Spring Ahead…

If I had known this was a sequel/continuation to her book My Name is Mary Sutter, I would have had it on amazon pre-order. As it was I found it as a display, noting a lovely cover and title: Winter Sisters.

Title: Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

Publisher: Viking February 2018, 415pp

Genre: literature, historical, mystery, suspense

5 stars highly recommended

Author:

Robin Oliveira (BA Russian Literature (1976), registered nurse, former literary agent (MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts 2006)), was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for a work-in-progress. My Name is Mary Sutter won the 2011 Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. Originally from Albany NY, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.

Story:

Mary Sutter was an unforgettable character, fiercely passionate as a doctor, intensely loyal to her family and friends, and driven by an independent spirit. Fourteen years have passed and she is still challenging social norms, prejudices and conventions. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Mary is again a central figure, few would have her perseverance and defiance but she shares the story with her niece Elizabeth and mother Amelia. All are needed not just to save the girls physically, but emotionally. They provide a multifaceted, deeply layered view of the era, women’s roles, love and family bonds. They are lucky to have the strong unwavering support of men who understand their sacrifice.

This is a very dark, difficult tale of kidnapping, rape and court proceedings against a 10year old child, which was considered consensual by law at that time (1879). It portrays a society laced with greed, police corruption, social class, bribery and betrayal. It is also a rewarding tale of hope and perseverance. Oliveira knows Albany well and and her detailed research provides rich descriptions of Victorian architecture, commerce, historical detail, even the weather create a powerful backdrop to this complex mystery. The writing is evocative, sensitive and filled with vivid characters. The story is timeless and riveting. I savored the historical detail, was haunted by the conditions of the street women, restricted social climate and horrific rape, found comfort in William and Mary’s relationship and ended determined to continue the fight over 100years later.

This novel can be read as a stand-alone, but don’t miss her other books.

Read on:

Nicola Upson Josephine Tey series, Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series

Quotes:

One joy in this somber story is Mary and William’s marriage. “Neither of them could think of a time together when either of them let each other down.” “Theirs was a tenacious love, as solid and true as granite.”

“I will gladly hear what you have to say, Dr. Stipp, but only after I speak to Emma. I do not want to contaminate my impressions with yours.”

“They are not impressions. They are facts.”

“There are facts and then there are alternate facts.”

“That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard anyone say.”

One day, I’m going to write a violin concerto and call it Number One Hundred Thirteen, and Elizabeth will play it” One hundred twelve days since they were taken, that day (113) marked the first day she wasn’t scared when she awoke.

What fools….

Title: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Publisher: Harper January 2018, 385 pp

Genre: literature, literary fiction, fiction, historical fiction, English mystery

5 stars. Highly recommended

Author: Bernard Cornwell is a prolific writer of over 50 novels, including the Sharpe Series (21 episodes with Sean Bean), The Last Kingdom (10 books, Netflix). There is always a skillful blend of history, intrigue and witty dialogue. His writing is superb, well researched and richly detailed. He is an enthusiastic amateur dramatist, which shows in the accurate portrayal of actors’ rivalries, theatre competition, and fierce ambition. This telling brought Shakespeare, his troupe and Elizabethan London to light. I would love a sequel, although this is a stand alone novel.The telling is a credit to the Bard.

Story: Richard Shakespeare, younger brother, is a penniless actor, of pretty face and female roles, who wants to establish himself as a serious professional (e.g. male actor). Playing females doesn’t pay as well (even then, even as a man), but rival egos, a glut of actors and vying theatres prevent upward mobility. Opportunities arise with a new production, a chance romance, and the need to clear his name with stolen manuscripts (midsummer’s night dream and Romeo and Juliet). Sibling rivalry, cutthroat theatre rivalry (pre Globe, 1500 seats, 30plays a year), Puritan hostilities, are intricately woven into a tight fascinating character driven story. Thankfully Queen Elizabeth liked plays, especially Shakespeare’s.

Read on:

If you like Hilary Mantel Wolffe Hall, Robert Nye Mrs Shakespeare

Don’t miss Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare histories.

Rochester Public Library has ebook, audiobook and hardcover.

Quotes:

I went out into the yard where rain seethed on the cobbles, and I stood under the shelter of a wooden arcade that ran like a cheap cloister about the courtyards edge. I shivered. Winter was coming.

I was good. I knew I was good. And I wanted to be good because to perform well was one way to avoid Sir Godfrey’s savage beatings, or the whippings administered by his two ushers.

….audiences clamored to hear the play. And across the wintry river men were planning to steal it from us.

We were the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. And no one pissed on our stage.

Aye, but we would be nothing without the words.

BOOK RELEASE: ON THE REBOUND BY JIM CANGANY

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ON THE REBOUND IS NOW AVAILABLE!

Author:  Jim Cangany
Release Day:  January 26, 2016
Genre: Sports Romance
Publisher:  Penner Publishing


 

SYNOPSIS

FINAL_AMAZON-APPLE-EBOOK-300x464On The Rebound is a sweet, sports romance set on the campus of fictional Irving University. It’s a story about second chances and features a women’s college basketball team. Here’s a teaser for you.

After he’s caught in a grade fixing scandal, men’s college basketball coach Greg Miller is thrown a lifeline when an old friend offers him a job with the small-school Irving University women’s team.

Academic Advisor Ciara Monaghan knows first-hand the heartbreak and havoc a cheating man can wreak. She wants nothing more than to protect the University’s reputation by seeing to it that Greg’s stay at Irving is short.

The last thing either of them wants is the attraction they can’t deny. Can a struggling member of the basketball team bring them together to see how wonderful a second chance at life, and love, can be?


 

ABOUT JIM CANGANY

JimPhotoJim Cangany was forty pages into his first manuscript when he realized it was a romance. He went with it and has great joy writing sweet, contemporary love stories. A lover of things that go fast, when Jim’s not writing, you can probably find him checking into the latest from IndyCar or pro bike racing. He lives in Indianapolis with his saint of a wife Nancy, his sons Seamus and Aidan, and the princess of the house, kitty cat Maria.

Visit him: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Tumbler


BUY NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER!

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AVAILABLE TODAY: THE EDGE OF NOWHERE

IN BOOKSTORES AND ONLINE TODAY!

FULL RESOLUTION EON

SYNOPSIS

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

bloggingC.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota. A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, “Cathie”is a life-long lover of books, and staunchly outspoken on subject of banned and challenged books. The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel and was inspired by her own family’s experiences during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.


PURCHASE A COPY OF THE EDGE OF NOWHERE ONLINE NOW

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Pre-Orders Open for Novel by Local Author

Rochester author, C.H. Armstrong, has recently penned her first novel, The Edge of Nowhere.  This novel has been picked up by California-based publishing house, Penner Publishing, and is set for a January 19, 2016 release.  Recently on her website, she posted information about this novel and its origins.

Armstrong, a native of Oklahoma and 23-year resident of Rochester, grew up on the stories of her familys’ survival during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and has centered her novel around this theme.  Below is a reprint from the author’s website telling more about this novel, the background, a little about the history, and the people who inspired the novel.  We reprint it here on our blog by permission of the author. Enjoy!


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FROM THE BACK COVER

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.


 

AUTHOR’S SYNOPSIS

Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene knows her family despises her.  She’s even heard her grandchildren snigger behind her back about the “Immaculate Conception of David” – her fifth child, conceived between husbands.  But Victoria refuses to die before revealing the secrets she’s held locked away for more than 50 years; the secrets only whispered about in family folklore that have made her the feared matriarch of her family.

Widowed with nine children, Victoria will do anything to provide for her children – even murder, and without remorse.  Each day brings greater challenges:  poverty, homelessness, death, starvation, degradation and disease.  Some challenges will require despicable acts to overcome. But at what cost?  Can her family understand the decisions she’s made to secure their futures?


 

THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE NOVEL

The Edge of Nowhere is a work of historical fiction inspired by the experiences of my own grandmother during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.  While it is a complete work of fiction, many of the stories contained within its pages are based upon anecdotes that have been passed down from my father’s generation, through mine, and down to my children.  Several of the key factors of the book are taken from their actual experiences, and others are the product of my imagination or exaggeration.  As a reader, you’ll have to decide which is which.  The answers may surprise you.

Four of my grandparents' combined fourteen children.  These four were their first together.  Not pictured are the five he brought to the marriage, and the five that came after this photo was taken. Front Row:  Bill and Geraldine Second Row:  Shirley and Ed (My Daddy)Four of my grandparents’ combined fourteen children. These four were their first together. Not pictured are the five he brought to the marriage, and the five that came after this photo was taken. Front Row: Bill and Geraldine / Back Row: Shirley and Ed (My Daddy). For readers of the book, these four children inspired the characters of Jack, Grace, Sara and Ethan.

The Dust Bowl that swept through Oklahoma and neighboring states was arguably the most devastating natural disaster to ever hit American soil.  Unlike a tornado, earthquake or a hurricane, the Dust Bowl lasted nearly ten straight years.  What was once beautiful green prairie and farmland of wheat fields as far as the eye can see soon became nothing but dust and dirt.  A desert of sorts.  Everywhere you looked was blowing dirt.  It got into your mouth and ears.  You couldn’t help but to inhale it deep into your lungs until you choked.  Many during this time died of what came to be known as “dust pneumonia.”  It was relentless and brutal.

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Photo Credit Dorthea Lange

Farming was the lifeblood of most Oklahomans during this time, but the soil had become so eroded that nothing would grow.  If your livelihood is farming and nothing will grow, what do you do?  How do you live?  These are the questions I began asking myself as Victoria’s story unfolded. How do you provide for your family when you’re a single woman alone with nearly a dozen children and no resources?

An important thing to remember about Oklahomans of this era is that most had no formal education.  They knew one thing:  farming.  If you’ve read Steinbeck’s epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, then you know that many of these people moved West for a better life.  Most people were too poor to move, however, and so they stayed behind and hoped for better days.  The Edge of Nowhere is the story of those people.  It’s the story of the true Oklahoma Spirit — the dogged determination and tenacity that continues to see them through continued disasters like the Oklahoma City Bombing and the yearly tornados that destroy home and property.  It is the story of a people dedicated to the land they love and the place they call home.  An interesting side note is that many of these same families who stayed behind and endured the harsh life of The Dust Bowl are still there today.  The same lands that once had forsaken them are now being farmed by their children and grandchildren.

“Abandoned farmstead in the Dust Bowl region of Oklahoma, showing the effects of wind erosion, 1937”
Image Source: http://www.britannica.com/media/full/174462/96105

My grandmother - Edna Hall Hedrick Golden - in her later years.

My grandmother – Edna Hall Hedrick Golden – in later years.

During this era, my grandmother was left a widow with her husband’s five nearly grown children and an additional seven smaller ones for a grand total of twelve children (she would go on to remarry after this era and have two more children for a combined fourteen).  She was only 28 years old.  Soon thereafter, she lost their farm and she found herself homeless, hungry and with few resources.  She had no family to speak of, so providing and caring for these children fell entirely to her.  I don’t know what she was like before my grandfather’s death, but I know that in the years I knew her she was strong and opinionated.  She ruled her children with an iron fist and they respected her for it.  She was a legend and not many people would dare to cross her path.

So sets the stage for The Edge of Nowhere.  You have a young woman, widowed, with a combined twelve children.  You have no resources.  You’ve lost your home, your children are hungry, jobs are scarce, what do you do?  Maybe a better question is this:  What wouldn’t you do to provide for your children?  And how do the decisions you’re forced to make change the person you are?

This book is currently under contract with Penner Publishing with an expected publication date of January 2016.  While you wait, take some time to visit the PBS website dedicated to the Dust Bowl.  You can find that link here.

The Edge of Nowhere is available for pre-order in e-book format (paperbacks coming soon!) through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo.  It is currently priced at a reasonable $2.99. You can preorder your e-book copy at one of the links below.

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Readathon!

Wouldn’t you like to curl up with a good book for four hours on a gray Saturday in January?
Join us for the first National Readathon Day Jan. 24, 2015! hashtag: #timetoread.

Penguin Random House is launching America’s first National Readathon Day, Jan. 24, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m. The campaign encourages bibliophiles to get together and make time to read. The readathon supports the National Book Foundation using an online fundraising service, firstgiving.com. The National Book Foundation presents the annual National Book Awards, as well as its educational programmes including BookUp, after-school reading program which has given out over 25,000 books.

Partners in the readathon include Mashable, which will dedicate one session of its book club to the project, and Goodreads. Bookstores, libraries and schools are encouraged to join in. People can sign up to participate in the readathon on their own or form teams that pool their fundraising resources.

The idea of reading as a fundraiser has been a great success (26 years!!) in Los Angeles. The Library Foundation of Los Angeles, which supports the city’s public libraries, will hold its Stay Home and Read a Book Ball on Feb. 28, 2015. For the ball, instead of dressing up and going out, people make a donation and pledge to stay home and read.

You might take for granted how easy it is for you to read this sentence, but millions of Americans still struggle with basic literacy. 40% of American adults are either at or below basic reading proficiency, and 14% are fully illiterate. But the trouble doesn’t stop there. Each year, millions of Americans — especially our youth — are losing touch with the power and importance of reading books. As Malcolm X said, “People don’t realize how a whole life can be changed by one book.””

Help change lives this winter by celebrating National Readathon Day with Penguin Random House, GoodReads, Mashable, and the National Book Foundation. Together with your support, we hope to help fund their efforts to educate, tutor, create and sustain a lifelong love of reading.

Need a book??? The Friends of the Rochester Public Library Bookstore have great books for a lovely winter read! There is a huge selection of excellent fiction, nonfiction, YA, and children’s books at fabulous prices. Join Paige Turner between 10am and 4 pm.

As for me? I will be reading poetry- Sunday is the Burns supper in celebration of the national poet of Scotland (Robert Burns, born 25 January). It is perhaps our biggest holiday celebration and involves both reading and writing poetry (and prose). In his spirit I have given a dozen children’s books, several adult books, donated time and money, and will be reading to my heart’s content. Join me.

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Book Review – When

A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

One of my favorite things as a reader is an author who is versatile.  There’s nothing more fun than having a favorite author and then discovering that the author not only writes things that you enjoy as an adult, but books that can be enjoyed by your children as well.  Such is the case with Victoria Laurie.

Laurie is the prolific author of the Psychic Eye series starring Abbie Cooper, and the Ghost Hunter series starring M.J. Holliday, both of which are adult mystery/thrillers that I’ve enjoyed reading over the years.  A few years ago, I was thrilled to notice that Laurie had published a trilogy of juvenile fiction books –  The Oracles of Delphi Keep – that would appeal to young readers like my 10 year old son and his cousin.  It was so much fun to be able to share an author I enjoyed so much with the little ones in my life, and now the only thing that was lacking was a YA novel that would appeal to my 18 year old daughter.

20338342Well, Laurie is back again with her newest novel, When, set to be released in early 2015, and this time she’s set her sights on yet another generation of readers:  The YA readers.  To my complete delight, Laurie has outdone herself and may well have released her best novel to date.  I simply cannot wait to share this book with my daughter and all of her friends!

When tells the story of a young woman with the ability to see the death date of any person, alive or deceased.  This unique talent brings more misery than joy, and she becomes somewhat of an outcast at her school as those who know of her talent think she’s either lying or a freak.

To help make ends meet and to support her mother’s alcohol habit, Maddie Fynn charges clients to read their death dates. Life moves along smoothly for Maddie until she predicts the death date the following week of a client’s son, and the client sees the prediction as a threat more than a warning of what’s to come.  When Maddie’s ominous warnings are ignored and the teenage boy is found brutally murdered, Maddie and her friend Arnold suddenly find themselves the focus of an FBI murder investigation.

This book far surpassed my expectations.  It was fast-paced and nothing short of fabulous.  More than a few times, I found myself holding my breath in anticipation of what would happen next, and hoping against hope that Maddie and Arnold would be vindicated.

Maybe the best part of this book was with the “big reveal” – that moment when the real bad guy of the story is revealed to the reader.  Many times this “big reveal” is nothing more than a copout and makes no sense.  Not so with When.  As the story unfolds, the reader starts to suspect several different characters; but the one character that crossed my mind as a possibility was quickly and completely discarded.  Imagine my surprise when I realized who the culprit was AND his reasonings made complete sense!  No copout there!  Laurie had created the perfect villain, and not only was it unexpected, but his motives were reasonable and made perfect sense!  Score one for Victoria Laurie!

I heard recently that this book has already been optioned for a television series, and I’m thrilled to hear this!  I can completely see Maddie Fynn as the heroine of a long-running television series that would appeal to both teen and adult audiences alike.

Book Review: What I Remember Most

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What I Remember Most
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

There is nothing I love more than the anticipation of reading a new book by a favorite author. I mark my calendar far in advance and begin counting down the days about two weeks before launch date. The only thing that comes close to equaling that excitement is when I’m surprised with the the opportunity to review a copy in advance in the form of an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the author or publisher. Recently, I had the opportunity to get my hands on an ARC of Cathy Lamb’s newest novel, What I Remember Most.

As an avid reader and fan of Lamb’s work, I walked into this book expecting a good read. I’ve read everything she’s released, and so there’s a reason why I always anxiously await her next book. With that said, though, I had no idea the huge treat that was in store for me. Simply stated, this book was absolutely beautiful and probably the best book Lamb has released yet. It was without any doubts one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

As with many of Lamb’s books, What I Remember Most is filled with a strong female leading character surrounded by a close-knit group of quirky friends. But what sets this book apart and above all others is the grit and determination of the main character, Grenadine Scotch Wild. She’s a young woman who has been knocked down by life and by the system her entire life, and yet she refuses to give up. She refuses to be beaten and she refuses to accept defeat. She keeps her chin up and her head high as she plows forward through life in search of the peace and fairness she deserves. She’s tender-hearted, yet tough as nails and unafraid to stand her ground against those who would take advantage of her. And through all of this, she’s intensely likable and the kind of person we all wish was among our inner circle of friends. She’s the kind of character that a reader falls in love with, and the one who lingers in your memory long after the last pages have been turned.

When an author starts with a character as appealing as Grenadine, she has a responsibility to that character not to drop the ball on the storyline. Luckily Cathy Lamb was up to the task and brings the reader an unforgettable story of a young orphan as she navigates through the foster care system and then, later, the real world. It’s a story of love, loss, survival, determination, perseverance, friendship and new starts.

This is a book that I will be recommending to every one of my friends, and one that you won’t want to wait any longer than necessary to read.  This book is not yet available at Rochester Public Library, but a request has been sent to purchase it for their shelves.