Telling Sonny

Faby Gauthier lives in a small town in Vermont in the 1920’s. She is bored with small town living and fascinated by Vaudeville and the showbiz life. When she meets Slim White, a dancer in a traveling Vaudeville show, she quickly gets pregnant and caught up in a marriage that happens before she knows it. We follow Faby on the Vaudeville circuit, travel with her on uncomfortable train trips, and stay with her in cheap hotels as we learn about the less glamorous side of showbiz. 

This is a beautifully written novel by Elizabeth Gaffreau that starts in small-town Vermont and takes us all over the Vaudeville circuit in the Eastern United States in the 1920’s. We learn a lot about Vaudeville life, sacrifice, and the loss of innocence. We are shown through Faby’s sister the life she could have had. We are also reminded of the priceless gift of family and the care of those who love us.

Gaffreau has an amazing ability to show us the reality of life behind the facade. For example, her descriptions of 1920’s telephone operators: “…where, inside, pale young women plugged and unplugged the telephone conversations of the village with bony fingers while they waited for someone to marry them.”

I would recommend this well-crafted novel to everyone who enjoys historical novels or anyone who wants to read a moving family story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

BUY TELLING SONNY ON AMAZON

VISIT ELIZABETH GAFFREAU’S WEBSITE

MY REVIEW ON AMAZON (HELPFUL VOTES APPRECIATED IF YOU ARE SO INCLINED)

MY REVIEW ON GOODREADS

Village Teacher

Village Teacher by Neihtn, who also writes as Nguyen Trong Hien, is a well-written novel set in Vietnam in the late 19th or early 20th century while Vietnam was under French colonization. Teacher Tâm has traveled to the Imperial City of Hue to take the national examinations, challenging tests that help the country choose its leaders. He meets Giang, the daughter of a powerful Frenchman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman. The teacher becomes the student as Giang begins teaching him to write Vietnamese in Romanized script without using the Chinese characters. Outside forces begin to intervene in Tâm’s life in many ways, and the reader is taken on a journey through Vietnamese history, language, and customs as the Village Teacher and those who love him fight for his life and his rights.

This is such a beautiful historical love story. The author is an expert in Vietnamese history and I learned so much in this book. The struggles of Teacher Tâm are struggles that are being repeated even today as the wealthy and powerful try to hold down those of lesser means, especially the smart and talented. Over and over again we see in this book how some of the rich and powerful will use any means to try and destroy anyone who they believe threatens their total control. The love story is beautiful, and the reader gets a master class in Vietnamese history, language, and culture. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the history of Vietnam or anyone who just wants to read a well-written historical love story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nguyễn Trọng Hiền is originally from Vietnam. In the United States, he is known as Hien Nguyen, or Hien T. Nguyen.  neihtn is his Vietnamese first name (Hien)  and initials, spelled backward. Why backward? One reason is to indicate that he now lives on the opposite side of the world from where he was born and spent over two decades of his life.

Hein wrote Village Teacher at night and on weekends over four years while he worked a full-time job. He is now retired and spends his time writing and taking photographs of birds, wildlife, flowers and landscapes. He posts the photos on his blog, Village Teacher. He also published another novel, The Siege of An Loc, in 2020.

Buy Village Teacher on Amazon

Buy The Siege of An Loc on Amazon

MY AMAZON REVIEW OF VILLAGE TEACHER

My Review of The Siege of An Loc

The Ring of Truth

The Ring of Truth by Robert B. Sloan is the third book in the Hamelin Stoop Series. This is not a standalone. The books must be read in order or you will be lost when you read Book 3. Book 1 is The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge and Book 2 is The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna.

In Book 3, Hamelin has come back to the orphanage in order to return a lost princess back to her land. He has a definite idea of who this princess might be. There are a lot of delays and betrayals, and the people in his life continue to hide information from him, but Hamelin is determined to finish his mission and ultimately find his parents. 

This is a great young adult series with memorable characters that people of all ages will love. There are definite nods to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as the Bible, in this series. I continue to enjoy the adventures of these characters, especially the trio of Hamlin, Lars, and Eraina. Each of our heroes are aided by their special magical objects as they travel the Land of Gloaming on an important mission to stop the evil Chimera and his sons. They continue to receive guidance and help from SueSue and The Talking Eagle. Hamelin’s Earth friends, Bryan and Layla, also figure prominently in this story. 

I gave this five stars because of how much I love the overall series, but this one did move too slowly for about the first 25% of the book. There was too much time at the orphanage before attempting to return to the Land of Gloaming and not much happened during this time. At the orphanage, the core characters’ continual refusal to share information with each other started getting ridiculous. However, the last two thirds of this 580 page book were much more action filled. But again, even in the Land of Gloaming, there was the constant problem of people keeping secrets from each other. I feel this book would have been even better if it had been cut down to about 400 pages.

That being said, I continue to love these characters and look forward to their next adventures. There are six books planned in this series and I cannot wait until the next one.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via BookSirens. My review is voluntary. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Robert B. Sloan’s Website

Buy Book 1: The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge

Buy Book 2: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna

Buy Book 3: The Ring of Truth

Link to My Amazon Review (Helpful Votes Appreciated)

Link to My Goodreads Review

The Book of Uriel

The Book of Uriel begins in World War II Poland, when a Jewish village is destroyed and its people slaughtered. A little boy, Uriel, finds himself on his own. Unable to speak, Uriel has always written stories in his golden notebook, stories of angels and demons. Taken in by Uwe, a linguist for the Nazis, Uriel sees his stories coming alive. He begins an amazing mission to find the missing Archangel Michael and strikes a bargain with the Angel of Death.

This is an intricately woven tale that shows the cruelty of the Nazis and the horrors of the holocaust while at the same time portraying the spiritual war that is being fought alongside the physical war. Hoffman weaves together historical facts, the Bible, and Jewish folklore to create a written tapestry that you won’t want to put down. Her ability to combine historical fiction with a rich spiritual world is awe-inspiring. As a Christian, I don’t know anything about Jewish folklore, but I do know the Bible. The prophet Elijah, the Archangel Michael, and more familiar Biblical characters are also part of this story. It is a fascinating read, and I definitely believe that the actual battle of good vs. evil is both physical and spiritual.

Fans of the Book Thief will love The Book of Uriel. I also see just a tiny bit of a reminder of Christian author Frank Peretti’s writing, as he too shows the spiritual world alongside the physical world in some of his books.

I downloaded this book on Kindle Unlimited. I also received a free copy from the publishers via Reads and Reels. My review is voluntary.

BUY THE BOOK OF URIEL ON AMAZON

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elyse Hoffman strives to tell historical tales with new twists: she loves to meld WWII and Jewish history with fantasy, folklore, and the paranormal. She has written three books in The Barracks of the Holocaust series, with more on the way. Her first full-length novel, The Book of Uriel, is set to be published on January 26th. If you love history and want to read some completely unique stories, follow Elyse at Project613Publishing.com. 

LINK TO MY GOODREADS REVIEW

The Bird That Sang in Color

The Bird that Sang in Color is the saga of a family dealing with death, conflict, grief, alcoholism, and depression. Donna’s father is an alcoholic and she carries that into her married life to Frank, who has a problem with alcohol as well. Donna is devoted to her children and her brother Vince, a talented musician and artist. Donna has long encouraged Vince to get a “real” job, a house, and the other trappings of success, but Vince continues to go his own way. After Vince’s death, Donna finds a picture book in which Vince has drawn different scenes from his life. For Donna, this shows the truth about Vince’s life, and also about hers.

Though the beginning started out a little slowly for me, this is a fascinating story that asks tough questions. What is success really about? Who is really dead and who is really alive? What is real happiness? Do material things make you happy, and are they fitting substitutes for joy and passion? What makes you truly happy? Most importantly, this book asks the reader to look inside themselves to see their own life pictures, assess their lives, and decide what is important and what is not. And for that, it gets five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via R&R Book Tours. My review is voluntary.

Link to Buy The Bird That Sang in Color:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Bookbub

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy.  She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie! 

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead:  “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

Grace Mattioli’s Website

Link to My Review on Goodreads

Harold (the puppy)

Harold, our adorable wire-hair dachshund puppy, has recently turned one, which I guess makes him no longer a puppy. However, he’ll always be our puppy. I attempted a Tanka about him below. A Tanka is 31 syllables. The first line is 5, second line 7, third line 5, and the last two are 7.

Harold, our beloved puppy, just turned One.

HAROLD

He is one year old
Cute black and white ball of fur
Giant dark brown eyes
Melts your heart in an instant
With unconditional love.

I’ve told this story before, but the story of our puppy Harold is amazing to us. My husband had always wanted a wire-haired dachshund since we saw them on the Westminster Dog Show. They are hard to find and can be expensive. My Dad, Harold, died in 2019. He loved dogs and owned a couple of dachshunds in his day. So when we saw a wire-hair dachshund puppy advertised online, and saw that the breeder had named him Harold, it felt meant to be. However, a big expense came up unexpectedly and we weren’t able to afford him. Dachshunds are popular dogs and he is a piebald wire-hair as well, so we thought he’d be snapped up immediately before we could get him. Two months later, I happened to notice online that Harold was still available. We had the funds, so we texted the breeder, and after a trip to South Carolina, we had our Harold. It is amazing to me because ever since then I’ve watched this breeder’s page and the dogs are all gone immediately, sometimes even before birth. I really feel like Dad saved him for us, and he has been a joy.


This is Harold operating at his normal speed, while his brother Hermann watches him go.

Vegetable Simple

Vegetable simple is a lovely cookbook with gorgeous pictures that provides recipes for vegetables that can be done often in the simplest and freshest ways. My favorite so far is the romaine caesar gratin, where you actually broil the parmesan on the top of the romaine before serving. Ingenious idea. I also want to try the Vidalia Onion Risotto and Vegetable Lasagna. In the summer when garden tomatoes are available I plan to try Tomato Croque Sel.

There are a few recipes that are not as simple as the title implies, but overall this book uses recipes with fresh ingredients and simple methods to help you prepare wonderful and healthy food.

I received a free advance review digital copy of this book from Random House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

This book will be released April 20, 2021.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Ripert is the chef and co-owner of the New York restaurant Le Bernardin, which holds three Michelin stars and has maintained a four-star rating from The New York Times for more than two decades. He is vice chairman of the board of City Harvest, a New York-based food rescue organization, as well as a recipient of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor. He serves as a regular guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and is the host of his own TV series, Avec Eric, which has won Emmy and James Beard awards. Ripert is the author of five cookbooks—My Best: Eric RipertAvec EricOn the LineA Return to Cooking, and Le Bernardin: Four Star Simplicity—and a New York Times bestselling memoir, 32 Yolks.

Link to Preorder Vegetable Simple

Link to My Goodreads Review

Band of Sisters

Kate Moran, a Smith College alumnus and former scholarship student, has graduated and is trying to earn her living when she is contacted by her best friend Emmeline Van Alden. Kate is asked to join a group of Smith alumni who are going to help French civilians during World War I. She can’t imagine being able to go, but when she is asked to take the place of a girl who dropped out, she agrees. The Smith group meets a scene of devastation far worse than they ever imagined, but they pitch in and do their best to help. Along they way, they are shelled by the enemy and hampered by bureaucracy at every turn. Kate and the others learn to face and beat these challenges and more. But Kate’s biggest challenges may be learning to trust her fellow Smithies and rising beyond the label of “scholarship girl.”

This is a well written novel based on the true story of the Smith College Relief Fund and their work in France during World War I. Each chapter starts with an actual letter from one of the alumni. Some of the events described in these letters are incorporated into the book. The characters are well developed and interesting. The concept of class in the midst of war is fascinating. Will the privileged hang on to their prejudices while people are suffering and the Kaiser is trying to kill them all? Willig expertly, through her well-crafted characters, shows the conflicts between classes and shows that people are not always as they seem. In many different ways, Willig reveals Kate’s struggles to see the truth about herself through her own eyes and not her perceptions of what others might be thinking. A little humor and a love story are also threaded nto this captivating tale, which fans of historical fiction and World War I fiction will enjoy.

I received a free advance review copy of this book from William Morrow and Custom House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Band of Sisters will be released on March 2, 2021.

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Barnes and Noble

Buy on Kobo

Buy on Bookbub

About the Author

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty works of historical fiction, including Band of SistersThe Summer CountryThe English Wife, the RITA Award-winning Pink Carnation series, and three novels co-written with Beatriz Williams and Karen White. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best, and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, two young children, and vast quantities of coffee.

Lauren Willig’s website

Link to My Goodreads Review

Love’s Ragged Claws

First, before proceeding with the review I must say that there are some current political opinions in this story.  I don’t normally touch on current politics in my reviews on this blog.  Some of you will agree with the opinions in this story and some of you won’t.  That’s as much as I will say on that topic.  

The story opens with a man, Gabriel,  entering confessional and telling the priest he hasn’t confessed in 50 years.  He has only three sins to confess, all of which are sins of the flesh. He confesses to sexual sins outside of marriage with three women.  All of these revolve around the 1960s hippie/commune culture and women he met there, some of whom he still sees. 

I was interested in the redemption aspect, although I am not Catholic and have never gone to confession.  The 1960s hippie culture is not something I’m really interested in, so I will focus on the writing of this story, which is nicely done.

This is well written literary fiction, and the author is a very skilled writer.   The title of the story is “Love’s Ragged Claws.” The phrase “ragged claws” is taken from and attributed to  a poem by T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.   “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”  The protagonist and one of the women discuss this line during the story.  Using “Love’s Ragged Claws” as the title suggests to me that the protagonist feels unloved, incapable of love,  or that he has not experienced real love, so he may just as well scuffle along silently, forsaking love forever.  I will not say if this is his path or not, to avoid spoilers.  There are other literary references in this work and a strong theme of redemption runs throughout.  There is some epistolary content as well.

While I appreciate the literary skill, I just don’t feel the plot was interesting enough for me and I did not connect with the characters. As I mentioned, I’m not into the 60s hippie culture, so many of you may very well feel differently about this story. Since this story is not my cup of tea, I don’t feel it would be fair for me to give it a rating.  

I received a free copy of this book from the author.  My review is voluntary.

Love’s Ragged Claws will be released on February 1, 2021.

Link to the story on Amazon:

The Milk Wagon

I was hooked when I read this book by Michael Hewes and I find it to be an unsung gem! One of my goals with this blog is to help newer or lesser known authors (and self published authors) promote their work to others who might not otherwise see it. This fantastic book swept me right back into the 1980’s, when I was a teenager, and it was a great ride. See my review below:

________________________________________________________________________

The Milk Wagon is a fantastic thriller set in the 80’s, much of it revolving around a group of high school boys. As an 80’s high schooler myself, this was a wonderful walk down memory lane. This book has the 80’s high school mentality exactly right, and transported me back there as the movies we watched, the cars we drove, and the way we thought were so accurately described. 

This novel was perfectly woven together as both an 80’s book and a crime/murder thriller. There were many twists and turns, and although I am usually pretty good at guessing the “bad guy,” i was totally wrong this time. The fact that this book was not predictable impressed me. 

The characters are so well done, especially the 80s high school kids, that I was sad when it ended. That’s how you tell a great book. You don’t want it to end.

If you love crime thrillers, if you loved the 80s, or if you just love a well written book, check this one out.

I received a free copy of this book from Michael Hewes and BooksGoSocial via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon:

Link to other work by Michael Hewes:

Link to my Goodreads review (Like and Follow if you are so inclined):