The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…
Subscribe

Eileen Cook Takes Pleasure in Unraveling Isobel

January 10, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Recommendations

In pushing The Divining Wand’s restart button, one has to smile at how comforting it is to be greeted by Eileen Cook’s (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy, Gnome Invasion, and Wishes for Beginners ages 9 -11) “almost” annual new release. And what a NEW release it is.

Described as: “A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor,” Unraveling Isobel has charmed the literary critics:

“Isobel, all snark and sharp edges covering some intense vulnerability as she continuously checks in to see if she has crossed into mental illness (as her father did when she was young), is a compelling narrator.” —The Horn Book, January/February 2012

“Spine-tingling setting….Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly

“This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments….Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, a likable narrator, and interesting characters.” —Kirkus

Here’s what it’s all about:

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Eileen takes a walk on the dark comedic side of storytelling and emerges with a winner. Her writing has never been better, more current while also unique for this genre.

Unraveling Isobel is highly recommended for fun, lessons learned, and Eileen Cook’s snarkily lovable imagination.

Want a sneak peek? Read Chapter One.

[Please note that there is also a Kindle Edition.]

Rebecca Rasmussen and The Bird Sisters

March 28, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Acclaimed as magical, graceful, and poetic, Rebecca Rasmussen makes a spring debut with her novel, The Bird Sisters on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. And, with birds on the wing to our homes, what perfect timing!

Lyrical in her writing, the author is also precise and clear about the focus of her story. The book’s idea came from two questions: Rebecca’s curiosity about her grandmother’s family history, and what does it mean to be home and to stay there?

For Rebecca, this is deeply personal. Since her parents divorced when she was a baby, her life was split — growing up in Spring Green, Wisconsin and Northfield, Illinois — and it caused her to feel that she didn’t belong in either place. As a result this writer draws on the experience, saying: “I suppose that’s why in my fiction, I pay very close attention to place; I’m constantly searching for a way to make home feel like home.”

As for The Bird Sisters, it was born from the Emily Dickinson poem:

“These are the days birds come back, a very few, a Bird or two, to take a backward look.”

Then the author created two elderly sisters who had spent their lives caring for injured birds — allowing them the freedom to someday fly away — and the storyline evolved into the following synopsis:

When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.
 


But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.
 


Rebecca Rasmussen’s masterfully written debut novel is full of hope and beauty, heartbreak and sacrifice, love and the power of sisterhood, and offers wonderful surprises at every turn.

Now enjoy this stunning visual that also tells the tale:

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Also read the wonderful Praise and, of course, an Excerpt from Chapter 1.

Gentle, yet so honestly perceptive in her storytelling, Rebecca shares both heart and soul in creating immediate intimacy with Milly and Twiss. In the book, the time frame is only from breakfast to the evening meal — less than twelve hours — but during that day the sisters’ background and basic life is told in flashback memories. While each go their separate ways, doing daily chores they have done forever, thoughts and feelings explain what happened to keep them at home. Yes, the time frame kept everything neat and focused, but what was the specific reason for its use?

The author explained: “I wanted to slow down the present action of the story and really focus in on the pace of the sisters’ lives when they are older, and I thought what better way to do that than to showcase a single day in their lives.”

Poignant and bittersweet, The Bird Sisters is built on the factual theme that our backgrounds shape our future. Which is enormously sad since Milly and Twiss barely had a chance for personal dreams. Their parents did but — when their dreams went unfulfilled — their daughters paid the price for adult disappointment. And, yet, it is their bravery in the face of betrayal and dreams denied that bind them together in strong sisterly love.

In her guest post, Semper Fi, Rebecca Rasmussen proved that even when faced with difficulty and disappointment, the joy of hope remains. Why? Because she has a gift of taking states of loneliness and despair and, in elegant prose, write of their consequences as truly beautiful. Milly and Twiss could have lived much more and still their story is what it is — a tale of a magical world. Admitting that sacrifice can be incredibly sad, the author believes it can be incredibly beautiful at the same time. For her sisters Rebecca says, “I wanted to depict loneliness but not in place of the love of the sisters. They do what they do almost entirely for each other, and to me that is admirable.”

TRUTH: The result is beautiful! After all, what readers hopefully will take away from The Bird Sisters (debuting in two weeks) is Rebecca’s message of: “Love is timeless, first. And so are dreams.”

The Divining Wand’s message: The Bird Sisters soars and then nests in one’s heart.”

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Rebecca Rasmussen’s The Bird Sisters in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

James King and Bill Warrington’s Last Chance

November 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Although his journey to publication took more than 30 years, James King reached his destination — not only by becoming an Amazon Breakthrough Winner — but by writing his debut novel Bill Warrington’s Last Chance about the journey of life.

The author, a corporate communications writer by day and aspiring novelist by night, had three unpublished novels in his desk drawer when he was inspired to write the character of Bill Warrington based on a neighbor/friend who had passed away ten years earlier. As James says:

“He was a nice man, but in a gruff, New England-Yankee sort of way. My wife and I had just moved into our house two weeks after his wife of some fifty years had died. And over the years, the house that he had built for her started to fall apart around him. He wanted no help. In fact, when I complained to him that he should let me help him, let me be a good neighbor, he said, “’You are a good neighbor; you mind your own damned business.’”

What a great character with a lifetime of experiences but what does the author do with such a solitary man? The genius idea of pairing a failing grandfather with his “dreaming big dreams” granddaughter fell into place when, according to James, “April showed up one day, knocked on the creative block I was dealing with at the time, and demanded to be put into the story. I have no idea where she came from, but I’m grateful she came around.”

And the storyline evolved into the novel and this synopsis:

With a new diagnosis that threatens his mind and most cherished memories, Bill Warrington is determined to patch up his differences with his three children before it’s too late. But when all three grown siblings greet Bill’s overtures with wary indifference, he improvises a scheme to skip town with his fifteen-year-old granddaughter, April, whose twin ambitions to learn how to drive and to find rock stardom on the West Coast make her his perfect–and perfectly willing–abductee. But Bill’s plan soon veers dangerously off course, leaving April behind the wheel of his beloved Chevy Impala, dealing with situations no fifteen-year-old should face. A rich multigenerational saga, Bill Warrington’s Last Chance soars with humor, compassion, and unflinching insight into the pain and joy of all family life, while the promise of a new generation shines bright against the ravages of aging in a man who does not go gently… anywhere.

No Bill Warrington does not go gently at all as this video shows:

And the critics agree:

“The spirited interplay between the gruff but wounded Bill and the perhaps too precocious April provides the most sensitive scenes in this enjoyable first novel.” Publisher’s Weekly

“A moving tale.” People Magazine. Selected as a “Great Read.”

“Part road odyssey, part coming-of-age tale, King’s novel achieves the exact right balance of humor, redemption, and reconciliation.” Deborah Donovan, Booklist

In a beautifully written tale of reality James King explores the universal themes of grief and forgiveness, aging and death, the desire for freedom and the need for connection. A story literally for all ages, the author has provided characters — young, middle age, and elderly — who have yet to learn life’s lessons and continue holding on to their errant behavior until, as in Bill’s case, it’s almost too late.

Yes the characters are flawed but not unlikeable. They have their issues as well as redeeming qualities to which almost every reader can relate. And, in addition to the drama, there is the humor for Bill Warrington does not go gently.

Although Alzheimer’s is implied, it’s also never stated that Bill has been diagnosed with the disease. In fact he rationalizes his forgetfulness during his lucid moments and hours of storytelling. Still, when the author places the reader in Bill’s mind as his memory fades in and out, the experience feels remarkably accurate. So much so that The Divining Wand asked James to explain how he managed to create the believable mental confusion? And he replied:

“I’m not sure I can. My research into dementia was limited primarily to its symptoms. Beyond that, I just put myself in Bill’s shoes and tried to imagine what it was like, for example, to reach for a doorknob and suddenly realize that you have no idea where you are, or who or what is on the other side of that door.”

A frightening, sad thought yet even more disturbing might be the disconnection from family and friends. How ironic is it that we now live in a world where there are phone companies and Internet providers that offer friends and family plans to keep us electronically connected 24/7, yet an in-person smile or nod of understanding is probably what’s needed?

And how appropriate is it that Bill Warrington’s Last Chance is being presented/reviewed during Thanksgiving week? This novel provides hope and possibly even encouragement to reconnect with family members. In fact, since the novel’s debut in late August, James King has been flattered to receive a number of emails and letters from readers who have said that the story has not only “struck home,” but has also reminded them of what’s important in life.

This is truly a good book, a wonderful read, and a lovely gift. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of James King’s Bill Warrington’s Last Chance in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. Because of the shortened holiday week the deadline is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Wednesday’s post. If you enter, please return Wednesday to see if you’re a winner.

Beth Hoffman and
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

October 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


On January 12, 2010 Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, was published and — only twelve days later — the book became a New York Times bestseller. Now one wonders how quickly it will take the Trade Paperback edition, releasing tomorrow (October 26, 2010) to take its place on that list as well.

The book described as, “Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…” received the ultimate ★ Starred Review from LIBRARY JOURNAL and endless Raves and Reviews have followed. And they’re all for a simple story that is both wise and profound.

The original idea for the novel came from when Beth, at age nine, visited her Great Aunt in Danville, Kentucky as she told bookreporter.com:

“From the moment of my arrival it was culture shock of the best kind. There I was, a shy little farm girl suddenly in the midst of a world I could have never imagined. I was in awe of the massive old homes, the towering trees, and the lush flower gardens, and I was enthralled by the Southern dialect. 

My great aunt Mildred was an accomplished, highly educated woman, and she was a true Southern lady. I’ve never met anyone more gracious, and I suspect I never will. Everyone was welcome in her home, and she greeted people with a smile that was as warm as it was genuine.

Added to that experience is my fascination with the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, so all those things became seeds for my idea. And I adore eccentric personalities and the architecture of the American South. Each of those elements built the framework of my story.”

Please click the Author Video link to listen to why and visually enjoy how important the sense of place was in defining the story. But, of course, the character of CeeCee was most important and, while outlining the novel, the author suddenly heard Cecelia Honeycutt loud and clear. In fact Beth confirms that she also heard the wise cook/housekeeper:

“Yes, CeeCee told me her story, and I was amazed by how clearly I heard her voice. The same is true for Oletta. In fact, Oletta was so real to me that I wept when I typed THE END. I knew I would miss her terribly. And I do.”

From their personal tales the storyline evolved into the following back-of-the-Hardcover-book synopsis:

Back-of-the-book blurb: Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when disaster strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell who whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Now read an Excerpt from Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

As might be expected, there are reviews galore on this bestselling debut, with one blog writer even likening CeeCee to Cinderella. Hmm, if this charming — albeit occasional bittersweet — story feels like a fairy tale at all, then it’s reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly enough, though CeeCee is a voracious reader, she never once mentions a favorite fairy tale. Perhaps it’s her age or the reality of her life that leads her to read and reread Nancy Drew books for, after all, didn’t Nancy always solve the mysteries(problems) in her world? Also books are CeeCee’s only friends until she’s whisked away and rides by the sign that proclaims: Welcome to Savannah.

The lush, detailed descriptions of her new home, the women who surround her, and the experiences that change her all flow effortlessly through this 12 year old’s voice. Whether heartbreaking or joyous, there is emotional enchantment present on every page as well as more than a few messages/lessons for all of us to learn. As Great Aunt Tootie relates the importance of “Finding your fire” and Miz Goodpepper reflects on the power of Karma, The Divining Wand asked the author which message saved CeeCee? And Beth said:

“I believe all the messages melded together–each one helping CeeCee to heal and be able to move forward. But the one message in particular that CeeCee took to heart was when Oletta said, “’People is wise ’cause they get out in the world and live. Wisdom comes from experience—from knowin’ each day is a gift and accepting it with gladness. You read a whole lot of books, and readin’ sure has made you smart, but ain’t no book in the world gonna make you wise.’”

Beth Hoffman was wise. Wise enough to walk away from her successful interior design business and move forward to her dream of writing a book that echoed what she had heard from her own grandmother and Great Aunt. That power of women’s friendship had impacted her more than she realized and, after four years of writing, she had her novel.

The author insists, “All I wanted to do was write a story with characters that I loved and believed in–characters who, individually and collectively, had something important to give a little girl who had a rough start in life.” In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth has accomplished that and much more. Refreshingly kind, and enchanting, “CeeCee” offers an open heart to women of all ages. If you have yet to read it, oh please do. And, if you have already read it, consider this edition as a special gift for anyone…..young adult to your grandmother. Because this bestseller is truly THAT good!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.