The Brooklyn Public Library Offers Free eCards to Teens Nationwide Facing Book Bans in Local Communities Press Release:
Saw this on a writing platform. Follow the links if interested. I don’t personally know the author so do read all the details BEFORE entering.
Summer is here! School is out, and it won’t be long before the kids are complaining that they’re bored. Books geared to an individual child’s taste can help keep the summer break fun and exciting. I’m happy to share that my book, Elephants Never Forgotten, is listed along with other great summer reads here:
GRAB ONE OF THESE GREAT MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS!
In this incredibly beautiful book, we encounter seventeen-year-old Sora dealing with the fatal diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Set in modern day Japan, the teen faces the deterioration of his body, a growing sense of isolation, and all the big philosophical questions we would expect. The grownups around him offer what help they can but they serve mostly to point out how society as a whole can’t face death. Sora finds some solace in the death poetry of Samurai warriors, but they are distant echoes from the past. Looking for friendship, and confined at home by the disease, he reaches out through the internet to find companionship. Even though the disease is progressing, Sora eventually risks meeting two of the friends he’s made online. Skittish at first, the friends have as much trouble dealing with death as the adults do, but they come together anyway.
This is a book about friendship, courage, and death. It doesn’t shy away from the unfairness of life. Because of that and some push back in reviews I’ve read, I guess this is one of those books best kept to a more mature teen audience. Some people are very concerned that a book about teen suicide was ever written. Really? And then, there’s the connection to disability and teen suicide! Nevertheless, it’s a great book for teens because all of this is difficult and there’s lots of room for discussion. On top of that there are the cultural differences between Japan and the US. What is expected of a teen in Japan is not necessarily what we would expect from a teen in the US. All of these themes make this a great jumping off point for deep thought and discussion. Recommended!
Today I welcome Bianca Gulbalke to talk about her book, Born With Wings: The Immortal Life of Piu Piu. Bianca is an award-winning screenplay writer and artist, a passionate gardener, teacher and metaphysics student.
I recently finished her incredible work of visionary fiction. It’s one of those rare books that starts off immediately in the spiritual realm. From start to finish, this is visionary fiction at its finest and most bold. Swept up in the tale of incarnation, life, struggle, and purpose we follow the beautifully drawn characters as the author weaves a wonderful tale. An injured gosling and a little girl come together in lush and magical South Africa. There’s a call from ancestors and a drive for purpose, and danger’s never far away. It’s a captivating tale, a journey of emotions through life, death, and rebirth.
Thank you for joining me, Bianca!
What were your first glimmers of this story? Was it of the characters, the setting, or the plot itself?
Thank you for your kind introduction, Ellis, I’m grateful and thrilled to be here!
The glimmer came with a kind of magic: Piu Piu, the main character – pronounced ‘phew-phew’ – was real. The setting in the floral kingdom along the Western Cape coast of South Africa was – and is – real. The fire was real. Very real! The idea for the plot revealed itself when, shortly after Piu Piu was killed, causing much heart-break, a new Piu Piu appeared!
Coincidence? I don’t think so . . . but definitely a story that needed to be told Piu Piu was quite an attraction in our garden. She was intelligent, funny and very protective of us, her adopted family. I was encouraged to write about her, but this only happened when disaster struck: I had a macular hole in my eye that needed major surgery. But the real ordeal came thereafter: I had to hold my head down for three weeks – no PC, no TV, no sport – the time for the wound to heal, which depended on my discipline in keeping the healing liquid right on top of the wound.
That was tricky at night, as I naturally turned on my back. Eventually, I ended up sitting in the lotus position and meditate all through the night. Even with a long history in meditation and yoga, it seemed like a daunting task – but it turned out to be an amazing experience.
It was during those long solitary hours in the dark, with owls hooting softly outside, that the magic happened and the story appeared. Typing blindly, with the keyboard on my lap and the laptop on the floor, the first glimmer took shape in form of a draft.
With hindsight, those challenging three weeks were rewarding in many ways. Instead of being my usual pro-active self, I simply let go and ‘listened’ and observed . . . just as Pippa does at a crucial turning point in her life.
The author and the real Piu Piu
How did being a filmmaker aid the process of writing this story?
In a movie, you have to know within the first few minutes where the story is playing, who the main protagonist is, what has to be accomplished and what hurdles are in the way.
In a novel, your first pages are important to draw your reader in, but you can take your time.
As many readers may believe in reincarnation but are unfamiliar with say the latest afterlife research, I decided to start (and end) in the spiritual realm, giving the story a frame. I would probably also do this in the screenplay. It sets the tone and the reader immediately identifies with the heroine on her magical journey called ‘life’.
Also, as a filmmaker or photographer you observe the world around you in a different way. You wear a storytelling lens. You’re always on the lookout to discover something worth sharing with the world. You tell a story by showing pictures . . . and a picture tells a thousand stories. This methodology and art probably influences your writing style, possibly defines it. To see and absorb something for myself, I have to leave the camera at home.
The screenplay is the blueprint for a visual medium. Yes, sound is just as important as well. The point here is that you essentially develop a clear focus in showing pictures filled with significant or relevant details that tell that story in terms of setting, characters, action, plot.
When writing a novel you create the ‘movie’ directly in the reader’s mind.
As a filmmaker, you have many constraints. The underlying principles and structure are the same, but in a screenplay you have to be succinct, genre-specific, and extremely focused as everything depends on time and money. This often means to strip away scenes you love. You have to compromise. It can be very painful.
As a writer, you have much more time to develop your characters or reveal the details of your settings. You can even express internal thoughts. Once the real editing process starts, you may find yourself in a similar position, but certainly not as radical as you are not tied to those 90 to 120 minutes.
Some say that screenplay writing hones your skills with dialogues.
In a film, actors add their own personality and flair; dialogs are tweaked and adapted all the time. It becomes a co-creation. As we watch a movie, we deduct thoughts or emotions from a character’s action and/or reaction. Silence becomes a carrier for meaning and mood . . .
In a novel, you have to bring your characters to life with and through your writing: the way they talk, what they say how and when or what they keep to themselves. I find it’s best to draw one’s inspiration from real life people – their voices, language, slang, expression, pitch. Anything that defines them as the character they are in your mind. They can be pretty loud and possessive while developing a life of their own!
As a writer, you never know how big your family really is 😊.
The gosling, Piu Piu
One of the wonderful things about the book is the passion you show in describing the human/animal bond. Can you talk a little about a special animal who was fundamental to your spiritual development?
Life is filled with cosmic humour in the way it teaches us.
When I was a little girl, and I was tiny, we had a huge aviary in our garden and many owls in the trees. Our neighbor, an elderly lady, had 20 giant tortoises, eating giant salads while turning in circles within the narrow confines of a giant fence, which really worried me.
That wasn’t all. She also had 25 cats, who got over that fence and traumatized our birds.
My dad hated cats with a vengeance, which blocked me over my early childhood years.
On the other hand, I couldn’t stand seeing birds in a cage, but when I secretly helped one out now and then, it had no chance against flying cats and freaky owls. Nor had I against dad. He hated cats so much that I was convinced they were coming after me. . .
Weirdly enough, cats taught me all through my life, both in reality and on a spiritual level. This became very clear in my healing work following my studies of the way of the shaman as taught by the late scientist Dr. Michael Harner. As you may have noticed, I shared my first OBE in the introduction of my novel, following the death of one of those 25 cats. That early incident set me on a spiritual path where I had to learn to balance the animal energies of birds and cats, which is reflected in my book and that I’m very aware of as I answer your question.
As of age 11, I was on horseback all the time, accompanied by a bunch of speedy cocker spaniels, obsessed with chasing birds across the strand; an alarm clock of a dackel, especially if he was up with me on the saddle, meaning on top of the world; and a German shepherd, the fiercest and most loyal animal protector I ever had. The way he was at my side in really scary situations – suddenly going over a high entrance gate, just by pure animal intuition, even when I was miles away – is beyond grasp. There are too many stories to tell. Anyone with pets has their own. Pets are our teachers and loyal friends. We are vibrational units.
It’s a totally different situation with animals from the wild. You won’t escape your teachers, even if someone tried to block their energy from your soul!
Cheetah, leopard, lion, lynx, wild cat – I had many thrilling encounters on the farm or in Etosha, outside the secure camp. Or, in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where Nature peels away those pompous layers of ‘I, me and myself’ until the soul emerges and resonates with the stars. I sensed their vibration, even when the big cats were invisible in the dark. In the morning, the ranger would point out the tracks around our hut or tent: “Look who was here.”
I believe this was a natural response to my animal spirit energy, which can be harnessed in many ways – just as the San when they painted an animal on a rock. Everyone has their own; it’s a matter of being aware of it. It’s hardly a few months ago, that I encountered a wild lynx right outside my studio here, clashing with my hooligan tomcat who wasn’t impressed!
Having said that, it’s crucial to be well grounded at all times, but the spirit needs to be free. This is where the bird energy comes in. In my years as an artist, I painted a whole series on ‘Birds’. I painted a series on ‘Dogs’. I never painted cats. Perhaps . . . not yet?
Close eyes. Think CAT. What do you feel?
When I think cat, I feel a tremendous energy. Flexibility. Action. It’s Pete in motion, when he jumps over that high fence and speeds up the mountain to save his wife from the flames.
Now close eyes and think BIRD. What comes to mind?
When I think bird, I fly. I let go. I see my shadow gliding under me. I feel free. I am Piu Piu on that first glorious flight across the valley and the ocean . . . I am Piu Piu in the turbulence above the swamps . . . I feel her clearly on her way home. I hope my readers do the same.
We all were born with wings, why don’t we remember to fly?
Based on the quote of one of my favorite poets, the Sufi mystic Rumi, ‘Born with Wings’ not only tells the true story of the immortal life of Piu Piu, it also takes us on a magical journey – a meditation if you will – within ourselves. That’s the power of the bird spirit energy.
One last note: I close my eyes when my tomcat gets those mice and other critters – but we have a deal: NO BIRD. Whenever I hear that heroic yowl, I cringe. I accept. But now and then he comes with a sweet meow announcing that he brings me – a gift! The last one was on Easter morning. A little sunbird. It still freaks me out, but I learned to respond with grace and love. He lets me take the tiny feathered being from his deadly jaws, unharmed. I prepare a mix of honey and water and feed it from my finger until the shock subsides and its eyes are shining again.
Then I let it fly . . .
Oh yes, and there’s also the buzzing life of bees . . . As Pippa says: “It’s all in the book!”
The character of Pippa is deeply connected to nature. With her we explore ancestral themes and Pippa finds her purpose here. Yet, many of us have lost touch with this primal connection to the earth. Is Pippa’s journey calling us back home?
We are living in disintegrated times with everyone searching what’s lost and needs to be regained ‘out there’. “More, more, more,” demands Charlot in the story. “This is a ruthless world and one must be ruthless to cope with it”.
Pippa reminds us to listen to our intuition, to follow our inner light, to live our life with passion and purpose from within: “Spread your wings and fly, no matter what others say!”
’Would you be afraid, if there were nothing to fear?’ asks our heroine when warned that she could ‘…fall from the sky and die’.
‘The soul of man is immortal,’ was already taught – well over 2000 years ago – by the Greek philosopher Plato, founder of the prestigious Academy of Athens in ancient Greece. This was the first institution of higher learning in the world. Isn’t it time for us to apply?
In what was called a ‘divine comedy’ by film historian and critic Dr. Inga Karetnikova, Piu Piu takes us through her own inferno, her purgatory and, ultimately, into paradise.
White protea in the Silvermine Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa
The book contains wonderfully written scenes of altered states of consciousness and meditative states. Can you talk about your experience or practice that guided your writing?
Born in Namibia, just a few miles away from the Spitzkoppe, I was fascinated by the San, the oldest tribe in southern Africa. They are widely known for their rock paintings, which was a way for the medicine man to honor the sacredness of the animal spirit and to harness its essence. I resonated with their love and respect for the earth and the animal kingdom right away. But what really fascinated me was their metaphoric storytelling and how they slipped away into an altered state of consciousness during their ritual, the ‘trance dance’.
I knew that it was something I wanted to explore.
“Africa’s rock art is the common heritage of all Africans, but it is more than that. It is the common heritage of humanity.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Did the absence of fear in a young child ever surprise you?
My parents caught me many times when I walked right off into the sea. Hat, dress and shoes. As I grew older, I was in the sea almost daily, sometimes with wild dolphins playing around us in the waves, often followed by sharks. I still remember that dark and stormy day when a giant wave crushed me onto the ocean floor. A strong current sucked me further and further away. The inevitable happened. Within an instant, the thundering rush gave way to silence and a sudden lightness of being. I found myself within an endless realm of light, that felt familiar: “Ah, that’s where I am.”
Well, it wasn’t my time to cut the silver cord. There was a reason for me to return. A wave laid me gently on the beach at the feet of my terrified mom. So, here I am.
The gift of that NDE was my absolute certainty that there is a loving, eternal connection with what I call Consciousness on the ‘other side of the veil’. We all have access to it in dreams, meditation, prayer, the vibrational power of pure intent and during moments of pure ecstasy. We come from it . . . We evolve back towards it . . . Life after life after life . . .
My path was laid out for me . . .
Story telling – in words and/or pictures – became the defining factor of my professional life, interwoven with my continuous search to heal, free and lift the vibration of body, mind and soul. It led me to practices like Zen meditation, Kriya yoga, the way of the shaman, spiritual healing techniques, clinical hypnosis, past life regression . . . amongst other paths.
There was one crucial incident, however, that really shifted my understanding. It happened during my academic training in Paris, when an old man suffering from excruciating pain and abandoned by his family, died in my arms, begging for spiritual help during his passing.
When I saw the dreaded transformation unfold before my own eyes during that communion, my perception truly changed. No matter how peaceful or traumatic the situation, what other loved ones reflected during their final surrender was a sense of release, peace and completion. Recognizing the immortality of their spiritual dimension, they knew again who they were and, gracefully, ascended into Light.
All this inspired me to write this story, not only but also for those who might need it most: the baby boomer generation, which faces its own mortality. I’m one myself; I know how it feels. Life’s fast pace and personal fears may have kept many from addressing the most important existential questions. As a result, fear – in its many hidden expressions – not only wreaks havoc with our health, our mental wellbeing and happiness, but can bring us even to the point of fearing the light. Let’s not allow that to happen!
In her very last moments, Piu Piu turns around and changes the course.
It’s never too late!
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T. S. Elliot
Piu Piu in the mist
Has spirituality always been a part of your life, as with your character Pippa?
Yes, absolutely! There’s so much wisdom in the world and never there has been a time to access it that easily. Certain books I read again and again, always learning something new. I am grateful for the wise teachers out there – both in the visible and the invisible world.
Beyond that, I believe that the most intense learning takes place through life itself during highly challenging times. Times when you stand with your back to the wall and you learn who you are in the way you react. That’s why fire plays a significant role in my story. And if you read carefully, you also find the theme of the drought, which we’ve been experiencing over the past 3 years and, more drastically than ever, right now with 50 litres per person per day. Which we have to share with our pets and plants . . .
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
We are part of Nature and Nature is part of us. We are intrinsically connected. What affects one, affects the other – separation is an illusion. When Piu Piu descends into despair and confusion, a thick fog covers the valley, in which Pippa loses her way. Once she incorporates ‘that other part of myself’ she feels complete again and follows her inner light.
Isn’t this a mirror of what’s happening in the world?
I’m writing this on Friday, the 13th April 2018 – a memorable day . . .
Golden sunset over Noordhoek Beach, South Africa
What role do books like yours and other works of visionary fiction play in helping to shape the future?
I see visionary fiction under the umbrella of esoteric wisdom. It has always existed, venturing into unknown territories and courageously pushing boundaries to expand readers’ awareness: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet:
The emphasis here is also on ‘fiction’. Instead of expressing our thoughts or expert knowledge in a non-fiction book, we gently weave a message, a specific intent, into the tapestry of a visionary story, where readers can identify with characters on their magical journey into that un-remembered non-local domain or altered states of consciousness.
We all were born with wings, but we forgot how to fly. Isn’t it time we try?
What are you working on now?
‘Born with Wings – The Immortal Life of Piu Piu’ is Book 1 in the series ‘Dance between Worlds’. I’m working on Book 2
So! Just as in real life, the magical journey continues! Our heroes will be back in a different constellation. They’ve already embarked on a new adventure filled with mystery and suspense. The tension between Anata and Charlot has been playing itself out over many lives. Will there be another tragedy or a happy ending?
We’ll see . . . Expect to be surprised!
THANK YOU for a magical moment in time that unites us, you, me, our readers and Piu Piu!
For more information about Bianca or her work, please follow the links below:
This is a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa Gardner is the great granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the real girl for whom Lewis Carroll created his masterpiece. But what if he got it all wrong? What if Carroll dumbed down and made the dangerous Wonderland merely magical and quaint? What if something truly horrific happened to Alice and was covered up?
Alyssa’s mother is in a mental hospital and, as the book opens, we follow the daughter and her peculiar artform utilizing dead bugs. Alyssa is edgy, artsy, and perhaps mad like her mother. Or is she? As her mother worsens, Alyssa is summoned back to under-land to face a curse put in place generations ago.
AG Howard has done a wonderful job in creating a dark, sinister under-land. Carroll’s book has a sophistication of language, but the tale can easily be read by grade-schoolers. Howard’s book confronts YA topics including mental illness, cruelty, animal abuse, and sexual awakening. Alyssa herself is no Alice. She has a dark side seen reflected in the character of Morpheus who is her guide in under-land. At times she is attracted to him and at times she is repelled, but she seems to have control over neither. This is book one of what is becoming a popular series.
Interview with Madeleine McLaughlin
I recently finished Madeleine McLaughlin’s middle-grade adventure novel called Beggar
Charlie. Set in China when the opium trade flourished, it follows the journey of young
Charlie when he and a companion are stranded alone after a rebellion. Told from
Charlie’s point of view, we experience the horror and fear of trying to survive and get
back home. Madeleine McLaughlin also writes for adults, but today she joins me to talk
about writing for the younger set.
I’m always interested in how a story comes to an author. Was it this period in history, or the character of Charlie that first came to mind?
Well, I’m very interested in the 19th century. I’ve read a lot about that age in China plus Victorian England. There was a lot of interesting stuff going on back then. In China, the opium wars, the opening of China to foreigners and of course Cixi, the Empress. So, wanting to write a boy’s adventure story (girls like it, too) I decided on that era. Then I had to think of my main character. Well, what’s more Victorian than the character of the orphan? Nothing! Voila, Beggar Charlie was born.
Every part of your novel feels authentic. What kind of research was necessary to get the details right so that the reader felt this?
Like stated above, I have been reading history books about this era for many years. History is fascinating. But I also looked for diagrams on the internet about the shape of cities in China at that time. You can always find something on the internet. Also, Victorian England is a favorite study of mine mostly because it’s where a lot of today’s sciences began. Botany, Geology, Paleontology were all begun in England in the Victorian era. And the study of London is so interesting and of course, a bit sad because of all the poor and disadvantaged people who had no way out. But really, anyone or anything you can learn from is good.
Did you read adventure tales when you were growing up? Did any of them resurface as you worked on Beggar Charlie?
Never. I read mysteries and horse stories. Nancy Drew and Donna Parker. I was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie which is kind of adventurous but it’s a real history. No Kipling or anything even remotely adventure.
How did writing a middle-grade novel affect the way you handled writing about drugs and violence?
Well, I tend to believe that the young kids nowadays are exposed to drugs and violence very early. There are all sorts of violent cartoons to wean them on and tv shows tend to be nothing but guns, guns, guns. The term glorifying violence comes to mind. And then in the hip-hop music scene you have all sorts of overdoses and pill popping. So, although it may be fair to criticize any writer for putting it in (and I have been) I tried to ‘tell it like it is’. That is, opium destroyed China and violence was the result. The Boxer Rebellion comes to mind. That’s my idea here, to tell the truth through fiction.
Do you tend to use outlines for your writing projects or do they grow more organically?
I didn’t use an outline for Beggar Charlie. I just wrote until I ran out of steam and then I thought about what I would write the next day before I went to sleep.
What aspect of writing brings you the most joy and what do you find most challenging?
Just the rush of writing it down is good. I mean, your story is usually not great then but the rush of ideas and the writing them down feel good. It feels uplifting. The challenge is to get everything straight all your seasons exactly right (instead of starting a scene in winter and ending in summer) and all the rewriting cohesive.
What are you currently working on?
Another middle-grade book entitled, The Last Words of Edward Broome. I’ve almost finished the first draft.
For more information on Madeleine McLaughlin’s book, check out the following links:
Amazon link: goo.gl/cp9NTS
MuseItUp link: goo.gl/QrvMBB
Every once in a while, I scroll through the new offerings in my library’s YA e-books list. Often the “hottest” books are all checked out and I’m not great at waiting for the holds queue. Although if I really, really want a certain book, I will try it before resorting to buying it. Sometimes I find something available that I want to read right away. Sometimes nothing appeals and I run over to Amazon because they have a much better search engine that can find a book without me pulling my hair out! (Who designs these library search functions? I’m torn between whether I think they should be ashamed of themselves or just locked up in a mental ward.) Anyway, a recent search had me positively giddy with delight! I found a ton of books I’m interested in. I’ve listed them below and will be starting with Haunting the Deep by Ariana Mather. From there, I don’t know which title I’ll be able to get or when, but this is going to be my basic reading list. Maybe you’ll find a book below you might want to try, or comment on one you have already read. Let me know!!
Haunting the Deep– Ariana Mather
“The Titanic meets the delicious horror of Ransom Riggs and the sass of Mean Girls in this follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Hang a Witch, in which a contemporary teen finds herself a passenger on the famous “ship of dreams”—a story made all the more fascinating because the author’s own relatives survived the doomed voyage.”
The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen– Katherine Howe
“It’s July in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.
As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There’s just something about her that he can’t put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. Annie’s from the city, and yet she seems just as out of place as Wes feels. Lost in the chaos of the busy city streets, she’s been searching for something—a missing ring. And now Annie is running out of time and needs Wes’s help. As they search together, Annie and Wes uncover secrets lurking around every corner, secrets that will reveal the truth of Annie’s dark past.”
The Last Leaves Falling– Sarah Benwell
“A teen grapples with ALS and his decision to die in this “deeply moving” (Booklist, starred review) debut novel infused with the haunting grace of Japanese poetry and the noble importance of friendship.
Sora is going to die, and he’s only seventeen years old. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), he’s already lost the use of his legs, which means he can no longer attend school. Seeking a sense of normality, Sora visits teen chat rooms online and finally finds what he’s been longing for: friendship without pity.
As much as he loves his new friends, he can’t ignore what’s ahead. He’s beginning to lose the function of his hands, and soon he’ll become even more of a burden to his mother. Inspired by the death poems of the legendary Japanese warriors known as samurai, Sora makes the decision to leave life on his own terms. And he needs his friends to help him.”
It Wasn’t Always Like This– Joy Preble
“In 1916, Emma O’Neill is frozen in time. After sampling an experimental polio vaccine brewed on a remote island off St. Augustine, Florida, she and her family stop aging—as do the Ryans, her family’s business partners. In a way, this suits Emma fine because she’s in love with Charlie Ryan. Being seventeen forever with him is a dream. But soon a group of religious fanatics, the Church of Light, takes note. Drinking the elixir has made the O’Neills and Ryans impervious to aging, but not to murder—Emma and Charlie are the only ones who escape with their lives.
On the run, Emma is tragically separated from Charlie. For the next hundred years, she plays a cat-and-mouse game with the founding members of the Church of Light and their descendants. Over the years, a series of murders—whose victims all bear more than a passing resemblance to her—indicate that her enemies are closing in. Yet as the danger grows, so does Emma’s hope for finding the boy she’s certain is still out there . . .”
A Psalm for Lost Girls– Katie Bayer
“Tess da Costa is a saint—a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official. Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted—overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.
The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for—a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping. Told in alternating perspectives, A Psalm for Lost Girls is at once funny, creepy and soulful—an impressive debut from a rising literary star.”
The Inconceivable Life of Quinn– Marianna Baer
“Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?”
Bryce was seventeen when she stood on the diving platform five years ago during Olympic trials. The dive went horribly wrong. In the coma, time stood still. One day she miraculously awakens to a world that’s left her behind. Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, her sister is grown up and engaging in rebellious behavior, her boyfriend engaged to her best friend. For Bryce, yesterday she was a world class Olympic athlete with everything going for her, now she’s a twenty-two-year old woman whose body is damaged and all the relationships she counted on are forever changed.
As Bryce starts to adjust to being back in her body, certain odd experiences begin to happen. Her interaction with everyday reality is altered. Colors and shapes are more vivid, some things less tangible. These were very promising glimpses that kept me reading thinking this book could be quite special. Eventually, Bryce has recall of events that occurred while she was in the coma that Newtonian science would have a hard time explaining. Toward the end of the book, she has a precognitive event. Unfortunately, these incidents are not the main thrust of the book and don’t form any kind of cohesive plot.
This book is focused on a budding romance with a medical student Bryce meets at the hospital and her building new relationships with friends and family. The problem with this for me is that the author has a structure with strong life and death themes and has side-stepped them a little too conveniently. As a result, this is one of those books that splits the readership down the middle. There are many five- star reviews for this book, but equally there are a lot of people who hate it.
Coming from Colorado to live in the Low Countries, I was immediately drawn into the wealth of colors the early breaking spring delivered here. People took great care with small spaces planting gorgeous flowers that have bloomed from early March right through. Right now, showy hydrangeas in white, blues, and pinks overflow my neighbors yards. I have enjoyed all the sights, textures, and scents as I walk the streets. It also got me thinking about books centered around a garden. Below are a few I think may be worth checking out.
The Girl from the Tea Garden- Janet MacLeod Trotter
“In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits—but it is not the one she imagined.
In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful debutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.
The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England—a country she cannot remember—without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.”
The Princess’s Garden: Royal Intrigue & the Untold Story of Kew- Vanessa Berridge
“The British enthusiasm for gardening has fascinating roots. The Empire and trade across the globe created an obsession with exotic new plants, and showed the power and reach of Britain in the early eighteenth century. At that time, national influence wasn’t measured by sporting success, musical or artistic influence. Instead it was expressed in the design of parks and gardens such as Kew and Stowe, and the style of these grand gardens was emulated first throughout Britain and then increasingly around the world.”
The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett
“Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together…. ‘No wonder it is still,’ Mary whispered. ‘I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'” As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin’s sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden‘s portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived.”