June's Literary Blog
 

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Better to Give than to Receive


The only thing more comforting than snuggling under a warm blanket by a cozy fire with a good book is snuggling under a homemade quilt by a cozy fire with an Elm Creek Quilts novel by Jennifer Chiaverini. And while I don't have the quilt, I do have the warm blanket, a cozy fire, and an advanced review copy of The Giving Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel , the latest in Jennifer's amazing series. The ARC paperback version of The Giving Quilt,, graciously signed and mailed by the author, arrived this past Tuesday, the same day the hardback version1 was released—just in time to hunker down with it as the last vestiges of Hurricane Sandy swept through my neighborhood. It was all I could do to quickly finish up my daily chores, scarf down dinner, stoke up the fire, and settle in for yet another heart-warming visit with Sylvia Bergstrom and her Elm Creek Quilters at Elm Creek Manor just outside of State College, PA2.

The making and giving of quilts has long been an Elm Creek Quilters' tradition, ever since the quilt camp was founded in The Quilter's Apprentice , the first novel of the series. Here, in the twentieth, during the week following Thanksgiving, the camp is open for quilters to gather together to make quilts for Project Linus3. This session of "Quiltsgiving" marks the beginning of the season of generous giving; not only of material gifts, but of gifts of the heart. Through six main characters (Karen, Pauline, Linnea, Michaela, Jocelyn, and Sylvia), we learn that while it is better to give than to receive, it is the giving of oneself to others and to one's community that is the greatest gift of all. As each of our heroic protagonists make her giving quilt, her individual story is told. Each one, of course, is different, yet they all share the common struggles through hard times. In a flash of brilliance coupling real-life into fiction, Jennifer recreates the strife of our latest recession as well as the common burdens of daily life: job loss; closing of a library through lack of funds; a widow's intense grief; struggles to understand a mis-guided friend; pangs of perceived rejection; injuries caused by jealousy; and thwarted dreams. As each woman sews and constructs her quilt with loving care and attention, she learns how to bear her burden—alone and with others in the Elm Creek Quilt community. Each shares the commonality of learning to give not only of themselves to others, but also to themselves.

This is a heartwarming, thought-provoking novel, as all of Jennifer's are. But The Giving Quilt, in particular, strikes very close to home. Throughout its pages the primal question is posed: "Why do you give?" And while various reasons are given through each of the well-formed and true-to-life characters, it is left up to the reader to determine her own personal answer. So, as I read, I was confronted with asking myself, "Why do I give?" More importantly: "How do I give?" It was almost as if I was the seventh main character in the novel. And if I was, what would my story be?

Today is the first (paper) anniversary of my early retirement and starting this Literary Blog. Jennifer's novel, a generous gift of writing talent in itself, forced me to reflect upon what and why I gave of myself during the past twelve months. Well, as you know, I am not one to brag, so I won't. But, upon reflection, I now have a better feeling of accomplishment and a deeper understanding of giving unselfishly of one's time and talents. And this, I think is what a talented, sensitive author writing a good novel should do: Not only tell a good story, but challenge readers to ask and answer, through the eyes, minds, and hearts of each character the more important questions of life. And this is exactly what Jennifer Chiaverini has done with The Giving Quilt—asking us all why we give.

If you read just one book during this advent approach to the season of giving thanks and generous giving, I strongly recommend it be this one. Through its pages we are reminded to be humbly thankful for the gifts of our talents and for the valuable gift of being able to share them. May we all do so as graciously and as radiantly as Jennifer, through her characters, has done.

~~~~~~
1 ©2012 by Jennifer Chiaverini. 357 pgs; hardback. DUTTON. Published (October 30, 2012) by The Penquin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY.

2 No, folks, contrary to popular opinion, the town of Elm Creek is not real. However, it is based upon State College, PA, and the surrounding area, where Jennifer met her husband. And, quite coincidentally, where FrankieBernard was bred at John Tait's Bassets.

3 This is, in fact, a real-life charitable organization dedicated to providing handmade quilts and blankets to children in need—the name "Linus" taken from the Peanuts cartoon strip by Charles Schultz. The author has been, by the way, quite active in Project Linus for a long time. So, it's only natural that she wrote a novel based upon its efforts. If you're looking for a charity to support this Holiday Season, please consider this one.

==> NOTE: Jennifer will be doing a book-signing at the Chester County Book Store in West Chester, PA this coming Friday, November 9th at 7:00 PM.  
 

1:42 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For Better, For Worse...

As Hurricane Sandy thrashed around us yesterday and last night, I hunkered down under the covers with my faithful e-reader and a preview copy of Something New: A Novel1  by Malena Lott. It was my second read of this recently released delightful tale set in Oklahoma City of three women seeking a second chance in life—I needed to read something familiar, comforting, and inspiring to drown out scary thoughts as sixty mile-an-hour gales blew through my development and torrential rains pelted mightily against the windows. It didn't take long. Just a few short paragraphs and I was transported out west where, well, as the song goes, softer winds "...come sweeping down the plain..."

Here is my review that will soon appear on
AuthorsExposure.com2.

Something New: A Novel by Malena Lott is a heartwarmingly charming romantic novel that delves much deeper into the passions and secrets of its characters than other typical books of its genre. Based upon Mark Twain’s popular The Prince and the Pauper, Mott sets her fifth novel in urbane downtown Oklahoma City, where three female generations of the privileged Apple family, scions of local society, share a loft, their lives, and their ostensibly quixotic quests for true love while facing the possibility of financial ruin.

Maeve Apple, 85, has Alzheimer’s and believes she is 25 again starring in The Princess and the Pauper, a musical being revived by the local theatre. Her daughter, Bess, in the throes of a nasty divorce, struggles with Maeve’s care while despairing that love will never fill her life again. Bess’ two daughters, Kelly, 35, and Gwen, 25, come to grips with life’s harsh realities. Workaholic Kelly, without hope of finding a husband, secretly opts to have a baby via artificial insemination. Curvaceous Gwen is engaged, with wedding plans featured on the Luxe Weddings reality television show, is not so sure that her fiancé is really the true love of her life. And all are threatened with the loss of their ostentatious wealth supposedly secured by family-owned corporations and inheritances.

Something New goes beyond the superficial romance novel formulaic where girl and boy fall passionately in love and live happily ever after. Here, the talented author gives a true-to-life look into love’s many evolving facets that go deeper than mere physical attraction. Here are captivating multi-layered personae with inner dreams and doubts, hopes despite failures, happiness in the face of sadness—all searching together for something new in their lives: a second chance for a new beginning.

This well-written 373-page trade paperback novel is a delightfully engaging fast read. Once I started it, I couldn’t stop; I finished it one sitting. I was immediately mesmerized by each of the heroines, who alternately give a first-person account of her story. Mott’s ability to switch writing styles to suit each personality is refreshing. Her simple, down-to-earth approach exposes the innermost feelings and desires of each character, frankly tapping the gnarled roots and complicated emotions of the human heart. There is, also, the winning combination of creatively used modern colloquialisms and writing that sparkles with a wickedly subtle sense of humor. The character of Maeve, for example, is a hoot. If nothing else, this romance cum literary narrative should be read just for the joy of meeting her.

If you are not already a devotee of the more sophisticated romance novel, then I hardly suggest you try this one. It is a winningly tender and thought-provoking read for the romantic in all of us, young as well as old alike.

Something New
truly does promise sunnier days. When I awoke this morning, the wind had died down, the rain was a soft drizzle, and the sun was beginning to peek through the grey clouds. You have to admit, this is the perfect novel to read in any weather.

~~~~~~
1 © 2011 Malena Lott. 373 pgs; trade ppk. Buzz Book USA. Published October 13, 2012.
2 Resources for this review were made possible by
AuthorsExposure.com. This site is currently on hiatus, but you can still access it to read previous books reviews.

1:29 pm edt          Comments


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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:

the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,