“A GOOD YEAR FOR THE ROSES [Hyperion Trade Paperback |July 1, 2014] introduces us to Londoner Molly Taylor, a mom for whom life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Newly divorced and struggling to support her three boys, she’s stunned when her beloved aunt dies and leaves her Harrington Hall, a three-hundred-year-old crumbling manor house on the Devon coast, where Molly grew up.
Molly knows moving to the Hall will be handful, and balancing house renovations with a motley crew of “paying” guests surely isn’t easy. (Will someone please keep the pet parrot away from the TV remote?) But through first computers, first parties, first dates (her son’s and her own!), Molly finds that her first year at Harrington Hall is a good year for the roses, and for her family.”
I had not read anything by Gil McNeil before, and perhaps the best compliment I can give A Good Year for the Roses is that I am going to be adding McNeil’s other books to my reading queue.
I liked the characters. I liked the plot. I liked the writing style. I like the way Molly and her sons evolve. I especially liked the evolution of another character I won’t name here because why spoil the surprise? I want to visit the English countryside and stay somewhere like Harrington Hall- and wander through its gardens and grounds. After all, the house and grounds are surely as much a part of the story as the actual characters.
There was nothing hysterical or melodramatic to the plot- just a nice story with believable characters and a sense of community and caring. Certainly some acerbic moments and I did cheer on Molly (and the other unnamed character) more than once.
This isn’t deep literature, nor is it meant to be. But it still involves gumption and courage and family and love and self growth, all without being heavy-handed. Very British in that way, I suppose. It truly was a perfectly timed read for me. I think fans of women’s fiction – especially if you’re an anglophile on top of that- will really enjoy A Good Year for the Roses and I’m off now to add Gil McNeil’s other books to my queue.
*** I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review***
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve been pretty quiet because of personal matters. My mother is terminally ill. From feeling sick in early April, to a cancer diagnosis in May, to a move to an assisted living facility in June, it’s been a hectic several weeks.
My mother now lives about an hour and a half from me. I go see her either Saturday or Sunday of each week. She’s in an assisted living community that provides help with daily life activities. This disease appears to be robbing her of her mind, and quickly.
Our conversation Sunday was largely disjointed and non-sensical. It’s no fault of hers, but she no longer has the ability to consistently form coherent thoughts. She still knows me and most people in the close family, but her short term memory is hit or miss. Today, at 9AM, she didn’t remember if she had eaten breakfast. It’s hard to see this woman who always spoke her mind struggle for the right word, for the cohesive thought. She knows, I think, what she is trying to convey and sometimes realizes she no longer has the words for it. So I try to make normal conversation and be as agreeable as possible with what she is saying. I try to be reassuring. I try to be patient. Logic doesn’t work in this situation, although instinct is to be as logical as possible. So, agreeableness wins. Or quick changes of subject or small distractions.
Before all of this happened, my mother texted me nearly every morning, around 10. It was usually just a “hi” which is funny in a way. And I remember thinking that this was not really the best use of texting but the day would come when I would be glad for it. And that day is here. If I get a text now, it’s blank, and accidental. We are reaching a point now where I can call her mobile but she doesn’t answer, because she’s managed to turn off her phone without realizing it, or she left it somewhere, or she just can’t figure out how to answer it. We are in a place where I may now be calling the facility to check in on her, rather than being able to speak with her every day.
It’s an adjustment. It’s hard to sit there with her and know that most all the meaningful conversations are over. That for whatever time she has left, this is now as good as it will get. It’s hard to become a parent to your parent- managing decisions and finances and medical visits and all the things. It’s the appreciation of moments like today, when I asked her “How are you feeling?” and she answered, “With my hands.” Smart-ass.
It’s a long and arduous road, watching this decline. We are not the first people to be in this position, and there are certainly those who have had much more difficult paths to forge. But I’m lucky that I have an incredible support system of people who say, and mean, “Whatever you need.” And mom has people who want to check in on her, keep track of how she is doing. Who send her flowers and letters and cards, who call and check in. It’s a long goodbye, this strange and winding journey.
I love social media. I love reconnecting with people I knew in school. and I love when I learn that people I know have done something really cool like publish a book. I went to high school with Sara Rishforth, and she has just published her first book, Adventures in Dating.
Kari Covington left it all to settle in Alaska. Charleston had been home: friends, school, family, and her past. But a fresh start to her personal and love life is what she needs. The Final Frontier is nothing like the “Good Ol’ South,” which suits Kari just fine. She can create a new life, start a career, find love, and seek the adventure she craves.
Eager to embark on her new journey and with so many rugged eligible men, Kari sets out to meet “The One.” A string of bad dates tests Kari’s optimism as winter closes in. With no one to keep her warm, Kari relies on cooking, baking and her new best friends. Weekly calls from Mama call her back to the life her family planned.
No one said looking for love was easy…
I really enjoyed the book and think fans of Chick Lit will find it a great summer read.
Sara took the time to answer a few questions from me, and has offered to give away two copies of her book, so leave a comment and I’ll choose two winners at random- US Residents only, please.
TBF: I never knew that you were a fiction writer. Were you writing back in high school, other than yearbook or journalism?
SR: My first memory of writing is a play I wrote in the fourth grade, and it was about a boy calling my friend a rude name. Also, I have to laugh about the editorials I wrote for the high school newspaper, like why girls could wear skorts to school, but not shorts. Hot topic at the time!
TBF: How much of Adventures in Dating is autobiographical?
SR: Probably about 80%. I had many bad dates in Alaska. I also ate a lot of nachos and made dear friends. One of the main characters in the book now lives here in Bend.
TBF: Related to Question 2, like Kari, you moved from the Deep South to Alaska. What drew you there, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make, and what did you miss the most while you were there?
SR:My move was really a rebellious decision. I was desperate to leave Greenville, so I applied to three national parks. Denali National Park hired me, so I bought a plane ticket and packed my rolling suitcase full of inappropriate clothes and was off and running. The amount of snow was crazy! It hardly snowed in South Carolina, just icy every now and then. I missed my parents. My brother was diagnosed with stage four cancer during part of my time in Alaska, so I moved back for a year to help out, but I headed back to Alaska once he was given the thumbs up.
TBF: What has been your biggest lesson learned as a first-time published author?
SR: I learned writing the book was the easiest part of the whole process. I also learned I’m better at marketing other people than myself. Turns out, I’m quite shy.
TBF: What’s in your to-be-read pile?
SR: I’m working my way through a pile of books from a friend. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, and A Southern Girl by John Warley. I’m always looking for book recommendations.
TBF: Any writing projects on the horizon?
SR: I’m working on a second book. It is favorite recipes and food memories. Testing recipes and leaving food on my friends’ porches is super fun!
TBF: You’ve left Alaska now, but are still in the Pacific Northwest. What has kept you in that region?
SR: I love the cooler weather and friendly people. The hospitality reminds me of the South. Although I miss my family terribly, I love Bend.
TBF: What was the best piece of advice you were given while you published this book? And what piece of advice took you by surprise (like maybe you were skeptical when you heard it, but are glad you took it to heart).
SR: Honestly, I don’t think anyone gave me advice. Everyone was supportive and just kept asking about my book. No one would let me forget about it, even though I let it sit on my computer for three years after I wrote it.
TBF: What is your funniest/most memorable misadventure in your dating past?
SR: I went out with a guy I nicknamed Hiking Boy. All of our dates were hiking, and we hiked 13 miles in one week. Finally, I asked him, “Would it kill you to buy me a meal?”
TBF: Do you use a Day-Timer, like Kari does, or am I really the only person left who supplements any electronic calendaring with a paper calendar?
SR: I’m all about a paper calendar. It’s super handy and keeps me organized. I do admit to using Outlook at a past job, but I always wrote everything down in my Day-timer, too.
Sara, thank you so much for sharing your book with me, and taking time to answer my questions. And don’t forget, two commenters will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the book.
When I saw a post from Debora Geary pop up on Facebook this weekend, I was ready to read about the release date for the next book in the Witch Central series. If you follow this blog, you know this is one of my favorite series of books and sets of characters.
The news about the new book was not what I wanted to see. In a very honest, heartfelt , and personal letter, Debora let her readers know that the book has been indefinitely delayed. That her own life has imploded in an unexpected but very real way that is impacting her ability to write for these characters she loves- and for their stories to be told in the way her fans love.
What exploded from that posting was not a litany of frustration at the delay of the book, but an outpouring of the very best elements- and my favorite parts- of this series of books. A community of readers coming together in our virtual world to offer words of support, comfort, and understanding. You know, love. The very best of what we have in this world, when I know it must hurt Debora’s heart that she cannot tell these stories right now.
I’ve been quite introspective the last few weeks- lots going on in my own life- and what I continue to see is love. Of people sincerely offering to help. Of people wanting the best even if they have no way of delivering it. Of freely offered good thoughts or prayers or peace. It’s so easy to overlook all of that in the flotsam of our daily lives, when we are running late and worrying about what we’ll cook for dinner or if we’ll have time to squeeze in a workout; if we are good enough at work, with our family, with our friends- and these are just the first world problems, not the deeper ones of life and death and hunger and pain on so many levels.
It’s why I read and re-read Debora’s books, because it is this love, this community, this group of characters who help because they can and want to, that I want more of in my own life. So it has made me so happy to see the hundreds of comments from Debora’s readers in support of her and what she needs right now- as an author and a person. What a gift that is. I think as fans, that while we wish Debora did not have to go through this situation, we are grateful that we are able to offer back some of the gifts her work has given to us.
From the publisher summary:
Imagine this: it’s 1875 and you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB). At a time when doctors had little in their arsenal for treating the disease and were even less certain about what caused it, TB was a death sentence.
But a scientific revolution was brewing. Robert Koch, a country doctor, was fascinated by the emerging field of microbiology, and through obsessive and careful experimentation, he began isolating and identifying germs and eventually made the discovery that would change his life: he found the germ that caused tuberculosis. He quickly turned his skills to finding a cure, and when he announced his success, people arrived in droves to try his remedy.
One of the visitors was Arthur Conan Doyle, then a doctor and sometime writer and a great admirer of the scientific method that Koch helped establish. When Conan Doyle toured the wards of patients, though, he was horrified – Koch’s remedy was either sloppy science or outright fraud. This remedy would become Koch’s most tragic disgrace, but it would also give us the most enduring literary detective of our times, one who did more than any scientist to popularize science.
The Remedy is a fascinating read. It’s hard to fathom a time when germs were not known or understood, when sanitation in hospitals is nothing like it is now, but it wasn’t all that long ago. The Remedy goes into deep detail of the works of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, scientific rivals, who helped develop the scientific method and illustrate cause of specific diseases- which led to ways to vaccinate against them or treat them. The results of their work are still impacting us today. Enter in Arthur Conan Doyle, a doctor and author, who uses the scientific method to create one of the most beloved literary characters of all time AND uses his own knowledge to debunk one of the era’s preeminent scientists, and you have one interesting read.
What I didn’t realize before reading The Remedy was how competitive the scientific arena was at the time- and presumably still is. I also didn’t realize the thrall of Sherlock Holmes on the public from its initial publication. Both of those things made the book quite interesting. I enjoyed the science behind the story. It’s just enough to give the reader a good explanation of the challenges, experimental process, and findings without getting into too much technical detail that could be overwhelming to some people.
Goetz’s writing is easy to read, his approach matter-of-fact and his observations of the habits of the time only add to the story. His glimpses of the “snake oil” remedies around make me grateful for the medicine we have today.
Fans of non-fiction should check this out. So should Sherlock fans. You get a bit of insight into how Doyle came to the stories and his own feelings about his venerable hero- in fact, after reading The Remedy I may finally pick up a Sherlock Holmes book to read.
**** I received an Advance Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review****