Author: Pat Backley
Print Length: 190 Pages
Publisher: Pat Backley
Publication Date: October 8, 2020
I have not read a book I could not wait to get back to in a while. Daisy is one of those books.
Daisy is a Historical Fiction story from 1887 to 1974. The prologue is short but expertly ties the entire story together. A white hand is on top of a little black hand in a field of flowers. The woman and the little girl are making daisy chains.
“Mum, why am I called Daisy?”
Set in Alabama, Harlem, and London, the author takes us through time, starting in 1887 and ending in 1974 in that field of Daisy’s with the same question from the little black girl. Only now, we understand why her name is Daisy and why the hand on top of hers is white.
The author’s strength here is her character development. Although there were many sudden tragedies, the author did such an excellent job with their backgrounds and personalities that the reader is genuinely interested in them and grieve their loss.
This is a family story, and I loved most how the author tied everyone together with the historical backdrop. There are descendants of the enslaved whose lives weave with descendants of slaveowners and poor white Londoners the author interweaves with poor black Americans’ lives. The exciting part about books (and movies) like this is all the tension built up between the families and wondering when everyone will meet up with one another!
As the author detailed their lives, I knew they would intersect at some point, and I was eager to see how it would all play out. It was like reading about a generation of people all connected in a six-degrees of separation kind of way – that all people on average are six or fewer, social connections away from each other.
An example of this in the book is when Samuel, Winifred, and Jeremey Davis, the black family from Harlem, moved to London in 1952. Leading up to this, we have already met the white family in London (because the author starts in 1887 and moves time forward). Thus, the anticipation is already there as to which of Polly’s descendants will meet one of the Davis’s. Little Jeremy was five years old in 1952, but by the time he is an adult, he meets one of the great-great-great granddaughters of the London family, and they marry, giving birth to the little girl from the prologue.
It’s juicy ya’ll!
The author does a good job of recounting the family’s past throughout, so it continually reminds the reader of how it all started and how everyone is connected. The overall message of the book seems to be that it does not matter if you are rich or poor, slave or free, black or white; we are all part of the human family, a family that would flourish much more smoothly if biases like racism, sexism, and classism did not exist.
“Being born poor was a scar that never faded.”
“She had never experienced racial hatred first hand, so had no real idea of how it could erode a person’s whole life.”
Title: Dawn of The Dragon: The Dawn Series Book 2
Author: Aundriel H Washington
Print Length: 177 Pages
Publisher: Aundriel’s Press
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
What if you saw a giant blue dragon in your neighbor’s backyard?
That’s how fantasy writer Aundriel Washington kicks off chapter one of book two in the Dawn series. With a 129 ft wingspan and standing twenty-five feet tall, Xavgon blocks the sun. Riding on his back is the central character Kalera, who draws some unwanted attention as she lands her dragon on Rocheblave Street in New Orleans. The police, National Guard, FBI, and military surround Kalera and her dragon. The girl and her creature, whom she refers to as her son, are coming from the Zaylen Realm, the world Kalera got sucked into in book one, Palera Dawn.
Xavgon freezes time to give them a chance to figure out how to escape the authorities. They run into the house of Kalera’s boyfriend Zaron and are joined by Musfall, her friend, and voodoo priest. They must find their way back to Zaylen to defeat Zaylen’s ruler, King Ager. To do this, they set out on a mission to Gros Cave, the door to Zaylen. Their first mission is to go to the Saint Louis Cathedral, where Musfall’s priest friend is a cave diver. Together, Kalera, Xavgon, Zoran, Musfall, and Kalera’s dog Rome, set out on a mission that takes them through a whirlwind of adventure and revelation.
This book maintains good action. I love the first chapter-opening, which reminded me of the movie Bright with Will Smith. I can imagine the authorities terrified as they surround a residential area where a large, fire-breathing creature has landed. Dawn of the Dragon is book two in a series, and for this, I don’t think the author needs a prologue. The way chapter one opened is good enough to capture and maintain the reader’s attention.
The author also did an excellent job of recounting what happened in book one so that readers new to this book can understand how all of this started. I also enjoyed how Xavgon communicated with Kalera telepathically. When she thinks about Harriet Tubman, for example, the dragon asks, “who is Harriet?” It helped the magical aspect of the book come to life.
My book review registry is still CLOSED. These are reviews booked before the unexpected loss of my mom. I will be reopen for new submissions at a later time. Be sure to visit the Blog Book Review Policy page here to learn more.
The MacLeans have suffered being thrown off their land, emigrating to the New World, surviving in the forest wilderness, and losing their father Gillan in a bizarre murder. Now, ten years later, the two youngest emigrants will split the family across an ocean.
Sheena pursues a future back in Scotland with her husband Gordon Lamont. Alisdair dreams of university and a chance to reform the political system in the colony that denied him justice for his father’s death.
But the British Empire of the 1830s has yet more obstacles to throw in their path. When the only school in the province only accepts Anglican students, what will Alisdair do? When Sheena finds herself in a role of authority over families like her own, how will she cope with the isolation?
And when both their hopes of peace and stability are dealt a telling blow, how will they stay true to their fighting spirit?
STORM WRACK & SPINDRIFT is a dramatic story of family survival and personal struggle set against social upheaval. While voter enfranchisement was advancing in London, and slavery finally outlawed in the Empire, the tiny stage of rebellion in a backwoods colony farm could still have deep repercussions. Every life is precious, every decision important–which is why the early struggle for Responsible Government and other civil liberties continues to encourage us today.
I enjoyed reading about the MacLean family, especially since the author did such an excellent job transporting readers to the era of the 1830s. The descriptions and dialect are authentic, and any lover of historical fiction would enjoy the natural flow of reading. I enjoyed the back and forth between Sheena’s experiences in Scotland and Alisdair’s challenges with the family on the farm. I sympathized with his conflict with wanting to study law but not wanting to leave the family who needed his help. The characters are undoubtedly the stars of this book. I love children, so I am fond of Mairi and her bond with Grannie. They are so sweet together, and even though Neil (Mairi’s dad) is sad, the author did an excellent job portraying his misery. Speaking of grief, prepare yourself. This book has its moments.
Suppose a Historical Fiction novel is going to be set during a time when slavery was alive and well. In that case, the author will do well to mention it in some capacity to make the story even more authentic (because of slavery’s worldwide influence). Thus, I love the mentioning of the Slavery Abolition Act that “abolished slavery in most British colonies, freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada. It received Royal Assent on August 28, 1833, and took effect on August 1, 1834.” (Latasha Henry, Slavery Abolition Act, 2020) The government compensated slave owners for the value lost from freeing enslaved people and Sheena was not having it:
“And is there any proposed fund for the slaves, since by abolishing slavery, we admit we had no right to own other people in the first place?”
“No, of course not.”
I liked the detail about Rhoda, Sheena, and Gordan’s widowed housekeeper, taking part in abolitionist demonstrations and the mention of Wilberforce’s death. Passing in 1833, William Wilberforce was a “British politician, philanthropist, and leader of the movement to abolish slavery.” (Wikipedia) I liked how the author connected Wilberforce to the family on a personal level by adding the detail about Rhoda’s involvement with him and showing readers the impact his death had on her.
While I enjoyed this story, I do not think it can be read as a standalone novel as marketed. As the third book in the series, I felt a bit lost in the beginning because it felt like something was missing, i.e., everything leading up to the MacLean’s family’s life on the farm.
The epilogue is intriguing, and I wonder if the author would consider adding another book to the series, possibly centered on the experiences of Mairi.
Introduce Yourself is back! Please help me extend a warm welcome to Edgar Rider. Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
Edgar Rider, originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, moved to Riverside, California.
Nice. Are you employed outside of writing?
I work in education as a paraprofessional for a High School in Special Ed.
Cool beans. What job do you think you’d be really good at?
Creativity in organizing creative events, and writing educational content.
Any siblings Edgar?
What was your childhood dream?
The first dream was to be a detective, and then I just wanted to be in some creative field where I could use creativity.
What skill do you think you’ve mastered?
Creativity. Coming up with innovative ideas. Writing about Abstract subject matter in an understandable, relatable, and universal fashion. Created tunnel performance society to help others express themselves.
What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
A trip to Amsterdam. It has a reputation as a place where all bets are off. I would like to explore an uninhibited place.
What’s your favorite drink?
Nothing beats a PBR.
Pabst Blue Ribbon is a beer. It is relatively cheap and is the main drink at a pub I go to called TT Roadhouse.
Got it. What songs have you completely memorized?
Neil Diamond Hello Again and The Doors Monlight Drive.
What’s your favorite color?
Blue and yellow combination.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. When did you publish your first book?
I just published it, and it is a great feeling. Riding Out The Kipling Effect is about an experience me and a friend had living in a ladies’ living room for a year.
Oh, wow, lol.
We gave up our respective apartments to save money to concentrate on writing. Carrie Kipling was the tenant, and she lived in a chaotic turmoil-filled world used by moocher friends. The book is about trying to stay committed to a specific creative purpose while overcoming outside challenges. Some of the major themes are relinquishing control, overcoming obstacles, and at certain moments being able to trust in the experience.
It has been a long road, so getting this book out is a big accomplishment.
Who is your favorite writer?
James Thurber. He wrote about ordinary regular events but turned them into extraordinary experiences. Other stories are about dreaming of another kind of life—Secret Life of Walter Mitty and My Life and Hard Times.
If you could shadow your favorite artist, who would it be?
Alice Cooper. I was always a fan. He came up with a stage persona and took it in a particular direction—such a well-defined character. I would learn how to embody and be that person. I have my own alter ego Bob Eager.
I want to learn to become that character and be productive at presenting it for long periods.
Edgar? You’re scaring me lol. What kind of music do you like?
Rock music classic rock eighties rock.
What genre do you write in, why?
Memoir, Short story, Creative nonfiction, and poetry. Not sure why just my most expressive forms.
Okay. I love those genres! What takes up too much of your time?
I think you speak for us all.
What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
Purple Cow. It is about coming up with an innovative idea that stands out, not playing it safe, really believing in ideas. It helped me develop tunnel performance society, an innovative environmental theatrical space where poets, musicians, and dancers can express themselves.
That’s cool. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
Editing is the most difficult for sure. Revision at some points, too, saying, “no, this is done.” Telling stories that have a narrative legacy that will last five-ten years from now, and making sure they are not rooted in contemporary culture.
If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be? Why?
Suspending Disbelief. Being able to create reality and make it more pleasing.
If you could, would you visit the past?
I would visit the past and try and help myself and others make their lives easier.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Find Purpose and go full throttle, eliminate distractions.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? What made it special?
Write in your own voice. I was young and in college, and it meant a lot to me to express how I was feeling.
I love it.
Thank you Edgar for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Edgar Rider has been working in education for over ten years, first as a Substitute Teacher. More recently, he has been a Paraprofessional for an elementary school and high school. Rider worked in a Children’s museum as a Playologist and was a Child advocate for a Domestic Violence shelter. He has published articles on educational topics such as Growth Mindset, Substitute Teaching, Autism, Time Management in a classroom, and how to use an Environmental Theater space.
About the Book
Life in Carrie Kipling’s apartment was a constant struggle. Kipling’s life was in a state of turmoil. Her group of friends consisted of moochers, liars, prostitutes, and convicted felons. Her decision-making process deteriorated over time and became even more dangerous as she let anyone she befriended control various aspects of her life. In this book, a narrative journey titled Riding Out The Kipling Effect, my friend Muller and I lived in Kipling’s living room for a year. What started as a strange situation spiraled out of control. We both wanted to become writers for a living and were willing to give up comfort, space, belongings, and even sanity to achieve our respective dreams.
We jumped from our apartments and ended up on a couch and in a chair and strapped ourselves along for the Kipling Effect’s roller coaster ride. Little did we realize that navigating through this would become the biggest challenge of our lives. The Downtown artistic scene, museums, and libraries also provide a backdrop of inspiration for this particular journey. The juxtaposition between the surrounding dive bars and the posh clubs and restaurants presents a peculiar atmosphere full of contrary subject matter ripe for a storytelling environment. Eventually, I learned that the Kipling Effect had positive ramifications and was the one necessary thing leading me down an essential path towards authentic self-discovery.
In 1846, on the eve of the Mexican American War, hundreds of Irish-Catholic immigrants under the command of abusive, Protestant officers fled the American Army and joined the other side. They were formed into a special unit under their inspirational leader, John Riley. Known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, they became the fiercest and most feared artillery unit in the Mexican Army. Loyal Son is the fictional story of one of those San Patricios, eighteen-year-old Patrick Ryan from County Cork, Ireland. On the brink of losing their farm, his father entrusts him with their life savings and sends him to America to purchase land and establish roots. He and his sister arrive at their uncle’s house in Philadelphia a week before anti-Catholic Bible Riots erupt. When rabid Nativists invade their neighborhood, Patrick joins his cousins to resist them. During the three days of violence, the family’s house is burnt to the ground and with it all of Patrick’s money. Desperate to make it right and fulfill his duty, Patrick joins the army for the enlistment bonus of one hundred and sixty acres of land. His only goal is to get a farm and see his father, mother and brothers join him and his sister in the Promised Land of America. Nothing worked out the way any of them hoped.
When Thomas Ryan realizes he won’t be able to save the family’s land in Newtownshandrum, County Cork Ireland, he decides to send his youngest son Patrick and his sister Ellen to America to find property for the family. The voyage to America is not an easy one. I enjoyed being able to experience what that was like for many of the immigrants through the characters, such as having to drink water contaminated from being stored in old, rotten containers, to rash and fever. After arriving in New York City, Patrick and his sister encounter trouble and are bullied by boys who force them to stay the night with a widow from Dublin named Mrs. Fitzsimmons. The next day, they meet their Uncle John and Aunt Mary, who they will live with as Patrick tries to find work to make money to buy land, and so starts the journey.
From the bible wars of the Catholic vs. Protestants, the Texas Annexation Treaty, the Election of James Polk, and the National Debate on Slavery, there is a lot of good history in the backdrop of Patrick’s journey. Through the eyes of a young Irish boy and his cousins, we see the racism and discrimination against the Irish people who are stereotyped as “alcohol-soaked animals, corrupt papists, and sexual deviants.” The author does an exemplary job of foreshadowing Patrick’s eventual enlistment in the army. When religious riots explode, it forces the family to defend their position, ultimately leading to the burning down of Uncle John and Aunt Mary’s home along with the savings Patrick was going to use to buy land.
Even though the story is from a young Irish boy’s perspective, I liked how historically accurate it is also for African Americans at the time. Slavery was such an ingrained part of American society that it was a common part of everyday life. The author shows this in his descriptions of the enslaved blacks and their interactions with the people around them.
“At daybreak, James walked down the porch to the barefoot, teenaged slave holding his horse.”
“A stout, unsmiling negress in a faded calico dress and a white kerchief wrapped around her head met them on the steps of the expansive portico. James handed her his hat, riding gloves, and overnight bag.”
“Jackson noticed his protégé approach and rose slowly from his chair. The small black boy attending him tried to help but the General snarled at him and he backed away.”
This book is action-packed all the way through, historically accurate, and because Patrick and his cousins are young men, it maintains the right balance by being just as fun as it is about war and racism. The boys are young, like girls, and get into some pretty severe fights and trouble with the law.
Loyal Son is not a short book, but if you enjoy history and have some time on your hands, you will love it.
Mary Granger is a gifted musician who sees visions of music and moves her hands to the tune of the song she hears in her head, like playing an invisible piano. The children call her “Mad Mary” because she doesn’t understand their jokes. She is nervous, and her mannerisms read like someone with autism or some other disorder. But Mary’s music is extraordinary and came as a way of dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse from her father, James.
Then, there’s the archangel Gabriel, who has been on Earth for a thousand years and is depressed about whether he will ever return to his glorious state. He returns to heaven to find it in chaos. His father (“God”) is gone, and so is his brother Rigel. The angels have adopted a “do what thy will” attitude. Gabriel is searching for a saint who can help him enlighten the world.
Mary and Gabriel meet when the angel is swept away by Mary’s music, which draws her to him like a magnet. Mary is a child, about eleven-years-old, and Gabriel wants her to sell him her music. The child, Mary, can’t sell the music because it takes her away from James’ abuse. Witnessing the act, the angel causes significant pain in the man’s stomach and makes a pact with Mary that he will own the rights to her music in exchange for protection.
He believes Mary’s music is the key to restoring his light and promises her fame and fortune in exchange.
But when Mary is an adult and works as a paralegal, still bound by the contract, Gabriel doesn’t seem to be as kind as he was when she was little. He kills, and people close Mary start to die.
There is a lot to unpack in this book, including the biblical connection between Mary and Gabriel, the angel that came to tell Mariam she was pregnant with the Messiah. And because I believe there are fallen angels who many celebrities worship for fortune and fame, becoming miniature versions of gods on Earth, i.e., stars, I enjoyed the realistic premise of this book. However, the plot in Catch the Moon, Mary is not predictable and gets more profound as the story unfolds.
Catch the Moon, Mary is gracefully written. I was immediately caught up in the poetic writing style of this author. From the first sentence, I was pulled into brilliant prose and description that made reading easy. I felt part of Mary’s world because the writing was like feeling the music, not just reading it. As a poet, I love this. The entire book is written with this kind of artistic expression. The author is unique in her descriptions, so that not one sentence is ordinary. Waters does not just tell us the sun is rising, but that “suddenly, the sky was rimmed with yellow flame as dawn cracked over the horizon like an egg.” She does not just tell us Mary’s music is good, but that, “her music pulsating like breath.”
I was not a fan of the musical notes used instead of Chapter Headings, but it makes sense, given the author’s writing style. As I said, this author is no ordinary writer!
Introduce Yourself is back! Please help me extend a warm welcome to VALI BENSON. Vali, welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Vali Benson. I was born in Champaign, Illinois, the home of the University of Illinois. After graduating from U of I, I decided to go west to get away from the brutal winter weather. I now live in Tucson, AZ, where I am very happy with my husband, two sons, and grandchildren.
Brutal is right! I am from Chicago so you ain’t never lied there. Vali, got a favorite drink?
Iced tea is my favorite drink, but it has to be super sweet. When I am writing, I need my sweet iced tea. Oddly enough, I do not like ice in my iced tea, and I always chuckle when I hear someone refer to the drink as “Ice” tea. As far as cocktails are concerned, I love a spicy Bloody Mary.
Nice. Favorite food?
My favorite food is escargots. Growing up in Illinois, I would have never dreamed that I would say that, but I absolutely love them. The first time I had escargots was on my honeymoon, and the only reason I did it was that I didn’t want to appear unsophisticated to my new husband. Thank heaven I had no idea what they were at first, or else I would never have tried them.
Let’s talk about writing. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
My first book, Blood and Silver, was published on April 3, 2020. To be honest, it was surreal. I had completed a lifelong dream of putting my ideas and feelings into an actual book for others to consume. I was numb and excited. At the same time, it was extremely frightening because my innermost thoughts were now fair game for all to criticize. I still cannot believe that I can call myself a published author.
That is awesome. Congratulations and welcome to the world of publishing. That Blood and Silver cover is dope!
What genre do you write in, why?
I generally prefer to write young adult fiction. This is probably because that genre had such an impact on me as a girl. I was not the most confident child, so when I could read about fictional characters that were around my age, it made me feel secure. If my books can instill others with those valued feelings of pride, confidence, and acceptance, I know I will have done my job.
Wonderful. What do you wish you knew more about?
I dearly wish I was more tech-savvy. Computers and I have never really gotten along, but I am sad to say that I am being left behind by the changing times. The day has come when I have had to admit that technology no longer consists of luxury; it exists as a necessity. I better start swimming, or I’ll sink like a stone.
Do you have a favorite color Val?
Blue has always been my favorite color. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have blue eyes, but I think it is because I am a believer in infinite possibilities. When I was a girl, there was nothing more infinite to me than the big bright blue sky.
Blue is a beautiful color. We love sharing historical fun facts on this blog. Who would you say is your favorite Historical figure?
Jacqueline Kennedy. She was so much more than just First Lady of the United States. Of all her accomplishments, it is her character that I admire most. The way she handled the traumatic events surrounding her husband’s death with the whole world staring at her still amazes me. Her grace, poise, and dignity amid unimaginable catastrophe is something all people, not just women, should aspire to emulate.
Beautifully articulated. What do you think of the world we live in?
The world we live in is truly what we make of it. It all depends on perspective. I choose to be positive and focus on what I cherish in my life and not worry about the elements that are out of my control. One factor to remember is that advancements around our world might change, but people and human nature do not.
What don’t you like about yourself?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have let others’ opinions affect me more than they should. I do not like that I put so much stock in what others think of me. The great thing is, I am getting better at only worrying about how I view myself.
What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?
I love so many funny movies, and comedies are my favorite genre. But one that sticks out to me is Tropic Thunder from 2008. The performances are completely hilarious, and the writing is pure genius, but the film always conjures good vibes. The first time I saw Tropic Thunder, I really needed some cheering up, and it did exactly that. Plus, a bald Tom Cruise in a fat suit always cracks me up!
What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
Have low expectations for yourself so you won’t be disappointed.
I’ve heard that one before too…
I understand, in theory, what the person was trying to convey, and they meant well, but the advice was directed at my own performance. It gave me the feeling that no matter what I did, it would not be good enough, so why even try. The adage goes, “If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will either.” It was a long time before I believed in myself due to this piece of warped advice.
Thank you Valie for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion for writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine, before she decided to try her hand at fiction. She grew up in the Midwest and now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons, and two grandchildren.