Category: Book Browse

#BlogBirthday Book Review | “The Gravity of Birds” by Tracy Guzeman A very special reading as it’s representative of a debut author launching her story to the world on the same day a reader became a book blogger!

Posted Sunday, 6 August, 2017 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I have been attending the #HistoricalFix chats since they originated as the #IShall chat celebrating the release of Erin Lindsay McCabe’s “I Shall Be Near to You”. Throughout the past two years since the quarterly chats began, I have found a tribe of like-minded bookish souls who celebrate the devourment of compelling historical fiction in all it’s variant creations (from traditional to romance to suspense to biographical #HistFic & everything in-between!). During the chats, there are a flood of questions and happy chatter surrounding the ‘honoured guests’ of the hour wherein you have the opportunity to win a novel by one of the authors. I happily won “The Gravity of Birds” during the March 2015 #HistoricalFix chat on Twitter.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Gravity of Birds” UK edition direct from the author Tracy Guzeman without obligation to post a review. I had the option to receive the UK edition of the novel, which I happily received. My edition comes with a lovely author Q&A after the story which I look forward to reading in full! I wanted to post my ruminative thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and to share my impressions with the readers of  my blog. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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How a book’s birthday healed my heart about the day
I launched #JLASblog!

Quite curiously, despite the fact I *launched!* Jorie Loves A Story on the 6th of August, 2013 after exhausting myself the previous month of July to make sure it was ‘audience ready’ – I had a bit of grievance with myself over the selection of the ‘date’. Silly, I realise it might sound aloud to reveall that tidbit, but there it is! I was caught up in the numerical identity of my blog’s history as even though it was missing a few digits, I have oft felt a “7” is stronger than a “6”. It’s a matter of faith & a personal quirk of mine, apparently! I still compose interview questions in increments of 5 or 7 rather than 6; even though recovering a better perspective on my blog’s birthday has been a lift of joy.

It wasn’t until I attended the #HistoricalFix chat in March of 2015 where I crossed paths with Ms Guzeman where I realised something quite extraordinary! I had only been looking at this from a linear prospective of where my perception of the 6th of August was a bit slated against my own misgivings rather than seeking to find *something!* which anchoured the day to a happier memory than whether or not I should have waited 24 hours to launch the site live! OY vie. The things we humans subject ourselves too!

In case your wondering – I created Jorie Loves A Story on the 31st of March, 2013 (my blogoversary) whilst I consider the day it launched live to the world on the 6th of August, 2013 to be my blog’s birthday – two special days per annum where I remember & celebrate the origins of my blog whilst embracing the memories of the stories, writers, conversations & adventures of being the bookish soul behind the bookish blog. Mind you, I need to remember my Twitterversary is on the 13th of November, 2013! These days are as special to me as my own birthday!

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Here are my responses to her question pertaining to the thematic of her story:

Art,  Song & Dance evoke such a harmonic cognition inside me,

it’s felt by heart, mind & soul; beauty (lies) in art (see tweet)

Love fantasy art such as SteelGoddess (etsy)

who bridge the natural world w/ the fantastic; joy (resides) in nature (see tweet)

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I fell in love with the artistry of SteelGoddess whilst finding her shoppe on Etsy for artistic stationery which I knew would give me such a lot of inspiration whilst composing thoughts to articulate to my friends through postal correspondence!

I haven’t been on Etsy in quite a few years, as I’ve been focusing on building my reading audience on jorielovesastory.com whilst defining my blogosphere presence as a whole. I’ve also been taking the past four years to address how I want to re-define and develop this space of mine into more than just a repository of book showcases & guest author features, as I’m a writer whose in the transitional period of re-focusing on her own stories.

Whilst at the same time, I want to share other interests of mine (i.e. knitting) which are creatively enriching to me as they divert my attention a bit from the bookish world & help me re-balance myself in other pursuits! Therefore, I had *no idea!* the happy news, of the SteelGoddess’s shoppe going through a re-genesis of it’s own: check out the newly launched Cheryl Baker Art!

As a good primer to understand what draws me to her artwork & stationery goods, kindly take a look-see at this beautiful new stationery set of papers! Her main website is one of enchantment & inspiring joy, as well! Honestly, I think I’ll order directly from her website in the future & help celebrate the natural world she brings to the world of art!

As you well see, the artist I found on Etsy had a profound affect on me – as I felt as soon as I saw her woodland creatures, I had encapsulated a piece of my walks in nature in such an expression of enchanted art as to fuse my experience through her artistic imagery. This is why I knew the answer to Ms Guzeman’s question was partially inspired by my own adventures and the ones I feel I’ve lived through Ms Baker’s artwork!

Did it really!? I never knew the ‘day’ Gravity of Birds published, but if it were the 6th, it feels kismet! I had no idea my blog’s birthday (as I separate the two days: blogoversary for the day I created it; birthday for the day it went live; a bit like a book birthday = publication day?) had such a special ‘attachment’ to an author! I love finding this out because there are always interesting stories behind things in life; and clearly I was meant to read this novel! :)

-my initial reaction to the publication date of The Gravity of Birds

and I had this to say in relation to when Ms Guzeman picked up on the fact I write in my own personally stylised AmeriBritish vernacular:

You’re quite apt at seeing the differences in how I spelt my words, but actually, it’s a choice I made to limit my dyslexic slips whilst writing and communicating by written dialogue! I expound a bit on this under “My Bookish Life” where I talk a bit openly about my path as a writer and as a book blogger, but suffice to say, my UK heritage allowed me a grace in understanding how words appear in context to what I want to articulate as previously I stumbled in how to formulate the expressions.

Moreso as an adult rather than as a child, I have found my dyslexia to become a bit of an issue nowadays vs when I was in school. Coincidentally, through a bit of online research, I uncovered a quirky revelation: I was led to believe I had mild dyslexia as a child but according to my research I am severely dyslexic! 

I had a bit of a bubble of a laugh at first because I’ve grown so accustomed to compensating for my learning difficulties, it did not feel revolutionary to me. It did help me understand a few things which make me a bit unique or how I perceive things might be considered unique, but in the end, I am who I am, someone I was always proud of being. I found dyslexia a gift but understanding my limitations as a writer and compensating by exchanging my American English for my Ancestral British turnt out to be the biggest blessing I could receive!
 
I’m named after my maternal grandmother who was of British and Irish descent. I’m British doubly over as my father’s side of the family has UK roots as well, spilt between England & Scotland. I have a heap ‘more’ in me as well, but these are quite dominant.

The language of the Brits feels right to me, and each new word or phrase I have learnt, becomes fuell to my own imagination as far as where I can take my own writings in the future.

As you can imagine – winning a copy of “The Gravity of Birds” took on a whole new level of joy & creative curiosity! I am naturally drawn to reading stories from the UK – not only because I am wickedly addicted to reading authors who reside in the UK, but because, I personally *love!* the tangible fluid nature of how British English evolves through the descriptive narrative! I watch a high volume of British (& Canadian) television serials & films as well, which parlays concurrently with my literary wanderings!

When Ms Guzeman offered me the chance to read the UK edition of this novel, my heart swooned in joy! I did not even think this was a possibility but a welcomed unexpected bookish slice of happiness! One day I’m looking forward to when there is an online bookshoppe in the UK who will ship UK editions to American readers who crave their fix of UK authors! (technically, I know of one in the stages of doing this!)

Til then, I am blessed to have a copy of The Gravity of Birds and be a reviewer for UK-based publishers! Conversely, even if a novel is written by an American author such as this one, my first preference is to seek out the UK edition as it’s one of the editions outside of it’s original printing I am most desiring to read! Even if the language isn’t full-on Brit, it’s having an edition published outside my own country which makes it a special treat – as book covers are unique to their country of origin..

Through this experience, I realised the date I selected to launch my blog was ‘meant to be’ – not only because it shares a very special book birthday with an author I would one day cross paths with to discover, but because sometimes the ‘timing’ which is best in our lives to experience something is not of our choosing.

Life has a way of blissfully keeping us in suspended joy arriving in unexpected moments which provide us an incredible level of happiness. Here’s to remaining open to where our hours lead us to traverse & keeping the door open to the unexpected!

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The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman. Book Photography Credit: Jorie of jorielovesastory.com.

The Gravity of Birds
by Tracy Guzeman
Source: Won a Bookaway

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

ISBN: 9780007488391

Genres: Art & Art History, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Literary Fiction, Suspense, Time Slip and/or Time Shift


Published by Harper Books, HarperCollins UK

on 6th August, 2013 (USA) | 15th August, 2016 (UK)

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 382

Published By: Harper (@harperbooks),
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers UK (@HarperCollinsUK)
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

The UK edition released 9 days after the 6th of August, 2013!

The American debut was published by Simon & Schuster!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Author Links: Site | Twitter | GoodReads | wicked good Interview!

more insight behind ‘the book’ | Book Discussion on Book Browse w/ Author Q&A

Converse via: #GravityOfBirds + #TimeShift

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com Read More

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Posted Sunday, 6 August, 2017 by jorielov in #HistoricalFix, 20th Century, Art, Art History, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Birthdays & Blogoversaries, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Browse, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Films, Coming-Of Age, Debilitating Diagnosis & Illness, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Fly in the Ointment, Good vs. Evil, Inspiring Video Related to Content, Literary Fiction, Poetry, Suspense, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, The Seventies, The Sixties, Time Shift, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Vulgarity in Literature, Wildlife Artwork, Women's Health

+Blog Book Tour+ The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman

Posted Wednesday, 24 September, 2014 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman

Published By: Ecco (@eccobooks)

an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)
Official Author Websites: Site@sbfeldman  | Facebook
Available FormatsHardcover, Ebook

Converse via: #TheAngelOfLosses

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Angel of Losses” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary ARC copy of the book direct from the publisher Ecco, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I am always seeking stories which will challenge my mind and take me somewhere completely outside of where I have travelled before in literature. I had a sense that this was a story that I would devour — a story which would alight inside the vast plane of my imagination and give me something hearty to chew on afterwards. It was a premonition of a reaction long before the ARC ever arrived by Post. Do you ever find yourself stumbling across an author or a novel that you simply ‘know’ will leave an etched impression on your mind?! This is what I felt when I read the premise of Feldman’s novel and as I read the final words cast on the final page of the last chapter, I knew my premonition was true.

A notation on the cover art design:

The cover art for The Angel of Losses is a mosaic of the visual representations and clues of where the story leads you to follow it’s epic conclusion and of whom you need to pay particular attention to as the story evolves. Pictorial stimulating clues that you will only recognise as you alight on the pages in which give you the insight to understand the circle of their presence. The story is nearly a riddle when all is said and told – a riddle of a theory and a puzzle of an ancient truth aligning forward out of history.

+Blog Book Tour+ The Angel of Losses by Stephanie FeldmanThe Angel of Losses
by Stephanie Feldman
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

The Tiger’s Wife meets A History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters.

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a magical figure named The White Rebbe, a miracle worker in league with the enigmatic Angel of Losses, protector of things gone astray, and guardian of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

When his granddaughter, Marjorie, discovers Eli’s notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather—and her family—comes undone. To find the truth about Eli’s origins and unlock the secrets he kept, she embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from 18th century Europe to Nazi-occupied Lithuania, and back to the present, to New York Stephanie FeldmanCity and her estranged sister Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli’s past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can—and cannot—escape.

Author Biography: Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and her daughter.

Places to find the book:

Genres: Magical Realism


Published by Ecco

on 29th July, 2014

Pages: 288

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Elements of Folklore, Mythology, & the Craft of Stories within a Story:

One of the most beautiful additions to a story I am reading is the otherworld presence of either folklore, mythology, or the craft of how stories are told as they are passed down from one generation to another; oft-times referred to by myself as ‘living  histories’ as they truly are ‘the living history’ of a particular family. Inside Feldman’s novel, you gather a proper sense of time, place, and the stability of connection between the sisters and their grandfather was unified through the genesis of his art for story-telling. Their connective bond was untethered as they grew apart as they aged, but what I loved is seeing how the grandfather’s stories took such a central focus and method of shifting the story forward as I read deeper into the novel itself. To the level that his handwritten stories and prose scribbled into his notebooks were shared with the reader from one chapter into another. It felt very natural to go from an ordinary day out of Marjorie’s life, straight into a piece of this story she only had a peripheral knowledge of before finding one of her beloved grandfather’s notebooks.

My Review of The Angel of Losses:

Such a haunting and riveting opening of a Prologue for The Angel of Losses as we are caught inside of a memory of two sisters who are transfixed and spellbound by their grandfather’s tale of a land far away where a magician knows part of the truth of a missing son of a King. What implored me forward from there is this sense of foreboding, where did the tale leave off from the lore of the bedtime story and where did reality step forward out of the tale? I love feeling an undercurrent of suspense when I read a novel, and as this is my second Magical Realism with an under thread connection to Judaism (as the first was The Golem and the Jinni) I was mesmerized! Entering the story out of the Prologue, time has shifted forward for both sisters, as Holly (the one who was horridly afraid of her Grandfather’s story) switched religions and lived an orthodox life whereas her sister had grown into a bittersweet version of her younger self soured on how the loss of her sister has affected her heart. Her sister is still living, mind you, but the version of Holly as an adult is a far cry from the sister Marjorie knew as a child. The two are living worlds apart rather than mere blocks or cities separated by streets and the swirl of modern life between them.

I loved seeing the larger sense of their familial bond being tested by how one half of their connection is being shattered by the inability to have compassion outside of religious grounds. In this instance, I am referring to Holly’s husband is not accustomed to a non-Jewish family nor does he condone non-religious texts inside his home. A home that was inherited to Marjorie but on loan to Holly; the mere fact that Marjorie has to refer to Holly as Chava is another wrinkling thread of Marjorie’s disfavour of Holly’s choice in husband. You gather the sense at this point in the story where Marjorie is attempting to lock a hold of her past into her present, that the sister’s disconnection was already occurring long before Holly made her choice in marriage. There is an absence of words and an absence of sisterly compassion between both of them, and it points to a larger issue at hand that is slowly unfolding in the narrative itself. I like being caught up inside of a family drama, watching everything unravell as the story unfolds on its own timeclock.

Feldman has a gift for narrative voice stemming out of a wordsmith’s spirited soul for visceral imagery – she innately has gifted us with a special treat of a story, giving us a full-on adventure as we hug to the coattails of Marjorie as she pieces together the legacy and the history of a fabled Magician and the true meaning behind where the lore was always meant to take a believer; the latter of which she never felt she could ascertain on her own behalf. It is a true quandary of a problem – how to root out the history of a theory she has nibbling inside her own mind which other scholars were equally mystified about themselves? Her journey towards understanding edges her further into the mythes and pathos of ancient ruminations.

There are moments whilst I am reading I have gathered a proper sense on how each novel I consume is a building block for another yet to be known novel I will pick up in the future. As if I were stitching a tapestry woven exclusively with the threads and stitches of knowledge itself and of wisdom flowing out of the stories by which have enchanted my mind and enraptured my heart. Each story which slips into my mind’s eye has allowed me to grow, to transcend where I was before I read the story and to appreciate a bit more than I had already before the characters had lived their lives as a shadowy presence inside my own spirit. As I went deeper inside this story, I noticed little nuances of memory flittering through my internal memory files; automatically opening, closing, and filtering as I read Feldman’s prose. I had not realised I had amassed enough knowledge of the religious past to propel myself forward through this story at such an alarming clip of a pace! I cannot wait to re-read this novel when time is not extinguishing off the clock whilst a deadline was passed and overdue.

The researcher in me was happily appreciating the sections devouted to Marjorie’s attempt to research her thesis as much as research further into the legacy of her grandfather’s story. As she was always on the brink of realising that the story itself was much more than it first appeared to be. Being hunkered inside a library, piles of books atop of a table, and pages littered with bookmarks, post-it notes, and notebooks clotted full of scribbled ‘spur of the moment’ notes is what makes my own writerly heart go aflutter! Research is in part how I fell in love with writing, and it is research of another writer I treasure whilst I am reading their own stories cast out into the world for us to find. There is an electricity of excitement reading The Angel of Losses,…

At some point I started to read on autopilot, willing myself past sleep and choking myself a bit on exhaustion, but I simply needed to know how this story, this novel was going to end. I was a bit worried it might end on a cliffhanger, as I never take too kindly to ambiguous endings of stories; especially without the foreknowledge of a pending sequel. Two hours blinked off the clock and I’m at a loss for words — I’m so absorbed into this story, I feel as though I am the one pursuing the research to understand what is just outside of my own memory. This story is not like any other I’ve read and I will never quite forget it either. It is meant to be absorbed and illuminated inside the reader’s mind without revealing everything to the next reader who comes across it. For each of us has to read it ourselves and satisfy our own curiosity,… especially if we’re a seeker of stories and understand the greater meaning of what stories can give us all.

Stephanie Feldman gives her readers a window into a portal of time:

We are stepping through a veil slit into a portal of time made available through an opened window which is the novel inside your hands as your reading The Angel of Losses. Two stories came to mind as I started to read this fantastical journey: The Golem and the Jinni (novel) and The Neverending Story (film) as they are akin to how it feels to step through this world Feldman has provided us to discover. She gave us the same vehicle Bastian had in The Neverending Story, to become one within the story as it unfolded and to live as one with the character as she found where she was going herself. I loved this aspect of the novel because all of reality around me dissolved as I was wholly consumed by the voice of the evoking narrator and the clarity of Feldman’s vision for this unique novel which bent genre and illuminated the world half out of mystic history and half out of the truism of where faith can take anyone if only they were to believe in what is not yet seen.

On the footheels of consuming The Ghost BrideI felt honoured to have had the chance to read Feldman’s tome of esoteric concentration of mystic Judaism cross-sected with religious ancient truths. The suspension of reality and the generous backstories of where the mytho origins of the story can be traced was a treasurement to fall in front of my eyes. I devourted this novel as readily as if I were astride a thunderbolt – even knowing I was outside my intended deadline (as the moon had long since waned and the midnight hours had tilted into a crescendo) I could not yield to sleep. I had to consume the text as quickly as I could process the words on the pages themselves, as my mind was lit aflame by the creativity and the ingenuity of how the historical arc was interlaced into the present of the character’s lives.

Fly in the Ointment:

I counted the words this time and there were less than a dozen splintered out across the whole of the novel. I wasn’t happy to find them; this is an intellectually stimulating piece of literary fiction and they felt misplaced amongst the rhetoric. I am not even sure why they were included in such a brilliant spec of literary voice. They degraded the quality in my eyes, as not only could this stomach their expulsion it was necessary to keep in tact the gift Feldman had writ.

A small explanation on my tardiness:
I had lost hours whilst being needed at the hospital in visitation of my neighbour (as previously disclosed here & here) as much as I was out of the house on another appointment that could not be detained. I attempted to revive the lost hours and run into my deadline without passing through it — but alas, I am quite human and not as immortal as the character inside this novel. Time can be bent but time cannot be recaptured once lost. I apologise for the delayed response, but my tweeting at least was a small clue at my enjoyment whilst I read. I am attempting to make the rest of my scheduled book reviews & tour stops to be alight earlier in the day / evenings from here on out; barring any further unexpected life emergencies, crises, or unplanned events such as lightning storms. 

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This blog tour stop was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

TLC Book Tours | Tour Host

click-through to follow the blogosphere tour.

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See what I am hosting next:

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva

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I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, and although I had happily made sure that I could reacquire the WP Comments where you can leave me a comment by using: WP (WordPress), Twitter, Facebook, Google+, & Email a java glitch disrupted my plans to have these activated! Therefore, I had to re-instate CommentLuv, which only requires Email to leave a note for me!

Kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon! 

Reader Interactive Question:

Have you ever alighted inside of a novel that you unexpectedly were swallowed up inside? Taken root inside the shoes of the character, where their life was full of emotional upheaval and partially an exploration of how to create a life shift that will alleviate their disillusion with where their life was heading; to find a different way of living and carve out their own little peace of happiness? Did you ever read a novel that surprised you?

{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Angel of Losses”, author photograph, book synopsis and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “The Angel of Losses”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

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Posted Wednesday, 24 September, 2014 by jorielov in Agnostic (Questioning & Searching or Unsure), Angels, Biblical Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Browse, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Dreams & Dreamscapes, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Fantasy Fiction, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Fly in the Ointment, Folklore, Folklore and Mythology, Genre-bender, Ghost Story, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Good vs. Evil, Gothic Literature, Gothic Mystery, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Haunting & Ethereal, Historical Mystery, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Inspired By Author OR Book, Judaism in Fiction, Judiasm, Life Shift, Light vs Dark, Literary Fiction, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Magical Realism, Modern Day, New York City, Psychological Suspense, Reincarnation, Religious History, Siblings, Sisters & the Bond Between Them, Superstitions & Old World Beliefs, TLC Book Tours, Unexpected Inheritance, Vulgarity in Literature, World Religions

_+ #atozchallenge _+ 26 Days | 26 Essays [epic journey] Today is Letter “B”. Hint: Living Histories

Posted Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

Day 1: Letter B of the A to Z ChallengeYesterday was the beginning of my EPIC JOURNEY towards revealing why I am a book blogger & what motivates me as a reader! I am involved in a world-wide globally connected blogosphere challenge where each blogger who signs into the participant linky is quite literally confirming their express desire to blog straight [except on Sundays!] for *26 Days!* whilst writing *26!* most intriguing & thought-producing alphabet essays! Or, to be comically inspiring, randomly cheeky, and otherwise delightfully entertaining! The bloggers who have signed into the challenge are from all walks of blogosphere life: book bloggers united alongside lifestyle gurus; writers of all literary styles nudged up against travelogues; the gambit runs the full course of each and every theme, topic, subject, and genre you could possibly light your heart with joy to broach in a blog! And, the curious bit to the journey is where your posts lead you as much as where other blogger’s posts inspire you! It’s this fantastic community to celebrate the spirit within the blogosphere as much as the spirit of connection amongst the bloggers who might not have crossed paths with each other otherwise. After all, the road map for blogs is as wide and large as the actual world outside the nethersphere of websites, pixels, and memes! Walk with us whilst we discover a bit about ourselves, our blog, & each other!

I am blogger #552 out of 2279!

{Notice the slight increase!?}


Few may realise it could be possible, but it was only a handful of years since I pulled myself  out of this EPIC READERS RUT to where I could lay heart and mind back into the depths of the books I always loved to consume! I was even without a proper library branch to call ‘home’, when in late Spring 2009 a new branch opened in a tucked away hamlet! A hamlet by all definitions of being wholly true to itself after the years had raged away its essence and left behind an artistically creative vibe bent on preservation of historic homes, community united festivals and fairs, as well as one of the best self-guided walking tours I have ever come across as you get to amble through time itself, whilst hinged to the present. It was during those hours of having the ability to resume where I had left off a decade before in my reading adventures, I started to gather books which perked an interest inside me that might not even have been there previously! Imagine only being able to collect books by authors you were nearly certain you’d love and appreciate for most of those years, but for whichever reason you could not soak into the narratives because your mind wasn’t willing to go into the heart of what was held within the text!? Imagine if you will, a floodgate of epic proportions allows you the ability to search, pick up, and gather as many books as you could physically carry out of the library whilst re-discovering where your literary heart wanted to wander!

I was bursting at the seams wanting to share my newly discovered reading life which is why the original ‘Jorie Loves A Story’ was a private journal shared amongst her close friends as a way to encourage bookish discussions and reflections based on the books she was reading OR even books that she felt she would enjoy only to discover had not quite floated her boat in the end! She wrote lists of books newly published whilst she had discovered them at local bookstores (big box as at that point in time the local Indies were washed away) and mused about how many ILLs (inter-library loans) and holds (regular in-library materials) one girl could possibly handle within thirty days!? It was this blissful joy of knowing I was going to walk back into my imagination, all the while uncertain about what I might discover about myself and about the characters I was going to meet. In those early dawning months, I was curiously attracted to titles such as “Girl in a Blue Dress” by Gaynor Arnold. I remember going on hold for this lovely book a few times before I could settle the hours to sit for a spell and actually read it! This is the very novel which introduced the idea of B I O G R A P H I C A L F I C T I O N into my heart! I say this because truly, when you sit down to read a fictional accountment of a living person who actually walked the earth, you are properly engaged heart, mind, and soul with their affairs! Their ability to walk outside the pages and land within your living reality as though they were simply popping out for a bit of takeaway nourishment is what makes this particular branch of literature as riveting as it is!

B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N
is a nexus of immersion into the inner heart of a living person’s life.
– Jorie, of Jorie Loves A Story


Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

When I first decided to undertake being a Hostess for blog tours, I wanted to use the opportunities I was being granted to flex my wings and undertake reading books with topics & subjects I may not have had the honour of reading previously. One new fascination of mine is of Revolutionary France, of which I delved into whilst reading “The Golden Hour” by Maiya Williams. A Young Adult book I discovered in the catalogue for my local library, which quite literally changed my perception of the genre! There is a lot of dark undertones happening right now in Young Adult literature and although, they have merit to those who appreciate them, I seek out a different kind of ‘YA’ to read. I entered back into the realms of Children’s Literature with the intent of picking up where I had left off in my own childhood, as I am an Auntie to nieces & nephews as much as I am a Mum-In-Waiting. (see blog lower sidebar: look for Brave Love badge) Uniquely enough, I discovered another quirky French YA book entitled “The Sixty-Eight Rooms” by Marianne Malone! From there my intrepid curious heart watched a classic motion picture on Turner Classic Movies (TCM is quite literally one of two favourite channels of mine! My Twitter feeds elude to the second!) which haunted me a bit as it was approaching Marie Antoinette’s life just prior and just leading after her family lost their lives at the guillotine. I knew there was a good chance hosting for France Book Tours & Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I might start to intersect books which dealt with the French Revolution! And, happily they started to alight into view when Becoming Josephine entered my life!

I had this to share ahead of sharing my reading impressions of the author & story:

I simply adore historical fiction, including historical biographical fiction, which I think this falls under, as it’s about Bonaparte and his wife! I like the backdrop of the story, and how strong Rose had to become in order to overtake her plight! You see, I have a bit of a long-standing admiration for the French Revolution, even though by many estimates I have only just begun my sojourn into this fascinating section of literature! My attention is thus esteemed to continue to seek out stories set before, during, and after the French Revolution! What can I say? Once you become attached to the living characters of whom most of the books are based upon, in as much as the characters created to walk amongst their living counterparts, you find that one book or five is not quite enough to fully encompass the history of what is left behind to be known!

Stemming from this short history of mine with French Literature, there was a cursory exploration of Bonaparte whilst I was eighteen! Having ducked out of a heavy rainstorm and into the warmth glow of a bookshoppe I had accidentally discovered along a main street – I took the balm of books against nature’s thunderstorm! As I wandered around, I remember finding a rather curious little book, tattered yet readable, (as the bookshoppe sold new and used copies!) about the life of Napoléon Bonaparte! Intrigued I purchased the book and stored it inside a rain-proof bookslip! Ever since that aplomb discovery I have whet my appetite for more! I would be curious to learn how you alighted to read about the French?

– quoted from my review of “Becoming Josephine” by Heather Webb

B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N for me allows for a more inter-personal connection to the person stepping forward out of history’s door. I have attempted to read full-on biographies, but more than naught, I fail in making an emotional connection much less an interested one as some of them can languish rather than enliven. When I turn to B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N I feel as though the writer has planted me directly into the living person’s shoes and innermost thoughts. I get to breathe in their essence and live a bit in the world in which they knew whilst they were alive. Each of us arrives at a connecting point inside books at different junctions and fixtures, this perhaps is mine. The most alarming part of reading about Josephine as she grew to become Bonaparte’s wife is this reflection on behalf of France:

The backdrop of Becoming Josephine is quintessentially Revolutionary France, where the French hinged between the start of the revolt and the ensuing Reign of Terror. A shuddering of emotions always rings through me whilst thinking on the harder hitting realities of the age which the French had to endure. Webb has a way of acknowledging the back-story of history behind the coattails of the character’s lives in such a way, as to gently guide the reader forward and through, rather than shocking us to our core. The revolution ekes out in small fashion, where rumours of revolt start to erupt in the salons of the day, and where the commoners start to realise they need to launch into a retreat from Royal rule. Part of me understands this and part of me grieves for the loss of the Royal family, due to how brutal the Revolution turns and ends.

And, yet at the heart of the center core of the Revolution you have Josephine and Napoleon, two people I never thought I’d see come together, now that I know the origins of Josephine’s past. The tapestry of fashion is lit and gilded behind the tumult which has been brewing to explode. Interspersed with the flamboyance of cloth and jewels, you gather the sense of urgency in the fever of desperation.

– quoted from my review of “Becoming Josephine” by Heather Webb

Illuminations by Mary SharrattIlluminations: a novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt was a novel I came to acquaint myself with through Shelf Awareness for Readers (bi-weekly Literary newsletter). As I researched more about the author, I realised I was stumbling across an intuitive writer who dared to shed a light on unknown fixtures of historical merit. As much as I knew she was a writer who broke the barriers and wrote the stories which evoked a passion within her to tell. I am naturally drawn to writers who forge their own literary paths unto where their stories need to find a reader who appreciates the alternative nature of their writing voice. I like seeing writers taking risks for their stories as much as listening to the characters who step forward in their mind’s eye. At times, those characters are ethereal apparitions of a living soul whose own history would be better served in a living narrative than a testament of facts and notations of life milestones.

To illumine the mind and strengthen the spirit,…

I have always known of the interconnectedness of humanity, the natural world, and the realm behind the veil of this world which is the gateway to spirit world. Each of us is connected to each other and to what is not yet understood though believed to be in existence on faith alone. What I appreciated about reading Hilegard’s story is that she is touching on the elemental truths that each spiritual person comes to realise and accept: the circle of life and of time, the abundance of the interlocking connections, and how we are only in the infancy of our understandings of the greater whole that we strive to obtain whilst we walk Earth.

By examining her life through this biographic exposition, we are striving to become closer to understanding what she came to understand herself. Each of us are given gifts in life to share and pass down, small legacies of goodwill, hope, peace, love, charity, and grace. We tap into where our lifepath is leading us whilst we are openly receptive to where we are being guided to go next. Hilegard was unique in this, as she viewed herself as a flawed human who made more mistakes than deemed repentable, and yet, she could not help acknowledge that she had become a vessel of truth, as chosen as her destiny to give others’ insight that they were not privy too. She reminds me of women I have heard about prior to her, who never felt they were good enough to be placed in a position of importance. How humbling it is then, to realise that these are the women and spiritual beings who are called upon to do the most good during their lifetime!? To ingenuate a plausibility of which most of us might forego or bypass whilst caught up in the clatterment of living our lives!?

– quoted from my review of Illuminations: a novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

To extend out of our known reality and intersect on the path of another who lived more than a handful of centuries ago, is the fruitious blessing of reading. We get to pull ourselves in and out of our comfort zones. We get to take a risk ourselves, with our heart and with our mind’s ability to process the imagery and historical truism that we find knitted into B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N. We honour the past and the lives in which were lived each time we juxtaposition ourselves into the fractured space where the temporal gravity of time yields a veil in which we can step backwards and forwards; endeavouring greater empathy and giving us a humbling account of humanity.

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull ChatlienThere are moments where I truly feel we are given select books to read at a certain fixed point in which we are meant to read them. For instance, if I hadn’t previously read Becoming Josephine I would not have realised the greater scope of circumstances which befell Betsy Patterson inside The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien! The full realisation of the breadth of how their lives were cross-sected hit me will full force whilst I was in the early chapters of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. The fabric of space we set out to explore in literature become little beckoning notes to the universe. Notes in which flutter into the cosmos and are answered in the curious ability of having books placed into our hands which carry-on the research and conversation which was already broached.

I could only imagine what was rollicking through Betsy’s mind and heart whilst she was being tested against will to re-acquire her beloved’s presence. I am thankful to have this particular biographical fiction cross my path, because it has inspired me to seek out more historical novels set around the Bonaparte’s. For every imagined truth we all perceive about those who lived in the historical past, there is oft-times a hidden story surrounding the very people who might have repelled our interest. I oft wondered about the lives interconnected to Napoleon, the unsung voices of his reign, and through Becoming Josephine and The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte I am embarking towards that end; of unveiling the incredible women who not only backed their men but forged through all the doubts of their eras to secure their futures. And, for this I thank the authors who are giving their readers quite a heap to ruminate on!

– quoted from my review of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Nor did I ever find myself inquisitively compassionate on behalf of the Bonaparte’s. Napoleon Bonaparte is simultaneous with nearly ever other dictatorial ruler who attempted to sequester and compress his rule over others who had natural bourne freedoms and rights. There are members of his family who were outside the depth of knowledge of what his true convictions and actions were to be undertook, and in their histories we find compassion. The mere fact that even his family was left privy to being pawned in and out of his schemes is a grief they never could shake free. There are other aspects of the French Revolution which goes against most of what is widely known about the era and in some ways, not all of it is rosy from the perspectives of the commoners either. And, this is were being a book blogger is a true gift. I am able to journall out my thoughts and ruminations as I read. Sharing them with an audience I hope is willing to take the journey with me and perhaps even start a conversation based upon what I have expressed. Rooting in on the underlining issues and coming to a connection stitched solely through what was read, internalised, and processed. Conversations are a unique benefit because they help pool our ponderments and gives us the will to examine differentiating revelations. It is my hope to garnish these kinds of conversations on each post where a reader drops by and adds his/her thoughts into the comment threads.

Sebastian's Way: The Pathfinder by George Steger

There are moments too, which arise for a book blogger where one falters the confidence to believe she’s picked a book that might be a bit past her ability to handle. Although I instantly requested Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder by George Steger my ruminative thoughts after my review state my full emotional state prior to picking up the book:

I dare thought it might not be plausible to settle into a thick slice of historical suspense such as a story of Charlemagne, until I was given the chance to read Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder! A book which lives up to the virtues of historical fiction by etching into our mind’s eye the very inclinations and notions of the age in which Steger’s central figure lived and breathed. It was an age of boldness and an age of religious upheaval. The battle to control the power of the land and the power of the people was not forged through mediation. It was a time which bespoke more of war wounds and proven allegiances based on leadership in the field. To approach the narrative with a slight hesitation of what the context would reveal to me, gave me a bit of an edge once I was ensconced! My nerves melted with each word and paragraph I hungrily drank in to see where the author was taking me next. His ability to light the story from within the heart of the narrative itself is a gift.

– quoted from my review of Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder by George Steger

Charlemagne is a near-ghost entity whose entered the nethersphere of my literary walk for as many years as I first drew an inclinating nod towards being a history buff! The corridors of history are as closely-knit together as the world of art, in which, you don’t have traverse very far before hearing echoes of Charlemagne! Yet. The curious bit to those echoes is that oft-times they are not completely dimensional of who the man behind the ‘infamous name’ was or what he represented of himself in life. If I hadn’t clued into an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” I might still be a bit in the dark about the fullness of his transformative soul and his heart for leading his mind towards redemptive restitution. Steger pulls you into the folds of where the myth of Charlemagne leads into the man Charlemagne became.

Citadel by Kate MosseA reader’s heart bleeds as readily as the character’s whose life is afflicted and fraught with conflictual adversity. Mosse is an author I first learnt of through my Mum’s suggestion to read Labyrinth. As this book came up for review, I instantly tipped my hat to read Citadel as it felt as my moment to read Kate Mosse had arrived. My goal was simple enough: read the first two books in the series before proceeding into Citadel; except time and life had other plans! As a book blogger you have to adapt and stay flexible to everything that can arrive out of the clear blue, whilst still being able to bring the stories your reviewing into the limelight of your reading hours.

History has a unique way of imparting important acknowledgements out of the past, by finding the ways in which the words can travel through vessels of time. Words handed and passed down through generations, from family to stranger seeking a confidence of protection is one of the most reliable methods of keeping knowledge secret from eyes who would take the same words and twist them into harmful deeds. It’s how we as a society react and root out resilience in the face of our foremost dire fears and shake away the rootings of evil. Resistance from oppression and the strife of a regime bent against the welfare of the people is true courage lit aflame.

Sandrine is an intuitive woman who was set apart from others; she could see past the veils of our reality and into the next life just beyond our focus. She was tuned into mystical truths which gave her a bolster of strength in the nanoseconds where her own inner resolve faltered. Her life was writ to be in service of others, and in of giving all of her mind, body, and soul to fighting for the sanctity of life, liberty, and freedom. Citadel is epic in scale, emotionally convicting, and powerfully written to leave you quite still at its conclusion retrospectively museful, and enlightened. Your heart shatters and aches in an indescribable way when you read the four sentences on page 673. With eyes too blurry and a heart too gutted to carry-on into the Epilogue.

– quoted from my review of Citadel by Kate Mosse

To Live Forever by Andra Wakins

The best surprise I have had in a long time as a book blogger is having a blog tour alight in my Inbox which stirred my avidly curious imagination into drinking the proportional elements of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Wakins! The very first time I saw the book cover art and hungrily read the book synopsis, I knew I had found lightning in the bottle, because the manner in which the story was presenting itself, it was a one-off chance to get to know an emerging new writer on the peripatetic jolt beginning of her literary career! A long-term appreciator of Western fiction and the expeditions of early American frontier settlers, Lewis & Clark are a fixture of my memories of frontier living. To take a formidable presence such as Meriwether Lewis and re-invent the way in which we soak into B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N as his story is only half of the scope of the story is literary brilliance!

The story is interwoven as a refractive mirror of the Natchez Trace itself. The harder you believe any blight of adversity is in your life to conquer and overcome, the more your spirit will start to believe your too fragile to try anything. The Trace is a test of wills as much as it’s a test of inner fortitude to re-strengthen our shield against unwanted storms and periods of stress which arise out of nowhere. Life can ebb and flow, bobbing us along until we’re ready to see what our eyes blinded us towards revealing. All of our passageways lead us further towards where our feet are meant to land, but what if we hold ourselves back from the greatest revelations of all? Simply because we’re not willing to alight where we’re lead to go? The Trace is unique in that it withholds its past like a tightly woven tapestry. Each piece of its innate soul is stitched inside the weathered path where feet and souls mingled into the mist. There lessons linger and their spirits shudder to grieve.

There is an ever-knowing pool of truth and hope awaiting us around each bend and turn. The people we feel we are ‘randomly’ encountering are the kind of teachers and advisers we might never expect would be important to our growth. Listen with compassion. Be kind to strangers who might one day become a cherished friend. Grow through friendship and rise each day realising the beauty of the hour. Our lives are leading us through the light and back inside it.

– quoted from my review of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Wakins

The Tenor by Peter Danish

On the foot-heels of Meriwether Lewis, I am embarking on an intimate portrait of a previously unknown opera singer Maria Callas, as I entered into the fictional account of how a soldier she knew in real life became the living angel who saved her. I was curious about this book due to my appreciation of opera (classical opera, rock opera, & modern opera band) and for finding a hidden story out of a portion of World War II I was not expecting to unearth! These are the stories I like to discovery the most: fixtures within history who had the most to lose and the most to gain, whose lives were lived nearly unknown to each generation who came after they had lived. Men and women whose spirits are rejoicing a bit each time a writer clues in on their legacy and gives a light upon their days with a new mirth of compassion and understanding. The past deserves compassion due to how difficult most of the harder chapters were to survive as they were lived through.

As a precursor to my review which goes live on Friday, 4th of April, I want to share with you a piece of Mr. Danish’s interview:

What touched you most about the story whilst giving you the breadth of creating “The Tenor”?

Danish responds: I originally learned the story of the soldier from Arianna Stassinopoulos (now more famously known as Arianna Huffington, of Huffington Post fame) and her biography of Maria Callas. But when I read a half-dozen other accounts of her life, none of them mentioned him! So I sought out an old family friend who was a personal friend of Callas (actually a friend of my ex-in-laws – yes, I cared enough to reach out to my ex-in-laws!) He informed me that the story was indeed true, and not only had the soldier existed, but Maria had a school-girl crush on him! And that the two of them often sang together! The fact that they sang together struck me deeply. I just knew he had to be a fellow opera singer, because only another opera singer would have recognized the subtleties, the nuances that separate the good from the great and the great from the once-in-a-lifetime voices.

– quoted from my Interview with Peter Danish, author of “The Tenor”

The one B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N novel which slipped through my fingers this year is Nancy Horan’s “Under a Wide & Starry Sky” of which I requested twiceover and was unfortunately one of too many who had itched to read the story! I even had the book arrive on hold at my local library only to boomrang back as its timing in my life was quite ill-conceived! I am hopeful that before Summer starts her wrath of a reign, I can dig into the biographical sketch of Robert Louis Stevenson and get to know one writer out of history I was never quite keen on reading, but felt there was more to him than perhaps I could have foreseen!

However, there is another B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N account of a life I have not fully explored on my blog but of which captured my heart full the first six months of 2013! Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler had the ability to beseech Zelda’s voice out of the grave, presenting herself as strong as she were in life. Fowler’s writer’s road towards publication of Z is quite the testament of how one writer is destined to pen the life of a living person, giving themselves a history of an attachment with them, and enabling the readers who find their stories an ability to understand them. I read Fowler’s novel through Book Browse and participated in an exchange of forum based conversations, whereupon I felt most of the other readers entered into the book and the discussions bias against Zelda Fitzgerald. I went in with an open eye for giving Zelda the freedom to be herself and to explain herself for her actions and lifestyle if she felt it necessary. What is rather evident as you read Z is that Zelda was living under thumb of a controlling and manipulative husband who self-less desire for fame, fortune, and immortal legacy in print overrode her most basic needs. The most gutting part of the book for me is the ending chapters, where we start to see Zelda brave the will to remove herself from the toxic environment and start to stake her own claim on her life. I realise I tweeted I would re-read this volume of her life this year, in 2014, but I still feel as though I need a bit of distance before I re-open her story. Sometimes, the books we read are not meant to be examined in length but absorbed privately and cherished forevermore. Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald might be one of mine. The capstone of spending time with her was seeing the modern remake of “The Great Gatsby” in which the Fitzgeralds were illuminated on camera and the life in which they lived were on full display. It was so clearly evident of a fictional account of how dangerous they lived and how daring they believed they were invisible that I was emotional off-kilter for my birthday! As it was the film I elected to celebrate seeing!

And, there lies the beauty of uncovering B I O G R A P H I C A L  F I C T I O N as it forces us to emphatically connected the threads in which all of us are bonded.


A bit of an extra surprise for those A to Z Challengers

who patiently awaited my “Letter B”:

The Tenor by Peter Danish Book Trailer by Peter Danish


Thank you for joining me on DAY 2 | A to Z Challenge!

I am a girl named Jorie who loves a story!
I am a bookish library girl on a quest for literary enlightenment!
I am predominately self-taught and library educated!
I am Mademoiselle Jorie!
Thank you for joining me on this journey!

This marks my second post for the:

A to Z Challenge

And, might I add as an observation on Day 2? 

Why do you think we illicit such a curious attachment to understanding a person through biographical fiction OR within the tomes of biographies & autobiographies!? Where does your personal preference lie when wanting to drink in the history of a person who lived!?

{SOURCES: A to Z Challenge Participant & Letter B Badge provided by the A to Z Challenge site for bloggers to use on their individual posts & blogs to help promote the challenge to others. Book covers provided by France Book Tours & Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for promotion and review on Jorie Loves A Story; used with permission. The book trailer by Peter Danish had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. }

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 by jorielov in A to Z Challenge, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Book Browse, Bookish Discussions, Charlemagne, Debut Novel, Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte, France Book Tours, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Josephine Bonaparte, Maria Callas, Meriwether Lewis

*Booking the Rails, No.1* A book entitled ‘Wonder’, with a curious proposition held within its story,…

Posted Saturday, 22 March, 2014 by jorielov , , , 5 Comments

Parajunkee Designs
Books on the Underground; Books on the Subway; Jorie Loves A Story: Booking the Rails

The premise behind “Booking the Rails” was the impetus of a scathingly brilliant idea on behalf of Jorie! How does a girl who lives in the Southeast of the United States *actively!* participate in the mission of Books on the Underground & Books on the Subway!? How can she make a difference with a bookish blog without placing the books on the rails herself!? *lightbulb!*

Generate a book blogosphere gathering, where readers and bloggers can reach out to each other and start a social conversation! Expounding social interest to a new high to where those who pick up the books left on the rails by Hollie (in London) & Rosy (in New York City) will be encouraged not only to touch base by their mutually exclusive hashtags #BooksontheUnderground & #BooksontheSubway but might find themselves sharing their impressions of the books which alighted in their hands! This is one bookish blogger’s mission to read the books left on the rails! Jorie is therefore “booking the rails!”

Join her discoveries! Chat your thoughts! Tweet & share the movement behind volunteer public libraries! Unite bookish souls! Unite!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

 About the Girls of the Rails:

*:Hollie*:

website: booksontheunderground.tumblr.com
twitter:
@BooksUndergrnd
hashtags: #BooksOnTheUnderground
facebook: Books on the Underground

I moved to London five years ago after graduating from university and I’m originally from Lincolnshire. I left university adamant that I was going to get a job as a Creative in an Advertising agency. After 2 years of interning at agency after agency, I now find myself working at Leo Burnett, London. I have about an hour commute to work everyday, from Dalston to West Kensington, so reading is a nice escape for me. I love receiving recommendations for books and I have always loved passing on great books to my friends. One day I finished a book I was reading on the tube and just thought what a lovely surprise it would be for the next person to find. I didn’t leave my book that day because I realised there were a lot of hurdles to overcome. I didn’t want it to be just a book out in the world alone; I wanted it to be part of something bigger. I designed and printed Books on the Underground stickers and that’s how it started. What’s Books on the Underground? It’s a public library on the go! Find a book, take it, read it and when you’re done with it, put it back on the train for someone else to enjoy! All books are marked with the BOTU sticker and encourage people to tweet & follow the blog.

*:Rosy*:

website: booksonthesubway.com
twitter:
@BooksSubway
hashtags: #BooksOnTheSubway
facebook: Books on the Subway

I’ve been living in New York for around one year when I found out about Books On The Underground, thanks to Facebook. I saw an article about Hollie and BOTU when it hit me right there: I need to do this in NY. I think I thought about it for 5 minutes before I decided that I’m going to do it. I reached out to Hollie who was amazing and supportive; we did the NYC stickers together. Why did I decide to do it? I have a 40 minute commute to work everyday, and that’s nothing compared to some other commuters who have even longer commutes. Looking at people in the early morning is the most depressing thing ever. It’s like their eyes are lifeless. They stare into space as they cruise from stop to stop. Why not give these people something to look forward to when they get onto the train? Why not pass the time enriching their brain instead of bobbing their head along with the train movement. That’s why I decided to expand BOTU to BOTS. And I haven’t regretted my decision for one bit. What’s BOTS? It’s a public library on the go! Find a book, take it, read it and when you’re done with it, put it back on the train for someone else to enjoy! All books are marked with the BOTS sticker and encourage people to tweet & follow the blog.

And, then came *:Jorie*: {Booking the Rails!}

website: jorielovesastory.com
twitter: @joriestory
(updated: at time of post I was @JLlovesAStory)
hashtags: #JLASblog, #ChocLitSaturdays, #BookingTheRails

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and after a ten-year writer’s block I discovered Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. In December 2013 my path crossed with Rosy & Hollie (of Books on the Underground & Books on the Subway) via Twitter whereupon I was encouraged to play an active role in promoting their bookish mission. I conceived the idea of an exclusive feature entitled “Booking the Rails” to showcase the books they leave on the trains in London & NYC thinking this would create a social conversation. The first feature debuts 19 March 2014 to coincide with my third appearance on The Star Chamber Show. I am the Chambers volunteer live tweeting secretary.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

*:Booking the Rails, No.1*:

A book entitled ‘Wonder’,
with a curious proposition held within its story,…

Waiting in the station at West Ken this evening are some of the final copies of Wonder by @RJPalacio from @RHKidsUK pic.twitter.com/ybFmbFcVjH

Each feature spotlight of “Booking the Rails” will be drawn from the books left on the rail systems via New York City and/or London! For my first spotlight, I was trying to sort out which of the books I pulled from my local library to read first! Oh, I had forgotten to say, whilst the rail passengers are taking part in a volunteer-run library, I am ‘booking the rails’ along with them by borrowing the books from my own public library! Mine might be stationery but the books allow my imagination to remain transient! “Wonder” was a selection of mine to read when it first debuted, having been checked out numerous times to where I was a bit vexed it simply *had!* to boomerang back due to lost hours whilst checked out to me! The premise never left me and it felt fitting my first selection would come from the London rails! The start of everything!

Borrowed Book: My local public library originally purchased Wonder by R.J. Palacio at time of publication. I had always meant to borrow and read the book directly thereafter but never had the opportunity! I feel twice blessed by this book ahead of reading its pages; the first was finding it through my local library and thus, a second time in the feeds of Books on the Underground! The very Twitter account which launched a budding friendship and a conjoined effort to bring awareness to volunteer libraries on the move! I borrowed “Wonder” from my local library and this time, I read it through and through!

Inspired to Share:

The compassion Ms. Palacio has for this story and its heartfelt message of hope in the face of adversity is something that I not only support but am appreciative to observe! Her kindness is revealed in her worriment over the reactions of her sons, which served as the impetus of writing Wonder; drawing light upon our own apprehensive nature, and to serve as a sounding board towards social change & tolerance of the unknown. To change our immediate reactions which might even come to surprise us whilst allowing compassion and acceptance to be the greater good in which we impart. Listen to her words and open your heart to engage directly into the narrative.

Authors Revealed: R.J. Palacio via NCTV17

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Published By: Random House Children’s Books
(an imprint of Random House Publishing Group)
, 14 February 2012
Official Author WebsitesSite | Blog | Twitter | Facebook for Wonder
Available Formats: Hardcover, E-Book, Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition Hardback
Page Count: 320

Converse via: #TheWonderofWonder & #ChooseKind

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A boy named August:

August has a keen philosophical intuitiveness about himself, the dynamics of his family, and his personal living environment around him. He seeks to find solace out of uncertainty and squalls chaos with simplistic truths which etch out the stigmas of which society oft-times places on individuals who are in some shape or form ‘different’ from the ‘norm’. And, the sad truth is that normalcy is in the eye’s of the beholder! To be normal is quite definitively the ability to be wholly true to yourself, your internal resolve of spirit, and in knowing who you are without the prejudgements and negative thoughts of others assembling into your heart. August has instinctively dry humour to convey his thoughts about life, dispelling any unease to meet him because he breaks the ice by simply being himself! He draws you into his sphere by engaging you in a way you were not expecting! No pretense. He’s simply ‘August’, who prefers to go by ‘Auggie’, the brother of Via and the boy who wants to live like a regular ten-year old entering fifth grade!

The author instinctively took the elephant out of the room by not revealing the true nature and perception of how August looks to the world. I can only hope that if this were to become a motion picture, the film-makers would make the same choice in revealing the story as told by those who interact with August without the full sight of his facial features. Because this isn’t a story about medical afflictions and physical disabilities which challenge us, this is a story about a young boy seeking to find his niche inside of a world who is not yet understanding how to accept him in its fold.

When August started enveloping me into the block of New York City he calls home, I felt as though I could sense the comfortable aura of where he walks and of whom he interacts with on a daily basis. The inertia of home outside of his house, where people know his name and his personality giving him a true sense of acceptance in the outside world. Whilst on the fringes of leaving the cosy-comforts of this reality to trade it in for the unknown perils of attending school for the first time.

My Review of Wonder:

The author chose an opening quotation from the song “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant, which I must admit, was one of my favourite songs on the radio whilst I was in high school! I loved the simple and honest truths stitched inside the lyrical story, allowing you to feel instantly uplifted by its spirited message of Hope and Acceptance. A tune which for the greater part of my teenage years was one of the few songs which lived inside me, a bit like some of the spirited songs by The Cranberries, Jewel, Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Moriesette, Sarah MacLachlan, and the Indigo Girls. Free spirits seeking to spread enlightenment and harmony through their vocals and melodies! To realise that this song was the inspirational foothold to allow Palacio the ability to transcend into the heart of the narrative is quite humbling! A song of reverberated ideals and a moral uplifting resonance transmorphed into a story of a young boy who leads quite the extraordinary life! I oft felt that the extraordinary individuals we perchance to encounter whilst living through our everyday hours are the very individuals who never consider themselves anything outside the ‘ordinary!’ Their inner light does not only shine bright, but with a humbling arc of self-acceptance and awareness which infects all of us with a measure of gladness we did not realise was amiss!

[ Speaking from a teenager of the mid-1990s, I love how the title of page 61 begins with the key lyric of the Green Day song which I actually liked back then! ]

August is a character held within a sincere voice of the transforming and wonderment of youth; where we get to be on the ‘verge’ of every new experience in trepidation of the unexpected and unknown for the very ‘first’ time! We get to have the belly bouncing butterflies of indifference and of anxiety stemming out of our inability to trust ourselves by a confidence we have not yet garnished into place. We are on the brink of discovering the layers of our personalities and the depths of our resolve to compute the outward changes of our lives, whilst muddling through our growing years in full wonder of how we are able to rise into each new obstacle and challenge us with a determined spirit of growth. August is like so many of us who felt as though each new experience coming into view arrived too quickly, and was not fully wanted at its time of arrival!

#ChooseKind is cleverly taken from the novel (off of page 48!) inside Mr. Browne’s English class where he is inviting his students (and August too!) to examine their conception of who they are and who they are striving towards becoming. It’s a preceptional challenge to have the students in the story step back from themselves and examine how they are being perceived by their peers and if they are representing their inner truth. It’s a classical technique to include a key word or phrase into a storyline, but in the advent of the technological age of social media, this clever phrase being turnt to clue in the reader to an impactful life lesson takes on a higher level of meaning! A hashtag allows all thoughts and observations attached to the tweet embedded to become interwoven into the global thread of conversation whilst allowing everyone to have a conjoined and collaborative exchange! This takes a book whose message is self-evolving outside of its sleeves to a new height in ‘interaction’! And, I am celebrating this achievement! Choose kind is the individual choice of being who you ought to be in the moment which intersects with right and wrong behaviour. As much as it’s an exercise in learning that being right ‘all the time’ isn’t something to strive to achieve either! There is always a middle ground in life, and the younger everyone can embrace this, the more enlightenment can be ignited. In my thinking, alongside the lines of using the hashtag for #randomjoy (one of my most favourite ways of sharing my ‘extra’ bubbles of joy!) this new hashtag could be inserted to express, convey, and materialise little notes of thought where a kindness was given openly and freely. Or an acknowledgement of a generosity in the midst of in-difference could be honoured. A seedling of a conversation where in every point of face reaction, ‘choosing kindness’ over aggression or even in projecting a position of righteous thought could be replaced by ‘a kind act of humanity’.]

Seeing August slowly become integrated into his class, where Summer breezes into his life during lunch and Jack (Jack Will) decides to make up his own mind about August, chooses to help find the humour in everything that could hurt August if he weren’t on his side, I started to get a warm glowing in my heart. I liked the direction of progress Palacio used inside the story. Especially with the additional “Precepts” by Mr. Browne’s English class! No one is ever too old to wiggle their mind around something quite larger than the scale of our lifepath. Yet, appearances of friendship can be a dicey sea to navigate properly! Those who appear to be your stand-up friend and confidante might actually be a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing. The tricky part is sorting out who is a friend and who is truly a foe. For young August, his mask of reality was shattered by Halloween on campus. He was given a golden opportunity to listen to his classmates speak about him, but the startling and scary truths coming out of their mouths was enough to shatter anyone’s heart and soul. His spirits had been keenly lifted by prior kindnesses, yet in that one moment of clarity he saw what all of us who are bullied have to see: sometimes the people you trust are not the people whom you trust them to be.

I have to give credit to Palacio for switching up the regular order of the novel by inserting full-on chapters which reveal a principal character’s insight into August! She started out by showcasing Via (August’s sister), followed by Summer (August’s first true friend), and then came Jack Will. I wasn’t sure what to think as I started to read Jack’s section because I had previous information about how he effectively tainted his friendship with August. You get an inside glimpse into each of the character’s emotions and thoughts as their lives intersect with August at school and off school grounds. It’s quite unique, because the author has this ability to keep a vein of realism in how she portrays the children and not forgetting to keep August grounded at the center. Writing Via’s boyfriend Justin’s perspective in undercaps was a charming way of revealing his inner spirit. I especially loved how some scenes we’ve already read are re-examined or pulled back through another interpretation of the events as they unfolded. As though even as we had seen them, we were still missing pertinent pieces to understand the wholeness of the scene. By the time I reached Miranda’s section my heart-felt quite full. I knew of a girl like Miranda who felt safer and more at home at a classmate’s home.

The greatest gift we can all give is the gift of love and friendship intermixed with everyday kindness. This is a novel which celebrates the simple joys in life and the complications of when the views and opinions of the outside world can sometimes cloud our own perspectives and hearts. It’s a novel which champions those few who might have a harder line to walk in life but do so with a gladful heart. They see the light and the sparks of joy whenever possible and attempt to let go of the swarming of negativity that can overshadow them. They are the true heroes and heroines of our world, because it’s in their quiet calm of recognition of our frailties and our insecurities that we remain our humanness back to them. This is a novel which exposes the will to carry-on in a positive way whilst allowing for the grace of acceptance of other people’s weaknesses not to overshadow inner strength. The true ‘wonder’ of ‘wonder’ is how kind the world truly is when you walk out each day with a heart full of joy, a spirit full of kindness, and a warm smile to reflect your innermost feelings at heart.

Booking the Rails : whilst reading Wonder:

I can only imagine truly what it would feel like to find this curiously robin egg blue book with a curious illustrative face on its cover which bespeaks of a curious tale; one blue eye nestled into the left side of a young boy’s face. Scribbled over the eye in a child’s hand of letters is the single word: W O N D E R, of which is the book’s title. The author’s name is curiously attached to the bottom of the illustration left behind as a watermark. Although, on my library copy, a sticker of “SSYRA 2013-2014” is tucked quite close to the ‘eye’ of Wonder and the author’s name is obscured by my library’s barcode sticker! This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered what the full-on cover-art might appear as by seeing ‘past’ the library markings; but I am ever so very thankful to be blessed with the literature my library provides, when I am truly curious, I simply pull up an author’s website! Wonder is one book I’ve seen in big box stores to chain bookshoppes! I’d love to say I’ve seen this little book that could change the world in an Indie bookshoppe, but all of those have gone by the wayside locally. A sorrow I have not yet quite let go of. What then would I feel as I settled into my spot on the train (am I booking it in to the city or the suburbs?), whilst idly curious about this book which presented itself (in the station? on the seat next to me? notched into a fixture of pamphlets?) to be picked up? I’m carting off this blue book of Wonder without even realising what led me to be drawn into it. Now, I’m sitting on a train (perhaps a train I take quite frequently but not for work or trade?) toying with opening its pages yet caught up in the humdrum of train life. Other people are jostling into view, one steady stream of commuters and rail riders. The noise is deafening and yet, at this point in my life it’s barely an audible hum. My stuff is in my lap and I’m indifferent to wanting to browse through my portable calendar ticking off my next scheduled ‘have to dos’. The book is resting on top of my backpack (because that’s how I roll!) diverting my attention from anything else. Alas, the curiosity of what is inside befalls any other notion to notice which station we’re coming in or out of, much less how much longer I’m meant to ride to my destination! I open the book to find Natalie Merchant’s words from her infamous song “Wonder” and I nearly hear it on the PA system; its left that strong of an impression in my mind! Hmm,. this is quite interesting! The first section of Part One reveals another piece of the song and floats me inwardly back to the days gone by when it belted out on the radio whilst my driver’s license was being minted into use! I turnt the page and found myself curiously drawn into a boy named August’s life story… his humour is dry, his sense of identity is nonplussed, and his story is captivating me,… I reach page 44 cringing at the cruel reference Julian gives August about Darth Sidious ahead of disembarking this otherwise ordinary train which transports within my regular sphere of living! What day is this!? What was I meant to do?! All I want to do now is resume riding the rails to see where Wonder leads me,…

My recollection of ‘booking the rails’ is a fictional account, yet my mind wonders, what were the stories of those who read ‘Wonder’ on the London Tube!? #TheWonderofWonder perhaps!? Let’s start a conversation, shall we!? Share your story in the comment threads!

Via, no Olivia? : A sister whose brother has special needs:

Never one to assert her own needs ahead of her brothers, Via is one of those strong-willed and self-reliant children who has a sibling with medical special needs whereupon she built an armour of strength to support herself without parental oversight. Her side of the story isn’t explored until page 81 where Part 2 begins. The honesty her character was given was especially giving as I would feel that it was a very real emotional change of perception on Via’s behalf when her eyes betrayed her heart in seeing August as the outside world does. She was the supportive older sister for all of his life, but when she spent time away with her grandmother she was led out of her routine. She was given the freedom to be Via, to express herself without cause for alarm, and to be surrounded in perpetual light rather than with shadows and darkness looming in and around her steps. She was living without consequence of prejudicial perceptions and for the first time in her young life, her eyes changed how she saw the world. The way in which she saw her brother terrified her on one level and opened her up to a new awareness on another level. Its how she dealt with balancing the two living truths that would set her character on a path she might not be willing to explore.

Via goes into more detail about August’s birth defects and what she presumes is the underlying problem between her, August, their parents, and the world. She’s on the verge of adulthood and deciding on who she wants to be, and that includes the type of sister she will be for August. I’ll admit, I cannot always picture characters as they are described inside stories, sometimes my mind falters and sees the character as my heart sees them rather than what is visually on display through descriptive narrative. For me, August doesn’t quite fit the picture Via has painted for us, as I see August’s heart.

The mere fact that she was reading “War and Peace” inside her ninth grade year made me smile inwardly! Except to say, I’m reading “War and Peace” this year ahead of turning thirty-five and to me, that’s something to smile about as well!

Why a book called ‘Wonder’ is transformatively positive:

Full credit for the bravery shown throughout “Wonder” from the guiding hands of its author, Ms. R.J. Palacio who guides her audience through the brewing storm of August Pullman’s fifth grade year. This is a pivotal transition for August because he is going to be mainstreamed into regular school without the protection of family and the homeschooling environment of learning at home. Palacio placidly and pointedly gives the readers strong evocations of what is right and wrong throughout the dialogue exchangements between the principal characters and supporting characters. She allows the reader to decide in some ways, what is the right phrase to express yourself and what is the wrong way to implicate a negative response out of someone you want to bully. She draws out the undercurrent issue of the anxiety bullies have about their peers, and how their anger towards the bullied is fueled by an intolerance for nonacceptance of children who are different from them. This indifference turns quickly into hatred which grows out of the inability to accept what is not yet understood. She pulls you into August’s heart by seeing how he reacts and distracts from the extra attention he is given by his new classmates. Her bang-on narrative to include popular motion pictures and video games, garnishing a truism of narrative that young people can relate too helps aide the dialogue about bullying to be brought out into the open, because August feels 3-dimensional rather than flat on a page!

The absence of focusing specifically on what medical conditions August is afflicted by and exactly which surgeries he has undergone I believe adds to the gentleness of the story. Afterall, if anyone is living a life inside shoes similar to August, they might not feel comfortable disclosing their full medical history! They are already on the defensive and internally dealing with the emotional trauma of being misunderstood and misconstrued, so why add to their burden to adapt into a new environment?! Much less give any potential bully more fodder to stoke the coals of the fire!? I felt that this disfragmented perception of only subtle clues and hintings of what August is facing day-to-day brings his life full circle. We’re in ‘his thoughts’ and ‘sensing’ how he projects himself and internalises his world. We’re walking quite literally inside his shoes to see how what others are projecting towards him are being received. In this, I think Palacio hit the proverbial nail on the head!

An added reason for loving this book is the dimension of multicultural heritage woven into the background of August & Via’s parentage! Their father is of Russian & Polish descent and their mother is Brazilian! It isn’t often you get to see characters having a diverse background of ethnicity and ancestral roots, and being that I love genealogical histories, this was an extra special treat for me! However, it also sparked a unique perception of how exceptionally diverse New York City has become due to the multitude of immigrants who call her home! This is transformative in of itself, as there are only a handful of authors who include such a unique family in their stories! We are a melting pot in America, and seeing more of us represented in stories for children and for adults, (as Wonder is brilliantly lovely to be a cross-over sensation in both sections of readership) is one way of opening up our hearts to the wholeness of who we are as Americans.

Within the story of ‘Wonder’, I was Summer growing up because I oft befriended those in my classes no one else could understand at first glance. I did not focus on their disabilities or their learning difficulties, mostly because I had my own strugglements with speech, reading, and mathematics. I saw the world through a pair of dyslexic eyes and I was always considered the ‘different one’, so I suppose you could say I always sought out the friends who were a bit different like me. I saw them the way I hoped everyone else saw them. Not as the boy in pre-school who was feared mute; he was simply a happy-go-lucky soul who had such an aura of kindness around him, he made glow and chuckle without words at all! I didn’t even notice the girl’s wheelchair at the Science Center, but saw her active mind for solving complicated issues and tasks whilst we pretended we were stranded on a desert island without proper provisions. And, I could continue to call out cherished friends throughout my schooling years who always staid close in thought and mind. I oft wondered over the years where they are and what they are doing. If perhaps they found others like me who saw their souls shining bright and their voices conveying their courage and their friendship? Each of us is on a path towards understanding more of who we are and why we are here. Why then do some try to make our path a bit more difficult by simply not accepting we all are different from each other, but we’re all the same at the very same time!? Our differences make us unique, and our similarities connect us through a tapestry of thread that extends from one heart to another until everyone is united.

If only the story of August Pullman could continue and carry-on as he grows and gains more experiences in middle school, high school, and the life awaiting him past the walls of school. I’d welcome a series of sequels which allow us back into his family and his inner world.

A notation on bullying:

I will always celebrate those writers who are on the forefront of the social conversation for change in regards to ‘bullying’. I previously reviewed The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes, which dealt with a decidedly different point of view on bullying and being bullied; to the brink of challenging this reader’s opinion of how much violent inclusion is necessary to carry the story. Within that narrative, a true impression of the depths of which bullying is now surfacing to include was both harrowing and insightful; showing the true measure of how much change we need to bring to the limelight for a very difficult challenge to overcome. I am going to be reviewing the second book in Karnes novel this Summer (The Dragon’s Pawn) in which I resume the story where the last installment left off; on the suggestion of the author that my wrinkles and flies in the ointments would be fully understood and fleshed out in the sequel. Until then, as I am quite open to seeing where his vision is leading him in this conversation, I am going to seek out other stories for children and young adults to tie in the conversation further whilst exploring the literature sparking the dialogue amongst adults who seek to protect the innocents who are affected.

The following video was unearthed whilst I was seeking supporting content for this special feature of “Booking the Rails”. I always strive to find content that has merit and interconnecting positions within the theme or context of what I read. Every small pebble and ripple of change has to begin with one person deciding that enough is surely enough. Bullying isn’t something that we have to ‘agree to disagree’ about happening; it’s an underbelly issue of intolerance and negative passive aggression, rage, and unprecedented psychological trauma. We need to take a stand and re-direct the behaviour by giving clear guidelines of proper communication skills, action-reaction tactics, and the ability to intercede through mitigation where parties involved in bullying will talk out their emotional triggers and start a conversation towards resolution, change, and reconstruction of childhood interactions. There is a heap of work yet to be done, it all starts with a single conversation about how to interact with peers and what do when your faced with the cruelty of the growing years being taunted in your face.

This is one bullied girl on a mission to seek out stories which bring both sides of the discussion to the forefront. Join me?

Choose Kind Compaign (inspired by “Wonder”) via Random House Kids

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Question to Readers: All comments & reactions are welcome!

Are you one of the readers from the London tube who picked up a copy of “Wonder”?! What were your initial thoughts and impressions of the book!? What staid with you the most after you placed the book back on the rails for a new reader to discovery!? Did you have trouble parting with the book!? Perhaps you’re a reader of “Wonder” stateside or elsewhere in the world. Was “Wonder” gifted to you? Did a teacher introduce you? A book which caught your eye whilst walking in a bookshoppe!? How did “Wonder” alight in your life and what did you appreciate the most from its story!? IF you haven’t yet read the story, does this spotlight endear you to find a copy!?

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Official Book Trailer of “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio by Random House Kids

{SOURCES: Booking the Rails conjoined badge of all three blogs made by Hollie (Books on the Underground) and used with permission. The book trailer by Random House Kids had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 22 March, 2014 by jorielov in BlogTalkRadio, Book Browse, Booking the Rails, Bookish Discussions, Books on the Metro, Books on the Subway, Books on the Underground, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Debut Novel, Disabilities & Medical Afflictions, Equality In Literature, Guest Spot on Podcast, Homeschool Education, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Jorie Loves A Story, Jorie Loves A Story Features, Library Find, Library Love, Literature for Boys, Live-Tweeting Secretary of the Chamber, Middle Grade Novel, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Prejudicial Bullying & Non-Tolerance, Pro-Positive Cultural Reactions of Disabilities, School Life & Situations, Social Change, Sociological Behavior, Sociology, The Star Chamber Show, Transitioning into Private School, Volunteer Mobile Libraries, Young Adult Fiction

*Blog Book Tour*: The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Posted Tuesday, 12 November, 2013 by jorielov , , , 5 Comments

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The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl

Published By: William Morrow,

an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (12, February 2013 [hardback]

Published By: William Morrow Paperbacks, 5, November 2013 [paperback]

Official Author Websites: Conklin on Facebook; Conklin on Twitter;

Personal Website and Contributor @ Popcorn the Blog.

Available Formats: Paperback, Hardback, and E-Book Page Count: 400

Converse on Twitter: #TheHouseGirl

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Acquired Book By: Book Browse First Impressions Programme: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest review on Book Browse, from the publisher William Morrow. The House Girl was amongst the offerings for November 2012, as this book was published in February 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared therein or herein. Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com On Being a Part of the Blog Book Tour: Whilst I submitted my application to work with TLC Book Tours, I had mentioned that I have read this particular book as I noted they were going to launch a blog book tour for it in November 2013; to celebrate the paperback release! I thought it would be nice to participate in a blog book tour on behalf of a book that truly not only captivated my imagination but is of a story that I have never fully let go of since I put the book down! I was thankful to be placed on the tour! Therefore, this is my second reading of this story based on the ARC I previously received. I will juxtaposition my original thoughts alongside my new impressions as they are revealed! I did not receive compensation for my participation on this book tour! Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com Inspired to Re-Visit: As a reader there are always those particular books that stand out to us, stories and characters who have a way of transforming our perspective as much as endearing us to a particular time in history that was wholly different from the time we live in ourselves. These are the stories that challenge us to dig into the heart of the narrative to seek out the truth of which the writer is imparting to us. Through their words of choice, as much as the fingering nudges they urge us to open our eyes to, a portion of history that is hard to reconcile even today. They endeavour us to seek humanity and empathy as they seek to obliterate social prejudices whilst revealing a story that is not only multi-layered but dimensionally complex. This is one of those stories that leaves you ruminative as you close the book sleeves and sit pondering the greater message that has been revealed in its ending.

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Listen to an Excerpt:

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comSlipping Back in Time and Forward Again:

Conklin weaves her narrative forward and backwards between Josephine’s world in the mid to late 1800s, and Lina’s in the present day, given us the full force of each woman’s plight as their individual circumstances start to unfold. Josephine is not a free slave when the story begins, as she earnestly wants to run to freedom and enter into a new life she has dared not allow herself to imagine. Her sole friend and confidante was Lottie, a woman of passionate faith mixed with an indomitable spirit despite the hardship of loss she has suffered. The two women forged a friendship which consoled Josephine as the years waxed onward. Their lives were always interrupted by the absence of sold-off slaves, of whom they had grown attached too and suddenly never knew what had become of them next. The worst part of their lives was the broken connections between friends, family, and offspring. No living histories could be formed in other words, which led many to question and wonder what ever became of anyone they had ever known.

Lina on the other hand, is caught between where her life has led her and where her heart is leading her to go next. She is harbouring deep seeded anguish murmuring from her past into her present, as she attempts to break free once and for all. She has closed her heart to seeking out a way to let love back into her life as she has walled herself against being close to anyone who could bring her discomfort or loss. What she wasn’t realising is that a life without love is a sure way to live a half-fulfilled life which would only bring regret in the end. The ability to make two cornerstone eras reminiscent through narrative, dialogue, and elemental knowledge of the eras themselves is a nodding to how Conklin fuses the story within the time setting of The House Girl. She diverts your mind from realising there is a time slip happening as you shift further into the folds of the novel, soaking in the natural world through Josephine’s eyes and taking in the repulsive angst of a reparations case in Lina’s. Whichever setting you find yourself present in per chapter you’re not in your current time and place, but rather are living through the spirit and eyes of Conklin’s lead heroines. As for me, both Josephine and Lina are heroines in their own rights, having transcended everything that was holding them back.

My Review of The House Girl [one year later] for TLC Book Tours:

The story opens inside an ordinary day in Josephine’s, where she has to endure more abuse from her Master. Her eye is always attached to the outside world noticing the most insignificant details. It’s in these details her true freedom begins. She drinks in a piece of joy whilst walking barefoot in the grass, a moment for her that meant more than what could be observed in its simplicity. She was bourne into a world of unjust rules thrust upon her and those like her to live with the heaviest of burdens without the rights afforded to them. To live in a world where you had no say in what became of you is the hardest part of the story to drink in as a reader. Your heart starts to grieve as Josephine and Lottie’s intimate conversations paint the stark realities of their world. Where even the necessity of medical care was not given as an option. Her only resolve was to focus on the task at hand which gave her a purpose for the hour. It wasn’t enough to keep her thoughts away from running, but it helped to keep her focus off her nerves.

As time slips back into the present, Lina comes into view as a lawyer bent under the pressures of being on the fast track to success. A slave in her own right to the work load she is drowning inside. Lina suffers from lack of self-esteem and self-confidence in both her work ethic and her abilities to provide the services her clients are in need of most. She finds that her position at the law firm is all but redundant as the work she puts in is not even close to being necessary. She is finding that her role in life is being a cog in the wheel to where her fated course is up to someone else. She has missed the ability to feel as though she is making a difference rather than only doing what is expected of her. When she is assigned the reparations case to seek a living heir through the descendants of Josephine Bell and to provide proof of provenance for the artwork which was recovered (as there is an issue of who the artist actually was), she finds her true self. She starts to shed  the outer barrier that kept her at a distance from becoming close to others and starts to find her voice through following the path of Josephine; the house girl who dreamt of freedom in the Underground Railroad.

In direct comparison, here is my Original Review for Book Browse First Impressions:

Art Redeems the Soul

Josephine Bell is the catalyst that launches an inquiry into the historical past, to unearth the mystery of what happened to the artist who fashioned the artwork that survived time. Her story is not unlike others in her class and station, in the late 1800’s. A slave bound to her Master’s wife, as a house girl confined to their land and their rules. A life that would have gone unnoticed until an unsuspecting lawyer (Lina) in the 21st century (early 2000’s) is giving the task to unearth data on a case that would give back redemption to those who have all but been erased by modern history. This isn’t just a story that evokes the tragedy of those enslaved in the South, but rather a silver lining of Hope… that their lives took on greater meaning and purpose when their lives started to intersect with others. It’s through this intersection where the ripples of small kindnesses and hours of bravery, began to change the lives of others. I found that inside the secondary characters held within the House Girl, the simplest of truths to step forward. Peace with Self. Strength in Resolve. Determined Self Reliance. And the hope of freedom. Oppression comes in different forms, as even those who live free are not always free to do what their hearts desire.

I believe this would make an excellent addition to an Art History class or a Civil Rights class which focuses on slavery in the South. The tone of the book is uplifting, shattering past the blights of misery to yield a lens into how strong women can be in the moments that count the most.

My cross-comparison of my feelings separated by a year between readings:

Initially when I first read The House Girl, I had a lot of thoughts and feelings running through my head at the time I was reading the narrative, so much in fact, I nearly felt like I should have a blog to write everything down and share with other readers! Fast forward to when I was applying to be a tour hostess for TLC Book Tours, and the opportunity arose to re-read this lovely novel that never quite left my conscience since I originally read it! All those swirling thoughts started to re-surface, but I tried to keep them at bay, in order to best re-visit a book I had previously read! I liked the challenge of this particular book tour, as it would stretch me completely outside my comfort zone as I have never re-read a book for a tour beforehand! I liked the fact that I would have to not only challenge my heart to approach the story with a new pair of eyes but to keep myself focused on the hidden depths of the novel that I might have overlooked or missed during my first reading!

Therefore, I can attest that as I was musing about the message of The House Girl, I found myself a bit at a loss for words to purport it into focus in a clear and even paragraph. This is a novel that is best read by feeling the story by your heart and the evoking emotions that comes out of internalising the story you’ve just read. I was deeply attached to each character at different parts of the story’s thread, as you get to see different pieces of their souls shining through at different intervals. In my mind, there wouldn’t have been much to lament about on Lina’s behalf if Josephine Bell hadn’t been in her life; likewise, I feel as though Josephine Bell’s life was to give a living testament and tribute to her descendants once the provenance of her artwork was discovered. The greater truth I think is the perception we have of blood relations and the essence of who we are on the outside as a mirror image of who we are on the inside.

The House Girl challenges the perception of ancestral lines and blood ties as passed down through the generations from the original start of a hereditary chain. It seeks to point to the truth of who we are as a society and who we endeavour to become. I still stand by what I spoke about a year ago, as there is such a determined spirit to The House Girl, as far as taking bold steps to overcome your circumstances as much as being bold in your faith when you feel all hope has been lost. As you unravel the heart of the story, you start to see the other layers which were intuitively stitched into the tapestry of Josephine and Lina’s entwined story-lines. Even now, a full year later, I find that my final sentence in my original review is the key for me to think back upon this story with fond affection: The tone of the book is uplifting, shattering past the blights of misery to yield a lens into how strong women can be in the moments that count the most.

Empathy wrapped inside Sophisticated Prose:

Tara Conlin photo credit Mary Grace Long
Photo Credit: Mary Grace Long

Ms. Conklin has a wonderful ability for drawing empathy and compassion out of her narrative whilst wrapping her story inside sophisticated prose which speaks to a higher message. Her willingness to delve into the deeper levels of humanity and uncertainty for each of her characters’ lives, gives the reader a first-hand impression of where the story led her to go as she wrote it. I was struck by her honest way of writing the time slip between Josephine and Lina, to where neither century felt forced or conjectured. She uses words to paint the time eclipse of each woman on the cusp of a season of change arriving into their lives when they least expect a change to be possible. Each woman is seeking her own true self and a freedom of their past they were not expecting to receive. It’s in this honesty that Conklin performs the best visually, as she uncovers the nibblings of the human spirit as evoked through the emotional shiftings of her two protagonists. Reading through The House Girl you gather the sense that the story itself had an equally powerful effect on its writer. And, I suppose that begs to ask the question, “Are stories written by their writers solely, or are stories evoked out of a seed of a story that alights in a writer’s mind as needing to be told?”

Inspired to Share: Ms. Conklin talks about her journey towards publishing The House Girl, and how like Lina, she was a lawyer originally but technically still feels in her heart she is still a lawyer. Her novel started as a seed of an idea and developed into a novel. I must have tapped into this rather intuitively as it was true! I found it interesting how the slave doctor catapulted her muse to follow where the story was leading her. As you listen to her experiences as a litigator as it cross-compares to her life as a writer, she has a fascinating beginning to her writing career. Research and writing as a litigator was a natural progression for Conklin to become a novelist. I find this most intriguing, as I hadn’t realised how much research and writing goes into being a litigator! One of the more compelling things she discloses is how she became a wordsmith of the mid-to-late 1800s by keeping a journal of words she had read inside letters of the time. I appreciated her speaking about the aspect of ‘freedom’, as I have oft believed myself that true freedom lies in the simplicity. She loved the short story format but never thought she could create a novel! She happily surprised herself. I highly recommend taking the time to see the interview in full!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Tara Conklin Interview by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association

on Bill Kenower [Author, Magazine Editor] Channel

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The “The House Girl” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 5 November: Review @ Read Lately
  2. 7 November: Review @ A Bookish Affair
  3. 11 November: @ Books in the Burbs
  4. 12 November: Review @ Jorie Loves a Story
  5. 13 November: @ Peppermint PhD
  6. 14 November: @ Lavish Bookshelf
  7. 18 November: @ Olduvai Reads
  8. 19 November: @ BoundbyWords
  9. 20 November: @ Book-alicious Mama
  10. 26 November: @ A Bookish Way of Life

I hope to be a regular tour hostess with:

TLC Book Toursuntil then, check up my upcoming Bookish Events Featured on JLAS!

[*NOTE: Any and all purchase links that are attached to SoundCloud are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story.]
{SOURCES: Cover art of “The House Girl” as well as Tara Conklin’s photograph, and the logo badge for TLC Book Tours were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. The author interview by PNWA / Author magazine as well as the audio excerpt of “The House Girl” by Tara Conklin via SoundCloud had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.  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.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

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Posted Tuesday, 12 November, 2013 by jorielov in ARC | Galley Copy, Art History, Artist's Proof, Artwork Provenance, Author Interview, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Browse, Civil Rights, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Equality In Literature, Fathers and Daughters, First Impressions, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Pre-Civil War, Soundcloud, The Deep South, Time Slip, TLC Book Tours, Underground Railroad