Category: The Sixties

Blog Book Tour | “Last Night at the Blue Angel” by Rebecca Rotert

Posted Thursday, 30 April, 2015 by jorielov , , , , 3 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on “Last Night at the Blue Angel” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

A Note on the Cover Art Design:

I can honestly say that this is one time where I prefer the cover art design on the first edition rather than the P.S. Edition, as you will see via the SoundCloud Novel Excerpt and the After Story feature below the review, the original design I felt befit the story much better than this new version which only sought to confuse me when I first received the book. You have to look at it from afar if you can even hope to understand what the image is representing whereas the original design had the elements of the synopsis held within the gaze. The colour hues of the original fit better to as far as atmosphere of the kind of story your about to read.

Blog Book Tour | “Last Night at the Blue Angel” by Rebecca RotertLast Night at the Blue Angel
by Rebecca Rotert
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Set against the turbulence of 1960s Chicago—a city in transformation—and its legendary jazz scene, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a lush and immensely heartfelt mother-daughter tale about a talented but troubled singer’s relationship with her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

 It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day—segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam—but it is also home to some of the country’s most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine, finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia.

As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother’s desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia’s best friend, surrogate father, and protector—but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi.

Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it’s a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner—and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Genres: Literary Fiction


Published by William Morrow

on 14th April, 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Published By: William Morrow (@WmMorrowBks),
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)
Available Formats: Hardback, P.S. Edition paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #LastNightAtTheBlueAngel

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Listen to an Excerpt of the Novel:

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

About Rebecca Rotert

Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. She's also an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

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Posted Thursday, 30 April, 2015 by jorielov in 20th Century, Audiobook, Audiobook Excerpt, Based on an Actual Event &/or Court Case, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Chicago, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, History, Jazz Musicians, Jazz Singers, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction, Nun, Photography, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Realistic Fiction, Soundcloud, The Sixties, TLC Book Tours

+Blog Book Tour+ Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter #LitFic, #diverselit

Posted Thursday, 10 July, 2014 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

Published By: One World Publications (), 15 July, 2014
Official Author Websites: Site |
Available Formats: Paperback & Ebook
Page Count: 224

Converse on Twitter via: #LosingTouch OR #OneWorldPublications

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Losing Touch” virtual book tour through TLC  Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher One World Publications, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I have always had a keen eye on Bollywood films, especially those which feature Aishwarya Rai, as I came to know of her works through the release of “Mistress of Spices“. I love the full-on lively atmosphere of combining dream sequences, musical numbers, and the heart of a story told in motion pictures such as the ones I find from Bollywood releases! I try to find new ones to watch as I become aware of them, which is why I have thus far seen: “Bride & Prejudice” and “Do Dooni Chaar“. All of which I happily checked out of my local library, as they are quite inspiring on the dexterity of always keeping our card catalogue full of foreign language releases both in literature and motion picture. I’d love to explore more Bollywood & Indian film releases in both Hindi and English, as whilst I was watching Do Dooni Chaar, I noted that after awhile I did not even realise I was ‘reading the subtitles’! I love when that happens! (previously, I felt this way as I watched “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” & “Life is Beautiful” as I watched them on the silver screen at time of release) My focus on India as both as a country and as a cultural heritage stems from my appreciation of their enriched cultural heritage (from art to music to dance to film to religion), and of course, my absolute joy in eating their cuisine!

When you find yourself passionate about a culture and a country, you always want to surround yourself with the stories that are either set there or are about the people who come from there. For me, my heart will always be attached to India. The fact that I draw a measure of joy out of reading Buddhist texts and studying their cultural heritage is only the tip of why I love India as much as I do. I have been wanting to read more stories by Indian authors and writers who give their stories a heart of their cultural identity. When this book was offered on tour, I simply was overjoyed, not only as it was the start of being able to read Literature of India, but because I truly appreciated the premise — of one family attempting to carve out a new life in a new country whilst attempting to keep their cultural identity and heritage in tact.

My own heritage is full of stories where my ancestors immigrated to America, and how their journeys led them to the New World. I find myself attracted to other families and their own personal journeys towards discovering where they wanted to lay down roots for their next generations as much as I am encouraged to continue to root out my own ancestral past through genealogical research. Each of us has a story within our bones, which is carried through the whispers of our past relations who strove to give each of us a different path to live than they had themselves. I think we each honour our family each time we take a pause out of our day to listen and read the stories of all families who take this step to change their own stars.

Book Synopsis:

Sandra HunterAfter Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new. But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws. In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.

Author Biography:

Sandra Hunter’s fiction has appeared in a number of literary magazines, and has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. Among other awards, she won the 2013 Women’s Domination Story Competition, 2012 Cobalt Literary Magazine Fiction Prize and the 2011 Arthur Edelstein Short Fiction Prize. Her short story “Blessed Are the Meek” won Glimmer Train’s Spring 2005 Very Short Fiction Award, and is now a chapter in her novel Losing Touch, to be published in July 2014 (OneWorld Publications).

A note on the Cover Art:

I tend to forget to realise that as I am reading books published across the Pond with a bit more regularity than I could have done in the past (one of the blessings of being a book blogger), the book cover art I am appreciating on recently read novels are the editions from across the Pond! For instance, I had not stopped to realise the cover art designs I appreciated for The Lost Duchess were in effect the British edition covers! Likewise, as I settled into Losing Touch my mind did not readily auto-adjust to noticing this cover art is decidedly British as well! When I pulled up sites in reference to the novel, I noted an awkward difference in cover design! Whereas this one alludes to Arjun’s wife Sunila or even Jonti’s wife Nawal or even Nawal’s sister Haseena. I first felt it could be Sunila as although she has a want for British life, she still holds a few traditions of her heritage close to her heart. Yet, to be truthful she does not wear traditional Indian clothes, so this directed my eye to believe it was truly Nawal.*

(*until I read the story and realised it was Haseena!)

The cover art for the American edition makes absolute no sense to me at all – it is one of those modern graphic designs that has a repetitive pattern; I am finding myself not a plumb of passion for these selections. A few times I find graphic designed covers to be quite befit of the narrative. In this particular case, I think the novel loses a piece of its own identity by the swirls and two non-identical blotches of orange.

What appealed to me about the cover (as displayed on this book review!) which arrived to me on my copy of Losing Touch, is that it goes to the core of the story: being in transition and yet curious about ‘something’ being said ‘off camera and out of view’ of the photographer. I realise they used stock images but for whichever reason, I felt this cover connected more directly to Arjun & the Kulkanis.

On a personal note: This is why I am thankful there is Foyle’s, who will drop ship to anyone in the world who wants to purchase books from England! There are other book shoppes surely that will do the same, as I still remember the expressive joy in purchasing the Complete Histories of Middle Earth from one such book shoppe in the recent past to help me curate a way to read Tolkien’s legacy in the order of Middle Earth! This is a project noted on my tCC list for those curious to know ‘when’ I shall embrace Middle Earth. I am also reminded that when I go to read my next Jenny Barden novel, I will need to import the book from England! I can see myself spreading the joy of future purchases between Foyle’s & all the lovelies (book shoppes) I am finding on Twitter! It is quite incredible to live in an age where you can exchange bookish tweets with Indies from Ireland & England! What joy I have as a Joyful Tweeter of Bookish Joy! (a part of me will forevermore think of “Foyle’s War” as I make future purchases; now that the series is encased inside my heart)

 

Transitions: India to London:

I appreciated getting a first-hand glimpse into a family striving to find their niche in England, after having immigrated from India for a fresh start in a new country. Little notations of their cultural heritage from India are mentioned and observed throughout the text, as well as their contemporary choices to extract out a new identity amongst their new co-workers, neighbours, and friend circles. I think a part of what is difficult for anyone to shift their life from one country to the next, is to find the balance of what to keep with them as a cultural identity and what to compromise as far as what new attributes to introduce into their life as a different method or mannerism of how to live next. Each country you reside in is going to have their own particular pace and recognisable differences; this even includes how different regions within the same country have ‘regional dialects’ (of which I have blogged about previously), where the pronunciations and phrasing can alter as you travel. (this is inclusive of America as much as England)

I appreciated reading the differences in how their children were being given more freedom of choice (as far as schooling and matches of marriage) and how even in the subtle differences they were still learning to understand how to complete the transitions from India to London. Throughout the text, they always remained true to who they were, right or wrong, their individual character left a strong impression.

My review of Losing Touch:

Losing Touch sensitively opens at the funeral of Arjun’s younger brother Jonti, as Arjun recollects his brother’s life and observes how his wife and children are attempting to blend into British culture and society without wanting to keep a part of their Indian culture attached. They are shifting into a new life in a new setting and country, opting instead to shed a bit of their own cultural past to embrace the new one that they are finding. Arjun is struggling to come to terms with his family’s choices as he is a traditionalist and believes that although he wants them to embrace life in England, he apparently did not expect them to forsake their heritage to do so.

Hunter etches into her story the power of sensory knowledge and memory of how certain things are able to be smelt on the air near us, can lead our minds back down memory’s row. And, how at the moment of recovering those memories, we either feel more remorse (if already grieving through anguished sorrow) or a swath of bittersweet recollection, half filled with the regret of the days no longer here. The mind and the heart does a lot of odd things to a person who is grieving their loved one. Time and space of our everyday living can shift and transform out of us and between us at the very same moment; we are not of ourselves completely when we are attempting to rectify the loss of someone who was once fully present and now spiritually renewed into the next life.

Jonti has passed by what I can only presume is an inherited neurological disease, as he was not the first in his family to contract it, and this unknowing of the family medical history eludes to a growing concern on behalf of Arjun’s own health and wellness. I refer to this being ‘unknown’ as Hunter only slips a piece of knowledge of how Jonti passed rather than a full disclosure of what led to his sudden death in his thirties. Arjun’s own fears and concerns for his family’s adjustment to England are acting as a blinding to his own health concerns, as his collapsed falls in conjunction to his brother’s death did not lead him to think anything malicious was afoot.

Sunila’s voice comes a bit lateron as we find through her point of view the disintegrating condition of her marriage to Arjun; as there were quiet attributions of this happening in early chapters. His quickfire temper, his unease to dissolve a disagreement between his daughter Tarani and son Murad (the object of the fight was a radio), and his disbelief and avoidance of having a physical condition that could not only control his life but take it from him. He walks through the motions of his everyday life without the bliss and attention Jonti gave to his own family. This is a stress factor for Arjun, and as we read through the passages where Sunila is contemplating divorce and a life away from her husband, we start to see how the undercurrent of their marriage is tilted against a rocky shore. The author keeps the obvious obstructed from the reader’s view, revealing the evidence of domestic disturbances only in brief flickering moments where we gather a larger sense of the reality of Sunila’s marriage. In this way, the novel is a gentle read with clean references to deeper angst and a guiding hand of giving you a breathing space to digest the story.

The symbolism and metaphors within the heart of the context of Losing Touch are some of my favourites I’ve stumbled across recently. I have forgotten to mention this habit of mine in recent reviews of noticing the touches of how each writer chooses to convey certain thoughts and observations. I also appreciate the fact that this is full-on Briton, with their unique turns of phrase and cheeky short-cuts of expression. The Anglophile in me was most happy throughout the reading! I also noted having read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” a few years back has seemingly given me a proper knowledge of the roadways in England. I nearly could envision the A40 as Arjun and Murad traversed it in order to meet up with Haseena! Although Arjun is not committing adultery with Haseena, he is eclipsed in that uneasy spot between being spiritually / mentally committed to another woman and being physically entwined. Of course, I did see a programme on television which expressed that there are different levels and conditions of adultery and one of them is being physically present in a marriage whilst being mindfully absent in spirit with another outside of it. To the level, that despite no physical contact is involved, in all other ways an affair is elicited.

The novel yields itself into two thoroughly engaging sections, where Part I engages us with the foundation of where Part II is leading us next; whilst skipping a near-full twenty years in-between. The second half is more solemn and melancholic than the first, and I believe is told in second or third person rather than first. I am always getting a bit confused on tense and person points of view; irregardless of how many examples I read of each. I credit that to being dyslexic, but the point here is that there is a radical change in the voice of the narrator for this half of the story. Part I was filled with a robust energy and Part II is a bit more subdued and ambles a bit like a snail. Giving more pause to thoughts and to musings neither of the characters felt they’d aspire to know the answers of. (Alas! I’ve sorted it! Part I the characters were telling their own story to the reader; in Part II they’re life is being observed and spoken about without their voices leading the story forward. Until they return just before the end, to conclude as they begun.)

Losing Touch in of itself (as a title and as a story) is attempting to draw attention on the aspects of our lives that we might allow to fall behind our fingers, like the sand in an hourglass; tricking unnoticed and unaware of how much we’ve lost a connection to everything we hold dear until its nearly too late to reconcile. With unflinching honesty and a keen awareness of how to paint the portrait of a family emerging out of their cultural heritage whilst sorting out how to live amongst the Brits: Hunter finds a way to encourage us to examine our on thoughts on life, marriage, children, and the unspoken absence of things left unsaid.

By the time I reached the ending chapters, I knew my time with the Kulkanis was drawing to a close. I was going to miss peeking in on their lives, listening to their conversations, and being with them as they rose above the tides like waves arching over and under the years of their lives. Sunila is the heroine of the story for me, as she walks her life through her faith, eager to sort out the best way to approach the trials as they arise and to hold fast to her vows she took with her husband on her wedding day. It is her quiet strength that leads the family back together, and gives her husband the bolster to continue to thrive despite how different his life became once his body could no longer support his normal activities. The three Auntys: Sunila, Pavi, and Haseena give us such a welcoming warmth into their intimate lives, that I must thank the author, Sandra Hunter for blessing me with their presence!

On Sandra Hunter’s writing style & voice of character:

I appreciate how her narrative voice and style allows us to align ourselves with Arjun and his immediate family. She stitches into the dialogue and thought sequences words of Hindi origin which gives the story an authentic feel. I always appreciate when native words and phrases are incorporated into a story, as they allude to the fact we are reading about a different culture and language heritage outside of our own. The pacing of the story is quite British, as I am noting differences in the craft of story-telling between American and British authors of late, as I have had more opportunities to read Modern British Literature over the past year. It is a bit like noting the differences in motion picture, when you see the styles of American, British, Canadian, and Indian film-makers. Each has their own set of tools of the trade (so to speak), and each has their own unique definitive style therein.

Each chapter is devouted to one full year of Arjun and his family life, carried through by snippets of reflection and action, that were to give the reader key insight into the family’s progress past Jonti’s death and what occurred in their lives since they said their good-byes when the story opened at his funeral. Told in first person perspective, you get a rather firm and intimate view of their thoughts, their expressions, and the way in which each of them elects to live their life. Arjun by far is the curious one who as a true introvert processes everything with the knack for self-reflection and internal musings that lead him towards understanding, acceptance, and transition.

The one curious pattern of her story-telling style is that for each chapter, it is not merely a new year that progresses forward but a month as well! For instance, the first chapter begins in September and by the time you reach chapter four you are arriving in December. The years clicked off from 1966 to 1969 as well. This is a most curious pattern and by doing so, it allows you to see not only the passage of time, but of the season in a gentle arc of time shifting forward and ebbing away. There is a bit of a time jump from Part I to Part II, as the second half picks up in 1998 shortly after leaving 1973!

Her personal style is both gentle and guiding, she allows you to soak into her prose and appreciate her characters for what they have to relay to you. She is a writer I want to read more of and I cannot wait to seek out a new novel of hers when they are available to read as she is only just now venturing forward into novels, as she previously focused on short stories. I might have to see if her shorts are bound into print collections, as I do have this new penchant for shorts! Except to say, the brief excerpt of her current WIP (work-in-progress) of a novel took me by a bit of gobsmacked surprise due to the language — Losing Touch was graceful in its ability to paint a story without the abrasive language so popular in today’s literature. I even appreciated how she handled the changes in faith as both Arjun and Sunila were embracing Christianity which gave them a lot of fodder to chew on throughout the book.

As an aside: I appreciated using the lovely bookmark, Ms. Hugo gave me whilst I received “A Matter of Mercy” for review for an upcoming TLC Book Tours stop! I am always attempting to remember which bookmark was enclosed with each novel that I find myself using to read other novels that arrive for review! Forgive me if my notations of which bookmark I selected goes amiss and a-rye. If you were curious of my reference as an Anglophile kindly direct your attention to ‘My Bookish Life‘.

Fly in the Ointment:

There is a very brief and short passage in Chapter 14 where quite strong language is used rather unexpectedly, so much so I nearly forgot to mention it here! I was totally taken by surprise to find such strong words to convey such a simple scene of action and dialogue. In fact, held within the gentle voice of the story’s narrating pace I found it was rather out of step with the rest of the chapters and clearly not necessary to be included. I agree, the scene was alarming and dicey, but I think it could have been writ without the use of the strongest word I most dislike in literature. I believe my mind skirted over this completely, as said, I nearly forgot to mention this as I posted my review!Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Read an article where Sandra Hunter selects her Top Ten Books:

 Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

Losing Touch
by Sandra Hunter
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Genres: Literary Fiction


Published by One World Publications

on 15th July, 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comVirtual Road Map of “Losing Touch” Blog Tour:

Tuesday, July 1st: Review @ 1330 V

Wednesday, July 2nd: Review @ Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Thursday, July 3rd: Review @ Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, July 7th: Review @ Lit and Life

Tuesday, July 8th:  The Written World *not posted yet

Wednesday, July 9th:  Books in the City *not posted yet

Thursday, July 10th: Review @ Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, July 11th:  BookNAround

Monday, July 14th:  Missris

Tuesday, July 15th:  Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, July 16th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, July 17th:  Luxury Reading

Friday, July 18th:  Time 2 Read

Monday, July 21st:  Bound By Words

Tuesday, July 22nd:  A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 23rd:  Good Girl Gone Redneck

Please visit my Bookish Events page to stay in the know for upcoming events!

As foresaid, I have already earmarked off quite a heap of selections of ‘next reads’ for Literature of India choices, a few of which can be viewed on my Riffle List: Equality in Literature & Diversity in Literature : walk hand in hand. Other choices include: “The Hope Factory” by Lavanya Sankaran, “The Sandalwood Tree” by Elle Newmark, and “Haunting Bombay” by Shilpa Agarwal.

Reader Interactive Question: I am curious to know which books you’ve read about India or have stories set around the cultural heritage of India that have introduced you to Literature of India and given you a reason to continue reading their stories? What first drew you to appreciate India, was it through their cuisine or music? Did you pick up a novel once and found yourself enchanted? I’d love for you to share your own personal reasons for reading Indian stories in the comment threads & if you would be inclined to read “Losing Touch” after reading my own ruminations on its behalf.

{SOURCES: Book cover for “Losing Touch”, Author Biography, Author Photograph, and Book Synopsis  were provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets are able to be embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Go Indie
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Posted Thursday, 10 July, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Bookmark slipped inside a Review Book, Britian, Cultural Heritage, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Disillusionment in Marriage, Domestic Violence, England, Equality In Literature, Family Life, Fly in the Ointment, Hindi Words & Phrases, Immigrant Stories, India, Indie Author, Library Find, Library Love, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Literature of India, London, Modern British Literature, Multicultural Marriages & Families, The Sixties, TLC Book Tours, TV Serials & Motion Pictures, Vulgarity in Literature

+Blog Book Tour+ Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan

Posted Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 by jorielov , , 5 Comments

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Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan

Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan

Published By: UpStart Press (), 15 May, 2014
Official Publisher Sites: Press on Etsy | Blog | Founder  
Official Author Websites Site | Facebook | GoodReads
Available Formats: Softcover & Ebook
Page Count: 191

Converse on Twitter via: #BeeSummers

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Bee Summers” virtual book tour through TLC  Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Melanie Dugan, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

This particular book spoke to me when I first signed up to participate on the blog tour, there was something about the premise of the story and the way in which the story ‘sounded’ to me off the page; inspired my interest in reading the book. There are times when books whisper a thought of interest inside me, and those are the books I am always striving to discover because they tend to unlock a new way of story-telling and/or they create an individual experience of story craft that is not quite like other books you might pick up. I like delving outside my regular reading adventures, always seeking to not only expand my literary horizons, but to enjoy the bliss of discovery of new authors I might not have had the pleasure of knowing otherwise. Bee Summers is the kind of story that settles into your heart and your whet with anxious anticipation to read once the book is alighted in your hands!

I am always so happily curious about how a book will arrive in the Post, as oft-times I receive books for review direct from publishers, but evenso, there are sometimes a surprise of two in store for me! When I opened the book parcel for Bee Summers, a lovely little postcard featuring the cover art and the synopsis on the reverse side smiled up at me as I discovered it inside the novel itself! On the reverse side, a lovely handwritten note from the author graced the open space which reminded me of a postcard! I did not want to have the ink bleed or smudge whilst reading the novel, which is why I used one of the lovely double-sided bookmarks Ms. Astie sent me with her novels French Twist & French Toast! I never expect little extras with the books I receive, but oh! How my heart is filt with joy when I find something the author has tucked into the book! I appreciate their words enscribed on the postcard / notecards as much as words inked directly onto the books themselves! Little pieces of whispered joy ahead of reading their stories!

I must confess, part of my interest in Bee Summers lies within the fact beekeeping is included as part of the story’s arc! I have been an appreciator of bees for quite a long while, but when their fate and ours as a whole became entwined to the other, I daresay, I rally behind anyone who will have the kind grace to place a shining light on their culture and their significance of worth. The bees need us more than ever, and I am thankful to find their essence is still being included in fiction in a positive way.

Book Synopsis:

The spring she is eleven years old, Melissa Singer’s mother walks out of the house and never returns. That summer her father, a migratory beekeeper, takes her along with him on his travels. The trip and the people she meets change her life. Over the years that follow, Melissa tries to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and struggles to come to terms with her loss.

Author Biography:

Melanie DuganMelanie Dugan is the author of Dead Beautiful (“the writing is gorgeous,” A Soul Unsung), Revising Romance, and Sometime Daughter.

Born in San Francisco, Dugan has lived in Boston, Toronto, and London, England, and has worked in almost every part of the book world: in libraries and bookstores, as a book reviewer; she was Associate Publisher at Quarry Press, where she also served as managing editor of Poetry Canada Review and Quarry Magazine. She has worked in journalism, as a freelancer, and as visual arts columnist. Dugan studied at the University of Toronto Writers Workshop and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and has a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing from Humber College. She has done numerous public readings.

Her short stories have been shortlisted for several awards. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her partner and their two sons.

 

The voice of Melissa Singer reminds me of Calpurnia Tate:

As I opened the first page into Chapter One, I was acutely aware of the voice of Melissa Singer reminding me of one of my most earnestly beloved re-reads this year, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate! A novel I discovered through my local library and had in effect read whilst I had a journal off-line yet never had the chance to properly stitch my thoughts together after reading its mirth of gentle wisdom. As soon as you step inside the first paragraph of Bee Summers you know in your heart your settling in for a gentle whisper of a story which is going to tug at your heart-strings and be as gentle as sitting on a gliding swing on a Southern front porch whilst the fireflies dance in front of your eyes. I loved seeing the grace of acknowledging the intimate details of her surroundings through the eyes of an innocent young girl who still could see the beauty in the ordinary and how the ordinary can be quite extraordinary.

I also felt a kinship of her intuitiveness stemming out of the character of Opal from Because of Winn-Dixie. Although mind you, dear hearts, I have only seen the motion picture and am bent on reading the lovely hardback copy I have at some point in the future! It was simply one of those things where the film dropped ahead of my ability to read the novel, but within the motion picture I found a setting, a towne, and a unconventional family that all of us can appreciate wanting to curate in our own lives. The film had a heart pulse all of its own, and whose essence I am sure mirrored the story within the novel.

My review of Bee Summers:

It is not often that a story starts off by placing you full center on the plight of little house guests who are growing in numbers each day they visit the central lead character! The bees in the kitchen had me wondering about the larger scope of the story gently unfolding in front of my heart. Dugan has the grace of acknowledging how you can be a caretaker of a species but also how you have to take care of yourself if the species you are looking after starts to take up residence in a place that is not conducive to communal living. She does not shy away from showing how even those who protect bees sometimes have to make choices where you have to divide the territory between the bees and their beekeepers.

The eccentrically loveable Aunt Hetty is quite the charming character who not only entered Melissa’s life at a crucial moment of her eleventh summer, but she helped changed the direction of the family’s life. I appreciated seeing how the care and concern of a widow the father knew, strengthened the father’s resolve to relocate to the small towne she lived in. A towne that gave his daughter Melissa a new freedom of living outside of a city and the joy of exploring the bliss of childhood outside the confines of a city block. Aunt Hetty has the classic house which is overflowing in life spilt into corners, nooks, and crannies to where stepping through her house is a bit of a labyrinth of a maze! The amassed collection of items were not only a wonderment to Melissa but to the reader who reads the story! Such a diverse collection of knickknacks and odd objects!

On the fringes of understanding her world is about to change Lissy (Melissa’s pet name by her father), decides to embrace the changes a bit at a time, and take her father up on his suggestion of an adventure. Travel as he takes the bees on their pollination runs and study on the road instead of finishing out the school year at home. In her own quiet way, Lissy is fusing together the pieces of what is and what is not yet said aloud to her. She is growing in her awareness of the world outside the sphere of her childhood, as much as she is not yet ready to accept the reality of where her Mom has walked off too. The story yields to her sense of direction and of her ability to adapt to how life evolves as she greets each day anew.

Once out on the road, Lissy’s world starts to expand in new ways, as she starts to meet the customers her father is hired to help with his bees. My favourite of all the stops was actually her first encounter at Earl’s house. He had this beautiful laid back manner about him which made you feel warm and comfortable in his presence. His house was on the modest side, but his farm meant the world to him, which you could tell from the passages where Lissy and her father spent helping him about the place. They encountered a lonely husband longing for his wife to return from being away on the second leg, and by the time they reached the farm for Opal and Les, Lissy was starting to realise just how different each family in the world could be. Her first impression of Opal was of a woman who was trying a bit too hard to be friends, but as time eased throughout the week of her stay it is what she observed that changed her opinion about her. I liked how each transition on the road trip provided keen insights into the ways of the world as much as the juxtaposition of how Lissy was raised by her parents. She was starting to put the pieces together on how she viewed life and the world around her; which is why the trip was having such an effect on her thought processes.

By the time I reached Chapter 12, my heart’s emotional keel was eclipsed as the truth of the distances which had spread between Lissy and her father came to startling reality of truth. As the tears slipped through my eyes, I realised that the jutting punch of the story is held within the in-between hours of the character’s lives. Those little moments where as they are lived feel indifferent to the whole of what they mean to the person who is living them, yet when reflected upon later are full of warmth and remembrance. The little moments of each of our lives are what gives our tapestry its glistening edge. The foundation of every family is communication and within Lissy’s years of maturing youth, the fragmented hours where her ability to communicate with her father broke down the wall of love which used to encase them with a fierce grip of strength.

Her mother’s absence in her life and the years of silent questionings therein, left a chasm of indifference and swelling anguish intermixed with anger towards her father’s lack of explanations. Her choice was to mirror her mother’s, exiting her father’s life as easily and as seamlessly as her mother had many years before her to the brink that she quite literally managed to erase him out of her mind and heart. And, like real life’s counterpart to the story, by the time Lissy is a married wife and mother herself, learnt all to late how ill-comforting it is to realise the mistakes you’ve made in the past cannot be easily mended in the future. Regrets fuse together, and lost hours stack against the timeclock of your life. It is only how you can choose to accept the path you’ve walked and the lessons you’ve learnt along the corridor of your life, that can truly set you free. Allowing you to let go of your past ghosts and step into the light of the morning with a sense of renewal for where you’ve been.

The bees | secondary characters:

One of the pure delights of the novel are the bees themselves, as they take on the role as secondary characters and in some places, nearly felt as a narrator as to precognitively alert the reader of where the story might head next. I like the subtle inclusions of their hive’s presence, as much as their bee attributes being quite stellar in showcasing their bee qualities of personality! I enjoyed learning a bit about their flying patterns, walking statures of dance, and how in effect, the bees take to their keepers as much as their keepers enjoy watching over their bees! They were a delightful inclusion, and perhaps a bit of a metaphoric undertone to the key bits of the story as well. Bees by nature align and live by a certain code of curious ambiguity as for as much as we know about their culture within the hive and their interactions with the natural environment, there is a larger number of unknowns. Perhaps in this way, the bees were as much as a viewing of transitions in the seasons of life that are not readily explained nor understood could occupy the backdrop of a young girl whose growing-up realising her mother left her without the blessing of an explanation.

I liked how the sequences with the bees were as innocent and lovely as the observations of Lissy inside the narrative of her younger years. Each of them were a bit in tune with the innocent side of life, as the bees went about their duties as pollinators to encourage the growth of the fruit and veg that needed their assistance. Likewise, Lissy looked out at her road adventure with a fresh pair of eyes ready to embrace what came her way with a joyful heart, if a tender one full of concern for her mother.

Ms. Dugan’s gift for story-telling within notes of grace:

In the back of the novel, there is a stamp of acknowledgement from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, as the author received Creative Writing Grant from the Ontario Arts Council and a Work in Progress Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Two grants I had not known about previously, and felt were given to a writer who deserved the recognition of what the awarding of them could gain her writing. I have heard of writing grants previously, but as far as I’m aware of, I have not yet read a writer who used them to finish a novel I’ve read. How wonderful there are creative ways to pursue one’s love of writing and of setting one’s stories free to fly into the world, where readers like I feel not only blessed but honoured to have made their acquaintance!

She gave the father a wicked sense of logic in the story, such as resolving the issue of a ‘suitcase’ for their impromptu adventure on the road by using brown paper bags! I had a good chucklement on this scene, because it showed how the father wanted to solve the issue at hand but not show his uncertainty in how to go about it. She etched into Bee Summers an honest impression of how a father deals with the sudden exit of a wife and how he must choose how to face the reality of being a single father without a net of protection to see them both through to the next tomorrow. She guides the reader through the motions of their lives with such a flickerment of subtle acknowledgements of seasons and life moments, that by the time you alight in a harder hitting moment of clarity, the emotional conviction hits you front and center, and you feel appreciative that you were being guided by a steady hand and keen observer of the way in which an emotional drama can be told with a deft eye for grace.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

Bee Summers
by Melanie Dugan
Source: Direct from Author

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Genres: Literary Fiction


Published by Upstart Press

on 15th May, 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 191

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comVirtual Road Map of “Bee Summers” Blog Tour:

Monday, May 19th: Review @ Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, May 20th: Review @ BookNAround

Thursday, May 22nd: Review @ Book Dilettante

Friday, May 23rd: Review @ Open Book Society

Tuesday, May 27th: Review @ A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 28th: Review @ Literally Jen

Monday, June 2nd: Review @ Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, June 3rd: Review @ Forever Obsession

Wednesday, June 4th: Review @ Karen’s Korner Blog

Tuesday, June 10th: Review @ Bibliotica

Monday, June 16th: The Most Happy Reader

Tuesday, June 17th: Review @ Every Free Chance Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 18th: Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, June 25th: She’s God Books On Her Mind

Thursday, June 26th: The Road to Here

TBD: Karen’s Korner

TBD: Giraffe Days

Please visit my Bookish Events page to stay in the know for upcoming events!

{SOURCES: Book cover for “Bee Summers”, Author Biography, Author Photograph, and Book Synopsis  were provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Apiculture, Blog Tour Host, Coming-Of Age, Family Life, Father-Daughter Relationships, Honeybees, Indie Art, Indie Author, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Small Towne Fiction, Sudden Absence of Parent, The Natural World, The Sixties, TLC Book Tours