Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis By Patti Callahan

My first encounter with “Jack” and Joy was the movie Shadowlands. I already had a huge “readercrush” on C.S. Lewis and seeing Sir Anthony Hopkins portray one of my favourite authors. BECOMING MRS. LEWIS is on my TBR pile (mountain?) and I can’t wait to read it after reading Debbie’s review.

Bookish and Proud

2018, 392 pages

Patti Callahan is a favorite writer of mine, I love her voice and the interesting way she connects her characters in her fiction. I know she is a protege’ of one of the South’s favorite writing sons, Pat Conroy. I’ve seen her speak on a few occasions, and she always presents as very well-spoken and professional. So I have a passing familiarity with her, and with her fiction. I thought I had her “Pegged” as a decent writer, one I could count on to provide an entertaining book, slightly on the “Light” side, with strong female leads that are encountering change and challenge. I thought I “knew” her. That is until I read “Becoming Mrs. Lewis.” This book takes her straight out of the box I had mentally prepared for her as a reader. I was, quite simply, blown away by this book!

Creating a work of…

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BOOK REVIEW: WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US by Gina Heron

What's Left Between Us: A Pearl Girls NovelWhat’s Left Between Us: A Pearl Girls Novel by Gina Heron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Disclaimer – I won a paperback copy of Gina Heron’s debut novel WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US through a Facebook group I belong to. This in no way influenced the following review. My thanks to the author and BLOOM)

Secrets and lies can only lead to heartbreak. This is a universal truth that we too often forget, somehow thinking that we are immune to such vagaries of human behavior. But we’re not. None of us are. We are all broken – another universal truth – but we are not irredeemable.

The reality of all this comes home hard to Bay LaFleur when her childhood sweetheart Scott is captured by the Taliban during his tour in Afghanistan and Bay sets off on a journey – a journey to reconnect with her family… a journey to find herself. A journey through heartbreak, loss, and betrayal to find and bring back together the one thing that is really important in life – family.

As debut novels go, Gina Heron hits all the marks in WHAT’S LEFT BETWEEN US. Poignant at times, heartbreaking at others, the author takes a cast of colorful and multi-faceted characters and weaves them into an unforgettable story of love, loss, betrayal, redemption, and the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

Romantic Southern fiction doesn’t get any better than this. Moodily atmospheric at times, bright and uplifting at others, Bay’s journey will capture your heart and make you believe again in the power of love.

On a personal note, I had an almost instant connection with Bay. Not just because she is a fighter and the very definition of #warriorwoman; that is a ‘given’. Bay lost her sister in a tragic accident years before in their childhood, but… Lillie, it seems, is never really far away and the two of them have frequent conversations. My mother passed away several years ago – she is up in Heaven now, just as Lillie is – but I still talk to Mama. Every day. Every single day. We have mother-daughter conversations; Bay and Lillie have sister-to-sister conversations.

Both are reminders that when you truly and deeply love someone… they never really leave your heart.

I recommend WHAT LIES BETWEEN US without hesitation. A beautifully written debut novel and a story that stirs the soul, Gina Heron should be on everyone’s TBR list.

Thank you,

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
(Writing under a mushroom somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)
29 January 2019

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BOOK REVIEW: GIRLS ON THE LINE by Aimie K Runyan

Girls on the Line: A NovelGirls on the Line: A Novel by Aimie K. Runyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We’ve all heard of the ‘hidden figures’ of America’s space program; the women ‘heroes’ without whose tireless and painstaking work the history of America’s space program would be quite different.

Did you know though that decades before, there was another group of ‘hidden figures’ in America’s history? A group of women whose ‘call to duty’ would not be ignored or set aside.

The brave women who served with the U.S. Army’s Signal Corp in battle-torn Europe during World War I.

In GIRLS ON THE LINE, Aimie K Runyan brings to life, in rich detail and engrossing narrative, the story of the ‘hidden figures’ in American history that predated those of America’s space program. GIRLS ON THE LINE, a beautifully atmospheric set piece, is the story of a group of humble telephone operators in peacetime who became true heroines of World War I. These remarkable women, who more than once put themselves ‘in harm’s way’, undisputedly changed the course of the war and in the process, saved countless lives.

Ruby Wagner is from a prominent Philadelphia family, engaged to be married to the son of another prominent Philadelphia family. Ruby has everything that she could ever want – the comforts of a well-to-do family and the privilege that goes with that – a future of ease and comfort – marriage, albeit an arranged one, to a kindhearted, good and decent man. 

Everything she could want.

Except true happiness.

And true love.

As much as Ruby loves her parents, and tries to live up to their expectations, she is also resolved to be ‘her own’ woman and make her own decisions about her life. Part of her ‘strike’ for independence is taking a job, despite her mother’s vehement objections as a telephone operator with Pennsylvania Bell. 

When America enters the war, Ruby spends her days working the switchboards, rolling bandages for the Red Cross, and attending social functions where her mother ‘grooms’ Ruby for entry in to Mainline society. And then one day, in a cruel and ironic twist of fate, Ruby’s family receives word that her older brother Francis has been killed on the muddy battlefields of Europe. When Ruby hears that the Army is looking for skilled telephone operators to join the war effort by enlisting in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corp and going to Europe, where their vastly superior skills will be put to the test both behind and at the forefront of the battle lines, she knows in her heart that this is how she will honor her brother, and the countless others who lost their lives. 

Not by rolling bandages back home and indulging in all the comforts of being thousands of miles away from the war.

All too soon, Ruby is serving overseas in a forward area, embroiled in intrigue – did someone say “spy in our midst?” – and, unexpectedly, romance.

I’m going to stop here. To say anymore would be venturing into ‘spoiler alert territory’.

Great historical fiction doesn’t just tell a story. It immerses the reader into a particular place and time in history, bringing to life characters and events so realistically that the reader feels they are actually ‘there’.

Aimie has done just that. Replete with the mores and manners of the period, the author weaves narrative and character effortlessly to create a tapestry rich in detail, mood and atmosphere. Her meticulous research lends such a degree authenticity one has to remind themselves that GIRLS ON THE LINE is a work of fiction. Personally, I am half-tempted to travel to the author’s home – that wouldn’t be ‘stalkerish’, would it? – for a peek at the time machine she must surely have hidden away in her garden shed. 

My sincere “Thank you” to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and the author, Aimie K. Runyan, for a free electronic ARC of this novel.

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BOOK REVIEW: LITTLE BROKEN THINGS by Nicole Baart

Little Broken ThingsLittle Broken Things by Nicole Baart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“In our brokenness, we are made strong. In our brokenness lies our true beauty.”

Those aren’t words from Nicole Baart’s latest – and perhaps best to date – novel, LITTLE BROKEN THINGS. The words are mine and they were the first words that came to me when I had turned the last page, closed the book and set it on the bedside table.

LITTLE BROKEN THINGS is the story of three women and the events that have intertwined their lives irrevocably and unforgivingly. It is a story of truths and lies and deceptions… of secrets hidden away and buried beneath the weight of years. Until one day the appearance of an innocent child forces the exhumation of a past that has been denied for far too long.

LITTLE BROKEN THINGS is a beautifully layered mystery, one that showcases the author’s story craft as well as her deep understanding and empathy of the human condition. With shifting points of view between Quinn, Nora, and Liz, chapter by chapter, the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of Lucy.  Each page turn is a slow reveal as the author draws the reader further and further into the lives of a family charitably described as broken.

Liz, the matriarch, for whom appearance is more than just important; it is the only thing that matters and she would drown in the waters of denial before letting anyone see even a hint of imperfection or brokenness.

Quinn and Nora, the daughters, whose idea and ideals of life have always been divergent must now come to terms with a past they didn’t ask for but, to a small degree at least, they were complicit in.

Ms. Baart weaves these women’s stories together, layer upon layer, revelation upon revelation, building to a surprise ending more than worthy of any best-selling suspense novelist currently in the market. The tension throughout is palpable and reminiscent of a Mary Kubica or Heather Gudenkauf novel in its deftness and execution. With her seemingly inexhaustible compassion, sensitivity, and understanding of the human condition, the author tackles such once taboo subjects as sexual assault and abuse in a manner that others in her field could take notes from.

Breathtaking in its depth, LITTLE BROKEN THINGS, cast through the eyes and hearts of a complex, multi-faceted cast of characters, tells the story of family broken by the flaws and imperfections of humankind. It is a story of love and betrayal, a taut unveiling of their brokenness and the search for redemption.

LITTLE BROKEN THINGS marks the author’s official debut to a favorite genre of mine… suspense. Hitting all the marks, this insightful and well-paced mystery is a ‘must-read’ that more than satisfies and one I recommend without reservation.

Thank you,

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
10 February 2018

(Writing under a large mushroom somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)

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BOOK REVIEW – DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY by Aimie K Runyan

Daughters of the Night SkyDaughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K. Runyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Historical fiction … good historical fiction … does more than just tell a story, it transports the reader to another place and time. It immerses them in a culture and events of the past… the courts of kings and queens of Victorian England, the American move westward in the 19th century, or the Eastern Theater of one of the world’s ‘great wars’. Wherever an author takes one, good historical fiction relives a period in history and captivates the reader.

DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY does that and more. In a bold departure from the standard offerings of World War II historical fiction, and with a verve and dedication to historical detail that is both daring and breathtaking, Aime K Runyan tells the story of a courageous group of female pilots in World War II Russia, called to defend their homeland.

In a rare display of feminism for the times, Comrade Stalin has declared equality for women, something that many of the male pilots and soldiers struggle to come to terms with. This is key to the story of the ‘night witches’ and one which lends an air of authenticity to the author’s retelling of the exploits of the 46th Taman Guards, formerly the 588th Night Bomber Regiment – Russia’s all female air force regiment.

“I’m going to learn how to fly a plane of my own, Mama.” Katya Ivanova tells her mother. Little does Katya know that one day her dream will take her to the battle front of the Second World War.

Love is fragile in time of war. It is often fleeting. And it is all too often, heartbreaking. And so Katya vows that she will not let a man deter or distract her from her ‘mission’. But… the heart wants what the heart wants and in wartime there is a greater urgency, a hunger, to live every moment as fully as possible, not knowing what tomorrow will bring… victory or heartbreak. Which will Vanya bring? Will the tragedy of war win out over love or will it bring a strength and determination to Katya she could not have foretold.

Ms Runyan has woven a tale rich in historical detail and all the imagery of a nation at war with a cast of truly heroic and memorable characters to make DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY one of the most compelling and compassionate stories of World War II and the brave band of women pilots and crews called upon to defend Mother Russia against the German war machine. Told with a bittersweet poignancy and a deep compassion for the human condition, I cheered at times and cried at others. The last 30 pages of DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY had me soaking one tissue after another.

Yes, but did you like it, Veronica?

In the immortal words of Paul Hollywood…

“I didn’t like it… I LOVED it!”

Captivating… beautiful… brilliant… heartbreakingly poignant… DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY is a ‘must-read’! I recommend it without reservation.

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
(Writing under a large mushroom somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)
4 December 2017
(I received an e-ARC of this book through my book club.)

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NEW YA READ

I hope I didn’t lose you at YA, because Charlie’s story is anything but ordinary. First, I’m going to tell you my plan, and then I’ll let you have a sneak peek into Charlie’s world. Today is release day, and the reviews from the ARCs I sent out are rolling in, so if you don’t believe me, go check them out for yourself.

The Plan:

Charlie will have two books as a teenager, and so will Sean. Same story, different POVs.

Becoming Charlie – Part One
Becoming Charlie – Part Two
Becoming Sean – Part One
Becoming Sean – Part Two

The end of both of the second parts will have alternate endings. See, this series is good for all ages, well, above 13 anyway. The first ending at the end of part two will end completely for the younger audience with a HEA, while the other will end on a pretty big cliffhanger. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you will read both endings. And that’s completely fine. You’re going to need that closure to get you through until I get the ADULT book written. Yes, Charlie and Sean are 15 and 17 in part one. They are 16 and 18 in part two. They will be 25 and 27 in book 3. One book will wrap up their adult book, and yes, it will be titled…

Becoming Us.

Here’s the prologue. If you decide to purchase the book and love it, please return and leave an honest review. And tell your friends. Word of mouth is the best advertisement.

Prologue

Mental pain is a real thing.

In most cases, when mental pain is triggered, the brain sends signals to the heart, causing it to contract so fiercely that it pulls the tendons and nerves—the heartstrings—that support the most important muscle in the human body.


Sometimes these tendons snap, causing an intense, physical reaction. Most of the time, this type of pain stays in the chest area, settling in around the heart, making the individual who is experiencing it hyperventilate or feel extreme discomfort. Instances that might cause this to happen are getting your heart broken, losing a friend, loved one or pet, witnessing or hearing about something horrible or even reading a good ugly-cry book.

There is another type of mental pain that is so much worse. The type of mental pain I’m referring to is so severe and traumatic that, almost immediately after the mind registers what happened, it starts to shut down as a defense, and in some cases blacks out and causes the person to forget what took place, a condition also known as amnesia. Numbness and/or bouts of anger usually occur when this happens. Some triggers for this type of mental pain are losing a child, accidentally killing someone, being a victim of rape or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), to name just a few.

I suffer from the second one. Or maybe I should say that I used to suffer from the second one. The day Sean Reese walked into my life was the day I started to heal and live again. My name is Charlie Mason. If you have a little while, I’d like to tell you my story.

BUY THE BOOK HERE:

US 
The Becoming series will be available at B&N, Kobo, iBooks and anywhere else digital books are sold. If you’d like a paperback, those can be purchased at Amazon, too.




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Back in the saddle aka my plight with Scrivener

Linda Bloodworth

My whole digital life is in the cloud. I upload pictures, files, and generally anything I want to work on or save. What irks me to no end is that Scrivener has decided their software must only be used on a computer. I don’t want to upload various versions of my story. I want to work on the SAME bloody story and have it save automatically just like Google Docs. That is what the consumer wants in this day and age. I don’t want to compile my document, save it to Google Drive, then download that document and work on it. I cannot take my laptop with me to my day job, ergo, I have no choice.

The frustration level has caused me to not even bother writing some days. Yes, I am mad at software. I’ve decided to bite my proverbial lip and do just what annoys me most…

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