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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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FAMILY TREE: A Relationship Story ~Susan Wiggs

Monday, August 15th, 2016

“Susan Wiggs is the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of more than fifty novels, with her books in print in thirty countries.  A native of a small town in upstate New York, she now lives with her husband at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather can commute to her writers’ group in a twenty-one-foot motorboat.  A former teacher and graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard, Susan is also an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier, and cautious mountain biker – yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. (From the book jacket)

FAMILY TREE is just a lovely read and it was such a pleasure to curl up and enjoy each page on a rainy summers day.  The story unfolds in a small rural community in Vermont, on a farm dedicated to Maple Syrup and healthy lifestyles.  Annie is the girl who drives herself to do everything well and is determined to follow her passion into a big career in the media.  She has learned under the careful tutelage of her Grandmother the ‘Art of Baking’ and she has an innate skill for the craft.

FAMILY TREE is a generational story, which includes the art of creating Maple Syrup to the art of building family relationships that grow and do not consume.  There is considerable wisdom shared in the gentle writing style through the school years, college years and into career building.  Will family patterns repeat and continue into future problems?   What will be success for the family, each character and for the community?

I learned a great deal about the small family farmer, the maple sugar industry, distilling and cooking.  The book came complete with recipe cards for some of the amazing meals served up between the pages.  The book is also about persevering and adapting to change happening to and around each of the characters. A very nice study and I am sure many readers will want this story to come true for them selves.

When I leave the movies it takes a minute or two to come back into the present tense.  It is the same with FAMILY TREE.  The story suspends time and relaxes the reader; taking them away from their own life and problems delightfully.  I am sure it is another bestseller in the making and I can recommend it.  I have not made any of the recipes but I did enjoy FAMILY TREE with several cozy cups of tea.

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

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COME AWAY WITH ME: A Novel of Love and Loss ~Karma Brown

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Come Away With Me is definitely a love story and it is about change, loss, grieving, and recovery.  On the front cover, there are the words that remind one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s EAT, PRAY, LOVE and it did very much because it was about change and taking physical steps to find and process into recovery, possibility, and hope.  There was not as much astute analysis even though the main character did recover a sense of self after being so lost in love.

About Karma Brown

“Karma Brown is a National Magazine Award winning freelance writer and journalist, and a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She lives just outside Toronto with her family and writes powerfully emotional upmarket women’s fiction, in the vein of Me Before You. COME AWAY WITH ME is her first novel.” (From TLC Book Tours)”

This paperback comes with an interview with Karma Brown at the back of the book and a book group question section and I started there instead of the actual narrative of the story.  I learned that the book was written because of a surprise cancer diagnosis and the author wanted to write about the process and the recovery from such a hard experience.  I liked that the author emphasized possibility and future in her reply but I was fairly sure the book was going to be an emotional ride.

So Tegan is a very happily married kindergarten teacher in Chicago.   She is pregnant with their first child and she and Gabe are on their way to a Christmas Eve gathering at the in-laws house when they are in a terrible car accident which is life changing.  The baby has been killed and Tegan has had to have a hysterectomy to save her life and she will have many scars from her injuries.  After weeks in the hospital and then weeks in bed unable to cope or move forward, Tegan attempts suicide.  Her mother and her best friend are trying to get her to get up and get her moving forward but have been unsuccessful.  She ends up back in the hospital and the psychiatrist is able to get her onto some medication and talking.   There is a great deal of remembered experiences with her loving and funny husband Gabe around how they met and how they fell in love and celebrated life together.

The book is an emotional journey and does remind me of EAT, PRAY, LOVE very much, because Tegan needs to pack her backpack and pull 3 bucket list items out of their serendipity jar and go on the trips they had planned in order to find laughter and release from the intensity of the pain from the loss to move towards recovery and future.   There are several surprises in the story and I just know that several of the reviewers on the list will spoil them and that concerns me because it would have ruined the story for me.  I was emotionally connected all the way through and loved the journey to Thailand, Italy and Hawaii and the lessons that were learned along the way.  I loved the story of the feet being the wrong way in the temple and was right in the moment enjoying the noise and the experience of it all.   I was so happy the guesthouse owner was able to assist with the upset stomach after eating grasshopper and worm.

The writing was lovely and the descriptions of cold weather, feelings, climbing the stairs and the little quiet room were as lovely as the cooking classes and the new people met and who shared the experiences.  The story had a healing ending and I had a sigh of relief.
Everyone should be so in love and have such great and supportive families.  What a hard thing to live through and how lovely that there was healing and recovery.  COME WITH ME was a good read and I would recommend it to many and particularly to those with sudden change/ unexpected change.

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OLIVAY: A Novel ~Deborah Reed

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

I was totally captured by OLIVAY.  I was driven to turn every page of OLIVAY.  It was very suspenseful and demanding the reader to find resolution and yet it was not a comfortable read at all.   I am so pleased that TLC Book Tours sent me a copy for review; OLIVAY was a most interesting read.

Deborah Reed teaches writing in Los Angeles and Germany and is an extraordinary writer and storyteller.   I did not wish to miss a word or paragraph for fear of missing some phrase or line of description.   OLIVAY is the main character’s name and it is used often in the story and as she interacts with Henry sometimes you have to guess at who said that line or phrase because it is not crystal clear; either one is possible.

A year earlier OLIVAY’s husband has been killed in an accident while on his way to work.  The driver of the vehicle has not been found or arrested.  OLIVAY has been made a media star as the video of her caring for her dead husband has been circulated millions of times.  She is still hard pressed to leave her loft apartment for all the notoriety and she is a very private person.  She has quit her job as an architect and is now just venturing out to a local coffee shop to try and leave her home with out gaping attacks.

At the coffee shop, a handsome young man, Henry, approaches OLIVAY and their conversation lasts all afternoon. She invites him to her loft and he spends the night.   In the morning, there is a terrorist attack upon the neighborhood and the windows are blown out of the loft and OLIVAY has her knee severely injured.  People on the street are dying as the water main ruptures and the electricity shuts down.

Most of the story takes place in the loft as Henry cares for the injury and takes care of OLIVAY, who is trying to figure out the real Henry.   OLIVAY appears to be one of the meanest characters I have ever read, and yet as one reads on there is something very wise about her and her thoughts.  Who is Henry really?

The second section of the story included Henry’s story and more of his thinking in alternate chapters that goes by very quickly.  There is a tension in the telling of the story as revealing as it proves to be.

I do not think I would have picked this book for myself, and once again I thank TLC Book Tours  for sending this gem along and putting it on the schedule.  The writing is amazing and the premise interesting and yet it is something I would not like to experience myself – in any aspect.   I believe it is a book more folks need to read.  The writing is inspiring.

From the book cover:

“Deborah Reed’s novel, Things We Set on Fire, sold over one hundred thousand copies in the first six months, while Carry Yourself Back to Me was a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors Pick.  She wrote the bestselling thriller, A Small Fortune, and its sequel, Fortunes Deadly Descent, under her pen name Audrey Braun.  She holds a master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing, and teaches at the UCLA Extension Writing Program.  She is also co-director of the Black Forest Writing Seminar at the University of Freiburg in Germany.  She resides in Los Angeles.”

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