Book Review – THE DRESSMAKER’S GIFT

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The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy depicts the sheer tenacity of the human spirit. Bonded by more than their living conditions, Claire, Vivienne, and Mirielle take a stand against the Nazi’s as they occupy Paris during the 1940s. Their jobs as seamstress’ provide the perfect cover in a world of rising fashion, but their loyalty and friendship to one another may cost them everything. In present-day Paris, Claire’s granddaughter, Harriet, seeks to uncover the missing pieces of her past and accept her mother’s suicide. Her purpose, however, is more connected to her grandmother than she realizes.

Overall, Valpy provides a glimpse into the life of the people surviving in Nazi-occupied Paris. She recounts the rationing of food, the implementation of curfews, and the lack of coal. But The Dressmaker’s Gift is more about the friendships of Claire, Vivienne, and Mirielle – a bond set against the backdrop of war. The story of Harriet is minimal and, in my opinion, serves only to elevate the books ending – an ending that moved me to tears with an unexpected but heart-warming revelation. The mention of inherited trauma, however, caused me to drop my rating from 5 to 4 stars. This is a dangerous assumption to put into a society grappling with a rise in mental health issues. But then again, this is historical fiction.

If you seek a novel about friendships, war, and survival, look no further. Set during the turmoil of WWII, The Dressmaker’s Gift will both warm your heart and touch your soul.

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE GIRL WHO WROTE IN SILK

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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes is a beautiful representation of Chinese culture amidst American prejudice in the Northwest during the 1880s. Mei Lien, a Chinese American girl, confronts both prosperity and tragedy. After a series of horrific events, the deep wounds to her heart begin to heal thru a most unexpected union. By implementing the ancient art of Chinese embroidery, she leaves the story of her ancestors as well as her own intricately woven into a piece of fabric for future generations. Her story is revealed when Inara, a recent college graduate, discovers this hidden antiquity over a century later. On a path of self-discovery, Inara is on a collision course with her own truth – a truth that is hard to accept. Will she do right by Mei Lien or keep her secret hidden?

Estes proves we are more connected than we think. The anti-Chinese sentiment from the late 1800s is a fragment of history discarded among a pile of ugly truths. Estes executes the interweaving of the present and the past with ease. She made connections where I least expected them; and, I experienced Mei Lien’s pain, her heart-break, and her love. The strength of the human spirit is threaded through her story.

Unaware of this piece of history, I embarked on learning more. The best aspects of reading historical fiction are the real stories behind the fictional words. Mei Lien’s account may be more fact than fiction.

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE KING OF KRESKIN AVENUE

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The King of Kreskin Avenue by A. K. Vitberg is an exceptionally written and emotionally moving coming-of-age novel. Mario Colucci, known to the youth of Kreskin Avenue as “the King,” suffers from PTSD as a result of his service during the Korean War. Robbie, a Kreskin Avenue youth, tutors Mario’s son, who endures ridicule and isolation because of a medical condition. Robbie witnesses there’s more to the Colucci family than meets the eye, and an unspoken bond is forged between the veteran and the teen. It is the death of Robbie’s brother, though, that sets in motion a series of events that will affect thousands.

Honestly, I am not one for a coming-of-age novel but was touched beyond words by this book. The domino effect of war is the underlying theme. Vitberg reminds us there are invisible scars even though the physical wounds of war have healed, and a charismatic young boy can return from battle a shell of his former self. Amusing anecdotes are peppered throughout the chapters, revealing a more straightforward way of life – a time when life revolved around the neighborhood, and the internet was non-existent.

This novel is a must-read but be prepared with tissue in hand to shed tears, for we are remembered in death for who we were in life.

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

Reedsy – The Discovery Team

Book Reviews

Book Review – IT CALLS TO ME

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It Calls to Me by Victoria Walsh is a paranormal thriller that is sure to keep you guessing. The core of the novel revolves around a curse and a young girl’s determination to uncover the truth. She dedicates years of research to understand a town tragedy and the leader who led to its demise. Ultimately, she reveals the basis of a curse that has kept her family in paranormal bondage for generations. There is an underlying theme of overcoming family demons, battling isolation, and prevailing as the victor. Look elsewhere for warm family stories. Here, they are
non-existent.

The basis of the story is intriguing and unique but needs more substance-meat on the bones. The frequent time jumps prevent connection with the protagonist, and specific aspects of the story were confusing, while some trajectories were never fully explained. In the end, I was left wishing for more ‘thriller’ to the paranormal.

It Calls to Me will appeal to those looking for a light paranormal read minus the intensity often associated with paranormal thrillers.

Book Reviews

Renaming of The Writing Community Newsletter!

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Previously known as The Writing Community Newsletter

I am so excited to be part of the renaming of The Writing Community Newsletter. The writers and creators work as a team to produce the best information available. As both a book reviewer and an article contributor, I invite everyone to subscribe and read the November articles as well as the articles from previous issues. My section, Epiphany Row, provides informational links to upcoming writing conferences. Hope to see you there!

To subscribe click the following link: ENVIE – A Magazine for the Literary Curious

 

 

Informational Inks

Book Review – BAG LADIES

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Bag Ladies by Jean Lant is the charming story of one woman’s tumultuous but humorous employment with a corrupt Las Vegas law office. Amid her employer’s questionable payment methods, a bond is forged with a fellow co-worker. The two women affectionately label themselves ‘bag ladies.’ Her boss’ shady activity prompts an early move, but state lines do not stop bullets.

Jean Lant’s story is sincere and entertaining. It is perfect for an afternoon read.
Comfortable and endearing, it left me with a smile on my face. The friendships are a
delight, and the encounters with unsavory characters are frequent. Blind loyalty
proves to be hazardous to her character’s well-being.

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is DEFINATELY a duck! Work at your
own risk.

Scheduled for release December 2, 2019

Book Reviews

Book Review-THE LAST QUMRANIAN

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The Last Qumranian by Joe Basile seamlessly merges science fiction with biblical facts. The misuse of a quantum orb creates an alternate reality, one in which the Messiah never existed. Lukas, a guardian of God’s Truth, is forced to seek refuge in the world Above after the Underground falls during a military siege. Destitute and alone, he is painfully introduced to the Consortium’s way of life. Can Lukas retrieve the stolen orb, rewrite history, and rescue his cousins from the ultimate evil?

I loved this book and had a hard time putting it down. The tension flows with ease, and the characters are memorable. Lukas’ ability as a Hedge Master to crush bones and sever limbs with a single blow is impressive. Basile’s futuristic society is believable and not overly complicated, providing a visual platform to propel the story forward. I can’t wait for Book 2!

Book Reviews

Book Review-TIGHT LIES

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TIGHT LIES by Ted Denton combines action and betrayal in this plot driven novel about corruption in a sport least expected – golf. Concealed behind the façade of an elitist mentality, ruthless violence and underhanded gambling pull the strings of the rich and powerful. A sports agent stumbles across explosive evidence, and his innocence leads him to an uncertain fate. Hired to retrieve the kid from certain doom, Tom Hunter races against the clock as finding him dead seems inevitable.

From beginning to end, Denton kept the pages turning with violence, mystery, or sex. Tom Hunter is not a hero driven by a moral code. His goal: deliver the Target alive and receive payout. The condition of the delivery is immaterial. For me, Denton’s gift for translating action scenes to words deserves recognition. I cringed with each agonizing blow.

Smartly written, TIGHT LIES is Jack Reacher on steroids returned from the ‘dark side’. No chivalry involved.

Book Reviews

Book Review-PARTING THE VEIL

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PARTING THE VEIL by B.K. Bass thrusts the reader on an adventure reminiscent of Indiana Jones meets The Mummy. Richard, an American treasure hunter, and Wilkins, an English professor of archeology, uncover more than a simple antiquity in the jungles of Peru. Their discovery unleashes horror on the nearby village, prompting the two men to leave expeditiously. Unexplainable events follow them as they seek to unravel the meaning of the idol within their possession. The appearance of a lone Frenchman deepens the mystery and a game of wits begins. Who can retrieve the remaining idols first? Can the two men put an end to the death and destruction which their archeological find has released upon their world?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you are seeking an adventure, look no further. It is filled with tension from beginning to end. From the jungles of Peru to the Bayous of Louisiana, Richard and Wilkins find their travels split between two worlds-one that has been hidden for centuries. The author’s descriptions give life to histories, myths, and legends. The imagery is vivid but not overly descriptive, allowing the reader to immerse oneself in the story without being bombarded in a list of adjectives.

Well written and stimulating! Truly original. I look forward to reading the next installment and finding answers. Who closed the veil and why reopen it?

Book Reviews

Does Reading Make You a Better Writer?

Yes. There is a linear relationship between reading and writing. Studies have proven that reading expands writing and writing enhances reading. Each benefits the other. The academic community no longer considers them individual subjects. Instead, it believes the two should be intertwined to form a cohesive unit of study, promoting greater achievements in both. But how exactly does reading improve our writing? I do not seek to reiterate what has already been proven scientifically (articles of proof are below) but instead want to touch upon the logical argument of why each affects the other.

Thanks to advances in technology, a scientist can now identify the exact regions of the brain stimulated during reading. These same areas, according to brain-mapping, are activated by real-life experiences. In other words, the reader travels the same precarious path and the same emotions, whether good or bad, of a character in a novel. Our brains remember. Try writing about captivity without ever reading a first-hand experience of a captive. Thoughts and opinions are formulated through reading. Connections take root. Studies have proven that immersion in literary fiction increases the complexity of thought. Hence, scores are dramatically higher on writing assessments by students who read literary fiction. A direct correlation between reading and writing. Reading is knowledge and knowledge is power. The power to inspire, persuade and inform.

People’s lives are a compilation of thoughts, experiences, and memories, all stored along chemical pathways within the brain, initiated by the firing of neurons. We learn by reading. We read for our careers, our improvement, our pleasure, and these neurons are our scribes. But how does this help my writing? How can it not?’ is the better question!

A runner trains for a marathon. A bodybuilder trains for a competition. A writer should train for writing. Reading is mental stimulation; exercise for the brain. When you read, subconsciously you are absorbing POV, sentence structure, grammar, and characterization. Every component to good writing. Even historical evidence confirms the power of reading. The Roman emperor, Caligula, banned the reading of The Odyssey because he deemed it dangerous. It expressed Greek ideas of freedom. Six-thousand copies of Tyndale’s New Testament English translation were burned by the English Church. Why? Latin was the language of the clergy giving them complete control of the people. Even Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn couldn’t escape criticism. Some claimed that Twain’s hero was a reprehensible representation for impressionable young minds and removed the book from libraries. Books promote ideas and instigate change.  Reading makes us better communicators, and writing is an influential form of communication. Words have power.

“Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” ANNIE PROULX

“Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” WILLIAM FAULKNER

“Constant reading will pull you into a place where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.” STEPHEN KING

 

Attiyat, Nazzem Mohammad Abdullah. “The Impact of Pleasure Reading on Enhancing Writing Achievement and Reading Comprehension.” Arab World English Journal (AWEJ), vol. 10, no. 1, March 2019, pp. 155-165.

Barras, Colin. “Reading Literary Fiction Boosts Empathy.” New Scientist, vol. 220, no. 2938, 2013, p. 17.

Fitzgerald, Jill, and Timothy Shanahan. “Reading and Writing Relations and Their Development.” Educational Psychologist, vol. 35, no. 1, 2000, pp. 39–50.

Fletcher, P. “Other Minds in the Brain: A Functional Imaging Study of ‘Theory of Mind’ in Story Comprehension.” Cognition, vol. 57, no. 2, 1995, pp. 109–128.

Graham, Steve, and Michael Hebert. “Writing to Read: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Writing and Writing Instruction on Reading.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 81, no. 4, 2011, pp. 710–744.

Graham, Steve, et al. “Reading for Writing: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Reading Interventions on Writing.” Review of Educational Research, vol. 88, no. 2, 2017, pp. 243–284.

MacArthur, Charles A., et al. Handbook of Writing Research. The Guilford Press, 2017.

Mar, Raymond A., et al. “Exploring the Link between Reading Fiction and Empathy: Ruling out Individual Differences and Examining Outcomes.” Communications, vol. 34, no. 4, 2009, pp. 407-428.

Mar, Raymond A. “The Neural Basis of Social Cognition and Story Comprehension”. Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 62, 2011, pp. 103-134.

Pamuji, Arif. “The Correlation Between Reading Achievement and Writing Achievement to the Eight Graders of Bilingual Class At SMP Negeri 1 Palembang.” PREMISE JOURNAL:ISSN Online: 2442-482x, ISSN Printed: 2089-3345, vol. 4, no. 1, 2015.

Singer, Tania. “The Neuronal Basis and Ontogeny of Empathy and Mind Reading: Review of Literature and Implications for Future Research.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, vol. 30, no. 6, 2006, pp. 855–863.

Informational Inks