Book Release: Hannah and Ariela by Johnnie Bernhard

As it appears in The New York Journal of Books

Hannah and Ariela

Image of Hannah and Ariela

Johnnie Bernhard

Publisher/Imprint: Texas Christian University Press

Pages: 176

Buy on Amazon

Reviewed by: 

Claire Fullerton

“In this tensely wired, swiftly paced, starkly realistic story of human trafficking set beautifully among nuanced clashing cultures, author Johnnie Bernhard defines each character’s motivation to portray the collision of opposing sides while casting a wide lens on a human atrocity.”

The human heart is fearless in author Johnnie Bernhard’s Hannah and Ariela. It’s a vividly drawn, timely story shedding light on an unspeakable crime against humanity.  

Hannah Durand takes the coat her husband left by the door, wraps his scarf around her, and pushes against the winter’s howling blue norther to open the front door. Casting her teary eyes upon the 640-acre Texas working ranch that she and her husband ran for 48 years, the newly widowed, 73-year-old Hannah speaks aloud: “August Durand. I know you’re here. I can feel you in the wind and in the breaking of cedar branches covered in ice. Hold me just one more time and tell me what you think I should do with the rest of my life, my life without you.”

An unconventional, self-sufficient woman born to Anglo prosperity and the great Texas outdoors, Hannah’s life is centered on the Durand Ranch, in the town of Rocksprings, between central and West Texas, “where the land was just as hard and mean as the predators lurking in the shadows waiting for the next easy kill.” It is modern day, and facing an uncertain future, Hannah fears she might not have the stamina to stay on the land alone. Hannah thinks, “I’ve loved this land . . . I feel like I’d lose a part of myself if I sold it.”

Ariela Morales is born to Zaragoza, Mexico, where “life is hard because it was too close to the Texas border.” In a town with little opportunities, the dutiful Ariela helps her family, babysits her siblings for her mother, and squeezes in time to spend with her friend Katia. In telling of that friendship, Ariela says, “Some people in Zaragoza had a harder life than me and my family. My best friend, Katia was one of them.” Together, the teenage friends go to mass “to get our mamas off our backs,” paint their nails, read magazines, and mostly dream “about getting out of Zaragoza.” When Katia flirts with danger by consorting with two cartel members, it leads to perilous, unforeseen consequences drastically changing the trajectory of both girls’ lives.

A dog barking on a lonesome stretch of highway connects the fates of Hannah and Ariela, and wheels are set in motion affecting a cast of characters on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Bernhard portrays the landscape with laser-precision and layers the harrowing story in multiple, first-person points of view covering all angles of what spins into the urgency of safeguarding the traumatized Ariela from further ramifications having to do with the cartel’s sinister, illegal plans.

When Rocksprings’ sheriff discovers Hannah is harboring Ariela, he jumps to conclusions and wants to get border patrol involved, without knowing Ariela has just survived a terrible backstory. Taking Hannah aside, he says, “Now Hannah, I’m going to remind you of this very specific law. When someone enters the US without following immigration laws, it’s a crime.”

Joseph Gonzales is the bilingual, longtime trusted employee of the Durand Ranch, whose involvement Hannah solicits to serve as Ariela’s interpreter. When Hannah weighs the law of the land against doing the decent thing, Joseph joins Hannah in an attempt to get around punitive issues of immigration, while the cartel and law enforcement from either side of the border try to intuit their covert maneuvers, in a do-or-die dynamic begging the issue of right versus wrong.

In this tensely wired, swiftly paced, starkly realistic story of human trafficking set beautifully among nuanced clashing cultures, author Johnnie Bernhard defines each character’s motivation to portray the collision of opposing sides while casting a wide lens on a human atrocity. Hannah and Ariela is the story of one woman’s bravery in rescuing another, only to rise phoenix-like into a newly defined, far-reaching life purpose.

About Johnnie Bernhard

A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard’s passion is reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in anthologies and in national and international publications, including Southern Literary Review, Houston Style Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America.

Johnnie Bernhard is a multiple, award-winning author and sought-after speaker.

Hannah and Ariela is Johnnie Bernhard’s 4th novel.

For more about Johnnie Bernhard, please visit the author’s web site at http://www.johnniebernhardauthor.com/

The Teacher of Warsaw

The Teacher of Warsaw by Mario Escobar

Image of The Teacher of Warsaw

Author(s): 

Mario Escobar

Release Date: June 7, 2022

Publisher/Imprint: Harper Muse

Pages: 368

Buy on Amazon

Reviewed by: 

Claire Fullerton

An important, sensitive look at the triumph of the human spirit over evil, The Teacher of Warsaw is based on a true story and epitomizes the very best of poignant historical fiction.”

A nostalgic tone sets the stage of Mario Escobar’s The Teacher of Warsaw. In the prologue, an editor is in receipt of a hidden diary now typed as a manuscript from a woman named Agnieszka Ignaciuk, who survived the WWII, German occupation of Warsaw, Poland. The editor says, “That small, lovely woman with the wise eagle eyes placed into my hands Janusz Korczak’s typed manuscript. She acted like she was passing along a forbidden fruit that would eternally expel me from the semblance of paradise my life had recently become.” Taking the manuscript, the editor reflects upon its author, “I remembered the Teacher. Everyone I know called him the Old Doctor . . . I heard his voice. . . . It was just he and I in the middle of a ruined world.”

It is September 1939, and 60-year-old Janusz Korczak is the director of Dom Sierot, a Warsaw home for 200 orphaned children. He’s a man of deep integrity, a beloved and devoted teacher who views his job as a calling and structures the home with no differentiation based on age or rank, where tutors and students equally cohabitate as a family. When one of the orphans asks why he’d never had his own children, the unmarried Dr. Korczak reveals what he has told few others. “The truth is, my father went insane, and I’ve always been afraid that the same thing will happen to me. I thought that if I had children, they might inherit that disease.” It is this reason that makes Korczak all the more committed to the children.

Dom Sierot’s building, which houses Jewish orphans, has been in a Christian neighborhood for 27 years. Korczak shares, “We were there on purpose so that Jewish and Christian children could live together. Long ago I had learned that the only way to knock down the walls of prejudice and hatred toward difference was coexisting and building friendship that allowed the children to fight and the be reconciled again.”

It is November of 1940, and a shock to Korcsak’s system comes when the Germans relocate Dom Sierot from the working-class neighborhood outside the city to a squalid area in Warsaw’s walled Jewish ghetto, consisting of “400,000 within an area no larger than 1.3 miles.” In preparing for the change, the sensitive Korczak softens the blow to the children, “We’ll probably long to be back here in our wonderful house. But the walls that you see around us are not our real home. The real refuge of each one of us is inside our hearts. As long as we’re together, we will keep being happy and belonging to our big family.” When one little boy cries at the sight of the new living quarters, Korczak hands him the treasure map he’d prepared the night before, and says, “Treasure hunts always occur in exotic, remote places. No one’s ever done anything amazing without leaving home first.”

As winter wears upon the ghetto, living conditions become more desperate in the orphanage’s unheated, dilapidated home, where water is scarce in the midst of a food shortage, leaving Korczak to solicit and rely upon the help of charitable donors. When the Gestapo confiscates a cart of food and supplies belonging to the orphanage, Korczak bravely holds his ground and says to the German officer, “This food is for the children and under no circumstances can I allow you to take it from them.” When told to take his complaint to the Gestapo headquarters, the optimistic Korczak goes to plead his case at the German administration offices, only to be thrown in jail for not being in compliance with wearing the requisite Star of David on his arm, intended to signify those who are Jewish.

Upon being unceremoniously grabbed by a German soldier and transported to jail, Korczak says, “For them, life was a useless sketch through which to imprint their senseless brutality and show the world that they were the bosses. For me, life was a perfect beautifully framed painting full of meaning and hope. For them, life was prosaic and frivolous, ever so light, whereas for me it was so heavy I could hardly take a step without feeling the mud stuck to my feet.”

A year on since the Nazis came to Poland, nothing improves in the ghetto. Korczak writes, “Typhus had run its course around the city in recent months, given the deplorable hygienic conditions and insufficient nutrition of the population. It seemed the Germans preferred to kill us off slowly. Their program was designed to weaken our spirits and erode our morale.” Korczak, in the habit of calling assembly whenever a new problem arises, and always serving as inspirational motivator, poses the question to the orphans, “What does it mean to be happy?” “Life in and of itself is an act of happiness . . . Happiness is not about things. We look for it outside of ourselves, but it’s something that’s in our own minds. The work of our hearts is to give pure love.”

As time wears on and conditions worsen, Korczak delivers a speech intended to inspire the orphanages’ dispirited teachers and caretakers. “We sleep and dream of better days but wake to find ourselves here. Yet here, where we serve, we are doing all we can to make better days for the children. We’re in this world to serve one another, to give our very last breaths for our neighbors.”

With a supporting cast of characters in various official positions who are incrementally ready to help Dr. Korczak escape the ill-fated ghetto, the doctor refuses each offer. “Leave me be,” he says to a sympathetic German captain who knows things are nearing an end. “I will go with my children and will not leave them alone.”    

In hindsight, after the worst has happened, trusted companion and co-worker of Korczak’s, Agnieszka Ignaciuk—the deliverer of  Korczak’s left behind diary chronicling the personal tragedies of war—remembers the good doctor and says, “Janusz Korczak had lit up a country swathed in darkness. All of Poland had to know his story and admire his example. I vowed to make that happen.”

In The Teacher of Warsaw, Escobar’s intimate, first-person delivery is flawlessly researched. Its historic timeline unfurls with heightening drama from the vantage point of one selfless man dedicated to the wellbeing of Polish children in harrowing wartime conditions against all odds and costs. It’s a sobering, memorable story taking the reader through tragic events in occupied Warsaw, from September 1939 to May of 1943. An important, sensitive look at the triumph of the human spirit over evil, The Teacher of Warsaw is based on a true story and epitomizes the very best of poignant historical fiction.    

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.

Oliver: A Novella by Mandy Haynes

Description:

Even though eleven-year old Olivia is raised in a southern Baptist church she likes to cover all her bases when asking for a favor. Unlike her brother Oliver, she struggles with keeping her temper and staying out of trouble. But Oliver is special in more ways than one, and in the summer of ’72 he shows Olivia that there’s magic all around us. It’s up to us to see it.

On author, Mandy Haynes:

Author Mandy Haynes has a wide reputation for being one of the most authentic voices of modern-day America’s Deep South. Set in the complex rural South, her stories are alive with spot-on vernacular, her character’s are self-assured and quirky, and the predicaments they find themselves in are quintessentially Southern experiences. Reading Mandy Haynes work is an education in all that goes into the cultural hotbed of the romantic South. Her work takes you down long country roads where anything can and does happen.

My Endorsement of the delightful novella, Oliver !

“A small-town story of childhood innocence, sibling admiration, blind optimism, and plenty of shenanigans, author Mandy Haynes has penned an incomparable narrator in Sissy, who tells a multifaceted story highlighting the altruistic plans of her remarkable brother, Oliver. The Southern jargon in this charming novella is character defining, the precocious mood insightful. Oliver is about bringing out the goodness in people, even if it takes a bit of magic.”

Claire Fullerton, Author.

Other Praise for Oliver:

“Mandy Haynes takes me on a memory journey to the last great childhood of the South, a time when bicycles were a magic carpet that could take a child wherever she wanted to go. The joy of this novella is how easily I slip between the pages and live the adventures with Oliver and Olivia. Sibling love. Kindness. Good intentions gone awry and good deeds fraught with danger. This story echos with my past, and the past of many now homeless Southerners. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.”

Carolyn Haines, USA Today bestseller, is the author of over 80 books in multiple genres

“Mandy Haynes effortlessly and brilliantly writes children, a feat at which many writers struggle and fail. In Oliver, her uniquely, lyrical voice sings the reader smack dab into this heartwarming story inhabited by Oliver and Olivia, a brother and sister whose special bond is symbiotically balanced upon the other’s abilities and perspectives. I dare you to not fall immediately in love with these characters, and fret over them as I did as they make their journey through this poignant summer from long ago.”

Robert Gwaltney, author of The Cicada Tree

Author Mandy Haynes

Mandy Haynes is also the Editor of Reading Nation Magazine: (https://mandyhaynes.com/reading-nation-magazine/,) which highlights established and up-and-coming authors and their work.

Mandy Haynes writes of her career:

I decided to self-publish mainly because I am too impatient to do all the things you need to do to sell yourself to an agent, and three different indie publishers I’d corresponded with weren’t the right fit. Then it hit me – I could publish them myself. I’d already spent the money on editors. I’d had the book critiqued by one of my heroes, Suzanne Hudson, and I had a group of readers asking, “When can I get your book?” So, I started a publishing company, titled, Three Dogs Write Press and got busy. It’s been a great learning experience.

I have two collections of short stories published now, one novel in the first draft stages, and a second novel in its rough draft stage.  

I do write about some heavy subjects. But to me, those stories are important. I hope that I give the reader a satisfying ending and if they’ve struggled with some of the issues my characters face, I hope I give them closure. At least a feeling of hope and the knowledge that they aren’t alone.

Mandy Haynes Website: https://mandyhaynes.com/my-books/

Oliver is available online and at http://www.threedogswritepress.

Ron Rash Releases In the Valley!

I, along with legions of others, have waited for months for In the Valley to release.  Everything you’d hope for from Ron Rash is within this collection of short stories– his trademark, laser-sharp realism, poetic prose, and fully realized Appalachian vignettes of life wrapped in tight construction. All short stories are hymns to the art of world-building, rich in visceral setting and written with vernacular that sets the mood and tone. Simply put, Ron Rash is a league of his own, and this highly anticipated, critically acclaimed book is on par with all others in his stellar body of work.

If you’ve never read anything by Ron Rash, his collections of short stories are a great place to start, as is his poetry, which is starkly real yet emotional to the point of being visually panoramic. Two of his novels have been made into movies: The World Made Straight, and Serena. Serena seems to be his most widely read book. It’s title character is   one of the more diabolical, female characters ever written! In his new release, Rash continued the story of Serena by including a novella among the short stories.

Here are a few book blurbs for In the Valley. I’ve included more to whet your whistle for a taste of the American writer referred to as the Appalachian Shakespeare.

 

“Mesmerizing…He’s one of the best living American writers.”–Janet Maslin, New York Times Book Review

From bestselling and award-winning writer Ron Rash (“One of the great American authors at work today.”–The New York Times) comes a collection of ten searing stories and the return of the villainess who propelled Serena to national acclaim, in a long-awaited novella.

Ron Rash has long been a revered presence in the landscape of American letters. A virtuosic novelist, poet, and story writer, he evokes the beauty and brutality of the land, the relentless tension between past and present, and the unquenchable human desire to be a little bit better than circumstances would seem to allow (to paraphrase Faulkner).

In these ten stories, Rash spins a haunting allegory of the times we live in–rampant capitalism, the severing of ties to the natural world in the relentless hunt for profit, the destruction of body and soul with pills meant to mute our pain–and yet within this world he illuminates acts of extraordinary decency and heroism. Two of the stories have already been singled out for accolades: “Baptism” was chosen by Roxane Gay for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2018, and “Neighbors” was selected by Jonathan Lethem for The Best American Mystery Stories 2019. And in revisiting Serena Pemberton, Rash updates his bestselling parable of greed run amok as his deliciously vindictive heroine returns to the North Carolina wilderness she left scarred and desecrated to make one final effort to kill the child that threatens all she has accomplished.

I’ve  had the pleasure of crossing paths with Ron Rash in person a few times, over the years. You’ll never meet a more humble guy! It was my complete honor to introduce him to the audience at the Pat Conroy Literary Festival in 2017, in Beaufort, South Carolina, when he was the festival’s key note speaker.

Claire Ron two

More written about this world-renowned writer:

“A gorgeous, brutal writer” (Richard Price) working at the height of his powers, Ron Rash has created another mesmerizing look at the imperfect world around us.

Rash’s poems and stories have appeared in more than 100 magazines and journals. Serena received enthusiastic reviews across and beyond the United States and was a 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist.

In addition to being a bestselling novelist, Rash has achieved international acclaim as a short story author,[3] winning the Frank O’Connor Award in 2010 for Burning Bright. [4] Recent work such as The Outlaws (Oxford American, Summer, 2013) focused on ordinary lives in southern Appalachia. Scholars have praised his ability to find the universal within the particulars of place, citing his writing’s “universal appeal, lyrical grace, and narrative efficiency.” [5] Jim Coby examined Rash’s use of mystery thriller tropes in One Foot in Eden.[6]

Ron Rash holds the John and Dorothy Parris Professorship in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, where he teaches poetry and fiction-writing in the Department of English.

To familiarize you with his body of work before the release of In the Valley, here is a list that excludes his poetry, which I highly recommend!

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

One Foot in Eden (2002) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Saints at the River (2004) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The World Made Straight (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Serena (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Cove (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Above the Waterfall (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Risen (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Short Story Collections

The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina (1994) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Eureka Mill (1998) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Among the Believers (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Casualities (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Raising the Dead (2002) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Chemistry and Other Stories (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Burning Bright (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Waking (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
My Father Like a River (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Nothing Gold Can Stay (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Ron Rash Reader (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Something Rich and Strange (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Poems: New and Selected (2016)

To read Ron Rash is to engage in a memorable experience!

 

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/

 

The Boatman and Other Stories by Billy O’Callaghan

 

It’s daunting to think that no matter how I review this exceptional collection of short stories by Billy O’Callaghan, I will never adequately express my full sentiments, for how to articulate that O’Callaghan is simply the best writer I’ve come across in ages? His short stories are a treatise on the human experience, the impressionable psyche, the vulnerable human heart. He crafts his stories with the fluidity of a wave that builds slowly, crests, then turns in on itself after enveloping sight and sight unseen. To read The Boatman and Other Stories is to read a master at his craft. You’ll be swept away by the rich detail and nuance of commonplace in the hands of this powerful storyteller. I cannot recommend this collection hardily enough. Read it, treasure it, then do as I did and put it in pride of place on your bookshelf.

https://amzn.to/3f1IiaZ

Billy O'Callagahn

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of three short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), and The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), as well as the bestselling novel The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)).
His latest novel, My Coney Island Baby, was published by Jonathan Cape (and Harper in the U.S.) in January 2019 to much acclaim. Read more about it on the Books page.
Billy’s latest short story collection, The Boatman and Other Stories was released in January 2020 and released in the U.S. on April 28.
Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honors, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, The Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.

 

https://amzn.to/3f1IiaZ

https://amzn.to/3f1IiaZ

I read O’Callaghans short story, A Death in the Family, which is included in The Boatman and Other Stories when the prestigious Ploughshares published it as a Kindle solo, here https://amzn.to/2xnqma2

A Death in the Family

I reviewed A Death in the Family by writing:

It is such a gift that Ploughshares avails this short story here on Amazon. I cannot recommend this story enough, for I consider Billy O’Callaghan the most important literary figure to arrive on the scene in ages. O’Callaghan can take any simple premise and infuse it with deep-seated, soul-stirring insight, and A Death in the Family is just such an example. His use of language is so personal that it shows us our own humanity, in this evocative, finely wrought story. Read this story and be lulled by O’Callaghan’s laser-sharp gift of Irish nuance, character, and place. And when you’ve finished, do yourself a favor and read his debut novel, The Dead House.

Here is my favorite quote on O’Callaghan’s writing:

“I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan.”—Robert Olen Butler

You can read about this world-class author, here:

https://billyocallaghan.ie/en/biography/

 

Nashville by Heart

I read this book on Kindle in two days and defy any reader of any genre not to read it as nonstop as time permits! Nashville by Heart is joyous, entertaining, and uplifting. A young woman from a small town, in the prime of life sees her dream come to fruition in the musical mecca of Nashville, Tennessee; what could be better? Perfectly delightful escapism deftly penned in an action-packed narrative with characters so vividly drawn you can feel them in the room. I loved every single line of Nashville by Heart. It soars from the opening paragraph and holds you tight. It will thrill romance readers, those who love contemporary fiction, and everyone who loves a good story with a wonderful ending!

 

#1 Amazon best-selling and award-winning author Tina Ann Forkner “delivers a fairytale” (Publisher’s Weekly) in this sweet romance.

Tina Ann Forkner

A happily ever after romance, Nashville style… Small-town girl Gillian Heart moved to Nashville to get a record deal, not end up on some playboy’s arm. She knows she shouldn’t get too personal with charming music agent Will Adams, who has broken plenty of hearts in this city. But Will is different around her, and neither of them can deny the spark.

As the spark turns to love and Gillian’s career starts to take off, she believes her Nashville dream is finally coming true. Until Will makes a move that brings back memories of the father who abandoned her and puts all she’s built in jeopardy.

Can Gillian learn to trust Will—and herself—and let her country music dream take flight? Or will the comfort of life in her hometown pull her back?

Award-Winning Author Tina Ann Forkner’s women’s fiction includes THE REAL THING, WAKING UP JOY, ROSE HOUSE, and RUBY AMONG US. She lives in Wyoming with her husband and has three adult children.

Tina teaches at workshops, presents at conferences, and is happy to appear on panels. She has spoken or taught at conferences including the Colorado Gold Conference – Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Northern Colorado Writers Conference, Crested Butte Writers Conference, as well as taught or presented at libraries including the Laramie County Library, at elementary and high schools, and for various women’s organizations and groups.

Tina is a proud member of Tall Poppy Writers and works as a freelance editor, writing instructor, and substitute teacher. She enjoys traveling, hiking, and fishing.

Tina’s website is: http://www.tinaannforkner.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

firstplace-somerset-250x300

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

Sisters of the Undertow by Johnnie Bernhard

Sisters of the Undertow is the third book by Johnnie Bernhard I’ve read, and I loved every line of it for the same reason I’ve loved Bernhard’s other books ( A Good Girl, and How We Came to Be): she’s a master of deep motivational subtext.

In Sisters of the Undertow, author Johnnie Bernhard takes the complicated underpinnings of sibling rivalry, gives it breath, and sets it to wings through the power of a seemingly ordinary story. What makes it extraordinary is that narrator Kimberly Ann has emotional baggage against her younger sister and knows it. She is cynical, jaded, and resentful to such an edge that the story is fueled by her bone marrow.

Kathy Renee is oblivious to her elder sister’s resentment. She was born to this world prematurely and shoulders the burden of life-long special needs. And yet she is disarmingly cheery, resilient, and God-fearing, giving Kimberly Ann one more reason to rail against their relationship—on top of her put-upon, self-appointed victimhood, she is simultaneously riddled with guilt.

Narrator Kimberly Ann explains it as this: “We were born sixteen months apart, of the same mother and father, yet our lives would become as different as two planets orbiting around the sun, never to fully understand each other, despite our years of circling.”

It’s one’s attitude that seals the deal of how one’s life will be experienced, and author Johnnie Bernhard depicts this principle by giving us sisters from middle-class, Houston, Texas with differing realities, in a deeply introspective story that builds in three, well-crafted parts. It takes a gifted author with the use of a subtle hand to suggest we create our own reality. We may see parts of ourselves in both sisters. We may deny it, rail against it, or see it as a vehicle to self-examination that just might encourage change.

I read Sisters of the Undertow twice, which should tell you something. There’s so much to glean from the intelligent story, told in one of the more refreshingly real, first-person voices I’ve ever read. I read it twice because—dare I say it—this fathoms-deep tour de force of riveting upmarket fiction has the double blessing of a page-turning story and the repercussion of an undertow that won’t quit.

 

https://www.clairefullerton.com