June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
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How they shape our lives.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whatever Lola Wants


I am one of those people who occasionally Google themselves. No, it's not what you think. I do it just to see if the meta-tags for my Blog and books are still working and...well, okay, to see what comes up, the humble egotist that I am. Somewhere in the mix in the beginning of October, I came across a McInerney named Monica who, as it turns out, just happens to be a writer. "Gee", I wondered. "Are we related?"

Turns out, as I searched a number of sites for her books, McInerney, based in Australia, is quite a prolific writer, with more than twenty novels to her credit. And her last one, Lola's Secret: A Novel**, was just released last month. I managed to finagle an electronic advanced reading copy, read it, and reviewed it for AuthorsExposure.com. Here is what I wrote:

Eighty-four year old Lola Quinlan, the jaunty, flamboyant, and vivacious main protagonist of Lola's Secret (by Monica McInerney), is the most interesting character I’ve met in a long time. Yes, her clothes are ostentatiously gaudy and her make-up is smeared on a bit too thick. And maybe she is an outspoken busy-body. But she is also pithy, poignant, and outrageously funny. Alert and sassy Lola is the most wonderfully wise, caring, and loving family matriarch anyone could have. After reading this delightfully sweet literary novel about family, relationships, happiness, loss, and reconciliation, I yearn to meet Lola in real life. Oh, what lively long discussions we would have!

Set in southern Australia’s Clare Valley, Lola's Secret
(October 16, 2012) is the sequel to The Alphabet Sisters, the first in the Quinlan family saga. Lola, a single mother with three, now two granddaughters and six great-grandchildren, is part owner and resident of the Valley View Motel, operated by her son, Jim, and his wife Geraldine. They and their two daughters, Bret and Carrie, and their own families, are about to embark upon Christmas holiday vacations leaving Lola, at her insistence, alone to run the motel and continue her volunteer work at the local Charity Shop. Secretly, computer-savvy Lola plans a free Christmas Special for six guests, whose back stories are related in alternating chapters. McInerney fleshes out her mesmerizing plot line with Lola’s friends at the shop; Emily; Luke; and the self-aggrandizing Mrs. Kernaghan, an annoying foil to Lola’s character—all adding spice and texture to Lola’s meddlesome, but well-meaning antics and adventures.

McInerney’s writing is down-to-earth. Her true-to-life characters and believable intertwining plots and sub-plots mesh nicely together like a jigsaw puzzle. This, her seventh novel, sparkles with wit and touching moments, pin-pointing the finer nuances of familial interactions that both grace and blemish domestic lives. I particularly liked the subtly different relationships that Lola has with each person in her life. McInerney has a fine author’s eye for discerning dissimilar personality traits and incorporating them into in-depth analyses. She also has the knack of including a bit of suspense and intrigue that keeps one reading on to find out what happens next. I also liked the descriptions of Clare Valley, McInerney’s own homeland, which made it an integral part of Lola’s story.

My only complaint is that the overly long Epilogue read like a main dénouement. Many parts of it should have been incorporated into the main story line and not tacked on as afterthoughts. However, there are strong hints in it of continuing the Quinlan family stories. Perhaps the author, hopefully, has a third Lola novel in mind?

Monica McInerney (no relation) is an excellent writer. Her skills are most evident in this novel about kindness—being kind to oneself and to others—and, as we learn from Lola, about having fun. While reading Lola’s Secret, best suited for young adults and older, I certainly did.

~~~~~~
**
© 2012 Monica McInerney. 275 pages. EPUB pre-release e-reader edition. Ballantine Books Trademark Paperbacks, Random House, New York, NY.

1:34 pm est          Comments

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nov-el-ties

This month went by too fast. Despite the fact that it's almost over and the Holidays are on their way, I still have November tasks to tackle before I venture into December. This next month I plan on spending as the Happy Hermit, putting a significant dent into my TBR&R stack of books and writing my little aging heart out. These activities, which I identify with at this phase of my life, define me.

Growing up, I had a friend with the same first name as mine. We were often mistaken for one another, although we didn't even look alike. However, because of the identical name, people mistook June for me and me for June, especially when we were young. As friends in high school, we found it amusing. Of course, we knew who we were and kept our individual identities intact when others didn't. After graduation, we unfortunately lost touch. June (not me) went on to law school, moved to California, and is now a successful tax attorney. After a stint on the local newspaper, the other June (me) moved to the mid-west, then back east to make my living working with words. It wasn't until last November, thanks to the virtual world of social media, that we reconnected.

It seems both of us were lucky. We didn't spend an inordinate amount of time searching for identity, unlike Sylvia Frankel, the quirky, late-blooming protagonist of a new novel (just released Wednesday) by, coincidentally, June's daughter, Julia Glassman. June kindly sent me a copy of Other Life Forms1, which arrived in the mail late Saturday afternoon. The end-of-November chores I had planned for the week-end fell by the wayside, as I gingerly cracked open the crisp, orange-colored cover and began what turned out to be yet another two-day odyssey of enjoyable, eye-opening reading.

Other Life Forms relates in the first-person Sylv's quest for two sustainable modes of adult being: as an artist and as a woman. Working as a waitress in her native California after graduation from a New York college, she strives to become a recognized sculptor, creating fragile stick-like figures out of wire and plastic. But our heroine is full of angst over the loss of her boyfriend who is addicted to the world of on-line gaming, where he creates and cares for virtual creatures. Simon's virtual and Sylv's tactile creatures—the "other life forms"—metaphorically typify their sense of not quite fitting into society and highlight Sylvia's fondest wish to be uniquely identified and recognized as a person of worth. Not limited to their Gen-X group, this is the perennial dilemma of being blatantly ignored and rudely not taken seriously; one to which readers of any age—especially seniors—can easily relate.

In the beginning, when we first meet Sylvia, she creates and posts a missing person's poster of herself, just to see if anyone would respond. With Simon already gone, she is tormented by remorse and guilt, intensified by her not-so-quite understanding, self-centered mother. Our late-bloomer, striving to fit into a harsh adult world, is seemingly ignored at work, eschews close friends and relationships, and waddles in self-pity ("I am stupid. I am stupid. I am stupid.") But Sylvia is the heroine of Glassman's first entry into the world of emerging novels and authors. And, as heroines are wont to do, she rises above despondent circumstances, enters a new, seemingly promising relationship, and ventures forth into the camaraderie of a cadre of smug, self-important artists and writers. What happens next is the gist of Glassman's genius as she spews forth her subtle satire of conservative communities, rebelling privileged youth, and the overstated, misunderstood searching of young adults for the purpose and meaning of life.

Glassman's writing is sharp, witty, at times acerbic, and, in a loose-knit chatty-Cathy kind of way, gets straight to the point. However, there were a few jagged edges, which are to be expected of a young, talented, first-time novelist. In her search for identity, for example, Sylvia muses on her estranged father who, she hints, might have been Jewish. She briefly alludes to this twice more in passing. Expanding this allusion would have added an interesting twist and more depth to the otherwise complex, yet flowing plotline. Glassman also gives away Sylv's supposed future before the last minor denouement, which substantially weakened the ending. I had to guess what might have really happened. I am still not sure if this was an intentional hint of a sequel2, a ruse to keep the reader guessing, or failure of the author attempting to define a satisfying conclusion. I'd like to think the second because, as Sylvia has come to learn in this coming-of-age novel, while it does hint at possibilities, life does not promise certainties.

And so it is with this fine first literary effort. One with which just about any adult reader could readily identify.

~~~
1© 2012 Julia Glassman. 215 pages, paperback. First Edition published by Dinah Press, Los Angeles, CA.
 2 I understand from June that Julia is working on the second draft of her next novel—a literary fantasy for young adults. I am looking forward to it.

 
1:50 pm est          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:


Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
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 fifth 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,