June's Literary Blog
 

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Monday, December 30, 2019

Phoenixville’s Own Nick Basca

Yes! The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants yesterday. 34 to 17! What an exciting game! They are on a flight to the playoffs! Nick Basca, who played the 1940-1941 season with them, would have been proud!

“Who,” you ask, “is Nick Basca?” Fair question. The answer is… Michael Martin Basca, a native of Phoenixville, PA, who is still, to this day, deemed a local hero. Born on December 4, 1916, he earned his [pardon the pun] nickname “Nickels” as a young lad chasing foul balls for local baseball players and receiving a nickel for each one retrieved. “Nickels” was later shortened to “Nick”…

Even from grade school (Sacred Heart), Nick Basca was an outstanding athlete playing baseball as well as football and making a name for himself as a legendary gridiron star during high school (Phoenixville and Pennington Prep) and college (Villanova) before signing on with the Eagles. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Nick enlisted and, after two years training stateside, was sent to France as part of the 4th Armored Division. He died a hero just outside Hampont on November 11, 1944.  

Well, you can read more and all about him in a fascinating detailed account of his life and times in Phoenixville's Own Nick Basca by Dorothy L. Jaworski, a Senior Vice President in the banking industry who, having written three previous historical books about her father’s and uncle’s military service, has become quite the expert on WWII battles and stratagems. During a recent trip to France, she was asked by a native if she had ever heard of Nick Basca… the impetus for her fourth book.

Dorothy was kind enough to send me a copy of her latest literary endeavor which I received just before Christmas Day and, believe it or not, spent Christmas and Boxing Day afternoons reading it. I have to admit that while I am the author of six historical novels of Phoenixville and supposedly steeped in the village’s diverse history, I had no idea who Nick was… But then, my focus has not been on sports or modern-day warfare… However, while reading Dorothy’s account of his life and short-live military career, I was immersed in military maneuvers as well as football… Not to mention learning about facets of local history of which I was not aware.

Although she is not a member of the Basca family, Dorothy unselfishly steeped herself into its history, contacting Nick’s nephews as well a the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area to gather information. As evidenced by her writing, she is a tireless and exacting researcher, digging deep into her subject matter, and then exhaustively writing about it… The result is a stellar account of Nick’s life and the battles in which he fought both on and off the fields of sports and war. It was, as she commented to me during an online chat, “a labor of love”. As I suspect most, if not all of what Dorothy does, is…

A word of caution, though… Dorothy’s works, so far, center on military service… tactics and battle plans… military campaigns and, in Nick’s case, also sports. Heavily theme-based, her historical accounts are comprehensive and thorough. A good portion of Phoenixville’s Own Nick Basca describes the war effort of the 4th Armored Division in and around France because, as she stated, they were such an important and decorated unit during WWII. And because Nick was one of the artillerymen. While I found the stratagems of George Patton most interesting, I was more interested in reading about Nick and his own exploits…

Whether you are an armchair military strategist and/or a Monday morning quarterback, I most heartily recommend this stunning book. It is a insightful glimpse into the life and times of a kind, talented courageously heroic young man who once flew with the Eagles and then dedicated his life in service to his country.

Enjoy the read!

2:01 pm est          Comments

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass

One of the first books that I purchased with my own money was a second-hand, but pristine, Random House Modern Library edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (#79). First published in the early 1940s, it included an introduction by Alexander Woollcott[1] and the original illustrations of John Tenniel. Originally $1.95, I paid $1.49 (saved from my $1.00/week allowance) for it at a used book store and I still have it. It’s not the worse for wear, even though I’ve read it many, many times over the last five or six decades… It is one of my most treasured possessions and the stories written by Lewis Carroll still resonant with me today.

Well, I didn’t think anyone could improve upon Alice’s amazing and often bizarre adventures. What with Tenniel’s imaginative drawings and Carroll’s ingenious whimsy writing, my edition is a classic. But then, an assistant publicist HarperCollins Publishers sent me an advance copy of the most wonderful new Harper Designs edition completely reinvented and redesigned with illustrations and interactive features (including a disappearing Cheshire Cat, a growing Alice, and two chessboard maps!) by MinaLima Design.

For those of you unfamiliar with MinaLima, it is an award-winning London-based graphic design studio founded by the talented Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, best know for their visual graphics for the Harry Potter films. They have previously designed other Harper Design books, including The Little Mermaid and The Secret Garden (which I reviewed in August of last year).

I was captivated by Carroll’s literary “nonsense” as a child, intrigued by it as a young adult – especially when I realized most of his writing is parody and satire – and even more enthralled in my, ahem, older years with this new rendition which gives Alice and her co-characters and their escapades whole new meanings. With its vibrancy and bold motifs; its clever interactive puzzles, fold-outs, and 3-D graphics that literally bring Carroll’s beloved classics to life, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass is a wondrously wonderful “must-have” addition to any private library. Regardless of your age.

Not to mention, with the Holiday Season approaching, it is destined to be the perfect gift for the bibliophiles on your gift list. To be enjoyed all year round for years to come.

Enjoy the read!

[1] Alexander Woollcott (1878-1948) was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine and a member of the Algonquin Round Table.

2:44 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Mistletoe Matchmaker

Well, it’s that time of year again when the leaves are turning… both on trees and in newly-published Holiday-themed novels. With their releases and the appearance of red and green lights, shimmering tinsel, and Santa images online and in stores, can Halloween be far behind?

HarperPerennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers has jumped early into the fray with The Mistletoe Matchmaker, the third novel by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. Set on the Irish Finfarran Peninsula, this charming novel, fist published in 2017 by Hachette Books Ireland, continues with the lives of the residents of the small coastal town of Lissberg. Hanna Casey, firmly ensconced as the Librarian, steps away from the limelight, as the main protagonist, Cassie Fitzgerald, newly arrived from Toronto to spend some time with her paternal grandparents, jumps into the fray helping to plan a Christmas Festival.

As she acquaints herself with Irish Holiday traditions, Cassie immerses herself into the multifold dynamics and relationships of Lissberg residents. She learns the backstories of her father’s parents; finds kindness under the gruff exteriors of Fury and his dog, ‘The Divil’; commiserates with Connor’s struggles with keeping the family farm and his budding romance; gets embroiled in the lives of Aideen and Brid, her two new friends; gets involved with the untrustworthy Shay; and gets involved with a bit of skullduggery that besets Dan, whom she is not sure she fancies.

As with her previous novels in the series, Hayes-McCoy starts out languidly, reintroducing her characters while introducing new ones… then, as the embers of her main and sub- plot lines smolder, stokes her narrative until, three-quarters of the way through, it bursts into flames… Consuming all of the loose ends into one blazingly warm and satisfactory denouement. Easily likened, appropriately, to the burning of a Yule Log. The author adds a few twists and turns along the way to keep her readers on the mark… All while probing deeper and deeper into the lives of her endearing characters.

The Mistletoe Matchmaker is a heart-warming novel of love, friendship, family, and community. It is easily the perfect escape from the stresses of the upcoming seasonal celebrations and the perfectly delightful anecdote to the wintery blues.   

Enjoy the read!

3:07 pm edt          Comments

Friday, October 4, 2019

Love and Loyalty

I grew up in an Irish/Italian family where my mother (Italian) “ruled the roost” and my Father (Irish) spent most of their married life trying to appease and please her every whim. My brother, much older than I, was favored by Mom while Dad doted on me. For many, many years, I did not understand the dynamics until this week when I read Love & Loyalty: An Immigrant Italian Mom Raising Her Family of Twelve in the Shadow of a Mafia Crime, a true story of growing up Italian, by Josephine B. Pasquarello.

Josephine grew up in south, then southwest Philly, the tenth of twelve children of Italian immigrants. When she was six, Michael “Brownie” Pasquarello, her father, a produce grocer affiliated with the local Mafia, supposedly committed suicide. Or so Romania, her mother, led her and her siblings to believe. As her mother struggled through near poverty with great determination and fortitude to keep the family together and raise her children “properly”, Josephine silently lived with the guilt, angst, and pain of her father’s death for most of her life… Until, during her Uncle George's funeral, she finally learned the truth…

Two years ago, after many hours of research and much soul-searching, Josephine sat down and wrote the story of her courageous mother who fought through her overwhelming grief, toiling each day to provide a clean home and three meals a day for her bereft family… She writes of her own childhood and the many daily adventures she had with her four brothers and seven sisters; growing up Italian in a predominately Irish neighborhood. Learning the lessons of racial prejudice and the kindness of unquestioned acceptance. Having faith in others and belief in oneself. And, yes, with of these, it is a testament to miracles wrought by love and loyalty.

To say that I enjoyed reading Josephine’s memoirs is an understatement. I was so totally engrossed in her down-to-earth tell-it-like-it-is(was) fluid writing style, that I did nothing for two days but immerse myself in her life. Which was both an honor and a pleasure, considering her poignant subject matter. What made the read all the more rewarding was that I had watched a video of Josephine’s presentation at the local Library[1] and was so intrigued by her personality and her story, that I had to contacted her. After a very long phone conversation, I realized that she was a dear friend I had not known who now graces my life. So, all throughout her book, I heard her voice reading her insightful and wise words to me.

Now, while Josephine claims Love & Loyalty to be mostly a homage to her heroic mother (which it, and she, are), it is more of an autobiography with her mother as the main protagonist. It is also, in some respects, a true-life mystery as Josephine unfolds her father’s true fate. The writing is cleanly crisp and reminiscently cathartic as the author regales us with poignantly heart-gripping anecdotes, both funny and sad, of the trials and tribulations, happiness and joys inherent in growing up in the close-knit Pasquarello family. A family whose dynamics, as I said, to which, because of Josephine’s bold and beautiful book, I can now readily relate. And I hope that you will, too.   

Enjoy the read!

[1] Here’s the link: https://yhoo.it/2nnnjK0

5:19 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 30, 2019

High Stakes

Like others in the industry, I am not sure why publishers release books to the general public on Tuesdays. Some say it’s because book sale tallies are on Monday to determine what titles make “the list”, making and Tuesday the start of a new selling week… I suppose that’s as good a reason as any. Regardless, tomorrow is the big day for High Stakes, the sixth in John F. Dobbyn’s Knight and Devlin thriller adventure series.

Michael Knight, a young Boston attorney with a taste for mystery and intrigue, finds himself the caretaker of a rare Stradivarius violin that contains the code that reveals the location of a vast treasure hidden in the fifteenth century. The violin, sought after by Russian, Chinese, and Romanian gangs, is thought to have been in the possession of Vlad Dracula, whose historic bloodstained tyranny gave rise to the myth of vampirism. Regardless of it provenance, Knight swears to protect it at all costs while the three gangs vow to obtain possession. Even it means Knight’s demise to achieve their purpose… Solve the code and retrieve the treasure.

A former law professor at Villanova University, John couples his legal expertise with a profoundly vast knowledge of history and legends in this fast-paced novel that takes his reader from the streets of Boston to a criminal-infested nightclub in Bucharest to a European museum and thence to the Carpathian Mountains. Entwining the present with secrets from the past, greedy forces collide in the search for not only monetary riches, but for the riches of righteousness and truth. Will Michael Knight, with the aid of Lex Devlin, his partner, and the irascible Billy Coyne, Boston’s deputy district attorney, succeed in his quest to crack the code? Or will he be overtaken and defeated by one or all of the three international gangs? Peace and international security are in danger… And with the odds stacked against Michael, these are, indeed, high stakes.

While I tend toward “lighter” mysteries and historical novels – written mostly by women – I thoroughly, from time to time, enjoy a good “Dobbyn read”. Yes, John’s novels are rugged and often ruthless, but they are more than not imbued with a sensitivity rarely found in other thriller genre offerings. John writes of love and friendship; of beauty and compassion; of fairness, equality, and justice. Sub-themes that take center-stage on the last hair-raising pages… an ending that will likely be remembered for a long time.

John F. Dobbyn is the master author of great thrillers. And High Stakes is probably one of his best novels and sure to be on the best-seller lists for a while. It should not be missed!

Enjoy the read!

3:10 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently 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:
 
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
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 sixth 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,