Forbidden Love: Lisa Jones Gentry and Joe Steele

Forbidden Love, penned by Harvard graduates Joe Steele and Lisa Jones Gentry, reminds one of Colleen McCoullough’s 1977 epic bestseller, Thornbirds, intertwined with the 2016 award winning movie, Loving.  Forbidden Love is a retelling of the sexual-romantic relationship between Father William Grau, a black Catholic priest educated at the Vatican, and Sister Sophie Legocki, a first generation Polish immigrant from Buffalo who took her vows of celibacy at age 14. Vows were broken, and Joe Steele was born in a home for wayward girls in Cincinnati.

Far from prude themselves, authors Steele and Gentry don’t pull any punches in describing the heated details of Bill and Sophie’s affair, wherever those details lead, such as a motel in Canada, a car in a secluded park, or a rectory. What’s fascinating about Forbidden Love is how Bill and Sophie violate the rules of the Catholic Church (sometimes right in the church) and the racial rules of 1960’s America. Bill and Sophie faced hostility from both black and white people for their miscegenation before the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision in 1967 and before the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This smart and sex book is a great read for its erotic content, scandalous tidbits, and its historic context.

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Five Tips on Writing from novelist Angela Crook

Novelist Angela Crook, who most recently authored the thriller Chasing Naveh, held her book launch at Loganberry Books on Sunday, March 10.  During the question and answer period in her well-attended event, she shared her wisdom about writing:

  1. Get support from a writing community.  Angela belongs to a writers’ group, named the LLAMAS. They helped her edit her books for content, style, and grammar. They encouraged to keep writing. If you cannot find a physical group, then Angela recommends linking with an online community, such as #writingcommunity on Twitter.
  2. Attend writing conferences. Angela, a lifelong devotee of the thriller genre, attends Killer Nashville which specializes in crime novels. She believes craft talk with other writers is essential.
  3. Find your ideal reader and let them read your stuff. Angela recommends reading Stephen King’s writing guidebook, called On Writing. In “On Writing,” King insists that writers must understand their ideal readers, the readers most likely to get attached to your work.  Angela effectively created a Dickens-esque serialized version of her first novel, Fat Chance. She gave individual chapters to her friends. After a while, those friends demanded new chapters weekly. Angela says they got perturbed if she delivered new material late.  She knew she had a winning novel.
  4. Whether you self-publish or find an independent publisher, make sure your work is well edited. Angela admonished the writers to curb their enthusiasm about getting their novel into the world before making sure that the novel is error-free. You present yourself to the world through your novel; don’t be shabby.
  5. Write at least one page every day. Yes, you must.

You can follow Angela Crook on Twitter at @navah74. You can buy her novels at Loganberry Books, the largest supplier of books by local authors in Cuyahoga County.

If you need more guidance on writing, check out local author J. Thorn, a frequent lecturer at the CCPL Skirball Center for Writing. He offers great tips on building an audience, marketing, and making money in self-publishing.

Looking for a conference? Literary Cleveland holds a big writing conference each year in August in connection with Cleveland Public Library.  Also, Loganberry Books will host a discussion panel for children’s book (picture books, middle grade, and young adult) writers during Children’s Book Week on Saturday, May 4 at 10:30 AM.

Are you ready to bring your book into the world? Loganberry Books’ Author Alley happens Saturday, July 6.  Registration is open.  Author Alley offers you a free opportunity to sell your book during Larchmere Festival and meet 50 other local writers.

Miesha Wilson Headen

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COMING SOON: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (May 2019)

Sara Collins’ debut novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, is simultaneously the heir to Sarah Waters and Toni Morrison that I’m always looking for, and also a completely new voice and incandescent love story I didn’t know I needed.

The person of slave-turned-English lady’s maid, Frannie, that Collins brings to life is so passionate and singular, I followed along breathlessly as much for her voice and keen vision of the her world (a world bent on destroying her) as to untangle the horrible crimes at the heart of her life. This is literary historical fiction at its best: a portrayal of an ostensibly different time and place that catches the reader off-guard with its immediacy and familiarity of human experience. To boot, Frannie and Marguerite’s love story is the most dazzling and unforgettable I’ve encountered in a very long time.

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Top New and Upcoming Psychology Books!

We are in the process of revitalizing our social sciences section, and there are two new, and one upcoming, psychology books in particular that I have found are wonderful reads!

1. The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esme Weijun Wang.  I cannot recommend this book enough!  Esme details her struggles with both schizoaffective disorder and chronic illness, relating her personal demons to the greater world.  Her essays cover everything from the failure of the higher educational system to appropriately deal with students’ mental illnesses, to medical disagreements over the form and function of diagnoses, to issues with the mental hospital system; but also go into great (and spooky) detail on her various psychoses and how it affects how she presents herself to the world.  For anybody wanting to understand either a person with severe mental illness, or the forces they are fighting against, this book is quite enlightening.  (Available Now)

2.  Never Enough, by Judith Grisel.  When it comes to addiction, there are many competing theories and it can be hard to make sense of it all.  Judith has written a book that condenses the latest research on how addiction affects the brain, as well as presenting chapters on each class of drug that explains exactly how they affect the brain and the person taking them, making it so that there is “never enough” of a drug for an addict.  Her book contains snippets of her personal experience, as she was addicted for many years prior to sobering up and getting into neuroscience, and she also suggests public policy reforms that are more in line with the latest research.  Highly recommended for anybody in recovery, anybody who knows an addict, those who work with the addicted population, and those in public service who have the power to change policies that hurt addicts – who are just people with broken brains.  (Available Now)

3.  The Wisdom of Anxiety, by Sheryl Paul.  Like many adults in the United States, I have suffered with anxiety for a significant portion of my life.  If you also fit into this category, this book is for you!  Sheryl reveals that those feelings of anxiety that we want to hide from are actually signals from the body that are trying to tell us that something is wrong.  Whether that something is internal or external, Sheryl is here to help with a combination of Jungian theory and practical exercises designed to increase mindfulness and access the body’s hidden knowledge.  She explains how various life transitions can increase anxiety – everything from the changing of day into night to the fear of death.  Learning that many other people have anxiety about the same things that I do was rather comforting in itself!  I have also been finding the exercises she prescribes to be immensely useful; I feel that my anxiety has decreased dramatically since I got a hold of this book and started to discover my inner wisdom (thanks, Harriett!)  (Available May 28, 2019)

–Reviews by Julie

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Survival Kit’s Apocalypse by Beverly Williams

When you read the words “zombie apocalypse,” you probably think you’re in for a gory fright-fest. But Beverly Williams’ post-apocalyptic novel Survival Kit’s Apocalypse is less about the horrors of its zombified world and more about the exquisitely personal terrors of trauma—and the relationships that can help heal them.  

            In this character-driven novel, the titular heroine Kit is fleeing both from the novel’s zombies (called “rotters,” a mostly standard interpretation of the classic monsters, albeit with hints at a twist in their origins) and from a hideously violent past. Almost preternaturally capable but psychologically stunted, as a protagonist Kit is relatable if not quite likeable. Her past traumas are treated with sensitivity and humanity by the author, but are still quite disturbing to read about as they are revealed slowly throughout the novel. The physical and emotional scars of her twisted upbringing are excavated through the relationships she develops when she arrives at a camp of survivors. There, she is drawn out of her shell by survivalist heartthrob Eric and his brothers Thom and Matt. The siblings also come from an abusive household, so they can relate to Kit as she struggles to not only live in this new world, but to thrive and belong.

            Scenes of head-popping rotter encounters and survivalist tactics are interspersed with slower, more nuanced set pieces in which Williams deftly develops the relationships between Kit and the other survivors, using quotes from favorite songs and authors to organize the scenes thematically. In addition to Kit’s struggles with self-harm and thoughts of suicide, she also experiences moments of joy as she develops her first-ever romantic relationship with Eric, finds a new friend after saving the meek but resilient Sam from her abusive boyfriend, and begins exploring what happiness and family might look like in the aftermath of societal breakdown.

As the camp members realize that the rotters are not the only threat they face, Williams brings home a central theme: humanity can be more monstrous than any supernatural creature.

While there were moments when I would have preferred greater emphasis on pulse-pounding action and fright over deep-thinking exposition, Survival Kit’s Apocalypse is ultimately a page turner which is deeply invested in its characters, and as a reader I couldn’t help but worry about Kit and her strange, eccentric new family. Although I came into the book expecting a thrilling tale of terror, in reality it is a surprisingly subtle parable of hope, home, and healing.

Survival Kit’s Apocalypse: Survival Kit #1 by Beverly Williams. Published 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press. 366 pp.

Review by Carmen Tracey.

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Comics For a Strange World by Reza Farazmand

     With sparseness and simplicity, Comics For A Strange World, reminds us of the beautiful absurdity in being alive. Whether the narrator is a smoking ghost, a caveman or a pigeon, Farazmand uses blunt honesty to delve into both common situations and bizarre adventures .
      The comics first generated a huge following on the internet and since then he has been able to turn his ideas into two books: the first, Poorly Drawn Lines was a NYT bestseller. Leaving very few topics untouched, he slyly comments on our internet obsessed culture (the pigeon goes online), our escalating culture of violence (a squirrel buys a gun) and religion (God gets called out for being an old man in a bathrobe).
      For fans of The Far Side, Sara Scribbles or Hyperbole and a Half, this book is not to be missed. Matthew Inman (best selling author of The Oatmeal) says it best when he describes Farazmand’s work as “Walk(ing) the line between deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.”

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon returns in top form with Moonglow, a riveting and thought-provoking novel… or is it a memoir? This sweeping familial tale, told via the deathbed recollections of a character the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather,” is neither pure fact nor pure fiction. A smart, engrossing, profound tale that ranges from prewar Philadelphia to Nazi Germany to a Jewish retirement village near Cape Canaveral, this masterpiece marks a new apogee for Chabon. His most daring book to date, Moonglow is peppered with deftly-handled narrative experimentation, balanced with liberal doses of humor, and peopled with sparkling, fully-realized characters. This book’s luminous insights will resound long after you close the covers. Like the rockets at the heart of the story, with a force sometimes terrifying but never less than awe-inspiring, Moonglow soars. You can read more and buy the book here.

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True Christmas Treasure

First edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843, published by Chapman & Hall, London, with four hand-colored illustrations by John Leech and additional b&w illustrations by Linton. Original rust colored cloth covers with gilt lettering and decorations bound in on 3 pages in rear of elegantly rebound book. Binding is full polished green leather (faded to brown on spine), Rivière name is stamped on front endpaper, and entire book is in fine condition. Yes, that’s a first edition of this gem, in a signature leather binding. This is a rare and lovely book for the collector. <sold>

first edition of A Christmas Carol, frontis and title page with tissue guard

first edition of A Christmas Carol, frontis and title page with tissue guard

beautiful leather binding

beautiful leather binding

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RIP Laurie Vrabel

Laurie

Laurie welcoming the new chairs to Larchmere Tavern, Aug. 2013

Laurie was a friend, and she owned the restaurant next door, Larchmere Tavern. I go there often, to get a break, read PW, have staff meetings, and, of course, to get some food. We even had our annual staff party there this year. While it’s nice to have a tavern next door, that’s not what I am most grateful for. I’m just grateful for Laurie.

We were typical nice neighbors: exchanging books for food, borrowing address labels and advice on services, helping with technological issues (Laurie was more of a Luditte than I!). She didn’t have a lot of vegetarian options on the menu, but she would always make a grilled cheese for me, and trained her staff to do the same. We collaborated on a couple of events, and I suggested renters and presenters at my space to use her catering services. Laurie always treated me to her fabulous gazpacho on Larchmere Festival day, thanking me as if I personally brought her every customer of the day.

She was an avid and passionate runner. When I tried to take up running, she was so encouraging and supportive, like I had complimented her with my good taste. I told her I didn’t go very fast, and she leaned in and gave me the biggest smile, as she let me in on a great secret: “it doesn’t matter!”  She wanted to know what inspired me to start running, and when I told her grief management, she didn’t pry, she just smiled and welcomed me to the club. She was sad when her health dictated that she stop running, but she just started running in water instead.  She never stopped — that is, until she developed debilitating back pain, that was later diagnosed as stage IV liver cancer.  She was gone just four months later.

I will miss Laurie. I should probably start running again.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi
Random House, January 12, 2016

With a message both mournful and life-affirming, When Breath Becomes Air chronicles a young doctor’s journey from literature student to promising neurosurgeon and finally to a patient in his own hospital after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Always profound, never sentimental, this important book refuses to take refuge in platitudes, instead facing mortality with honesty and humility. Written in engaging prose and filled with penetrating insights, this story is relevant to everyone and will captivate fans of memoir, literature, philosophy, and popular science alike. Lyrical passages of great beauty and vulnerability are deftly balanced by bright, candid moments of joy and even humor. Come prepared with plenty of tissues; over and over again this exquisite book will break your heart. This is a great choice for fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. You can read more and buy the book here.

 

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