Thompson Road

By Scott Wyatt

ThompsonRoadEbook FINALBlurb

A sweeping, coming of age love story set in the Pacific Northwest on the brink of WWII. Rejected by classmates and accomplished swing dancer Sally Springs, high school quarterback Raleigh Starr remains desperate to win her heart. While walking home on Thompson Road, Raleigh catches sight of Mona Garrison, dancing at her bedroom window. He is mesmerized. Still determined to dazzle Sally, Raleigh asks the shy sixteen-year-old to compete with him at the state fair swing dance contest, and she agrees. Swept up in the war, Raleigh realizes too late what Mona has always known: that they are perfect for each other… but he is unaware of the terrible price she has paid for his attention. Thompson Road is a poignant, tender story that reminds us of the power of first love.

My Review

THOMPSON ROAD, historical fiction and romance, takes place during three major periods of history from the 1930’s and into the 1950’s, the Depression, World War II, and the peace year’s immediately following the war. Raleigh Starr, a high school junior, meets Mona Garrison, who though she is 15, is still in 4th grade.  She has been labeled feebleminded, but when Raleigh gets to know her, he knows she is not. Raleigh has fallen for Sally Springs, a girl in his class who has little interest in him. Raleigh devises a plan involving Mona to get Sally to drop her boyfriend and see that Raleigh is the one for her.  The stage is set for a myriad of events that change the lives of everyone concerned.

The author gives us a look at the practice of eugenics at an asylum, a practice that had previously been outlawed.  THOMPSON ROAD is a wonderfully written, face-paced story that clearly illustrates how our innocent (and not so innocent) actions can affect others, for the good, and for the bad. Throughout this heartfelt story, we will witness the growth of the characters from the star-crossed teen years to strong individuals who have learned the hard lessons of life.

Scott Wyatt writes a captivating and compassionate story, one that you won’t be able to put down.  THOMPSON ROAD is worthy of the highest rating. It is one book anyone who enjoys romance and historical fiction will find unforgettable.

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the AuthorScott Wyatt

I was born in Portland, Oregon in 1951 and grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho. I’ve earned degrees from Stanford University and the University of Washington, and have worked—full– or, as currently, part–time—as a lawyer since 1976.

In 1999, I founded the Companion Flag Project to elevate and sustain public awareness of all that human beings have in common, their differences notwithstanding. The underpinnings of this campaign are reflected in the closing arguments of attorney Jason McQuade in Beyond the Sand Creek Bridge, and again in “The Sanori Flag Debate,” the appendix to Dimension M.

I have four children and five grandchildren. My wife, Rochelle Wyatt, is a talented Seattle-area actress. Since 2009, we have lived in a beautiful cabin-like home overlooking Lake Sammamish, fifteen miles east of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

Author’s website: www.scottwyattauthor.com

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Tiger Tale Soup: A Novel of China at War

By Nicki Chen

Tiger Tail SoupBook Blurb

An Lee has the heart of a man. But when the Japanese invade China, she’s forced to stay home while her beloved husband goes to battle. Until he returns, it’s up to her to protect her mother, mother-in-law, daughter and soon-to-be-born son.

Surrounded by the enemy, An Lee buries the family gold, stocks the pantry, and watches in dismay as her former teachers flee to Hong Kong. Then, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and take control of China’s international settlements, including An Lee’s island home. To survive the next four years of occupation, she will need all the strength, resilience, and love she can muster.

Emotionally charged and lyrical, Tiger Tail Soup captures the drama and suffering of wartime China through the eyes of a brave young woman.

 

Sample Chapter
Intro and Chapter 1

1946

Dodging a low-hanging pine, I settle back into my sedan chair. This washed-out road, like the mountains themselves and the tigers that hide in their shadows, is all beauty and treachery. We start up another slope, my neck straining to support my suddenly heavy head. Finally we reach a level spot.

“A moment’s rest, ma’am?” the lead man asks, and I nod. These carriers use their rest periods to lick the opium they carry in their belts. I use the time to look back.

Walking along the trail, I search for a break in the trees, but we’ve come too far. Mountains are blocking the view of my home now. Kulangsu. Island of pianos they call it, drum-surf isle, egret island. Every detail of its contours is carved into my memory—trees everywhere, tile-roofed houses, cottages painted gold and peacock blue, sandy beaches the color of a ripe peach, and the surrounding sea, blue or green, gray or white, depending on the weather. My beloved home, and for nearly eight years of war, my prison.

“Ma’am.” The amah comes up behind me, my son and daughter at her side. “They’re ready to go, ma’am.”

I search my children’s eyes for the strength I know is there. My ox girl, my tiger boy. Too small for their ages. Still startled by loud noises. And yet the might of their ancestors shines through.

“Get in your sedan chair,” I tell them. “We have a long way to go.”

Our journey to Foochew won’t be over tonight or even tomorrow night. I settle back for another leg in the long, uncomfortable journey, and as my chair jostles and jolts, my thoughts bounce from one memory to another. The Japanese guns and bombs. My tiger dreams. My mother, my mother-in-law, and of course, my husband, Yu-ming, so long absent from my bed.

Spring 1938

In the spring of 1938, I was alone and pregnant. And I was worried out of my mind. My husband should have returned days earlier from his business trip. I kept watch for him each day from our bedroom window, straining my eyes and wringing my hands. Each night before falling asleep, I whispered into my pillow, asking him to enter my dreams and tell me where he was. Yu-ming was a scientist, though, and scientists don’t believe in dreams.

Still, I continued to hope for some sign that he was still alive. Instead, when I fell asleep, I dreamed of tigers, nothing but tigers. Here they were again. Tails swishing, eyes flashing, they led me through the forest, past a monk’s fire pit and up to a clearing with white pillars at its center. I’d seen all this before. These dreams that were meant for the child I carried had nothing to do with my husband.

As the sun rose and my dream began to fade, the tigers flicked their ears and growled one last time. I shivered and opened my eyes. Enough with the tiger dreams!

Shaking the dampness from my hair, I dangled my feet over the side of the bed. Surely, I told myself, Yu-ming was still alive. All I had to do was to wait for him. I fluffed the quilt, freshening equally the sweaty and the unused sides of the bed. I’d assumed when Yu-ming went to work for Siemens that the powerful German company would protect him from China’s sorrows. Now I wasn’t so sure. After all, why would bandits care whether the throat they slit belonged to a Siemens engineer? And the bow-legged invaders? I stuffed my fingers in my hair and yanked at it as I padded across the cool tile. It was ludicrous to think the Japanese would ask the affiliation of a Chinese before shooting him between the eyes.

Blinking the thought away, I opened the French doors, and stepped onto the balcony. Below me a rice straw broom whispered on the paving stones. A rooster crowed. And in the distance, one rumbling boom after another. I leaned out over the railing and looked for lightning. But the booming sounded more like bombs than thunder.

No, I thought, it can’t be bombs. The Japanese are still in the north, and these sounds are coming from the south.

“Po-ping,” I called to the amah. “Come out here.”

She shuffled onto the balcony, my daughter’s head resting on her shoulder.

“What do you hear?”

She squinted into the rising sun. “Thunder,” she said.

“No, listen once more.”

“I hear thunder, Young Mistress,” she said again, impatiently bouncing Ah Mei on her hip. “May I go now?”

Before long the distant booms were drowned out by the sounds of shouting and laughter, chickens and birds. A crow swooped down and scattered a flock of chickadees. A vendor selling sweetened soymilk and crispy fried ghosts called at the gate. And once again, it seemed that everything was back to normal on the charmed little island of my birth.

Everything, except that my husband was missing and the Japanese invaders had within the past three months captured Shanghai to the north of us and the capital at Nanking.

Now, I wondered, were they also bombarding cities to the south?

I dressed and went downstairs, intending to ask one of the maids for a poached egg. As I turned a corner, Su-lee nearly ran me down. Only her legs showed as she hobbled toward me carrying a potted Japanese bamboo.

“Oh, Young Mistress,” she said through the foliage. “Look at these flowers. They bloomed during the night.” The small white flowers bursting from a center point in each cluster looked like miniature fireworks. “I want to put them outside,” she said. “Very bad luck. When the bamboo flowers, someone is sure to die.”

I held the door for her, and she staggered, half-running, through the laundry area and across the yard to the far side of the fishpond. As far from our house as possible, I thought as I followed her outside.

My Review

If reading the book blurb and the Introduction and Chapter 1 above hasn’t convinced you to pick up this book and start reading, let me say I was totally sold on this book from the beginning lines and it just kept getting better.

An Lee is a determined woman who loves her country, her family, and her home. Her husband unexpectedly enlists in the army and is gone for most of the story. This is wartime, World War II to be exact, but this book isn’t about battles and the nitty-gritty details of fighting.  An Lee’s story is one of the hardship, fears, and personal loss the people of China felt as the Japanese invaded their country.  It is a story of personal triumph and the courage of An Lee and the other the women left behind while the men are off fighting the war.

There are many characters to keep track of, but most are essential. Without them, An Lee’s chronicle would be incomplete. For some readers, the most difficult aspect of the book is keeping track of characters with Chinese names. This is a character driven novel and Nicki Chen’s writing flows effortlessly, and her knowledge of the people of China comes though as she beautifully develops the characters in TIGER TALE SOUP: A NOVEL OF CHINA AT WAR.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Any lover of great historical fiction will enjoy TIGER TALE SOUP: A NOVEL OF CHINA AT WAR, however, this is not a book to rush through.  I give this book five stars out of five.

Format: paperback and e-book

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Publication date: May 8, 2014

Page count: 281 pages

Genre: historical fiction/women’s fiction

To Purchase TIGER TALE SOUP: A NOVEL OF CHINA AT WAR

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About the AuthorNicki Chen

When I started writing seriously, I was living overseas with my husband and three daughters. I’d been trained as a teacher, but the Manila International School didn’t hire expat teachers. So, after several years of children’s birthday parties, volunteer work, and Chinese painting classes, I decided I needed a new occupation.

By the time I was accepted into the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, we’d moved to a small island nation in the South Pacific called Vanuatu. It made for a very long commute to classes in Montpelier, VT.

My first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is loosely based on the stories my late husband, Eugene, told me about his childhood in China during the Japanese invasion of WWII. He was a great storyteller. Unfortunately, he died before I started writing the novel. So I was on my own.

My daughters and grandchildren keep me busy driving across the mountains or flying across the country to visit them.

I’m currently working on a second novel which tells of a woman who in her eagerness to follow the advice of a fertility doctor, convinces her husband to move to the South Pacific.

Website: nickichenwrites.com

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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley

By Susan Örnbratt

The Particular Appeal of Gillian PugsleyBlurb

From the shores of The Great Lakes to the slums of Bombay and a tiny island in between, this love story takes the reader on an intimate journey to unravel a family secret that’s lain hidden for generations.

To satisfy her wandering feet, eighteen-year old Gillian McAllister is sent from Ireland to Canada in the summer of 1932.  She arrives with her Irish ways intact, determined not to let the wiles of crop duster Christian Hunter woo her into submission.  Yet as the summer unfolds and the sweet taste of love grows, Gillian’s appeal lures more than she anticipates.

Fourteen years, a Great Depression, and a World War later, Christian sets out to discover why Gillian was ripped from his life.  What he discovers on the Isle of Man will change them both forever.  Not even a thatched cottage by the sea, a spritely Gillian, or memories sprinkled on a page can mask the secret that has been buried for too long.  But it isn’t until a set of poems is given to Gillian’s granddaughter that the real mystery––Gillian’s true secret––is freed.

So who is Pugsley?

Review

Plot:  I read some other reviews and the blurb for The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley, and decided this was a “must read.” When the author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in reviewing her book, I didn’t hesitate.  I loved the story.  It is definitely my kind of book, containing a mix of genres – historical fiction and romance. What could be better?   The book did not disappoint. There is some mystery to the story, but it is eventually brought to light.  The story was, at times, exciting with lots of surprises, and at other times, melancholy, but not overly so.  The way the author kept going back and forth from present time (2003) to the early days of the story (1931-32 and 1946) kept my interest in overdrive. The transitions were smooth and easy to follow.

Characters:  What made this book so enjoyable for me is that it is character driven.  Gillian McAllister Pugsley, is seen as strong and independent with a lot of love to give, but will she find Mr. Right, and if she does, will she let him back into her life?  Christian Hunter is everything a young girl could hope to find – handsome, strong, interesting, romantic, daring.  As the story progressed, the characters grew with it, and this increased their believability.

Writing:  I loved the way the book was set up.  A poem written by the author’s grandmother preceded each chapter.  The story was easy to follow even though it kept changing back and forth between times, and sometimes from other characters’ point of view.

Author BioSusan Örnbratt

Susan Örnbratt was born in London, Canada and grew up on the dance floor until her brother’s high school rowing crew needed a coxswain. Quickly, she traded in her ballet shoes for a megaphone as rowing filled all of Susan’s time outside of school while competing in regattas across Canada and the US. When she was 16, Susan became a member of the Junior National Rowing Team and went on to compete in the Junior and Senior World Championships and the XIII Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Western Ontario in French and the University of Manitoba in elementary education, as well as attending L’Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II in France while she worked as a fille au pair, Susan has gone on to teach and live in six countries.

Although a maple leaf will forever be stitched on her heart, she has called Sweden her home for the past sixteen years with a recent three-year stint in North Carolina, USA for her husband’s work. It was there, where Susan wrote her second and third novels while achieving her long time goal of signing with a publisher for The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley.

Susan lives in Gothenburg with her husband and two children and an apple tree nibbled on by the local moose population.  If she isn’t shooing away the beasts, you can find her in her garden with some pruning shears, a good book and always a cup of tea. If Susan were dried out, she could be brewed.

Author:  Susan Örnbratt

Title:  The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley

No illustrator

Format:  Paperback and e-Book

Publisher:  Light Messages Publishing

Publication Date:  April 23, 2015

Number of Pages:  329

Genre:  Historical women’s fiction

 

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The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Michelle Clements James ©