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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

DRESSING A TIGER: A memoir ~Maggie San Miguel

Monday, October 10th, 2016

dressing-a-tigerDRESSING A TIGER is not a plain Ol’ memoir with a bit of spicing up, this is about a very interesting and sometimes disturbing life story mixed with a heavy dose of humor and a very spunky child who remembers so much.  Maggie is the youngest child in her family – much younger; her brother is 18 and her sister 16 when she arrives onto the scene.  Mom is fairly unstable and inconsistent and has almost no time for her youngest and Dad is a very busy man as the top negotiator for the Teamsters Union.  Maggie is not allowed to play in the front yard of their Connecticut home but the huge backyard with lake and below ground tree fort commands her attention.  Maggie loves to row her boat out to her private island and seize the day.

“Maggie San Miguel is a Past Life Regression Therapist, a Mediation Instructor and a Psychic Medium, appearing on the paranormal television show, STRANGE TOWN.  She has assisted law enforcement with a murder investigation in Texas.  She also makes pottery, paints and can cook a mean meatball.” (Cover)

Maggie San Miguel Facebook
Maggie San Miguel Web

The book is quite interesting and includes geishas’ in Maggie’s rowboat, and mob hit men taking a 4 year old to the dentist.  Because of their reclusive lifestyle, Maggie dotes on the “friends” of her father who come to the house to plot, drink and eat.  Jack Dahlstrom, her father, though of a Scandinavian heritage, learns to speak Italian and interact with the Italian families involved in controlling the East Coast.  His friends are folks he connected with during his time serving in World War II.  His wife a great redheaded beauty grew up in poverty and led a very tough life. When the stress levels were too high, she disappeared into alcohol and bed, including strange behaviors especially trying to kill squirrels.

“A father serving the Mob, hit men moonlighting as babysitters, an uncle in the Secret Service, famous politicians amongst family friends, a mother in need of shock therapy, and a kid who eavesdrops and remember it all. “  What a unique childhood!

“Her father’s prior knowledge of the Kennedy assassination and his unique friendships with Jack Ruby, John Connally, Henry Wade and infamous Mafia bosses Carlo Bambino, Sam Giancana and Paul Castellano is a story untold until now.” “…Dahlstrom collected an impressive array of friends and Mafia secrets that were never meant to see the light of day.  Maggie San Miguel has just opened the blinds.” (Cover)

I enjoyed this book from beginning to end and think it will make a wonderful book to share.  I highly recommend it and am grateful that Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc.  sent me an advanced copy for review.

This book will be published October 26, 2016

Related:
Natchez Burning
Fixed in Blood
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MY SWEET VIDALIA: A Novel ~Deborah Mantella

Monday, February 1st, 2016

With a character name like Vidalia, I knew I was reading a Southern novel and so I prepared for some fairly scary scenes and painful moments.   MY SWEET VIDALIA was the retelling of a classic Southern scenario of poverty; racism and ignorance with a few bright and optimistic characters that kept the book moving forward and offered some relief from the negative environment of the 1950s.

The writing was very good and the dialect was well captured.  I was glad that the book did not drag out into epic dimensions and Vidalia did find a redemptive quality in the end of the story to express and to prove herself to be compassionate and not so “dumb” as her background would lead you to believe.  Her capacity to grow and develop kept me reading all the way through.  Whew!  That was a relief.

I liked the story and felt the discomfort of being outside the events and not being able to cajole or persuade Vidalia to move on and let go of her trials.  How does one move someone out of such ignorance when they do not know any better?  In the beginning of the story, young Vidalia falls in love with a slimy fellow who plays on her naiveté, then marries her when she becomes pregnant and beats her growing baby out of her womb too early for survival.   Vidalia finds a way to keep her baby with her through the whole story and this “spirit child” becomes her support system.

On the cover of the book Susan Crawford, author of The Pocket Wife says
“ From its beautiful first words to its satisfying ending, MY SWEET VIDALIA is a unique, enchanting read.     Exquisite language, a cast of robust characters, and a solid and compelling plot keep readers captivated as Mantella straddles the thin line between poetry and prose, reality and either, fragility and strength.  With a deft and gentle hand, she navigates us through the travails of an impoverished young mother guided by her intrepid spirit child.”

I would place this story high up on the scale of good reads and a great weekend of escape reading, which took me back to my school days in the Deep South.  It was still a relief to leave these characters back in the 1950s and early 60s and find comfort in my more progressive environment of home.   I worked as a social worker in the South in the 70s and 80s and I am hard pressed to even think about returning for a visit.  I am sure my experiences prejudiced my reading of this story.

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this well-written story for review.

From the cover:
“A transplant to the South, Deborah Mantella has lived and taught in various cities in the Northeast and the Midwest.  Now a resident of Georgia she lives outside Atlanta with her husband.  Mantella is a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, the Author’s Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators.  This is her first novel.”

Deborah Mantella Website
Deborah Mantella Facebook

Related:
The Wonder of All Things
The Mapmaker’s Children
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter
Flight Behavior

CONQUERING SHAME AND CODEPENDENCEY: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You ~Darlene Lancer

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

“SHAME. The torment you feel when you’re exposed, humiliated, or rejected.  The feeling of not being good enough.  It’s a deeply painful, universal emotion, yet is not frequently discussed.  For some shame lurks in the unconscious, undermining self-esteem and destroying confidence, leading to codependency on others.  These codependent relationships – where we overlook our own needs and desires as we try to care for, protect, or please another – are often covering up abuse, addiction, or other harmful behaviors.  Shame and codependency feed off one another, making us feel stuck, never able to let go, move on, and become the true self we were meant to be.”  (From the book cover)


CONQUERING SHAME AND CODEPENDENCY is a good self-help book authored by a family therapist who has years of work in this area of change and development. I liked the style of the writing, it is not preachy or overbearing expertise, rather it is carefully thought out and simply worded so that any reader could find some new knowledge and information about themselves. The demonstrating stories for the steps explored are relevant and understandable; they complete the point and observation.  The format is pleasing with some clear explanation of what might be causing recurring or “stuck” behaviors followed up with some very simple exercises that even young adults can follow and implement without years of therapy or experts.

I believe that CONQUERING SHAME AND CODEPENDENCY could be used in adolescence classrooms as a work book with a teacher attached. Young people a could identify areas where they might be stuck and frustrated in their independence moves and have a resource to remind them when they might need some help in the future.  Shame is also about all those crazy tapes that repeat in the mind, about how foolish one is or how “ugly” they might be, and how we react to those reoccurring mind words.   I have never met a person who has not felt humiliated at some point in their life; it can be reassuring to know one is not alone and have a few tools to change the way one is thinking.

I believe many woman could benefit from owning this resource as so many get isolated at home tasks or taking care of others and may need their thinking refreshed rather than reaching for  a cupcake, glass of wine, or anti-depression medication.  A little mental exercise towards releasing old ideas and maybe deleting despair and moving forward to opening up new ideas and ways to proceed.

The book was a nice refresher course and it helped me dust off some old techniques that I learned over the years.  I was having dental surgery while reading this book, and feeling a big sense of shame over how much my teeth and jaw repair was costing.  My parents were both teachers and proud that my brother and sister had no cavities, whereas they were rather angry about how my pitted teeth dug into the family finances; I just was not taking enough responsibility for their care.  Even though I now save money for healthcare and have dental insurance, when I heard how much my recent co-pay would be all those old messages of failure came up to play a tune – I had failed to do enough! CONQUERING SHAME AND CODEPENDANCY just might be a great companion to keep on your shelf or nearby for relief.   It could be a great sleep aid for those who worry all night long – have a glass of water and do an exercise from the book and get some rest.

The eight steps:

  1. Find Your True Self
  2. Uncover Your Shame
  3. Find Your Shame’s Roots
  4. Disarm Your Shame
  5. Confront Your Shame
  6. Share Your Shame
  7. Build Your Self-Esteem
  8. Love Yourself

tlc logo  TLC Online Book Tours  and HAZELDEN Press sent me an unproofed copy for review and I am very happy to have been on this tour and enjoyed reading this book

“Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT is a licensed family therapist with over twenty years of experience working with individuals and couples.  She regularly lectures on self-esteem, codependency, and addiction.  Author of Codependency for Dummies and 10 Steps to Self-Esteem, she has also published numerous articles.“

Darlene Lancer Blog 

Related:
Little Failure
Mind Without A Home
The Isolation Door 
I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag