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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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Equal Rites
Strings and Bones
Sing Them Home

TWILIGHT CHRISTMAS: A Carolina Coast Novella ~ Normandie Ward Fischer

Monday, December 19th, 2016

I was in the mood for a great Christmas Story when I heard that one of my favorite authors was releasing a novella. Normandie Ward Fisher sent me an e-copy right away and I now am aware that the paperback copy has been released. It fit the bill with perfection.

Normandie Fischer has a nice style of writing, which I enjoy reading. Although I am not a great romance reader and Southern Romance I often consider some of the worst “junk” on the market, Fischer has much more intelligent characters involved in actually figuring out how to proceed from their various dilemmas to be resolved. They are refreshing and relaxing to read. Most of her stories involve a level of violence such as addiction, domestic violence, or psychological abuse. When I was a social worker in the South, I found that these symptoms of dysfunction were invasive and often times thought to be “normal” behavior. Fischer thus gently exposes a truth and educates her readers to the problems inherent in these assumptions. Very good storytelling and teaching.

Louis, a 9-year-old very intelligent fellow, and his sister Linney, a 12- year-old with Down’s syndrome and limited mental ability, wake to find that their addicted mother has died during the night. Louis is fearful of what will happen to his sister as a previous stay in foster care has created a terrible memory and lots of fear. The two take off and hide creating a problem for the community, which is working to find the missing pair.

The children hide in a storage shed beside a community church which is preparing for their yearly Christmas pageant and moves into a story about a young mother who is recovering from her family crisis, working to stay afloat and keep her two children housed and fed on a temporary salary. She is busy sewing the costumes for the church program and worried about her connections to the detective who is searching for the missing children and was helpful to her at her time of greatest need.

It is a lovely story and once again Normandie Fischer has shared a story, which entertains and teaches. The supportive church community enhances the story and shows how a group of people can build others up and encourage possibilities. I enjoyed the story very much, though I am not so much into all the ‘God Talk’ or the assumptions of miracles lingering on the tip of my tongue. It is a hopeful story and has a wonderful Christmassy ending that is just right for this time and season.

Other Books by Normandie Ward Fischer:

Normandie Fischer combines a love of all things Italian with a fascination for the cultures and cuisines of the Middle East, an interest fostered when she studied sculpture in Perugia and lived among Arab students. She and her husband retired from cruising Pacific Mexico on board their ketch, Sea Venture, to care for her aging mother, who now sails with them whenever the opportunity arises.

Two from Isaac’s House is her first romantic suspense. She is better known for her women’s fiction, including Becalmed (2013), Heavy Weather (2015), and Sailing out of Darkness (2013).

TWILIGHT CHRISTMAS is free for kindle readers and $.99 for the paperback at this time.

A PIECE OF SKY, A GRAIN OF RICE: A memoir in four meditations ~Christine Hale

Monday, August 8th, 2016

I just need to state at the very beginning of this review that I am so happy I was sent this book for reading and review.  What a wonderful book, which arrived at perfect timing for what is happening in our world and the politics of the day.  So many people right now are asking why do people remain so ignorant and do not change their minds?   This memory is about how one of those people, who value programmed in the Blue Collar realm of Southern USA and how much effort it took to learn to reprogram those values and help her children succeed.

“In this layered collage of memory within memory, Hale recreates for readers her kaleidoscopic experience of a decades-long journey to acceptance and insight. Writer, prodigal daughter, single parent, Buddhist disciple, and, late in midlife, a newlywed, she is transformed through an unconventional relationship with a female spiritual teacher and an odd ritual of repeated tattooing with her two young adult children. “ (from book cover)

A PIECE OF SKY, A GRAIN OF RICE is poetically written as the segments over lap in telling her story and piecing together the facets of a life.  From her parents love-hate relationship and hard work ethic,over years of self-study and volunteering in a domestic violence center in New York, this southern woman begins to understand how physical, verbal, and sexual abuse played out in her own family and that was considered the normative behaviors of her historic family and of the culture of the working class.  Christine Hale drugged herself up for awhile and then found a mentor who assisted her in digging her way out and making changes, which led to changes in her own family structure and breaking the pattern and the mold of enculturation she had endured.

TLC Book Tours  sent me a copy of this book for review.

The author also studied at the same school I did in North Carolina and now lives in the same area I did my first social work practicum.  At 20, I arrived from a family that discussed everything and had value programmed with one “British Rules” parent and one “Creative Genius” thinker and I could see clearly in my new surroundings  the stuck in a rut life systems that were not going to work in the new century – how to change awareness and values?  It seemed to take a great deal of pain and the desire to change to escape one’s early programming.   Hale experiences that pain and sometimes believes her only “out” is suicide and yet she persists and change happens.   The telling of her story certainly opens doors for others to step through and find new hope and not just escape and death.  Change is hard work.

Even without getting tattooed most of us can benefit from reading this beautiful memoir and it may help many others in the reading.

Though I have to say that most Buddhist retreats I have partaken of, the centers have been immaculate and beautiful in their earthy settings and natural silence.  Her teacher’s centers were fairly awful facilities and would have made it extremely difficult for me not to be distracted and nearly impossible to let go.   More power to Christine Hale

From the cover:

“Christine Hale is the author of a novel, BASIL’S DREAM.  Ms. Hale’s creative non-fiction has appeared in ARTS & LETTERS, SPRY, STILL, HIPPOCAMPUS, and PRIME NUMBER, among other journals.  A fellow of MacDowell, Ucross, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College.  She teaches in the Antioch University – Lost Angeles Low Residency MFA Program as well as the Great Smokies Writing Program in Asheville, North Carolina, where she and her husband live.”


Remember My Beauties
Wrong Highway
Whistling Women

WRECK OF THE GOSSAMER: (The Puzzle Box Chronicles: Book 1) ~Shawn P. McCarthy

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Dark Spark Press sent me a  PDF file of Book 1 for this 5 part series that touches base with the start of electricity and radio being developed in the USA.  It is just 171 pages and right when the plot gets extremely interesting the book stops and we must wait for the Book 2 release, which happens next month.  It made me feel like I was reading a serial story in the newspaper or one of my mother’s magazines; I could hardly wait for the next part of the adventure.  I had to read the front page again to make sure it was fiction because the references to Edison and Marconi and George Westinghouse sent my mind to believing the story was historic fiction.  Well, maybe it is?


“Victor Marius, an inspired scientist and budding entrepreneur, is lost in a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod in the summer of 1891. But before he disappears beneath the waves he manages to release a strange box that he hopes will protect his legacy.

“Amanda Malcom, a young woman enduring a troubled marriage, is about to make a discovery that will lead her on a dangerous odyssey – one that takes her across the country, and into the heart of a rapidly changing America. Along the way, she meets Plains Indians, ex-slaves, riverboat charlatans, and secretive workers who champion the U.S. labor movement. At a time when electric lighting is spreading across the country like a wave, she also meets inspired engineers and Montana miners who dig deep to feed the country’s insatiable demand for copper.

Amanda has survived many things in her short life, but it’s not clear if she will be able to survive the first year of the last decade of the 19th century.”(From Amazon’s page)

I found the story to be unpretentious and interesting and the descriptions of the countryside and time period to be very useful and informative.  Although there is death from the ship being sunk in a storm some harshness of words and violent actions, I think my children would have loved this book starting when they were in about 8th grade.  I believe the story would appeal to a wide age range.  The depth of the characters is quite believable and moved the story forward nicely.

About the author

“Shawn P. McCarthy is the author of two nonfiction business books and hundreds of market research papers and technical articles. His first book, part of a five-book historic fiction series, will be released on February 12, 2016.

“He currently is research director for IDC Government Insights where he manages a series of research programs and data gathering operations with a focus on how the government buys from and works with the U.S. information technology market. Mr. McCarthy determines IT investment priorities for the multiple levels of government and identifies and forecasts emerging technologies and opportunities for both government offices and technology vendors who work with the government.

“Prior to joining IDC Mr. McCarthy served as a group product manager for four years at Lycos, the Internet search engine. In the early 1990s he was senior editor at Government Computer News was a 20-year writer of the Internaut column at Government Computer News magazine.

“He has a Masters degree from The George Washington University, a Bachelors degree from St. Bonaventure University and a certificate in project management for IT programs. He occasionally teaches graduate-level project management classes.

“Mr. McCarthy is frequently quoted by trade publications, and has been quoted in government IT articles in major Newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico. “(From Amazon’s page)

Shawn McCarthy Amazon page
Shawn McCarthy Twitter

I would recommend this story to those who enjoy historic fiction and to readers who like to imagine what a time was like and how inventions came to be.  Amanda’s adventures are cross country in a wide sweep as she experiences and works to unravel the mysteries of the puzzle box which washed ashore after the Wreck of the Gossamer

Daughter of Sand and Stone
Playing St. Barbara
A Snug Life Somewhere