Book Reviews

The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill by Gilbert Mansergh

The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill, reviewed by Susan Bono: I expected to be charmed by the outgoing and adventurous Ginny Pettingill, a 7th grader who uses her journals to capture her own personal discoveries as well as portray life in Gloucester, MA, shortly after WWI. The fact that the narrator is fashioned after the author’s mother added extra piquancy to the read—did the real Virginia have the gift of sight? Was she really a witness to the dawn of the “talkies” and could she have organized one of the first beach cleanups? I loved how the delights of the past were brought to life, but I was also struck by the shadow side of this lull between wars. It was indeed a time of tremendous excitement and progress—automobiles and motion pictures, Prohibition and Women’s Rights. There were new inventions, like Kotex and electric Christmas lights. But the people…

Book Reviews

Saving El Chico by Meta Strauss

What authors say about Saving El Chico: “Anyone who has ever been to West Texas will feel the authenticity in Ms. Strauss’ writing. The landscape, the characters, the weather; all of it rings true. Funny and poignant, this book captures universal feelings of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.” —Janice Crow, I Give You My Word “Strauss makes a stunning debut, with refreshing writing and fascinating, original characters.” —David Berg, Run Brother Run and The Trial Lawyer, What it Takes to Win. “Strauss has created an electric, character-driven book with a clever plot and sense of place so vivid you can feel yourself being whisked away to the West Texas town of El Chico.”—Martha Braniff , Step Over Rio and Songs from the Bone Closet “Get ready to laugh out loud as you enter Meta Strauss’s world of El Chico. She deftly weaves romance and suspense into this…

Book Reviews

Voice Lessons by Marcy Telles

Reviewed by Marlene Cullen. The set-up of Voice Lessons by Marcy Telles: Wham! The ball hit Phoebe squarely on her 12-year-old rump . . . “Sor-ree,” said an unfamiliar voice behind her. [Phoebe] was used to being made the butt of jokes, but this seemed a bit literal, even for her somewhat crudely oriented classmates. A hand dangled suddenly in front of her face, and looking up, Phoebe found it attached to a person she’d never seen before. Having spent her entire life in this neighborhood and knowing pretty much everyone in her class, a new face was enough of a novelty to capture her fractured attention. . . . It was not easy to be a small, unorthodontured, bookish sort of person (who had not had a nose job) in a big New York junior high school where everyone was in a permanent state of competition. Right away, I…

Book Reviews

Write Free – attracting the creative life

Write Free – attracting the creative life, revised second edition by Rebecca Lawton and Jordan Rosenfeld If you are seeking to make some changes in your life, but don’t know where to start . . . Write Free might be the perfect resource for you. “Where you place your attention, what you focus on, is where and how you create your life.” With my first reading of Write Free, this line struck me as the heart of the book. I needed to re-read it and break it down to get it. “Where you place your attention, . . . what you focus on, . . . is where . . . and how . . . you create your life.” That sounds so simple and yet is complex to implement. Lawton and Rosenfeld offer practical suggestions, leading to discoveries towards a creative and productive writing life. These techniques can also…

Book Reviews

Imperfect Endings by Zoe FitzGerald Carter

Sometimes you read a book and it turns out to be perfect timing. You might not know it when you start the book but then, as you read and your life unfolds, the unexpected becomes a gift. That’s what happened as I read Imperfect Endings by Zoe FitzGerald Carter. In Imperfect Endings, Zoe  expertly tells the story about her mother’s decision to end her life and the difficult days that follow. Zoe deftly weaves the end-of-life narration with childhood experiences as she and her two sisters navigate this unexpected turn in their lives. Written with grace and honesty, Zoe captures recognizable emotions about how we get along, or don’t get along with our parents and our siblings. Her eloquent exploration of these primal feelings is like art in its simplicity and transparency. Zoe says to her sister, “I’m totally losing it, Han. I feel like I’m sleepwalking.” “You’re overloaded,” Hannah…

Book Reviews

Russian Bride by Alla Crone

Russian Bride: free at last by Alla Crone Review by Jeane Slone: What was it like to be a Russian bride married to a physician in the U.S. Army Air Corps and immigrating to the United States from Shanghai? Nina is thrown into a world of new customs and left to perform hostess duties to her husband’s colleagues. She is surrounded by a mother and mother-in-law, both of whom have caustic and critical personalities. Fortunately, Dick is a delightful and understanding husband. This novel is a mix of humor, joy and sadness. A fast read! Jeane Slone is a past vice-president and board member of the Redwood Branch of the California Writer’s Club, a member of the Healdsburg Literary Guild, the Military Writer’s Society of America, and the Pacific Coast Air Museum. Jeane emcees the Dining With Local Authors program and distributes local authors’ books throughout Sonoma County. She has…

Book Reviews

Talent by B. Lynn Goodwin

Lynn B. Goodwin’s Talent reviewed by Judy Williams Talent, by B. Lynn Goodwin, is a wonderful read. It is a coming of age story that will bring older readers back to their teenage years and will give younger readers a positive and very real heroine. Sandee copes with challenges as diverse as auditioning for the drama department production of “Oklahoma” and the pain and uncertainty of Sandee’s older brother, missing in Afghanistan. A little chunky, Sandee eats M & M’s to cope. The other people who inhabit Sandee’s world — her parents, her next door neighbor and former boyfriend, her brother’s best friend, drama department students, the Oklahoma director Mrs. G., and others who have family and friends in the military – all are part of Sandee’s journey, but also have their own joys and sorrows. Insightful, and alternately funny and sad, Talent is for Young Adults and Adults. It…

Book Reviews

Fifty Shades of Grammar by Arlene Miller

Fifty Shades of Grammar: Scintillating and Saucy Sentences, Syntax, and Semantics from The Grammar Diva, Reviewed by Sheri Graves The Grammar Diva has done it again! Arlene Miller’s Fifty Shades of Grammar is one of the most easy to understand of all grammar books ever published. Subtitled, “Scintillating and Saucy Sentences, Syntax and Semantics from the Grammar Diva,” this book may be Miller’s crowning achievement, yet it certainly is not her last book on the subject. Fifty Shades of Grammar is Miller’s sixth book on grammar, and I suspect she’s working on a seventh even now. What Arlene Miller does in her books is simplify the rules. She gives advice on grammar problems that have confounded writers of the English language since, well, forever. And she does so in a way that makes sense. Take, for example, the problem of whether to use who or whom. Her advice: Substitute the…

Book Reviews

Heliotrope by JC Miller

Heliotrope reviewed by Ana Manwaring. JC Miller’s latest novel, Heliotrope, has been called “a coming of age story for the ages.” And it’s more than that. Heliotrope is a story about finding one’s path in a complicated world and finding peace in one’s own skin. It’s about finding a place we belong. For Kit Hilliard, home is a place to escape. She goes as far from the dusty, brown desert town of her shattered childhood as she can, to attend college in the lush world of 1975 Arcata, California. “Kit’s vision filled with green, quenching the arid ground of her birthplace, softening the brittle places in her heart. Eager to reinvent her life and thirsty for uncharted ground, Kit opened up like a flower turning to light.” But on the cusp of her senior year and graduation, her world begins to shift. Kit falls in love with her senior seminar…

Book Reviews

Chronicles of Old San Francisco by Gael Chandler

Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? How about a unique book on his or her hometown, or the city where the person currently lives, or a favorite city? I just finished reading Chronicles of Old San Francisco by Gael Chandler and am very excited to share my hometown via this excellent resource. Whether an armchair traveler or a get-up-and-get-going kind of person, Chronicles of Old San Francisco informs, enlightens and inspires visiting Baghdad By The Bay, as columnist Herb Caen called his favorite city. Gael collected a monumental amount of research and with attention to detail, created intimate stories about historical figures, as if she interviewed them in their huts, ranchos, schooners, theatres, residences, offices, stores. I wish she had written history books when I was in school. I would have paid better attention. From the back cover: “Chronicles of Old San Francisco tells the story…