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THE ROANOKE GIRLS: A Novel ~Amy Engle

Monday, March 27th, 2017

THE ROANOKE GIRLS is a story about all the girls born and raised at the Roanoke Farm. Yates Roanoke loved his life and his farm in a sleepy, hot part of Kansas. He loved his oil wealth and his wife and her crazy designed house.  Yates loved his two sisters and his three daughters and his two granddaughters.  He made them all feel special and well loved and made nearly every wish come true for them.  Most of the Roanoke Girls do not want to stay at the Farm – some runaway, several die and the story begins with a suicide.

Lane and her mother have been living in New York City.  Mom is one of the runaways from the farm and she has been struggling to have enough funds to support them but chronic depression has overcome her and now Lane at fifteen has been left on her own after the suicide.   The social worker finds that her Kansas Grandparents are delighted to have her come home and have already sent a bus ticket.

Allegra, who was born at Roanoke Farm and has resided there all her life is excited to meet Lane and welcomes having someone her age.  The girls explore small town life and the high school year as they discover the family tree and the reality of being a Roanoke Girl.  There are boyfriends and a swimming hole and some odd characters in the story. The girls are treated to pets, and horses and clothing, along with cars as they learn to drive.  The partial year that Lane stays at the farm is still mysterious and interesting and the weather is hot.

The story shifts to 11 years later and Grandfather is calling Lane because Allegra has gone missing.  Lane ran away without finishing high school and after making a dark discovery.  She has had a rough time finding work but has been able to get a GED and for a very short time was married to an older man, an arrangement that did not work out.  She is struggling and her Grandparents need her home to assist them in locating Allegra.  She leaves LA and heads to Roanoke and Kansas to help find her cousin.  The mystery begins to unravel and with a great deal of effort Lane does find Allegra and solves the final needed clues to freeing her towards living her own life and making her own way into the world.

TLC Book Tours  sent me a copy of THE ROANOKE GIRLS for review and it is a well-written story with a difficult premise.   There is an element of coming of age, but more about family secrets that maybe well hidden in isolation –remoteness.  I could truly understand this story-taking place in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, or Oklahoma – many times over. I do believe one must leave Kansas to understand the greater world and that small thinking is inbred and tenacious.  Physical abuse is easy to understand and the toughness of character.  THE ROANOKE GIRLS stays with the reader.

“This is a poised and haunting novel, whose enchanting prose belies its dark and intense subject matter. An evocative modern take on Southern Gothic, with a compelling twist which will remain with you long after the book’s last sentence.” – L.S. Hilton, New York Times bestselling author of Maestra

“AMY ENGEL is the author of the YA novels The Book of Ivy and The Revolution of Ivy.  She lives in Missouri with her family.  This is her first novel for adults. “ (Book Cover)

Amy Engle Website
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ALL THE NEWS I NEED: a novel ~Joan Frank

Monday, March 20th, 2017

ALL THE NEWS I NEED is full of wonderful words placed with delicate care and mixed with adjectives, which are perfection.  Frank’s has created a word salad that is filled with glorious descriptions of feelings and attitudes and fears and delights that just move the reader along the page onto the next and each new expression.  It was a heady trip into two lives contemplating being old and the losses of their lives.

ALL THE NEWS I NEED is the winner of the Juniper Prize for fiction.

The story moves at just the perfect pace to draw the reader into the lives of two well-described characters, who lead us to our own feelings about aging and the use of our time.  Do we walk and walk or read and read remembering to water the plants and do our shopping?  What are our habits and routines that keep us moving forward?

Fran and Ollie’s ‘rules for aging’ section makes this book well worth the price – actually the whole story makes the book a keeper.  I have bookmarked the rules and read them at least a dozen times.  They make me smile

From the cover:

All THE NEWS I NEED probes the modern American response to inevitable, ancient riddles – of love and sex and mortality.  Frances Ferguson is a lonely sharp-tongued widow who lives in the wine country.  Oliver Gaffney is a painfully shy gay man who guards a secret and lives out equally lonely days in San Francisco.  Friends by default; Fran and Ollie nurse the deep anomie of loss and the creeping, animal betrayal of aging.  Each loves routine but is anxious that life might be passing by.  To crack open this stalemate, Fran insists the two travel together to Paris.  The aftermath of their fun, bittersweet journey suggest those small changes, within our reach, that may help us save ourselves – somewhere toward the end.

I am sorry the publisher sent me this book so close to the review date as I would have loved to read it twice before writing the review, as it turned out I only had 3 days, so I will read it again and again at another time.  It is on the schedule for both of my book groups.

TLC Book Tours sent the book to me and Trish really insisted that I read this book, as she wanted to know my thoughts.  So here they are and I LOVED this book and now want to read some more of Frank’s words in the future.  Thank you so much.  ALL THE NEWS I NEED is definitely on the top of my list of great reads.

This book is perfect for those who have retired or suffered a loss and are curious about the next parts of life to launch for themselves.  It is really just a magnificent read for everyone.  Oh how important are those small changes that define and bring meaning.

“Joan Frank is a writer of sublime power who reveals the lives of her characters with such care, insight, and elegance, that deeply buried feelings of victory and loss become inextricably bound up with our own.” (Simon Van Booy, author of FATHER”S DAY)

JOAN FRANK is the author of five books of fiction and a collection of essays on the writing life.  She lives in Northern California with her husband, playwright Bob Duxbury.

www.joanfrank.org

“Joan Frank is a human insight machine.” —Carolyn Cooke

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MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN: A Novel ~Suzanne Kamata

Monday, March 20th, 2017

MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN is one of the most beautiful coming of age stories I have ever read.  Perfect for young adult readers and people who have lived a full life.  The writing is like a lovely tea party and the characters are so full and well imaged.  The problems were real and inviting even though there was sadness, which rested in the heart.

Who are you like in your family tree?  Will you manifest a life like that or will you be the mystery person on the tree; always doing your very own “thing”?  Or do you have no family and must truly make your way in many situations and are you invested or maybe indifferent?  What does you lifeline say?

MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN is about a family who is with the Coast Guard attached to the Lake.   Mom was the Coast Guard Princess of the parade and now has two daughters, one traditional and one wondering about what will come next.  Elise is fascinated by the water, her town and reading all she can.  She is not a social butterfly but does find a friend in the young woman who comes to live with Grandmother a few doors down.   They have adventures and fall into love and ride the merry-go-round at the Carnival.   Music draws them together.

Elise has a Great Grandmother too who seems to be apart of her that wants to share in her adventures.   Great Grandmother was a wreck diver on Lake Michigan, she saw a mermaid, and truly her own spirit.

The story unwraps the mysteries of growing in a smooth language that draws one into the situation until you can feel as embarrassed as Elise or as concerned.  The characters questioning brings us right to the “Aha” moment and then lets us in without saying a word.  There is hope for the joy, which might just come with the realization. Secrets are exposed, are intimated, and revealed without saying a word.

There is definitely magic.

There is the tension found in the teenage life and tension of road trips that might now answer the questions.  There is love, lots of love and not true abandonment.

This story is a lovely capsule of life and living and tells a story that might just lead you there-you know to see a mermaid!    I just enjoyed every page.

TLC Book Tours sent me MERMAIDS OF LAKE MICHIGAN for review.

A CHARMINGLY BEAUTIFUL STORY

Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.

Suzanne Kamata Website
Suzanne Kamata Twitter

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THE ORPHAN’S TALE: A WWII Story ~Pam Jenoff

Monday, March 13th, 2017

We are partaking of a story, THE ORPHAN’S TALE, in which the author wishes the reader to ask the question –“What would I have done?” in these circumstances?  Since there are two protagonists who become friends in the course of the story this is particularly challenging.

Jenoff has been interested in this period of time since she worked at the US State Department and several interesting stories crossed her path during her work.  One story was about a trainload of small Jewish babies, which was transported across Germany during the war and what happened to these little people.   The second story was about a famous Jewish Circus in Germany and a famous German Circus from Germany who toured the war torn, occupied countryside during the war.  The German Circus Owner apparently protected and kept hidden a number of the Jewish performers so that they would survive.  A third story emerged about the Jewish women who had married German soldiers and officers and what became of them when they had to divorce.  Are you interested now?, as these stories are merged in an interesting fictional tale about the war?

Noa is a young 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes pregnant by a German soldier and is expelled from her home.  She goes to a home for unwed mothers until the baby is born and the doctors and nurses take her baby from her as the boy is not blond haired and blue eyed.  She is told he will be adopted and she finds a job as a cleaner at the local railway station.  She steals a baby coming through on a train from a car of dozens of babies. Stumbling into the woods she is rescued by a German Circus owner at winter training.  Here she meets Astrid.

Astrid is the daughter of a Jewish family who for centuries has owned a Circus in Europe.  She has chosen to marry a young German man who is becoming an officer and she leaves her family and her trapeze artistry.   Her husband wishes to become an SS officer and thus divorces Astrid.  She cannot find her family yet returns to the winter site to help train the artists in the German Circus.  The circus is having a rough go of it financially working around the war and yet still in the spring begins its tour.  Lots of hiding and working out and scary circumstances to endure.

As these stories come together the two women create a bond as Astrid teaches Noa and Noa risks for the sake of the baby and for everyone’s future.  In such difficult circumstances, it is truly astounding the outcome and the resolution of this story.

THE ORPHAN’S TALE is not a difficult read and I think many, many readers would enjoy the story and learning about the circus trains of another time.  The capturing of the prejudice and the thinking of the time by Germans and by the Frenchmen of the countryside played well with the problems of being Jewish and of being in the Circus.  They were not gypsies, they were talented, well trained artists.

Another opportunity to look at history within a story and I believe High School students would also enjoy this read and seeing what it takes to “save” people for the future and how to change minds.   TLC Book Tours http://tlcbooktours.com/2016/12/pam-jenoff-author-of-the-orphans-tale-on-tour-februarymarch-2017/ sent me this e-book for review and I can highly recommend THE ORPHAN’S TALE.

Pam Jenoff:

“Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.” (From TLC Books)

Pam Jenoff Facebook
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“Jenoff expertly performs a pirouetting tale worthy of a standing ovation. A circus of hidden Jews, a powerful friendship, The Orphan’s Tale proves that the human spirit defies hate, fear, and gravity with a triumphant ta-da!” —Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children”

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