“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” — Sherman Alexie
Hooked On Books
SISTER OF MINE
Written by Laurie Petrou and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-1683317173
Ever been jealous of a sibling? Or held a secret? Or wished you’d never told one? All of these are true for Penny and Hattie, orphaned sisters with secrets, guilt, and a co-dependent relationship. Their stories come to life in Laurie Petrou’s debut mystery, Sisters of Mine.
Penny and Hattie share a secret that’s shredding their relationship. One night, a match is lit, and Penny’s terrible husband is killed – a marriage going up in flames, and offering the potential of a new life. But Penny’s husband is not the only thing they are hiding from the outside world and from each other. Debts must be repaid, and Hattie’s request of her older sister as well as her response will leave you stunned. Just ask her husband, Jameson. And what does Officer Moore really think?
Under a cloud of long-held resentments, sibling rivalry, and debts unpaid, the bonds of sisterhood begin to crack when Penny brings home a charming teacher, another outsider, who falls in love with her sister. Before long, he marries her.
How long will Penny and Hattie say, “You owe me,” and when will it ever be enough?
Just when you thought you’d read it all, you’ll find this novel complex, engrossing and mesmerizing. In taut, vivid prose Petrou creates a world that will make you appreciate your own. Petrou is a skilled, award-winning author as well as an associate professor at the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University in Toronto. Watch for more of her writing. So worthy of your time!
HELP YOUR GROUP THRIVE: A Workbook and Planning Guide
Written by Ann Steiner, Ph.D. and reviewed by Aline Soules
London: Routledge, 2018.
Improve Your Success Rate
How many of us are or have been in writing groups? Those that succeed and those that fail? How many of us wish we could make them all succeed?
No guarantees, but Steiner’s book, Help Your Group Thrive, which addresses all types of groups, should help to improve your success rate. Not just a workbook, Steiner provides a foundation that gives context and a solid understanding of groups. Only then does she move on to practical elements. Chapters 1-4 cover types of groups and different types of groups, including writers’ groups (chapter 4).
The “nuts and bolts” part of the guide begins on Chapter 5: how to plan a group, preparation (how many of us do enough of that?), selecting members, and group agreements for both face-to-face and online groups. The group agreements section made me realize the importance of starting a group with a common understanding (however formal or informal) of group goals and behavioral guidelines. Also covered are marketing the group, and a discussion of the challenges groups face. She closes with a chapter on saying goodbye, something I hadn’t considered as many of my writing groups have simply drifted apart.
There’s an extensive recommended reading list, notes and references, and an appendix of resources, and it’s easy to move around the book with the excellent chapter headings and a useful index.
The beauty of Steiner’s book is that you can learn about groups and apply that knowledge to your writing group or any other group (family, spiritual, work). After all, how many of us have given up our day jobs to write?
A well-written, clear, and useful book. Highly recommended.
Aline Soules’ work has appeared Kenyon Review, Houston Literary Review, and other literary journals. Her book, Meditation on Woman, and chapbook, Evening Sun, are available through amazon. Website/blog: http://alinesoules.com. Twitter: @aline_elisabeth. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alinesoules/
A MATTER OF SELECTION
Written by Carol Smallwood and Reviewed by Alex Andy Phuong
Poetic Matrix Press, 2018
Blending Scientific Concepts and Creativity
Michigan writer Carol Smallwood is currently one of the most prolific authors writing today. Credited with numerous books, she has also received acclaim for her artistic merit and her ability to write elegantly and eloquently. Her poetry resonates with readers because it dares to ask profound and philosophical questions without delivering easy answers. Smallwood’s poetry is articulate because of its precise use of language and simple, but powerful, ideas.
Carol Smallwood’s A Matter of Selection is a fantastic new poetry collection featuring poems celebrating the common humanity that unites all people.
A Matter of Selection delves deeply into what it means to be alive while poetically examining the choices that people make. Smallwood divides this poetry collection into four main sections “Nature,” “Moments in Time,” “The Domestic” and “Speculations, while also including a preface, a prologue, and an epilogue.
The poem “Safety of Predictability,” found in “Moments in Time,” is a neatly organized poem that explores what life would be like if it consisted of a very simple routine. The organization of this poem suggests that a simple and ordinary life is ideal life. Smallwood suggests that people must enjoy their “moments in time” just because the greatest moment in time is the present moment, truly the greatest present of all in so many ways.
It is clear that poetry from different writers have influenced Smallwood to create original works of art using her own skills. She is a woman capable of expressing independent thought while also honoring the writing of women who came before her. “A Room of My Own” alludes to the famous essay A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.
Smallwood masterfully blends scientific concepts with creative writing to form stylized poems that captivate readers. A special feature of Carol Smallwood’s writing is her ability to merge scientific topics with common poetic themes. Such talent makes Smallwood a masterful writer. She shows us that choices determine character in a diverse world.
Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University—Los Angeles in 2015 while also serving as an editor for Statement Magazine. He currently writes articles and film reviews online. Alex is an altruistic individual who enjoys volunteering and helping people practically every day.
Written by Louise Candlish and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN # 978-0451489111
Two Voices and Many Secrets
Imagine you return home and find someone else’s family living in your house. They have the papers to prove they bought it, yet you know nothing about it. So why would your husband sell your house and steal your children when your separation was going so amicably? Fiona Lawson will be blown away when she learns the truth in Louise Candlish’s Our House.
Bram and Fiona Lawson’s two sons live in their old house on a full-time basis. The parents, who are getting a divorce after Fiona found Bram in their sons’ playhouse with another woman, alternate between the house and a flat. It’s all very civilized, at least on the surface.
Candlish’s clear writing in two voices shows us just how hard it is to function when you don’t know all the facts. Fiona tells her story in a podcast called The Victim, while Bram leaves his version in a word .doc, telling us at the beginning that it is a suicide note. But why would a man who cares so much about his sons kill himself? The answers are revealed one installment at a time. Each speaker sounds so convincing!
Candlish’s two styles of writing reveal her skill at character development and building two separate types of tension. The story is original, scary, and should give anyone pause before telling a lie. What a crazy world we live in. These characters make a great case for telling the truth—even though they don’t realize it.
Author Louise Candlish studied English at University College London and lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband and daughter. She is the author of twelve novels, including her brand new thriller Our House (Simon & Schuster UK), a hardback bestseller and now an ebook #1 bestseller.
Whether you’re a writer looking for new approaches to your work or a thrill seeker watching others cope, this is a twisty page turner worth your time.
THE BEST OF US
Written by Joyce Maynard and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
Love, Loss and Exquisite Reflection
The Best of Us is about love, cancer, loss and the way her late-in-life love’s cancer affects author Joyce Maynard. Knowing the author affects a reader. I took a memoir class with her where I worked on my own late-in-life love story. At the time I did not know that she was madly in love with her new partner nor did either of us have any idea how her story would end. Her thoughts, feelings and discoveries drew me into this story and gave me perspective on my own.
In 2011, when she was in her late fifties, Maynard met her first true love. I also met my first true love in 2011. I was 62. Neither of us expected to find a man to love that late in life and both were pleasantly surprised. The romance will dazzle readers as my own delighted me. After her husband’s diagnosis, though, our paths split far apart. As I read about her caregiving experiences, my own time caring for my mother came back to me. Both of us had worlds that narrowed as caregiving took over our lives. Both of us faced exhaustion and resentments, but she looked far more extensively for cures. My mother was simply fading from aging.
One of the most valuable gifts of this beautifully-written, detailed book is the chance to compare my exhaustion, emotions, and other experiences with hers. Another is to see the power of admitting the truth and learning to accept it, a lesson I learned well from my husband. As I read I kept wanting to share this story with people in my life who are suffering from cancer and their caregivers. This is an excellent book for anyone who’s ever put herself second to care for someone with a debilitating disease. Joyce Maynard is a powerful, prolific writer, and I’d recommend her work even if I hadn’t studied with her.