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review 2017-04-22 18:53
Review: With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1) by Sarah Sundin
With Every Letter - Sarah Sundin

This book.

 

*SIGH*

 

*great book noise*

 

Where has this author been all my adult reading life?

 

I ended up creating a draft copy of my end of the year best of list for fiction. It has one book on that list. This book.

 

So I picked this book up from Amazon's bargain/close out section and then it gathered dust on my book shelves for years. I am now kicking myself for not reading this (and the other two books in the trilogy, but I don't have a copy of those yet) sooner.

 

Lt Philomela Blake (Mellie) is an Army nurse working on the experimental Air Evacuation section of the Army-Air Corps. She wants adventure, she wants travel, and she wants to move up in her career. Mellie is a damn fine nurse, and a fine person - but she is lonely because she never could make friends, especially female friends due to her childhood. Mellie is half-Filipino and half-white; she was too Asian for American school kids to like and too American for Asian kids to like. She has been instructed to learn to make friends and get along with the other women in her squadron or she will be removed from the Air Evacuation team and sent back to hospital work. She decides that part of this new "make friends and influence people" plan is to write anonymous letters to a male pen pal in her supervisor's husband's platoon.

 

Lt Tom MacGilliver is the son of an executed killer who just wants to be accepted for himself and be the best engineer the Army needs. He is working with the Airfield Battalion, hopping from location to location to lay down airfields for the Allies in North Africa. He too is lonely, so he answers Mellie's letter, staying anonymous. She goes by "Annie" and he goes by "Ernest".

 

Tom and Mellie form a deep bond through letters, even when Mellie's unit deploys to North Africa. They do meet, neither of them knowing that the other is the pen pal. At the end of the first meeting, Tom gives away a little of his identity and Mellie figures out Tom is her pen pal. She keeps this knowledge to herself, hoping to keep letter writing going. Both are falling in love with each other via letters, but Tom is also starting to fall for Mellie when she comes to his airfields to pick up wounded soldiers. He is very conflicted about his feelings for the "two" women throughout the second half of the book, but in the end he decides on "Annie" over Mellie, because "Annie" knows him deep down while Mellie he is physically attracted to. When he finally (FINALLY!!) figures out that they are actually the same woman, he mows down anyone in his way of him getting his woman.

 

This romance tackles racism, ethnic tensions, sexism, and how to deal with long hair when in the combat theater and you are rationed water supplies. Honestly, the deft hand when dealing with these issues plus the emotional baggage Mellie and Tom bring to their relationship is amazing. The story is rounded out with a variety of characters, some good - some bad - some ugly. But all the characters felt real. And the setting was aptly described; the reader is taken on a tour of North Africa including Casablanca, Oran, Tunis, Algiers, Youks-les-Bains, Constantine, Tabarka, and a few places in Sicily. This is an inspie romance, non-denominational Christianity. However, the religious aspects are really well-woven into the story, with no lecturing or long monologues or selfish praying. 

 

Tom adopts a stray dog early in the book. The dog is still alive at the end of the book and still working and living with Tom's unit.

 

I am definitely making it a point to read the other two books in the series and read the author's backlist (she tends to write in trilogies, all WWII). HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!

 

 

 

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text 2017-04-12 07:09
"Smashwords Questionnaire / Interview"

I asked a friend to come up with some questions for my 'Smashwords Interview' and these are what he came up with. I've written my answers to each of them. https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/reneepaule

 

You have written five books - one for children - and have a sixth in the pipeline on the human condition. What drives you to write?

 

What makes a flower grow, a heart beat or the sun shine? I don’t know the answers to these questions or to what drives me to write. I only know that I’m driven and that the ‘drive’ grows stronger with each book.

 

Many people who read your books are looking for answers yet your books provide none; isn’t this rather a contradiction to being a self-help book?

 

No it isn’t. If I provide answers to questions people have then some of them will listen to me and I may be wrong - it has never been my intention to become a ‘guru’. Self-help means just that; we need to help ourselves and not rely on others to find solutions for us - which leaves us none the wiser; our strength can only be found within. We must look for our own answers and I can only show you how I’m looking for mine. Having said that, I actually have no answers - just fewer and fewer questions and this has made my heart less heavy to lug around.

 

What age group are your books aimed at, if any?

 

When I wrote ‘On The Other Hand’ I thought my audience would be in my own age group (over 50s). I was surprised to discover that younger people like them very much too, so my answer is from around 15 or so upwards.

 

Why did you start to illustrate your books after ‘On the other hand’ and how did the idea of ‘Dilly’ come about?

 

I never thought about illustrating ‘On the Other Hand’. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know I had the ability to draw so it never occurred to me - I wasn’t artistic in my youth. When I was writing ‘Just Around the Bend’ an idea popped into my head of a ‘thought bubble thinking’ and I decided to draw it - it was just a bit of fun. From then on Dilly - a thought form that thinks - became a character in his own right and he was good at demonstrating points that I made in the text. I use ‘he’ when I talk about Dilly but I really don’t think of him as either masculine or feminine - it’s just for the sake of convenience.

 

You do your own illustrations; how do you decide what aspect to illustrate? Your earlier books have fewer illustrations than ‘Stepping out of time’, which has 27; one short of the previous two books put together. Why is this?

 

Sometimes the Dilly illustrations pop into my head before I’ve even written the point I want him to demonstrate, and sometimes the ‘point’ comes first; I have no hard or fast rules about this and let the illustrations develop as and when they want to. For this reason I can’t really answer the second part of this question. I can tell you however, that the images for ‘Stepping Out of Time’ came to me so quickly that I began to wonder whether my next book would be in comic strip format - as it turned out it was to be a children’s picture book.

 

Why did you write a children’s book and do you have plans to write more of them? Again, an idea just came to me and I shared it with a friend and we decided to write and illustrate this book together. Yes, I have plans - and ideas - for more. Our children need to learn to think independently (outside the proverbial box) as much as we do. They learn from us and will become the future leaders of our world, so it’s important that we teach them not to be afraid of it.

 

The latest book you are working on; is this in the same tone as your previous books; will it have more or less illustrations?

 

I don’t believe that my tone changes, so my answer to the first part of this question is ‘Yes’. To date, I’ve not yet made any illustrations for it or designed the cover, so I can’t answer the second part of this question yet.

 

Is there much more that you can write about on the human experience before you run out of ideas?

 

I’m far from short of ideas. If anything, there’s a problem writing them down fast enough before I forget. Because the genres of my books are ‘self-reflection’ and ‘observation’ it follows that my ideas will only run out when I do! But, who is this ‘I’?

 

If you had to sum up your books in a ‘Hollywood pitch’ for example, ‘Sci-fi Meets Supernatural’, how would you describe it?

 

‘Beds of Nails and Other Comfortable Places’.

 

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

 

I can’t answer that question - I may not be around.

 

Your books have no mantras to repeat, no exercises or meditations to perform and no means of tracking progress made; in fact, on the face of it there is nothing for the reader to do. How do your books work, how do they help people who read them to help themselves?

 

Oh but they do have a mantra to repeat - ‘Who am I?’ Ask it and keep asking it. There are three ‘do’s in this question and this ‘doing’ has got us into enough trouble already. There really is nothing to ‘do', as such. We make life so complicated when it should be simple. My books aim to help people to think differently and to let go of all that holds them back from being the best person they can be - from becoming a responsible and mindful person in society. I’m told that my books are both a mirror and a lens, and I believe that to be true. If my books teach anything at all then they teach us the truth about ourselves - steering us inwards - and this is all too often a difficult place to visit.

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review 2017-04-12 02:03
The Amazing Adventures of Toby the Trilby by Angela Castillo

Toby was formed in a laboratory with a mixture of cat and human DNA--hence his delineation as a Trilby--by six scientists who have spent the past 40 years in an underground cavern to escape the presumed destruction of the world. As Toby turns twelve, he embarks on an odyssey to find out if he has a soul, venturing out into the world above for the first time. His journey introduces him to various characters, and he learns about himself along the way. This short but powerful story blends several genres--Christian fiction, science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction--while presenting a relevant contemporary message infused with hope, making it appropriate for younger readers as well as adults.

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review 2017-04-04 19:58
Review: A Suitor for Jenny (Rocky Creek #2) by Margaret Brownley
A Suitor for Jenny - Margaret Brownley

I have not read book one in the series, but I didn't need to as each book is self-contained.

 

This was a pretty good inspirational (Christian non-denominational) historical romance. The religious aspect of the story was very much woven into the characters' lives. There was not any preaching or long lectures.

 

Jenny is responsible for her two sisters after the death of their parents years ago and now the sisters are old enough to marry. Jenny sets out to Rocky Creek, Texas to find suitable husbands for her sisters; she only heard of this town because of a newspaper article on towns with eligible bachelors. So Jenny, Mary Lou, and Brenda show up in this less than built up town to find suitable men. Joke's on them to a certain degree; they do end up married to suitable men, but not in the way Jenny had planned.

 

Jenny has a big secret that makes her feel unworthy to marry, so she wants to set up her sisters' futures so that if anything happens to Jenny, ML and Brenda are taken care of. There was no doubt that Jenny loves her sisters; there was no doubt that ML and Brenda loves Jenny. There was a strong bond among them which added depth to the characters' and the storyline.

 

Out of the three sisters' romances, my favorite was Kip and Brenda. Brenda grows a lot in this book, from a shy, people-pleaser who uses food to fill a void in her psyche. Kip's love and acceptance of her as she is helps her fight her over-eating. ML and Jeff's story is a little less deep; however, Jeff is definitely hero-material....ML is just not much of character of her own, but I love how she gets Jenny to see that their parents weren't perfect and she can still love them knowing their flaws. Then there is Jenny and Marshal/Sheriff Rhett - man, I am such a sucker for romances with sheriff heroes. Rhett has a deep pain of his own; his acceptance of Jenny's secret and his letting go of his pain made this romance a stronger one than usually found in this subgenre.

 

Since the book takes place just 11 years after the war, I really liked the way the author made a few side characters and Rhett Civil War veterans, with lingering issues about being in that war. As per usual, there is a town drunk that is saved only after having his neglected kids taken from him (temporarily), a kind pastor and his wife (hero and heroine of the first book), and a grumpy old guy who doesn't like change.

 

Overall, a good book to read on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Better than a lot of books within the inspirational romance subgenre.

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text 2017-04-01 15:29
Children's Book - 'The Frightened Little Flower Bud'

To self-publish ... or not to self-publish - decisions ... decisions.

 

I'm almost finished with this book. Co-written and illustrated with G R Hewitt, which has been fun. It's a lovely little 39 pager in full colour. Its messages are simple; don't believe everything you hear and don't allow fear to control your life. With these messages in mind the illustrations show the life cycle of a Goat's-beard plant (Tragopogon - for the botanically minded) so there are some lovely nature lessons in it too. Target audience - age 4-99.

 

 

 

All the best

 

Renée

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