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THE FIFTH PETAL: A Novel ~Brunonia Barry

Monday, February 20th, 2017

THE FIFTH PETAL takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, 1989, and 2014.  In 1692, a number of women were hung from an oak tree and then their bodies were dumped into a mass grave.   In 1989, 3 young women had their throats cut while they were blessing their ancestors with one survivor and one 4-year-old daughter left.  In 2014, a young ancestor teenager dies at the same spot and the one previous survivor believes she became a Banshee and killed the boy.  The young girl from the 1989 kills is searching for just who she is and returns to Salem in her discovery journey.

The stage has been set for a revealing tale that is nearly impossible to put down.  Lots of secrets emerge through out the story and we travel the sights of the area and hear the poetry that was written about historic events.  We have bootlegging and pirates and smuggling stories that hold the story on a time line while the Police Detective and several current witches assist with solving the puzzle of the deaths.

Oh! And no witches were killed in 1692 though it was widely thought that that was what started it all as the first victims were all declared to be witches.

One would be wrong if they thought the story was just about witch trials and victims or if one thought it would turn into a Zombie tale – after all the new killer struck on Halloween.    The story is also about the history of the area and the Puritan standards being promoted.  The prejudicial thoughts of the tiny rules being imposed and which underline current understandings.  It is also a story about politics and mystery and even a bit of magic.  There are some thrilling moments and some amazing disguises being promoted, for the tourists and to keep the town sharing their bad feelings and perpetuating the myths.

The story too is about the mental health of the survivor and her beliefs, and a great deal about Domestic Violence and how women were cared for, hidden, and found new lives free from the violence they had experienced.  What violence is happening to women today in small towns of rumor, gossip, and old stories?  How do we change those perceptions and change the story.

TLC Book Tours  sent me an uncorrected proof for review and I was delighted to have the opportunity to read THE FIFTH PETAL

The writing was very good and captivating.  It had good police drama, investigation and resolution.  Having the focus on the women of the city and their actions and thoughts was quite wonderful and the counselor was very good at her role in the story. How does one find themselves when they have been disappeared to protect them from the “bad vibes” of a city that is suspicious of you at age four?  How in a city (a country) that distrusts women?

About the Author:

“Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction and Amazon’s Best of the Month. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times and The Washington Post. Brunonia co-chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee. She lives in Salem with her husband Gary Ward and their dog, Angel. Her new novel, The Fifth Petal will be released in January 2017.”

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THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN: A Novel ~Sarah McCoy

Monday, May 11th, 2015

“Engaging and emotionally charged…Eden’s realization that ‘what fable and history could agree upon was that everyone was searching for their ever-after, what ever that may be’ neatly sums up the novel’s heart – it’s about the family and the life we create, not always the ones we imagine for ourselves.”  (Kirkus reviews)

THE MAPEMAKER’S CHILDREN is a wonderful, gentle read and I enjoyed it cover to cover.  I thought it very clever to use the life of an historic figure within her context, along side a contemporary character who has some of the same life questions to contend with and lives in the same locale as the historic focus.    Sarah Brown the daughter of abolitionist John Brown (Harper’s Ferry) is the historic character of the story.  She is tracked through the family history and a series of letters written to a prominent family, which sheltered the Brown’s during the trial and execution.  An eleven- year -old Sarah witnessed the death of nearly all of the males in her family during this time period and turned it into her strength and future.  With her ability to paint and draw she created Underground Rail Road maps on cloth and other media for those who could not read to be enabled in their journey northward and success – freedom.

Because of severe Dysentery as a child Sarah was not able to conceive a children and yet it is her children who are part of the title of the story.

Eden is our contemporary character and she and her husband have just moved into New Charleston, West Virginia into an historic home with an interesting doll’s head discovered in the root cellar of the old kitchen.  Eden is weaning off of fertility drugs and is in a hostile rather belligerent frame of mind.  She is the kind of uber selfish “ME” girl of the “me” generation and made me glad when her early chapters moved back to Sarah’s story which I found delightful and very interesting.    By the 4th chapter of Eden’s story, I skimmed until the thought crossed my mind that most of my readers would not be offended by her selfish banter and blaming rhetoric.   Maybe they would even think like my kiddo’s friends who were always telling each other  – “If you do that to me – I’m going to kill you”. People just say those things. I certainly find the blaming behavior everywhere.   I liked Eden at the end of the novel as she did learn some kindness once she started earning some money with her new work and her definition of family expanded.

I believe Sarah McCoy could win the most gracious, Southern Ladies Thank You Note Contest. The novel has that sweet sheen of honey drip known in the south as just good ol’ fashioned manners of speaking clearly and smoothing it all over.  It just felt perfect to curl up in the spring sunshine on my deck and explore this historic story.  I liked this gracious story and particularly learning more about Sarah Brown in our contemporary times of racial unrest.   I was happy the book contained several of her drawing and paintings and her own writing conveyed the story of the times personally.    What a lovely way to learn history and about one’s own values and views.
TLC Book Tours   sent me a hardcopy of this delightful book for review – The MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN.

“Rich, closely observed storytelling full of warmth and heart.”  Charles Frazier, National Book Award winning author of Cold Mountain.

About Sarah McCoy:

“SARAH McCOY is the  New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; and The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas. Sarah enjoys connecting with her readers on Twitter at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com.” ( from TLC page)

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