Category Archives: General Fiction

Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri: A Review

Amy Impellizzeri’s Tall Poppy Writers Page

Amazon Blurb: Set in the past, and present, LEMONGRASS HOPE is a captivating and unpredictable love story, with a dose of magical realism and time travel, that fans of authors such as Audrey Niffenegger, Alice Hoffman, and Toni Morrison will appreciate and embrace. Like Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret this novel weaves together ordinary lives and events to tell an extraordinary tale of connection, loss, renewal, and of course, hope. As Kate Sutton’s decade-long marriage to Rob erodes and unravels, Kate fears that the secrets she guards from the world, including Rob’s emergency room proposal, and a whirlwind love affair from her past, have always doomed her fate. When she unwittingly receives a glimpse at what her life could have been like had she made different choices all those years ago, it is indeed all she could have ever wanted. A confirmation of her greatest hope, and her greatest fears. LEMONGRASS HOPE will draw you in with characters so relatable and real, you will cheer for them one moment and flinch the next. A tale that invites you to suspend disbelief-or perhaps decide to believe once and for all-in the potent power of love and connection over time and choice. Oh, and the dress. There’s this lemongrass dress . . .

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REVIEW: This book has been on my TBR (To Be Read) list since it came out over a year ago. The author is a participating member of a large international online writers group I belong to (Women Writers, Women’s Books, or http://www.booksbywomen.org). Ms. Impellizzeri is a former corporate lawyer, turned fiction and non-fiction writer. She puts her knowledge of the practice of law to good use in exploring the character of Rob, Kate’s husband.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lemongrass Hope is first and foremost a compelling and relatable piece of contemporary fiction. A twist of plot late in the book provides an unexpected bit of magical realism to the story that makes Lemongrass Hope just that little bit different from other books exploiting themes of “what might have been.” Above all, Kate Sutton is a woman with whom many readers will be able to empathize.

Kate has a deep and passionate affair with Ian, but she takes a safe route into the long term, more practical relationship with Rob. The marriage progresses through many familiar phases: establishing their career(s), kids and moving to the suburbs. With exceptional clarity, Amy captures the duality with which so many women with careers and young children struggle, and zeros in with pinpoint accuracy on the discomfort that often exists between stay-at-home moms and moms that work outside the home. Amy clearly describes Kate’s transition from an academic and intellectual 20-something, enjoying life in Manhattan, to a woman strained to her limits by the demands of her career, being a supportive wife to a partner-track attorney, and being the mother of two young children. Seeing that transition, we are set up beautifully when Kate is confronted with several life altering events, one on top of the next, and she embarks on a Heartbreak Cruise to try to get her thoughts together.

Amy writes Kate’s character in such a way that I was alternatively sympathetic and yelling at her. Kate’s evolution from young adulthood, believing she can control her life, to a wiser woman who knows how to control the things she can, and let go of what she can’t is a commonly told story. In Lemongrass Hope, it becomes remarkable in how simply and beautifully the story unfolded for me. Much of the story arc is predictable with one VERY notable exception. But it doesn’t matter, because the story is so elegantly told.

Lemongrass Hope explores old themes in a new way, offering a fresh view of the question “What if I’d done things differently?” This book was enjoyable, optimistic and fast-moving. I recommend it.

Among the places you can buy this book is
Amazon. Here’s the link.

http://www.amazon.com/Lemongrass-Hope-Amy-Impellizzeri/dp/1939288533/ref=la_B00N3WBOO8_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453088733&sr=1-1

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The River Maiden (Book One of The Once and Future series) by Meredith Stoddard

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was one of Meredith’s beta readers for the final manuscript of this book. I re-read it in final form before writing this blog entry.

THE RIVER MAIDEN pulled me in from the very first line, and kept pulling me through the book with its rich descriptive language and relatable characters. The first third of the book spends a good deal of time establishing our main characters as they are in the present, while the second two thirds of the book really explore the story and pick up the pace. By the end of the book, I wanted Book Two. Badly!

Dermot (our main male protagonist) appears deceptively predictable. Somehow, though, the reader realizes that there is more here than meets the eye. Sure, he’s gallant, he’s remarkably handsome, he’s sensitive without being weak. But he’s also smart and has depth that’s conveyed very subtly. Since we don’t find out until a bit later that there is already a boyfriend in Sarah’s life (this is NOT a spoiler), the attraction/denial between Sarah and Dermot seems to point to Sarah’s trust issues. There’s also a good bit of foreshadowing of a mystery that will unfold as the story develops. As the book progresses, though, Dermot becomes much more a predictable romance hero. His character and personal struggles become much more fully explored, and while he still has the characteristics from the beginning of the book, the reader starts to see that the gallantry runs deeper and is based on genuine respect and interest in Sarah, her past, present and future.

Sarah, our female lead character, is more fully formed from the beginning. A good deal of the beginning of the book explores her history, how she was raised by her grandmother (not a spoiler–this is explained in the first few pages), her connections to the old Appalachian culture, and her central conflict. Again, much of this is revealed in the beginning of the book, but the impact of her past doesn’t start to become clearer until we’re much more deeply engaged in the story. Even at the end of the book, though, there are mysteries that the reader still wants to understand. I wish that there had been a little more resolution in some of the main story, but despite wishing that, The River Maiden left me satisfied by a wonderful tale.

One of the elements I loved most about this book was how Ms. Stoddard was able to set the book in contemporary times, but retain the feel of historical fiction. I think part of that was her inclusion of “auld” traditions–those of Scotland and Appalachia, as well as a touch of Nova Scotia. I had a sense of times and worlds colliding in this book and it was very effective. Ms. Stoddard’s use of, and expertise in, folklore is generously sprinkled throughout the book. There’s also substantial mystical occurrences, but somehow, The River Maiden doesn’t cross the line from contemporary and reality-based fiction into  paranormal fiction.

For many, many years, I’ve gravitated toward books that used Celtic mythology in their plots and themes. There’s something in those stories that resonates with me strongly. I would guess they resonate with many others as well, judging by the number of books that use Celtic mythology as a starting point! The River Maiden embraces the story-telling traditions of the Celtic peoples, and brings it into the modern world in a very engaging way.

I can’t wait to read more of Meredith Stoddard’s work and look forward to Book Two of the Once and Future Series. If you want to read more of her writing after finishing The River Maiden, try her two novellas on Amazon: The White House and A Fond Kiss. Both books are excellent and (this seems to be a trademark) leave the reader wanting more!

http://www.amazon.com/River-Maiden-Once-Future-Book-ebook/dp/B00KPI2JZ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1412129689&sr=1-1&keywords=the+river+maiden

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Filed under General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Women's Fiction

Focus

Several weeks ago, I started writing. Unfocused and without a particular goal in mind. I just wanted, no, needed to write. I wrote ten possible blog posts. And then, magically or devilishly, those posts all disappeared. Well, not exactly. I deleted my app and all my local drafts with it. However, it did give me a blank slate to start over with. Since I’d been considering how to focus my efforts, it seemed that maybe this was one of many recent signs from the Universe that I should pick a direction and start moving. This post begins my Book Blog, A Thoughtful Reader.

A Thoughtful Reader will be a source for book reviews of a variety of genres of fiction: Historical Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Women’s Fiction, Non-cheesy Romance, Young Adult and, most particularly fiction that crosses multiple genres or is not easily categorized (my personal favorite). I’m also going to start with several older books that stand out as really special (and lesser known) examples from well known authors. For example, my first review will be of a Philippa Gregory book that is generally less well known to her readers of Historical Fiction; a book called Zelda’s Cut. I received my copy from Abebooks.com (my favorite source for used copies of books that I took out of the library, loved and want a copy of, but don’t want to spend a fortune on). I’ve re-read it, and have started writing my review.

A Thoughtful Reader will also be a place for “occasional deep thoughts”. As I start thinking about the transitions in my life now, I may decide from time to time that my musings will resonate with others. When that happens, you will see a post in the Page called Deep Thoughts that you might find interesting, funny, thought-provoking or otherwise engaging. I hope you enjoy those posts.

Thanks for visiting.

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Filed under General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Suspense, Occasional Deep Thoughts, Paranormal Romance, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult