June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
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How they shape our lives.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

New Novel and Appearance Schedule
Finally, after six months of research and “living” with a tall, unconventional character who “told” me her name was Faith Little, my fourth novel and the third in the historical Novels of Phoenixville… series, has been published! Just in time for your holiday gift giving!

Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s is set in at the turn of the last century, with flashbacks and recalls to historical events and (most interesting) character backgrounds that occur in the 1800s. Not to brag (but I will), I just have to say that three of my advanced readers really liked it! And these three, folks, are my worst critics. Issued by B’Seti Pup Publishing, this intriguing romantic novel, which is really a mystery (my first?), is available for purchase in both paperback and Kindle formats on amazon.com. Just click the cover photo in the side panel or the title at the beginning of this paragraph. And for those of you in the Phoenixville area, copies will also be available at both Gateway Pharmacy (165 Nutt Road) and the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area (204 Church Street; Hours: 9 to 3 Wednesday and Friday and on First Fridays and Sundays).

Now, I’m beginning to get a bit of reputation around town as the historical novelist of the area. And, as such, I am now on local television (information below), doing yet another few book signing, and have even been invited to participate in the local library’s literary series.

Television Interview: The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War II with Dr. Lou Beccaria, the host of And Now You Know, is airing three times a day (egad!) on the local TPN channel (22 on Comcast; 29 on Verizon). Here are the times:

Sun:  7:30am 5:00pm 9:00pm

Mon:  7:30am 5:00pm 8:00pm

Tues: 7:30am 5:00pm 9:00pm

Wed: 7:30am 5:00pm 9:00pm

Thurs:7:30am 5:00pm 8:00pm

Fri:     7:30am 5:00pm 8:00pm

Sat:    7:30am 5:00pm 9:00pm

  

And for those of you who are not in the area, here's a link to the video online (of all places...YouTube!): https://youtu.be/Y8JYw9_dNG8

Book Signing: Saturday, January 14, 2017, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Gateway Pharmacy, 165 Nutt Road, Phoenixville, PA 19460. Copies of all four of my novels will be available for personalized encryptions and purchase.

Phoenixville Library Lecture Series: Monday, February 13, 2017, 7:00 p.m. at the Phoenixville Library, 183 Second Avenue, Phoenixville, PA. German Prisoners during War World II at Valley Forge General Hospital. Lecture by Jack Ertell from the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area and discussion of my novel, The Prisoner’s Portrait.

Well, these are the dates and times so far. So, please mark your calendar and join us!

And now, back to work on yet another novel about Phoenixville! Teaser: This one is told by a mansion…

Have a great day and enjoy all your reads!
 

2:43 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Lambs of War

Sometimes, the best way to cope with the stark realities of life is to escape into an even harsher one. But, hopefully, one with the prospects of a brighter, better outcome. Which is exactly what I did this past week. When things fail and are terrifyingly disappointing, I turn to books; my surest and safest refuges in times of uncertainty. Even if the one I turned to was brutally stark and unmercifully truthful.

The Lambs of War, by Brian McManus, is a grim look into the world of Nazi Germany, circa 1943. Caught up in the throes of war and the horrors of brutal, misguided anti-Semitism, Isaac and his wife, Flora, have been avoiding the Nazi authorities for years. Commodore Adolf Ahrens, a respected food merchant in Bremerhaven, has them under his wing as employees in his household until the Gestapo discovers he is harboring the young Jewish couple. He calls a former friend, whose son is a camp officer at the Ravensbruck Labor Camp, hoping to save his charges from the upcoming “sweep”. He makes a deal that they will be able to stay together as husband and wife. But when they arrive at the camp gates, they are separated: Isaac to work in the household of the cruel Captain Heinrich Wurtzmeuller; Flora to join the ill-treated women who slave in the Ravensbruck munitions and clothing factories.

And then, Flora is told that Isaac had been shot and killed the very afternoon of their arrival…

McManus is a very capable storyteller. His plot lines are straightforward and tightly drawn, with a few clever “Surprise, I didn’t see that coming!” twists that keep the reader on the edge of the seat. Or, in my case, up late until the wee hours of the morning eagerly wanting to know what happens next. With a deft brush, he paints a stark picture of sadistically cruel Nazis, with their insatiable greed, infighting, and jealousies; juxtaposing their hate with the almost pure and hopeful love that Isaac and Flora have for one another. I was mesmerized by his intuitive insights into Isaac’s mind, as well as those of his other well-developed characters. In addition, it is evident this author has done quite a bit of research about Germany during World War II, not to mention capturing vivid and often lurid details of life in a forced labor camp. Even his background geography was spot on. 

However, while the author has a distinct flair for writing, there is a distinct lack of competent editing. Too many grammatical errors, typographical mistakes, often misused words, and more than occasional awkward phraseology were distracting, crippling what could have otherwise been a smooth, stunningly superb read. In my own experiences as a self-published author, one instantly loses credibility as a capable novelist when the literary standards of our profession are cast aside for the sake of expediency.

That being said, McManus does provide us with a rude, more than realistic awakening that overflows with action, suspense, romance, pursuit, and the ever-present persistent quest for survival. The Lambs of War is a no-holds-barred insight into what misogyny, racism, cruelty, sexism, and the lack of basic human decency and kindness can easily foster. It is, without doubt, a rip-roaring good story that, despite its flaws, should not be missed. Nor its message dismissed.

2:01 pm est          Comments

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lady Cop Makes Trouble
“When I grow up,” my inner child is saying, “I want to be a writer…just like Amy Stewart. I want my latest character in novel number four to be as strong, as courageous, as smart, and witty as Constance Kopp, new Jersey’s first lady deputy sheriff, in Stewart’s second historical novel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble (A Kopp Sisters Novel). One can only hope.

The second in her Kopp Sisters series set in the early 1900s in Bergen County, New Jersey (the first was Girl Waits with Gun, reviewed on this blog on Sunday, July 12, 2015) this quite readable and most enjoyable book is a veritable tour de force. Stewart, who gave us many wondrous non-fiction natural science exposés – including my favorite, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks – has once again provided us with a literary rendition of the life of…well, a lady cop. (That’s right, folks. Our intrepid heroine was actually dubbed Cop Constance Kopp! And she’s back!) And if truth is, as they say, better than fiction…Well, then Deputy Sheriff Kopp – as other critics have noted – is the American answer to Jaqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. Only Amy Stewart’s, I have to say, is a tad better. The character of Constance doesn’t seem fictionally squeezed out of one’s imagination into a word processor, but was obviously written with a natural fluidity as if she had been lifted from the pages of history onto the pages of a literary mystery. Which she was. Actually, so far, into two of them, with yet another one on the horizon.

“Books,” a reading buddy said to me over lunch one lazy summer afternoon, “must, to me, be amusing as well as entertaining. Most important, they must elucidate – be enlightening.” In Lady Cop Makes Trouble, the author certainly meets all these criteria.  Deputy Kopp’s first-person insights into and about the lives of female inmates and the fugitive convicted criminals she searches for (based upon the actual cases Constance Kopp worked on during her tenure as a Deputy Sheriff) are well crafted illuminations. Observations of Sheriff Heath’s as well as her own family are both humorous and poignant. And the little touches of early 20th Century Americana and the painstaking detailed fictionalizations of real-life incidents interspersed throughout the plot line elevate this novel to a most satisfactory read.

While a master at bringing the not-so-dull, often drab tales of science to life, Stewart has, indeed, also mastered the art of storytelling. Definitely put Constance and her adventures on your Autumn to-read list. Her many adventures will keep the cockles of your heart warm and intrigued as the (very-much welcomed) cooler weather begins to set in.

Enjoy the read!

4:29 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ashes of Fiery Weather 

I cannot believe I have posted a book review since June. Not by my own choosing, mind you. it's been not only a long, hotter than hot summer, which has really done me in. Not to mention that the past two or so months have been fraught with a few personal trials and tribulations. The least of which included having to replace my trusty ol' laptop. But with my new Dell and the promise of cooler weather in the next few weeks, I am, I hope, back on track.

The title of today's novel -- as well as its content -- is quite apropos of not only this on-going spate of heat and humidity but also the new exhibit opening Friday at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area: "Smoke, Fire, and Bravery: A History of Phoenixville's Fire Companies". Both the well-written novel and the fabulous display have brought back many memories from back in the day...

My father’s oldest brother was once a Captain in the Dobbs Ferry Fire Department. I don’t know or quite remember which station (there are three in the now expanding village, I think), but I do recall him riding on a hook and ladder in Memorial Day parades, clad in full dress uniform decorated with the many medals he had earned. My Da, not one much for heroes, called him “a brave soul, putting out fires, saving lives…” Uncle Dougie succumbed, or so the urban family legend goes, in the line of duty, very much the courageous captain his younger brother so admired. 

I couldn’t help but recall his memory when I read an advanced copy of Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe. It is a seminal tribute to the 343 members of the Fire Department of New York City who lost their lives in the line of duty during the 9/11 tragedy; the fifteenth anniversary of which is next week. This debut novel’s publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt couldn’t have been more timely. Nor more poignant.

Set in Brooklyn, Ashes of Fiery Weather tells not the stories of firemen, but of seven women, all members of the Irish clan of O’Reilly who, as the title aptly suggests, “weathers” the various tragedies of fires their men – husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins – as members of the FDNY are called to fight. It spans a blazing history of the family in Brooklyn from 1918 through September 2012, each account told from the perspective of a woman, including a wife unexpectedly now a widow; a mother silently grieving for her losses; a sister determined to follow in her brother’s footsteps; a daughter coming to gripes with adulthood; a unexpected cousin, newly discovered. Each story is told in a rich, flowing writing style that uses simple words and phrases to convey complex emotions and situations; probing into the abyss of all aspects of familiar relationships.

To say Donohoe is a genius of a writer is an understatement. Her literary talent, reminiscent of Flannery O’Conner, Eudora Welty, and William J. Kennedy – with a subtle dash of Keatsian poetic nuance – polishes each plotline facet into a sparkling diamond of wisdom, wit, and heart-wrenching circumstances. Her characters are so real, one could almost hear their Irish Brooklyn brogues ringing in the ears. This author stunningly and compassionately renders each woman’s story in excellent juxtaposition of intertwining families as they bravely face alongside their men the most terrifying experiences of their (and our) lives. It is, to say the least, one of the better, most finely crafted, most satisfying novels of the year. 

Ashes of Fiery Weather is a must read that will fire up the deepest imaginations of reality, leaving you burning for more. 

1:56 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 20, 2016

Celebrating (My) History
This week, I am not only celebrating one less than a major milestone birthday (which is next year), but also my fortieth (40th) year living here in Phoenixville. I am celebrating rather subduedly, wondering how the hell the years breezed by so quickly since as a young and eager twenty-nine (You do the math!), I travelled cross-country from the Mid-west for our country's Bicentennial Celebration.

A Girl Scout program director at the time, I conceived the idea of a commemorative train trek from Louisville through Chicago and then on to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The 50 or so girls who participated switched trains twice en route, slept in basements of local churches, attended most of the celebrations, and learned a lot of American history as they toured Independence Mall, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, and three museums.

After five days, they left. And I, having fallen in love with the charm and history of Phoenixville and the surrounding area…I stayed. Forty years later, I have lived here longer than my birthplace of Dobbs Ferry, NY. And, as most of you know, I am so enamored, I am now writing about it. My “Novels of Phoenixville…” series (The Prisoner’s Portrait and, just recently, the Schuylkill Monster) is steeped in this burgeoning borough’s rich history and feature fictional stories based upon real facts and incidents. Number three (Columbia Hotel) is in the works.

Anyway, in my rambling research travels, I came across a most talented, witty, down-to-earth, hold-no-bars writer who now makes it her life’s work delving into the little known, salient facts of our nation’s history. I want you to meet Sarah Vowell who, hailing from Montana and now based in New York City, tells it like it is, er, was from a most unique perspective: her own, sometimes biased, but totally historically accurate point of view.

Vowell was once a contributing editor for Public Radio International’s This American Life, and has written seven non-fiction books on American history and culture. Her conversational writing style is fluid and vivid, putting herself smack dab in the middle of each event she recounts. She is both wise and irreverent, poignantly funny, and couples little know facts with uniquely brilliant observations. In ways so creative, they give one pause and beg to suspend belief.  In short, her books are fun and interesting to read. And more than just informative. They are also entertaining.

I just finished her latest, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, about the dashing young Frenchman who eagerly romps alongside General George Washington through the American Revolution. Vowell recaps the more salient battles and strategies of the Colonialists – aided by French troops and naval forces (as well as Louis XVI’s many francs) – as they fend off the occupying British forces. I once considered this part of our history dull. Its dates and names just more annoying facts to learn in school. But under Vowell’s carefully constructed and wonderfully exhuberant tutelage, they came alive. Needless to say, I learned a lot about our forefathers, as well as our beloved Marquis de Lafayette after whom so many American places are named.

I enjoyed Lafayette… so much so that between writing my own hopefully engaging chapters, I am now reading Vowell’s Assassination Vacation and The Wordy Shipmates, intending to zip through the rest of her entertainingly educational – and inspirational – oeuvres during the coming summer months.

Now, that’s the way to relive, relearn, enjoy, and write about history!

Note: If you enjoy reading this Literary Blog and my comments on how books affect and sometimes alter our lives, it would be greatly appreciated if you could please support my efforts. I’d like to continue providing you with the best of what today’s literary world has to offer, but I can do so only if you click the text and/or the image links to navigate to amazon.com to purchase the books I recommend. Every one of your clicks and resulting transactions generates a few shekels that helps me keep “June’s Literary Blog” up and running. Thank you!

 

1:36 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,