Trastevere

I recently returned from a trip to Italy where I spent time in Rome. One of the areas I visited while there was Trastevere where part of my novel, Not By Design, was set.

Not by Design

We cross the River Tiber and approach the archeological remains of rooms that were once baths made of black and white mosaics. My guidebook tells me that these were made in the first century AD. It’s hard for me to grasp that over two thousand years ago there was an entire civilization living on the ground I am standing on.

We are walking along the delightful district of Trastevere.  In Trastevere one will get glimpses of the “real” Rome. Marco and I have been here many times. To eat in their famous restaurant area, go to the theatre, the cinema or just mingle with the Romans in clubs and bars. Today our mission is different. We are visiting the church Bridget reserved for our wedding.
Marco and I are holding hands as we pass by boutiques offering handcrafted wares and clothing stores with magnificent styles.

As we approach Piazza Santa Maria with its spectacular fountain I stop to take in the church in front of us. It is a stunning Medieval church. Its façade glows with its series of faded mosaics honoring the Virgin Mary. I can’t think of a more romantic setting for our wedding. Even before entering the church I know that it is perfect. Except for one thing. “I can’t believe that my father won’t be here to walk me down the aisle,” I say.

 

Travestere (2)

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Ellie Marrandette: Restoring Hope

Through golf the student learns discipline, integrity, patience and the joy of accomplishing a difficult task.

Restoring Hope takes off where Ellie Marrandette’s last novel, Casey’s Journey ended. Casey at the age of five was abducted and adopted.

Adoption is a complex issue. There is the adopted child to consider as well as the adoptive parents and the real parents. The search for one’s child or mother and the fear this brings to the adoptive parents is all part of the dynamics of adoption which the author addresses in this novel.  

In Restoring Hope, Casey – one of the central characters of the novel – is searching for the child she gave up for adoption while in the process of setting up a non-profit Golf Academy for underprivileged young girls.

Golf, as Casey explains, is a rich man’s sport and so her motivation in setting up the Restoring Hope Golf Academy is to offer golf scholarships to girls coming from unhealthy environments: gangs, poverty, racial inequality and abuse among other disadvantages. The Academy’s goal is to teach these at risk young women life skills through golf and provide them with opportunities to succeed.

Hope, one of the students in the Academy,  does not fit the mold of being brought up in poverty or gangs. Yet, she is a disturbed child filled with the sense of not belonging, guilt for her adoptive mother’s death, and fear of being abandoned by her father.

Level-headed pro golfer, Casey, is not naïve to believe that all her students will end up playing on golf tours but she is wise enough to know that some of her students will exhibit business skills and that golf will help them in the competitive world of men doing business on the golf course. 

Even if you don’t play golf or, for some reason or another, don’t like the game, Restoring Hope will make you gain appreciation and respect for it. As a Christian faith oriented novel, the game of golf is used as a means to provide positive guidance through an ethical and moral compass. Plus, if you are a golf fan, as I am, I picked up some interesting golf tips.

In 2011 I worked as a volunteer at the Women’s Canadian Open outside of Montreal. Reading this novel brought back memories of that week which I spent watching some of the best women golfers in the world, how they focused on their game and the smooth, confident intensity of their shots. In reading the scenes in Restoring Hope of preparing for and taking part in a golf tournament, I was brought back to these behind the scenes of pro-golf from the resources it takes to put a tour together, to the practice before the tour and the joys of accomplishment which follow.

Restoring Hope is also full of romance with its twists and turns, which adds an endearing and suspenseful touch to the novel.

In the end, this is a novel about integrity, love and purpose.

It’s a hopeful novel.

Which is something the world needs these days.

Bau: About My Food

Kibble. UGH! She says it so sweetly. Come, Bau, and  eat your kibble. Her voice has the tone that says I have something really special. I know it’s supposed to be good for me. Full of protein that helps me grow healthy and have strong bones and a shiny coat. But really I prefer a nice piece of cheese or real liver although I don’t mind the dried liver especially when she sprinkles some on my kibble.

I get a piece of the dried liver whenever I poop outside. If I poop inside on my potty mat then I get another treat – roast turkey delights.  I don’t know why I get different treats depending on where I poop. Humans are sometimes hard to figure out. I thought hard about this. One of the advantages of being a dog is that you’ve got lots of time to think. I might look like I’m snoozing but really I’m thinking. And so, this is what I came up with. I prefer the liver bits to the turkey bits so maybe mistress is training me to go outside more.  I’m a regular Sherlock Holmes, don’t you think?

Another thing about kibble while we’re on the subject is that mistress has been  putting less and less sprinkles on my kibble. It didn’t take me long to figure that one out, although I must say that I try to hold out as much as I can and give her my best sad starving look in hopes that she’ll cave in.

Actually the kibble doesn’t taste that bad. It’s the effort of having to crack it, like having to crack shelled walnuts with your bare teeth. Apparently, it’s suppose to be good for my teeth. I don’t know who came up with that one! Certainly not a dog.

Joanne Guidoccio: No More Secrets

This is a multigenerational story and Joanne Guidoccio does a flawless job of describing the characters in each of the three generations. The author smoothly shifts from past to present without the reader feeling lost keeping up with three generations of characters.

First there is Angelica, along with her sisters and their husbands who immigrate from Italy to Canada. Although sisters, each adapts differently. And then there is the sisters’ daughters. Discovering that she has cancer and has limited time, Angelica has invited her three nieces for a weekend at her home where each is asked to reveal a secret.

Although all of the characters are memorable and well drawn, it is Angelica who is the star of this novel. I truly enjoyed the interaction between the characters and especially Angelica’s forbidden love story. No More Secrets is fundamentally a beautiful but heartbreaking love story filled with passion and regret, full of emotion and depth.

Joanne Guidoccio tells her story through the lenses of warmth and tenderness for her characters and also for the immigration experience. The author is very talented at storytelling. She kept me up reading her novel late into the night.  

If you are interested in novels about women and their issues with romantic love and mother/daughter relationships I think you’ll enjoy No More Secrets.  

 Joanne is currently doing a book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions until December 3.

Nobel Prize Laureate: Louise Glück

Born in 1943 in New York, Louise Glück who lives in Massachusetts and is also a professor of English at Yale University, is this years recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature.

Glück was recognised for “her unmistakable poetic voice, that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal” said the Swedish Academy, which oversees the award.

Her poetry focuses on the painful reality of being human and pens down poems around themes such as death, childhood, and family life. (Nithya Nair)

A former U.S. poet laureate, Glück had already received virtually every honour possible for a poet, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “The Wild Iris”

The book is a collection of 54 poems on the subject of gardening in which Louise Glück gives the flowers voices as they pass though their different stages. She also writes about the person tending the garden and the Almighty supervisor.

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.


Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive

as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

For a writer, Louise Gluck’s poetry is an example of the efficacy of writing.

In an article for the Atlantic titled The Many Beginnings of Louise Glück , Walt Hunter cites the openings of two poems and clearly explains why these lines are perfect:

“Illuminations,” a poem about a child learning language by looking outside at the snow-covered world, starts with the line

My son squats in the snow in his blue snowsuit.

Another poem, “Happiness,” begins

A man and woman lie on a white bed.

These two images are remarkable not for their strangeness or novelty, but rather for their ordinariness and familiarity, and for their emergence from a kind of psychological family album. These single lines feel impossible to edit or to make more precise: Each has a figure (child, couple), an orientation (squatting, lying down), a place (snow, bed), and a single color (white bed, blue snowsuit). The simplicity of these images suggest exquisite craft and revision.

Because of the pandemic the Nobel Prize ceremony, normally held in Sweden in December, will be held in 2021.

For more information on Female Nobel Prize Laureates visit my series

HERE

Warning Signs: A Story about Obsession

It is always a pleasure to have someone write such a warm review of my book. I am so grateful for this opportunity to not only expose my latest crime novel to the many bloggers who follow me but also to introduce Anneli Purchase to those who may not yet know her and her beautiful photographs, her writing tips and her many novels that deserve to be discovered.
This weekend, is Thanksgiving in Canada and this review gives me reason to count all my blessings. Wherever you are, may you always find something to be thankful for.

Anneli's Place

Horror and gruesome killing upset me and I don’t like to read about these details. But author, Carol Balawyder, handles the murder scenes in her novel about a serial killer so deftly that I just wanted to keep turning pages – never having the urge to hide my eyes – only wanting to know more.

Once I was hooked (on the first page), she introduced the characters gradually, allowing me to get to know them as they each struggled with various dilemmas. Ms. Balawyder expertly slipped in details that would be needed later to make the culmination of the plot flow easily. Nothing happens that seems contrived, because the groundwork was laid earlier in the book.

Each of the characters had major flaws but they also had redeeming traits. Even Eugene, the serial killer, was not all bad. Imagine empathizing with a serial killer!

The tension regarding the murderer escalates…

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Anneli Purchase: Reckoning Tide

Two men want the same woman but for different reasons. Jim wants to love Andrea while for Robert she is a possession for him to do whatever he wants with her.

Anneli Purchase portrays a realistic picture of the lasting fear and degradation which victims of domestic violence endure.  After escaping an abusive marriage as shown in Anneli’s previous book The Wind Weeps,  Andrea finds herself, along with Jim, continuing to run from Robert’s violence and cruelty. He is determined to bring Andrea back to live with him.

Think of a book or film with a car chase in it. Now think of this chase being not in cars but in boats as Andrea and Jim try to stay a step ahead of Robert as they go through the many inlets, bays and arms off Vancouver Island on their way north to fish. The setting plays a major role in the novel as Anneli Purchase immerses the reader through the various channels and sounds.

Fitzhugh Sound was like a freeway, a huge, wide water highway.

The setting is also used as a metaphor for the novel’s plot where at times it is smooth sailing and calm while other times there are obstacles to face:

The tide would run into flats so quickly.

I got swiftly carried into this book. I particularly liked that the romance in the book was told from one of the male character’s perspective and the sex scenes between Jim and Andrea were absolutely enjoyable and surprisingly sizzling.

Jill Weatherholt: A Home For Her Daughter

It’s so comforting to read about good, honest people who care about each other.

A Home for Her Daughter is the fourth novel in Jill Weatherholt’s Love Inspired Series. The novel is character driven with the three stars Janie and her joyful, whimsical daughter Riley and Drew, a man Janie once had a high school crush on. I found it easy to get into the story and Jill made her characters come alive in a calm setting that I could easily visualize.

Both Janie and Drew have been hurt by love. For Janie hers was by an abusive husband and Jill Weatherholt shows the realistic long lasting damaging effects which abuse can have on a person. Not just physical abuse but psychological abuse. Janie believes that she is good at nothing while Drew carries with him the guilt over his wife and young daughter’s deaths.  

After her divorce from her abusive husband, Janie moves with her daughter to her home town, a beautiful place where everyone helps each other.  There she meets up with Drew, of all places, in a notary’s office, where they are both mentioned in a will. The catch: they must work together to build a camp for young children.

Although there are obvious sparks and chemistry between Janie and Drew their past pain keeps them from going there. Neither feel worthy of having a relationship. And neither is willing or ready to share the cause of their pain.

This is a very tender romance story which I found pure pleasure in reading. It’s compelling how three people can have such a strong loving bond together. This is a story about hope and how the world is a soft place when inhabited by kindness, caring, loving and the unwillingness to hurt anyone.

I’ve read two of her novels in this series (A Mother for his Twins and Second Chance Romance). After reading  A Home for Her Daughter I think it’s safe to say that you can count on Jill Weatherholt to deliver a story filled with tenderness, hope and a longing for goodness.  

Jacqui Murray: Against All Odds

It is ironic, I suppose, that my first post while learning how to use the new WordPress Block Editor is on Jacqui Murray’s latest novel Against All Odds. I say this because I am not very techy but Jacqui is a tech geek and trainer. I am quite certain that we’ll soon find some WordPress Block Editor tips on her blog.

https://jacquimurray.net/blogs/my-techie-side/

What has taken me hours to maneuver around this new WordPress editor and listening to YouTube tutorials would surely have taken Jacqui a much, much shorter time to process this new information.

Tech training requires analytical skills and sound research, two qualities which are present in her novels.

Spread throughout her novel are lovely literary gems bringing life to the many prehistoric settings the novel takes us to.

Xhosa increased their pace, up and down one rise and another, through a copse of lonely trees, and then around a rock formation as big as a family of elephants.

Xhosa trotted into the grove of narrow trees with spiky leaves, over a carpet of ankle-high leaves that muffled her footsteps. Her feet made a soft swishing noise as she walked, like the murmur of stream.

The enchanting names for her characters (Pan-do, Red Wolf, Spirit, Black Wolf, Seeker, Rainbow… give the story a fairy-tale fantasy genre. Although, Against All Odds is a fictitious story of migration in pre-historic times it also based on pre-historic reality.

Xhosa is the heroine and leader. She is on a mission to find for herself and her People a home base. She exhorts leadership traits such as empathy, caring for others, and collaboration with other tribes. Her kindness and persistence bring other tribes to join her fight for survival

…despite extreme adversity, well-equipped predators, and a violent natural environment that routinely asks them to do the impossible.

Jacqui Murray is a writers’ writer as well as being a writer for lovers of pre-historic fiction and strong female heroines.

If you’re feeling, like me, frustrated with learning this new editor, take a break and read Jacqui’s book. It will take you far away from the world of technology. Now how can I add a smiley emoji?

Bau: Portrait of a Dog

Portrait of Bau

Before the lockdown occurred I would go do volunteer work at a school in Point St. Charles which has been known as one of the Toughest Neighbourhoods in Canada.

Without sounding like I am bragging, the children and staff LOVED me. It’s nice to have someone show their appreciation towards you and openly express how happy they are to see you.

People don’t do that so much, I’ve noticed. As for me, I’m always happy to see my mistress and I can tell you that I don’t hold back. I race to her as soon as she comes in the door and jump up and down placing my front paws on her legs and sometimes even doing a little dance. I think people should take a lesson from me and show those they love how much they like being with them.

Because of the lockdown I haven’t been back to the school and so I keep this portrait (which Cameron, one of the young boys, drew of me) as a reminder of how great it feels for someone to care enough about you that they want to draw your portrait.

For all of you who love dogs

Artists will be featured virtually on our website, throughout our social media channels and in the Museum pending reopening guidelines, between August 24th – September 7th.

  

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