Calmer Secrets by Jennifer Kelland Perry


Calmer Secrets
by
Jennifer Kelland Perry

Rating:

Samantha and Veronica Cross had to start fresh when they moved with their mother Darlene from Newfoundland’s Calmer Cove to St. John’s.  Attending a new high school and making friends were their first challenges and soon they discovered the charms of Ben Swift, a handsome local boy with his own troubles.  As the sisters rivaled for his attention, jealousy and misunderstandings threw the Cross family off balance into a spiral of disaster.

Calmer Girls is Perry’s first coming-of-age novel about the Cross sisters.  Calmer Secrets picks up in 1998, four years later.  If they thought the teenage years were turbulent, they are now learning that relationships in their twenties can be just as complicated.

Veronica is a single mom to three-year-old Henry and Samantha is an art student at Grenfell, seven hours away.  Their old friend Ben may be far away at the moment, but he’s on the minds of both girls, for different reasons, and it will be a long time before the sisters forget what happened.  Veronica copes by finding, then quickly discarding boyfriends.  And while on break, Samantha takes up with her old friend, Kalen O’Dea.  He’s charming and gorgeous, and fronts a popular cover band in town, but there’s something puzzling about his behavior.  Veronica warns her, but who is she to give advice?

The real elephant in the room, however, is Darlene’s drinking.  She’s met a new man, Cash, who owns the Bambury Tavern and the two work side-by-side.  He’s a great guy, but can he see the problem?  How long can the family look the other way? In addition, painful secrets about the Calmer sisters’ past are coming to the surface. Are these secrets best confronted or pushed back down?

Calmer Secrets is an excellent story about the difficult and unsettled years that are the twenties.  As with all quality writing, Perry’s storytelling flair is enhanced by her descriptive talent.  Reading about St. John’s makes me want to move there and, thanks to Perry’s introductions, I feel like I already have some friends in town.  As with Calmer Girls, Calmer Secrets includes many enjoyable and relatable details about the 1990s, as well as local customs, foods and phrases, giving the Calmer series a unique brand.  In addition, Perry integrates themes of family, friendship, love and second chances, giving the reader a great deal to think about afterwards.  I especially enjoyed seeing her characters transform and step up when they are needed most. And an extra treat are the quotes from classic literature at the beginning of each chapter, a smart detail that ties her story to larger ideas.  I’m looking forward to reading more about the Calmer sisters!

I recommend Calmer Secrets to all readers who like realistic stories about family and community in a friendly and colorful setting.

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Click here for a review of Calmer Girls.

 

Who’s That Indie Author? Gwen Miller

Who's That Indie Author pic

Gwen Miller
Gwen Miller

Author name: Gwen Miller

Genre: Adoption/Addiction/Memoirs

Books: Echoes of Silence: Letters to a Drug Addicted Mother from the Woman Who Took Her Place – Available now; Apples for Secrets: Former Child Abuse Victims Tell Their Stories for the First Time – Available Summer 2016

Echoes of Silence 2

Bio: Gwen Miller, award winning author and second helping adoptive mother, splits her time between roles as a mom, writer and speaker. Loaded with reams of hands-on experience, she serves as an advocate for the needs, proper diagnosis and treatment of abused children and helps guide adult survivors through a journey of healing.                                                 

Favorite thing about being a writer: As the mother of traumatized children, I struggle with the task of maintaining structure and safety amid a great deal of chaos. Writing gives me the flexibility to be present whenever my youngsters need me. It’s also a much needed outlet where I can find peace and solitude… and often vent.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Marketing & PR without a doubt. I had always considered myself an advocate against the abuse of our children and often spoke freely about my own abuse and called out those responsible. But facing the horrible abuse my newly adopted children had endured, I realized that the cycle had continued on within my own family—two generations beyond mine. In spite of my efforts, I had not stopped it. The only way this cycle will be stopped is by talking about it. The victims are shamed and embarrassed into silence which then allows the predators to feed freely. I’m not really marketing the book as much as I am trying to market a message; something that is quite challenging because it makes people uncomfortable.

Favorite book: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Contact Information: Visit Gwen Miller’s website and blog at GwenMiller.co. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Please also visit this post about Miller’s fight against child abuse:  Helping victims of child abuse – Echoes of Silence, by Gwen Miller

Are you an indie author looking for some positive publicity? Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

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Helping victims of child abuse – Echoes of Silence, by Gwen Miller

Echoes of Silence
Echoes of Silence:
Letters to a Drug Addicted Mother
from the
Woman Who Took Her Place
by
Gwen Miller

Here’s a heads-up about an important upcoming book dedicated to helping abused children. Echoes of Silence: Letters to a Drug Addicted Mother from the Woman Who Took Her Place, by Gwen Miller, is scheduled for release in August 2015. The author has written a memoir about her experience adopting three traumatized foster children after raising three of her own biological children. I was put in touch with the author through a mutual friend, who told me about Gwen’s courageous and compassionate efforts.  People are already talking about Echoes of Silence and its message.  The book is a finalist in AuthorU’s “Draft to Dream” Book Competition and the author will soon be traveling to Denver, Colorado, to be recognized for her work. I’m looking forward to reading about Gwen’s special family and her impressive efforts. Gwen wants her story to be heard and she tells me, “I plan to use the book as a platform to raise awareness of addiction, child abuse and our broken foster system.”

Gwen Miller
Gwen Miller

You can find out more about Echoes of Silence on Gwen Miller’s website

Be sure to also visit Gwen Miller’s blog.

And check out Gwen Miller’s Author Page on Amazon.

Echoes of Silence is available for Pre-Order on Amazon.

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Book Review: We Are Water by Wally Lamb

We Are Water
by
Wally Lamb

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wally Lamb has written an ambitious book about abuse and how, over time and generations, the range of effects widens like the circles from a pebble in the pond. We Are Water is a novel with many characters and many themes in a rotating narrative, told from the points of view of the main players in the book.

Simply put, the story is about fifty-something Annie Oh, an angry artist who has left her husband, Orion, to marry Viveca, another woman. But this story is anything but simple. As Orion and their three grown children react and adjust to this development, a dense array of secrets and family dysfunction emerges and the story becomes a massive and painful tale in which each character struggles to find happiness.  There is also a bit of a thriller and suspense element and that keeps the story moving.

In addition to abuse, it’s a story with a multitude of themes: art and expression, family, gay marriage, prejudice and acceptance, religion, relationships, desertion, anger, family heritage, alcoholism, a little political commentary, and, of course water. The water theme begins with the devastating events surrounding the actual Norwich, Connecticut flood of 1963, in which the dam at Norwich’s largest park collapsed and flooded four square miles, killing six people.

But as the plot develops, We Are Water’s main focus becomes verbal, physical and sexual abuse and their far-reaching effects. Lamb’s characters attempt to explain and justify what they do in the wake of this abuse. Annie uses art as a release and her creations result in violent displays of things and people. Her art has been recently discovered and is highly valued, but most likely misunderstood. She becomes a cyclone during her creative efforts, but her family has suffered, especially her son, Andrew, who has borne the brunt of her suppressed anger.

I like stories about families and conflict. Because of that, I like many things about this book, but not everything. Some of Lamb’s characters are very difficult to like and that makes their narrations less appealing. For example, Annie’s adult character is difficult to know. She’s self-centered and it’s hard to know why she’s about to marry Viveca. Yet young Annie is sweet and charming and you want to protect her. Similarly, but with a much more uncomfortable reader experience, Kent Kelly’s story begins innocently. He’s a victim first and then he’s a hero in the flood. By showing Kent as a boy, Lamb tries to explain, but not justify, Kent’s teenage and adult behavior. Personally, I’m not interested in getting into Kent’s head. It’s not a matter of how he came to be a monster. It’s a matter of the damage he creates. I think this section is overdeveloped and over-explained. It’s more than rough to read and it’s too sympathetic of the character. That said, maybe Lamb is accurate in describing someone like Kent, a sick charmer who ultimately pays the price.

I like Orion’s character the best. He’s certainly the most likeable. It’s easy to sympathize with him because he’s misunderstood and he tries to do the right thing. He’s also the most realistic character.  Not always, however, because sometimes I think his conversations with the adult Marissa, Andrew and Ariane are overly open and unrealistic. Just sayin’.

Here are some other things I like about We Are Water:

  • Lamb’s storytelling style. His characters take turns giving part of the story, introducing facts and events, then another character cycles back to include more details.
  • The section about the flood is the strongest part of the book.
  • I like stories about old houses and the things that are hidden inside.
  • Characters who try to make sense of the bad things in the world. Ruth Fletcher, a flawed character, but one with surprising depth, says,

I’m down on my knees now, asking God why, if He’s merciful, He had to put so much meanness in the world He made. Weasels pounce, snakes bite, dams break, men kill other men. And why would a merciful God let a little child’s mother die?

Despite the dark subject, Lamb tries to end on a hopeful note. The ending reminds me of movies with tragic events, in which the survivors, beaten down, but not quite finished, look towards a hopeful future.  Orion has adjusted to his future, but Andrew faces a difficult decision. As Andrew’s tattoo suggests, “Love wins,” and Orion answers, “No matter which way our lives turn out. Right?”

This is my fourth Wally Lamb book. All in all, a mixed bag, with some good spots.  Have you read We Are Water?  What did you think?  I have always enjoyed Lamb’s books, but this one leaves me puzzled.

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

The girl who kicked the hornet's nest pic

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
by
Stieg Larsson

Rating:

How do you top the first two of this series? Write a third – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest does not disappoint. Larsson’s characters become people we know, some we like, some we hate. I cheered throughout the third book for Lisbeth and Blomkvist and thoroughly enjoyed the sub-plots of the other characters. Lisbeth is such a strong character and I love how she is able to dupe her enemies. I particularly enjoyed reading about Lisbeth’s relationship with Dr. Jonasson and was glad to have him on her side.

I also enjoyed the Gullberg/Clinton “Special Section” subplot and think Larsson does a great job portraying these “old timers.” Despite their illegal activities, they are professionals in what they do and that is impressive. In addition, I think Erica Berger’s problems are both interesting and suspenseful and like that she becomes a key character in this book.

As with the first two books, I think the hi-tech element is totally entertaining and fun to read.

One thing that doesn’t quite sit with me is Blomkvist’s relationship with Figuerola. I think when you read this series, there are a lot of things you must simply believe for the sake of the story, but for some reason, I do not see the connection between these two. I guess that can also be said about Blomkvist’s brief affair with Harriett Vanger in the second book and with the other Vanger cousin in the first book. Despite Blomkvist’s and Figuerola’s relationship, I started to cheer for Berger, hoping she and Blomkvist would somehow stay connected.

I am sad this series is finished!

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The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl who played with fire pic

The Girl Who Played with Fire
by
Stieg Larsson

Rating:

Who else loves these references to places and food and technology?

Långholmsgatan near Vӓsterbron, Upplandsgatan near Odenplan, Allhelgonagatan, Nynӓsvӓgen! Frozen fish casseroles, calamari and chips with a bottle of Carib, Billy’s Pan Pizza. The Apple PowerBook G4 titanium with a 17-inch screen, the Palm PDA with a folding keyboard…The references go on and on and I thoroughly enjoyed these details as well as the entire plot and the hundreds of characters who appear in Stieg Larsson’s second book in the series of Lisbeth Salander adventures.

Salander is a great combination of kick-butt attitude and underdeveloped social skills. Larsson continues to show his disgust of violence against women and child abuse and I think it is in this book where the reader fully commits to Lisbeth’s character. There is plenty of action and many questions hang as the book ends. I think this second book is even better than the first!

Stay tuned to my comments on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

the girl with the dragon tattoo picThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by
Stieg Larsson

Rating:

There are so many things I thoroughly loved about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I cannot decide which aspects were the most entertaining. Stieg Larsson has done a terrific job of creating a suspenseful story full of social and political commentary and extremely original and interesting characters.

So I am just going to list a few things that maybe you agree with, or maybe not:

  1. Lisbeth Salander is such an original character with so many contradicting traits. Despite her difficult personality and intimidating appearance, many of the men who meet Lisbeth are attracted to her in complicated ways, with varying shades of paternal love (?) and romantic feelings. She is fiercely independent and antisocial, yet underneath all this is an unidentified need. What do you think Lisbeth really needs? Does it make you cheer for her or are you frustrated with the way she cuts people off?
  2. Larsson’s disgust for violence against women and his hatred for pedophiles are dominant themes in this book. Do you think the impact of his message is even greater coming from a male author?
  3. Despite the serious themes, Larsson inserts a great deal of amusing details. Once I got over the overwhelming number of references to streets, towns, people, I stopped being frustrated and actually laughed. Did anyone else feel that way? In particular, I loved how he talked about how his characters got around town and around the country and what kinds of technology they used. In the beginning, I tried to visualize where the streets were in reference to each other (I even drew myself a map of the Vanger cottages!), then I gave up and just enjoyed myself. I also got a kick out of the sayings on Lisbeth’s t-shirts.
  4. Did anyone notice how industrious Larsson’s characters are? They plow through incredible amounts of work, piles of paper, their efforts fueled by a lot of coffee. Whenever I put down the book, I always felt an urge to try to accomplish something in my own life!

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