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THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN: A Novel ~Ellen Herrick

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Ellen Herrick, the author of THE SPARROW SISTERS has written another delightful tale, which is as lovely a read as a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.  THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN is filled with beautiful descriptions that include character’s thoughts as well as the magnificence of flowers, insects, birds and trees.   The English word expressions brought me right to home and I could relate to the things my Mother and Grandmother used to say. A cozy read.

Sorrel Sparrow, the garden whisperer, has been invited to England to restore a walled Shakespearean Garden that the estate owners believe to have been cursed by the darkness of a 16th Century ancestor.  As the young woman feels the hurt and toxic vibrations of the garden she presses the family to look further and reveal the tapestries, which spell out the dark enchantments and free the current family to find a new future and release the old expectations.

THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN does bloom again and love grows.

How are we each held captive by family expectations and ancient history?  How is history freed and the door opened to new options?  What change is rendered when family secrets are exposed to sunlight and new life takes root?

Reminds me of Brunonia Barry’s THE FIFTH PETAL.  A very good read – THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN

“Ellen Herrick was a publishing professional in New York City.  After nearly 20 years in London, Ellen now divides her time between her gardens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a small Cape Cod town.” (Book cover)

Ellen Herrick Website
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Ellen Herrick TLC Book Tours

Related:
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Sisters One Two Three
Whistling Women

THE GOODBYE YEAR: A Novel ~Kaira Rouda

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Four families from a wealthy community in California are the focus of this story.  Each family has a senior in high school and they are starting that last year.  There are some funny scenes for sure in this book, but primarily it is about the frantic moments of thinking about the future and worrying about empty nest.

The voices are both from the children and the adults and some of the fears and concerns are just amazing to behold.  All of their lives are filled with extra meetings and college representatives and for some the cost of future training is so expensive – crisis.  One mother drives her son to be just like his older brother, as she worries about what she will do after her last child leaves home.  She begins drinking.  Dad becomes a voice of reason and opens the door for son number two to find his own passion.

The perfect mom realizes that she has made her daughter her best friend and made up for her husband’s huge travel schedule with this connection.  The daughter is feeling some pressure about being the “perfect” girl at school and working around her pre-acceptance to Harvard.   A strange boyfriend is part of the scene and of course Homecoming King to this Queen.

We have a family on a tight budget and they do not know how their child will afford college, and mom has the whole family on an incredibly rigid calendar schedule, which would knock anyone to the floor in protest and yet for half the book this family muddles forward.

The step mom well is just a selfish mess and yet daughter finds away to keep her caring for her father after she leaves for college!  Actually, all the support characters are fairly fun to read in this story and even the drug problems are an interesting encounter.

TLC Book Tours sent along this fun read and I enjoyed it very much.  THE GOODBYE YEAR has over 70 4-star reviews on Amazon.

“Kaira Rouda is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction that sparkles with humor and heart including HERE, HOME, HOPE and IN THE MIRROR. Her latest novel, THE GOODBYE YEAR, will be released in May of 2016. Her modern romance novels are set on beaches, including the Laguna Beach series, the Indigo Island series and coming soon, the Malibu series.

She lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. After living in Columbus, Ohio, for most of her life, she now enjoys the beach whenever possible.” (TLC Book Tours)

Kaira Rouda Twitter
Kaira Rouda Facebook

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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.

Wendy Gordon Blog
Wendy Gordon Facebook

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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

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