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Friday, August 7, 2020
3:47 pm edt
The River Home
Egad. My last post to this blog was on December 30th of last year! Seven short months that sped by all
too quickly. Amazing how time still flies even when the world has been turned upside down and you’re not having much
fun… I am trying to keep busy, not so much writing… but, of course, a bit of reading. But none of the audio
books and paperbacks I read has captured my full attention until Monday when I received the new HarperCollins paperback release
(August 4th) copy of The River Home by Hannah Richell.
Richell, you will recall, is the award-winning author
of three prior novels. Her third, The Peacock Summer (reviewed here July 1st of last year), tells the
parallel stories of Lillian Oberon, the mistress of Cloudesley, and her granddaughter, Maggie, now living in Australia. Riddled
with family secrets and surprising plot twists, I deemed it my perfect summer read. As I do, now, declare Richell’s
fourth to be, once, again, the best novel I’ve read so far this summer.
Lucy, and Margot are the daughters of Ted Sorrell, a once successful now struggling playwright, and K. T. (Kit) Weaver, a
wildly successful novelist of racy historical novels. Raised in a ramshackle farmhouse whose property abuts a river, the three
sisters are bonded together until Margot, the youngest, leaves home after a devasting argument with her mother which threatens
to destroy their family. Eight years later, impetuous Lucy announces she wants to marry her paramour, Tom, and gives Eve and
Kit less than a week to plan a wedding for 80 guests at Windsfall, the family estate. She begs Margot to return home –
“I need you” –precipitating a series of intriguingly captivating, mesmerizing, dynamically dramatic stories
of family secrets, loyalties, betrayals, and misunderstandings.
so intrigued by this novel; I just couldn’t put it down. I read it in one day (yesterday) stopping only for dinner.
It is that good. A Five-Star read!
An accomplished international best-selling author,
Richell’s writing is fluid and descriptive. Her characters are well-developed and true-to-life, their lives unfolding
against the backdrop of strikingly vivid poetic descriptions of landscapes, ambiances, and atmospheres. I reveled in her juxtapositioning
of each character’s stories – both past and present – that propel the reader to learn Margot’s dire
secret: What she did and what caused her to do it. There are a few subtle hints along the way, but the denouement is a cleverly
and artistically constructed tear-jerking, heartwarming page-tuner.
spices her novel throughout with apropos metaphoric and often ironic details, enhancing and augmenting the plot lines. For
example, Ted finds three kittens and, deciding to keep them, names them after actual playwrights: two of which are Pinter
and Mamet. There are references to real people, places, and events, enabling the stories to come alive. It is not as if you
are reading a novel about some fictious characters’ lives; you are actually living within the pages with them…
A novel you can easily get lost in, a refreshing respite from the dire pressing issues of the day…
The River Home
is a great tour de force that goes beyond the label of women’s literature. It is modern literature are its finest.
Stay safe, stay well. Wear your mask and…
Enjoy the read!
Monday, December 30, 2019
2:01 pm est
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.
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
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…
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!
Thursday, October 31, 2019
2:44 pm edt
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 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!
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
3:07 pm edt
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?
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.
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!
Friday, October 4, 2019
5:19 pm edt
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.
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
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 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!
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,
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
Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
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.