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AMONG THE LESSER GODS: A Novel ~Margo Catts

Monday, June 19th, 2017

AMONG THE LESSER GODS was a story I enjoyed reading very much.  The writing was clear and the story straightforward as it explores the ‘blame game’ and how blame changes the lives of individuals and the surrounding characters and community.  We begin at the end of university in California for Elena Alvarez and a gap year arranged by her Grandmother in Colorado; space to figure out what comes next.

Elena has been living a very tense life with lots of adversity.  As a child, she accidentally set a deadly fire and this caused her family great disruption and a great deal of blame.  Her mother abandoned her and she has led a life of blaming herself and now finds herself pregnant and no plans for life ahead.  Her Grandmother has found her a volunteer job caring for two young children who have lost their mother to a car accident while the father figures out all the changes he will need to make and still accomplish a living wage; long haul trucking is no longer a working option.  Elena’s Grandmother has a permanent house in Leadville, but choses to live in the Ghost Town where she reared her children and lost one.  The family is full of mystery and unknown factors.

Elena who is mathematical and scientific is not sure about caring for children and yet her conversations with them are magical and revealing allowing the story to unfold in a gracious connection.  The community is a place with lots of adversity as the mining company is slowing down and evolving into new directions.  The characters unfold the realities behind the adversities and the strength of character and community bonding is a boon to self – discovery.  The mysteries are compassionately uncovered.  What a good story and first novel and yes I have to agree with other quotes – I want to read Catts’ next book for sure.  The power of listening – potent answers are uncovered.  AMOUNG THE LESSER GODS has the power of redemption.

“Margo Catts has a sharp eye for the intricacies of family, love, and tragedy. In luminous prose, she deftly explores the impact of the past upon our lives. This is a heartfelt book that will break your heart at times and at others fill you with joy.” — Daniel Robinson, author of After the Fire

TLC Book Tours review book

About the Author:

Margo Catts grew up in Los Angeles and has since lived in Utah, Indiana, and Colorado. After raising three children in the U.S., she and her husband moved to Saudi Arabia, where her Foreign Girl blog was well known in the expat community. Originally a freelance editor for textbooks and magazines, she has also done freelance writing for business, technical, and advertising clients, all the while working on her fiction. She is a contributing author to Once Upon an Expat. Among the Lesser Gods is her first novel. She now lives in Denver, Colorado. (TLC page)

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LIFT AND SEPARATE: A Novel ~Marilyn Simon Rothstein

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

LIFT AND SEPARATE just fills the cup and spills over revealing a full life, which raises and supports an older woman’s journey through a rough cleavage of problems (could not resist!). The humor and one liners were worth the entire cost of the book and let us face it, when one is an older woman there will accumulate lots of problems and we all need a laugh to find uplifting results.

Marcy Hammer has been married 33 years and she enjoys being married.  She loves her children, Elizabeth a doctor, Ben a -junior in college, and Amanda a business and marketing person now working on the west coast.  Harvey Marcy’s husband, own a huge business – Bountiful Bosoms – and his major competitor is Victoria’s Secret.  Harvey knows lingerie and he wants the best in life, such as he wants a Leonardo Di Vinci motif on the master bathroom floor.  Marcy is very satisfied with her life and her workaholic husband, who secretly moves out and then tells her that he has been having an affair with a bra model.   Marcy loves being married – Did I already say that?

Dana, her good friend has many problems popping up in her life also.  Her twins are attempting to pick a college and her oldest son is getting married to a girl she does not like.   They share a nice banter and Marcy’s quick comebacks and quips make me envious of her ability to produce funny one-liners.

The house is too big.

Marcy’s mother falls from a stool and breaks her ankles and is hospitalized.  During hospital visits, Marcy discovers a new/old friend and they very much connect over parental illness. Candy has two parents dying and a philandering husband.  Marcy’s oldest daughter, the doctor, is trying to assist her in making decisions and is dating a married man.   Harvey and Marcy are on the same page with this relationship – no way.

There were some universal elements to the story and all the problems and it is important for mature women to find their own niche and maybe even their own house.  The managing of the stress makes for some very funny encounters and some very healthy solutions; great trial and error solutions.

TLC Book Tours and the Marilyn Rothstein sent me an e-copy of this book for review, it was a perfect read to start the year, I truly enjoyed the clear storytelling, the character’s dilemmas and Marcy’s sense of humor.  How much better life is when we help each other and provide the laughter.  Clever and delightful!  – LIFT AND SEPARATE.

“For more than twenty-five years, Marilyn Simon Rothstein owned an advertising agency in Connecticut. She grew up in New York City, earned a degree in journalism from New York University, began her writing career at Seventeen magazines, and married a man she met in an elevator. Lift And Separate is her debut novel.” (Back of Book)

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WRONG HIGHWAY: A Novel ~by Wendy Gordon

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Wrong Highway finds the reader at West Meadow, Long Island in New York about 1986 and we are thrust into a tale about two sisters; one a high energy mother of four who is very free spirited and the older sister a perfectionist mother of one who does everything just as responsibly as she is able.  We begin at the New York World’s Fair years before when Debbie is watching Erica enjoy the fair and dancing in a fountain scooping up coins.

Erica is not working outside her home, as her boys are 9 years, 5-year-old twins, and a new baby girl.  Her financial analyst husband is traveling all the time for his company and making a huge salary.  The family wants for nothing.  Erica is curious and busy driving the kids in Vance Volvo to their huge list of activities.  She plays with her children and enjoys them so very much.  She has a great deal of time on her own and fills it with exercise classes and beautiful clothes.

Debbie, a hairdresser, is worried about her son Jared, who is becoming a hyperactive and interestingly negative teen, who is experimenting with drugs.  Jared’s activities are counseling sessions, and doctor’s appointments and listening to music.  He wanders and cuts school a great deal and has stopped participating in sports.

Erica calls upon Debbie to rescue her when she has car trouble or needs emergency childcare.  Debbie calls upon Erica to befriend her son and help him through these troubled years.  Erica and Jared explore the friendship idea through smoking weed and heavy metal music.   Jared begins to open up about his strict parents and reveals a family secret, which Erica has been guessing about for years.  We travel through a world of Bah Mitzvahs and Sabbath dinners at their parents home.   It is quite a year; hold onto your hat and turn up the volume on the 80s hits you so enjoyed.

The author has found a new home for herself in Portland, Oregon as I think growing up on the East Coast was not her comfort zone.  She has captured the society and culture very well of the Eastern seaboard and all the programs and routines being practiced during this time period.  I think the story would be very different and yet similar if we were looking at the West Coast or the Midwest or South.  I think “weed” was being practiced in all those areas and fitness and teens were acting out after Vietnam too, but not so much “meanness” in the West.  We can witness the breakdown between the “haves” and the “have nots” beginning as it is captured in this small family paradigm.

I was in the early parenting stages during this time and the parents around me were beginning to struggle and making schools perfect for their child was just as important as having a garden and growing organic veggies.  Our kids were not being shipped off to so many activities, childcare, and camps but rather the parents were going to camps with their children and they wanted fun things to do that the parents enjoyed participating in as much as the children.  Family secrets were highly privatized to shield imperfections and the downward mobility financially.

Wendy Gordon has truly shared an interesting time period with quite a fascinating fictional story, which allows a look back and makes one want to turn up the volume and explore your old record collection.  What were we doing?  What were our secrets?  A very revealing read about family secrets and the effects of war on a society.

TLC Book Tours sent this book to Patricia’s Wisdom requesting a review.

From the Cover:
Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast.  She received a B.S. in Nutrition from Simmons College and an M.S. in clinical Nutrition from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.  She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet.  She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children.  This is her first book.

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THE BRIDGE LADIES: A memoir ~Betsy Lerner

Monday, May 9th, 2016

“This is the best book about mothers and daughters I’ve read in decades, maybe ever.  I just loved it, related to it viscerally, kept calling up my daughters to read passages aloud to them.  It’s about – in addition to Bridge, of course – mother-daughter conflict, the desire to love and be loved, aging and loss, discovery and renewal.  Betsy Lerner is a beautiful, achingly honest writer, and THE BRIDGE LADIES is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, uplifting and profound.”  (From the cover, Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and author of BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER)

I just fell into BRIDGE LADIES hoping it would be as wonderful as AND LADIES OF THE CLUB an historic fiction novel, I also adored and have read 3 times.  BRIDGE LADIES is much more contemporary and it truly is a memoir worth reading for most mothers and daughters.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending on the advanced readers copy for review.

For 50 plus years, a group of mothers have come together every Monday to enjoy lunch and play Bridge for the afternoon.  The author had a fairly “rocky” relationship with her mother over the years and now in her forties wanted to change up that parental/child programing and find a new wave of connection.  Lerner is very open about her life with her friends but the Bridge Ladies are not as open and there is some speculation among the children about the ties that bind these 5 women and hold them together.  They do all belong to the same temple in New Haven, Connecticut.   Lerner begins attending the Monday lunch/game and interviews the woman each in turn.  She interviews the children and for some of the group – husbands.

Included in the story are Lerner’s Bridge lessons that she begins taking and her detailed descriptions of other players and the culture of Bridge.  She shares with us her need for further counseling sessions to assist in the transformation of her relationship with her mother.

I could certainly relate to this read, as my own Mother for over 50 years belonged to a group called P.E.O., which owns a college and supports this project and women’s education all over the United States.  There is a bond and a lot of getting out the best dishes in this group also.  There is a bond of caring through their focus.  I am sure my Mother would have loved reading THE BRIDGE LADIES.

About Betsy Lerner
Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.
Find out more about Betsy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. (From TLC website)

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