Book Review -THE LAST LETTER FROM JULIET

The Last Letter from Juliet cover

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The Last Letter from Juliet by Melanie Hudson

After the loss of her husband, Katherine’s life is at a standstill. An invitation to visit her uncle for Christmas to solve an apostrophe conflict will force her from her solitude of grief. When he’s called away unexpectedly, Katherine immerses herself into a journal belonging to Juliet Caron, the previous owner of her holiday cottage.

Juliet, a Spitfire girl, served as a pilot during World War II. Prevented from flying in actual battle because of her gender, however, she and her two companions transport aircraft across the war zone. Her pre-arranged marriage with her best-friends brother tailspins after a chance encounter with an intriguing stranger. Confronted with wartime danger, Juliet will face the ultimate conflict in matters of the heart.

Juliet’s tale is the catalyst Katherine needs to propel her stagnate life once more into motion. With ‘coddiwompling’ her new motto, the perfect rainbow to Katherine’s gray skies emerges.

Enough cannot be said about this beautiful story. At its heart is a tale of enduring love. The chapters alternate between viewpoints. As Katherine reads the story of Juliet’s life, Hudson does a marvelous job transporting the reader back in time. A clear delineation of perspective speaks to Hudson’s craft of storytelling. If you are seeking a novel about love and nostalgia, this is a must-read!

**Click the link to learn about the real Spitfire women of WWII**

The Spitfire Women of WWII

Book Reviews

Book Review – LETTERS FROM A NAMELESS VILLAGE

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Letters from a Nameless Village by Muhn Sihn is composed of more questions than answers. A man seeks meaning to his existence by running from his failures and seeking refuge in simplicity. His letters to ‘my dear fellow’ contemplate his life in the form of questions. Despite this presentation of thought, few answers or even speculations follow. I did like the following quote, however. “Everything lives at the expense of something else.”

The book can be completed within an hour as it is only eighty-four pages, but I believe this time is better spent in meditation. There is no clear direction to Sihn’s characters. The book is a compilation of ramblings with no cohesive thought patterns. At the end, I was left wondering what was its purpose. Yes, the main character discovers that a simplistic way of life is more fulfilling than his previous life in the city, but the beauty of simplicity is never identified or described. The way a bird’s song is orchestrated by nature and not confined within the four walls of human design. Or the kiss of a breeze caresses the arm in comfort when most needed. The author’s main character provided no threads of connecting to the reader. I was grasping at straws.

I had hoped Letters from a Nameless Village would pull me into its simplicity, giving enlightenment where none previously existed. Instead, it left me confused and disappointed. It is a mish mash of thought.

Reedsy – The Discovery Team

*If you’re looking for a little perspective on life, read The Noticer by Andy Andrews instead.*

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE HOUSE OF CLOSED DOORS

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THE HOUSE OF CLOSED DOORS by Jane Steen centers around Nell Lillington, an unwed pregnant young woman bearing the burden of a secret. To avoid scandal, her stepfather arranges for lodging at a poor farm where she will remain until the baby is born and subsequently adopted. Her disgraceful condition must be kept hidden as her stepfather seeks political office. To protect her ailing mother, Nell agrees to his terms. Living among others deemed unfit for existence, she nurtures stifled independence and befriends her roommate, a young female afflicted with Down’s Syndrome. After the birth of her child, Nell is determined to keep her baby and seeks help from a close friend. But the discovery of two bodies, a young woman and her baby, places Nell and her newborn in the crosshairs of a surprising foe. She resorts to blackmail as a final attempt to ensure their safety, but blackmail has its time limits.

Readers should know this is not a stand-alone novel. Nell’s journey continues in two more books; thus, the ending leaves a ‘hanging’ effect. If you prefer a novel’s conclusion neatly packaged in a bow, this is not the book for you. However, those who seek historical fiction bundled in trios will be pleasantly entertained. Set during the 1870s, the historical aspects of the poor farm are well researched, and Steen describes the period with accuracy. Her word structuring is eloquent, graceful, and intelligent.

I look forward to reading more of her work.

Book Reviews

Book Review – LIAR’S WINTER

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LIAR’S WINTER by Cindy Sproles paints a tale of extraordinary beauty colored with all shades of humanity. Set in the Appalachian Mountains of nineteenth-century East Tennessee, a newborn, stolen from the arms of her mother, is raised by an abusive couple. The absence of parental nurturing, coupled with constant chores, is the only existence Lochiels known. A superstition, long-held by mountain folk, breeds fear and prejudice towards the teenager, known to locals as “the Devil’s daughter.” However, guided by Edna and Walton, she journeys along a path of self-revelation, exposing secrets that forever bind the three together. But, driven by vengeance, the man she called brother threatens to destroy her new family.

The author’s portrayal of dialect is remarkable. As a fast reader, I found myself slowing down to grasp the language and thoughts of the characters sufficiently. The dialect represents the period as well as its location, providing richness and depth to the story. Beautiful!

A message of love, healing, and forgiveness is gently packaged within this novel. The author’s words bleed heart and soul. A true gift. Historical fiction readers will appreciate Sproles’s style, but Lochiel’s story is the real star.

“The choices we make are what makes us who we are.”

Book Reviews

BOTANICAL TOXICOLOGY – A Writer’s Guide to Poisons

Peacock Flower

peacock flower

flower and leaves

peacock flower seed pods

seed pods

 

 

 

 

 

Otherwise known as Mexican red bird of paradise, Pride of Barbados, and butterfly flower.

Origins

  • Native to the tropics
  • Prominent in the West Indies/Caribbean
  • Thrives in hot climates
  • National flower of Barbados

Distinguishing Attributes

  • Small tree or large shrub
  • Showy blossoms of orange/red
  • Fern-like blue-green foliage, young foliage is red
  • Seed pods resemble sugar snap pea or edamame pods.
  • Fast-growing
  • Resistant to pest and disease

Poisonous Traits

  • Mature seeds (derived from brown seed pods) are poisonous due to gallic and tannic acid concentrations.
  • The ingestion of leaves causes diarrhea and miscarriage during pregnancy.
  • Roots are spicy and toxic

Presenting Symptoms

  • Gastrointestinal: vomiting, diarrhea
  • Induces menstruation

Current Uses

  • Mexico and Nicaragua boil young (green) seed pods to remove the tannic acids and eat the seeds.
  • A common medicinal herb in Taiwan for treating fever, menstruation issues, malaria, wheezing, and bronchitis.
  • Pakistanis use the flowers to treat intestinal worms, the roots to treat infant convulsions, and the leaves to induce vomiting and abortions.
  • Malaysians use the plant as an antibacterial (fights infection).
  • Panamanians use the leaves to poison fish.
  • Nicaraguans throw the leaves into the water to stun the fish.
  • Medicine men from the Amazon rainforest use the seed pods as an astringent to clean wounds.
  • The tea produced from the leaves is used to treat dysentery (infection of the intestines that produces blood and mucous in the stool).
  • Mexico uses the seed pods to make red and yellow dye and the roots for red dye, and the flowers and roots are used to create a mouthwash. Powdered flowers are used to kill insects.
  • In India, the plant is sacred to Shiva, a supreme being to the Indonesians.

Historical Relevance

  • In 1705 Maria Merian, a naturalist, recorded that Suriname Indians and slaves from Northern South America were known to use the mature seed pods to abort their children in hopes of keeping them from enslavement from their Dutch colonial masters.
  • In the 18th century, free Amerindians living in the regions of Venezuela and Colombia used the seed pods to induce abortions for selfish reasons; they could ‘schedule’ their pregnancies to preserve their youth and beauty as well as ‘eliminate’ pregnancies beyond their youth.

BOTANICAL TOXICOLOGY

BOTANICAL TOXICOLOGY – A Writer’s Guide to Poisons

ACONITEAconite plant

Otherwise known as monkshood, tiger’s bane, dog’s bane, wolfsbane, or friar’s cap. It grows in the mountainous regions of Central Asia, Russia, Europe, and Great Britain.

DISTINGUISHING ATTRIBUTES

• Pointed dark glossy leaves

• Turnip like roots

• Helmet shaped dark blue flower (almost purple hue)

• Bitter taste; accidental poisoning is rare due to this bitterness

• The entire plant is poisonous despite claims only the root is

POISONOUS TRAITS

• See effects within an hour

• Its medicinal application in history targeted restlessness, fever, chills, anxiety, pains, vertigo (dizziness), and sleeplessness

• Absorbs through broken skin or open wounds

• Gloves should be worn when handling

• Highly cardiotoxic and neurotoxic

• No cure; manage symptoms until body recover

 

SYMPTOMS OF A POISONING

• Neurological (tingling/prickling/numbness of the face or extremities; muscle weakness)

• Cardiovascular (hypotensive-low blood pressure, chest pains, palpitations-irregular heartbeat)

• Gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain)

HISTORICAL RELEVANCE

• Used by aborigines in far north Pacific Ocean to harpoon whales; tainted spearheads with aconite

• In 1881 a doctor killed his brother-in-law by crushing the plant and placing it in the newly invented capsule shells to mask the taste

• Ancient China rubbed not only the arrow with poison but also the shaft so anyone trying to remove an arrow from a wounded soldier would likewise perish

• Shepherds used raw meat laced with aconite in the killing of wolves

• Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine; boiled before ingestion to decrease the plant’s toxicity

BOTANICAL TOXICOLOGY

Book Review – STAY

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STAY by Catherine Ryan Hyde illustrates how minor decisions can have a life-altering impact. A recluse, two best friends, and one battle-scarred brother are united by a chance decision for a running path. This encounter will not save one life but three.

Written in first-person, Lucas gives a bird’s eye view of his relationship as a teenage boy with Zoe Dinsmore, the town recluse. His friendship with Zoe will heal his best friend, Conner, from a dark path and save his own brother from a life-crippling addiction. Zoe, too, faces her own demons and discovers healing is best in the company of others.

I enjoyed the relationship dynamics of the primary characters. At times, the story is a bit dry. Given the protagonist, though, it is entirely on par with how it should be told. Hyde does a marvelous job integrating personalities specific to each character. A withdrawn teenage boy. A defensive and snarky recluse. A drug-seeking ex-vet. All three merge together under the watchful eye of dependable Lucas, trying to make sense of his own world. Hyde validates one person can truly make a difference.

Those readers who need healing should give STAY a chance. I can’t promise miracles, but it always helps to know that you’re not alone.

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE LIFE & TIMES OF PERSIMMON WILSON

The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock

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*Based on others’ comments, I preface this review by stating: do not view the 1860s through rose-colored glasses. The violence depicted by the author was an everyday reality. Though hard to read at times, there are no explicit details. It is a simple statement of fact. That being said, I would recommend this for mature audiences only.*

The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock follows the journey of a man’s rise from slavery to Comanche warrior. Left for dead, Persimmon Wilson travels across state lines to rescue the woman he loves from the clutches of a horrid man, a man he’d rather see dead than alive. With the Civil War at his heels, Persy traverses a hostile frontier accompanied by two unlikely companions. As tragedy swirls around him, he loses the will to live and submits to his fate. The Comanche warriors, however, interpret his indifference as courage and welcome him as one of their own, training him in their way of life. In the end, Persimmon Wilson realizes death will not be cheated, and love doesn’t always win.

The vivid imagery elicited by Peacock’s prose never sugar-coats the truth of human degradation. She proves not all endings are happy, depicting human nature at its worst. Her characters are multi-dimensional and paint a harsh reality of survival across an untamed wilderness. Despite Persy’s escape from slavery, he’s thrust into an Indian world riddled with the same level (if not more) of violence. The only difference now, he’s executing the punishment. This psychological aspect deserves literary analysis.

Peacock provides the proper amount of tension with one exception. The story’s seamless flow stumbles with Persy’s life among the Comanches. At this point, too much repetitive action lulls the story’s tension when it should be at its highest. On a positive note, her utilization of period dialect gives credence and authenticity to the read. However, those offended by specific language should seek a gentler version of historical fiction. The author doesn’t hold punches. But then again, neither does reality.

Book Reviews

Book Review – WHEN WE WERE BRAVE

WHEN WE WERE BRAVE

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When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay weaves three narratives together, revealing how individual lives were affected by the Nazis during WWII. An SS officer risks his life as well as his families to expose Hitler’s atrocities. A German family confronts hostility from their American neighbors. An eight-year-old Jewish boy imprisoned within the war camps.

Personally, I am not a fan of perspective jumping. This style of writing, for me, at least, prevents the immersive reading experience that provides a deeper connection with the main character or characters. However, for educational purposes, the content is exceptional and should be mandatory reading for every high school across the world. Jay provides discussion questions along with authentic connections with her characters. It is easy to read ‘facts’ from history books but is incomparable to the tragedies and emotions experienced through the eyes of those affected. The naivety of the eight-year-old Jewish boy is the most palpable. His innocence clings to a family reunion despite the horrors he faces each day. Jay portrays, with remarkable precision, the psychological and physical turmoil experienced by the characters, giving the reader a glimpse into a reality endured over seventy years ago.

Without revealing any plot details, I did have an issue with one aspect of the story. The SS officer risks everything to expose the truth and is frustrated when his actions, or rather inactions, are questioned by the American government resulting in thousands of more deaths each passing day his claims are investigated. But when he is offered the opportunity to bring forth information upon his surrender, he keeps silent for months. It was hard to reconcile this behavior with his character’s purpose, and the impact of his story was weakened. Despite this minor flaw, I would definitely recommend this book for all historical fiction readers.

*I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.*

Reedsy – The Discovery Team

Book Reviews

Book Review – IN BETWEEN

In Between by Jenny B. Jones book cover

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In Between by Jenny B. Jones captures the essence of family dynamics seasoned with a sprinkle of humor (Okay, maybe more than a sprinkle). Katie, a sixteen-year-old ward of the state, is fostered by a pastor and his wife. However, determined to return to her group home immediately, Katie is her own worst enemy. But the unyielding acceptance her new foster parents wield, knocks her off a troubled course, setting her on a path less traveled. With Chihuahua’s as her new school mascot, Katie’s ‘small town nightmare’ converts a not-so-troubled teen into a foster parent’s hero.

I loved this book! The star, besides Katie herself, has to be ‘psycho granny’ – Maxine Simmons is a gum-smacking, energy-drink-guzzling, wheelie-popping demon. Her antics and geriatric (I say this loosely) spirit kept me laughing. With a foster granny like Maxine, Katie is plopped smack in the middle of crazy, learning to embrace the unexpected. Beyond the humor, though, the author keeps the relationship wheel turning, proving acceptance, friendship, and forgiveness are found where we least expect them.

Feel-good. Laugh out loud. Clean humor at its best! I may have to convert my favorite genre from historical fiction to somewhere in between. 😉

Book Reviews