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A Book Review and a Writing Lesson

   1 out of 5 quills reviews, authors, writing

                                 

Second Chance Grill could have been an engaging, charming and entertaining read but….the writing was clunky and author, Christine Nolfi, did a lot of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’.  Where she could have put a character’s challenge into the hands of the characters in her book to solve, she elected to get out a small soap box and preach about the issue (real time).  It was very distracting.  

I will digress from this review and begin a writing lesson. One of the first tenants of writing well is wherever possible, to ‘show don’t tell’.   (Example) The employees of the Second Chance Grill need health insurance.  This writer tells all about the challenges of a small business owner trying to find an affordable plan for employees. She almost crosses the line and leaves fiction for non-fiction.  The author could have easily ‘shown’ the challenge of procuring health insurance by creating a chapter/scene where she meets with some insurance agents. Or she reports back to her employees, Finny and Delia, about her failure to find insurance. But that she isn’t giving up and will continue to pursue it. Maybe Finny reacts with cynicism and disbelief. Maybe Delia has special pre-existing conditions that she’s worried about. 

Same for Blossom’s leukemia. Nolfi writes a couple of pages about leukemia in teens, percentages of poor diagnoses, bone marrow transplants. That’s ‘telling’. It would have been a better story if she’d let her characters show the grim percentages of death, tell of Blossom’s struggle with the side effects of chemotherapy.

And then Nolfi barrels into a fund drive to raise money for the transplant. This is where the writing gets particularly clunky and chopped up, and frankly, unbelievable.  The rhythm of the writing goes off the rails so, sadly, I can’t give it a good review. 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary.
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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

Life Coach, Shaman Monahan’s “Moment” (conclusion)

Jennifer’s first home in Guatemala ; a one room hut.

My plan was to stay in El Remate for three months, visit several Mayan sites, and write my second book. In that time, I was “adopted” by a local family, made a bunch of friends, connected with Guatemalan shamans (and participated in several traditional ceremonies) and began sponsoring the education of a couple of the local girls. El Remate quickly became more “home” than “vacation spot.” I extended my rental by another two months, and, just as I was getting ready to leave, bought a piece of land, drew out plans on graph paper, and gave them to one of my new Guatemalan friends to build my house.

While my house was being built, I traveled to Japan, Cambodia, and Thailand, and then loaded all my belongings on a cargo ship and moved to Guatemala. I had taken a few trips to Guatemala during the construction process to pick out materials and see how the house was coming along, but it was an entirely different experience walking into my completed house for the first time. I felt as if I were truly home since every aspect of the house is a reflection of me. Unlike most houses in this area of Guatemala, my house was a two-story home with lots of windows. Painted off-white, it had a terra cotta red Spanish-style roof and a small, secluded patio in front. A handmade wooden door painted slate blue with black iron decorations

Participating in a Mayan shamanic ceremony for rain in Chuarrancho.

opened up into a small foyer from which you could see the entire first floor – kitchen, dining room, living room and an office that was defined by some half walls to give it structure. Tucked in the back corner off the kitchen was a half bath. The Spanish feel continued in the house, with terra cotta ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathroom and ceramic wood tiles in the other spaces. I had selected a sage-green color for the kitchen cabinets and black concrete for the countertops and island that separated the kitchen from the dining room.

Jennifer at a Mayan archeological site.

The floating staircase with a metal railing that mimicked a tree with branches and leaves that I had drawn out for the builders was a new concept for them, but they had stepped up to the challenge. Each concrete step with a hardwood top was anchored to the wall, giving the impression that each step was lightly floating above the other. The master builder also happened to be a metal worker, and he crafted the railing himself. At the top of the stairs was a meditation space, and then a short walkway to the master bedroom suite – which took up the rest of the second floor. A large sliding door in the bedroom led to a second-floor balcony that ran the entire length of the back of the house.

Visiting a shop in Lake Atitlan.

Set in an undeveloped area of the jungle, the house was remote enough from the village that I had complete privacy but was close enough that I could easily visit friends or go to the lake. It was also remote enough that there wasn’t any electricity available, although running water was. Solar panels on the roof, connected to storage batteries that were housed in my bodega, provided all of the energy I needed to run my house. I loved that my house was powered by the sun, and therefore green and caring for the jungle that I was living in.

My yard was filled with trees, plants and flowers, and hummed with the energy of the jungle – toucans, parrots and hummingbirds were easily spotted, as was the family of howler monkeys that used the trees as part of their “food highway” through the jungle. A whole host of other animals also made the area their home. One day an ocelot even ran through my yard! Relaxing in my hammock on the second floor balcony off my bedroom quickly became a favorite pastime, since I was at tree-level with the birds and monkeys and could not only watch them, but also feel as if I were part of the jungle.

Jennifer with other shamans after Spring Equinox ceremony at Uaxactun.

I quickly got into a routine and filled my days with consulting and shamanic work; writing; planning for and hosting an online radio show; volunteering at the local library and children’s center; and spending time with friends. To this day, my home in Guatemala is my sanctuary and fills me with peace.
If someone had told me that I would quit my job, build a house, and move to Guatemala prior to my accident, I would have laughed at them. But that’s how these life-changing moments work: they throw you for a loop so that you look at everything differently, and they put you on a different trajectory than you could have imagined. In retrospect, my accident was a gift. It allowed me to truly get to know myself and what I am capable of and gave me the opportunity to experience life in a more authentic way than I ever had before. Oh, and do it while wearing six-inch heels!

What’s your moment?

Did you miss Part 1 of this fascinating article? 

About Jennifer B. Monahan
Jennifer is a business strategy consultant, shaman and coach who helps people all over the world live purposeful lives that not only bring them more joy and freedom, but also help them make the impact they want on the world. Her first book, “This Trip Will Change Your Life: A Shaman’s Story of Spirit

Jaguar

Evolution,” chronicles her experiences meeting and training with a Mayan shaman in Mexico and has won six literary awards, including two first-place Body, Mind, Spirit Book Awards and a 2017 National Indie Excellence Award. Her second book, “Where To? How I Shed My Baggage and Learned to Live Free,” describers Jennifer’s time living in a thatched-roof hut in Guatemala and then travelling to Cambodia, Thailand and Japan. It has won seven literary awards, including Winner in the 2019 Beverly Hills Books Awards and Silver Winner in the 2019 Nautilus Book Awards.

She is a regular contributor to Medium.com and Sivana East, has had articles published on Inc.com and MindBodyGreen.com and has a podcast, Living A Courageously Authentic Life, on BlogTalkRadio.com. She is in the process of writing her third book, a handbook for people looking to define, create and live their courageously authentic life. When not traveling, Jennifer splits her time between Guatemala and the United States. You can find Jennifer at SpiritEvolution.co.

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary.
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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

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Emma and the Lady Aardvarks ~ Now Available!

The long awaited, (next in the series) Fairie tale in the Fabled Forest series is now available.
Beautiful, original, full-color illustrations grace the pages. A must to add to every child’s personal library. 

Book #6 in the series, The Fabled Forest, is a story about climate change and endangered creatures. Two Aardvarks, Agnes and Annie, arrive in the Fabled Forest by accident. Their travel agent, Time Portals to Your Next Adventure, malfunctions and instead of Australia, they are plopped down in Cheets’ clearing in the forest. Here they meet Donald, the fairie, Cheets, the elf, Emma, the farm-girl and all the creatures that inhabit the fabled, mystical forest.

Sisters, Agnes and Annie are so ugly they’re cute. With their jaunty hats atop their weird heads, with their rabbit-like ears and short elephant type snouts, Emma and Donald are entranced. They set about helping the two aardvarks to complete their trip to Australia while helping other endangered species.

The Aardvarks and the Painted Wild Dogs are endangered species and it is a dangerous lifestyle. In this fable children learn more about climate change wiping out habitat and about other endangered species and how we humans can protect them.

Available on Amazon.com or your favorite book store. 
Also available in a children’s play 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary.
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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

Book Review~~Picnic in Someday Valley

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing                                        
4 out of 5 quills   

Author, Jodi Thomas, never lets her readers down. This sequel to the Honey Creek series is a satisfying read, re-visiting Someday Valley and the strong characters that Jodi Thomas has drawn. Pecos and Brand being my favorites in this new one.  

The readers get to return to Honey Creek and Someday Valley, two small towns in Texas. While set in current times, there’s still a flavor of the old west and small town closeness and politics that you cannot escape from to this day.  The story is rich in twists and turns with vibrant, quirky characters.

I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Did you miss the wonderful interview we did with this author? 

Coming Soon! (Oct. 2021, Book 3 Honey Creek series)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Book Review ~~ Band of Sisters

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                                5 out of 5 quills                         BOOK REVIEW

This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villages during World War I.  What is extraordinary is, if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life. Based on old documents and letters, the new Smith College Relief Unit, composed of women from all walks of life, signed up for six months to try and assist villagers who were devastated by the war raging across Europe. They were later to be affectionately known as ‘the Smithies’. 

Their careers in social work, medicine, teaching couldn’t prepare them for the conditions they found when they disembarked from a train from Paris onto the muddy track leading to the village, Gricourt. The village existed hand in glove with an always changing ‘front line’ of battle between the Allied Forces and the German juggernaut.

Each woman’s life is showcased with beautiful writing from this author, Lauren Willig.  Sometimes novels that are based heavily on actual historical events slip into being dry and dusty reading.  It never happened in this novel, I am happy to report.
A real page turner to the end. A beautiful book of prose and an exciting, action-filled, story.  

Released March 21st
Did you miss my INTERVIEW with Lauren Willig?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica  March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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One Candle Can Light Another

Gary Swindell
1961-2020

One day a good friend called me; Gary was  a very accomplished pianist, guitarist and musical director. He was reading my book of poetry, Butterflies and Bullets. He went on to say that while reading my work he kept hearing music in his head. And could I give him permission to use my poetry for lyrics. What a compliment! He said he was especially taken with, “Hair-cut…Two Bits”, about a down-and-out cellist, gambler and barber in New Orleans.

Gary  had previously written a song based on my play, Scent of Magnolia (Billie Holiday).  The world lost a beautiful musician and friend this past December. 

We artists, regardless of what we do or what we write, should lift each other up whenever or wherever we can.  When I review a book I make certain that my review (if bad) lists helpful and constructive criticism and is never cruel. 

It is my hope that my posts relating to writing helps a new writer begin their journey in writing….and helps experienced writers learn something new. My hope is to light someone else’s candle of creativity.

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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New Fiction for Women: Mini Book Reviews

         I am always on the prowl for new authors (to me) to read, review and interview. If I’m lucky I find them to my taste for my pleasure reading too. An added bonus! These mini-reviews are books I wanted to share with my readers and unsolicited by the authors.

Christmas at the Beach Hotel by Jenny Colgan          reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 4 out of 5 quills

A wacky little story set in a wacky little village on a remote rock (really) jutting out of the north Atlantic sea. The sentence structure, the run-on sentences and the odd flavor and cadence of the language made this writer/reader wonder if English was the author’s first language.  Rather than distract from the story, it turned out (at least for me) to add charm and credence to the unlikely characters living, willingly, on the harsh and unwelcoming island that is Mure.
It took a couple chapters in to fully believe in said characters and stop wondering why anyone in their right minds would live there. I recommend this book and look forward to the next one I shall be opening soon.
 

Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran   reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing   
                                                                   4 out of 5 quills

I’ve been reading Jan Moran for awhile now. Very enjoyable contemporary stories set along the coast of southern California.

Seabreeze Inn is a series set in what was an old private home, now, out of necessity, turned into a charming Inn by a reluctant widow. Her husband, recently deceased, had neglected to tell her about his acquisition. She is quite surprised to find herself the sudden owner of an old house, with back taxes past due, broke on top of everything else. Its beautiful location on the beach and steps from the sand inspires her to convert the house into an inn. Throughout the series the old house gives up its secrets and becomes another vibrant character in the story line. 

The characters are well drawn and very plausible. The reader will be  happy to know that there are more challenges, conflict, surprises and love interests in the following books. 

    reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing        5 out of 5 quills 
                                    Married To The Rogue  by Mary Lancaster

This Regency romance is a perfect mix of good writing.  A fun, interesting story, several love stories woven in, and a hint of sex. Written in the style of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, the raciest romance scenes go no further than the kissing of fingers, the inside of a lady’s wrist, one or two passionate kisses….and the rest is left to the imagination of the reader.  This is my favorite approach to sex scenes in this genre. When an author is blatant, for no apparent reason, I find it is frequently to compensate for weak writing. A Literary Commentary

Married To The Rogue is strongly written. Deborah is a self assured young debutante who finds herself painted into a corner of scandal where there appears to be no escape.  Christopher is a young peer who has political ideas far ahead of his time and has an urgent need for a wife. 
Having just discovered Mary Lancaster, I look forward to reading more of her books. (Hurry up, Amazon!) 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Daydream Cabin

4  out  of  5 quills                             Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Light, funny with a twisty, ‘feel good’ ending. Piney Wood Academy sounds like a well-heeled, private school for boys or girls whose parents can afford it. Wrong. It is a well-heeled, private boot camp for juvenile delinquents whose parents can afford it. And it’s a last stop  before serving serious time in ‘juvie’. The girls who are sent there are incorrigible and are not going to go quietly. 

The Daydream Cabin teaches the readers what boot camp is really like. This reviewer enjoyed learning something new. The writing is good, as we have come to expect from author, Carolyn Brown. The characters are well drawn and empathetic. I recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn Brown?

 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Book Review ~~ Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing         5 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writing

 

Jodi Thomas has delivered again!  BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFE is a new series, beginning with this title.  Jodi’s writing style is consistent and reliable. That means (to her fans and new readers) that she will always deliver flawless writing and  well drawn and thoughtful characters. 

Piper Jane Mackenzie, a small town mayor and a ‘travel’in’ preacher, Sam Cassidy meet while an undercover detective Colby McBride circle the wagons to her heart; sounds like a clique, right? Nope. It turns out to be a charming story written in Jodi’s unique voice, with characters that are provocative and intriguing.  You are pulled in before you turn the first page.

I am a fan and I highly recommend this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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