Posted in book reviews

How About a Book Rave?

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgYears ago, when my venture into professional editing was just that—a new adventure—I was fortunate to be supported, and promoted, by author friends. Today, I am paying forward with an interview with fellow Pennwriter and Sisters in Crime member, Tamara Girardi. Continue reading “How About a Book Rave?”

Posted in book reviews, reading lists

40 Days of Book Praise – Reading List

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I chose books by and about women from my personal book shelf and wrote brief reviews with a plot summary, plus why it was a good reading choice for women.

Below is a full list of the 40 books I reviewed. Each includes a short description–a log line–to tell each title’s genre and capture what it is about.

40 Days of Book Praise – Reading List Continue reading “40 Days of Book Praise – Reading List”

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40 Days of Book Praise, Day 40

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good book.

Day 40, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson Continue reading “40 Days of Book Praise, Day 40”

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40 Days of Book Praise, Day 39

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good book

Day 39, Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) Continue reading “40 Days of Book Praise, Day 39”

Posted in book reviews, poetry

40 Days of Book Praise, Day 38

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.

Day 38, “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver Continue reading “40 Days of Book Praise, Day 38”

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40 Days of Book Praise, Day 37

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.

Day 37, The Button Field by Gail Husch

Button-Field-book-front-coversm

A paper mill once stood near the town of South Hadley in western Massachusetts. The mill used old rags to make the paper, and sometimes buttons remained attached to the rags. Waste from the paper mill was washed out over area fields, and in that waste were thousands of buttons that spread out and settled into what became known as the Button Field. Students from the nearby college walking through the field could pluck buttons from the ground as if the buttons were flowers….

This odd detail is one of many in this artfully crafted novel based on the true disappearance of a student from Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke was established as a “female seminary” in the first half of the 19th century as part of a movement to create institutions of higher learning for women. In 1897, Bertha Mellish–a real person–spends the summer between semesters working at the local mill. The daughter of a minister, Bertha was mostly raised by her older sister, a spinster twenty years Bertha’s senior. Her upbringing impressed upon Bertha that she is special, and she believes herself destined to rise above her family’s genteel but modest circumstances. But college, and her fellow students, are not what she expects, and she is not as special there as she has been raised to believe. And then one day, a perfectly ordinary day in every other way, Bertha Mellish cannot be found anywhere on campus. A search is undertaken, without success. As with any missing person case, surely someone knows what happened, but who that person is and why they won’t come forward to ease the agony for Bertha’s family and the Mount Holyoke community is a conundrum.

Why is The Button Field a good read for women? This fictional account of what happened to Bertha provides all the hallmarks of a mystery that can be reasonably explained, if not solved, with the combination of good research and informed guessing. In the capable hands of author Gail Husch, we see Bertha as more than the centerpoint of an investigation. Bertha was real, and in this novel, she comes back to life, and so does the pain of those who missed her. Bertha has hopes, dreams, and flaws; she suffers from ego and endures rejection, but nothing in her childhood or early adulthood hints that one day, out of the blue, she will simply be gone. This book provides a possible solution to Bertha’s fate, while at a deeper level it explores how young people thrown together by circumstance embrace people who are like themselves, and how they treat those who are not. Most of all, it is written with style and sensitivity about a young woman who mattered, but not only because she was the girl who disappeared, but because she was a young woman with promise.

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40 Days of Book Praise, Day 35

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.

Day 35, Nora Jane by Ellen Gilchrist

nora jane

Nora Jane is a “life in stories” and the collection of connected short stories and one novella begins with a death. Nora Jane is fourteen, living in New Orleans, when her beloved grandmother dies. Nora’s father was a Vietnam hero and her mother is an alcoholic, so Nora Jane now is adrift without any steady and loving influence. She wanders the city encountering a cast of people, from chefs who attend church and judges who hang out at bars, reflecting the upheaval of post-Vietnam society. At nineteen, Nora Jane falls for a charming anarchist named Sandy. He leaves her to go to San Francisco. To follow him, Nora Jane uses a prop gun to rob the bar and disguises herself as a nun to elude capture. She heads out to California, but Sandy is AWOL. This time, Nora Jane tries to rob an independent bookstore, but the owner is a TS Eliot-quoting rich guy named Freddy. Freddy falls in love with her because Nora Jane is also a raving beauty. When Nora Jane discovers she’s pregnant, she is not sure which of the two men is the father, but Freddy stands by her and raises her twin daughters in a big house next to a fault line.

In the stories that follow, an array of intriguing and bizarre people are drawn to Nora Jane and Freddy. There are visits from family and visitations from spirits, friends who hang around uninvited, and moments of fear and danger. Binding the story is the ever-surprising Nora Jane. She has two gifts: a beautiful singing voice and her grandmother’s wisdom. She is also gifted with Freddy, who is diagnosed with leukemia in the collection’s novella, and so it’s Nora Jane’s turn to stand by him. She does it in true Nora Jane style.

Why is Nora Jane a good read for women? This book is described as “intelligent comedy” and its excesses are its charm. Nora Jane is a reflection of the freewheeling times: she is a morally ambiguous but strangely grounded adventurer who takes a journey of self-discovery with her mind, soul, and body wide open. Ellen Gilchrist is a novelist of acclaim for good reason, and Nora Jane shows all that an author can do with a quirky character, a quirkier cast, and a concept that intrigues. Only the impetuous—or maybe only an optimist–would live in a mansion on a fault line.