Thursday, August 8, 2019

Ellie and the Harpmaker: A Novel by Hazel Prior

Ellie and the Harpmaker: A Novel.  Hazel Prior. Penguin Publishing Group.  August, 2019; pb, 336 pp.; ISBN #: 9781984803788.

Ellie on a wandering walk in the Exmoor country finds a Harpmaker Barn owned by Dan who creates Celtic harps that produce gorgeous music.  The story is narrated from the points of view of Ellie and Dan.  Dan is a sensitive soul who loves nature, the rocky pebbles that he uniquely places at the bottom of each harp he builds, and culture that is in touch with beauty. 

Ellie is married to Clive, a man who enjoys his work, football and food.  He loves Ellie but has no place in him for the loneliness she feels and her craving for expressing the beauty in the world she perceives.  However, all that is about to change as she meets Dan, receives a harp he has made and begins to take lessons which she loves.  But Ellie’s curiosity leads her into trouble as she perceives something in Dan’s life that he needs to know.  That in turn sets off Ellie’s conflict with Clive, who believes Ellie has been unfaithful to him.  Clive makes no accusations but stays cold and distant.

Meanwhile Dan is making friends with someone very close to him and a new life is beginning.  It is only when Ellie tells him that Clive has thrown her out that their future together becomes a happy, fulfilling reality.  Ellie now has the opportunity to become who she really is, allowing her inner world to blend with her Exmoor reality – a dream come true!

This is a lovely story of two people who must overcome who they are not to venture into a new possibility.  The conflicts are sad but develop as they must.  Some changes are painfully necessary for dreams to come true!  Delightful romantic, contemporary fiction!!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Life and Other Inconveniences: A Novel by Kristan Higgins

Life and Other Inconveniences: A Novel. Kristan Higgins. Penguin Publishing Group.  August 2019. pb, 448 pp.; ISBN: 9780451489425.

Genevieve London has had a successful life but a very unhappy one.  She lost her son Sheppard who suddenly disappeared and wasn’t found even after many years.  Then her husband died.  She raised her granddaughter Emma after the suicide death of Emma’s mother.  Emma became pregnant at 18 years old and gave birth to Riley, the joy of her life, but Genevieve threw Emma out of the house.

Emma hasn’t communicated with Genevieve once in many years but now receives a message to come as her grandmother is dying.  It’s a perfect time to go to Sheerwater, Connecticut as Riley is being harassed by so-called friends in High School. However, Emma thinks she owes her grandmother nothing and doesn’t want to seem like she’s waiting for Genevieve to die so she can inherit her fortune.  She finally agrees to go for Riley’s sake and let her daughter decide what she thinks about this relative she’s never known.

This then is the story of a family who will be reunited, get to know each other as they are in today’s world, and plan for a future.  It’s a lovely story with some very funny moments.  Riley and Genevieve get along and become very close and Genevieve puts up with Riley’s snappy retorts and frankly cold comments about the way Genevieve treats family.   Emma, on the other hand, finds work at a local home, where her sister Hope is a resident, and meets a man who’s trying to be a single parent of a daughter who’s a pro at throwing long, long tantrums.

The story is narrated from the perspective of each character which fills in details about the inner characters as well as some mysterious gaps for the reader.  This is a straight-from-the hip account in which the inner thoughts and feelings of each character stands out to form a complete story.  Genevieve is grateful for the presence of her family as she is gradually declining from brain cancer and has short and long periods of losing awareness of where and who she is, as well as about those around her.   The end is a surprise but a welcome one as relationships fall the way they will, without any false expectations!  Very nice tale skillfully presented!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Mirador: A Novel by James Jennings

Mirador: A Novel. James Jennings. Greenpoint Press.  August 2019. pb, 471 pp.; ISBN: 9780990619444. 

In the early 1990s the United States made an agreement with Canada and Mexico known as NAFTA or North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.  It was supposed to establish trade in which the Mexican common people would benefit as much as business owners and employees.  Nothing, however, changed. The peasants realized the deal was a sham and began to demonstrate and protest against the role of government and big corporations and insisted on the institution of democracy and free rights for all Mexicans including the majority of peasants who were literally being starved to death in poverty wages.  The military stepped up their vigilante behavior and began kidnapping protestors and peasants, who became known as victims or desaparecido or disappeared ones.

Nate and Sarah have been married for a short time.  Nate is a successful IT businessman and Sarah is a nurse.  A visiting pastor has been sermonizing in America and recruits Nate and Sarah to travel to Mirador in the State of Chiapas in Mexico.  Nate doesn’t really want to go but does so because he known Sarah will go without him and will not be swayed from her decision. He believes he must go to protect her.  Early in their journey, they meet soldiers of El Piton who are arresting indigenistas or Zapatistas, those who are rebelling and protesting.  They are peasants who have had enough of being kidnapped and killed.  The officer known as El Piton commits atrocities such as our young couple will experience.  It matters not whether one is Mexican or a foreigner for El Piton’s power is subject to no authority.  In a horrific scene, Nathan watches as El Piton kills his wife with a gunshot to the head after taunting her with questions of whether or not she believes in Jesus Christ.  One cannot truly believe this deed yet riveting pages describe the stages of Nate’s grief, sorrow, rage and confusion.  Finally, after burying his wife, he returns to Mirador, believing his grief has no boundary or end unless he continues to carry out the mission he and his wife initially agreed to complete.  Thus he begins setting up a website for the Zapatistas, widely promulgating the rebellious demand for freedom and democracy of the indigenistas.  He will pay the ultimate price and knows he will but believes that the mission is now larger than individual lives or motives.  It is unknown how many martyrs have been sacrificed to stop this now global mission but the War Against Forgetting is still active today and may be appreciated at or 

This novel is based on reality that must be known, appreciated and spread.  James Jennings is a writer thoroughly familiar with this cause for life and liberty and presents the reality in fiction in hopes of creating world-wide awareness and pressure to compel change and hope for those who have no other voice.  “Lust for life and a horror of losing it” fuel this movement. Highly recommended reading crafted with historical, social, military, economic and human rights details.  A MUST read for those who dare to hope for a better dream for the people of Mirador and elsewhere in Mexico!!!

The Chelsea Girls: A Novel by Fiona Davis

The Chelsea Girls: A Novel.  Fiona Davis. Penguin Publishing Group.  July, 2019; pb, 368 pp.; ISBN #: 9781524744588.

The Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan has a long history of being home for numerous famous writers, playwrights, authors, and artists of varying kinds.  After serving in the USO in Europe during WWII, Hazel Riley and Maxine Mead are staying there while preparations are ongoing for the opening of Hazel’s play Wartime Sonata.  It’s a play about the fierce loyalty and dedication of American soldiers during WWII.  Hazel has discovered she may not be a talented actress Like Maxine but Hazel definitely has a gift for writing and producing plays.  Maxine has become famous as a gorgeous and talented actress but her life is beleaguered by her boyfriend Arthur, someone who floats between being a great lover and abusive destroyer.  It’s Hazel who protects Maxine in her darkest moments and mistakes. 

However, all of this is about to be drastically changed with Senator Joe McCarthy’s program to out all Communist card-holders or supporters.  The FBI are suddenly following Hazel and many of the actors in her world.  Eventually Maxine mistakenly gives Hazel’s name to an FBI agent as just an associate of the Communist party years ago, but it’s enough to do irreparable damage!  Their friendship is tarnished forever.  Will it be possible to save Hazel’s brilliant play and career?

Fiona Davis depicts this time with details that elicit the same fear in the reader that these artists endured as investigations, interviews, and black lists moved forward relentlessly condemning those associated with a Communist association.  The resulting taint left a residual negativity that ruined careers, lives and relationships with no possibility of escape.  This is not one of America’s finest hours and Fiona Davis depicts the atmosphere and facts with stunning accuracy, right up to the tragically stunning end.  Hazel will endure but will never be the same again!

Well-told historical fiction by a highly skilled author that is a must read!