Patricia Sands Shines with the Promise of Provence
By Mary E. Latela, January 18, 2016
This review is from: The Promise of Provence (Love in Provence Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I purchased The Promise of Provence based on the engaging title. When I began to read, what unfolded was a very beautiful, realistic story about a Katherine, a young woman who suffers abandonment by husband. Through the grieving she and her mother, a wonderfully rich character described in loving detail, tread carefully. btw, It is refreshing to see an elderly person portrayed as an independent, wise, cherished one. Girlfriends – some helpful, others not so much – have so much advice, but the defining moments in this novel come when Katherine makes her own decisions – when she decides to do a home trade and finds the success as well as the disappointment of a crude masher (she had not dated for many years) a part of her journey to wholeness. I applauded her decision to stay in Provence, to get involved with the people around her, to be less afraid. When Philippe comes along, Katherine reaches a very difficult crossroad, and her decision will undoubtedly play out in the other books in the series, which are safely on my Kindle already. The full, richness of the saga have me hooked on reading the rest asap. I believe that Sands understands people, taking risks, learning to overcome challenges, and excellent, elegant prose. Highly recommended.
“In Search of Mary”
Gutsy Adventurer Searches and Finds Something Wonderful! Mary E. Latela November 27, 2015
Bee Rowlatt is a gifted young author, a mother with a passion for life, and a love of the incredible Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist of the late 1700s. Bee magically makes history alive, as she retraces Mary’s journey through Norway, Sweden, and onto France. Wollstonecraft is not simply a sepia photograph of a severe looking woman. She spent her short life confronting inequality in her time, and we readers see in Bee and her toddler son who accompanies her that the feminist struggle is still raging in many settings. Bee will cause you to laugh, cry, shake your head in disbelief. And the quirky people she meets range from the smitten male collector of all things Mary, through the street women, and the new-age eco-sexual set. I was impressed and inspired when Bee reads “the rest of the book” and learns about her hero and about herself. She returns home stronger and more gifted in her communication. This is an author to watch and enjoy. Bravo!
Holly Jacobs’ Heart-Warming Novella, October 28, 2015
Reviewed By Mary E. Latela
When I look at 13 Weeks: A Novella as a contemporary parable, it is a story about two caring people and how they meet in a difficult time. Doran travels from place to place attending the sick, and Paul is home caring for his mother who is dying. Doran is well-trained and supported in her work, and she knows that she must be professional. As Mary Ann gets worse, the two caregivers spend a little time together – a meal, a talk, etc. But afterward, as Doran prepares to move on to her next assignment, Paul asks to keep in touch. So they meet again as if for the first time, but as friends, and we know that they will fall in love. Sweet romance – the wanderer finds a home? The lonely son meets his soulmate? Now I understand! Holly Jacobs warms the heart once again!
Beryl Kingston opens Gates of Paradise, August 26, 2015
Beryl Kingston, pre-eminent British schoolteacher now author, weaves together the tale of several of the residents of a town called Felpham, near London, whose most prominent citizen is a vain and pretentious – and rich – poet, who dines with the rich, whose wife presides over a houseful of servants, and whose insatiable need to be served is boundless.
When the engraver-poet-artist William Blake and his wife – poor, hard-working folk – move to the town, they bring new life with them, but in ways which are unexpected. The rich poet becomes Blake’s patron, sending him loads of work, engravings, painting, grandiose projects which force the younger man into servanthood with no time for his own art, his time filled with whimsical projects of the rich owner. While Blake works on engravings commissioned through his patron, elegant poetry swirls in his own head, but he must work through the nights to put down with pen to paper what is now recognized as incomparable genius.
Blake is well-known for his poetry, including the lovely “Poems of Innocence” and the “Poems of Experience,” but not until his later years. In the town, he lives quietly with his wife, but they are not church-goers – which causes some gossip – as he has decided that manmade doctrines cast a shadow on the relationship between a person and God. Blake is a mystical poet, given to visions of angels, and sophisticated imagery, spilling over into sublime poetry and beautiful engravings.
The twist in the story comes when Blake is accused of sedition (treason) after a noisy altercation with a drunken soldier traipsing through Blake’s community garden. Other townspeople including the servant-girl Betsy, who finds a friend in Catherine Baker, and Johnnie, the young man whose passion for Betsy nearly undoes them, are drawn into the Blake dilemma.
Ms. Kingston recounts the tale with affection and respect, using her delicate, rich prose. The characters truly come out to greet the reader, as they are described with such care and depth. Contemporary readers recognize that the plight of artists is ever precarious, demanding, and often dependent on the patronizing celebrities who use them, treat them as servants, and pretend to understand them.
This is another powerful, beautifully crafted novel from Ms. Kingston, whose late husband worked on much of the historical research, and who has recently died. I could not put down this gem until the final page, and then reluctantly. I must read more.
Nicola May triumphs with the SW19 Club.
July 25, 2015
I had to order the Kindle because I didn’t want to wait for a paper copy from UK. I was rewarded with a moving, mature, gutsy story about the loss about which we hardly ever speak, namely miscarriage.
Gracie Barnes and partner have lost unborn twins after years of IVF. There are some things which are expected: horrible aching pain and loss; a need for someone to make it right; the relationship – shaky this time of loss – is further marred by his infidelity. Gracie turns to her sister, a few delightfuly koky friends, and unfortunately a really bad psychotherapist – married – who has sex with everywoman.
In spite of the obstables, we witness a young woman who cannot bear her own children struggling with what that means. At first, she uses wine and quick sex to try to forget, and then realized she needs deeper things, like comfort, support, and telling her story.
Superb read! Women (and those who care about them) will devour this book; those who have had losses will tear up; all wth be treated to a most excellent narrative.
Lia Mack and the Healing Journey, July 12, 2015
In her superb first novel, Waiting for Paint to Dry, Lia Mack takes up the story of a woman who was raped as a teenager, but who never told anyone, and after a while puts the event so deep inside her that she “forgot” it. As a thirty year old, she still suffers from triggers and memory fragments. Those who work with women who are sexual abused may understand the need for a victim to escape from the abuse by “going away,” dis-associating. When terror is too great to handle, young girls and boys may do this, may lose time, in order not to feel the awful quality of the assault, to deny it, and to live through it.The novel contains all the worst reactions to Matty’s decision to tell. She reports the rape to authorities, but it’s too late to prosecute. She tells her mother, who says she must have wanted it. She tells her sisters, who do not want or have time to deal with her history, and treat her as an outcast. Eventually, Matty separates from the family, when she has told her story or not. In her own life, she has difficulty with boundaries … not having had a relationship or any sexual activity for a long, long time, she has challenges when meeting men, when trying to determine the truth from a “line.” She seems unable to walk away from troubling situations. I read this book in exchange for an honest review.Rape is hard to deal with, very difficult to think about, andd talk about, particularly as in Matty’s case, where she continues to have significant symptoms. I don’t agree with the therapist, Dr. Linda, who may or may not be helping Matty. She advises think ahead, not back. A therapist is not the director of therapy, but a guide, a listener, a mostly silent helper, not a map maker.
The author, Lia Mack, has written a powerful, intricate account. Matty is healing, slowly, but her partner is also healing, so there will need to be growth for each for them to make it work. For some readers, particularly victims, the book may be too much, too soon, or if taken in small doses, some very helpful steps toward facing one’s own history. Mack gives the reader the results of excellent research, fine storytelling ability, and proof that truth-telling is tough, but can be transformative. Excellent; highly recommended.
Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs, based on Kindle Edition
Review by Mary E. Latela June 25, 2015
Being a good girl can cost a great deal. Piper never caused any trouble and if anything came up, she took the blame and took the entire matter on her own shoulders. When she became pregnant, she told her parents and they calmly discussed the options. Of course, she would go away, have the baby, and allow her to be adopted immediately. And she would move on with her life and tell no one.
But when a heart is broken, it cannot self-mend. Holly Jacobs’ latest richly woven novel recounts the quiet life of a talented, rather reclusive writer who lives across from a school, writes children’s books, and loyally spends the holidays with her parents. Into her journal she pours out her story, little by little. The tension for me became so great that I thought she would break; she comes to that conclusion herself… that perhaps she is broken.
This is what can happen when you have a secret, when the family keeps your secret, when you made the choice partly to keep peace, when you live with loss every day. Some of us understand the real heart-break of every Mother’s Day. No one should have to bear alone the weight of an early decision. People come into Piper’s life, and she almost allows them to continue to see her as the “good girl.” Then something changes. Everything changes.
You must read this book – as a parent, as a young person, as a teacher – so that you will understand.
Beryl Kingston’s Emerging Octavia April 2, 2015
Kingston’s prose is at the same time rich and delicate, and quite compelling, filled with visuals as fine as watercolor paintings, passionate emotions handled with delicacy and respect. Octavia falls in love with Tommy, an intriguing young man who follows the party line, and wants Octavia to marry him and make him her Lord and Master. Octavia is clear from the beginning that she will not, but this inner struggle is framed so well that you can almost feel Octavia’s personhood being torn and reformed, stronger than ever.
I bought the Octavia trilogy, so I will have the pleasure of reading the other books, but I am so delighted to have gotten to know Beryl Kingston through this beautifully crafted, honest, story which will ring true to many, many readers. I highly recommend this excellent novel.
Octavia’s War, Beryl Kingston
The second in this trilogy picks up with Octavia Smith, daughter of a progressive couple, supportive of her active involvement in the struggles of the time, now devoted to making education for her “girls” her top priority. Her prominence is recognized by experts near and far. She has not married, but is devoted aunt to her nieces and nephews. .
The world is overshadowed by the rumors, then the reality, of a second World War, which pulls at the roots of their solid foundation. Octavia’s life is full of concerns, whether giving sanctuary to Jews fleeing Germany, trying to make sense of the horrors witnessed by her Tommy – the man she did not marry in Part I – who is now in government service, or tending to the mountain of work involved with facilitating the work of her teaching team in the day-to-day planning and achievement in the school.
I was concerned about Octavia’s “stiff upper lip,” no matter what peril came along, including horrific bombings in Britain, injury and death of friends and relatives in combat. She seems to be determined to march onward, no matter what. Then I witnessed her artfully narrated transformation into a woman of greatness, accepting the realities of a complicated existence mingled with a need for family, for friends.
This is not a book just for those who already know Octavia, though it is a wise and a delicious treat to read the initial novel. It is about the maturing of a woman of principle and compassion, fighting quietly for justice. Beryl Kingston moves on with her rich, deeply colorful prose, contrasting the dismal life in wartime with the heartfelt warmth of a hope that does not die.
Beryl Kingston has successfully written a rich trilogy that spans several generations, centering on Octavia Smith, suffragette, then educational reformer. I devoured both Octavia, the first volume, and Octavia’s War, a triumph in perseverance in the time of WWII in Great Britain, when children were evacuated, bombs fell, and bigger battles were on the way.In the final part, Kingston comes full circle. Octavia’s great great nephew Simon Earnley, a frustrated inner city teacher, inherits her papers while fighting a battle with administrators and diverse educators critical of schools. When his personal relationships falter, he half-heartedly spends his time working through the thick envelope of photographs, certificated, public speeches, and instructions on how to educate a child while respecting individuality and encouraging creativity.The tempo of The Internet Revolutionary is staccato, hectic, like the pace of contemporary times, and the rollercoaster of emotions whirls around students “sick and tired,” as well as staff drowning in paperwork and that terrible evil, the standardized test. A scandal in the system calls for action and SImon, little by little, finds himself in its midst. This is a delightful, passionate, powerful novel.
I recommend reading the trilogy, which is another of Beryl Kingston’s triumphs. Teachers and others will identify with her deep understanding of people dealing with whatever life presents them.
Across the Pond, Michael McCormick, Introduction, Ron Kovic Vietnam: Still More Stories to Tell March 6, 2015, Format: Kindle Edition
For those of us who stayed home, praying for brother, boyfriend, cousins to come home safe after Vietnam, this is a shocking reminder of those times. Michael McCormick brings back into focus the horrors of war: killing, fear of being killed, turning around to find that your buddy is dead. Day after day, here in the States, we saw TV reports of the “body count.” But the bodies and souls of our military warriors are real; those who survived came home. Some, like the character Sean McBride, kept riding, looking for something to make it all worthwhile. We have no words to comfort them, so we cry, shout, lament. There surely are many more stories to tell. The crisp, staccato pace of this novella is like war. The homecoming does not sound like peace. We need to keep working on that. Superb writing! A must-read for our generation and the next.
May 28, 2015
Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen, is written from the point of view of the main character, teenager Sydney, who feels invisible. Her brother, once considered the “star” of the family, is in prison after a drunk driving accident which injured a young man. Everyone knows everyone in Smalltown America, so Sydney feels she is in the spotlight… people are not kind to her.For some young people, the only way to survive is to be the “good child.” Lest any reader think that she is to blame for this state of mind, I suggest that parents read about what happens when they don’t know how to handle a problem AND refuse or do not even think about getting help. We readers know right away that Ames is trouble, that Dad never talks back to Julie (Mom), that Julie tries to mother her children by hovering over them. When Sydney makes a big mistake in judgment, Julie punishes her daughter severely, does not listen, and plans life around visiting the imprisoned Peyton, who is clear about not wanting her to be there.We know what it’s like to find another adult – an aunt or friend – who understands and does not judge us. Fortunately, Sydney finds a family where she’s a welcome visitor, good friend, helper. A few friends understand her.
Parenting is not about hanging on, but about – little by little – letting go. We wonder why Sydney seems to have perfect self-control, and never spouts out her anger at the parents. This is the21st century, and teenagers talk back. We want Sydney to be powerful, to do something brave and bold. We need to read and see. I will be reading more of Sarah Dessen’s fine YA fiction, and recommend that young adults and parents read this one.
|“Two Lives and One Tapestry,” March 12, 2015 Just One Thing (Kindle Edition), by Holly Jacobs. Reviewed March 12, 2015 Holly Jacobs understands how relationships unfold. In Just One Thing, she starts with a thought, a little pebble, polishes it, and creates a sparkling gem. “Sometimes healing begins with one step, with one friend … with just one thing.” The story of Lexie and Sam is a gift to the reader. When Lexie, goes down to a small-town bar every Monday for a bottle of beer, she does not socialize. After a good long time (six months), Sam, the bar owner, looks at Lexie and says, “One thing.” And she responds. She starts with her name. Each week, she shares “one thing” – about Angus the dog, about her cottage, about going to Ireland, about getting married at age twenty. After starting to tell her story, Lexie returns to her loom to work a little again. She is clearly very sad, but her emotions are locked away. Sam is intense, and you just know from the beginning that his story is quite deep as well. The lyrical, clear, warm way in which Jacobs weaves a tapestry of their lives is sure to keep you reading. This is a great, wondrous story of how healing progresses – if it does – a little at a time. I have read Jacobs’ earlier books and loved them, but this one is staying right here, in my heart.|
|“Without a Groom and with a curse on the family, what can you do?” Everything But a Groom (Everything But…Series Book 1) (Kindle Edition) by Holly Jacobs. Reviewed March 15, 2015Everything but a Groom could be a sad tale, but in Holly Jacob’s world it’s just a set-back. Hounded by the press, the bride left at the altar hides out. No one would know, except that grandmother who put the curse on the family – no true love means no marriage – and also cooks luscious Hungarian comfort food, alerts the press and everyone knows. The bride makes a new friend, recently the receiver of two young nephews. The two work together and find more than a little romance. Highly recommended, imaginative, fun reading!|
|Everything But a Bride (Everything But …..Series Book 2) by Holly JacobsI loved my intro to @HollyJacobs “Everything but” series. “The bride” is still about the Salo family under the marriage curse … marry for pure love or it’s not going to work out. But different, quirky, real characters are featured,along with grandmother who started the curse after she was left at the altar. Very 21st century, pleasant, satisfying love story. Highly recommended. I expect to read them all.|
|Carla Norton’s Gifts Shine in a Compelling Crime Thriller, March 1, 2015 The Edge of Normal (Reeve LeClaire Series) (Mass Market Paperback)Carla Norton has written an intensely compelling suspense thriller about extraordinary people impacted by the crimes of kidnapping, captivity, and torture. Her villain is despicable. Reeve, a victim who was freed ten years earlier, is still working through the trauma of her ordeal. The focus, and the amazing thrill of this story, is that Reeve is strong. Her perceptions, her heightened awareness of danger, her first steps to recovering empathy and connection with other persons, are recounted beautifully, and become the centerpiece for her new challenge. As a mentor to Tilly, another returned captive, Reeve learns about herself, about legal and policy protocol, about human behavior. She is able to utilize her own razor-sharp instincts to help in addressing Tilly’s struggles, and beyond that, to respond to a larger problem. The psychiatrist, Dr. Lerner, encourages her in this growth, and Reeve gradually takes back the reins, making choices both brave and compassionate. I truly devoured this superb page-turner, with twists and turns which leave the reader reeling.|