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

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 – THE GIRL WHO WROTE IN SILK

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

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-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

Book Review-BLACK KNIGHT

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Black Knight by Matt Grandis gives new meaning to the phrase ‘little green men’. The banter between Juno and MJ makes for a light summer read. Juno’s spunky attitude conceals abandonment issues, and years of suppressed anger resurface as reality collides with those who dismissed her ‘wild imagination’. But to save her small town from an alien invasion, she will have to embrace her dysfunctional past.

“There’s a dumpster-diving, chicken-loving alien-not-alien who might possibly be dead on your toilet. Just your average Tuesday.”

I needed a light-hearted book after my previous read. Black Knight, filled with humor and wit, provided the emotional lift my soul desired. MJ stole my heart with his ‘alien-not-alien’ naivety and philosophical insight. The hopscotch of past and present sometimes left me dizzy; but, Grandis left my imagination on a cliff, beckoning it to jump into the next adventure.

Disclaimer: NO ‘ALIENS-NOT-ALIENS’ WERE INTERROGATED IN THE READING OF THIS NOVEL

Book Reviews

Book Review-THE VAN HELSING PARADOX

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THE VAN HELSING PARADOX by Evelyn Chartres follows the journey of Clara as she emerges from a life of obscurity into ranks occupied by legends. Set in the early 1900s, she is a hunter trained to kill un-godly perversions. Bright and observant as a child, Clara is formidable as an adult. Curiosity brings her face-to-face with the ultimate enemy, a threat seeking to destroy the organization she serves. Despite access to weapons, her sexuality proves to be her most valuable killer. Ultimately, her training culminates in a deadly stand-off, leading to an unexpected conclusion.

This was an entertaining read. I missed depth, however, among the main character’s relationships. Emotionally, it read cold. I do not advocate for a multitude of descriptions in books, but the lack of adequate details left me piecing together sub-par images. I even read the book a second time to ensure I had not missed important information. Written in third-person, the internal thoughts of Clara marked with quotation marks is redundant and off-putting. By the end, I was left with more questions than answers. Maybe the book’s sequel will offer the answers I seek.

Despite the slow start and unnecessary family dynamics, I thoroughly loved the book’s conclusion!  Creatively, it rocked!

Book Reviews