Lee County Elegy

By Courtney Allen

Book Blurb

From Courtney Allen, the author of the award-winning novel, Down From The Mountain, comes Lee County Elegy, which is an equal work in depth, character portrayal, and historical fiction. This novel follows the morally challenging account of the Grayson family, of how they survive in the rural south during the Great Depression, and by what means they overcome a life of unfavorable consequences. In the beginning, Mac Grayson suffers a critical lumberyard accident that leaves him helpless to support his farm and family. Due to the onslaught of the weakening economy, land values plummet and the bank threatens foreclosure. During a drought, a bitter dispute with a wealthy landowner concerning water access to the Flint River becomes a contentious argument, and volatile tensions mount. In order to survive, an agreement must be met, but Mac must negotiate and risk the well-being of his family to assuage their neighbor’s divisiveness. In this story, the Grayson’s are faced with few resources and endless controversies fraught with dire consequences that create challenges almost impossible to overcome. Filled with page-turning suspense and unyielding dilemmas, the ends required to endure are made by difficult choices, and the honor of each character is brought into question as the story unfolds. This depression era novel is of sorrow and redemption, struggle and hardship, of love and loss. The pace is fast, the heart of the book strong, and the ending bittersweet yet satisfyingly triumphant. For historical fiction lovers, Lee County Elegy is worth reading.

Blurb from Goodreads.

My Review

In this beautifully detailed historical novel about the depression era and the hard times that fell on everyone, we meet Myra Grayson who is the central character in the story.  Maclin and Ila Mae Grayson adopted Myra when she was just 3 years old.  She had two older brothers, Arden and Cade.  Times were tough.  Ila Mae was long ago institutionalized in another town for dementia and Myra, a young teen, was left to care for Maclin who had been in a horrible “accident” and left with permanent disabilities.  She had the responsibility of caring for their home, preparing meals, and doing some of the farm work.  When the depression hit, things went downhill quickly.  Arden left to bring Ila Mae back home when the institution could no longer take care of her financially.  Cade took off after an unfortunate incident and left Myra to fend for herself and Maclin.

Jack Waylon, their neighbor, had his eye on their land because of the natural supply of water he wanted access to for his farm.  There was a long history of conflict between Maclin and Jack and Maclin refused the access and threatened Jack if he stepped foot on his land.  This set the stage for the rest of the story.

I found the characters to be well developed and believable.  Myra showed an incredible amount of resilience and such a soft side. At times, I felt if I could reach in and give her a hug or a pat on the back, her life would have been easier, if only for a moment. Maclin often seemed gruff but considering his situation, it made his character come to life. I felt Arden and Cade got a lot of attention in the beginning, but then, for the most part, seemed to drop out of the story, being resurrected now and again.  Jack Waylon had a strong Jekyll and Hyde persona.  He was a character I loved to hate, one I could have pulled out of the book and smacked around.

I had a difficult time getting into the story, unusual for one of Courtney Allen’s books.  It started off slowly with a great deal of description and a story that seemed to be going nowhere. I was concerned about whether the story would ever pique my interest.  As the storyline took precedence, I became intrigued and couldn’t put Lee County Elegy down.

As always, the author researched the era and the locale with great attention to detail.  Though life was difficult in the cities, it was much harder felt in the rural areas.  These contrasts were well documented in the story.

Because I almost lost interest before the story reeled me in, I am giving this book four stars.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Disclaimer

I was given a copy of Lee County Elegy by the author in exchange for my honest review. 
I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

 

About the Author

Courtney Allen lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been writing for many years and has written several other books.

Find Out More About Courtney Allen

Goodreads

Amazon

Buy the Book

Amazon

 

Six Part-Time Angels

Years ago when I was a child, my mother wrote this story about her best ever Christmas gift. I hope you enjoy her story and the photos from Christmas of my childhood.

 

Six part-time angels gave Christmas to me wrapped in warmth and love. The uncomplicated truths of childhood changed what seemed a catastrophe into the most precious gift that I have ever received.

It was four days before Christmas and we had all been busy with our usual holiday preparations — addressing cards, baking cookies, making candy, stuffing dates, linking the wreath for the front door, decorating the house inside and out, wrapping gifts, stringing popcorn and cranberries for the birds’ tree in the front yard, arranging Great Aunt Mary’s crib in its honored place in the entrance hall, trimming the tree — doing all the happy chores that make up our pre-Christmas ritual. The children’s gifts of clothing had been purchased and wrapped, and the toys had long been ordered.

Unable to squeeze any more days into my schedule, I had ordered the toys from an out-of-town mail-order house and considered myself very lucky that they would all be delivered in one shipment to my door. I waited as patiently as possible until the preceding week and then wrote asking the company to check on my order. They replied to the effect that shipments were understandably slow and that I should not worry. Worry I did, however, as the days passed and no toys arrived. Finally, in desperation, I called the firm long-distance. After what seemed an hour of expensive delay, a pleasant female voice on the other end of the line was telling me something about a mix-up in orders. They were terribly sorry. My order had not been shipped. There was no possible way of getting the toys to me in time for Christmas. I was stunned, and I excitedly babbled something about my predicament — my husband, a mailman, was working late every night in the rush of Christmas mail. I couldn’t get to a store from our rural location. The order was all of the children’s Christmas toys. I had to have those toys! The poor girl at the other end of the line was patiently understanding and, as I remember now, sounded genuinely sorry for the mistake. There was just nothing the company could do! Finally, I had to accept the impossibility of getting the shipment to our house in time.

I sat by the phone, the thought of a toyless Christmas settled over my mind like a black fog, smothering all the joy I had known in our Christmas preparations. I was still sitting there when the children came in, flushed with cold and excitement and the joy of the season. They knew immediately that something was wrong and grouped around me to find out what it was that could cause such sadness so close to Christmas. Foolishly, I thought of the disappointment on those shining faces on Christmas morning, and the flood of tears I had been fighting to hold back could no longer be controlled. I cried. And then, hoping to temper their disappointment on Christmas morning, I told them there would be no toys. The looks of disbelief I expected were there, but not the looks of disappointment. They simply could not believe that I was so upset over that.

The parent became the child and the children became the parents. They pressed close and assured me that of all the things of Christmas, the toys were the least important. Christmas to them wasn’t presents. Christmas to them was the fun of being together, of doing things together. It was the fun of caroling our neighbors and of welcoming our friends. It was the wonderful, indescribable feeling of happiness, the experience of celebrating Christ’s birth at midnight Mass. My oldest daughter summed it up very well by saying, “Clothes wear out and toys break, but we have you and Daddy for all the time.” Needless to say, my feelings readjusted to their proper perspective immediately. I was thrilled by this insight into their true feelings and a bit chagrined that I had lost sight of the true values of Christmas.

That was the warmest, most wonderful Christmas ever. When the holiday season was over, and the Three Kings stood at their destination in the crib, the little light in the tin-star reflector over the stable was extinguished. That has always been the signal that the time has come to pack away the material evidences of Christmas. The boxes and crates were filled with gay decorations, the greens burned, and the gifts put in their proper places. But no drawer, no shelf, no closet was large enough to hold my gift. I keep it with me constantly, and each day is gilded by the knowledge that, “we have you and Daddy for all the time.”

In all fairness, I must confess the children did not reform their mother completely. When I had related the incident to my husband, we immediately combed the city for late-closing stores and replaced all the toys in the canceled order. Then we added a few extra. We are glad that we have those children, “for all the time.”

About the Author

Mildred Clements, a.k.a. Mom, passed away nearly eleven years ago, but her spirit is ever present, especially at Christmas.  Mom believed Christmas should be all about family and traditions. We put up the tree together, placed the creche beneath the tree, sang carols, and laughed over past tree raisings.  With so many people living in one house, someone always had a funny remembrance.  Though Mom decorated most of our house during the day while we were at school, she enlisted our help with baking and food prep and many of our other Christmas traditions.  I still make many of the same cookies we baked in Mom’s kitchen.

MY MAINE “Winter Tales” (Haiku selections) from Bette A. Stevens’s WIP

Bette Stevens’ sampling of stanzas from her Winter Tales section of her upcoming book of poetry, MY MAINE, Haiku Through the Seasons, paints an idyllic winter scene. So find your cozy spot and grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy these lovely haiku.

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

This upcoming collection of haiku reflects the Maine I know and love. Here is a sampling of several stanzas from the section Winter Tales. I hope you enjoy them and would appreciate your comments. I plan to edit and format the collection during the holiday season, and hope to publish my first poetry book—MY MAINE, Haiku through the Seasons—early in 2019. ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author 

Winter Tales

(Selected samples fromMY MAINE, Haiku Through the Seasons by Bette A. Stevens)

Winter genie waves
Its icy crystal scepter
Dawn’s magic appears

Silvery branches
Read a charmed folktale
A spellbound story

Pine cones and tassels
Mirrored in moonlight upon
White weighted branches

Chickadees dozing
Nestling, captive till
Morning sets them free

Shovels and snow plows
Storm’s ravings unraveled
Till the next arrives

Soups, stews and chowders
Stories told round the table
Favored winter fare

The sundial declares
Dwindling…

View original post 84 more words

Aglow

At this busy, hectic time of year, let Lauren Scott’s lovely poem take you to a quiet, peaceful place.

Baydreamer

Image result for country road photo

On the little country road
to the country town we go
where hands on the clock
tick slow, slow, slow
leading to reflection
of memories that flow
where thoughts transport
to a time that stays aglow

Lauren Scott (c) 2018
Photo: Google Images

View original post

The African Connection

(The Forgotten Child Trilogy, #2)

By Mark W. Sasse

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Fruit, Faeries, & Fascist Dictators. The Adventure Continues.

In part two of The Forgotten Child Trilogy, enigmatic beings from the realm beyond—Bee & Ash—team up once again with old Manhattan businessman Francis Frick. Joined by a mysterious new recruit, Frick must fight to bring master criminal Ulrich to justice and continue searching for the truth about the forgotten child.

A child has been saved, but with international master criminal Heinrich Ulrich still on the lam, no one is content—not Bee, not Ash, and most certainly not Francis Frick. As the FBI closes in on Frick’s dealings, Bee decides to recruit young Hatty Parker to help Frick exact revenge on Ulrich and search for another child to save. But when Bee’s actions begin to worry the realm beyond, her old nemesis returns to earth to thwart her plans and pit her against her beloved companion Ash, leaving Frick and his new sidekick to play dangerous time-travel games with a genocidal maniac.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads

MY REVIEW

I have read and reviewed several of Mark Sasse’s books and I have to say The Forgotten Child Trilogy is fabulous and are my favorites!  Book Two, The African Connection, is every bit as intriguing as the first book, A Man Too Old, for a Place Too Far. I recommend you read Book One first so that you have a good understanding of who the characters are and how they fit into the story.

One of the most endearing traits of The African Connection is the way the author takes you into another realm with characters like Bee, who is flighty and childlike, and Ash, who is more than patient with Bee, but who can be stern with her at the same time.  These two and Zette, who has more power than Bee or Ash, appear out of “thin air” first to Francis Frick and then to others. But don’t think they are ghosts, they are far more than that.

Sasse peppers the book with oodles of descriptive text to insert the reader into the story. He makes it easy to picture people, places, things, and yes, the otherworldly.  Now, I know you’re thinking you don’t like reading a lot of description, neither do I, but Sasse writes in such a way that it renders a necessary, sense of place, and is such an integral part of the story that you will enjoy every descriptive word.  I promise.

The story is coherent, and the characters are so lifelike you begin to think they are real. Mark Sasse has created another winner in my book.  Do I recommend The African Connection?  Without a doubt!

This book was given to me by the author in return for my honest review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright and director. He vacillates on a daily basis between which genre of writing he enjoys the most. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose! Sasse’s novels have been featured on curated sites such as Bookbub and Noisetrade, and his plays have been produced in New York, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia. His play “The Last Bastion” earned him the 2018 Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency in Ireland. He is also a three-time winner of the Best Script Award at the Penang Short & the Sweet Theatre Festival. His plays have won multiple other awards such as Best Overall Performance and Audience Choice Award. He won the Festival Director’s Award at the 2016 festival.

Sasse’s interests cast a wide net – from politics to literature – from culture and language – from history and religion, making his writing infused with the unexpected as he seeks to tell authentic and engaging stories about people from all walks of life. His writing is straightforward and accessible to all, especially those who enjoy a page-turning good story injected with doses of history, adventure, Asian culture, and unexpected humor.

After being an adamant standalone novel advocate, he’s changed his tune and is working on the epic Forgotten Child Trilogy. Book one, A MAN TOO OLD FOR A PLACE TOO FAR, released in December 2017, and the following two books will continue the story in 2018 and 2019. He finally found the story that required more than one book, and he’s thrilled with it. It’s a crazy mix of magical realism, history, and time travel, wrapped alongside the requisite human stories.

As for his plays, he’s fond of both the short play (10 minutes or less) and full-length formats. From 2011-2017 he wrote for and directed the drama ensemble The RLT Players, a passionate group of dramatic storytellers who specialize in the short play format. In September 2016, his experimental theatre piece “How to Build a Dictator” was featured as part of Penangpac’s Black Box Experiments series. His goal is to have it go into full production somewhere in the world. Any takers?

He currently teaches drama in Saudi Arabia.

HOW DID HE FINALLY GET HIMSELF WRITING?

Sasse remembers writing his first play when he was about thirteen. It was about Queen Esther and the only person he ever showed that play to was his mother. In college, he wrote lots of poetry, even love poetry for a certain girl. But once he graduated, his writing confidence was shattered, so he gave it up for the next twenty years. He doesn’t recommend doing that! He went to China to teach English in 1992 and eventually moved to Vietnam to do the same in 1994, shortly after the U.S. lifted the embargo against their former enemy. He lived in the exotic Vietnamese culture with his family for nearly ten years. After many life-changing experiences, Sasse’s new-found taste for history sent him back to school to pick-up a second Master’s degree, this one in Humanities. This led to a shift from teaching English to history as he moved to Malaysia in 2006. Little did he know, however, that all of this was building up to another major shift which would get him back to writing.

On a whim in 2007, he embarked on a collaborative project with a group of students to write and produce a play, resulting in the original stage play “Monkey Love Potion.” It was such a fun and rewarding experience that he decided to try it again the following year. Before he knew it, he was hooked and that was the beginning of his love affair with live theatre. After writing and successfully producing four original full-length scripts, he finally got the nerve to try his hand once again at a hidden desire which had defeated him many times over the years – novel writing.

In the summer of 2011, he embarked on the journey of writing his first novel. His greatest worry was reaching the magical 50,000 word mark, so he could officially call himself a novelist. When the story, “Beauty Rising,” clocked in at over 60,000 words, he was shocked and happy. But not content. He didn’t know what to do with the novel, and he convinced himself that it would sit idle until he wrote a second novel. He hated hearing the words “one-hit wonder” echo in his head. So, in the summer of 2012, he wrote “The Recluse Storyteller.”

Feeling a little more confident, he decided to focus on exposing his work to the public in order to receive some feedback. In December 2012, he independently published “Beauty Rising.” When the first review from an online book reviewer was posted and it was over-the-top positive, he was flying high, and if he never wrote another word in his life, he would have been content. But that contentment was not to be. He was now hopelessly hooked on both play writing and novel writing, and he hasn’t looked back since.

He has published five novels with six already finished and ready for publication in 2017. Number seven will be his first sequel and will be available sometime in 2018. He is grateful for all the readers who have joined him on this journey of creativity.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

Sasse loves to cook everything from pizza to Thai. He’s coached softball or baseball for the past ten years, and he’s been a much too loyal fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates since he was 9 years old–another item he’s hopelessly hooked on. He enjoys travelling, visiting historical sites, and sitting by the beach or other scenic spot with a laptop, an idea, and a lot of time. He has a lovely wife and three wonderful children and one really cool son-in-law – he’s Korean, keeping with the Asian theme of his life. He has an active blog (www.mwsasse.com) where he writes frequently about history, writing, culture, and life. He loves to hear from readers, so he hopes you’ll stop by his site and say “hello.”

Author Biography taken from Amazon.com

AUTHOR LINKS

Blog

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

BUY THE BOOK

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview of #Ya #Fantasy Daughter Of Magic by Karen Eisenbrey

Do you enjoy young adult fantasy fiction? Check out this review of Daughter of Magic by Karen Eisenbrey on Rosie Amber’s blog.

Rosie Amber

Daughter of MagicDaughter of Magic by Karen Eisenbrey

3 stars

Daughter of Magic is a young adult fantasy. It has a medieval setting and a theme revolving around magic and wizards.

The story opens with fourteen year old Luskell. She and her parents are travelling to a rural village, so that Luskell can stay with her Grandmother for the summer. Meanwhile, her parents must go to the city where they will act as ambassadors during tribal meetings with the new Governor.

Luskell’s parents both have magical abilities; her mother is a great healer and her father is a powerful wizard. Luskell’s own abilities are currently dormant; however, she builds a friendship with two boys and together the trio grow into their magic. They then set off on a quest to stop a power-hungry bad wizard.

Stories about wizards and magic are popular. This story follows well used genre tropes, but I found…

View original post 261 more words

Abby & Holly Series Book 2: Unfortunate Events

By Janice Spina, author

      John Spina, illustrator

 

Book Synopsis

Abby and Holly are cousins who are more like sisters. They enjoy doing everything together. Holly lives with Abby and her family in a haunted Victorian. Holly must deal in some difficult decisions with her family when unexpected and unfortunate events come to pass.

Abby is there to lend support to Holly along with two ghostly apparitions, Felicity and Minerva, who live in Abby’s house. These specters provide some magical and helpful advice along the way as they watch over Holly during this difficult time.

The girls’ friends, twins Davey and Derek Donato, from their own series, pop in to support Holly and bring some fun and comical relief to the story.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads

My Review

I am so excited about the Abby and Holly Series for girls, but it could be equally enjoyed by boys.  In Abby & Holly Series Book 2: Unfortunate Events, Abby’s cousin, Holly, is faced with some difficult issues.  While her parents are away on overseas jobs, Holly is living with Abby. Things go downhill when her parents return for a visit and her mother becomes ill. Throughout this trying time, Holly has a tremendous amount of support from Abby, her Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob, and two ghosts who live in Abby’s house, Felicity and Minerva. Of course, their friends Davey and Derek are there to help, too.

As with all of Spina’s children’s books, Abby & Holly Series Book 2: Unfortunate Events teaches life lessons such as respect, kindness toward others, and the importance of being polite.  This book concentrates on handling the unexpected and overcoming life’s disappointments.  The unexpected was Holly’s mother’s illness and hospital stay.  With the love of her extended family, Holly was able to cope with her worry for her mother.  Disappointment was addressed when her father announced that he was flying out to finish his work overseas. He explained to Holly the importance of fulling his obligations to his employer.

I highly recommend Abby & Holly Series Book 2: Unfortunate Events to all middle-graders, both girls and boys.  The storyline is one that will keep children interested with its elements of suspense and mystery.  Though there are references to a childhood crush, they are not a major component of the story and certainly not enough to deter boys’ interest. And who doesn’t love a friendly little ghost or two! As with all the author’s children’s books, this one is true to her ideals of writing books that encourage children to read while incorporating those all-important life lessons.  As a book I think every parent will want their daughters and sons to read, I give Abby & Holly Series Book 2: Unfortunate Events 5 stars!

About the Author

Janice Spina is an award-winning author with twelve children’s books, Louey the Lazy Elephant, Ricky the Rambunctious Raccoon, Jerry the Crabby Crayfish, Lamby the Lonely Lamb, Jesse the Precocious Polar Bear, Broose the Moose on the Loose, Sebastian Meets Marvin the Monkey, and Colby the Courageous Cat, Jeffrey the Jittery Giraffe, Clarence Henry the Hermit Crab, Lucy the Talented Toy Terrier, and five YA/MG/P/T books, Davey & Derek Junior Detectives Series, Books 1-5, Abby & Holly Series, Books 1 & 2, copy editor, blogger, book reviewer and supporter of fellow authors.

Hunting Mariah is her first novel to be published under J.E. Spina. She published her second novel, a paranormal/mystery/romance, How Far Is Heaven, June 2016. Book 3 of Davey & Derek Junior Detectives was published in August 2016 and Book 4 of Davey & Derek Junior Detectives Series in December on 2016. An Angel Among Us, a short story collection, was published in March 2017 and Jeffrey the Jittery Giraffe, a children’s book, in May 2017. Clarence Henry the Hermit Crab, Mariah’s Revenge, Lucy the Talented Toy Terrier and Abby & Holly School Dance, Books 1 & 2 in a series were published in 2018.

Jance has received the following awards for her books:

Mom’s Choice Awards – Silver Medal – Lamby the Lonely Lamb

Pinnacle Book Achievements Awards – Jerry the Crabby Crayfish, Broose the Moose on the Loose, Colby the Courageous Cat, Jeffrey the Jittery Giraffe, Books 1, 2, 3, 5 of Davey & Derek Junior Detectives Series

Reader’s Favorite Book Awards – Silver Medal – Book 3, Davey & Derek Junior Detectives,

Honorable Mention – Book 1, Davey & Derek Junior Detectives Series

AUTHORSDB – Cover Contest – Silver Medal – Book 5, Davey & Derek Junior Detectives Series

AUTHORSDB- FINALIST in First Lines Contest – Hunting Mariah

Red City Review FINALIST – Davey & Derek Junior Detectives Book 4, The Case of the Brown Scraggly Dog

She is editing a YA fantasy and writing more books in a series for MG/PT/YA girls and plans to write more Davey & Derek Junior Detectives books. All of these books, hopefully over the next few years, will be published.

Janice’s short stories have been published in others’ anthologies and in The Writer’s Newsletter, https://thewritersnewsletter.com/fiction-non-fiction-

Book trailers: https://youtu.be/pLCjyc9Q9tQ  (How Far Is Heaven)

https://youtu.be/pLCjyc9Q9tQ  (Hunting Mariah) (Both created by Chris Graham)

https://youtu.be/2DIawvOX9aw  (Mariah’s Revenge – created by Janice Spina)

Her logo is Jemsbooks – books for all ages! Her motto is – Reading Gives You Wings to Fly! Come soar with Jemsbooks! Happy reading!

Janice’s hobbies besides writing are crocheting, exercising to keep in shape, going to the movies with her husband or out to lunch or dinner, reading, book reviewing, blogging and spending time with her five grandchildren who are her writing inspiration.

Janice loves to hear from readers and appreciates and happily welcomes reviews.

Janice can be followed on her blog: http://jemsbooks.blog

Website: http://jemsbooks.com

and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Facebook.

Biographical information taken from Amazon author page

 

 

The gift of memory

The Silent Eye

One of the things we take away from our weekend workshops are the memories. Faces, places, people, conversations and realisations, all combine to create a kaleidoscope of intangible souvenirs that find their own place in the hierarchy of memory. We may share an adventure, but the memories are unique for each of us and it would only be by combining all of them that a true picture of the weekend would even begin to emerge. We each bring our own perspective to the experience, and what will seem unimportant to one may be awe-inspiring to another. Some of what we experience will seem so mundane that it fades into the background, barely registering its presence in our minds, some moments will make such an impression that they remain fresh and evergreen for the rest of our lives.

Memories are more important than we consciously realise most of the time. They…

View original post 583 more words

Mourning Dove – Guest Post by Claire Fullerton…

An excellent guest post by Claire Fullerton on The Story Reading Ape Blog

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Every writer has deep-seated motivation for writing a novel. It may be a person, place, or setting that resonates in their soul, and from this a story that won’t let them go. I was tentative when I began writing Mourning Dove, and by this, I mean to say that I tested the waters before I dove in head first to the full story. Mourning Dove started as a poem I never shared, but I liked its subject and rhythm. It spoke of a family dynamic, had movement and spoke of human nature in the face tragedy. In writing the poem, it occurred to me there is beauty to be gleaned in the worst of human affairs.

In one of those intuitive promptings that seems fateful in hindsight, I saw an online call for submissions to the 2013 San Francisco Writers Conferences’ contest. In looking at the categories, I thought narrative…

View original post 692 more words