Author: April Smith

+Blog Book Tour+ A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Posted Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 1 Comment

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A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Published By: Alfred A. Knopf,
an imprint of DoubleDay and part of Random House Publishing Group,
14 January 2014
Official Author Websites: Facebook | Twitter | Site
Converse on Twitter: #AStarForMrsBlake
OR Tweet @AprilSmithBooks

Available Formats: Hardback and E-Book
Page Count: 352

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAcquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “A Star for Mrs. Blake” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by TLC Book Tours in which I received a complimentary ARC direct from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

Apparently, 1929 was far more historic than I ever imagined possible!!  My own family went through the collapse of the market, the death of my great grandmother’s beloved husband and the Depression,  yet sadly few of the stories of that era were passed down! This is a unique chance for me to not only learn more about the late 20s, but to see how the lives of the mothers of fallen soldiers were knit together! Its a beautiful arc of a storyline! I am especially keen on the lives of military families, as not only are we honoured to have servicemen and women serve our country with such sacrificial hearts, but I have had members of my own family serve in different generations. Including a civilian grandfather, a Navy grandfather who went through Normandy & Japan, as well as a USO dancing & singing Aunt who kept the liveliness and joy alive and well on the dance floor! The endurance of great loss and the sympathies of those we may never know the full story of, knows no bounds. We are always blessed with a mirth of grace in acknowledging those who have walked before us and those who gave more than most. We are indebted to all who serve in the name of peace and goodwill.

There is a beautiful testament of Ms. Smith’s approach on writing on her website, whereupon she endeavours to explain to readers the motivation and the inspiration behind creating the stories you find in not only her novels, but all novels in which the writer left a piece of themselves behind!

I volunteer to give back to our deployed servicemen and women each chance I can, as a small measure of gratitude for how blessed I am for their service. I hope to extend my abilities to allow more men and women of the armed services know how loved and honoured they are by the families who might not have active heroes in their lives, but who cherish the ability to lift the spirits of those who do!

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World War I | Mums of the Fallen Soldiers:

I smiled inwardly seeing the setting of Cora Blake’s story was set on an isolating island off the Coast of Maine! I instinctively knew a bit about what I would be finding inside as her story would be laid bare for all of us to absorb, resonate internally, and appreciate on such a deep level of sincerity. Mrs. Blake might be a fictional character in a story which draws a breath of clarity and light on living American Gold Star Mothers; but she is as real to me as though she were able to draw breath! Her determined spirit of plucky spunk doesn’t surprise me being she’s a Mainer! In Maine, there is a living code of not only seeking to appreciate life as its being lived, but to live well with what you have, and find the everyday joys to not only sustain you but to carry you forward through the adversities life is surely going to bring! I was most delighted in seeing the true “Maine spirit” threaded throughout the opening chapters, as Smith allows us this curious window of understanding Mainers from a singular focus of their lives turnt inward and reflective.

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“They Shall Live” a clip of the documentary of American Gold Star Mothers
by They Shall Live

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They not only make do and make good on what they have on hand, they have this determination inside their bones to not allow the worst of what life can bring to them hold them down for very long. I think it was the perfect metaphor of spirit to launch a story of the insurmountable strength it takes for all mothers of fallen soldiers to emerge out of the swallows of grief and realise that they not only have a heap of self-worth to give back to others’ but they can find honour and respect for their fallen children in the eyes of those of us who support them from afar. I am ever so thankful tonight to find that the organisation which led the World War I mothers to France to visit their sons graves is still very active in present day! What greater blessing than to be surrounded by other mothers who can directly understand the loss and the pain of having a child pass on from this world at such a young age. Grief is better when shared as it ebbs away the darkness and allows the light to be reflected back in. Memories which were once difficult to process and accept, I would imagine start to bubble back to life, drawing smiles and fierce hugs from all who listen. Everyone has a story to share, because each of us is writing our stories each day we live. We must not allow those stories of the soldiers become forgotten in the annals of time.

I am hopeful as this book gains momentum and exposure, it will alight into the hands of all the Mums who have given the greatest gift: their sons and daughters who elected to fight for our rights of freedom. They walked through their children’s service, fully equal to the emotions and the experiences, as Mums are always instinctively connected to their children. Let us give gratitude to their strength, their courage, and their ability to find each other to help others carry-on when they felt their grief would overtake their beings. Let us remember to shine our internal light on those who feel as though we are not even aware of their loss.

My Review of A Star for Mrs. Blake:

A Star for Mrs. Blake opens by introducing you to Mrs. Cora Blake, the mother of a soldier who died during World War I in France. She’s on the brink of having to decide what is the best resting place for her son,… France or America!? The resounding response deep within her is to allow him the freedom of choosing to lay to rest in the country and battlefield where he was attempting to keep everyone’s liberties and freedoms intact. He chose to be brave and to allow courage to help him forge through all doubt in order to serve in a war he may not survive. His Mum, Mrs. Blake is the cornerstone character who acts as a catalyst who brings everyone else together in her group of ‘pilgrims’ sponsored by the US government to give them a first class tour of Paris as well as the French countryside. It is through this hodgepodge group of women she develops a spontaneous sisterhood bond.

Mrs. Russell the proud Southern mama who doesn’t trust people easily, Kate the bold Irishwoman with the brooding family, and Minnie the Jewish lady who walked with a proud countenance. Then, there was the benefactor of the rail-line which brought Cora into Boston down from Bangor, Mrs. Olsen! Each of the women had a colourful family life as much as experiences to fill your ear over a hearty cuppa tea! The sad part is prior to boarding the ship setting sail for France, Mrs. Russell was mistaken for another Mrs. Russell and was forced to switch ships. Each of the mothers start to re-live different memories of their children, and of the prejudices they might have faced in life. The memories start to trigger and set-off moments of high-octane drama which starts to affect the tone of the trip. I knew at some point there would be a shift in the emotional keel, but some of the shiftings were brought on by secondary characters or bystanders.

In the backdrop, you have the men assigned to the whole affair itself, the military overseers who are worried the mothers and widows might not be able to handle the overseas crossing much less the rigors of the experience itself! I found the back-story of the planners to be a bit hysterical, as if a mother could find the courage to bury their sons ahead of their living years exulted, I do believe they had the strength necessary to carry them across the North Atlantic! Sometimes I think certain men do not realise how much women have to constantly dig in their heels and do things they may not foresee where their internal strength arises from but they can draw on it as though it is a life-force of its own.

As with most journeys that we find ourselves taking in life, it’s very rarely the destination which is the key component of our trip. As these women journey back to say a final farewell to their sons, it’s what they find inside themselves and in each other that has more of an effect on them personally. They weren’t expecting to live half a lifetime in their wanderings through France, but it’s within those wanderings greater truths started to emerge and come into the light. This is a story for anyone who has been touched by war and loss. For giving a voice to those who anguish over the tragedy as much as try to make peace with the dead. There are moments inside the story where Smith doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities each of her characters need to face head-on. She allows the reader to take the story as far as they are willing to go.

Style of Ms. Smith’s writing:

AprilSmith_authorSmith is a screenwriter in her other life by day, where she knits together stories set to an entirely different pace than her mysteries of Ana Grey! She has the blessing of studying the craft of writing through different facets of integrity and design. Using a sharp lens of carving out the bits and bobbles of the human heart as she endears to convey the poetic narratives which bring A Star for Mrs. Blake fully to life! She allures you with the gentle gliding hand of walking alongside Mrs. Blake as she goes about her everyday joys and obstacles. You feel ‘inserted’ into her life as though you’ve become a participant rather than a mere observer, and for this, I credit to the styling of story-telling in which Smith has etched into the novel. This is one aspect of telling stories by screen and by motion pictures I can attest to having a deep appreciation and preference of passion! Throughout different blog posts I have alluded to my passion for motion pictures, as much as how my tweets of late (the past nine weeks!) have reinstated this fact quite keenly! There is the ability for a viewer to feel as though they have abandoned their own living reality and exchanged it out to live inside the shoes of a character they have only just become acquainted with… compelled to see, hear, feel, and visionalise everything the character is going through. In this way, motion pictures and novels are entwined together, because it’s the heart of a solidly constructed narrative in spilt words on a page that can wring out such a hearty connection to the reader as the screenwriter can bleed out our emotions by how the story evolves through the actors who perform.

A Star for Mrs. Blake is an uplifting narrative on how even during our greatest losses, we can overtake our fears and re-discover hidden joys in a life we felt we could never again be surprised with a smile of gladness! She even thought to include the adage of ‘going up to Portland’ rather than ‘down’ as Mainers give directions by road via the nautical ques of the sea! In direct reference to a passage which explains how you go ‘up’ in order to ‘go’ down in a southerly direction!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comInspired to Share:

To bring forward the extraordinary lives of those who serve and sacrifice and of whom are brought to the forefront of our minds throughout A Star for Mrs. Blake. This is a film of interviews and memories stitched together by heart and soul of the Mums who have lost their sons and daughters. They shine such a powerful light on the human condition towards enduring the unfathomable in order to see the light of the approachable. Those mothers who have found the American Gold Stars group, I can only imagine found new footing in being able to light small candles towards recognition of their children’s achievements as well as stirring a social conscience towards acceptance that for each battle we fight, there are losses who deserve to be known and held in thought. Secured in our resolute resolve to not merely carry-on but to live onwards through the dedicated service of those we shall never meet.

American Gold Star Mothers by Elizabeth Shaw

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThe “A Star for Mrs. Blake” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

This post marks my first role as tour hostess with:

TLC Book Tours | Tour Host

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Star for Mrs. Blake” as well as April Smith’s photograph, and the logo badge for TLC Book Tours were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. The clip of the documentary “They Shall Live” and the “American Gold Star Mothers” video 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, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, American Gold Star Mothers, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Films, Boston, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Documentary on Topic or Subject, France, Historical Fiction, Interviews Related to Content of Novel, Maine, Military Fiction, Mother-Son Relationships, New York City, The World Wars, TLC Book Tours