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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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Related:
The Passage
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Unfinished Business

WILD HORSE SPRINGS: A Novel with Romance and Cowboys ~Jodi Thomas

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

“New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas is a fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. She is a certified marriage and family counselor, a Texas Tech graduate and writer-in-residence at West Texas A&M University. She lives with her husband in Amarillo, Texas.” (TLC website)

WILD HORSE SPRINGS is full of the love of Texas and begins with the beginnings of romance between two couples and the sorting out of a love triangle.  If you like romance this is a good book for you, and I know a number of folks who will truly enjoy this book and the vivid descriptions of Texas wrapped up with the author’s love of the beauty of the countryside.

I received an advance reader’s e-copy of the book and it was missing a cover, table of contents, author’s notes and any acknowledgements.  I can tell that the book was well written and the sentence structure was well constructed.  The dialogues made my mind just hear the drawl and the flavor of the country folks.  My copy also needed a good edit as the typos and misspellings were distracting at times.

I like a good romance and a good horse story (horses were not the main focus) and I thought the story of how a community supported their own and solved a dangerous problem caused by foreigners (not true Texans) and outsiders.  The support was fabulous and went the extra mile when a young boy needs assistance everyone rallies as best as they know how.  When a child is a victim everyone is concerned and does the right thing.

What I found disturbing is that this book promotes small thinking and encourages the reader to remain in small thinking.  There were only 2 characters that could really think and explore outside the 10 year old value-programed capacity.  The Park Ranger was a “follow the rules” person and yet was able to go beyond childhood thinking and explore other possibilities from her vast experiences of her childhood and her parental values.  She was a great character and I felt relief in each of her sections even while she was being “tamed” by a Texas Ranger.  She had depth and capacity not just redundancy and a tired old worldview.

I am not sure I want to promote this book, although a good story and I know my romance readers would truly enjoy it, I feel I need to point out that I do not want to share old, small ideas in this current era.  The book has an underlining current about prejudice and hate that many people will not even note or is so pervasive it will not even bubble into the conscious mind.   The bad, cruel people are totally outsiders and need to be removed from the community before they kill everyone. The Sheriff’s daughter has writer’s block until she comes home to find release in safety, and then there is no indication that her thinking got larger and more diverse; only clarified her relationship feelings – I figured she was going nowhere and I did not find hope in her character only sadness.  Dan and Brandi represented security and safety to so many and I am happy they found love – neither indicated intricate thinking skills but then their love was the central point of the story. I would suggest that WILD HORSE SPRINGS is a cautionary tale.

What we do not acknowledge and recognize is very frightening these days.

A TLC Book Tours Book You will find other reviews of this book at the TLC Link and I am sure most will be very favorable.

Jodi Thomas Website
Jodi Thomas Twitter
Jodi Thomas Facebook

Related:
Just Say Goodbye for Now
Remember my Beauties
Natchez Burning

LOVE AND TREASURE: A Historic Novel ~Ayelet Waldman

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


I am having trouble finding the words because I am so excited to share this fascinating story with my wonderful readers.  I received an unproofed copy of this book on my Kindle.  The book’s title page was there and the book was there, and then it disappeared.  It was quite a learning experience to get my copy recovered.  As I write, the final copy is being released today so I believe you will not have that trouble.  The final file of the book did not record how many pages (450 pages) or the correct time (about 13 hours) – It is a fairly substantial book so allow enough time to enjoy this read.

LOVE and TREASURE begins as Grandpa Jack is waiting in Maine to meet his granddaughter’s train to arrive.  Natalie is a young lawyer in New York City and is ending her marriage of 3 months by wanting to take care of her Grandfather who is dying of Pancreatic Cancer.  Trains are going to be very important in this story as are the themes of community, family and recovery.  What happens after a trauma when you are the only one left?

Jack Wiseman, or grandfather, has stolen a Peacock necklace and he would like Natalie to return the necklace to its rightful owners. This necklace is the journey of the story, the main character, and the connecting devise to transition the story to fullness.  The necklace was stolen from The Gold Train  in Salzburg, which Jack is assigned, as a Lieutenant and a language expert, to inventory and protect as the American Soldiers take control of the recovery after WWII.  The Gold Train is full of art, jewelry, crystal, dishes, silver, telephones, watches, and anything of value that the Jews of Hungary and specifically Budapest were to turn over to the Germans before they were sent to the camps.  The train had been looted again before it arrived in Salzburg and much had been stolen.  Although, it was intended to be returned to the people of Hungary almost nothing was.  There are a number of books about The Gold Train if you want to explore more.

Salzburg in 1944 was a giant refugee camp for Displaced Persons and it was a depot for sorting out and reconnecting people at the end of the war.  There was hope but primarily hunger there.

The necklace is the story of the Treasure and the trains carry the reader from Love story to Love story over the saga.  How do you find yourself and how does one trust enough to find relationships and community after trauma?  Where does that recovery begin?  What shape does it take after realizing how alone one is in the death defeating experience; which needs a new commitment to be alive?

Part of the 1913 segment was focused on the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Budapest.  LOVE AND TREASURE is a good history lesson and it is well written.

I know that many readers will enjoy LOVE AND TREASURE. This book will capture your imagination, go ahead and put it on your list.

Ayelet Waldman is a novelist and essayist who was formerly a lawyer. She is noted for her self-revelatory essays, and for her writing about the changing expectations of motherhood. Wikipedia  Waldman has written many stories some of which have been on the New York Times Best Seller List and have been made into movies.  She lives in Berkley, California with her partner Michael Chabon, the novelist and screenwriter, and their 4 children.

Ayelet Waldman  Online
Ayelet Waldman on Facebook

tlc logo TLC Online Book Tours sent me a copy of LOVE AND TREASURE to read and review.  It was definitely a pleasure to read this historic novel and to be able to share LOVE AND TREASURE with my readers.

Related:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series
Breathe 
Little Failure 

Living Building Challenge

Monday, July 25th, 2011
Hawaii Preparatory Laboratory Living Building

Hawaii Preparatory Laboratory Living Building

I am in love with the idea of building a building that is healthy and beautiful and functions like a flower in the environment.  I have spent hours studying the International Living Building Challenge 2.0 and attempting to get a team together to put just such a building in my neighborhood.

Seattle put in 17 proposals for 2011 and Portland 19 – Portland got the go ahead for 3 buildings and their first Living Building project from 2010 is just about ready to begin construction.  We heard all about their efforts recently at the Center for Urban Water in Tacoma, Washington (an amazingly earth friendly building which has been around for awhile)

I have written about one of the Living Buildings in Hawaii, completed, on Biking Architect.

Bertschi School in Seattle  is now on its first year evaluation countdown as the children use the Living Science Wing of their school.  I think starting with a school is extremely powerful as the children helped design and can understand what a Living Building is and how it helps the environment and think this is NORMAL, not just some random concept or idea.

No stick in the mud folks here – and no toxic materials – so theirs is a building which is health giving to each of them and to the city around them.  They are completely contained.  And the composting toilet is the way to go!

There are 7 petals to the L-B concept, with 20 detailed design considerations within the petal format:

  • SITE Limits to growth, Urban Agriculture, Habitat Exchange, Car Free Living
  • WATER Net Zero Water, Ecological Water Flow
  • ENERGY Net Zero Energy
  • HEALTH Civilized Environment, Healthy Air, Biophilia
  • MATERIALS Red List, Embodied Carbon Footprints, Responsible Industry, Appropriate Sourcing, Conservation + Reuse
  • EQUITY Human Scale + Humane Places, Democracy + Social Justice, Rights to Nature
  • BEAUTY Beauty + Spirit, Inspiration + Education

It took 22 people working full time to deal with the RED LIST, which are things that cannot be in a living building (They are most likely in an energy efficient building- your house).

  • ASBESTOS
  • CADMIUM
  • CHLORINATED POLYETHYLENE AND CHLOROSULFONATED POLYETHLENE
  • CHLOROFLUOROCARBONS (CFCS)
  • CHLOROPRENE (NEOPRENE)
  • FORMALDEHYDE (HCFCS)
  • LEAD (ADDED)
  • MERCURY
  • PETROCHEMICAL FERTILIZERS AND PESTICIDES
  • PHTHALATES
  • POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC)
  • WOOD TREATMENTS CONTAINING CREOSOTE, ARSENIC OR PENTACHLOROPHENOL

We in the USA are allowed to bring all of these things into our own homes.  Many of them are the active ingredients in our toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, laundry products, carpeting, wall boards, and furniture.   There are now protective laws about Asbestos – a bit too late for all those teachers who taught for years in schools full of this  (My Mother and Aunt).

Portland, Oregon is now listed as the Greenest city in the USA, but it still falls way behind  Vancouver, British Columbia, and most of the European Countries that signed on to the Kyoto Agreement and had governments and individuals who just went ahead with Green/ Sustainable planning.   It is still going to take massive education to get folks to understand how this works.

To be in a healthy environment not only saves people money, but will improve the health of the people within a community, which will once again save money.

There is huge resistance to understanding health – and if people cannot grasp it for their personal understanding then it is going to take massive educational efforts to help focus whole communities and countries and heal the earth.  Not a task for the faint hearted.

It was very exciting to be a room full of people who have been working all along to understand and accomplish healthy buildings and healthy environments.  Having pictures of the 4 buildings completed here in the USA gave people a touchstone of reality they could be very excited about.

Is there something that you are involved with that works towards the health of the earth and your community?  What excites your creative juices and gets them going?

Looking forward to your ideas

Related Reading:
Design with Life in Mind
International Living Future Institute Seattle
Wikipedia Living Building Challenge
Carbon Fast?
Do You Know Your Walk Score?

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