian Hardcover $29.99

Release Date: May 3, 2016

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Upon reflection, after reading this book I realized that one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much was due to the author’s talent for reaching inside her readers hearts and minds and being able to relate to them.

I also loved that this story was set in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I truly enjoy reading books that contain “real” settings, especially settings that I can easily visualize in my head. Being born and raised in a small town north of Toronto, I have often visited many of the locations mentioned in the book.

I will never again be able to visit a Variety Store without thinking about this book and wondering about the lives of the people working behind the counter.

Visiting Korea for the first time since emigrating to Canada as a small child, Mary was shocked at what she saw. “[She] looked out at the endless rows of high-rise apartment buildings set against a dreary November sky. It made [her] claustrophobic. Were there any houses left in Seoul? This was not the Korea [she] remembered.” Reading this brought to mind the changes I have seen in my own hometown. Author Ann Choi uses very few words and yet is still able to evoke a sense of nostalgia in the reader for their own childhoods. That nostalgia is universal. It crosses gender and even racial lines. No matter who you are or where you grew up, your childhood home will always have a special (and usually rose-coloured) place in your memory.

What struck me the most about Mary’s visit “home” to Korea was that it was no longer her home. She felt like an outsider and was more comfortable in her adopted homeland of Canada. I loved that fact. It proves that immigrants who move to Canada become full-fledged Canadians and not just long-term visitors.

What people who discriminate against immigrants seem to forget is that we are all the products of immigration  (except members of the Aboriginal groups). It may have been a few generations since our ancestors moved to Canada, but they all came to Canada with the same goal as modern-day immigrants – the goal of a better life.

I have often heard that writers are told to “Write about what you know.” It is evident to me that Ann Y.K. Choi has followed this advice. Although I am unable to prove it, I believe that she has taken settings and scenes from her own life and fictionalized them to fit within her story. If this is not the case, then I am even more impressed since reading the story truly made me feel as if these characters were actual people and not just two dimensional fictional characters.

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Collage by Michael Lyons

I enjoyed the story very much and I believe this book should be required reading for all adults. It is especially important reading material for anyone who seeks to understand the life of Canadian Korean immigrants.

The writing is fantastic. The characters are believable and realistic and the story is both interesting as well as absorbing. I rate KAY’S LUCKY COIN VARIETY as 5 out of 5 stars. 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

The Publisher has included a Reading Guide on their website which is a terrific companion guide to the book which can and will be perfect for those reading KAY’S LUCKY COIN VARIETY as part of a Book Club.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Ann Y.K. Choi immigrated to Canada from Korea in 1975. She attended the University of Toronto where she studied English, Sociology, and Education. Ann has also graduated from the Humber School for Writers, the Creative Writing Certificate Program at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, and is completing her MFA in Creative Writing from the National University in San Diego, California. In 2012, she received the Marina Nemat Award.

To learn more about Ann Y.K Choi visit her online.

Author Website

Publisher Website

Twitter

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* Author Photo by John Burridge

A Terrific Beach Read – 5 Stars for CONJURING CASANOVA by Melissa Rea – BOOK REVIEW

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Title: CONJURING CASANOVA

Author: Melissa Rea

Type of Book: Softcover

Genre: Fiction

Length: 259 pages

Release Date: June 2015

Publisher: She Writes Press

Cover Design: Julie Metz

Print ISBN: 978-1-63152-056-3

Price: $16.95 USD

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I’m not quite sure how to start this book review. There is so much to say about CONJURING CASANOVA that it is difficult to figure out where to begin, so I will just dive right in.

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Hillman is a forty-nine year old Emergency Room Doctor who happens to be single and who also happens to have an obsession with the eighteenth century and one of its most notorious inhabitants – Giacomo Casanova.

I can’t think of anyone who has not heard of Casanova. Even if you don’t know much (or anything at all) about the actual historical figure of Casanova, his name is synonymous with being a “ladies man.” Lizzy is fascinated by his memoir and spends all her free time reading about his exploits.

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This is the sexy Casanova himself - obviously female tastes have changed over the centuries.

After a horrific day in the emergency room where a seven year old girl died, Lizzy returns home to try to escape the sadness of her day in the only way she knows how; with her favorite man: Giacomo Casanova. Lizzy believed that “Casanova was all male. Reading his memoir was like having a man for a friend without any risk to her heart.”

After being forced to take a vacation, Lizzy decides to head to Venice to explore the many places she has read about in Casanova’s memoir. 

Staying at a hotel where Casanova once lived two hundred years earlier, Lizzy finds herself giving in to self-pity on the rooftop terrace where breakfast is now served by the hotel staff.

When the real Casanova suddenly appears at her side, chivalrously holding out a handkerchief for her to use to dry her tears, Lizzy is appropriately stunned.

Casanova is Casanova and even in the twenty-first century he oozes both charm and sexuality. But, Lizzy is too smart (and too jaded) to fall for what she considers his ‘act’.

But, she has a problem (well, several problems actually) how the heck is she going to send him back to where he belongs?

This book is a fun-filled romp that carries the reader along on Lizzy’s journey of unexpected self-discovery and world travels. From the gritty, real world of a Chicago Emergency room where children die for no good reason to the majesty that is the modern city of Venice, readers will be afraid to put this book down for fear of having to come back to their own reality.

As I found when I began reading this book, the author is a ‘quote-machine’. She throws out tiny pearls of wisdom as she writes that had me saving quotes right from the first chapter. Not only did she include many meaningful quotes in her writing, but she also included some terrific one-liners. I have included a few of my favorites at the end of this review.

Melissa Rea has a gift for describing people. With only a few sentences she is able to describe a character so vividly that you would swear to be looking at a photograph rather than reading a book. A perfect example of this is her description of Lizzy’s cleaning lady: “Roxanne had an athletic figure that made it impossible to guess her age, and three-inch braids all over her head that made her look like a hedgehog or a sea urchin, if either had gorgeous brown eyes and a bright generous smile. Today she wore a little lime green rompers that made her skin look even more like a big cup of hot chocolate, brown and comforting.”

Obviously this book is pure fantasy and escapism, but that is exactly what makes it such a perfect ‘Beach Read’. 

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Photo obtained from the author's Twitter page

Have you ever had a conversation with friends where you were asked; “If you could have dinner with only one person,  living or dead, who would it be?” This book takes that concept to the next level. 

I enjoyed the story for what it is; a fun, light-hearted fantasy. This book is entertaining. The author has done a good job of including details from the eighteenth century but the entire process of Casanova becoming acclimated to life in the twenty-first century is glossed over. But, if the author had focused on those details I believe it would have weighed down the story so, in this instance it works.

I am rating CONJURING CASANOVA as 5 out of 5 stars.🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program.

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES FROM THIS BOOK:

“Things did not have to last forever to bring happiness.”

Her vagina was certainly not unhappy, just a little lonely.”  

“He loved women like modern men loved NASCSR, football, and corporate takeovers…”

“It surprised her how much it still hurt to think of her mother’s death after a year, and how little gin helped. No one deserved lung cancer, no matter how much they smoked.”

“Lizzy noted that the big mama spider-vein on her thigh must have had babies over the winter.”

“…Lizzy had decided long ago; priorities were priorities. If she only had money for one, a cleaning lady took precedence over food.”

“The man and the dream were never the same.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Melissa Rea hss a degree in psychology with a minor in French and is an amateur Casanovist.

A dedicated researcher, she has read Giacomo Casanova’s memoir Histoire de Ma Vie many times in English and in its original Archaic French. She traveled to Paris to see the handwritten manuscript when it was displayed for the first time in over two hundred years, and has stayed in the hotel in Venice that was Giacomo Casanova’s home for nine years.

Originally from Louisiana, Rea studied dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She practices in St. Louis where she lives with her husband, and is at work on her third novel. When not drilling, reading or writing, she is in search of the next Madmen/50s era 

To learn more about Melissa Rea and her books visit her online:

Official Melissa Rea Website

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5 Enthusiastic Stars for “MIRACLES and CONUNDRUMS of the SECONDARY PLANETS” by Jacob M. Appel – BOOK REVIEW

 

 Title: MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANETS

Author: JACOB M. APPEL

Type of Book: Softcover

Length: 155 pages

Genre: FICTION, SHORT STORIES

Release Date: June 30, 2015 

Publisher: BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS 

ISBN: 978-1-62557-933-1

Price: $15.95 (and worth every penny) 

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
~ I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANETS is a collection of eight short stories written by the amazingly talented Jacob M. Appel. 

Story #1 – “Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets” starts off like this:

“Zigfrids Imants Lenc did not have a name on his home planet, because names were superfluous, but in Lummings, Alabama, where he operated the Latvian restaurant opposite the abortion clinic, his regulars called him Red Ziggy. The ‘Red’ did not refer to the young man’s politics. Customers at Cafe Riga found the eatery’s proprietor zealously neutral in political matters, as impervious to provocation as the mimes in Twelve Oaks Mall.” 

How could you not want to read the rest of this story? 

Story # 2 – “Phoebe with Impending Frost” 

In Laurendale, Virginia, William teaches climatology at the local University. Add in an old flame and extreme weather changes and you have a thoroughly enjoyable tale. 

My favourite quote from this story is “…I’ve always felt it was internal torment that separates a society’s wheat from its chaff.”  

Story # 3 – “Invasive Species”

This story begins with: “While her daughter practices for the afterlife – Celeste’s tumour-frayed body waiting rigid inside the case of the grandfather clock – Meredith watches their new neighbor hacking at the undergrowth with a machete.”

If the opening sentence of this story does not pique your interest, you must not have a pulse. Once again, Jacob M. Appel has managed to captivate his readers with a single well-written sentence. That, is a rare talent! 

Best quote from this story: “In his dungarees and black hooded sweatshirt, the long-faced man looks like the Grim Reaper on his day off.” 

Story # 4 – “The Resurrection Bakeoff”

– This might just be my favourite story of the collection

– It has everything a reader would want in a great story: love, devotion, hope, despair, betrayal and one heck of a twist. This is a MUST READ!

Story # 5 – “The Orchard”

– This story showcases the extremes to which people will go for happiness.

– It also poses a few questions: 

– 1. “Is a lie by omission still a lie?”

– 2. “Is it ok to lie to spare someone from pain?”

– 3. “Where is the line between being honest and being false? 

– 4. “Can you ever REALLY know someone?”

– 5. “Are morality and mortality linked somehow?”

Story # 6 – “The Grand Concourse”

– “To celebrate her sixtieth birthday – she is now older than her parents when they died – my mother asks to take a daytrip. She has okayed it with the shrinks, she says.” 

I LOVE THE FOLLOWING QUOTES FROM THIS STORY: 

– “One man’s professional boundaries are another woman’s enforced celibacy. Did you ever hear such nonsense? I’m suicidal, not syphilitic.” 

– “Unlike most of my friends, I haven’t yet reached the point where I’m counting on my children to make up for my mistakes.” 

– “When it comes to verbal sparring, she’s Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson all rolled into one…”

Story # 7 – “Measures of Sorrow”

– “You can measure a man’s sorrow, and the world’s, in the number of stories that perish unheard.”
Story # 8 – “Shell Game with Organs” 

– The perfect story with which to end this exquisite collection of tales that will touch your heart and your mind, and that will stay with you Long after the book has been read.
All the stories in this outstanding collection are entertaining and will keep you up at night reading “just one more page” over and over again.

While stories that are entertaining are terrific, that is not all there is when it comes to those contained within “Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets.” These stories are so much more than just enjoyable. They are deeply emotional, multi-layered and poignant tales of the human condition. 

Jacob M. Appel is not only a writer, he is also a physician, an attorney and a bioethicist. The knowledge that he has gained through his various professions gives him a unique insight into the human psyche and translates extremely well, enhancing his stories and adding a depth which is often lacking when reading short stories by other, less talented writers. 

If you are wondering what to buy for the reader on your Christmas list, look no further. This book has such a wide appeal that it is the perfect gift for anyone who is able to appreciate exquisite fiction. I highly recommend also buying a copy for yourself. This is one of those books that you can discuss at length and always find more and more wonderful things to say about it as well as an almost unlimited potential for moral and ethical debates. 

I am not sure that my review does this book justice but I have tried to convey how much I LOVED reading this book. I rate it as 6 out of 5 Stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (I know that isn’t technically possible, but a simple 5 out of 5 just isn’t quite enough). 

*** ADD THIS BOOK TO YOUR “TO BE READ” LIST ASAP, You will be glad you did. 

Don’t forget to check out his other short story collection: “EINSTEIN’S BEACH HOUSE” and read my 5 Star review of that book on my blog at https://amiesbookreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/einsteins-beach-house-stories-by-jacob-m-appel-book-review/ 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

  
Jacob M. Appel’s first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award and was published by Cargo. His short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014. His most recent books include a novel, The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock, 2013), an essay collection, Phoning Home (University of South Carolina Press, 2014) and a short story collection, Einstein’s Beach House (Pressgang/Butler University, 2014). 

Jacob’s short fiction has appeared in more than two hundred literary journals including Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review and Virginia Quarterly Review. His prose has won the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the Salem College Center for Women Writers’ Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award on four occasions, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant. His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008, 2013), Best American Nonrequired Reading (2007, 2008), and the Pushcart Prize anthology (2005, 2006, 2011, 2014). In 2003, he was honored with Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003. 

Jacob has been admitted to the practice of law in New York State and Rhode Island, and is a licensed New York City sightseeing guide.
Visit his official website at http://www.jacobmappel.com/ 

Visit Jacob’s author page on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Jacob-M.-Appel/e/B00FIG0XVM/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0. 

5 Big Stars for THE END OF SEEING by Christy Collins – BOOK REVIEW

  
Title: THE END OF SEEING

Author: Christy Collins

Type of Book: Softcover

Length: 190 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: August 23, 2015

Publisher: Xoum Publishing 

ISBN: 978-1-921134-62-3 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-921134-63-0 (EBook) 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

~ I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. A review was not a requirement of receiving this book, but authors and publishers always appreciate honest reviews. 

THE END OF SEEING is the winner of the 2015 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize. 

“The buildings rise from the rain-blackened streets and office workers slip by leaving pieces of conversation in the air…”

Ana. Poor Ana. She has to be one of the unluckiest people alive. First, she loses her daughter in a tragic accident and next her photojournalist partner, Nick, goes missing and is presumed dead. 

Everyone, including the police and the rest of Nick’s family are convinced that he perished in a boating accident off the coast of Italy. 

But, no body has ever been found. Yes, his cellphone washed ashore, but there are lots of reasons his cellphone could be there without him.

Ana is determined to find out the truth and to prove that he is still alive. She sets out to follow his path and to trace his movements.

What she discovers along the way will surprise everyone.

This book is a literary masterpiece. 

It is written in delightfully descriptive prose that will resonate with readers of all ages. 

Ana’s desire to believe that Nick is still alive is 100% believable and totally understandable. I have always wondered how a person can possibly grieve and move on if no body is found. I believe that I would be just like Ana; thinking of all the possible (even if improbable) scenarios that could lead to someone’s disappearance. This is highlighted by Ana’s thoughts at the beginning of the book:

“We’re you on that boat? Did you get off alive? Did you think: now’s my chance to disappear, to escape the grief and guilt of Mia’s death? Did you mingle in a crowd, jump on a bus, and head for the mountains, cross the border on foot, without papers, like others on board had no doubt planned to do? Maybe you were unable to resist the power of your own story, seeing how far you could get, how long you could survive – earning black money or none at all, nameless and untraceable. Or are you maddened by an ordeal at sea? Perhaps you don’t know your own name… Perhaps you’re asleep in a youth hostel, bed springs creaking above and below you. Perhaps you’re dreaming of running a very long way without anything to stop you. While I, awake in the middle of the night, am dreaming still of you.”

The subject matter may seem bleak and dark at times, but the same can be said of reality. Everyone experiences times of darkness in their lives. Christy Collins has eloquently captured both the beauty and despair of the human condition and the endurance of hope when all seems lost. 

Christy Collins has an uncanny ability to say quite a bit by using few words. For example; interspersed amongst the details of Ana’s journey are random memories that pop into her mind. Here is one such memory: 

“I remember a summer holiday: no-one on the beach but the two of us. Evening waves repeated themselves softly on the shore. Beginning with the soles of my feet, you reminded me I was alive. Later: salt and sand swilled down the drain in the cracked-tiled bathroom in a cheap hotel. You reminded me again.”

Nowhere in the above narrative does it say that Ana and Nick made love, but the reader knows that this is what occurred. Also nowhere in this description does it mention how old they were when this event took place, yet, somehow, the way it is written evokes a vision in the reader’s mind of Nick and Ana in their youthful, carefree past; before adult and familial responsibilities changed their lives. Only a highly skilled and supremely talented author can say so much with so few words. 

I highly recommend this book and rate it is 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Visit http://seizureonline.com/shop/the-end-of-seeing/ for more information as well as links to buy this amazing book online. 

  • FAVOURITE QUOTES FROM “THE END OF SEEING”

“Sometimes I felt like we were shipwreck survivors, washed up in Suburbia – living day to day and waiting for the rescuers to come and deliver us back to the country where our real lives were going on without us.”

“I look around the [hotel] room, not really expecting to find anything: hotel rooms like this one have no memory.”

“I’m on a mission no-one else believes in, and I’m not even sure I believe it myself. What was I expecting? Clues scrawled in blood on the hotel wall? Love letters jammed under sofa cushions: ‘Come find me, my love; we’ll both disappear’?”

“The day is clear and blue and emerald green. The smell of my sunscreen reminds me of summers past.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

  
Christy Collins is a writer, reader, film reviewer and PhD student at the University of Tasmania. The End of Seeing is published by Seizure and was a joint winner of the Viva la Novella Prize 2015.

To learn more about Christy Collins visit https://memoryanddistance.wordpress.com/