Category: First Impressions

#HistoricalMondays | Book Review | “The Gift of the Seer” [long awaited sequel to “The Spirit Keeper” (2013)] by K.B. Laugheed

Posted Monday, 11 February, 2019 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#HistoricalMondays blog banner created by Jorie in Canva.

I am launching a new weekly featured concentration of book reviews on Jorie Loves A Story which celebrates my love and passion for the historical past! For those of whom are regular readers and visitors to my blog, you’ll denote a dedicated passion for reading Historical Fiction (and all the lovely segues of thematic therein) – I am a time traveller of the historical past every chance I get to disappear into a new era and/or century of exploration. There isn’t a time period I haven’t enjoyed ruminating over since [2013] and there are a heap of lovely timescapes I’ve yet to encounter.

This feature was inspired by the stories I’ve read, the stories I’ve yet to experience and the beauty of feeling interconnected to History through the representation of the past through the narratives being writ by today’s Historical Fiction authors. It is to those authors I owe a debt of gratitude for enlightening my bookish mind and my readerly heart with realistic characters, illuminating portals of living history and a purposeful intent on giving each of us a strong representation of ‘life’ which should never become dismissed, forgotten or erased.

I am beginning this feature with the sequel to a beloved historical novel I first read in [2013] – it was one of the first ARCs I received and it was the first year I was a book blogger though it was through a connection outside my life as a blogger. I am celebrating K.B. Laugheed’s literature to kick-off this feature and hopefully will inspire my followers to take this new weekly journey with me into the stories which are beckoning to read their narrative depths and find the words in which to express the thoughts I experienced as I read.

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Acquired Book By: In [2013] I was still participating in the Early Reviewer programme via Book Browse wherein I received an ARC for “The Spirit Keeper” – a new Historical Fiction narrative which sought to break boundaries of its genre and which captured me heart and soul as I read it. It was an emotionally gutting read, a historical reckoning of a story and it left me ruminatively curious about what the ‘next’ chapter of this extraordinary character’s life would be in the sequel.¬†

I decided to write an expanded review on my blog for my own edification after having contributed my Early Reviewer review to Book Browse – it was one of the few times I was able to do this even though there are a few other ARCs I received from Book Browse I’d like to still blog about in the near future which fittingly have more to be said on their behalf from my readerly experience.

Likewise, I also reached out to the author directly shortly after I posted my review in September of 2013; remember dear hearts, I launched my blog live on the 6th of August, 2013 – so this expanded review became one of the first officially celebrated novels of Jorie Loves A Story in the beginning of finding my writerly voice and my bookish presence in the book blogosphere. It pre-dated hosting blog tours and working with publishers, publicists and authors directly.

Although I remained in contact with the author a bit over the years – simply checking the status on the sequel or offering encouraging thoughts on writing it – I don’t consider this a conflict of interest as to be honest, it was not constant contact and we weren’t in contact on a regular basis nor did we touch base each year since 2013.

When I received an email from Ms Laugheed this past December, 2018 – to say I was pleasantly gobsmacked to have heard from her after a long absence of communication is putting it mildly! I was overjoyed – more for her than for me – as she was announcing the sequel was being published! She decided at long last to go the Indie route towards¬† publication and I was full of joy and happiness for her as this was a very long and dedicated route back to publishing a sequel I believed in as a reader (and there are others like me out there) but of which I wasn’t sure if any of us would get a chance to embrace it in published form.

Thereby, I did not hesitate to respond to her request to accept this new novel for review consideration – the only thing which delayed my entrance into its chapters was my five week Winter virus (from before Christmas to the early weeks of January, 2019) and my three successive migraines (from mid-January to early February). I read this immediately after recovering from my third migraine and was thrilled I could finally attach my mind and heart round the continuing journey of Katie and Hector!

I received a complimentary copy of “The Gift of the Seer” by the author K.B. Laugheed in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Re-visiting “The Spirit Keeper”

My original motivation to read the novel: I wanted to partake in her journey untoward becoming one man’s living vision of ‘a creature of fire and ice’ and to see if they could fulfill each other’s destinies therein. It is such a curious proposition, to be taken by force from one’s own family, and re-positioned into a life, by which, you’re in complete unfamiliar territory, amongst people who speak a different tongue than your own, and by your own wits, have to determine how to survive. I was curious by how she was going to effectively change her life and heart; and to what end she must do so! This felt to me like a piece of Magical Realism wrapped up inside a Historical Fiction, rooted into the conscience of the American Frontier! I was besotted with the plot, and needed to read it to ascertain what the story truly was about! The Spirit Keeper spoke to me, as a book I needed to read rather than merely¬†a book I wanted to read! I listen to my intuition in other words!

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Ms Laugheed advised me to re-read “The Spirit Keeper” ahead of reading “The Gift of the Seer” – what I hadn’t the heart to tell her is my copy of the novel is packed as most of my personal library has been packed for the last four years. I couldn’t sort out which box it is held within if I had a compass as I literally have quite the expansive library being stored right now. This is one key reason why I can’t always re-read the novels I’m reviewing – as I only have a handful of books I’ve reviewed the past few years unpacked and shelved – most of which, are first or seconds in series, awaiting new releases to where I can turn back to and re-read a bit ahead of delving into the next installment. I did have The Spirit Keeper prominently shelved for quite a few years after it was released – it was only recently I had to make the hard choice to pack it away for safe keeping til I can restore my library back to rights.

Therefore, I did what any other book blogger would do in this situation – I borrowed a well-loved copy from my local library and as I re-entered the story, I was quite shocked by what I discovered! I hadn’t forgotten as much as I was expecting, too! I re-read the opening bridge of the novel – re-visiting how Katie was taken from her family, the traumatic transitioning into life with the Spirit Keeper and Hector as much as re-aligning in my mind the era this series is set and the mannerisms of how the story is told. As Ms Laugheed has a very distinctive style of historical story-telling; it is one reason I was hugged so dearly close into the story originally.

Secondly, as I noticed a lot of readerly flashbacks moving through my mind’s eye after that particular re-visitation – I immediately flipped to the last quarter of the novel, resumed as if I hadn’t been absent from this story for :six: long years and re-lived the concluding chapters, as fresh as dew on recently mowed grass. I seriously was re-captured by what was left behind for my eyes and heart to find – thereby, I knew with certainty I was prepared as I ever could be to re-enter Katie and Hector’s world.

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For those of you who might never have had the pleasure of joy reading this novel, let me select a few quotations from my original review – both from what I shared with Book Browse after first reading the ARC and what I expounded upon on Jorie Loves A Story thereafter.

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The inertia of reality that besots you as soon as you enter into the world of The Spirit Keeper, is quite a hard bullet to bite, because before you can wrap your eyes and heart around what your visually aware of, your niched into the story! I credit this to the author, as Laugheed endeavours you to jump straight out of your comfort zone, wholly free-falling into a brutal, raw, and untamed section of the American Frontier in the mid-1700s and take a quest towards unraveling the complexities of building a new life in a foreign land. The thematics that are entrenched in the story parlay an exposition on language, translation, and sense of being. She readily elevates our awareness that our words can draw an impact that is not always aware to us, but like the life paths we are walking, we are not always in charge of their meaning or purpose of use.

I will lament, that if you’re a reader who begs off for lighter faire, you might want to caution yourself, as within Chapter One, the author does not hold back on the grim realities of what it was like in the 1700s when an Indian War Party descended upon a settler’s family.

The beauty of the outside world envelopes you from the jump-start, as the open wilderness is the footing for setting this story outside the reach of our known world. Even for those of us who are akin to the natural environment and the inhabitants therein, there is still so much of that world that is readily just outside our scope, outside our understanding. The Native Americans who are on the forefront of the story, evoke a cultural education into accepting stark differences of living, as much as embracing traditions that hold merit  (such as the menstrual huts for women).

Flickerments of “Medicine Man” (the motion picture) streamed through my mind, as did “Dances with Wolves” (the motion picture), as in each story, those who only spoke English, learnt to adapt and to live amongst the natives by which they found themselves belonging too better than their own kind. I am drawn into stories that attach us to whole new cultures, traditions, religions, and walks of life. Stories that etch into our imaginations a wholly new world, where there are similarities, but otherwise, as we dip into their narratives, we find ourselves in a foreign land, attempting to understand what we cannot yet conceive possible.

An incredible journey of self-preservation, fortitude of spirit, and overwhelming grief: I was not quite prepared for the journey that Katie, Syawa, and Hector embark upon! It wasn’t so much the long distances that they must traverse through rough hewn terrain, but rather, they are each going through a personal, intimate, internal journey concurrent to their outward journey towards the men’s originating homeland! Each is carrying secrets of their own experiences, and in Katie’s instance, her life is muddled and blighted with far more devastation than anyone could ill-afford possible to a seventeen year old young lady!

Her lot in life has been tempered by abuse and misguided notions of love, unto where she has encouraged a na√Įve sense of the living world, and has grown an ignorance of how right a life can be lived! I grieved for her and bleed emotions with her recollections of past memories,.. memories that were nearly too hard to bare and to ruminatively lay pause upon. It is through Syawa’s gentleness and effective way of easing her out of her shell, that she truly started to see who she was and who she could be. I only wish I could pronounce Syawa’s name, as I feel as guilty she does in her own story, about the misunderstandings that evolve out of not understanding language and meaning of words, phrases, or names outside our own native tongues!

Language & Translation: the Invisible Barriers we never foresee: Laugheed paints a clear window towards our greatest struggle in accepting and understanding each other, as we present ourselves to each other in our conversations! Each inflection of tone, voice, and the words we use to explain ourselves, can lead us down a path of misunderstanding and of misalignment in what we are attempting to represent as our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and passions. Throughout the story, we are seeing the story as a first-hand account of a diary the protagonist is writing to assert her own history back in her life, as she’s amongst those who do not understand the necessity of having a living history or a story to be told of one’s heritage. She values her experiences, her struggles of faith, and the lessons she is ought being taught as she walks forward into her future. She hasn’t had the easiest of lives, but she isn’t going to allow herself to wallow in the situations she could never effectively change, but rather, pull out a strength deep from within her, to carry her through the tribulations that she was certain were still to come.

Whilst she’s (Katie O’ Toole) recounting her days in her diary, I mused about how this differed from the diary of Robinson Crusoe as it contained more of her essence, her internal quagmire of thoughts, and the irrevocable distraught by which she plagued herself with for most of her arduous journey towards Syawa and Hector’s homeland. From the moment I read the opening page, by which the author departed a precognitive knowledge of how the story might transform as you read the words, I was left with a museful pre-occupation of how that would transpire, and further still, of one particular scene that I had presumed was forgotten within the re-writes and draughts, leading up to publication! However, this falls perfectly into this category of observation about ‘language and translation’, about how what we first perceive to be just and truth, can altogether change and alter, either by the different perception we’ve learnt through experience OR through reading a book that is quite unlike another! This book truly lives up to the proportions of what Laugheed mentions at the start gate: the words transcend their own meaning as you etch closer to the ending, the whole of the story is much larger than the sum of the parts as they are revealed!

In this way,¬† she is giving each of us to turn on our heels, the gross misconception of how we drink in words, knowledge, and observational data. The reader is very much at the heart of this story, and I think, is as central as Katie’s voice in re-telling her own history. What is humbling too, is how as our knowledge expands, the words that were once lost on us, as being completely irreverent suddenly take on new meanings, as they now evoke an ’emotion’, a ‘resolution’, or a ‘truth’ we did not understand previously. An Irish girl cast out into the wilderness of the wild frontier, with two Indian’s as her sole guides and protectors, makes for a curious precept initially, but it’s how they interact with each other, during the everyday hours, that Laugheed excels in not disappointing her reader! She never makes their interactions dull or predictable, because she has woven their personalities into the core of how they interact with each other! You pick up little character traits that come to play a larger part of the story as it threads through its climax, but inside these key portals of frontier life in campsites and canoes, you start to see how its possible to thread a new life together out of the ashes of the old! In this way, I was quietly savouring each exchange between the threesome, curious how they would come to depend on each other, and how they would draw strength by each others’ presence.

The art of story-telling plays a center part of The Spirit Keeper‚Äôs heart, but it‚Äôs the transformative power of understanding the words that are imparted throughout the story, that turn everything into a new light once the conclusion arrives. What the reader first mistook as a course of events, was truly a resounding precognitive journey that guided two characters forward into a future they would not have been strong enough to embrace otherwise. It’s the redemptive nature of grasping a hold of the essence of those who pass forward and away from our living world that is truly the most remarkable arc of the story! For we all have the ability to be a keeper of a spirit whose touched us deeply and left us remorseful for their presence! We only need the strength to transcend our perception and view our experiences from a different angle to see how the threads stitch together the pattern of our living tapestry!

An environmental conscience: Is cleverly hidden within the context of the story, but is one of the inclusions that I found to be the most illuminating to see!! I oft have found myself the most happiest amongst the trees, rivers, lakes, streams, and out-of-door hideaways that only a person can walk to find! Nature’s door is ever beckoning us to re-enter that sacred space between the natural world and the world by which we live as men. We are drawn towards nature as keenly as we are attached to water as a source of lifeblood, but it isn’t always an easy attachment to maintain, when the hectic nature of our lifestyles can circumvent our efforts to keep our hearts and souls aligned with the seasons and timescape of the natural world just past our windows! Laugheed draws a breath of vitality into the forest, where you can nearly hear the echoings of the trees, the rushing power of the rivers, and the harmonious tickings of the inhabitants therein. I appreciated that the animals that were killed in the book were used for what they could give back to the ones who fell them. I always respected this aspect of Native American beliefs, as they take what they need and only what they can use, at the time they go hunting. It’s a beautiful circle of life, as nothing is wasted and everything is respected. She wants you to see the beauty past what you expect to find whilst out in the deep woods, as the forest plays a fourth character or rather, that of a narrator that has not yet found its voice.

-quoted from my review of The Spirit Keeper

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#HistoricalMondays | Book Review | “The Gift of the Seer” [long awaited sequel to “The Spirit Keeper” (2013)] by K.B. LaugheedThe Gift of the Seer
by K.B. Laugheed
Source: Direct from Author

Katie O' Toole's epic adventure began in "The Spirit Keeper" (Plume 2013) when she was rescued from a 1747 frontier massacre only to find herself chosen as the "Spirit Keeper" of a dying Indian seer. She hesitated to accept this mysterious obligation until she fell in love with the Seer's bodyguard, an Indian man she called Hector.

Much has happened since my last writing,..

In The Gift of the Seer, Katie and Hector continue their journey across the continent, but the more Katie learns about the peculiar ways of her husband's people, the more she dreads arriving at their destination. Will anyone believe she is the Spirit Keeper she pretends to be? Equally troubling, Katie knows the Seer expected her to prove his Vision - a Vision which foretold of infinite Invaders coming to his world - but to prove this prophecy, she must give his people the great Gift he also predicted. The only problem is that Katie has no gift to give.

Years pass as she desperately searches for a way to fulfill her promise to the dead Seer, but when his former rival threatens to expose her as a fraud, Katie finally understands that her life and the life of all the people in her new world hang in the balance. That's when she knows she must give a Gift - she must - before it is too late.

Did you honestly think you could get so much and give nothing in return?

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1732886216

Genres: Feminist Historical Fiction, Genre-bender, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Native American Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Spirituality & Metaphysics, Women's Studies


Published by Self Published Author

on 7th January, 2019

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 372

the spirit keeper duology:

The Spirit keeper & the gift of the seer

This is a Self-Published novel

Available Formats: Hardback, Paperback and Ebook

Converse on Twitter: #GiftOfTheSeer, #TheSpiritKeeper Sequel + #KBLaugheed
as well as #HistNov + #HistoricalFiction or #HistFic

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About K.B. Laugheed

The Gift of the Seer by K.B. Laugheed

K.B. Laugheed is an organic gardener and master naturalist who wrote her first published novel, The Spirit Keeper, as part penance for the sins of her family’s pioneer past, part tribute to all our ancestors, and part grandiose delusion as she hopes to remind modern Americans of the grim price we paid for the glorious life we take for granted today.

But The Spirit Keeper is not a story about guilt. It’s about gratitude.

The Gift of the Seer is officially available worldwide as it was published on the 7th of January, 2019.

To support the author directly, kindly consider purchasing her novels through her online store.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Divider

Posted Monday, 11 February, 2019 by jorielov in #HistoricalMondays, #JorieLovesIndies, 18th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Browse, Book Review (non-blog tour), Brothers and Sisters, Bullies and the Bullied, Colonial America, Coming-Of Age, Content Note, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Cultural Heritage, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Diary Accountment of Life, Domestic Violence, Early Colonial America, Environmental Conscience, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Fathers and Daughters, First Impressions, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Folklore, Genre-bender, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, History, Horror-Lite, Indie Author, Kidnapping or Unexplained Disappearances, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Loss of an unbourne child, Magical Realism, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Midwives & Childbirth, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Motherhood | Parenthood, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Multicultural Marriages & Families, Native American Fiction, Native American Spirituality, Old World Arts & Crafts, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Prejudicial Bullying & Non-Tolerance, Premonition-Precognitive Visions, Psychological Abuse, PTSD, Realistic Fiction, Self-Published Author, Siblings, Sisterhood friendships, Sisters & the Bond Between Them, Social Change, Spirituality & Metaphysics, Story in Diary-Style Format, Superstitions & Old World Beliefs, Taboo Relationships & Romance, Terminal Illness &/or Cancer, The American Frontier, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, Unexpected Pregnancy, Vulgarity in Literature, Wilderness Adventures, Women's Health

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

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

Parajunkee Designs

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‚Ķ 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!

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Tara Conklin Interview by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association

on Bill Kenower [Author, Magazine Editor] Channel

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The ‚ÄúThe House Girl‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúThe House Girl‚ÄĚ as well as Tara Conklin‚Äôs 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

*Release Day* The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed |A Ruminative Tome of Introspective Freedom

Posted Tuesday, 24 September, 2013 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed

Published By: Plume, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), 24 September 2013
Official Author Websites:  Site | Twitter | Facebook
Available Formats: Softcover
Page Count: 352

Converse on Twitter: #TheSpiritKeeper

The Spirit Keeper on Book Browse
Excerpt on Penguin Group’s site

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAcquired Book By: Book Browse First Impressions Programme: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest review on Book Browse from the publisher Plume. The Spirit Keeper was amongst the offerings for August 2013, as this book will be published 24th of September 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared therein or herein.

Initially I Wanted to Read: I wanted to partake in her journey untoward becoming one man’s living vision of ‘a creature of fire and ice’ and to see if they could fulfill each other’s destinies therein. It is such a curious proposition, to be taken by force from one’s own family, and re-positioned into a life, by which, you’re in complete unfamiliar territory, amongst people who speak a different tongue than your own, and by your own wits, have to determine how to survive. I was curious by how she was going to effectively change her life and heart; and to what end she must do so! This felt to me like a piece of Magical Realism wrapped up inside a Historical Fiction, rooted into the conscience of the American Frontier! I was besotted with the plot, and needed to read it to ascertain what the story truly was about! The Spirit Keeper spoke to me, as a book I needed to read rather than merely¬†a book I wanted to read! I listen to my intuition in other words!

Inspired to Share: The book trailer for The Spirit Keeper, keeps the atmospheric liltings of the novel fully intact! The fiery crimson hair and pure, glistening blue eyes of Katie O’ Toole are visually represented as well!

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“The Spirit Keeper” by K.B. Laugheed Book Trailer by Penguin Group (USA)

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

A brutal and savage world envelopes you as you dip into this narrative: Within the opening sequences, I was at first, rather taken aback by the imagery that was greeting me, and on reflection of the story’s arc, I shook off my fright, and realised, how else could it have been writ!? I warmed a bit to the ensuing exchanges, and limited my scope of the worst bits that would befall Katie’s family, as I am not one who endeavours to be explicitly aware of such horrific events! I was much more keen to arrive at the heart of the story, by which, I had first been curious to read! The bit about how an ordinary girl suddenly finds herself in the middle of an extraordinary journey! I will lament, that if you’re a reader who begs off for lighter faire, you might want to caution yourself, as within Chapter One, the author does not hold back on the grim realities of what it was like in the 1700s when an Indian War Party descended upon a settler’s family.

Flickerments of “Medicine Man” (the motion picture) streamed through my mind, as did “Dances with Wolves” (the motion picture), as in each story, those who only spoke English, learnt to adapt and to live amongst the natives by which they found themselves belonging too better than their own kind. I am drawn into stories that attach us to whole new cultures, traditions, religions, and walks of life. Stories that etch into our imaginations a wholly new world, where there are similarities, but otherwise, as we dip into their narratives, we find ourselves in a foreign land, attempting to understand what we cannot yet conceive possible.

Whilst in the opening chapters of her journey, with her new traveling companions, they reached a village of Native Americans, by which, upheld the custom of women’s huts. I had first learnt of this tradition awhile ago, but the memory of where and how is lost to me! More readily to depart is that the same sequence of knowledge was included in my reading of The Forest Lover, which was a selection of mine for Bout of Books, 8.0! I am still in-progress with that particular book, but what I found fascinating is the depictions of this ritual that both authors gave to their readers! I will be attaching an article about these huts, as I find it rather curious how intimate and safe they truly were for women! They achieved a heightened sense of freedom in asking questions and conversing on topics that might not otherwise have been considered kosher in their everyday lives!

An incredible journey of self-preservation, fortitude of spirit, and overwhelming grief: I was not quite prepared for the journey that Katie, Syawa, and Hector embark upon! It wasn’t so much the long distances that they must traverse through rough hewn terrain, but rather, they are each going through a personal, intimate, internal journey concurrent to their outward journey towards the men’s originating homeland! Each is carrying secrets of their own experiences, and in Katie’s instance, her life is muddled and blighted with far more devastation than anyone could ill-afford possible to a seventeen year old young lady!¬† Her lot in life has been tempered by abuse and misguided notions of love, unto where she has encouraged a na√Įve sense of the living world, and has grown an ignorance of how right a life can be lived! I grieved for her and bleed emotions with her recollections of past memories,.. memories that were nearly too hard to bare and to ruminatively lay pause upon. It is through Syawa’s gentleness and effective way of easing her out of her shell, that she truly started to see who she was and who she could be. I only wish I could pronounce Syawa’s name, as I feel as guilty she does in her own story, about the misunderstandings that evolve out of not understanding language and meaning of words, phrases, or names outside our own native tongues! Read More

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Posted Tuesday, 24 September, 2013 by jorielov in 18th Century, Book Browse, Book Trailer, Debut Novel, Diary Accountment of Life, Early Colonial America, Environmental Conscience, Equality In Literature, First Impressions, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Native American Fiction, Premonition-Precognitive Visions, That Friday Blog Hop, The American Frontier

Journey to Skye: slip into Elspeth’s shoes, one letter at a time,… “Letters from Skye” by Jessica Brockmole an epistolary novel which stitches into your heart

Posted Wednesday, 3 July, 2013 by jorielov , , , 4 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
 Published By: Ballantine Books,
an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, 9 July 2013

Official Author Websites: Site | Twitter | Facebook
Page Count: 304

Converse via Twitter: #LettersFromSkye

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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 Ballantine Books. Letters from Skye was amongst the offerings for May 2013, as this book will be published 9th of July 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared therein or herein.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWhat drew my eye to want to drink in this story: I am not sure about you, but whenever¬†I read the premise of a novel on the flyleaf OR on the backside, I immediately start to assert an impression of¬†what the story inside potentially will contain. “Letters from Skye” held within its¬†synopsis a few key words that made me want to devour the story and step into Elspeth’s¬†shoes! Those words and expressions of Ms. Brockmole’s voice¬†which drew an inward breath of delight were as follows: atmospheric {a sense of a foreboding and mysterious presence or adventure}, poet on a remote Scottish island named Skye {gives a sense of solidarity¬†and isolation, as much as a wind-swept glossing of natural beauty}, the time slip between World War I and World War II {a labyrinth of choices to explore and walk down}, a love bourne through and sustained by letters {for a correspondent, I nearly could not be patient¬†enough to learn if I would receive this selection! i¬†was thus determined to read it!}, and lastly, a disappearance that was unexpected. That last bit always lends itself to a deeper mystery and a deeper meaning of what the whole¬†of the novel will encompass because people who exit abruptly from their lives are attempting to resolve a confliction¬†in the past or present, in order to resolve their future.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWhy I think they should leave the Editor’s Note as a foreword to novels:¬†Previously I had been completely unaware of the nature of ARCs and of the differences that lay inside their printings. One of the obvious things to note is that there not final¬†copies set for publication but rather instead uncorrected proofs by which still have a bit to go ahead of release! Therefore as you receive them, you start to notice the different ways each publisher chooses to market their author and the author’s work. Yet. They have this lovely addition that is always absent in the final¬†copy that we see by way of libraries and bookshoppes, something you wouldn’t expect to hold such key secrets into the reason behind why the book was published¬†OR the very stirring of what the editor felt when she or he first read the manuscript! This delightful insight is contained generally on the very first page of the ARC, so it’s an ARC’s reader’s first introduction to what their about to read.

Letters to Skye’s Editor’s Note spoke about the technologic shift in communication and how as our lives ebb forward and away from inter-personal communication {ie: letters by postal mail, meet-ups over coffee or tea, dinner parties, and other such venues where you’re committed to conversing directly with your conversationist companion} we are losing a vital piece of our humanity. I have oft spoke of this myself in my own friendship circles as much as my own community. I am paraphrasing her words and even adding in a bit of my own, but the essence of what she is lamenting about is if we’re not careful all of our interactions will become virtual and unspoken.

Even letters by postal mail have an intimacy and immediacy to them. They evoke a calling back to revealing our inner selves and most internal of thoughts in an open and accepting manner. They pull back the pretense and the uncertainty of acceptance we might face in person because of the format by which we are using to communicate. A letter is a transformative medium where we can be ourselves without the pre-occupation of noticing our insecurities. This is a general theme that is even carried out throughout the novel, as anyone who has ever been a correspondent will notice the same truths as their friendships develop and evolve.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comRead an Excerpt of the Novel:

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole by Random House Publishing Group

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAn ethereal atmospheric cover design which begs the question: if the place your going to be transported too is as ethereal¬†as the design that this cover art provokes to mind! However, the cover art of the ARC was not the same as the art shown through the Excerpt by Scribd! Instead, your given a photograph viewing of the inside of Elspeth’s cottage: David’s grandfather’s pocket watch, Isle of Sky peeking out through the window, two individual¬†pearls: one for her necklace from Christmas 1915 and one for Margaret; a smattering of postcards, envelopes and a fountain pen; perhaps a posy that would draw to mind the one Elspeth left for Iain on his grave!? Along with a short stack of hardback novels, which were always being passed between David and Elspeth OR at the very least mentioned to be read!

There is such a personal touch on the cover of the ARC, that draws out pieces of the story in such a clever way, that I am not sure if the original ethereal version holds as much weight when you stop to consider what the publisher placed inside this alternative one!? All too often I am discovering that rather than being careful about what is adorned on the covers, on the level, of actually pertaining to the breadth of the story inside the pages, publishers are short-changing the reader by using stock photographs and arrangements that either are loosely conceived as plausible OR too far-fetched to take seriously! I finally gave up on taking anything away from most covers of books that I read,… which is why saying that as I read “Letters from Skye” the ARC’s cover propelled me to think back and ponder the exactness of what is described! Food for thought, I’d say!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAnd, why the hours dissolved away like fragments of a whispering wind:¬†¬†I was a bit delayed in reading “Letters from Skye” due to a relapsed virus that left me miserably fatigued! I had been aching to dip into this narrative ever since it first arrived by Post! I think that is singularly my favourite moment of receiving a First Impressions Book ~ the air of anticipation that greets you as you pick up the package and dare to wonder, what will I find inside!? The very instant that I settled into my comfy chair to disappear into this Scottish Isle of mystery, (as I had watched the book trailer as soon as I had found it [how could I wait?]), I noticed ever so slightly that this was the story that would dissolve hours away like fragments of a whispering wind! The format was completely foreign to me, and yet, it was quite familiar at the very same time! I have been reading letters from my own friends for the near-full of my life!! Once I realised the rhythm of the story, I nearly could hear a whispering of wind, the only fraction of the passing time, as I sank further and further into the exchanges between Elspeth and Davey! When the outside world disappears to the brink you have to force your eyes and being back into your own reality, that is when you know, you’ve stumbled across a book that has captured your heart!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThe review I posted on Book Browse:

Journey to Skye: slip into Elspeth’s shoes, one letter at a time

Elspeth is a Highlander Scot endowed to reside¬†on the enchanted Isle of Skye, which sparks an intuitive creative voice inside her soul¬†as a young girl. She learnt to channel this¬†gift by etching her observations and heartfelt wisdoms¬†into droplets¬†of visceral¬†poetry. Inasmuch as igniting a young man half a world away to discover something he had not felt was lost and conveyed his gratitude by penning her a letter. A letter he never expected her to reply too and thus began their entwined story. Of a woman entrapped by fear of the sea by which she couldn’t allow herself to experience the world beyond Skye and of a boy struggling to become a man on the threshold of war.

Letters are at their very core intimately raw in their conveyance of our innermost thoughts and emotions. We can spilt onto a page by word and context a connection that goes deeper than the superficial, fully absent of pretense and rightly an instinctive pause to reveal our truest of selves. You become lost in their exchanges to the brink that each time slip between the World Wars loses its mirth and all that is left is the anticipation of what news the next letter shall bring! You’re caught in a vortex of uncertainty living through each painful revelation and consolation between Elspeth and David.

And, yet this is a story that involves Margaret, the daughter of Elspeth who never knew her origins nor understood her mother as a woman. She too, is on a collision¬†course with destiny that is half¬†stitched in the past and half propelled forward by future events. Your heart aches and bleeds with Elspeth as she becomes fraught with despair and the anguish of the unknown. The churning of the tides ebbs and flows during the second half of the novel, but it’s not foreshadowed to reveal the ending which washes away the dried tears and leaves the reader a smile upon¬†her lips!

 

And, here are the other thoughts¬†which First Impression readers shared after having read “Letters from Skye”. Only a small bit of my review was edited¬†after I posted it, as the word “learnt” was exchanged¬†for “learned”. I was expecting it might be edited for length, as try as I might to stay within the 200 to 300 word limitations,… I find myself at a loss to always rein my thoughts into that perimeter! This review clocked in at: 332 words!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comInspired to Share:¬†As soon as this book trailer begins, I was wrapped inside a time portal to a new land of adventurous proportions! The sweeping arc of the book trailer is reminiscent of a motion picture ~ your embarking a brief stay inside the world of Elspeth’s Skye and the very eternal hope that sparks alive inside the idea that a person’s life can be¬†lived, breathed, and evolved through the exchangement¬†of letters. Envelopes ever so tiny, yet ever so vital to parlay information between two souls whose paths have intertwined through a chance encounter inspired by a book of poetry.¬†You can feel the emotional churning of the novel in this book trailer. You sense¬†the heart-wrecking disconnection between Elspeth and David, as much as you see a kernel of Hope lit strong as the picture dissolves and you have to wait until you pick up the book to see how it all unfolds. This is the type of book trailer that readers live to see ahead of sinking into a piece of narrative. A flashing glimpse of two hearts and two characters, spread throughout the span of two World Wars and a lifetime of letters. How can you not¬†want to drink in their story? A story translucent and sageful within our own lifetime.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Book Trailer by Windmill Books, a division of Random House Publishing Group. Windmill Books main website.

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Fly in the Ointment:¬†The only discerning issue I took with the novel is that throughout the years of correspondences, David acknowledges Elspeth¬†as “Sue” which for me, did not suit her very well! It came out of left field as far as I am concerned, because I could not discern the way by which he sorted out how that would ‘fit’ her personality and character traits!? Afterall, she’s a Highlander Scot living a kissing distance from the sea in a sheltering small hamlet of Gaelic origins! Most of the women in the novel are named¬†traditionally for the time frame: Margaret, Lara, Iain, Alasdair, Elsie, and Chrissie for instance, and the author used the Gaelic form of ‘mother’¬†{M√†thair} to reflect¬†Elspeth’s¬†Mum, and Da to reflect father, is why I suppose I was a bit disappointed in the a plum¬†usage of “Sue”.

Conversely, having had the pleasure of borrowing the Complete Series of Monarch of the Glen AND Foyle’s¬†War through my local library — I must contend that I picked up subtle differences in dialect. For instance, I am not sure why “learned” was not “learnt” as an example of certain key words of Scottish/British/UK origins were not shown in full light. I have many memories of watching Monarch of the Glen ill-fated to not understand¬†all the dialogue taking place because of the baroque accent and unfamiliarity of the words used. In this way, I can understand if the author decided to Anglicize¬†Elspeth’s¬†letters for broader audience appealment. Personally, I would have rather read a more authentic¬†difference between Elspeth’s and David’s letters.

Personally I can relay that when your corresponding with a friend who lives elsewhere than you, on a whole new continent and grows up with a language unlike your own, part of the joy and treasurement¬†of your developing friendship are the subtle differences in phrase and language! I have been honoured¬†to have such a diverse array of friends whose first language was not English OR even British English, whereupon we learnt more about each other in how our words inked onto the page! The differences between American and British English can fill the ocean¬†it takes to cross¬†by way of the Queen Mary!¬†It’s a full learning curve and I think, as I have fond¬†memories of my personal correspondences, I noticed this absence in Letters from Skye.

I decided to share these parting thoughts on my blog verse inside my review for Book Browse because they do not deter from the story nor would they prevent the pleasure of reading it. These two things that resonated with me, but I did not think needed to be broached in a review but rather as an aside on my blog!

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Posted Wednesday, 3 July, 2013 by jorielov in Author Interview, Book Browse, Book Trailer, Debut Novel, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, First Impressions, Fly in the Ointment, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Postal Mail | Letters & Correspondence, Scotland, Scribd, the Forties, the Nineteen Hundreds, The World Wars, Time Slip