The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens

Image of The Maidens

Book Review as it appears in the New York Journal of books

Author(s): Alex Michaelides Release Date: June 14, 2021 Publisher/Imprint: Celadon Books Reviewed by: Claire Fullerton

The Maidens is an intricately plotted, mystery-thriller for the discerning reader. It’s an atmospheric story set on Cambridge University’s campus merging cliff-hanging twists with artful suspense.”

Mariana Andros is a 36-year-old, grieving widow. She is 14 months past the accident that killed her husband, Sebastian, on a beach in Greece while on holiday. A practicing group therapist, she continues to live in the yellow house she shared with Sebastian on Primrose Hill in Northwest London. “But in many ways, Mariana was still there, still trapped on the beach in Naxos, and she would be forever.”

Having met as Cambridge University students, Mariana and Sebastian had a marriage of opposites. “In contrast to Mariana’s privileged upbringing, Sebastian was brought up with no money.” They met when they were both 19, and “In many ways, Mariana’s and Sebastian’s lives began when they found each other.” Mariana believed their love would go on forever, but “Looking back was there something sacrilegious in that assumption? A kind of hubris?”

Mariana came to England at age 18 to attend St. Christopher’s college in Cambridge. She grew up in Greece, on the outskirts of Athens with her sister Elisa, who died with her husband in a car crash, leaving the married Sebastian and Mariana as surrogate parents to Zoe, who is now a Cambridge student. Mariana fears she has lost touch with Zoe. “Their relationship had been imbalanced ever since Sebastian’s death, and from now on, Mariana was determined to correct that balance.”

When Mariana receives a phone call from Zoe and learns something is dreadfully wrong, she packs a bag and immediately leaves for Cambridge by train, where she meets a student named Fred, who is pursuing his PHD at Cambridge, and quickly pursues Mariana to the point of being a pest.

Mariana gets off the train and approaches the prime setting of The Maidens. “And now, as she grew closer and closer to St. Christopher’s, she found herself walking with increasing trepidation as the familiar streets made it hard to hold back the memories flooding into her mind—ghosts of Sebastian were waiting on every corner.” Mariana has her reasons for soldiering on. “She’d do it for Zoe. Zoe was all she had left.”

In The Maidens, Alex Michaelides excels in writing character as place: “Mariana had been afraid to see it again—the backdrop to her love story, but thankfully, the college’s beauty came to her rescue.” “As Mariana neared the college, her surroundings grew more and more beautiful with each step: there were spires and turrets above her head, and beech trees lining the streets shedding golden leaves that collected in piles along the pavement.”

An unidentified body is found in Cambridge, and Zoe suspects her good friend, Tara, is the victim. Within minutes of Mariana’s arrival to her Alma Mater, Zoe’s suspicions are confirmed.

Although planning to stay in Cambridge only long enough to console Zoe over the loss of her friend, Mariana becomes involved in the search for the murderer, when a chance encounter reunites her with Julian Ashcroft, her Cambridge classmate from 20 years before, now a celebrated forensic psychologist, who keeps Mariana apprised of the murder investigation’s findings.  

Zoe considers herself a college outcast, and Mariana worries about her now that her best friend Tara is dead. As Zoe’s predicament at Cambridge becomes clear to Mariana, she discovers the thorn in Zoe’s side involves an elite group of girls from privileged backgrounds who occupy a high strata of scholastic standing, and at the core of this special clique, known as The Maidens, is one Edward Fosca, a sinister Greek Classics professor come to Cambridge from America.

By all rumors, dubious activity surrounds The Maidens, and Zoe confesses they’re a secret society to which Tara belonged. Zoe further confesses that Tara had come to her in fear of Edward Fosca on the very night she was murdered. Alarmed and intrigued, Mariana can’t resist taking the murder investigation into her own hands.

Against a thematic background of Greek Tragedy serving as a template to two more Cambridge murders, the one thing the victims have in common is membership in The Maidens. When Edward Fosca invites Mariana to his rooms for an intimate dinner, Mariana is reluctant, but also convinced that Fosca is the murderer. In the interest of further investigation, she accepts his invitation and finds disturbing evidence in his rooms to support her convictions. Not knowing who to trust with her findings, Mariana calls Fred and the two put their minds together in unravelling the mystery.

Tangled threads and uncanny alliances are woven throughout this off-kilter story. Interspersed throughout are confessions from a troubled, unknown narrator, on whom the lens of possibility shifts from one character to the next.

The Maidens is an intricately plotted, mystery-thriller for the discerning reader. It’s an atmospheric story set on Cambridge University’s campus merging cliff-hanging twists with artful suspense.    

Claire Fullerton’s most recent novels are Little Tea and multiple award winner, Mourning Dove. Honors include the Independent Book Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Regional Fiction, the Reader’s Favorite for Southern Fiction Bronze Medal and various other literary awards.

When a Fellow Author Reviews your Novel!

Thank you to Kathleen Rodgers ( The Flying Cutterbucks and others) https://kathleenmrodgers.com/blog/f/claire-fullerton-tackles-southern-genteel-race-in-little-tea

Claire Fullerton tackles southern culture & race in LITTLE TEA

September 4, 2020|Authors, Book Reviews, Novelists, Novels, Readers, Women’s contemporary fiction

2020 Gold Medal Winner in Southern Fiction in the International Reader’s Favorite Book Awards. Southern culture, old friendship, family tragedy, and healing the racial divide.

“Claire Fullerton once again delivers an emotional, lyrical tale and proves she’s a writer to watch.”

–Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials

“Claire Fullerton has an enviably light touch, a lilting style that carries shades of Pat Conroy and tinges of Anne Tyler while managing to be wonderfully of itself. Little Tea is a triumph .”

 — Multiple award- winning Irish author, Billy O’Callaghan.

Hayward's loyal dog, Rufus
Hayward’s loyal dog, Rufus

Description:

One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.

For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed. When the past arrives at the lake house door in the form of her old boyfriend, Celia must revisit the life she’d tried to outrun.

As her idyllic coming of age alongside her best friend, Little Tea, on her family’s ancestral grounds in bucolic Como, Mississippi unfolds, Celia realizes there is no better place to accept her own story than in this circle of friends who have remained beside her throughout the years. Theirs is a friendship that can talk any life sorrow into a comic tragedy, and now that the racial divide in the Deep South has evolved, Celia wonders if friendship can triumph over history.

Publisher: Firefly Southern Fiction
May 1, 2020

ISBN-13 : 978-1645262596

My thoughts on Claire’s new book:

Stunned, and with emotions charging through me, I looked up from reading the final lines of Claire Fullerton’s fourth novel as my heart and mind absorbed everything that happened in this narrative that alternates between the 1980s and present. In an ending I didn’t see coming, I blinked back tears as I pondered over how the author brought the story full circle.

For this reader, the imagery flowed over me like a healing. All the joys and sorrows of the story melded together into one satisfying grand finale.

At the heart of the novel is narrator Celia Wakefield who spent her childhood and youth navigating back and forth between her family’s Southern Colonial house in an affluent Central Gardens neighborhood in Memphis, TN and the family’s sprawling Wakefield Plantation in Como, MS. Until the age of ten, Celia only knew life in the bucolic surroundings of the large working farm where she lived with her father, a gentleman cotton farmer, her beautiful mother, and two older brothers, John, who carried an air of superiority, and Hayward, gifted and a kindhearted golden boy. Celia’s best friend is a black girl nicknamed Little Tea. Little Tea lives with her father and mother, Thelonious and Elvita Winfrey, in a small cottage on the plantation grounds. Thelonious overseas the crops and Elvita keeps things running smoothly at the big house. In some ways, Little Tea and her parents feel like an extension of the Wakefield family. A white family and a black family working in harmony to keep the farm running.

The story opens with a grownup Celia living in Malibu, CA. One phone call finds her on a flight back to Memphis where she eventually meets up with her best friends from Memphis days, Ava and Renny. While there are several storylines going between past and present, I found myself drawn to those scenes from the past, especially when they involved Celia and her immediate family along with Little Tea and her mom and dad. With a deft hand, the author has created complex characters I was totally invested in.

Multiple award-winning author Claire Fullerton
Multiple award-winning author Claire Fullerton

My favorite characters were Hayward, Little Tea, and Celia. And because I’m a dog lover, I fell in love with Hayward’s loyal pup, Rufus. At times I found Celia’s brother, John, unlikeable, not to mention the heavy-handed patriarch and matriarch, Celia’s wealthy grandparents who occasionally dropped by the family farm to check on things and see about their “investment.”

While much of the story revolves around Celia spending a weekend with Ava and Renny at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, AR, these present-day scenes are important as these two friends are key to bringing Celia back to the south to face her past. Two of my favorite lines from the novel occur in these sections. From page fifty-one: “I’d forgotten that after you manage to outrun something, there are those in your life who can call you back at the drop of a hat.” And, “There are some parts of your history your friends won’t let you outrun.”

Pat Conroy’s widow, Cassandra King Conroy, a noted novelist in her own right, says this about the novel: “Claire Fullerton skillfully draws us into a lost world of Southern traditions and norms where past tragedies cast long, dark shadows on present-day lives, and no one ever truly escapes.”

L-R the author's pups: Sorcha, Ceili, and Ronin
L-R the author’s pups: Sorcha, Ceili, and Ronin

The tragedy that unfolds in the novel got me to thinking. Anytime there’s trouble that breaks out at a gathering, there’s always that one instigator, that one person who sets off a chain of events and gets away with it. In this case, it’s a loss so tragic it emotionally cripples several families as they cope or don’t cope with the aftermath. The story also deals with the struggle of going along with family expectations and social norms or what can happen if you buck the system. The author tackles these tough subjects with courage and aplomb. Claire Fullerton is at her best when writing about family dynamics and southern culture.

The story explores interracial friendships and relationships at a time when society in general didn’t welcome such mingling. Even today there are those who want to separate the races. This is a timely story about race, family, friendship, betrayal, loss, and redemption.

An important book not to be missed!

Pour your favorite beverage and settle in with Little Tea. You won’t be disappointed! I hope you love the ending as much as I did.

Little Tea is a 2020 Pulpwood Queens Book Club read.

Author Claire Fullerton at her oceanfront home  with her pups in Malibu, CA.
Author Claire Fullerton at her oceanfront home with her pups in Malibu, CA.

Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of Little Tea, a Somerset Award Finalist and Faulkner Society finalist.  Mourning Dove, Claire’s Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis, is a a 9 time award winner, including the Ippy silver medal for regional fiction and the Literary Classic’s Words on Wings for Book of the Year.  Claire is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a Kindle Book Review  and Readers’ Favorite award winner set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set-in two-time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral.  Little Tea and Mourning Dove are book of the month selections of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, of which there are 800 chapters.  Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency.

If you love Claire’s writing, do yourself a favor and read her third novel, Mourning Dove. It’s garnered at least nine awards to date.

Grace and Peace,

Kathleen

author of The Flying Cutterbucks

https://kathleenmrodgers.com/

 

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Book Review: Evening in the Yellow Wood by Laura Kemp.

I just finished the delightful book, Evening in the Yellow Wood by Laura Kemp  (TouchPoint Press.) It’s an action-packed, fast-paced story about an immediately likable, twenty-something year old woman on a quest to find her missing father, who disappeared without explanation, which leaves narrator, Justine Cook, and her mother jumping to worst-case conclusions. But a chance occurrence changes all that!

Here is the book’s description:

Abandoned by an eccentric father on the eve of her twelfth birthday, Justine Cook has lived with her fair share of unanswered questions. Now, ten years later she leaves her life in southern Michigan and heads north to the mysterious town of Lantern Creek after seeing his picture in a local newspaper. Once there, she discovers her father had been leading a double life and meets the autistic brother she never knew—a young man who is mute but able to read her mind.

When a local girl who looks like Justine is mysteriously murdered, she joins forces with sheriff’s deputy Dylan Locke to capture the killer. But the more they dig for clues to the past, the closer they come to discovering a secret someone will kill to protect. Justine begins to show signs of supernatural power and eventually must stop an immortal enemy that has hunted her family for generations.

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( My 11 month old, GSD named Sorcha is always in the picture!)

 

When I finished Evening in the Yellow Wood, I wrote and posted this book review on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Book Bub. I love to support my fellow authors!

All I knew going into author Laura Kemp’s highly praised Evening in the Yellow Wood is that I loved the title. It’s phonetically pleasing, lyrical, and balanced. Give me a title that sings on a haunting book cover and you have my attention. Hand me a dilemma that yearns on the second page and I’m thoroughly roped in.
In an au currant voice so accessible you think you know the narrator, Evening in the Yellow Wood exemplifies the term “page turner.” It’s an off-kilter, rollicking ride on a hero’s journey; an edge-of-your-seat through-line chock-full of forward momentum in a cauldron of delectable genres that has something for every discerning reader.
Recent college graduate Justine Cook doesn’t know her genetic history. She’s on course of a promising journalism career when one glance at the local newspaper derails her plans. Through the glass window of a hardware store in another town stares her lost father’s photograph. The mystery begins with Justine’s caution to the wind move, and the game begins.
More than a mystery, Evening in the Yellow Wood is commercial fiction walking the high wire of romance strung up by the paranormal. Its personality shimmers, its pacing is breathtaking. It’s the rare writer who makes the unusual plausible, and Laura Kemp does so by anchoring her charming novel in the small-town Midwest. In the name of covert operation, Narrator Justine Cook takes a bartending job and drives “the heap.” She shares an apartment with a delightfully disreputable local and falls in love with a cop– who, it unfolds, is uncannily part and parcel to the whirlwind story, as Justine adheres to the task of finding her father.
Immortality, mind reading, totems, and visions fuel the fire of this spellbinding book. Evening in the Yellow Wood by Laura Kemp is absolutely unforgettable.

Here is Laura Kemp’s bio as it appears online:

 

About the Author

Laura is a teacher who loves to write about her home state of Michigan. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University where she studied under Stuart Dybek, and has had her short fiction and poetry published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Word Riot, Tonopalah Review, SaLit and SLAB: Sound and Literary Art Book. “The Pursuit of Happiness,” – a short story she wrote while at WMU, was chosen as a finalist in the Trial Balloon Fiction Contest. When not writing, Laura enjoys musical theatre, hiking, swimming, reading and performing with her Celtic band- Si Bhaeg Si Mohr. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and children as well as her dog, two hamsters, two gerbils, ten chickens, two horses and eight (and counting) cats. Laura loves to connect with readers on her blog: laurakempbooks.com/blog (Sea Legs on Land), as well as on Facebook, Twitter (@LKempWrites) and Instagram. (lkempwrites)
And here is the wonderful Laura!

 

Laura Kemp’s website is here: https://laurakempbooks.com/

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https:www.clairefullerton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Released: The Flying Cutterbucks by Kathleen Rodgers.

Kathleen Rodgers’ The Flying Cutterbucks is a wonderfully unusual, romp of a realistic ride through the tension of a presidential election. Author Kathleen Rodgers takes a firm stance and keeps it real with well-drawn women characters you won’t soon forget. Memories unfold, the past haunts and ghosts are laid to rest in this intricately woven story set on the outskirts of Pardon, New Mexico to such a nuanced degree that you’ll feel as if you’re there. A celebration of strong, resilient female characters, The Flying Cutterbucks roared onto my Kindle device and kept me riveted.

Beach party

Book Description: Decades ago, Trudy, Georgia, and Aunt Star formed a code of silence to protect each other from an abusive man who terrorized their family. One act of solidarity long ago lives with them still. With the election of a president who brags about groping women without their consent, old wounds and deep secrets come alive again, forcing hard truths to be told and even harder truths to be left to the dead.

On the outskirts of Pardon, New Mexico, Trudy returns to her mother, Jewel, to navigate an old house filled with haunting mementos of her father who went missing in action over North Vietnam. As she helps her mother sift through the memories and finally lay her father to rest, Trudy will do her own soul searching to say goodbye to the dead, and find her way along with the other women in her family, and through the next election.

About the Author: Born and raised in Clovis, New Mexico, Kathleen M. Rodgers is a novelist whose stories and essays have appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. 

Seven Wings to Glory, Rodgers’ third novel, deals with racism and war and won an Honorable Mention for War & Military in the 2017 Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards and was shortlisted for the 2017 Somerset Awards. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, has garnered multiple awards, including the 2015 Gold Medal for literary fiction from Military Writers Society of America. 

Rodgers is also the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times.

She and her husband, Tom, a retired USAF fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, reside in a suburb of North Texas with two rescue dogs. After raising two sons, she  became a grandmother and is at  work on her fifth novel.

https://kathleenmrodgers.com/

 

Southern Family Saga, Mourning Dove

As I count the days to the release of Little Tea, lo and behold, this review of my last novel, Mourning Dove was just sent to me by the Chanticleer Reviews. Thought I’d share it here.

Chanticleer Book Reviews & Media

Camille Crossan appears to be living an idyllic life in Claire Fullerton poignant, evocative novel, MOURNING DOVE. Living in a superbly appointed mansion in “magnolia-lined and manicured” Memphis during the 1960s and 1970s, Camille’s family life shimmers with Southern charm. Beautifully penned #SouthernNovels with all the trimmings. One of our favorites. Highly recommended. #SouthernLiterature #PulpwoodQueens #CIBAs

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Review:

Camille Crossan appears to be living an idyllic life in Claire Fullerton’s poignant, evocative novel, Mourning Dove. Living in a superbly appointed mansion in “magnolia-lined and manicured” Memphis during the 1960s and 1970s, Camille’s family life shimmers with Southern charm. Her mother, Posey, usually outfitted in a Lily Pulitzer shift, Pappagallo shoes, and a signature shade of pink lipstick, is a beauty with the wryest sense of humor and steel determination.
As a young girl, Camille, known as Millie, sees how those in her mother’s social orbit are captivated by her aura, how men are easily seduced by her flirtatious charm. Society is a game played by those who know its rules, and Posey means to win. Every time. She, however, isn’t even the charismatic one in the family – that’s Finley, Millie’s older brother, who brims with intelligence, startling good looks, and messianic magnetism. A peek beneath the shiny surface of gracious Southern living, however, reveals enormous cracks in the foundation of the Crossan family. One of the first things the adult Millie tells us about her brother is that he is dead. She takes the reader back, though, to their childhood and coming of age, a tumultuous journey that both binds and separates the siblings.
During her first decade, Millie’s family was living in Minneapolis with her tender-hearted, intellectual father who succumbed to alcoholism. Loss of money and, worse, the accompanying loss of social status, motivates Posey to uproot her children and move them to her childhood home in Memphis, a palatial mansion filled with antiques and portraits of forebears. It’s a volatile time, inside and outside the house, as centuries-old Southern traditions clash with the youth counterculture.
Millie watches as her mother holds court during daily cocktail hours, a prospective second husband soon on the reel, and Finley, a gifted guitarist, plunges into the local music scene. But what role will she play? It’s difficult for her to see herself entirely separate from her brother for whom she has, “…a love devoid of envy, tied up in shared survival and my inability to see myself as anything more than the larger-than-life Finley’s little sister.” Millie will grapple with her identity and question her destiny, whether she’ll be a bride in the Southern belle mode of her mother or if she’ll be the blossom that falls far from the magnolia tree. Meanwhile, Finley’s charisma both explodes and implodes in shocking and dangerous ways as he becomes revered by a group of people with no connection to the gentrified life. Like Millie, the reader is transfixed and apprehensive about where this less-traveled road will take Finley. Although the reader knows his grim fate from the outset of the book, his storyline is so engrossing that no drama is lost.
Author, Claire Fullerton, is an enchantress with prose. The writing in this novel will cause you to stop, reread sentences, savor them, and note their architecture. Scenes sparkle as she masterfully summons moods and atmosphere. The reader can see Millie’s lovely but haunting home, and smell the rich fragrance of dogwood on a soft spring day. Fullerton has a keen ear for witty, authentic dialogue, and she deftly reveals much about personalities via conversation. It’s difficult to take leave of such a vivid, fully realized world. Fortunately for readers, Fullerton has written several books, opportunities to spend more time in her richly crafted worlds.

 

https://www.clairefullerton.com

 

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Universal link for Little Tea:  https://books2read.com/u/3nvz0R

 

 

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith #Book Review.

Author Michael Farris Smith is one of those rare writers who uses language as setting. He opens his fifth novel, Blackwood, in the year 1975 with “The “foulrunning Cadillac arrived chugging into the town limits of Red Bluff, the car having struggled out of the Delta flatlands and into the Mississippi hill country, the ups and downs of the landscape pushing the roughriding vehicle beyond what was left of its capabilities.” Off the bat, the reader knows the stage is set for bad luck and hard times for the drifters come to town. Farris Smith doesn’t snow us with a glimmer of hope, he hands us the premise as a matter of fact. Then the story deepens. Blackwood is a story of loners and outsiders thrown together seemingly by chance. They’d like to connect but lack the fundamental knowledge of how, as each manages their individual vortex trying not to drown in their common sphere.

Red Bluff, Mississippi is lackluster to the point where the town gives away abandoned, downtown storefronts to anyone willing to maintain one. Colburn, haunted by his past, calls himself an industrial sculptor. He returns to the seat of his loveless childhood in his flatbed, looking for scrap metal and such to fashion into art in one of Main Street’s cast-offs. He is looking for something. He wants to confront the demons of his past, and in his search, reunites with a will-o-the-wisp bar owner named Celia, in an attraction so conflicted, it exhumes his childhood pain.

Myer wears his pantlegs tucked in his boots and walks with a limp. He is Red Bluff’s weary law enforcement who gives too little too late to the town’s drifters, who take to the kudzu tangled woods on the edge of town where something sinister lurks.

Rich in tenor, setting, metaphor, and dark imagery, Blackwood is an intricately woven, gritty story of disconnected lives unwittingly affecting each other in repercussive ways, written is language so bleakly mood-setting, reading its pages becomes a state of mind.

Many a luminous author has called Oxford, Mississippi’s Michael Farris Smith one of the best writers of his generation. And he is. And Blackwood proves it.

 

Blackwood Releases March 3rd at all book outlets

 

https:www.clairefullerton.com

A Girl Like You: Book 1 Henrietta and Inspector Howard Mystery Series by Michelle Cox

It is 1935 Chicago, after the big crash, and desperate times lead to desperate measures. Young, beautiful, and seductively innocent Henrietta Von Harmon fends for her fatherless siblings and withdrawn, bitter mother by taking her good intentions to support her family, only to be led to disreputable places with unforeseen double-dealings. With verve and resourcefulness, Henrietta soon becomes involved in shady doings on the wrong side of town, and when she meets the enigmatic Inspector Clive Howard, wheels are unwittingly set in motion for navigating a Chicago crime syndicate.
A Girl Like You, (Book 1 in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard Mystery Series by Michelle Cox) is one of those rare gems so chock-full of charm and personality; so captivating and delightful in its vivid narration that readers feel intimately tied to the characters and invested in the action-packed story. A Girl Like You has it all: mystery, intrigue, conflict, unpredictability, unique setting, believable motivations from fabulous characters, secrets, hidden agendas, and the lure of budding romance.
Author Michelle Cox begins her wildly popular mystery series in A Girl Like You with such page-turning, off-kilter charm, you won’t be able to resist reading the whole series. The memorable Henrietta and Inspector Howard are likable, fully realized characters from disparate backgrounds who balance each other with perfect pitch in the midst of an edge-of-your-seat joyride.

 

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https://www.clairefullerton.com

 

Life’s Rich Tapestry by Sally Cronin

Life’s Rich Tapestry by Sally Cronin

We come to know a person’s mind through the words they speak; their personality through what they create, and their heart through what they write. Put this all together and you’ve been gifted a glimpse into an artist’s soul. This is how Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words impressed me. Author Sally Cronin’s precious gem of a book is nothing short of fluid insight into all that it means to be human in a round-robin way as to address the entire sphere in bits and pieces that leave a lasting impression. These are musings delivered artfully, the perfect melding of heart, mind, and soul. In sharing her personal views, the author invites us to examine our own impressions of the day-today by shining light on life’s rich nuance. There is something profound in these meditative pages, something joyous and real that takes nothing for granted by sheer virtue of the fact that Sally Cronin has called them by name. In addressing the natural world, celebrating pets, seasons of the year, and random thoughts, Cronin speaks to the reader conversationally in such a manner that told me I’d revisit the pages. Her flash fiction, speculative fiction, and short stories are vignettes to savor—all told, this book is a work of art at its finest. All praise to author Sally Cronin, who has earned a constant and significant place in the blogging world by selflessly serving as the fulcrum of focus for so very many. That she has stepped forth by assembling and publishing this collection of letters has gifted us all with the awe-striking opportunity to see a writer’s career shine at its brightest.

Visit Sally Cronin on Word Press, Smorgasbord!

   

The River by Starlight by Ellen Notbohm

Every well-wrought sentence in The River by Starlight is as beautiful as the Henry David Thoreau inspired title. Author Ellen Notbohm has penned a breathlessly epic, masterful story set in early 1900’s Montana in language so lyrically elevated you’ll want to commit much of it to memory but will have to get back to it later—you’ll be too busy turning the pages.
The River by Starlight is a starkly humanistic story. It’s an historical novel intimately and engagingly written in present tense concerning the sweeping life story of dark-haired and diminutive Annie Rushton, whose young marriage is permanently marred by what might be the time’s inchoate perceptions of post-partum depression. There are repercussions to Annie’s malady that propel her to leave everything behind in her home state of Iowa and hop a train to join her bachelor brother in the wilds of homesteading Montana, where she risks starting a new life. Shouldering her heartbreak, Annie applies her headstrong, fierce independence to helping her brother prosper, so when charismatic businessman Adam Fielding, a colleague of her brother’s, enters her life, theirs is a relationship forged on mutual ambition, but as the years wear on, they become two desperate souls unwittingly tossed by the unpredictable storms of life.
Life’s choices come into play, in The River by Starlight. Though Annie and Adam begin with hope and the best intentions, there is only so much one can weather in hope’s defeat by repetitious wounds that won’t heal. Through the years, communication errors and individual judgement calls are made that usher in divergent aims, and all the while is the roiling concern of Annie’s mercurial sanity.
Resiliency, perseverance, love of one’s children, and where to appropriately place one’s pledge are threads that weave the tapestry of this thoroughly realized story, whose themes, I believe, are timeless and universal.
The River by Starlight is a book for the ages. In my mind, it stands with the classics. The novel’s voice and three-part pacing are seamlessly crafted; its tone and mood are deep and oftentimes heart wrenching, so much so that the reader can’t help but be lured by emotional investment in characters so viscerally drawn they come to life on the pages.
The River by Starlight is for those discerning readers who demand excellence in language, craft, and story. It is a plausible, finely researched, resonant book ultimately about the taming of the spirit, set in tumultuous, untamed times.

 

https:www.clairefullerton.com

Colorado Mandala by Brian Francis Heffron: Review

 

22964699A gorgeous, fully realized, generously crafted story on male friendship and the deep wounds motivating main character, Michael, as told through the perspective of his intimately effected best friend and business partner, Paul.
Michael is a Vietnam war vet, with a festering secret underscoring his high-living, swaggering behavior. He is a man’s man to his core: streetwise and wary, cocksure and battle-scarred with his own code of honor. It is post-war 1970’s Manitou Springs, Colorado, and author Brain Francis Heffron captivates the reader with such panoramic descriptions of the Pike’s Peak area at such a finely-tuned altitude as to cast the environment as sacred, while the reader all but breathes the clear mountain air.
The title of this book is inspired by Sarah, the wispy and vulnerable single mother at the center of a lover’s triangle, who paints batik images on silk and twists her long flaxen hair in a bun. Michael is protective of Sarah from an unfolding hidden agenda. Paul struggles with the duality of his building feelings for Sarah and loyalty to Michael. In the expert hands of writer Heffron, each character plays off the others with such reasonable impetus, Colorado Mandala reads like a treatise in deep-seated psychological motivation.
This book is astoundingly action-packed and character-driven. It takes the reader into dark caves and sets them in the gambling center of a mountain party’s cockfight. It is seamlessly paced and weaves minute visual images with poetically descriptive narratives and uncommon use of language. I understand Mr. Heffron is a poet, and it shows. There isn’t a weak sentence in the engaging Colorado Mandala, and I held my breath at its end, during one of the best literary denouements I’ve ever read. Colorado Mandala is the very definition of a page-turner. It will make you a fan of author Brian Francis Heffron, and is the kind of book you’ll recommend to your friends.