Book Reviews

The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year

Reviews of The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year Review by Sande Anfang: The Write Spot founder and writing coach Marlene Cullen has been guiding writers through her Jumpstart workshops. I’ve been lucky to participate in some of them. Marlene’s motto is “Just Write,” as in don’t stop to evaluate what you’ve written during the drafting process—just keep the pen moving until the timer rings. In this collection, she has gathered a wide variety of poetry and short prose pieces from sixteen writers. If there’s a common thread that binds this anthology, it’s a grappling with the surreal nature of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. Being forced to upend our “normal” lives and adapt to changing threats, both medical and socio-political, has created an opportunity for deep investigation that finds catharsis, much-needed humor, and rich forays into family memories. There are inviting dips into the pool of…

Book Reviews

Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?

Positive, encouraging, inspiring. “Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?” by Bella Mahaya Carter is rich with inspiration to write and encouragement to share writing. I devoured this book and found the material mesmerizing. “Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book” is the perfect companion when writing. Carter helps readers get past the hurdles and uncertainties of writing and publishing your writing. The highlighted sections at the end of every chapter inspire writing ideas for deep exploration. Carter uses extensive quotes and reference material that enrich the experiential component of “Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?” The important message of “Believe in yourself and allow yourself to dream” encourages and supports your writing and your writing dreams. There are several sections that could be used as mantras, or reminders to go easy on yourself. “. . . we can stop…

Book Reviews

The Secret Life of Mrs. London

Reviewed by Marlene Cullen “The Secret Life of Mrs. London,” by Rebecca Rosenberg, is an entertaining and lively story, illustrating life in the early stages of Sonoma County and the developing freedom for women. We travel with Mrs. London, her husband, and his cohorts through escapades, both serious and humorous. Rebecca’s excellent writing and exquisite details indicate her expert research, keeping true to the times in an authentic voice. Recommend reading this timeless novel. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is available in paperback, as an ereader, and audio on Amazon.

Book Reviews

The Oasis This Time

Review: The Oasis This Time, Living and Dying With Water in the West written by Rebecca Lawton. Review by Marlene Cullen. Rebecca Lawton writes in such a personal and friendly manner, it feels as though we’re old friends sitting across from one another on a comfortable sofa and chatting. Her humble and unassuming manner is refreshing. It’s clear she is knowledgeable about waterways as well as bird identification. There are so many gems in this exquisite book. Lawton’s vocabulary and extensive knowledge on a variety of subjects is astounding. Her descriptions are visceral and breathtaking. “Fortynine Palms strings before me, a green necklace. The oasis has a narrow hydric zone in a long, arid arroyo. Fresh water tickles among horsetails, maidenhair fern, willow, and cottonwood where a small bit of flow is enough to fill tiny, clear pools. Glassy surfaces are topped by gaggles of water striders. A buzz fills…

Book Reviews

Ernestine

Book Review by Nancy Julien Kopp: Historical fiction brings the reader into another time period and can also tell a special story. Ernestine is Kate Reynolds’s debut novel, but she is no amateur when it comes to crafting a fascinating story that draws readers quickly and holds them right up to the end using beautiful and descriptive prose. When only a child in the early 1500s, Ernestine learned how to cheat at betting games and became a fine bunco artist at her father’s tutelage. Once a young woman, she marries the man she loves, helps him run an inn in France, and is happy being nothing more than a loving wife. When Sebastian dies, she flees with documents he and his brother had hidden, documents that could be world-changing.  Ernestine takes the vows of a Clarissa nun and finds her way to an abbey in Spain near Granada. She knows she is…

Book Reviews

All the Ways We Said Goodbye

Review by Nancy Julien Kopp “All the Ways We Said Goodbye,” by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White. One Book, Three Authors I recently finished reading a very interesting book. “All the Ways We Said Good-bye” used the Ritz Hotel in Paris as the focal point in telling the story of three women of different periods of time. Aurelie de Courcelles’ story centers on WWI. That of her daughter, Daisy, takes place during the Nazi occupation of WWII. Babs Langford’s part in the book happens in 1964. The three women are all related in some way, two by family and one by default. The story is rich in characters and background of both world wars. The Ritz Hotel is home to Aurelie’s mother, Daisy’s grandmother, and is always a place of refuge for the women. Babs Langford, who lives in England and was widowed a year earlier receives a…

Book Reviews

Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer

Carl Rollyson’s review of Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer by Iris Jamahl Dunkle. Not often does a biography begin with a villain—a biographer no less. In a rousing opening, Iris Jamahl Dunkle has Irving Stone explode on the scene, romancing Jack London’s widow, Charmian Kittredge London, and dancing her into cooperating with his desire to write a biography, Sailor on Horseback (1938), which casts the woman as the femme fatale that, in effect, drives her husband Jack to suicide. Dunkle’s book might well be titled “Justice to Charmian.”  . . . . . .  Dunkle, who gets on with her story in a lively fashion, feeding our appetite for the fascinating account that supplants Stone’s melodrama. Although Jack London, the writer as adventurer, might overwhelm anyone else’s own story, Dunkle manages to depict her subject in the round, as Charmian saw herself and as others responded to her. Here is…

Book Reviews

A Painter’s Garden: Cultivating the Creative Life

A Painter’s Garden: Cultivating the Creative Life, by Christine Walker is one of my all-time favorite books. But don’t just take my word on it. Here are what other readers think. ***** The parallels between lessons in the garden, the studio, and life in A Painter’s Garden ring true. Christine Walker’s writing is intelligent, evocative, elegant, and articulate. She addresses universal truths about the creative process in an accessible and fresh way. And she renders very complex emotions in beautifully simple terms—weaving her experience of motherhood into an examination of her working methods in the studio, “feeling a cadence as measured as the breathing of a sleeping child.” —Eleanor Coppola is an American documentary filmmaker, artist and writer. She is the director of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse and other documentaries. Eleanor is  the writer and director of the romantic comedies Paris Can Wait and Love is Love is…

Book Reviews

Diary of a Mad Poet

Jonah Raskin’s review of Diary of a Mad Poet: Robin Gabbert’s new book of poems, Diary of a Mad Poet—her first published book—comes out of pain and loss, fire and cancer, but they are also poems of healing and joy, family ties and friendships. Some take place in the far away past, others in the near present. Some experiment with form and the arrangement of words on the page. In one poem the author asks “Has God deserted you? Was he ever there to?” Altogether, Gabbert’s individual poems add up to a portrait of a life lived fully. They offer hope to readers like the author herself who have come through troubles and who delight in the powers of memory and the rigors of the English language. Jonah Raskin is the author of seven poetry chapbooks, a performance poet, and the author of American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of…

Book Reviews

The Strongbox

“I do most of my pleasure reading in bed, and I found myself eager to pick up The Strongbox, night after night, as the story unfolded. I knew from the book description that author Terry Sue Harms would come out okay in the end—despite setbacks that would have broken many: neglectful parents, a stepdad who called her a bastard, the death of her mother when she was sixteen, running away from home, dropping out of high school, and exposure to drugs. But how? I kept reading to find out. She wrote honestly about her vulnerabilities but kept me feeling safe along the way. “The author’s smooth, almost conversational story-telling drew me in and compelled me to read on. I marveled each time she pulled herself up: by completing beauty school, landing a steady job, teaching herself to read, taking college courses, graduating from Mills College. I cheered with her along…